Over-Apologizers Anonymous

“Apologizing when we have done something wrong is a real strength, but compulsive apologizing presents as a weakness at work and in personal relationships.” — Dr. Tara Swart, neuroscientist, Medicine Revived

I believe that all relationships should be two-sided. A push and pull, yin and yang, ebb and flow: balanced. When we over apologize, we take ownership for things that are not our own. The relationship becomes one-sided, where one person is always in the right and the other is always in the wrong.

What types of relationships fit into that dynamic?

Victim/villain comes to mind…

However you want to characterize it, over apologizing leaves no room for evolution by either party. The victim hones her skills at subservience, silence, and carrying burdens that are not her own. The villain hones her skills at skirting responsibility, blaming others and excuse-making. Both parties lose the opportunity to hone their voice and self-confidence, to develop the skills that accompany a healthy relationship: trust, partnership, humility, honesty, and respect.

Over apologizing is often the easy route. It’s easier to taken on all the blame than to stand up for yourself. It’s easier to believe that it was all your fault than to examine the things you did right. This victim mentality is pervasive and can seep into all aspects of your life if left unchecked.

So why do we over apologize?

As I mentioned above, the primary reason we do it is that it’s easier. It is the path of least resistance. We don’t want to do the hard thing and speak our truth. We don’t want to make waves. We are biologically programmed to avoid conflict after all!

Therein lies the second reason that we do this: we don’t want the other person to think poorly of us. We don’t want to be seen as a muckraker, argumentative, or god-forbid a human with feelings. Buried deeper within this rationale is that we are trying to control how the other person thinks of us. We want them to like us. We want them to think we are a team player. We have thick skin. We don’t make trouble.

To be clear: We. Are. Being. Manipulative.

Changing what we think, feel, say, and do because we want something to think about us in a certain way is absolutely manipulation in its noblest form.

So not only are we not being authentic by hiding our truth, we are often showing up in a manner than is inconsistent with our values and character. When considered in this light, over apologizing becomes a bit more distasteful.

Further, when we wrongly apologize, we are taking ownership for something. We are implying that there was something overlooked. Something we could have and should have gotten right the first time. Is that true? Could you have foreseen that the client was going to change their mind? That the contractor was going to cancel last minute after you made your husband come home from work for the appointment? Before you consider uttering the words “I’m sorry,” first get clear on what your role was in the “problem.” If there is no clear failure on your behalf — stop talking.

We mustn’t allow ourselves to take ownership for things that are not our own. Rather, we must strive to share the experiences than should be SHARED between all parties. Recognize the discomfort of the situation for all parties but do not apologize for it, as if you created it. Acknowledge that things didn’t go as well as they could have but don’t pretend that the circumstances were masterminded by you and therefore you must apologize.

Sometimes things go wrong. That is life. Unless you are some secret deity, stop taking ownership for it.

Instead of apologizing, try on these options:

Good catch, I hadn’t considered that angle.

Thanks for bringing that to my attention.

Thanks for starting the meeting when my appointment ran long.

Is now a good time to chat? (Instead of “Sorry to bother you…”)

A few things I am taking away from this experience are….

This must be really frustrating for you too.

I can understand why you might be angry about this.

I would like to add… (Instead of “I’m sorry but…”)

Wow, this is really frustrating.

I appreciate your perspective, but I don’t understand why…

Whoops!

Use I’m sorry only if you have truly done something wrong that falls squarely on your shoulders.

And, most importantly, only use it when you really mean it. “I’m sorry” should be a phrase that, when it comes out of your mouth, others appreciate it and know it is genuine because it is not something you throw around lightly.

Chronic over apologizer? If the above concepts make you uncomfortable, grab a free session and start trimming “I’m sorry” out of your standard vocabulary.


Photo by Laura Seaman on Unsplash

Motivational Triad

When it comes to practicing law, our minds and our internal conversations will be our greatest assets. It won’t be the accolades and background that make or break your practice. It all comes down to your relationship with yourself and the internal discussions no one hears but you. Given this, it seems that the greatest tool we must understand and hone is that magical mind of ours. Specifically, why is it that our mind sometimes goes rogue and makes it seemingly impossible to move forward?

Our mind will analyze the data before us, we must decide what facts are unimportant and focus on the primary issues to maximize our efficiency. At the same time we must manage our emotional impulses associated with stress.

Practicing law is grueling. It challenges our self-worth, our values, and our ability to honor commitments both to ourselves and our clients but also to everyone around us. It is an emotional and mental boot camp of careers of sorts–it even comes with those fun “drill sergeant” type characters who seem to relish in screaming at you letting you know how pathetic you are.

Surviving these challenges not only requires a good amount of grit but a simple understanding of our basic impulses and how those impulses interact with our brains can be a complete game changer.

We are all familiar with “fight or flight” concepts but many of us are not attuned to our basic, biological instincts: the motivational triad. According to the motivational triad, we are wired to prioritize the following:

Seek pleasure.

Avoid pain.

Maintain efficiency.

