Saying “No”

Logically, most of us know that we should be saying “no” far more than we are. Most us want more time, more balance, and more space. We know that saying “no” is an obvious step in the direction of those goals. But why is saying “no” so hard and so painful? What is it about setting that boundary that makes us cringe?

When we operate from our prefrontal cortex (the grown-up part of our brain that’s good at planning, strategizing, and anticipating challenges) it’s easy for us to see where change needs to happen. It’s easy for us to identify areas of our life where a new boundary would be helpful. We can look at our To Do List and the tasks that we take on and easily come up with things that we could take off our plates. Logically, this all makes sense but executing is where the battleground begins.

Once we’ve started something we have a hard time backing out. Once we’ve developed a pattern of saying “yes” we struggle to develop a new pattern. Even if we know intellectually that a new pattern will benefit everyone in the long run.

When we know that we need more “no” in our life, the only way we are going to get there is if we can deconstruct the rationale that got us to the place of overloaded to begin with. The next time someone asks you to take on an additional project or to sit on an extra board or help them through a problem, whatever it may be, we must pause in those moments and ask ourselves what rationale is driving us to accept these requests. It likely sounds something like this:

I should help

It’s the right thing to do (meaning, if I say “no” I’m not being a good person)

I don’t want to disappoint anyone

If I don’t say “yes” there will be a negative consequence (I won’t get anymore clients, I will lose out on work, people won’t trust me, people won’t like me, etc.)

All of these thoughts are incredibly persuasive in the moment. All of these thoughts are also rooted in fear. We worry that if we don’t help, others will judge us. We worry that others will think we’re not a good person or we’re not a team player. We worry that something bad will happen if we don’t follow through on all of these requests.

Sound familiar? Setting boundaries and time management is a huge part of my work with my clients. If you want to change the way you respond to requests and manage your time, grab a free consult and let’s get to work. You deserve better!

Those fear-based thoughts spring from our fight or flight brain that wants us to continue our usual routine of saying “yes” and chasing the endorphins of people pleasing. When we consider saying “no” and deviating from this pattern, our survival brain goes on the defensive. It starts offering to us all the reasons why this new approach will be catastrophic for our lives and our reputations. Knowing this, we must look at all of those fear-based thoughts and challenge them (using our prefrontal cortex).

I should help.

What does that even mean?! How do you know when you should help?! Who decides? Would everyone agree with that?

When we tell ourselves that we “should” help we often get ourselves into scenarios where we’re overloaded and we do a poor job in the end. In fact, it would be more of a service to the person making the request if we actually didn’t help because it’s possible they would find someone with more capacity who could do a better job. In other words, when you find your brain telling you that you should help the exact opposite is typically true: you should not help. Back away! Let them find someone else who will be more engaged and more available for the task.

It’s the right thing to do.

Again, says who?! What does that even? Is it right to help people when you don’t really want to? Isn’t that just dishonesty in a prettier outfit? Besides, when it comes to the “right thing” to do, shouldn’t your wants, needs, and sanity be the primary driver of those decisions?!

I don’t want to disappoint anyone.

The only way we disappoint people is when we overcommit ourselves, overextend ourselves, and do not show up in the manner that the requestor knows we can provide. When we say “yes” even though we mean “no,” we set ourselves on a clear path to likely disappoint not only the requester but other people who have similar requests already sitting on our plates.

Similarly, when we tell ourselves something bad will happen if we don’t say “yes,” it creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. We are likely to take on something that we don’t have capacity for and we do a bad job and create a negative consequence simply by doing a bad job and not being able to show up as our best selves. It’s a lose-lose scenario.

All of these thoughts are red flags that we are setting ourselves up to create the exact opposite result than what we’re wanting. More failure, disappointment, and chaos await us when we allow those thoughts to drive our actions.

Rather than allowing ourselves to be persuaded by these thoughts, we must remain rooted and grounded in our commitment to ourselves, our balance, and our happiness. We must reconnect with our prefrontal cortex that knows we already have enough on our plate, we’re already overextended, and some things just have to start coming off the list. Allow our prefrontal cortex to make those decisions ahead of time and go into the day knowing that any new request will be met with a simple “no”.

That is power.

That is having your own back.

That is putting yourself in a position to show up as your best self every time and ensuring that when people rely on you, you will have the time and energy to rise up and meet those expectations because you’re caring for yourself first.

