Are You Living in Fight or Flight?

For many of us, when we are practicing and things get hairy, we unknowingly slip into survival mode and our days are spent living in fight or flight. We lose touch with our rational thinking and have a hard time seeing the forest for the trees. We are convinced that there are no solutions available to us and we just want to keep our heads above water. We are surrounded by a negative cloud and we tend to believe the worst case scenario is waiting for us around any corner.

We can’t ask for what we want because everyone will judge us.

They will pull work from us if we complain.

They will say we’re not partner material.

They will fire us.

It will never change.

There’s no point speaking up.

They’re never going to let me lighten my workload.

That’s just the way it is.

There is no fixing it.

While all of this thinking could certainly be true, when we are living in fight or flight mode, flitting from project to project just trying to make it through the day, we start to believe that all of those statements are factual. We start to believe that those are the only truths available to us.

When we are living in fight or flight, our brain operates from negativity bias.

It sees everything on the horizon as an animal that is ready to kill us and it sees any deviation from the norm as a high risk. For these reasons, it becomes very difficult for us to realize that all of those statements, while they could be true, the opposite could also be true. It becomes very difficult for us to see that we are only looking at one possible outcome.

This is why so many of us just. keep. going. hoping that someday it will change.

We forget that we cannot tell the future and that while the worst case scenario could certainly happen, the best case scenario is also equally possible. When we are in the middle of a crisis at work feeling overwhelmed and overloaded, it is very difficult to generate any feelings other than resignation and hopelessness. It’s no wonder it feels like an impossible task to make changes or to ask for what we want.

Our brain is not wired to look for positive potential outcomes when it is fighting to survive!

When we find ourselves overwhelmed by negativity and overcome by the challenges before us, the only thing we can do is watch our survival brain at work. Watch our brain convince us that the worst case scenario is the only possible outcome and recognize that our brain is not offering us any other alternatives but to just keep going. This awareness can be all it takes to raise us out of the negativity overwhelm back to a neutral state where we can make clear-headed and unbiased decisions. We have to recognize what our brain is doing and realize that what it is offering to us is only 1/2 of the possibilities before us.

Many of my clients put in the work to shift out of panicked, fight or flight practicing to create a strategic path toward balance and clarity. If you want to stop drinking from the fire hose and take back your own agency, join us. This work changes everything.

Once we start seeing that there is, in fact, more than one potential outcome, and more than one path forward, we take back our power. From that space we can start to see and evaluate clearly the options ahead of us. At the same time we move out of victim mentality and stop believing that everything is happening to us and recognize our own power in the moment. We can choose to believe that things just might work out, that we can use our voice, live authentically and just maybe everything will be okay.

(Because drinking from the firehouse day in and day out never ends well for anyone. )

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Perfectionist Tendencies

Many of my clients embrace perfectionism in one way or another. Outwardly, they appear successful and confident but their inner dialogues are filled with self-judgments and a whole host of “shoulds” — things they should have done better, perfectly. As we unpack those patterns of negative self-talk and begin redirecting our brains to more worthy thoughts, it opens up yet another opportunity for self-judgment.

It’s not working.

I can’t stop the negative thinking.

This just the way that I am.

This isn’t worth the effort.

When those old negative patterns come back around and take the wind out of our new, intentional thinking, it can be incredibly frustrating. It starts to feel like it is never going to work; we’re never going to “fix” our brains.

Consider what it would be like to commit to writing with your non-dominant hand. There would be time when you would forget about the experiment — you might reach for your pen with your dominant hand, you might even write a few words before realizing your mistake. It would be frustrating. There would be times when it would feel like a fool’s errand and a waste of your energy.

Why not just forget it and go back to the way things were?

When we experience set backs on the path toward our goals, it can be demoralizing. It can feel like it’s never going to work. But, in our example, most of us wouldn’t be surprised when you automatically grabbed your pen with your dominant hand or when you simply forgot you were making efforts to change the practice. We wouldn’t be shocked when our automatic, unconscious impulses kicked in, of course they did!

This is the same thing that happens with our brains and goal-ing. Those old negative thoughts will come back. They will try to rain on your parade. They will creep in when you’re tired and out of gas at the end of a long day.

But what if those “slips” were part of the deal? What if those “mistakes” were there to teach you something?

Transitioning to new, more high vibrational thoughts will include some slippage and likely will never completely eradicate old patterns; however, the back and forth dance is an opportunity to embrace our own imperfections and challenge the concept of perfectionism. It’s an opportunity to recognize that change is never going to come easily and that it will require not only commitment but compassion for yourself and your imperfections. Practicing new beliefs and experiencing those challenges often forces my clients to come face to face with their own perfectionist tendencies. It forces them to accept their slips, have compassion, and keep going. It forces them to see that perfectionism is just a pretty excuse for treating themselves terribly and setting unrealistic expectations.

What if we could translate that practice to all aspects of our lives?

