Giving Away Our Power

As a basic premise, we as humans have the right to determine how we spend our time, where our energy goes, who we have relationships with. We have complete autonomy over our lives. We know this at our core but when it comes to implementing it and OWNING it every day, we give away all of that power.

With my clients, I most often see this happen when we start envisioning changes they want to make in their life.

Making commitments is easy. Following through on them is what distinguishes successful people from the rest.

Many of my clients have similar items on their wish lists —

I want to make time to workout

I want to spend time playing with my kids

I want to have a date night with my partner

I want to leave work at a reasonable hour every day

When it comes down to implementing and executing on those wish lists there are a mountain of reasons why it never happens–I’m just so tired at the end of the day, I just don’t have enough time, it’s just not a priority, something always comes up.

Any of those sound familiar?

You have the freedom to make your life whatever you want it to be.

If you don’t want to workout everyday, want work late every night, and want to rarely have one-on-one time with your family, that is absolutely your right. But let’s get one thing very clear: you are CHOOSING do to do those things. You are CHOOSING not to play with your kid when you get home, you are CHOOSING not to go to the gym, you are CHOOSING not to make your self-care a priority.

In order to get serious about creating the lives we want, we have to start getting honest with ourselves.

This life is not just happening to you–you are creating it.

You have to take ownership for the choices you are making every day.

Being tired at the end of the day is not a universal justification for not going to they gym. You are choosing not to go to the gym. People do all sorts of things every day when they are tired. YOU are doing all sorts of things every day even though you are tired. You are simply choosing not to make the gym one of those things.

When it comes to work, it is no different. You are choosing to answer that phone call right before you were supposed to head to your kid’s soccer game. You are choosing to work late and honor that last minute deadline.

You do not have to honor any deadlines.

Seriously.

You do NOT have to honor any deadlines.

Ever.

You are CHOOSING to do so. Maybe you believe that if you don’t you will get fired or you will lose the client, whatever your justification may be, there is likely a reason you are doing it.  A reason that you believe you HAVE to do it. But the truth is, you are simply making a choice. People blow off clients and deadlines and bosses and phone calls every day. You are choosing not to and that is your right. Own it and stop blaming your choices on everything else. Take ownership of the decisions you make in every moment.

Recognize the reasons for your choices and own them for what they are–choices you are making for whatever justifications you decide are important.

I pay my taxes every year not because I “have to” but because I choose to. I choose not to commit tax fraud. I choose not to violate the law. That’s my choice. Many others in this world do not make that same choice.

Sometimes, I choose to disregard my schedule completely and make something else a priority. Whenever I get a call from my family during business hours, I answer immediately and drop everything else. That is my choice. In that moment, I remind myself “You are choosing to do this, you do not have to do this.” I don’t let myself be a victim to circumstances outside of my control. I choose to blow up my schedule and best laid plans if I want to. Because that is my choice. It’s as simple as that.

When we stop telling ourselves we “have” to do things or when we make excuses for not acting, we are ignoring the simple truth of it all–we are choosing to do or not do those things.

When we take ownership of the choices we are making in every moment of every day, it allows us to hit the reset button. It allows us to ask whether that is a decision we WANT to make. A decision we would make again.

In every moment of ever day, you are making choices. Do you like the choices you are making? Are you blaming someone else for your decisions?

When you look at your life and your days as a series of choices, you take back all of your power.

You reclaim your ability to decide how you want your day and your life to play out. Don’t allow yourself to believe that your life is at the mercy of anyone other than you. Live on purpose and choose consciously how you want to spend your time.

We struggle to make ourselves a priority. We are really good at not choosing to put ourselves first. Make an investment in yourself and your life.

What do you have to lose?


Photo by Robin Glauser on Unsplash

Negative Feelings

There will be bad days.

One of the drawbacks of living in a society where everyone is so interconnected and everyone’s lives are constantly on display, is that it blurs the lines of reality.

If a Martian were to observe our society solely through the lens of Instagram or Facebook, they would believe that all humans are incredibly beautiful, happy, and blessed. They would believe that on our planet, we have wide variety of products that we can buy to solve all of our problems: products that will make our bodies beautiful and thin, our bank accounts fat, and our love life abundant.

Not only do these outlets influence our beliefs about ourselves but they perpetuate the belief that we should be happy all the time. If we are not happy all the time, we are out of the norm. Think about it — anytime we see someone who is visibly sad, our question to them is invariably:

What’s WRONG?

As if being unhappy in any moment means that something is wrong with you. Something must be fixed. In fact, you can probably throw some money at that unhappiness and “fix” it.