Photo by Isaiah Rustad on Unsplash

Finding Your Voice

Have you ever found yourself fantasizing about that conversation you want to have with your boss (or partner, or client, or staff)? The REAL conversation you want to have? The one where you are completely honest and say all those things you have only whispered under your breath?

As attorneys, we are hired to advocate and be the knowledge voices of our clients–why do we struggle to advocate for ourselves?

During our lives…

We learn to walk.

We learn to ride bicycles.

We learn to cook for ourselves.

We learn how to navigate new cities.

Our lives contain so many examples of how we have overcome failure to learn new things. Babies fall repeatedly as they learn how to walk. We all had a few bumps and bruises as we learn how to ride a bike without training wheels. I conducted numerous pathetic and indigestible kitchen experiments whilst learning how to cook like my mom. I nearly died the first time I drove in a big city.

When I was in high school, I moved to the state capital to work as a page in the House of Representatives. It was the first time I had lived on my own and the first time I had to learn how to navigate a big city. I remember the first few times I made a wrong turn onto downtown one way streets. Where I came from, we didn’t have one way streets! We barely even had stoplights! I wasn’t used to paying attention to those things and I quickly learned all the new rules that come with inner city driving. I didn’t give up and decide living in the city wasn’t for me. I just did it. I kept trying and learning and not letting the fear about dying in a fiery car crash keep me stuck.

But isn’t everything else in life the same way?

I often find that my clients want to stand up for themselves and advocate for what they want–better balance, more flexibility, different work, a different supervisor, etc. They struggle to work up the courage to show up and ask for what they want because it’s uncomfortable. Sometimes, it’s because they’ve had bad experiences in the past where their honest requests were met with criticism. Whatever the case may be, they struggle with the discomfort of not being good at using their voice in an authentic and vulnerable way.

What we fail to see is that we are not going to be “good” at using our voices right out of the gate.

We are going to make some wrong turns and have some experiences that might feel like driving into oncoming traffic. But that doesn’t mean we have failed. It simply means we are learning something new.

Today, commit to using your voice in a way that is authentic to you–ask for what you want, say what you mean, say “no” when you want to.

It’s not going to feel good.

You’re going to be uncomfortable.

With practice, it will get easier.

Allow yourself opportunities to learn and fine tune that skill so that in the future, when it really matters, you won’t hesitate because it will be as natural as riding a bike (or navigating one way streets).

One of the things I do with my clients is develop a plan and strategize around asking for what they want. We experiment and practice with different methods until we find an approach that works best for them. If you struggle to say “no” or ask for what you really want, invest in developing that talent. Work with me and start living in your voice (schedule a free consultation now and reconnect with your voice and your power).

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

When You’re Worried

A story about how a stranger on the street got me thinking about life and worry.

This morning, an old man approached me on the street and started talking to me as I was unloading some donations from my car. His clothes were ragged, he was missing most of his teeth and he was wearing coveralls and a flower covered baseball cap. As I was unloading my things into a donation bin, he started to tell me about his life. He told me about how he had gotten hit by a car as a child and that he had been in a coma for weeks. Years later, he said, that accident impacted his mental capacity. He continued to chit chat while I was going from door to door, unloading bags and boxes of donations. When I finished, I was going back into my car to leave he said he wanted to share something with me. He looked at me and he said,

“Regret looks behind, trouble looks to the sides, and faith looks up.”

As I left I got to thinking about what he had said and the truth of it. Whenever we invite regret, guilt, frustration, or anger into our lives, our focus is on our pasts. Those emotions are often rooted in a judgment and examination of people and events that have come and gone (what people said, what they did, etc.).

When we feel troubled, our focus is on some unknowable future. We are continually looking around ourselves and off into the distance, expecting something to jump out of the bushes and sabotage our plans.

When we are living in belief in ourselves and have faith in the path, we can allow ourselves to be present and truly in the moment, giving thanks for the experience and trusting our ability to keep moving. We “look up” because we are present with gratitude and giving thanks to the god of our understanding for getting us to where we are.

If our life was like a race, looking behind us or frantically looking around ourselves would not be helpful. In fact, those actions would likely drain our energy and bog down our progress. While it might seem most useful to scan the horizon anticipating obstacles and indulging in some worry, that approach is only useful if your worries are accurate and help you avert a crisis–but how often does that happen?!