What if we were willing to embark on any task, knowing and even anticipating, that we were going to mess up along the way but committing to do it anyway?

Simple thought work often reveals a microcosm of my client’s relationships with themselves. It sheds light on all our self-deprecating tendencies and requires us to face them head on in order to make progress. Those small steps develop a skill that will last a lifetime and will allow you to do away with perfectionism and embrace your dreams.

Our minds can be adapted and renewed. Developments in neuroscience tell us that the brain is capable of establishing new neural pathways, healing and building new brain cells. To do this, the brain simply requires direction and repetition — it requires a commitment to change and push through the discomfort and the setbacks that will inevitably come.

Are you in?

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Refocusing During Chaos

We have all had those days when we feel pulled in a million different directions. Your phone bursts to life with a cacophony of alerts, messages, and phone calls and you can no longer find the bottom of your inbox. Everything coming into your email feels like an emergency and everything on your to-do list seems like an impossibility as well as a concrete reminder of your inability to get it together.

As the demands of the day press down upon us with such herculean force, it can be difficult to maintain composure and prevent the overwhelm meltdown.

Today, I found myself slipping into this old pattern and having to regroup and employ many of the tools that I teach to my clients. I had several large projects that I wanted to focus my energies on and I suddenly felt like there just wasn’t enough time to get everything done. Hopelessness was sinking in as I stared blankly at my calendar.

As I focused on how to get to work and execute on my daily goals, I found that my eyes kept drifting off to my email inboxes, tracking all the new things that kept pouring in. Because I maintain three separate email addresses–one for my legal practice, one for my coaching practice, and one for my personal and nonprofit work, a simple review of my emails to “just seeing what’s going on” can quickly spiral out of control and precious time is lost. Here I was, feeling overwhelmed with my daily priorities and now that overwhelm was like a rising tide of panic as I glanced at each new message coming in.

For every email, I felt the desire to jump on it and respond immediately. I wanted to answer the pleas for support, redirect my legal team working on important projects, check in with clients, and just GSD. In addition to those impulses, came other emails eliciting frustrated brain chatter. As I was frantically responding to some emails, other emails had me mentally berating my staff, complaining about my nonprofit boards, and angry that people just wouldn’t leave me alone. My overwhelm was now compounded with the downward spiral of victim mentality and frustration.

There isn’t enough time! I am going to let everyone down! I’m so irritated with everyone! Why can’t they figure this out on their own!? Bah!

All of this was making me feel pretty rotten and powerless. Despite all that, I was glued to my emails, trying to salvage some “feel goods” by tackling those low hanging fruits. I was avoiding the bigger picture and chasing the endorphin rush of helping in small ways in that moment, responding to “simple emails” and inquiries. Nevermind that that little foray was going to cost me even more later on as precious time ticked away.

In that moment, I realized that keeping up with my email today was not my number one priority — maintaining my email was not even in my top three today.  So, I set a timer and agreed to check my email in 2 hours. Then I closed the window browsers and got back to work. Not only would those emails still be there 2 hours from now when I finished my priorities, but I had already scheduled time to triage my inbox today, as I do everyday. Despite my prior planning, my email had become a persuasive distraction in those moments of overwhelm and pushed itself right to the front of the line.

It’s easy to dive into your email, get organized, address a million non-emergencies, and avoid the larger projects that will actually make an impact in your life. It’s the difference between throwing a boulder or a handful of pebbles into the pond–how big of an impact are you wanting to make today?

We all have those moments where suddenly everything feels so chaotic and we feel hopeless and lost. It is in those moments that we have to stop, reconnect with our priorities, and step away from all the things we use to feel better amidst the overwhelm. We have to force our primitive brains to stop freaking out and believing that everything in our orbit is suddenly life or death. For me, in this case it meant shutting down my email and believing fully and wholeheartedly that nothing would happen in the next 2 hours that would destroy my career or my credibility. From that space I was able to redirect my energies and calm the chaos in my mind. And what do you know, I got those projects done and checked my emails and no one fired me, no one died, and the world kept spinning.

Part of the reason this redirection is so challenging for most of us is because of the things we tell ourselves when we pull away from our inbox. All those worries, judgments, comparisons, and worst-case scenarios. That is where coaching comes in because when you believe that you “need” to or “should” respond immediately or that other people are doing it better than you, you will never break this cycle. Challenging those closely held thoughts and beliefs is the first step to freedom and peace. Join us.

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The Art of Delegation

As attorneys, many of us are accustomed to “handling” all of the things. We are not trained to delegate our work to others and most of us struggle to let in support, that includes the people you are paying to support you. We would rather do things on our own. Our own way. At least then we know it will get done correctly! Besides, it’s faster just to do it ourselves, right?

On the contrary, one study showed that 53 percent of business owners believe that they can grow their business by more than 20 percent if they delegated 10 percent of their workload to someone else.

(AND more than 80% of those business owners agreed that they need help to achieve successful delegation. Sound familiar? Grab a free coaching consult and let in support to free up your schedule through the art of delegation.)

