How to Make Any Decision

We are all given so many opportunities in our lives to take action in a big way. One of the challenges that come with those opportunities is the fear that this action will dramatically change things.

When we are faced with a choice that could have lasting repercussions, how do we know when to take the leap and when to stay put?

While I am not a soothsayer and I do not pretend to have any answers for anyone’s life other than my own, what I can offer is what I have seen so many women grapple with as they sort out big decisions. When new opportunities come to our door, they often bring the same party favors with them: self-doubt, fear, and guilt are common accompaniments.

We worry that we won’t have what it takes, what will happen if it doesn’t work out. We feel guilty for contemplating decisions that might upset those around us.

When all of those fuzzy feelings come to the door, it can be very difficult to think clearly and decide whether to act. In those instances, I work with my clients to start getting very clear on what it will cost them to act or not to act. In any choice that we make, there will be pros and cons. There will be consequences of many varieties, even when the opportunity seems too good to be true. In those instances, we have to consider what we gain by acting.

What could we gain if we try and end up failing?

What could we gain if we end up succeeding?

What does it cost you to NOT act?

The answers to these questions are something we all must answer for ourselves but these questions force us to look beyond the negative feelings that accompany change.

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

But we must set those feelings aside and focus on weighing the costs. For instance, when we know with certainty that staying in our current job or relationship will stifle our development and we can see what taking a risk will force us to grow and develop in new ways, we then have the assets we need to push through those negative feelings and take the leap.

When we have clarity about what is at stake with every new decision, that clarity will light the path when things get murky (because they will). That clarity will allow you to keep moving.

So when all those wonderful feelings meet you at the door of opportunity — self-doubt, fear, and guilt — invite them to sit down at the table because they will most certainly be coming along for the ride.

That is simply the price of evolving.

We have to ignore those feelings in the short term so that we can truly focus on and weigh the options ahead of us and make an intentional rather than an emotional decision.


Photo by Tingey Injury Law Firm on Unsplash

Standing In Your Own Way

I’m a firm believer that everybody needs to be doing this work. Why is that? Because we all have ugly thinking that we are carrying around with us that acts as an energetic ball and chain keeping us from creating the life that we really want.

To illustrate this point, I’ve been thinking through accomplishments in history where it’s clear that the champions were able to challenge the thinking of the time in order to create something great.

One thing that most readily came to mind was the concept that our earth is flat. And yes, I have seen the Netflix documentary Flat Earth exploring those of us who continue to subscribe to the belief that our earth is, in fact, flat. Flat Earth people aside, let’s consider the thinking that led to the discovery that our earth is actually round. In order to take the actions that ultimately confirmed the earth’s spherical shape, early thinkers from Pythagoras, Eratosthenes, Aristotle, Plato, Columbus, etc. had to be open to the possibility that the current thinking about the earth was wrong. They had to consider the possibility that everything we had always thought might not be the absolute truth. At the time, these men might not have known how right they were but at least they were open to the possibility.

We cannot do great things while carrying with us opposing beliefs.

These historical figures could not have generated the confidence and curiosity to challenge the theory of the earth’s flatness while being equally invested in the belief that the earth was flat. They had to shake that belief loose and consider the possibility that it might not be absolute. They were open to challenging the predominant certainties.

While this may seem an obvious and unnecessary exploration of history, I point this out because so often my clients are unwilling to dive into the ugly parts of their own brains. They want to develop the pretty thoughts and motivating thoughts or the thoughts that will generate action for them. They don’t want to spend time rolling up their sleeves and looking at their negative thinking and challenging those beliefs.

This is counterproductive and will serve only to create greater cognitive dissonance for my clients as they try to move forward. It’s like stretching a rubber band until it snaps back together — sure, you can make progress in that direction but the progress is never permanent; you always end up right back where you started. You simply cannot generate new action and new results from the same set of beliefs — you have to start thinking and feeling differently.

This requires us to challenge our existing thinking. 

In order to take action in a new direction, we need to generate emotions that will drive new actions and new explorations in recognition that a different truth may exist. Where we have conflicting beliefs that we continue to invest in and give energy to we’re never going to be open to equally investing in a new belief that will generate the energy needed to create the action that we want in order to create a new result.

In sum, unless and until we dismantle pre-existing belief models we will never have the energetic capacity to create new actions and results.

The conflicting, outdated beliefs will act as a ball-and-chain keeping the new beliefs from gaining traction. We will only be partially invested in the new belief, thus the emotions and actions that belief can generate will be restrained. The result is that we will never fully create what we want because we have always hedged our bets by holding onto our existing beliefs.