Within the realm of a law firm environment, the triad can be found in the following tendencies:

Try every way imaginable to squeeze a compliment out of the difficult partner (seek pleasure) even if it means being on call at all hours of every day

Do not stand up for myself when I am being thrown under the bus to the client by a partner that dropped the ball (avoid pain) because I don’t want to get his wrath

Stay at the firm that I hate because this is what I know and I don’t want to rock the boat (maintain efficiency)

Understanding our basic instincts will help you sift through the BS your brain offers you at times. When you desperately want to leave your job and your brain offers you 1,000,000 reasons why that’s a terrible idea, we can recognize that your brain is responding as it was designed. It is trying to keep you safe. It is trying to keep you in the cave, lest you be eaten by cannibal litigators.

When you want to engage leadership in discussions about your work environment but you decide that it won’t be worth it and won’t make a difference. Those. Thoughts. Are. NOT. True. Those are biologically driven responses. Fear-driven, flight responses. Your brain is trying to keep you safe. On the hamster wheel.

When you are contemplating doing something uncomfortable, your brain will flood itself with all sorts of reasons not to act. They will seem reasonable. They will seem perfectly logical. But we mustn’t be persuaded by these biological responses. In those moments we foreclose our own innate knowing. We put blinders on to the other possibilities. Our brains get to work compiling evidence to support those biological responses and will ignore any evidence to the contrary.

Knowing this will allow you to recognize those thoughts just as they are: thoughts. They are not facts. They are not truths. They are not more important than any other thought. They alone are not reasons to act or not act.

In a world where our brains are going to fight us to keep us safe and cozy in the cave, we must become practiced at asking the right questions and evaluating all the options. We cannot allow our motivational triad to push us to act from fear. To seek safety and avoid challenges.

“He who is not everyday conquering some fear has not learned the secret of life.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Some of the work I do with my clients supports them to examine their beliefs and the source of those beliefs. We analyze beliefs and thoughts to ensure that in anything that we do, or don’t do, we aren’t acting from a place of fear and safety-seeking unless that is our CONSCIOUS decision. I love helping my clients observe the motivational triad at work in their lives, then dismantle it! Sign up today, to start your own journey and see where you biological brain is holding you back.


Photo by Alex Iby on Unsplash

Blame

“Doodah made me do it.”

When I was a little girl, my brother had an imaginary friend named Doodah. Every time he would get into trouble for putting spiders down my shirt, he would insist that Doodah made him do it. Nothing was his fault when Doodah was around!

Not all of us had imaginary friends when we were kids but, like all other kids, we were never quick to take the blame for our actions. We’ve all seen those kids in the airport. There you are waiting for your bags to plop off the carousel and while you wait, you watch two kids, worn out from travelling, annoying the goodness out of their harried parents and each other. Then, inevitably, one of those kids will haul off and smack the other one. Hard. While seemingly no one is watching. Naturally, this results in an avalanche of tears and lots of drama punctuated by the aggressor-child insisting they “didn’t do anything”, indignant at the accusation. Such a comical and common display of our basic human instincts.

As adults, we like to tell ourselves that we have grown out of that propensity. Most of us would never outright deny doing something that we clearly did or that could easily be proven – hello, there are cameras EVERYWHERE! But just because our logic-reasoning skills have improved and we know that it’s not prudent to lie about things that are likely memorialized on camera, it doesn’t mean we have gotten any better at accepting the results of our actions. In fact, most of us have just gotten really good at dressing our blame up in prettier clothing: victim clothing.

Years ago, I found myself working in an environment where I did not fit in. I was one of very few women working in a role other than secretary. I was working in an environment where I felt completely isolated. I looked around and saw that the vast majority of my co-workers and nearly all of the organization’s leadership consisted white men from the same colleges and grad schools, even from the largely the same high schools. Most of them practiced the same religion if not the same parish. Most of them were in the same political party and most of them grew up in the same city. Lastly, the majority of them had the same family structure –  2-3 kids with a stay-at-home wife, even where those kids no longer lived at home. Being alone on an island certainly takes its toll and while every organization comes with its own unique challenges, I quickly started to feel like there was no way I could be successful in that space. They will never take me seriously…they will never understand me or my life…I will always be different and they will always see me as a token: something to be regarded and retained but not taken seriously…My brain was filled with angry pronouncements about my workplace, its leaders, and my co-workers.   

I believed all of those thoughts and I carried them around with me every day. Every time I told myself that my complaints were disregarded, every time I thought my comments were bowled over, every time I felt I was interrupted more than the men, I clung to those thoughts – you will never take me seriously because I’m a woman….you can’t comprehend a woman with a brain and an opinion…you will never treat me like a peer because you don’t believe I am your equal. Over time, I found myself having screaming matches with them in my head. If I saw a member of the leadership team in the hall, you could bet I was yelling at them in my head, telling them they were sexist and old school and on and on and ON…Every challenge I encountered in that place was cast in a veil of sexism and anger. It was exhausting.