When we buy into the notion that we are supposed to be happy all the time, we freak out anytime we are not happy. We don’t know what to do with those emotions so we avoid them, we resist them, or we react to them. We get into a mad scramble to get rid of them ASAP.

For some people, negative emotions means that someone has done something to them. Someone else is to blame. They lash out with anger and defensiveness which seem much more productive and valid than feeling guilt or shame. Instead of recognizing their role in anything and feeling shame, they reject that emotion. They reject the idea that they are faulty and lash out at those around them. They react to the negative emotions in a way that creates more negative ripples in their life.

They REACT to and RESIST negative emotion and in turn just amplify their problems.

Others spend most of their time avoiding the negative emotions. They reach for anything they can to self soothe and dull the emotion. Bad day at work? Feeling like a failure? Go for that extra glass of wine and a piece of chocolate cake. You deserve it. You’ve had a bad day.

They AVOID negative emotions and bury them in substances or actions that generate dopamine. This eventually creates more problems (excess weight, overdrinking, overspending etc.)

We’ve all been guilty of an impulse splurge.

But what is really at work is our desire to NOT feel those negative emotions of shame, self-doubt, or fear.

Instead of experiencing them, we bury them in dopamine hits from sugar, alcohol, shopping, sex, whatever. Or we throw the negative back at those around us — they are the problem, not us.

This approach only works for brief periods of time. Like a boomerang or a beachball held under water, eventually both will gain force and resurface even stronger.

Once we are done with our little excursion of avoidance, those emotions are right there waiting for us.

Only now they are stronger because we have over-consumed, gained weight, feel hungover, made poor decisions, etc. and we have to face those consequences ON TOP of the negative emotions we were trying to avoid.

Around and around we go ultimately only increasing our negative experience through out acts of avoidance, resistance and reaction.

I recently had a free mini-session with a client who believed she was “fine”. No problems, no negative emotions to deal with. Every time we identified a negative thought and tried to discuss the associated emotion, she would immediately shift and offer the other pretty thoughts she was thinking instead. She immediately shifted to positivity any time a negative emotion came up:

I’m not always thinking I’m a horrible person and a failure, it just pops into my mind sometimes. I really think I’m a pretty good person.

Then, two weeks after our first session she had a complete burnt out meltdown. She fell into a black hole and eventually had to take time off work to regroup.

She had spent so much of her energy ignoring all her nagging, self-judging thoughts and suppressing the associated emotions, that eventually it blew up in her face.

It is not sustainable to paint over the ugly parts of our feelings and just pretend like they are not there. 

Now my work with her focuses on examining those negative emotions and thoughts and truly processing them rather than resisting them.

The point is that our lives are supposed to be an equal balance of positive and negative. Good emotions and bad emotions.

We know we are happy because we have experienced the emotion of sad. We know we are excited because we understand how it feels to dread something.

If we don’t open ourselves up to experiencing the negative, we can’t ever truly understand and appreciate the positive.

When we convince ourselves that we are supposed to be happy 100% of the time, we set ourselves up for failure. We set ourselves up to avoid, react to, or resist our negative emotions to “fix” them. In the end, all of those approaches only serve to make us more miserable! None of them resolve anything. They simply magnify the misery in the long run.

What I offer as a solution is to simply co-exist with negative emotions and understand that they are a part of the human experience.

Be open to experiencing all that is available to us in this life — the good and the bad.

If we can stop freaking out every time we have a negative emotion and we can simply experience it, it will diminish in power and eventually will pass. We can adjust our thinking to stop spinning in toxic thoughts.

Fully experiencing the bad days is so much more productive and easier than patching up the relationships we destroy when we react with blame and anger or losing the 15 pounds we gain when we avoid emotions through food or other outlets.

Recognize how you are handing your negative emotions and ask yourself: What is the worst that could happen if I just experienced this disappointment right now?

After all, it’s just a vibration in your body.

Whenever you catch yourself reaching for the chocolate cake or buying needlessly on Amazon, examine your predominant thought and emotion. Are you trying to make yourself “feel better”? How is that working out for your waistline and your bank account? What is you just experienced the emotion and journal about it instead of eating or shopping?

I spend a significant amount of my time supporting my clients to process their negative emotions and examine the impact their choices to resist/react/avoid are having on their lives and I challenge you to do the same.

The process isn’t hard, it’s what you discover once you start doing the work that might surprise you.


Photo by Austin Guevara from Pexels

The Elusive Happy

Do you ever feel confused about why you are not happier in your life?