When we try to breathe life into new beliefs without dismantling our old operating system, we stifle our efforts.

We cannot shift to prettier thoughts and create better feelings and results while at the same time equally investing in opposing beliefs. It’s like putting on a pair of shoes that are 10 sizes too big and trying to run a marathon. It just doesn’t work. Those aren’t your shoes!

The majority of the women I work with want to be more confident. They want to believe they can do it, that they are doing a good job, and that they are good enough. They want to live and act from that space. The problem is they aren’t facing the reality that parts of them are still persuaded by beliefs that they aren’t good enough and that they aren’t going to make it. They are still holding on to the possibility that what they want to believe is not true.

Unless and until they unpack that circus, they will never be able to act from a genuine place of confident beliefs.

We have to look at those existing beliefs and get to a place where we can see them as just that. Choices were making and things we’re choosing to believe. We limit ourselves because we are not coming to new beliefs from a place of investment; rather, we are coming to a new belief from a place of uncertainty and exploration because we’re still committed to believing something else. We cannot create the life we want if we show up every day believing that law firms are unfriendly places for women, places where women can’t succeed as easily as men. That belief is never going to stop sucking part of your energy away from the true intended goal of building a practice you are happy in. That belief will always creep in and reinvest your energy in hopelessness.

If you are truly seeking success in your law firm, we have to start thinking about the law firm life differently.

We have to be open to the possibility that what we have been believing all along is not necessarily true. It’s just our opinion. It’s not factual and it is not serving us. In other words, we cannot shift any beliefs until we find ourselves in a place where we can see the old beliefs as what they are: bad choices that you’re no longer going to make. Not facts and clearly not places we choose to our energy. Only from there can we shift our energy to something new and start creating something new. To do otherwise is to divide our efforts and divide our energy and handicap yourself from the very beginning.

So there it is my friends, get to work looking at your ugly thinking and work on yourself from a place where you can see that all your beliefs about the situation are optional perceptions. You can choose something else. You can be open to the possibility that your perceptions are not the only truth available to you.

Work with me; schedule a free consult and let’s start dismantling your “thought” balls and chains so you can start creating lasting change.


Photo by Joey Kyber from Pexels

Why We Procrastinate (and how to stop)

Procrastination much? We all do it from time to time and, with effort, we can develop different habits. Dare I say, we can stop procrastinating for good? I rarely procrastinate anymore and many of my clients have developed better planning skills and tools to combat the urge to procrastinate but we’ve done that song and dance so we aren’t going there today. Today, we are exploring the rationale behind our procrastination.

First and foremost, let’s blame biology.

In brief, as humans, we are hardwired to seek pleasure and avoid pain. This means that when our brains perceive danger, rightly or wrongly, our brain will begin crafting an escape route. This biological wiring is designed to keep us out of the mouths of hungry lions.

So where does this danger come in? For those of you living in the thick of your practice, you might be thinking that some of your partners and clients actually resemble hungry lions out to rip your throat out and that’s actually not too far off…. When we have something that we are avoiding, the REASON we are avoiding that project is because we have some underlying fear associated with the project. There is something about the project that is arousing your biological flight response. It might sound something like this

I’m not going to get this right and she is going to be so pissed at me.

I don’t know how to figure this out and he is probably going to fire me when I mess it up.

I cannot stand working for this client, they always leave out crucial facts.

I am so nervous, I cannot botch this project.

I hate working for this partner, I really don’t want to do this.

This is going to be miserable.

All of those thoughts will arouse some type of fear-based response. All of those thoughts trigger more negative thoughts and on and on it goes until we have built up this project to be cruel and unusual punishment that must be avoided at all costs. We are afraid of the consequences of not getting it right, pissing off the partner or the client, or we simply dread the perceived misery of the project.

In either case, we are being driven by some unacknowledged fear.

No problem, says the procrastination fairy, Starbucks has a new latte you need to try, and have you checked out your ex-boyfriend’s Facebook page lately? Then we indulge in our other biologically motivated response–seek pleasure! Gobble up endorphins wherever you can find them!

This routine will stretch on only until another, larger, and more critical fear enters the dance floor:

the deadline

Suddenly, the fear that we won’t get the project done in time looms larger in our minds and drowns out the earlier fears of failing the project. We start to imagine the SHOUTY CAPS emails raging over our missed deadline or failure to respond. Our mind is abuzz with a full-on parade of horribles showing us what will happen if we don’t stop shopping on Amazon and get. to. work.