Now look, I am not saying that any of these thoughts couldn’t have been true. Maybe some of those guys were sexist. Maybe they lacked the skills and experience to treat me as an equal. Maybe it never would change. I don’t know and it didn’t matter. It didn’t matter because I realized that I could not control them. I could not change them. I could not make them into the kind of men I would respect. They were grown adults who were entitled to act and treat me in any way that they chose. I realized that the only thing I could control was myself and my thoughts and at that point my thoughts were making me miserable. I trudged through each day unhappy, grouchy, unsatisfied and disappointed. It was a terrible way to practice. I started working through my thoughts and endeavored to re-cast the situation. I had to let go of my anger that these people were falling short of my expectations for good leadership. I started focusing on the fact that my angry thoughts about the situation were making me angry and bitter. No one was negatively affected by my diatribes but me. Eventually I left. To put it more accurately, I RAN out of that place as fast as I could.

Later when I would think back to that time in my life I would find myself bubbling with anger. I blamed them and judged them for my leaving. I blamed them for my unhappiness. If only they had been willing to act in accordance with their values. . . if only they were capable of accepting their short-comings . . . if only they weren’t so freaking insistent upon taking care of their own…if only they were willing to accept different points of view as valuable… I had nothing good to say and every time it came up in conversation or I thought about it, I would find myself fuming with rage and indignation.

That’s when I realized that I was making myself a victim. I knew who the villain was – and so did everyone who made the mistake of asking me about my prior employer! That made me the victim. Yikes. I never thought of myself as a victim or a blamer and the realization stung. As I thought about it more, I realized that I was blaming the male partners and leadership for all my unhappiness there. I was blaming them for me leaving. I got to work picking through those thoughts and one stuck out in particular: I will never be successful here because I am not one of them. I believed that down to my core. But then I started to probe it. Was that true? Were there really no women there that were successful? Nope. My thought wasn’t entirely factual. There were women there who had found some form of success and happiness. They worked a lot more than I did. They made less waves. They were willing to “go along to get along.” They worked hard and didn’t make time for indignation – it’s not that they didn’t see it; they just didn’t spend energy on it. That’s when it clicked for me. I was wrong. I could have been successful there and I could have become one of them. I chose not to. I chose not to make those same sacrifices and I chose to use my voice. I chose to leave in honor of my principles and values. They didn’t force me to leave. They weren’t the villain and I wasn’t the victim. I made a choice to leave. I didn’t have to make that choice and no one forced me to do it.

Now when I think about my time with that organization, I am filled with pride and sadness instead of anger and indignation. I am proud that I clung to my values and I am sad that women are still fighting to be treated fairly and equally. I’m no longer villainizing their failures – that is for them to sort out. I made a choice that was all my own and I was not a victim to some faceless villain.

Could I have stayed there and found happiness? Sure. It would have required a lot more time working through those thoughts. I could have found a way to be happy. But here’s the thing. I didn’t WANT to feel good about what I seeing and experiencing. I did not WANT to be okay with that environment. That was also my choice. I chose to be unhappy during my time there. Life is not meant to be 100% happiness all the time. My experience at that organization was my time for struggle, challenges, growth and sadness. That, my friends, is how life works and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Cheers!


Photo by Lukas from Pexels

Toxic Beliefs

There are going to be people in your life who are going to challenge you. As an attorney, I can fully buy into the idea of toxic work environments and all the challenges that go along with them. But today, I want to back up the conversation one step and examine what it means for someone or some place to be “toxic”? What I have found is that this idea of “toxicity” is filled with more drama than fact.

Typically, when we identify something or someone as toxic, we are the only ones who show up ugly and toxic.

I focus my coaching on recognizing our own innate power to create our reality and our own happiness. My clients will tell you that I have helped them see the role they are playing in their own struggles. However, as a reiki master, I can also agree that our lives are filled with energy–our energy and the energy of those around us. When we characterize an environment or a person as “toxic” there is so much work to be done on that conclusion. Through coaching, I help my clients more closely examine that conclusion and challenge it BUT we are not doing that today.

Today, I want to allow space for this concept of toxic people and toxic environments. I want to go along with the idea that people and things can be toxic and ask:

When we characterize a person or an environment as toxic, what is the impact that has on YOU?

Our brains are not capable of processing all the information at our disposal in every moment. Rather, we give our brains direction and focus with our thoughts. We tell our brains where to focus its energy and our brain will buzz along compiling evidence to support that thought-directive. Evidence from both our past and present experience.

This is critical awareness because when we believe that someone or something is toxic, we become the victim of our own confirmation bias. Our brain is only going to gather data to support that directive and it is going to disregard data to the contrary. We essentially put on information blinders.

We all like to believe that we are open-minded and willing to see things from someone else’s point of view. But it is not possible to be open-minded when we are running around with these types of beliefs in our minds. It is not possible for us to see the opposing evidence when we allow ourselves to draw these types of conclusions!

A belief, any belief, will inevitably overlook contradictory facts and opposing evidence.

Furthermore, when we characterize those around us as toxic, this can be a subconscious green light to show up like a total asshole. Our negative characterization of the other person will impact how we show up and, let’s be honest, it’s not often our best. We see these toxic people as not worth the energy to be polite or kind to: we give ourselves a pass to show up as so much less than our best.