When we indulge in worry about the future, we imply that we have some capacity to foretell our futures; to know exactly how something is (or isn’t going to pan out). What’s more, when we indulge in worry, it removes us from the present moment and all that is available to us in that space. It’s like running a race, worrying that the road ahead is going to be flooded and washed away and you’re so focused on that possibility that you don’t realize that you are running right past a life raft that could safely carry you across the path, if needed.

When we are stuck in worry, we ignore the gifts and solutions at our feet.

Worry is such a tempting emotion because it feels so important to our primitive brains. The part of our brains that is designed to keep us safe latches on to those worries and expands upon them. Suddenly, our thoughts about a washed out path, morphs into a hurricane and fire breathing dragon up ahead. When we allow ourselves to put energy behind those worries, we are often persuaded to stop running altogether, to change course, or to take a break until you figure it out. But we forget that those worries are only half of the possibility of what lies ahead–what if there was no hurricane or dragon up ahead and the path ahead is smoother and flatter than the path behind? Indulgence in worry overlooks the fact that it is equally possible that our worries are completely unfounded.

If life was like a race, isn’t our best approach to remain in the present moment not only so that we can see all the gifts currently being offered to us but so that we can focus our energy on the task at hand? We must stop looking behind, around or far ahead of us and instead allow space for us to consider–where am I even running to? When worry or regret drive the bus, it distracts us from the reason we started running to begin with. We forget why we started and instead lose all our energy to fruitless wanderings.

What is the benefit of the race if we can’t find space to be grateful for what we have, what we have learned, and to consider what we want next?

Today, challenge yourself to stay present, stop worrying about the future and instead reconnect with your WHY. Why are you running this race and where are you going?

Photo by Monstera from Pexels

Family Drama

As we approach the beginning of this holiday season, I can’t help but think about families. Whether they are family by choice or family by default, we all have groups of people in our lives that we love and are thankful for yet, despite all that, these people that know us best also know how to best push our buttons. During this time of thanks, how can we better connect with these humans that sometimes make it difficult to be kind? A crash course in family drama and holiday chaos.

First, expect the worst. Okay, that sounds terrible but stay with me here…think about whatever it is you fear will happen at your next family gathering–that aunt will ask you for the 10,000th time, why you can’t find a husband, your cousin will ask you a million questions about his DUI even though you have told him you are a tax attorney, your mom will gently suggest that you skip that second helping of bread pudding (we all know what that means), or your brother will peacock around the house spouting off about how he is raking in the dough. All of those things that make your skin crawl; all those things that make you say “If they do this one more time, I’m going to lose my freaking mind…” Assume they will all happen. Why?

Because that is who these people are and people will rarely morph into the people you want them to be.

They have the absolute right to be whomever they want to be and when we show up hoping they will be different, we set ourselves up for a huge disappointment and drama. Instead, we just expect them to show up as they are, doing all the little things that they always do that drive us bananas.

Second, think about all the ways that those people want YOU to be different. Perhaps your grandmother wants you and your partner to get married, maybe your mom wants you to stop working and start breeding, your dad wishes you would stop getting tattoos, or your brother wishes you would be friendlier to his wife (whom you dislike). All of the humans in your life have ideas about how they want you to change. You are not exempt from this little game. Now, think about how much it bothers you when you feel those people judging you for all those things. Think about how much you would love it if these people would just let you be who you are and love you regardless, without all the judgment.

Third, decide to be the love and compassion that you want to receive. You can have a loving and accepting relationship with all of the humans that drive you crazy. You just have to decide to live in that space instead of playing the game. When your mom tells you to skip that second helping of bread pudding, you can choose to believe She is worried about my health and she thinks I eat like this all the time. She thinks I won’t find a partner if I’m overweight.

We can theorize and maybe even empathize with why these people are doing these things.

When she was my age, finding a husband was of prime importance and all women had to offer was their looks and their pedigree. She doesn’t understand how things work for women like me and that’s okay. We can accept that people don’t understand you and allow that to be okay–they might not understand your work, your values, your relationships to your body, your interest in tattoos or people of the same sex and that is okay. You don’t understand their confusion about all those things and that is also okay.

This holiday, what would it be like if we all just committed to showing up as we are and allowing others to do the same, warts and all?! We are all judging and, at times, confused by the lives of the people we love and there is nothing wrong with that. In fact, it could be what brings us all together–just a bunch of humans trying to figure things out and navigate their own paths while observing others on divergent journeys.