Off we go, motivated by fear once again.

But this time, our earlier procrastination has likely set us up to fail in the exact same manner we were afraid of failing to begin with. We work frantically, our thoughts are scattered, and our work is filled with a chaotic sense of urgency. Ultimately, we end up beating the project to death with the procrastination stick until it is unrecognizable. We make mistakes that are completely out of character because we are rushed and panicked and now even MORE convinced that the partner is, in fact, going to seriously impede your survival at the firm. When we work from that mental space, motivated by fear, we do not do our best work. We miss things we would not normally miss and we overlook basic things that we KNOW. In sum, we fail ourselves and show up much less than our best.

This whole routine is tethered together by one small similarity: fear. We procrastinate because we are avoiding some negative emotion; we are afraid of something about the project. Then we procrastinate until a larger fear gets us moving. Ultimately, we end up creating our own self-fulling prophecy where we do the really terrible job that we feared we would do in the first place.

So what do we do?

We have to start getting honest with ourselves about why we are procrastinating to begin with. Once we get to the root of fear, we can ask whether we like that reasoning. Furthermore, we can acknowledge how this story will end if we choose to invest in that fear and go down the Facebook rabbit-hole instead. Combating procrastination only requires one thing from you: honesty. Honesty with yourself about your actions and your justifications. From there, all you have to do is ask yourself whether you like your reasons for acting or not acting and make a new, informed, honest choice about your next steps. Those are the choices that will determine the type of person you become — one who procrastinates or one who doesn’t. The choice is ultimately yours and all that matters is whether you are comfortable with your reasoning.

“Following-through is the only thing that separates dreamers from people that accomplish great things.”

Gene Hayden

Start taking actions towards your goals and stop letting fear derail your progress. Sign up for a free session and stop procrastinating today.


Photo by RODOLFO BARRETO on Unsplash

Why You Are Frustrated

At the core of this work is accepting that our emotions are wholly created by our thoughts. That whenever we are experiencing any feeling, it is because of the thoughts we are having. So if we find ourselves experiencing an emotion that we don’t want, it is up to us to shift our thinking to generate a new emotion IF we want to be feeling differently about a situation.

Logically, this makes sense to us but in the heat of the moment, it is often incredibly challenging to remove ourselves from the experience and examine our role. I remember one instance many years ago when I was just starting this work. At the time my partner had just moved into my home with his dog and my 2 dogs to create The Brady Bunch of dog families. I had lovingly decorated my home with beautiful blinds and floor-to-ceiling curtains that accentuated the high ceilings and 100-year-old architecture of my home. One morning, I was enjoying a leisurely breakfast and looked over to my white linen curtains and realized that the bottom half of one of the curtains was yellow. I quickly began investigating and realized that my boyfriend’s male dog had been consistently marking this particular curtain in the dining room…and when I say “marking” that is my eloquent attempt to say that the dog had been pissing all over the nice things in my home. I was livid.

Later that day, I was talking to my coach about it and I explained to her how frustrated I was that this dog was ruining all the nice things in my home! She very simply asked me, “Do you want to feel frustrated about this?” Emphatically, my answer was NO.

Then she asked, “So why are you frustrated about it?” Naturally, I once again launched into my rant about the horrible dog destroying the house (because clearly, she wasn’t getting it) and she started to laugh.

She was laughing because it was pretty clear that I believed the dog was what was making me feel terrible rather than my thoughts about this dog peeing in my house. From there I went on to realize that while I can certainly choose frustration about this experience in my life, I didn’t want to be frustrated about it. Truly, I wanted to not be frustrated and show up more proactively in my life. I didn’t want to let this dog get the best of me and cause friction in my relationship. That was the crux of the issue.

If I wanted to not be frustrated about the situation I was going to have to accept the possibility that there was more than one way of thinking about it. It didn’t mean that there wasn’t validity to my thoughts that were making me frustrated but what it meant was that there were also alternative truths about my experience. It meant that I was going to have to gravitate toward another line of thinking that didn’t make me want to scream at the damn dog. I needed to find another “truth” about the situation that I could throw my emotional weight behind.

Having realized that the dog was not, in fact, implanting frustration and anger into me, I took ownership of my role in those feelings. From there I found an alternative truth: I shifted to believing that if this was the worst thing that would happen when cohabitating with my boyfriend, then life was pretty damn good. I also shifted to believing that this was just another obstacle that we are going to have to figure out as a couple. Neither one of those thoughts were pretty or flowery or made the situation OK. Rather, those thoughts allowed me to live in a space other than frustration. They allowed me to see the bigger picture, ditch the anger, and start strategizing. It allowed me to foreclose an angry blowup with my boyfriend and an unnecessary battle with his poor dog.