This robs us of the opportunity to grow. “Toxic” people are your perfect opportunity to show up as your best self. You don’t have to be affected by what they say or do. Practice disconnecting your emotions and thoughts from their actions. Practice allowing other people to be whomever they want to be — it only has to affect you if you let it. It only affects you if you allow their actions to shift your own energy.

It’s easy to label people or circumstances as toxic. The hard work comes from honing our ability to show up as the best version of ourselves. There will always be difficult people — practice dealing with them and stop practicing running away from them.

When you find yourself challenged with a “difficult” person or situation, be cautious not to place a negative label on it. That label will cloud your judgment and prevent you from being the open-minded person you strive to be. You will be blinded by your own confirmation bias and you inhibit your ability to show up as the best version of yourself.

So what do you do when you find yourself pulling your hair out and frustrated about a person or situation? Get curious. Stop investing and participating in the drama and become an observer. Watch the scenario as if it were  a movie — a movie staring you and your boss the chauvinist!  Whatever it takes, make efforts to disconnect from the drama and your judgments. Examine the experience from outside of yourself. Ask yourself what the situation has to teach you. Get curious about why people act the way that they do and try to foster some compassion. Be open to seeing the good in the other person — what might they be struggling with?

It’s hard work but no one ever said that being the best version of yourself would  be easy. Look around at the people in your life you have labeled negatively and start using them as your greatest teachers. How much better would your life be if you could transform those relationships? Get started transforming those relationships today.


“It is easy enough to be friendly to one’s friends. But to befriend the one who regards himself as your enemy is the quintessence of true religion. The other is mere business.”

― Mahatma Gandhi

Never Enough Time

“I never have enough time.”

I hear that comment every week from many of my clients. As women, we have so many hats that we wear — wife, partner, mother, sister, daughter, friend, boss, advisor, career-woman. We inevitably have a ton of things on our plate, it’s no surprise that we are periodically overwhelmed with life and all that is demands of us.

One of the reasons so many of my clients struggle with time management is because of the expectations they put upon themselves. In order to become a lawyer and snag that great position at that amazing firm, we bust our asses. We have grit and tenacity and that is what gets us to this place.

That grit and tenacity is also what sets us up for this battle with time. 

We know we can do hard things. We know we can put our noses to the grindstone and make it happen so we never stop trying to achieve more. As you know, I am a huge advocate for goals, in general, but my question to all overachievers is this: What is your why? Why are you doing all those things? What will it get you?

What are you looking for?

For many of us, we have spent the majority of our lives chasing the dream of becoming a lawyer. When we get there, the excitement that comes with achievement doesn’t last very long and we end up right back where we started — looking for some other mountain to climb.

The rationale for this pursuit, is typically that my clients are looking for something to make them feel fulfilled. They want to find something that will bring purpose and meaning to their lives. They want to feel like they have succeeded.

That. Never. Works. Many of my clients spend years pursuing accomplishment after accomplishment only to feel empty all over again once each new accomplishment high wears off. The truth is that those things outside of ourselves will never give us the purpose and happiness we seek. We have exclusive authority over our sense of purpose and happiness. Piling on goals and tasks and achievements will not only fail to give you that sense of pride you are seeking, it will bog you down and overwhelm your life. It will prevent you from being able to see and appreciate everything you have accomplished because you will always be distracted by the things you failed to do–the cleaning that you didn’t get done, that email to your new client that you wanted to get out, that phone call to your friend for her birthday. You will always be clouded by self-judgement because you have set yourself up for failure.

Part of this is driven by imposter syndrome. We haven’t internalized our worthiness so we seek outward validation that we belong. We don’t believe we are good enough to be here so we try to manufacture feedback confirming that we DO belong, that we are good enough. Implicitly, we care more about what others think about us than what we think about ourselves. We put the wants and needs of others (and thus their opinions of us) before our wants and needs for ourselves. Self care goes out the window and over-achieving pushes down the throttle. It’s no wonder that so many of my clients are overwhelmed with their self-created pressures.

At the end of a busy day, my clients are frustrated by all the things they DIDN’T get done. They spend zero time considering all of the things they DID get done and all of the ways the day was a huge success. Instead of committing to drink more water every day and get their billable hours in on time, they commit to reading a new book every week, working out four times a week, walking the dogs every day, cooking dinner three nights a week, and calling their mom every Thursday. We pile so much on that it would be impossible for any human to keep up. We set ourselves up for the complaint — I never have enough time.

You will never “have enough time” when the expectations you are putting on yourself are unreasonable.

Read that again.

It is not about not having enough time. It is about what you are choosing to pile on your plate and why!

Whenever you find yourself thinking that you don’t have enough time, I challenge you to take a hard look at all the things you have put on your list and ask yourself “why” for each and every one. Why do you think you need to cook a fresh meal every night of the week, why do you need a read the newspaper every day, why are you committing to a book club? Underneath all of our to-do list tasks are often a series of shoulds as well as a desire to feel accomplished and have others see you that way as well.

Are those good enough reasons for you to run this hard?