Could delegation be the key to allowing yourself and your team members to make their greatest contributions? Because isn’t that the whole point of having a team — each person making their own, unique contributions in a meaningful way?

Some thoughts on delegation to challenge our “go it alone” antiquated thinking….

Delegation is more than just passing down work

When you delegate you create opportunities for others to learn new skills, gain more experience, and have more confidence in their abilities to contribute.

Get clear on where you spend your time

There are not enough hours in your day to “do it all.” Evaluate your reasoning for everything you do in each moment. Which tasks are you willing to let go of in order to free yourself to make your greatest contribution?

Recognize that delegation is crucial for YOUR success

When we don’t see the benefits of delegating, we don’t delegate. We have to focus on why delegation is important and what it will gain us. Most of us want more time and energy to make our greatest contributions in which case delegation is essential.

Recognize that others are capable

People tend to perform in alignment with the expectations that others put on them. The greater our expectations of others, the greater probability that they will perform at an even higher level. We often see others as not being capable simply because it is something they have not done until now. Seeing other as competent is not only key to your success but their development.

Develop your team to free up even more of your time

In order to develop others and free yourself up for your higher priorities, we must consider delegating anything that someone else can do 70% as well as you can. Remember when you first performed the task you were not likely a master either. When we delegate these tasks to others, we provide them the opportunity to become their own master.

Check your ego at the door

We often think “I could have done it better” or “I could do it faster” or “I don’t want to look bad if this other person fails.” These are normal thoughts and may be true but at some point in your life you were not as fast or as masterful at a given task. You learn through your experience and mistakes. Don’t let your ego prevent others from having the same opportunity to grow and develop in the same ways that you have.

Allow room for growth

Mistakes are inevitable! Remember that you made mistakes before you had mastery of a skill. When you notice an error, give the person who made it an opportunity to correct it. When we continue to clean up others’ mistakes, we deprive them of the opportunity to learn and grow. Then mistakes will continue and you will use it as your justification to stop delegating.

It is not sustainable for us to “do it all.” We must become skilled at the art of delegation and letting in support if we want to have a meaningful place in the professional world. Open yourself up to delegation by challenging “your way” of doing things with the above counterarguments.

Chew on these reasons for delegating and if you need support putting together a delegation action plan, work with me and let’s get to work finding you more time so that you can make your greatest contribution and your team can grow and thrive.

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Difficult Choices

In every moment, of every day, we are making decisions. We decide where to direct our attention, we decide when (if) we should take a break, we decide whether to answer phone calls or respond to emails. Most of us make those decisions automatically, without much thought. But what about the decisions that really FEEL like decisions? The types of decisions that keep you up at night with anxiety or rob your afternoon of several hours spent fretting over the options. When it comes to big decisions, what is the best approach?

Decision-making is a huge part of my coaching practice. I work with all of my clients to examine and execute on big decisions including whether to file for divorce, quit the job, fire the paralegal, or take the big leap. If you are contemplating a big decision, schedule time with me to get support and clarity.

We have talked about decision-making in several contexts but today I want to focus on actual steps to evaluating and making a decision. But first, let’s recap:

Step 1: Take the Decision off the Pedestal

Many of us have struggled with decision paralysis from time to time because we put these decisions on a pedestal. We allow them to loom ahead of us like giant crossroads in our lives. We have to first recognize that we are making this decision WAY TOO powerful. One decision will not make or break your entire life.

In order to move forward you have to separate from the facts from your primitive-brain-thinking. You have to first recognize the thoughts you are choosing as just that: thoughts. Focus on the facts of the situation and examine how else you could be thinking about them.

For example, consider these thoughts:

I need to figure out my practice specialty this year otherwise I will fall behind.

I need to figure out whether to hire another attorney before everyone gets fed up and quits!

When we scour those sentences for cold hard facts, I find none. Those sentences reflect our internal catastrophizing and dramatizations. Neither of which are helpful. When we can get clear on the facts, the frenzy in your brain calms considerably. We are left with:

I am thinking about narrowing down to a specialty this year.

I am considering whether to hire a new attorney.

Simple. Factual. Nothing to see here.

Step 2: Take a Hard Look at Your Worst Case Scenario

Whenever we are avoiding a decision it’s because we have convinced ourselves that there is a right and wrong path ahead of us and if we choose the wrong one, our world will fall apart. When we look at our worst-case scenario, we can see that it is really comprised of only two things: obstacles that you can navigate and negative self-talk you can address. We don’t have to allow our brains to tell us that if we make the wrong decision not only will everything fall apart but it proves something negative about ourselves: we aren’t good enough, we aren’t smart enough, we can’t do this, this will never work out, etc. Instead, take a long hard look at your worst-case scenario, decide how you would handle it and decide what you would make it mean. In doing so, you rob it of all it’s power.

Again, this is just a recap! More on Steps 1 and 2 is available here.