This situation sound familiar? Get support with your frustrating situation by signing up for a free consultation now.

That’s really the heart of the work that we do. I could certainly have chosen to live in those thoughts that I felt so strongly about. I could continue to believe that the dog was ruining everything and that he was a horrible monster destroying all of my nice things. But that would have to be my conscious choice. When asked how I wanted to feel about it the situation, I truly didn’t want to feel frustrated. I didn’t want to be happy about it but I didn’t want to live in a dark pit of annoyance and bitterness toward this dog that I actually loved and that was loved by the man that I loved. That meant that if I wanted to feel something other than frustrated, I was going to have to work at it.

When we find ourselves living in frustration over the circumstances of our lives we must take a step back and acknowledge that what is making us frustrated is not the events around us but rather our thinking about them. From there we can truthfully ask and consider do I want to be frustrated and if so I will continue with these thoughts. If not, I am going to have to do the work and find some alternative truths. We must shift from seeing our perspective as the only truth and invest in believing that every situation can have multiple truths available to us.

The next time you find yourself frustrated, consider whether that is your conscious choice or whether there is another way to show up in the situation.


Photo by Matthew Henry on Unsplash

“Old School” Thinking (how to deal)

“Some humans are really bad at being human.”

Scott Mescudi

If I could teach my clients how to change other people, I would. If I could help my clients persuade their bosses that working from home periodically is not the end of the world, I would. If I could show women how to get their significant others to be more loving, supportive, affectionate, romantic (this is a long list), I would dive right in. But I can’t. Coaching is not about helping you become a manipulation magician or specialized in your methods of *helping* others see the light.

When it comes to other humans, coaching is largely about putting down the boxing gloves and walking out of the ring.

I recently had a client we will call Mary. Mary had a boss who was “driving her mad.” He kept trying to instill his values and beliefs in her, lecturing her about how to succeed (work more, obviously) and how to build a thriving practice (focus on high-value projects rather than projects you enjoy). According to Mary, he was always saying offensive things and flying off the handle. He wasn’t interested in training her and he was unwilling to give her any feedback. But at the same time, Mary saw some good in him and wanted to continue to work with him. If only we could figure out how to “get him to be better.”

Sound familiar? Sign up for a free consult now and let’s chat about your horrible boss.

Mary’s explanation of the situation and her description of this man were dripping in judgments and criticisms. “He just doesn’t get it…he’s completely offensive…he has a screwed sense of reality…he doesn’t understand me…” Once she was on a roll telling me about this ogre of a man, it was hard to get her to stop. She was energized and animated in her criticisms and she was fully invested in this story she was weaving. He was clearly the problem and we needed to fix him.

All that energy built up and invested in those criticisms and what was it getting her? Absolutely nothing. The truth of the matter was that she was wanting him to be different much the same way he was wanting her to be different. They were locked in this tug-of-war trying to get the other person to change. My advice to Mary and other clients in this same position: drop the damn rope.

You are never going to succeed in changing other people. When has that ever worked for anyone?

There are so many better ways that we can use that energy. When we stop wasting energy ranting about the faults in our neighbors, we can instead use that energy to figure out how to better deal with them. Rather than ranting and raving about how your old school boss won’t give you any feedback, what if you spent that energy figuring out how to make that feedback happen? What if you put that energy into scheduling meetings with the man and directly and sincerely asking him for feedback?

When we waste energy complaining about the humans around us and how their shortcomings negatively impact us, we give them all the power in the relationship. We overlook any opportunity to make it happen on our own terms. To ask for what we want and start taking actions to get it. When we believe that other people have to change in order for us to get what we need, we will lose every time. We will give them all of our power and relegate ourselves to the role of victim stuck in a never-ending drama.

When we let other humans be who they are we can allow space for the yin and yang of life. If you have a boss that isn’t great at being a boss, we can let him be and recognize that his shortcomings are part of the job description. When you recognize that we are choosing to have these people in our lives and we agree to let them be who they are, we take ownership of the 50/50 of our life. In Mary’s case, sometimes her boss is going to give her unsolicited advice she doesn’t agree with. He is going to say things that get under her skin and he is going to be reluctant to give her feedback. That is her 50/50. That is part of what she signed up for. Unless she decided to quit, she was choosing to engage in these challenges by remaining in that job.