You are amazing, just as you are, without anything more. But unless and until you believe that, you will also be pursuing an unattainable form of happiness. You will never “have enough time.” It all comes down to our relationship with ourselves. If you aren’t investing in that relationships first, everything else you are doing in this life is just noise.

Stop this madness and start reconnecting with your intrinsic value. Sign up for a free session and let’s see if we can get to the root of this mania and find you more time for real happiness.

Career Changes

At some point in your career, you may find yourself wondering if it is time for a career change. Many of my clients grapple with the notion of leaving their current career path in favor of another.

When evaluating whether to make a career change, the most important question you can ask yourself is: why not?

I’m a firm believer that is something is nagging at your consciousness – like the question of a career change – there is something going on that is worth paying attention to. Most people disregard those nagging feelings because when they are asked “why not make the change?” their justifications are based on fear. It’s easier to stay put than it is to take the risk and try something new. Just because something is “easy” or “comfortable” doesn’t mean it is the right decision for you.

When you are 80 years old looking back on your life and your career, are you going to be happy you choose to remain put because it was easy? Are you going to regret not shaking things up?

When you ask yourself “why not do the damn thing?” and you don’t have good reasons, you need to take a hard look at your life. If your reasons are fear-based or comfort-focused, you are selling yourself short.

Stay because you WANT to stay. Stay because you like your reasons for staying.

If you are questioning your current path, that feeling rarely goes away. If anything it will only amplify. If you accepted that as true, what would you do with your life? If you knew that every job, every position, was simply a different and evolving season of your life, what would you do next?

I like to think about my life and my choices like the evolution of fashion or tastes. What I once thought was my most promising fashion choice in the 80s does not hold up well today. We change. We want new things. We become different people. It’s perfectly natural to want to be challenged in a new way or to experience new things professionally.

When you find yourself asking whether it is time for a new career choice, honor yourself by giving space to that question. Why do you find yourself asking that question? What is lacking in your current experience that you are wanting. Give yourself the benefit of the doubt and explore what is going on with you that is arousing that question.

We must learn to honor ourselves and respect the questions we present to ourselves. Ask the questions. You are the only one who can ever determine if it is time for a change but if you keep ignoring those nagging questions, you will never get to the right answer for yourself.

Our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers.

—M. Scott Peck

Of course, prior to making any type of  a significant change, I believe that we must act from a place of peace and happiness. Big decisions should not be made when we are feeling emotional or when we are worn out. Part of what I do as a coach is help my clients clean up all the mental garbage they have bogging them down so that they can make decisions from a place of clarity: decisions based upon sound reasoning and intention. If you aren’t in a good mental headspace, you must first work on your relationship with yourself. Good decisions will then flow from that place. Need support? Grab a free session while they are still available!


Photo by Suzy Hazelwood from Pexels

Making Peace

Sometimes we set goals and we make the plan and we just can’t seem to get any traction. We are acting but nothing is coming together. We are doing all the things but it just doesn’t seem to stick. Hopelessness and frustration set in and it becomes more and more tempting to throw in the towel. When our steps forward are harder than they should be and we find ourselves just forcing every action, we have to ask ourselves what is going on behind the scenes? Is there an opportunity to make peace and release some dead weight?

What we miss in those instances is the opportunity to pull up all that baggage that is keeping us stuck.

During our lives we have so many experiences that teach us about ourselves. From those experiences we start to draw conclusions and formulate all the beliefs that mold our understanding of ourselves.

I’m an awkward runner. I don’t like to cook. I’m not good with small talk. I don’t like to step outside my comfort zone.

Those thoughts are all based upon empirical evidence from our past experiences — someone once told me I run really awkwardly, I botched a homecooked meal for a date once and it was horribly embarrassing, etc.

Now we add to those thoughts additional perceptions about our life experiences —

I shouldn’t have done that, I should have known better, how could I have let myself gain this much weight, how could I have been so reckless?

Our self judgments and criticisms relating to our past experiences are also in the mix. We look at past experiences, decide how the experience was “supposed” to go, and then we pile on the blame on ourselves for the bad thing that happened. We punish ourselves for events based upon some manufactured notion of how things we supposed to have played out.

When we use our pasts to criticize ourselves we are fighting our truth. We are pretending like there is some master plan that is comprised of nothing but unicorns, daisies, and margaritas. We imply that our plan is not supposed to include dark nights, mishaps and challenges. This sounds ridiculous as I write it down and I suspect it is striking you as ridiculous too — but this is what we do! Any time you believe It shouldn’t have happened that way you are suggesting that the bad thing was never “supposed” to have happened.

What if the bad thing happened exactly as it was supposed to?

What if that experience was meant to be part of your path?

What if it was supposed to teach you something critical?

It is so much more empowering to own that negative experience and use it as a learning tool than it is to try and erase it, bury it, and beat yourself up over it. You are never going to win your battle with reality — it happened. Period. Why waste any energy thinking that it shouldn’t have happened? What is that getting you?