Step 3: Get Clear About Your Why

In any choice that we make, there will be pros and cons. There will be consequences of many varieties, even when the opportunity seems too good to be true. In those instances, we have to consider what we gain by acting. When we have clarity about what is at stake with every new decision, that clarity will light the path when things get murky (because they will). That clarity will allow you to keep moving.

More on Step 3 here.

Step 4: Embrace Fear

Fear, self-doubt, and guilt are all parts of the bargain when we choose to make changes — those feelings do not mean you are making a wrong decision.

More on Step 4 here.

Step 5: Commit to Having Your Own Back

Part of the reason we avoid making decisions is because of how terrible we are to ourselves when a decision doesn’t work out how we imagined. We beat ourselves up, we judge our past actions, we rewrite history to make ourselves feel even worse. If you can commit to making a decision and having your own back no matter how it plays out, what is there to be afraid of?

More on Step 5 here.

Having worked through Steps 1 through 5, we are ready to make a decision…but how?

How to make the decision

First we have to take a look at the options we are considering and set forth our justifications for each option.

Why would we go that route?

What is the benefit?

What is motivating us?

Why is this decision hard?

This step is critical and must include some serious introspection. Are you wanting to keep that paralegal because you don’t want to have to deal with the discomfort of firing her? Are you saying yes to that new project because you’ll “feel bad” if you say no? In this step, we have to get brutally honest about our reasoning. Ask yourself why the decision is hard. Consider all of the thoughts swirling around–are we worried about what others will think? Are we forecasting the future?

Once we have all the justifications set out for each options available to us, I recommend reviewing those lists and highlighting only the justifications that are factual. “Difficult” decisions are often soaking in drama. We have to get really clear about what is the true and what is just dramatizations.

For instance, we might believe that if we fire our paralegal we will “devastate” her or “ruin her financially.” But we don’t know if that’s true. What if she really hates the job but was too afraid to quit? What if she knew she wasn’t the right fit? Or instead, we think that if we say “no” to a project/engagement offered to us, the other person will be disappointed or angry. What if that’s not the case? What if they really don’t care they just asked you because you were the first person they saw?

This part of the process can be helpful in distilling our justifications down to the meat of it. Usually justifications surrounding “difficult” decisions are rooted in avoidance of some negative emotion–we don’t want to feel bad if others are hurt, sad, disappointed, etc. While we can recognize that they might not be any of those things, our fear around how we will feel if others are hurt by our decision can keep us paralyzed.

Now the magical part:

You just decide.


You look at each list of justifications and you pick the list you feel most strongly about.

That might mean that you don’t fire you your paralegal because you don’t want to upset her but at least now you will be very clear that the real motivation behind that decision is because you don’t want to feel bad if she’s upset. On the other hand, you might decide that you don’t feel good about that justification. You just have to ask yourself–do I feel good about my reasoning for selecting this option? That’s it.

There are no right answers. The only thing that matters is making a decision for reasons that you are honest about and for reasons that you feel good about.

Then we circle back to Steps 1 – 5 and execute, paying close attention to Step 5 where you commit to having your own back. We commit not to second guess, back down, or shoulda, coulda, woulda, ourselves later on.

“Every decision brings with it some good, some bad, some lessons, and some luck. The only thing that’s for sure is that indecision steals many years from many people who wind up wishing they’d just had the courage to leap.”

Doe Zantamata

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Putting Out Fires

How’s your day going? Are you doing one million different things at the same time, answering phone calls, responding to emails, getting yelled at, blurting directives in the hallway, yelling at someone else, and juggling flaming torches, while running a marathon and planning a birthday party for your spouse all before 10am?

Just a regular Tuesday, eh?

Oh the panicked frenzy of practicing law! On those days, your brain is laser focused and you can feel the adrenaline coursing through your body as you move from one thing to the next with effortless precision. For many of us, we get addicted to this frenzy. We develop a strange love affair with the pressure and intensity of those days. We feel alive! Connected to the work! Like a boss. If only we could feel like this all the time!

While these bursts of energy and manic productivity can be incredibly addictive and create tremendous surges of satisfaction, working from this state is problematic for two reasons.

First, it is not sustainable. During these moments of manic productivity and putting out fires we are actually operating from a primitive state. Our body has infused our system with tremendous amounts of adrenaline because the pressure and stress that we have put on ourselves and created in our minds has led our primitive brains to believe that we are on the verge of being murdered by carnivorous clients. We switch into survival mode operating on adrenaline; our hearts race and our brains become laser focused on the task in front of us because it suddenly equates the task with survival.

Our primitive brain and the survival mechanisms that kick in are powerful and addictive in in many ways but we must recognize that living day-in and day-out being driven by adrenaline and our primitive brains is not sustainable. Our bodies were not designed to flourish under those amounts of adrenaline, which is a finite resource. It’s simply not possible to maintain that high and that level of focus and productivity long-term. We are literally living everyday in fight or flight, frenzied panic. Our bodies are preparing for battle. Productive? Yes. Sustainable? Sadly, no.