We have to stop fighting reality and accept that when reality involves other humans, things are going to suck at least half of the time.

And. That. Is. Okay. Nothing has gone wrong here and nothing has to be fixed.

Well actually, the only thing that has to be fixed is our own thinking. We have to drop the rope and stop the “I wish you would change” tug-of-war. We have to stop swimming in judgment and criticisms of the other and start looking inward and asking “Who do I want to be in this relationship? How can I take my power back? How can I take action to get what I want?”

Ultimately, you know what just might help them change their old school thinking? Watching you find success your way with grace and integrity. It’s hard to deny hard evidence right in front of you, even for those stuck in “old school” thinking. Start creating success on your terms and stop battling old-school mentalities, use that energy in a way that better serves you. Need support? Grab a free consult now.

Should I Leave?

Everything in life is 50/50, yin and yang. But how does that apply to our careers? Are we supposed to settle? Should we be searching for a job that hits all the marks? How do you know when you are chasing the dragon and when you should accept shortcomings as simply “a part of life?” The answer lies simply in seeing a job’s short-comings with clear eyes and making a choice.

For example, I love lifting weights. I try to go to the gym as often as I can, which generally is not as often as I would like. I love lifting until my muscles are jello-y and my legs shake. I love going home and soaking in epsom salts and knowing that tomorrow is going to be rough. I love walking around like I got hit by a bus after leg day and I love when it hurts to laugh because I killed my abs the day before. I love it for the trade off — the endorphins during the workout and the physical changes I see over time. Absent those days of soreness, I wouldn’t have any of those benefits.

I recently had a client tell me how much she loves the majority of her work. She loves the people she works with and she loves the challenge. But there was a portion of her work that she didn’t like. Specifically, she didn’t like the people she had to work with during the other parts of her day. She came to me wanting me to support her to understand if it was time for her to move on.

(If you find yourself in a similar situation, be sure to sign up for a free consult today and get support tailored just for you.)

As you may have discovered by now, I’m not a big advocate for doing anything until you have squeezed all the juice out of your current experience. In my opinion, moving on implies that you have learned the lessons available to you in that moment of your life and, having done that, you are off in search of a new experience.

None of us want to run scared from job to job but usually we are doing just that. Rather than facing that horrible boss and flexing your skills of honesty and vulnerability, we throw in the towel and move on to the next thing.  We run from that negative experience and those feelings of embarrassment, frustration, anger, and disappointment. We don’t want to experience those emotions and we don’t want to rise up to those challenges, so we jump ship. We run away from them. Time and time again I have seen women do just that only to find that challenge show up in a different form in their next experience.

It is going to be hard.

As with lifting weights, you have to take the bad with the good. There will be pains that accompany your successes. It is going to be challenging and there are going to be days/projects/humans that you don’t like. And that is okay. That is not a reason to leave.

When we know we are signing up for a struggle, at least part of the time, the only thing we have to evaluate is whether our current position provides us the types of challenges that we WANT in our lives. The goal is not to get to a job without any challenges (spoiler: it doesn’t exist), the goal is to sign up for a life with the types of challenges you want. The types of challenges you are committed to tackling. If your current battles aren’t ones you see as worthy, then maybe it is time for a new challenge. But don’t leave because a challenge exists, leave because it’s not the kind of challenge you WANT in your life.

For instance, I know that in order to be fit and healthy and sane, I need to work out several times a week. I know it’s not always going to be fun and I know I’m not always going to look forward to it. Instead, I choose the types of challenges I’m willing to endure–dance classes, interval training, sprints, step aerobics YES. Kickboxing or Pilates, not for me.

I accept that it will be dreadful at times but it will be MY kind of dreadful.

For my client, the most important question I asked her was “what if nothing is wrong here? What if it’s okay that you don’t love every aspect of your job? Then what?” When we stop seeing the 50/50 as a problem that needs to be fixed, we can focus on accepting those aspects of our reality and stop fighting them. Only when we stop fighting reality can we allow the dust to settle and take real stock of our lives and authentically decide “what next?” The answer to that question will be very different once you accept the *bad* parts of your job and stop focusing all your energies on things/people/aspects that are beyond your control to change.

Living with and handling problems is part of what it means for life to be 50/50.

It’s part of what it means to be human.

The choice, then, is to decide what types of problems you are willing to deal with in your career. If a mansplaining boss isn’t the type of challenge you are invested in working through then, by all means, move along, knowing there will be other similar challenges wherever you go. There is no unicorn job out there waiting for you.