Cheers, my friends, I am thankful for all of you!

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Harassed by Father Time?

I don’t believe I’ve ever had a session or worked with a client that was not seemingly persecuted by Father Time. Many of us believe that we don’t have enough time, that we’re running out of time, or that there is simply too much to do. How much of this is fixable? In a recent session I had with a friend, I was surprised at the answer to that question.

Disclaimer: I do not share details of my coaching sessions without explicit consent from my clients and any personal information has been altered to protect their lovely identities.

In this particular session, my friend Claire explained how she is working on a new side-gig she is really passionate about. Her excitement for the project was evident and she explains that if she could, she would spend every waking hour on this endeavor. The problem? Claire is a full-time WFH attorney. Every day, Claire balances her passion project with the demands of her job. In addition, Claire is in the process of moving and has all the lovely tasks that come with that experience. She also has a boyfriend and a 3-year-old child. As I asked Claire to rate different aspects of her life on a scale of 1 to 10 it became clear to me that her dissatisfaction in various areas of her life all came back to one glaring issue: she believed didn’t have enough time and she believed the only solution was to quit her FT job.

She explained that any time she was frustrated at work or wishing that she was spending time on her passion project instead of sitting in conference calls and CLEs (can I get an amen?), her mind immediately responded:

You should just quit. This is too much. You don’t have enough time to do it all.

In the moment, those kinds of black and white thoughts are incredibly persuasive. They elicit such strong visceral reactions from us and strong feelings of hopelessness that it’s difficult to believe that they are not legitimate. However, surprisingly, sometimes those thoughts are simply just thoughts and there is no factual basis behind them.

Before we started exploring options for leaving her full-time position, I wanted to get clear on the facts.  I asked Claire to help me understand how she was spending her time. As we walked through a typical week, we got really clear on how much time she was spending on her side project, her grown-up job, acting as a mother and a partner, and moving.

At the end, it became clear to both of us that Claire was, in fact, getting it all done rather seamlessly. In addition, she rated her physical, emotional, and relationship health at 8, 9 and 10, respectively. Other areas of her life that she rated poorly, she reasoned was because she didn’t have enough time for them (e.g. she wanted more time with friends and more time for her passion project). However, as we explored her day-to-day activities, we realized that on most nights she wraps up by 6:00 PM, she gets to the gym three times a week, spends time with her boyfriend and her daughter every evening and over lunch breaks, and she was getting plenty of sleep.

So what was really the problem?

The problem was that she truly believed that she did not have enough time and she blamed that on her current job. As we worked through the session, we started to see that maybe those thoughts didn’t have a lot of factual support. Rather, we realized that by allowing her brain to demonize her job and marinate in thoughts of time scarcity, she was making herself miserable. In fact, at the end of our session she observed: I’m getting it all done I just don’t like the way that it feels.

Of course not! It feels terrible to believe that you don’t have enough time and you have to quit your job in order to make it all work. That is a frightening and stressful conclusion to carry around all day long. Rather, when Claire sat with the realization that she is getting it all done and is doing a good job, she was able to move out of the frustration cloud and start making different decisions about her days.

When you stop dragging hopelessness around with you all day long, you have a lot more energy to do all the other things you *think* you don’t have enough time for.

Claire realized that she was not going to be able to spend every day, all day working on her passion project while maintaining another full-time job but she also realized that she didn’t really want that. She didn’t want to quit her full time job and the faulty belief that she *needed* to in order to “have enough time” was freaking her out. Rather than living in her truth (I am a FT attorney with a side gig), she was choosing to live in a black and white world where her full-time job was the source of all of her woes: she had to do the passion project or the job but not both. Suddenly, she realized that if she snapped out of the funk and stopped ragging on her job every day, she just might find the emotional space to improve the other areas of her life that she felt were lacking.

How often have we chosen to believe that we can’t get it all done, that we’re failing, and that we just don’t have enough time?

How many times in your life have you taken the time to honestly explore the validity of those thoughts?

While there may certainly be times in our lives when priorities conflict and choices must be made, so many of us rush to believe we don’t have time, we can’t make it work, something has to give. That kind of either or thinking is terrifying and we often accept it automatically and without question. As Claire discovered, that kind of patterning not only makes you feel miserable but it can detract from the reality that you are in fact handling it all like a boss.