Sound familiar? Most of my clients reach out to me from that state of panicked frenzy or shortly after the inevitable crash. Stop the madness (literally). Work with me and let’s develop some tools to turn down the noise and put your logical brain back in charge.

Add to this madness, the physical and emotional toll of living on adrenaline for too long — persistent surges of adrenaline can damage your blood vessels, increase your blood pressure, and elevate your risk of heart attacks or stroke. It can also result in anxiety, weight gain, headaches, and insomnia. I’m not that kind of doctor but the Google box and real doctors will back me up on this if you need more convincing.

When we operate from that space of fight or flight and let our primitive brain drive our actions and our responses, we also lose the ability to think rationally with our prefrontal cortex. This brings me to reason number two as to why this is not the best mode of operation.

We do not make good decisions with our primitive brains.

Our primitive brains were designed to keep us safe, seek pleasure, and be efficient. Our primitive brain is the fast acting part of our brain; it is not designed to move slowly, analyze facts, and make well-reasoned decisions. That part of our brain is designed simply to react: everything presented to your primitive brain will be perceived as an emergency, a matter of life-or-death. That means that every email that comes across your desk, every person that darkens your doorway, every phone call that comes in, your brain is going to interpret as an emergency that must be attended to immediately. Simply put, we are not biologically capable of making the best decisions when we are operating from fight or flight and letting our primitive brain drive the boat.

It’s like letting a toddler make decisions about your finances. They are going to spend all of your money going to the amusement park, eating cotton candy and raw cookie dough, and ordering all of the things from the late night shopping channel. They are not going to tell you to eat the damn salad, go to the gym, and “no, that designer purse is not the solution to your tale of woes.” The primitive part of our brain will seek the pleasure that comes from responding to that email immediately and from trying to please the client/partner rather than focusing on the project that you told the client you would get done today.

So what does all this mean?

When you find yourself in that panicked mode of productivity, recognize that your primitive brain has taken over and is clouding your judgment. You need to disconnect and reengage your logical brain. That might mean getting up and walking away from your computer and going outside for 5 minutes. Connect with nature. Take some deep breaths. Spend 5 minutes in meditation. Ground yourself and connect with a mantra–

This is not my life, this is not who I am, I am more than this job, I am more than this day.

By doing these practices we allow our primitive brain to disengage and we put the adult back in the driver’s seat so that we can start making better decisions for the long-term. We make decisions taking into account our priorities and the facts regarding what needs to be done and what does not need to be done in that moment. Save your primitive brain for real emergencies. Do not let your primitive brain drive the bus in your career. From that space you will only create burnout and block yourself from that conscious focus that will take your career to the next level.

Don’t Throw in the Towel

During our lives, many of get to a place where we just want to burn it all down and start over. We want out. We retreat. We want to start over and have it be better the next time around. We don’t want to do it any more. We just want to start again.

Sometimes we get the opportunity to set off and start anew. Unfortunately, what we often find is that while the scenery has changed, our problems remain the same.

During most summers, I spend about 7 hours in my car, every other weekend, driving home to visit my family. I love to make the long trek back home to enjoy time on the lake with my friends and family back home. The majority of my trip is spent at a gleeful and fast-paced interstate route, going 80 mph, making great time. But eventually, once we are about an hour away from our destination, everything changes. Suddenly, the only route to our destination is on county highways and gravel roads. The pace shifts to a crawl. It’s maddening to suddenly go from quickly moving along, making manic progress to maintaining such a slow crawl. It’s a challenge to keep myself from slamming down the accelerator and getting right back to cruising along at a smooth 80mph pace. At this point in my trip, 80mph is what feels natural; it’s become a habit and one I have to consciously brake (pun intended).

Our brains’ ability to get comfortable functioning in a particular state goes beyond my interstate driving. Just like when I moved from interstate to county highways, whenever we change the circumstances of our lives, our ingrained habits come right along with us. Changing to gravel roads doesn’t stop my ingrained desire to drive 80mph. Moving to a new environment does not make it easier to stop speeding in the same way that burning it all down and replacing it with something shiny and new, will not “fix” your tendencies. In the new space, we will find ourselves facing the same challenges all over again:

We say yes when we mean no.

We take on too much.

We struggle to disconnect.

We beat ourselves up over every mistake.

We fail to honor our priorities.

We doubt our abilities.

Those thoughts are like my 80mph climb back home. I’m comfortable there; I know that space. It’s uncomfortable to try and do something different. In the same way, it will take practice and work to change our patterned thinking, regardless of the scenery. No matter what external factors we change, it won’t have a lasting impact on our lives unless and until we change our patterning.

Switching over to gravel roads doesn’t change my tendency toward 80mph, I have to make that change consciously and with effort and attention. Burning it all down and starting over will not change whatever patterning we have that is plaguing us. That work will always be there waiting for us, no matter where we go.