If you find yourself plugging away toward a goal, going through the motions but not getting anywhere, it might be a good opportunity for some introspection. What is going on behind the scenes that is keeping you stuck? What energy and belief do you need to face and make peace? For my weight loss clients, peace often comes in form of learning to love their body in a new way. It means letting go of their guilt and disdain for themselves and approaching weight loss from a place of compassion. For those of us who have had experiences with abuse, it’s about learning to forgive yourself.

When we blame ourselves and beat ourselves up for our past choices (whether the cake or the marriage!), it is the most insidious kind of judgment.

We deny trust from ourselves. We deny compassion for ourselves. We deny ourselves the insights that could come from that experience — that were MEANT TO come from that experience.

Those quiet self-judgments might not be at the forefront of your mind in every moment of your day but they are there and they are keeping you stuck.

If you buy into the belief that you are a failure who has no follow through, you are never going to lose weight. If you blame your past relationships traumas on your poor judgment, you are never going to open up to new experiences. When you see yourself as the cause of all your problems, past and present, you are always on edge waiting for yourself to do it again. You will expect your past “failures” to repeat in every new opportunity, every new relationship.

When all you have is a hammer, everything will look like a nail.

When all you have is self-judgment, every new experience will look like a new opportunity for you to fail (again). There is no way you are ever going to succeed with any goal if you don’t believe at some level that you are good enough, that you can do it and that you are right where you need to be.

That’s the crux of it: you are right where you need to be. Everything in your life that has happened has brought you to this place. Stop begrudging where you are and start looking for the lessons. Be an anthropologist of your life — what were all those hard lessons supposed to teach you? See the kernel of good in all that has happened and make peace with your past.

You can’t berate yourself into success and you can’t just go through the motions ignoring your baggage. Success only comes from within so you might as well start there.

I am a certified life and weight coach and I help women all across the country create a better relationship with themselves. I am passionate about helping women find their power and start creating the life of their dreams. I would love to help you too. Check me out by signing up for a free coaching session, your life is waiting.


Photo by Donald Giannatti on Unsplash

Fear

I’m afraid of what my life will be like if I stay but I’m too afraid to leave.

It’s surprising how often I hear this during my sessions with attorneys. Logically, they know that long-term big law life is not for them. They know that they don’t want to be a slave to billable hours forever and they do not see anyone above them who has a lifestyle they want to emulate. They have all sorts of concrete, realistic reasons why they don’t want to stay where they are. But it is rare that I encounter a client who is “ready” to leave.

Why do they stay? The answers usually some of the following:

I don’t know enough yet

There is so much more I need to learn

People will judge me

What if it’s worse somewhere else?

Within that head space are the fears that if they leave, no one will hire them because they don’t “know enough” or that they won’t be able to get a job because they left “too early” in their career as well as the fear that everyone at the firm will judge them as someone who couldn’t hack it or wasn’t a good fit anyway. Lastly, the most important fear of them all–what if it’s a mistake to leave and it’s just worse elsewhere?!

So they stay. They stay and they hate it.

They stay and they are bitter and conflicted about it. They stay and they hate the fact that they don’t know where they want to be in five years.

When you make the decision to head to law school the long pursuit lays itself out before you. So many steps become very clear. You take the LSAT, research law schools, prepare applications, go through the motions of law school, apply to write for journals, do on campus interviewing, get a good summer associate position, and on and on it goes. Then you land the job and 2 years into it, you come up for air and wonder what you are supposed to do next.

It is jarring! Understandably, so! You have just spent close to a decade learning and taking all the right steps and now those steps are exhausted and you haven’t given any thought to the next series of steps.

At this point, the majority of my clients have concluded that they don’t want to make partner but that is the extent of it. Should they go in-house, go to a smaller firm, start their own firm, leave law for good? The possibilities of what can be done with a law degree are endless.

The possibilities of what can be done with your life are also endless.

There is no right or wrong answer.

One of the biggest mistakes I see my clients making is that they wait for clarity to come to them. They continue to go through the motions hoping that some day the path will become clear. Maybe they will get a call from a headhunter with the perfect opportunity for them. Maybe they will get fired! Maybe they will wake up one day and LOVE their job. So they wait. They make good money, they don’t hate everything about their job, so they just stick it out. That type of passivity is why so many people stay in jobs they hate forever.

It’s easier to just wait for something to “feel right” than it is to take control and start making things happen.

The only way to truly get clarity about what you want in life is to start taking ownership for your path and experimenting with what you want. We can’t wait for the opportunities to come to us. We can’t wait for the firm or some partner to dictate our future. We have to take our power back.

First, we have to get clear about what we want for ourselves. What are your goals at your firm? What are the things that you still want to learn or think that you need to learn? There will always be more things to learn, that is simply the human experience. Stop allowing yourself to believe that there is some attainable point at which you will “know enough” and be ready to move on. It’s an empty, shifting target that is rooted in fear.

You will never know it all and no matter what you do next, there will be things you don’t know. 

So instead of allowing for this unattainable point of omniscience, set clear goals that are important to you. Recognize that we are overachievers and have a tendency to want to do all the things and cut your list of items down to three actionable goals. Don’t let yourself create a “learning” ball and chain that keeps you stuck forever. Pick three things that will force you to grow and provide you will valuable skills and focus your energies there.