So, having accepted the 50/50, how do you know when it’s okay to accept the 50% that sucks or when it’s time to move on: you simply decide. You simply decide based upon reasons that are honest and authentic to you and you like your reasoning. That’s it. If you don’t want to fight the battle to make things better at your current job, just acknowledge it. Own it and know that lesson will be waiting for you in another rendition later on.

Accepting that the perfect job does not exist is only part of the battle. The other part requires us to consider the types of challenges we DO want in life. Once you make that decision–once you CHOOSE your mansplaining boss–it becomes so much easier to just roll with the 50/50 because it’s YOUR kind of 50/50.


Photo by Matthew T Rader on Unsplash

How Uncertainty Can Change Your Life


Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd.

Voltaire

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how detrimental certainty can be in our lives. How certainty, if left to its own devices, would have kept us believing some pretty ridiculous stuff — tobacco enemas, changelings, icepick lobotomies. In order to progress, scientists (and the rest of us) had to let go of our closely held beliefs and be open to the possibility that those old beliefs weren’t serving us. One of the hallmarks of good science is constantly challenging our prior conclusions — to never truly be “fixed” in any given certainty.

Outside the world of science, our tendency to acquire certainties remains pervasive and, at times, limits our own innate abilities.

We are certain that no one is hiring during the pandemic.

We are convinced that it is harder to network with people virtually.

We believe that our neighbor is stealing our newspaper to spite us.

We believe that we have to respond to emails over the weekend.

Certainty is the enemy of growth. We can’t tell the future yet we parade around telling ourselves we can’t do XYZ because we know how it will pan out for us (the answer is always: badly). We soothsay away our options to justify our unwillingness to shake things up. We predict calamity and hellfire if we dare challenge the norms.

To grow, we have to constantly question our beliefs about ourselves, others, and our reality. That is how we evolve.

The problem is that certainty feels nice. It feels easy and comfortable and requires nothing of us. It is easier to remain wed to your beliefs (certainties) than it is to test those beliefs and see whether they are true.

There was a time in my life when I believed that I could never have any balance while practicing law at a big firm. And then I went and I did it. I tested my belief and discovered that it wasn’t entirely true. I was CHOOSING to not have balance. I was choosing to say yes to every request. When I put that belief to the test, I discovered that I could have a practice where I came and went as I pleased and spent my time speaking, traveling, writing and networking.  Did it require me to challenge systems I had previously let alone? Yes. Did everyone like my new approach to practicing? No. Did people gossip about it and crab about it? Yes. But I got what I wanted because I was willing to accept that my closely held belief was wrong. I was willing to explore other approaches to practice and I was willing to let go of the need to be liked and safe from gossip. I released myself from face time obligations and I never looked back. 

(Now I help other women to do the same — sign up for a free coaching session to learn how.)

Wacky historical medical beliefs aside, our entire society is founded upon the value that emerges when we challenge norms. When we allow ourselves to become uncertain about things. When we question things and allow ourselves to see if there is a better way of doing things and thinking about things.

How would your life be different, if you started examining some of your closely held certainties?


Photo by Brendan Church on Unsplash

The Biggest Lie You Tell Every Day

I don’t know. Have you ever noticed how often we use that phrase? When we think about verbal pauses, many of us immediately think of “um” and “uh” but we often forget about this funny little string of words that we throw around to fill awkward silences or to deflect our discomfort. In honor of the close of the ultimate year of uncertainty (2020, for those of you not following along), today I want to consider how these three little words, when used unconsciously in this manner, can rob you of your credibility and make you a liar.

When you ask a child what they want to do when they grow up, they will quickly offer all sorts of fantastical imaginings. Flying to the moon, raising a gaggle of unicorns, and becoming a fairy princess seem to be fairly obvious responses (both then and now — who doesn’t want to fly to the moon on a unicorn dressed as a princess?).

What is most interesting about fantastic childhood plans is not the plans themselves but a child’s commitment to making them happen.

Have you ever asked a child where they plan to find a unicorn, let alone an entire gaggle of unicorns, or how they plan to fulfill their lifelong dream of raising unicorns in every color of the rainbow? Such a question may be met with a variety of unique and interesting answers but, amongst those answers, you will not hear a child respond: I don’t know.

Kids don’t care about the how. That is an adult problem that we have gifted to ourselves.

Kids don’t care about how they are going to accomplish their dreams. They simply commit. When pushed, they brainstorm all sorts of ideas as to how they might accomplish this goal. Their little eyes squint with focused effort and their little brains hum away offering all sorts of solutions to the problem. They get to work solution-ing the problem, without hesitation or doubt.