Real change can only come from within and the external circumstances have no bearing on that kind of change.

Are you ready?

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When Your Boss is a . . .

One of the things that I find most interesting about the legal profession is our commitment to the belief that as attorneys we can do it all. Rather than hiring business experts to operate the business side of a firm, we simply conclude that as attorneys we have the qualifications to manage as well as practice. As many of my clients and myself have concluded: just because we are attorneys does not mean that we are good bosses, leaders, managers, or mentors. So what do you do when you find yourself working with a boss (or any human for that matter) who is less of a leader and mostly just a jerk? This recently came to light in a session I had with a client who was struggling with her supervisor.

My client had been charged with managing a particularly large project that was not within her traditional practice area. The initiative required input and contributions from various practices across the firm and ongoing strategy sessions with the team. In addition to the strategy sessions, my client had regular one-on-one meetings with her supervisor. During a recent meeting with her supervisor, he indicated that he expected her to take the lead on the upcoming team discussion and that she would be managing the project from there on out. He wanted her to use this to get project management experience. When she attended the first team meeting to present the project plan, her supervisor took over and did not offer any opportunity for her to make contributions. As the meeting progressed, it became clear to my client that her supervisor and his team had not read any of the materials relating to the scope of the project and had grossly misunderstood the intent of the client. The meeting was largely unproductive, confusing for all members, and my client was pissed.

When we met, she relayed this story and went on to explain how her supervisor is a jerk, a terrible leader, incredibly disorganized, spiteful, arrogant, and childish. She said she hates working with him and that having to continually interact with someone who was such a poor supervisor was making her consider leaving her job entirely. How does someone like that get into a position of leadership!?

This kind of scenario and feedback is something that we all have to deal with at some point in time simply by being members of the human race. Although I like to think that we in the legal industry have an abnormal amount of individuals who are poor leaders and managers, the ultimate truth remains the same: sometimes people just suck.

But the problem with this scenario is that so many of my clients are driven to leave or consider leaving their place of employment due to this type of interaction. In attempts to remedy these situations, many of us vacillate between confronting the individual and outright avoiding them. We all know that feeling when you’re sitting in a meeting and you’re swimming in angry thoughts about the individual in front of you. They have no idea what they’re doing….I wish they would just shut up….why do they keep doing that….how can they be so oblivious….you’re such a terrible leader…. and on and on it goes. We feel our skin start to crawl and we actually start to believe that if we don’t get out of this place and get away from this person ASAP we’re going to lose our minds!

I get it. I have completely been there and so many of my clients have as well. So how do you dig out when every part of your body and every thought in your head is screaming to get away from this person?!

(Sound familiar? Sign up for a free consult, and let’s sort it out.)

First, we have to recognize that when we confront this person or simply avoid them, we are either trying to get the other person to change or we are trying to remove them from our orbit so we don’t have to do any work. We dream of confronting them and seeing them take our comments to heart so they can change for the better and then everything will be OK. In the alternative, we think that if we can just escape this person and not have to deal with them then everything will be OK in that scenario too. In either case, we’re trying to change or eliminate the problem person so that we don’t have to feel angry and frustrated anymore. Therein lies the problem:

wanting someone or something else to change so that WE can feel better is a futile endeavor that rarely works. Instead, our work rests solely with us and how we handle the situation.

In my client’s scenario, she truly believed that her boss was a jerk, a terrible leader, disorganized, spiteful, arrogant, and childish. She provided those details to me as if they were well-documented facts. What she didn’t see was that none of that was true. These were all optional things she was choosing to believe about her boss. All of these thoughts and judgments about this person were making her completely miserable. She wanted me to help her learn how to navigate dealing with her jerk boss but she didn’t see that her beliefs and judgments about him were actually what was making her miserable. What she didn’t see was that in order to move forward she would have to at least open herself up to the possibility that her opinion about this person may not be accurate. That she was choosing to believe day-in and day-out that her boss was a jerk. Regardless of whether or not any of these thoughts could be proven factually accurate, it was clear that by living in these judgments of this other human, she was making herself crazy. The work wasn’t in learning how to deal with her “jerk” boss, the work was in seeing that she didn’t have to believe that he was a jerk.

Our judgments of other people are founded on the belief that those around us are supposed to act a certain way.

My client’s boss was supposed to be a good mentor, a good cheerleader for her, and supportive. She had this whole perception of who he was supposed to be. Her conclusion that he was a jerk was at odds with how she wanted things to be. That tug of war with reality was causing a tremendous amount of discomfort and frustration for her. So much so that she just wanted to get away from it. But as many of you know, anytime you leave one experience for another we often encounter the same types of humans who elicit the same types of challenges all over again.

We end up creating for ourselves a pattern of moving from place to place, identifying a new jerk in each situation, and moving on again and again.