If you can’t think of three concrete things you want to learn from your current work experience, you are in the wrong place. (Psst, it’s time for a change.)

Second, start taking action on these goals. What will you have to do to make them a reality? This step will likely require you to have some discussions with your partners or your supervisors about the type of work you like or the things you want to accomplish. This alone will force you to flex some new muscles.

Asking for what you want and being clear about your vision for yourself is a lifelong skill. Start practicing now.

No one knows who you will be or what you will want to do with your life once you attain those goals. That is the point. The point is to challenge yourself to grow and develop. Law firms are businesses and so are you. Use every experience as an opportunity to grow the value and worth of your business. The firm is certainly using you for its purposes, start using it for your own. Decide what you want to get out of the experience and make it happen.

The last part of this process is just recognizing that your primitive brain is going to try its best to keep you safe. We are biologically programmed to seek pleasure and avoid pain. So when we shake up our lives, start asking for what we want, or consider leaving the comfort of our current job, our brains lose it. Our brain goes into protection mode and starts offering all sorts of reasons why we can’t do that–you don’t know enough, you’re not ready, people will judge you, etc. Sound familiar?

Just because your brain offers you those thoughts, it doesn’t mean they are true. It doesn’t mean they are a message from the universe to stay where you are. It is biological pre-dispositioning.

As you evaluate where you want to be in life, KNOW that your brain is going to try and talk you out of it. Know that you are going to have doubts and fears. That is normal! The question is, are you going to allow that mind chatter to keep you stuck or are you going to do the hard thing and evolve? The choice is yours.

Unclear about your next move? Get some free support by signing up for a free coaching session. Sometimes all we need an unbiased perspective to see things more clearly.


Photo by Tonik on Unsplash

Insecurity Delays

When you start you legal career, you enter a period in your life when the metrics aren’t clear and feedback is few and far between. It is often difficult to know if you are doing a good job; however, it is rarely difficult to know if you aren’t doing a good job–that type of feedback is readily provided.

So in a profession where the only feedback you typically get is negative feedback, how do you keep those experiences from making you paranoid?

In today’s blog we focus on getting clear on where negative feedback fits in your life and how to keep it from bogging down your best work.

You are practicing law. You are doing the hard thing. You might feel like you are operating blindly, unsure if that last email you sent made any sense or addressed the appropriate legal issues. Projects are submitted and become part of a vast cone of silence. It is often difficult to know whether that silence is an indication of your failure or a silent thank you for a job well done. In the midst of this silent treatment, you periodically receive some feedback. Negative feedback.

That shouldn’t have take that long.

This shouldn’t have been that hard.

You missed an important issue.

You clearly did not understand the scope of the project.

You completely missed the point.

When many of us receive that feedback and when that is the ONLY feedback we receive, it breeds an odd form of professional paranoia. We know that we didn’t do a good job in those particular instances but we don’t have any clarity on when we HAVE done a good job. It’s like being blindfolded and sent to navigate a minefield. It’s no wonder that this type of consistent negative feedback, without more, makes it difficult to get back on the horse. Usually the result is that we spend more and more time agonizing over every minute detail of every later project hoping that we are getting better at anticipating the mines. The delightful insecurity delay!

We take that negative feedback and camp out with our self-created paranoia.

While we would like some positive feedback, we would almost prefer the silence than the sudden, surprising criticism, like a slap in the face. When we live in that paranoia, projects take longer and our brain becomes filled with self-doubt and negative chatter. It’s hard to focus on the task at hand in between beating yourself up for your mistakes and worrying that you are about to mess up again. The natural result is that we spin in this insecurity, take longer to get simple tasks done, and start to cower in fear of any future mistakes. (The mistake spiral.)

When your work is greeted with silence punctuated only by negative feedback, it can be difficult to be confident. In order to dig out of this pit, you have to start pursuing additional facts and facing some new realities.

You are not perfect. You will never be perfect. No one else in your professional orbit is perfect.

The first step in getting through insecurity is to get your head out of your @$$ and get some perspective. You are not perfect and neither is anyone around you. We all make mistakes in our practice and we all especially make mistakes when we were just starting out. Do not allow yourself one F-ing moment to believe anything else. No one has it easier than you — what does that even mean?! — and everyone is learning. You are not a special snowflake. You will make mistakes just like everyone else. Get over it.

Seek and ye shall receive!

Recognize that lawyers are busy myopic beings. We focus on the dumpster fire at hand and leave little room for much else. That means that normal, professional courtesies go out the window. Providing constructive feedback is not likely at the top of their priority list so if you want more constructive feedback, you are going to have to ask for it. You are not at the mercy of your bosses or your work. Constructive feedback is not parade candy — you don’t have to sit back and hope that they throw some your way. Get out there and rip the candy out of their miserly little hands! When you receive negative feedback, it is perfectly acceptable to ask if there were other aspects of the project that DID go well that you can continue to improve upon.

Schedule periodic check-ins following/during large projects to see how you are doing.