The beautiful thing about watching a child do this is that it is a living reminder that we too are wired in this way. We too have the ability to solution all of our problems. The trick is that we must stop investing in the phrase “I don’t know.” Those three little words slam the door – no eye squinting with thought-exertion, no brain humming away to work. Just pure silence. Dream foreclosure!

Using those three little words suggests that we must know how something is to be accomplished before we can get to work doing it. In what realm does that make any sense? Why does it matter that you don’t know how to accomplish something?

Isn’t it simply enough to want it and chart your course from there?

(Get support charting your course by taking advantage of limited free coaching sessions that I offer every week.)

Our world is not filled with problems that have secret, solitary solutions that must be discovered. Our world demands that we must get to acting and crafting potential solutions before we know what will work. We must acknowledge that we don’t know the how and get to work sorting that out.

Not knowing “how” is not a stop sign, it’s the starting line.

We know this intellectually but yet our brains freak out whenever we are tasked with something significant that we have never done before. That freak out sounds like this:

I don’t know.

You DO know. You may not know the exact right solution but without a doubt you can brainstorm your first step. If you force yourself to imagine what you would do if you DID know, you will develop a first step. You will start learning what might work and what won’t work. In contrast, if you resign to a world of I don’t know, you will most certainly continue to not know because those words never spurred anyone to action.

In a world of balance — yin and yang, up and down, good and evil — everything has its opposite. Everything has its counterpoint. Wouldn’t it then follow that where you are “not knowing” there also exists in you the corresponding “knowing”? 

When you use IDK as a means to fill the space and avoid taking action, you discredit yourself and your resiliency. You communicate to yourself and those around you that you don’t have the ability to brainstorm like a 6-year-old child. Furthermore, you communicate to those around you that it matters that you don’t know the precise solution to the challenge at hand. It doesn’t matter! The only thing that matters is your investment in acting to discover a solution.

Lean into solution-ing like a child and give yourself space to be the problem solver that you are. No one is hiring you because they want you to know everything. People hire you because they trust you to craft a solution, no matter what it takes. That leaves very little room for “I don’t know.”

In sum, stop staying I don’t know and give yourself space to offer what you DO know. That is so much more truthful than “I don’t know.”


Photo by Bermix Studio on Unsplash

The Career or the Family?

I can’t have a family and practice law.

This type of thinking is common for many women seeking their place in the legal industry. We are often surrounded by women who seemingly sacrifice everything to find success. They either choose not to have children or family for the sake of climbing the ladder or they have the kids and family but they trade their health and well-being–they never sleep and perpetually seem to be running a race against themselves.

Work and family: despite everything we see suggesting that these things are mutually exclusive, there is a significant fault with this thinking.

It is rare in this life that things will be truly mutually exclusive. We live in a world where dichotomies seemingly flourish, if we only look hard enough to see them. But when we subscribe to ‘either or’ thinking, we foreclose any solution to the dichotomy that might be truly our own. With ‘either or’ thinking, the only thing we will see are more reasons why it won’t work.

Our brains must be given some direction. Without adequate supervision and instruction, our brains are like children running down the stairs with knives — no one will come out of this unscathed. What this means is that, in every moment, of every day, we are giving our brain direction and instruction with our thoughts. From there, our brains will whir to action ferreting out evidence to support the thoughts and beliefs we offer it (hello, confirmation bias). So when we offer our brain thoughts of mutual exclusivity, our brain will not seek any evidence to the contrary.

Our brains are not designed to argue with our beliefs. That is a skill we must develop on our own. The first step is recognizing the beliefs that you are choosing are just thoughts–they are not facts but we are treating them as if they were.

When we subscribe to “either or” thinking, as if it were the holy grail of truths, we foreclose any innate ability we may have to merge the dichotomous elements. We overlook any creative solutions to the exclusivity and we don’t invest any energy developing creative alternatives.

If we truly believed that we could have a full professional life and a home life and if we actively invested in that belief, we would be much more willing to explore ways to make it work. We would be much more invested in drawing boundaries that would give us both. Instead, when we subscribe to dichotomous thinking, we set ourselves up to fail; we buy into the notion that one of those commitments will have to suffer for the other. What’s more, that thinking allows us to ACCEPT those sacrifices as part of the invariable truth. That truth being: you can’t have both.

Says who?

Investment in that type of thinking is only hurting us. When we allow ourselves to believe that we can only have one or the other, we stunt the development of the legal profession. Imagine where women would be today if our predecessors stopped challenging dichotomous beliefs!