Rather than showing up to work believing that her boss was a jerk, she had myriad options available to her as to how she could potentially think of the situation. She could instead recognize that he was showing up exactly how he was meant to. He was being everything that is uniquely him. And that is completely OK. In fact, that is the beauty of this world. We all have the ultimate right to show up and be whomever and however we want to be. So rather than showing up in judgment and stewing in anger and frustration, my client could instead look at this person as an opportunity for her to experiment with compassion and unconditional love. She wasn’t frustrated because of him or the things that he was doing. The reason she was frustrated was that she was focusing on who she wanted him to be and was marinating her brain in all of these negative judgments about him when he didn’t fit her mold. So instead I asked her, how do you want to think about this person? How do you want to show up in this experience?

She revealed that she wanted to be calm and collected. She wanted to advocate for herself. To step in and LEAD just like he had asked her to. She wanted to focus on the fact that she knew he never wanted to be a manager and that he seemed to be trying to do the best he could with the position that he never sought out.

This didn’t make her feel warm and fuzzy. It didn’t make her want to stay at the firm forever. But it did allow her some neutral emotions and some space to look at this person from a different perspective. It allowed the judgment to subside and along with that came a reduction in her frustration and anger and her desire to flee. Instead, we developed a plan for her to have an honest and curious conversation with him about the project. A conversation that was not intended to CHANGE him but one rooted in compassion and a desire to better UNDERSTAND him.

After all, it’s so much easier to speak your truth from a place of neutrality than when you are fueled by pent-up anger and frustration.

Imagine how much happier we all could be if instead of judging everyone around us and believing that things should be different we chose to believe that everything was happening as it should and just tried to love those around us? It’s not easy but it certainly feels a lot better than the alternative.

I truly believe that the only thing preventing us from loving everyone around us is our thoughts about them. If you could change that, imagine how much happier you would be.

Photo by Startup Stock Photos from Pexels

Painful Honesty

Today, the behavior of a small child completely rocked my world.

My girlfriend texted our friend group this morning to talk about an issue going on with her daughter. Her daughter was on the bus home from school and the bus driver and another child were apparently in a Russian standoff with the boy refusing to sit down and the bus driver refusing to drive until he did so. As the minutes drug on, my friend’s lovely and slight little girl, asked the boy if he would please sit down because she wanted to get home. And then he turned to her and punched her in the face. By the time, my friend’s beautiful little girl got home, she was in tears and told her mom what had happened all the while insisting that her mom not do anything about it because she didn’t want to get into trouble.

My friend was reaching out to us for our thoughts on what she should do. While we were all in agreement that something must be done, we were in agreement for a variety of different reasons. One of us wanted to know about the school’s rules and policies for this type of behavior. Was there some type of structure in place to track and monitor this type of behavior like a 3 strike rule, for instance, that would ultimately remove this child from the bus (or school) if the behavior continued? Another of us suggested a meeting with the principal to ensure that the child was removed from the bus. For me, I couldn’t help but wonder what was going on in the life of this child that he would physically assault another, much smaller child, and go to such lengths for something so minimal? What kind of a disservice would it be to the child if this wasn’t reported. Maybe this was a cry for help? Even if not, it seems that this is something that would warrant additional follow-up and concern for that child–was he simply repeating what he sees at home?

As I thought about my friend’s daughter and her pleas to let it go and not make a big fuss over it, I felt myself relating to that sentiment in so many ways. Why is it that we often ignore the wrongdoings of others because we don’t want to “get into trouble”? Or because we don’t want to make it a big deal? How many times have we allowed someone to take advantage of us without telling them that is how we feel? Or watched someone act cruelly to another without saying something? To be clear, I don’t believe that saying something is likely going to “change” the offensive actor, in fact, I think that is highly unlikely. But what kind of message does it send to the victim when we don’t act? When we don’t say anything?

Could our willingness to call out bad actors inspire the victims to act, to leave, to stand up for themselves?

Could our willingness to call out abuse when we see it, communicate to the victim that it doesn’t have to be this way? Could it affirm for them that it’s not okay and there are strangers who might care more for you than that person?

What an amazing opportunity to teach a child that, yes, speaking up is scary and yes, the world isn’t perfect and it might make things worse or harder for you by being honest. But your honesty, your truth and your respect for yourself and identifying what is okay and not okay, THAT is gold.

Honoring your truth and your experience and calling out bad actors even when it might cause you some discomfort or fear is what this life is all about.

Trusting your value and using your voice to establish your boundaries is a lesson most of us spend our lives trying to learn. What kind of a world would we have if children started learning these lessons right away? What impact would that have on the bullying epidemic? What kind of future leaders would we have if everyone learned from a young age to call out inequities and seek justice, whatever the cost?

What type of world we would have if we as adults were able to channel that power and voice our objections to racism, sexism, and cruelty that we encounter every day?!