So what’s the answer to this time quagmire? Brutal honesty. Brutal honesty about where your time goes, what you want, and what you are capable of.

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Finding Balance

Nearly every client I work with has a hard time disconnecting from work.

Their minds are constantly re-hashing conversations, reconsidering strategies, worrying about what’s in their email.

The build-up of anxieties drives them to obsessively check their emails to see whether they have missed anything or gotten any feedback on their most recent projects.

Every time they check their emails, they are either “rewarded” with radio silence–Wahoo! I can relax for a minute!–or they receive more evidence that they cannot, ever, disconnect–Good thing I checked my email and can respond to this emergency right away!

Over time, this pattern disconnects us from our friends, family, and loved ones and creates an obsessive compulsive relationship with our phones and our jobs.

My clients want to be able to disconnect. They want to be present with their loved ones.

They want to enjoy a nice meal with their spouse and talk about something other than work.

They want to silence the chaos in their minds and focus only on what is happening in that moment.

They want to be able to put down their phones and make time to relax every day.

They know that if they don’t stop this pattern, every relationship outside of work is going to suffer and their mental well-being will erode.

But they BELIEVE they can’t stop. They BELIEVE disconnecting isn’t an option.

Sound familiar? Work with me and learn the foundational steps to protect your well-being and learn how to disconnect.

In order to fully commit to our profession, it means also making a commitment to show up as our best selves. It means investing in rest and life outside of work so that we can be fully engaged when we are working. To do otherwise is to cut our careers off at its knees because what we create is not sustainable.

Obsessive commitment to anything is not sustainable.

Recognize where your life is out of balance and endeavor to find pockets of rest and disconnection. Allow your brain to freak out every time you step away but honor yourself and your long-term wellbeing by making disconnection a priority. It WILL get easier with practice.

Your future self will thank you.

When we don’t practice disconnection and rest, we instead practice NOT disconnecting and NOT slowing down. We strengthen those muscles which ultimately makes any kind of balance even more difficult.

Today, I encourage you to find a pocket of space to reconnect with yourself.

You are not the job.

You are so much more than that.

Spend some time with your real self today. She might have some things to say to you.

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Being Authentic

When I was in private practice, I had a client that called me all the time. Constantly. He would call to talk through new ideas. He would call every time he wondered about some new aspect of the project. He called to vent. He called just to chat. He called when he was frustrated with his team and other times he called to let me know how happy he was how things were going. It was constant. How I showed up in that relationship changed everything about how I set boundaries in my relationships, personally and professionally.

I got in the habit of ignoring most of his calls unless I had the time or was in a good space to chat with him. I would often send him brief follow-up emails —

Saw I missed your call, I’m tied up for most of the day but if you send me a note, I can get back to you between meetings.

Which is really code for: If you’re calling just to chat, I’m busy. If you’re calling for legal support, I’m available. Even when I ignored his calls, I was irritated and distracted afterwards — Why does he DO THAT?! I’m not his buddy, I’m his lawyer!! (But dealing with the peccadillos of other humans is another challenge I had to sort out later on. Another story for another time.)

I didn’t ignore his calls and incessant messaging because I didn’t like him, it was because the calls were unnecessary and inefficient. They interrupted whatever else I was working on and they didn’t further our primary goal which was to GET THE JOB DONE. Usually, he was just calling to vent or talk through something. He liked to work through things verbally. As an introvert, I do not. I believed strongly that by screening his calls, I was allowing myself the opportunity to do a better job than I would if I allowed myself to be constantly interrupted.

After a while, I started to feel guilty about constantly putting him off. My brain was badgering me: He is going to get upset with you…He is going to think you don’t care…He is going to complain about your service…He’s going to say you are always unavailable.

One day, I gave in to those nagging thoughts.

He called me. I declined the call. Then he IM’d me about 5 minutes prior to my next meeting: Give me a call when you have a second. I decide to call him. No, rather, I concluded that I should call him. So, I called him. I called him because I believed that I should and I was irritated about it. When he answered, I instantly regretted it. I was not engaged; I was defensive, abrupt, and annoyed. It was evident. After the call, I felt terrible. I was everything that I was trying not to be in that relationship!

After thinking through the exchange, I realized that acting from “should” never yields me the results that I want. Forcing myself to do things when I’m not in the right mindset, when I’m feeling rushed, or when I’m acting from a negative emotion, never drives me to act in a way that I’m proud of.