One of the reasons this type of thinking often wins out is because it’s easy. It’s a very clear rule establishing choices that must be made. It confirms that anyone who tries to have both is only setting themselves up for failure because they are violating the rule. This ignores the underlying truth that sometimes getting the life that you want requires you to do the hard thing. Sometimes, challenging established beliefs requires more from you than simply accepting the limiting rules. So when we start to challenge those norms and feel that struggle, we give up and we release our will to the power of the belief.

But what if that struggle was the whole point?

What if just beyond that struggle and a whole host of difficult conversations and boundaries, you could find a way to live a life that flies in the face of the old rules?

We don’t have to believe that you must make a choice between family and a career. It can be done but it will certainly require more from you and it will most certainly require you to do more than simply buy into a belief. In order to deconstruct outdated thinking, we are going to have to invest in some difficult conversations and boundaries. We are going to have to re-examine how we envision our lives and our practices. We are going to step out of the black and white (victim, villain) thinking and start crafting solutions that actually work for us.

Besides, what’s the alternative?

Challenging systematic beliefs we hold about ourselves and our careers is at the core of what I do with my clients. When we believe we don’t have any other options, we stop growing and we stop challenging the status quo. We become the victim to a faceless machine. That is the death knell for our success in the legal profession. Start paving a different path, marked by an honest investment in your true wants and needs. Let’s re-chart your course — what do you have to lose?


Photo by Standsome Worklifestyle on Unsplash

They Don’t Like You

Humans are social animals. There is a part of us that is drawn to community. So when a seed is planted that we are not liked, it’s easy to become consumed with worries and fantasized arguments with others. Not only does this waste your energy in the moment, it’s typically unwarranted. When we get curious about our “I’m disliked” fantasies, we can uncover the root of the issue: our own self-judgment.

When we find ourselves being criticized, we often have an impulse to react and to defend ourselves. No one wants to be a doormat. But there are also times in our lives when we don’t rush to our own defenses: when we don’t see a glimpse of truth in the criticism. In those instances, we are rarely drawn into the foray.

If your neighbor gruffly tells you that they would appreciate it if you would pick up after your dogs and you, in fact, do not have any dogs, that feedback would not upset you. You might take issue with their tone and assumptions but you aren’t going to go to battle about picking up after your dog. That comment would not send you into a tailspin about whether you are a good neighbor or dog owner or a good person in general.

Similarly, if I told you how I hated your blue hair you wouldn’t be offended (unless of course, you have blue hair). Confused? Yes. Concerned for my mental state? Probably. But you wouldn’t be self-conscious about your blue hair or second guess your fashion choices.

This logic rings true when we are concerned that someone doesn’t like us. If we didn’t have a mountain of reasons why we think they don’t like us, it wouldn’t bother us. The problem is that when we are in that headspace, the criticisms and arguments running through our heads are more likely criticisms we have against ourselves. We have plenty of reasons why we think others might not like us, we just have choose amongst the myriad options.

Our internal battles are often punctuated by words the other person didn’t actually say. Things they didn’t actually do. We make assumptions about their “issues” with us and from there we get worked up. Where do those assumptions come from?

Our own stockpile of negative self-talk.

That is why we get so caught up in it. We explain to ourselves what the other person doesn’t like about us and then we go on a defensive rampage in our heads. If we didn’t believe, at least in part, that there was some truth to those criticisms we *think* the other person is lobbing at us, we wouldn’t care. It wouldn’t be so easy to get caught up in it.

BUT this doesn’t mean that you are uncovering subconscious truths about yourself. It doesn’t mean those criticisms are true. It’s simply a mirror, giving you a glimpse of your own self-judgments and the unkind words we say to ourselves over and over and over again. It’s like taking off the soundproof headphones and listening to our horrible inner self-talk for the first time.

So the next time you find yourself stewing about how someone doesn’t like you and drawing conclusions about why that might be, ask yourself

What parts of my story are factual? Did the other person actually SAY or DO anything to confirm these conclusions?

Why does it bother me? Is part of  my story based upon my own personal fears and judgments about myself?

When we worry about why others don’t like us, it is easy for our brain to pull out the reasons WE don’t like ourselves and offer those up to support your conclusion. This does not make it true. Use this as an opportunity to better understand your relationship with yourself. From there you can decide what type of friend you want to be — to YOURSELF.

Negative self talk is toxic and it permeates so many of our relationships with other people. Do your own work and watch your relationships with those around you flourish.


Photo by Jonathan Cosens Photography on Unsplash