When I was engrossed in an abusive marriage, I was meeting with one of my close friends and sharing some of my struggles with her. She looked me right in the eyes and baldly said, “You need to divorce him.” She didn’t try to soften it. She didn’t explain. She was unwilling to pretend it was going to get better. She didn’t lie to me and tell me she trusted him or believed in my safety. She risked our friendship to tell me the truth. The truth that I need to hear. I felt seen and my struggles felt validated. That was a huge turning point for me in deciding to leave and I will forever be grateful to her for her honesty.

Insidious things are a part of our world because we let them be a part of our world.

We. Let. Them. Exist.

That is a choice we make every day, several times a day, every day of our lives. Today I am inspired by the lesson my friend is imparting upon her little girl. Today I will strive to be the best and most honest version of myself. I will speak up when I see things that are hurtful or cruel. I will speak up, not because I want to change anyone but because I want to be an example to others of what is possible in this world. And what is possible is a world where people support and love one another, including those we don’t even know and will not sit by and passively watch as others are harmed and taken advantage.

If you see something say something.

Photo by Ben Wicks on Unsplash

Believing You Can Do It

Ugly beliefs: we’ve all got them. For one client it might be the belief that they are the ultimate cause of their client’s failure to win in court. For other clients, it might be their underlying fear that they aren’t going to make it and they are going to get fired. We all have them, laying below the surface keeping us from doing what we ultimately want to do. Those beliefs drive us to procrastinate, avoid work, avoid difficult conversations that are for our own betterment, and ultimately they keep us in a place that is inconsistent with who we are and where we want to be.

So how do we rip up those thoughts and get to a place of believing we can do anything?

We must first get to a place where we recognize and acknowledge that those thoughts we carry around in our heads are just opinions. They are not factual. They have not come to fruition. They are just words in our heads. Words we give power to.

Next we must realize that when we give those sentences power, they grow stronger. When we sit with those negative beliefs, our brain will provide all sorts of evidence to support those fears. If you give power to “I’m going to fail,” your brain will offer all sorts of evidence to support that thinking — ALL the reasons why failing is inevitable. Your brain is not designed to argue with the thoughts in your head. It is designed to agree with you by providing supporting evidence (i.e., confirmation bias). That’s why those thoughts feel so true. It’s why they have such a hold over us! But when was the last time, you also asked your brain to provide you with opposing evidence — to prove that you CAN DO IT?

When we worry that we can’t do it, we don’t even give ourselves the chance to consider whether the opposite might actually be true.

What if you can do it?

What if you are MEANT to do it?

Let’s be honest, none of us have proof that we can’t do it. None of us know with certainty that we will fail. So before we can shift to rosy thoughts about how we know we can do it, we first have to recognize our own role in this little song-and-dance: sometimes we give too much power to crappy beliefs about ourselves. Maybe we learned them from our parents, maybe they are criticisms offered by unkind friends or lovers of the past. Wherever they came from, their existence in our minds does not make them truthful.

Once we see our patterned thinking as just bad brain habits and not evidence of our innate shortcomings, we can practice believing something else. We can start to compassionately understand why we have gravitated toward those thoughts and we can dismantle those structures. For many of us, the reason negative thinking about ourselves is so powerful and so ingrained in our habits is that there’s a part of us that believes in the veracity of those statements. Knowing that, we can work to let that go too.

We all know that we say terrible things ourselves in our heads. We all know we have these limiting beliefs that we carry around. But the reason we carry them around is that there is a part of us that still wants to believe in their truth. You can’t let go of a belief so long as you are committed to the investment that it is true at least in part. We have to get to a place where we recognize that in our life we have so many choices to make. Choices to make about what we think about ourselves. We do not have to choose to believe that we can’t make it or that we’re going to get fired. Seeing those thoughts as choices can allow us to choose to believe something else.

But can’t some of those negative thoughts push us to try harder and do better?

I get asked this all the time. Intellectually, we know it’s not okay to talk to ourselves the way that we do and to carry around these worries about inadequacy; however, many of us look to our past successes as evidence that maybe being hard on ourselves is why we have succeeded. Maybe being hard on ourselves is how we were able to get where we are!

While I agree that for many of us, being hard on ourselves and pushing ourselves certainly contributed to our early successes in life. But when women come to me for coaching support, they are out of gas. They have pushed so hard they are pushing themselves right out the door and off of a cliff. While being hard on ourselves might have served us early in our careers, we eventually get to a point where it no longer serves us. We start to see the negative effects of treating ourselves so poorly. We have the success and the accolades but we have no boundaries, no balance, and our relationship with ourselves (and often others) is completely broken. You shouldn’t have to beat yourself into submission to achieve success — that pattern will leave you worse off than you started. (What’s the point of all that success if you don’t love yourself enough to allow yourself to enjoy it?)

What if instead of using negative self-talk to motivate ourselves, we choose to believe that we are inherently good enough and that we can be whomever we want to be?

Motivation will spring from either mindset but one requires an investment in our abilities while the other requires an investment in self-judgment. Which is more sustainable? Which will reap you more long-term benefits?

The choice is always yours.

Photo by Katrina Wright on Unsplash