Instead, I choose to believe that no one is going to fire me for being busy and I can ask people to interact with me in a way that is most effective and efficient for me (boundaries, anyone?). People might not like this approach and people might get frustrated but I am committed to being available in a manner that allows me to show up at my best and I would rather have people frustrated with my communication approach than be frustrated with me for being a jerk.

I choose to believe that I never have to answer a call if I don’t want to.

I choose to act when I want to and not because I believe I HAVE to.

I choose not to concede my schedule and my time to anyone other than myself.

Feel like your days are at the mercy of someone else? Schedule a free consult and get support to set (and execute) better boundaries.

I anticipated the possibility that he might be put off by this approach so I scheduled regular, brief check-in meetings that provided him an opportunity to talk about whatever was moving him that day and I could anticipate that interruption. After the project concluded, the client raved to everyone in the company and at my firm about our partnership. That’s how it is supposed to work, he told everyone. Not because I was at his beck and call 24/7 but because I put in the work to show up as my best in that relationship despite my discomfort and nagging worries.

It’s not about pushing people away. It’s about honoring yourself and your needs.

It’s about being committed enough to the relationship to be honest in the moment — no, I don’t want to talk right now — so that you can show up as your best in that relationship. It’s about being so committed to the relationship that you are willing to do something unpopular. In the end, it’s about being willing to be your authentic self in all of your relationships and letting go of any other notion of how you are “supposed” to act in relationships.

In sum, when we show up authentically, relationships flourish.

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Most of the attorneys that I work with do not believe that it is possible for them to create happiness within their current environment. They come to me unhappy and overworked. They believe that the only way things are going to get better is if the firm finally changes. Or if they leave. Part of the work that I do with my clients is helping them to start setting boundaries and flexing their “no” muscle.

Saying, “No, ” is always an option available to us to make more time for ourselves. To make time for the things that actually matter to us. So that we can find some space and happiness. We know, logically, that if we want more time, more balance, and more peace, boundaries are part of the deal but we are reluctant to flex those muscles because we fear the consequences.

There is a difference between not knowing how to resolve a problem and being afraid to implement solutions you know exist.

When my clients consider the possibility of not responding to an email at 8:30pm on a Wednesday night, it doesn’t seem like a real option. Their brains tell them that those kinds of boundaries will get them fired, demoted, judged, and “into trouble.”


We set boundaries because we know what is good for us; that doesn’t mean others are going to like it.

But let’s explore that. My clients that are learning to set boundaries and say “no” continue to meet their hourly obligations to the extent those obligations are clear. They continue to do good work, often times even better work. They continue to be a team player. And with these changes their attitude and energy change dramatically as well. Is it reasonable to believe that a firm is going to fire someone performing in this manner simply because they are not willing to be a doormat, on call 24/7? It’s possible. But it’s also possible that the firm will swallow that pill even though they don’t like it.

If this resonates with you, grab a free session and commit today to start living differently.

Furthermore, when we tell ourselves that setting these boundaries, pushing back and saying “no” is going to cause us to get fired, I don’t believe that result differs from the alternative. I work with attorneys all day long, every day. Attorneys who are burnt out and unhappy. Attorneys who have implemented the rage quit or attorneys who are tap dancing on the edge of it. What I submit is this:

If we continue the path that we have historically been on, where we ignore our boundaries and forget how to say “no,” the ultimate result is that we leave. We leave burnt out, unhappy, and disillusioned, believing that practicing law is just not right for us. That path may take several years to trek but ultimately the lack of boundaries ends with a sad exit.

In contrast, we can choose a path where we speak our truth. We’re honest about our availability, we set clear boundaries and make time for what’s really important to us. If that path were to result in us being terminated, we must also ask:

Is that so much worse than the alternative?

How long do you think you could flex those “no” muscles, set boundaries, stand up for yourself, and make more time for what’s really important to you before the firm steps in and decides that they no longer want to employ you? Six months? A year? What would that time be like for you? To have more time, more balance, to have the ability to workout and spend time with your family instead of constantly feeling on the edge and on call. Wouldn’t that six months or one year of balance and peace serve you in a much better manner than those years of burnt out frustration?

The ending is the same most certainly but the person at the end of either of those journeys is absolutely not the same person. And the sacrifices each of them would make during those journeys could not be more different. The choice is yours. What do you have to lose?

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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. )

Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

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?

Photo by Lisa from Pexels