Ask the questions — am I on par with where you would want me to be? Are there areas where I excel? What other areas can I improve upon?

If you don’t start taking ownership of your career and asking for the type of feedback that you want, you will be left in a vacuum of negative feedback and nothing more. You will be at the mercy of your bosses’ individual experiences–whatever is happening in their lives behind the scenes that may or may not play a role in the ass-chewing you just received. You have to seek out more information. You have to seek out both sides of the story. Remember that we all have a bias toward negativity so you are going to have to work to gather information on the other side of the story.

Any feedback is a sign of their investment in you

Focus on the fact that they are giving you feedback; it is a sign that they are invested in your growth and improvement. The only time I withheld feedback — negative or positive — was when I had concluded that the attorney was a lost cause, a bad fit. If they are giving you feedback it means they know you can improve. At some level they believe in you. Do not overlook that fact.

Be honest with yourself

When you find yourself reeling after some negative feedback and it is making it difficult to execute any task, start focusing on your internal self-talk. Listen to the things you are telling yourself. Ask yourself why you are having a hard time moving forward. Usually it sounds something like this: You can’t mess up again; he thinks you’re idiot; how did you miss that? What the hell happened?  You are never going to do a good job from that headspace. If your friend had received the same feedback, would you let them talk to themselves the same way?

If the reason you aren’t sending that email is because you are afraid of messing up again — send the damn email. Do not let your fear of more negative feedback impede your success. Accept that negative feedback is part of it and allow yourself to be open to the possibility that you are, in fact, good at your job — if you weren’t, you wouldn’t be there. Recognize that the reason you aren’t sending the email, finishing the project, whatever is, is because you are afraid. Is that a good reason to delay? Do you feel good about letting some vibration in your body (fear) keep you from doing your best work?

Recognize your fear and your negative self-talk and start being honest with yourself about where your real work lies. When you allow negative feedback to paralyze you it’s because of what you are making that feedback mean about yourself. It means that you have more work to do.

Get support

Whether you sign up to work with me or not, the fact of the matter is that we all need support to do hard things. From professional athletes to CEOs, they all have a support team. Find yours. Whether it’s a mentor, an affinity group, or a close friend, find someone who will help you keep a clear perspective on things. Free support is available all around you. Find it and stop twisting in the wind.


Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

Getting Clarity

In today’s hectic world and in our chaotic practices, it can be easy to get swept up in the action of it all. When we lose ourselves to the momentum of our lives, we often overlook the most important question we need to focus our energies: what do you want?

Starting a legal career is much like a mad dash toward a finish line. We spend years working and stretching and pushing to get there. But when we finally get there, we don’t stop. We just keep running. We don’t even realize we are doing it. We just keep going without asking: what’s next?

In order to truly own our power, we must, in every aspect of our lives, pause and allow ourselves to set our course — where are we going?

It’s jarring to wake up one day and realize that we don’t know what we want next. We have gotten so good at following the orders provided to us. We received a recipe for becoming an attorney and we executed. We have long forgotten how to sharpen our tools of agency. We have become disconnected from ourselves and our wants! We crossed that finish line and we just kept going without considering where we wanted to run to next.

It has been far too long since we stopped and asked–where to after this?

No one wants to run a race without knowing where they are going. We set a destination, plan a course, and run until we get there. When we go grocery shopping, we have a list based upon what we want to prepare. We don’t hop in our cars and just start driving aimlessly unless we are running away from something — are you running away from something by aimlessly allowing your career and life to run on autopilot without a destination?

Why is it that in the most important aspects of our lives, we fail to set a course? We don’t try to see the bigger picture. We are running without a destination.

There is only one rule:

When asking yourself what you want and where you are going, don’t allow yourself to be confused. There are no right answers in life. There is no secret path you need to discover to find your way to happiness. When we indulge in confusion, we implicitly believe there is a right or wrong answer. That confusion keeps us stuck until we can know with certainty what’s next. It keeps us running blindly–why stop running if we’re confused about where to go next?

The name of the game is growing, evolving and challenging yourself to become the best version of yourself. You are not going to evolve or challenge yourself when you are operating automatically.

Identify your why — why are you in that relationship? Why do you stay in that job? Where does your current experience fit into your overall plan?

Nothing has to be set in stone and you can change your answers any time you want. The point is that we need to give ourselves some direction. Why? Because to do otherwise is to allow other people, events, and circumstances to run your life.

Failure to identify where you want to go next places your life at the feet of those around you — your boss, your spouse, your kids, your partner. When we don’t set our own course, others WILL step in and fill that void for us.

Do you really want them to determine where you are going?

Your free will and ability to make your life anything you want it to be is the greatest gift you have been given; don’t squander it by floating in the breeze. You are better than that. You are in the driver’s seat.

Every day, reconnect with your whys and wants. Get clear on what you want from life so that you can set your sights on your true north. To do it any other way is to surrender all of your power.

When I work with new clients, the first thing we do is set that intention–what do they want? What is their dream? From there, we start taking massive action to making that dream reality. Work with me and start creating your life from a place of intention.


Photo by Amanda Dalbjörn on Unsplash