You have a job that pays the bills. You have a home. You are healthy. You have family and friends who care about you.

Despite seemingly having all the ingredients to live a satisfied life, you just can’t seem to find happiness.

It always feels like something is missing or you catch yourself constantly wondering is this it?

Most of the women that I work with come to me to work on this very issue. They want to be happier, they want to feel better.

They believe that I can help them complete a task of some sort that will lead them to the elusive happy-land they have been seeking.

Unfortunately, when we learn to understand why we feel the way we do, we also come to realize that there is nothing that I can do to make you happier.

There is nothing anyone can do to make you happier.

You are going to have to go this one alone.

In our society, so many people blame their unhappiness on things outside of themselves:

I’m unhappy because I hate my job.

If my spouse was more affectionate, I would be happier.

I’m unhappy because I don’t make enough money.

I’m unhappy because I’m always broke.

Circumstances outside of us have no way of imparting feelings upon us. There are no magic feeling zappers that other people use to control how we are feeling. People cannot reach out and inscribe emotions onto your brain.

Your feelings are created by your thoughts and the often-times nasty things swirling around in your head.

If you are unhappy, it might be because you spend 99% of your time thinking about how much you hate your job, or how your partner isn’t good enough, or you don’t have enough money. Those thoughts feel terrible.

Those thoughts will never create happiness.

People are so incredibly wed to this notion that circumstances create our feelings. When I explain this concept, they get so defensive. They want to tell me how terrible their boss is or how broke they really are, because once I really understand their circumstances, I will get it. Then I will see that their bank account balance is what is making them unhappy.

Nope. Your bank account balance is just a circumstance. When you see that balance and think how am I going to pay the bills, that thought is what is creating unhappiness. That thought only leads to worry and a whole parade of terrible emotions, insecurities and does not create any good results.

If circumstances were able to change the way we felt, then we would all feel the same way about your bank account balance. But we don’t. There are undoubtedly people on this planet who would see your bank account and think wow, that’s a lot of money or I wish my account was that big. They might feel jealous or envious of your bank account based upon the thoughts that come up for them. The point is, the circumstance is neutral. Your thoughts about it create your emotions.

The same is true for happiness. If you want to be happier in your life, take a look at the thoughts you are carrying with you. Do those thoughts invoke happiness?

If your thoughts are breeding negativity and pain, it’s important first to understand that your brain is just running some old patterns, rinsing and repeating thoughts it is comfortable with. That is what brains do—they want the easy route, the neural pathways that they know and are good at running.

Second, try to shift how you are viewing and characterizing the circumstance. Instead of agonizing over the job you hate, consider thinking I am a good employee and you are going to miss me when I’m gone or I am using this opportunity to learn how to use my voice or this job is a stepping stone to get me one stop closer to my dream job.

I call this truth shifting. Find a better truth to focus on and ditch the old one. The key is that the thought has to be something you believe: something true.

Any of those thoughts will create feelings of motivation, inspiration, focus and excitement. Spend more time in that space and less time in the space where you are feeling depressed and unhappy about your job.

Imagine what you could create and who you could become if you learned to create positive emotions instead of letting your brain keep you stuck in a mental rinse and repeat cycle of negativity.

The next time you find yourself wanting to be happier, think of it as an opportunity to sit with yourself and examine your thoughts that are creating those emotions. The truth might surprise you.

Need support? Schedule a free coaching consultation and learn about how to take this basic concept to the next level.

Our Chaotic Lives

I recently went on vacation to Puerto Vallarta with a group of friends. One night, feeling emboldened by tequila, we decided to hire a funny little man to act as our captain and take us on a fishing adventure in his boat. Naturally, our list of requests was lengthy—not only did we want to fish, kind sir, but we also wanted to see a waterfall, do some snorkeling, visit remote and beautiful beaches, dance with unicorns, and also, if it wouldn’t be too much to ask, actually catch some fish…oh, and if you could find a restaurant to prepare said fish for us for dinner tomorrow night, that would be delightful too. Our sassy little captain said he was up for the task so long as we brought the beer. Perfecto!

So off we went on a fishing extravaganza and yes, it was everything he promised it would be. We snorkeled and caught fish and enjoyed fresh seafood on a beautiful and remote beach. Now, as I sit here in my office, waiting for the snow to signal the beginning of winter, I keep thinking about one particular moment.

At one point, our captain took us to another remote beach to do some “seashell hunting”. We threw down our anchor and swam to a distant beach. When I finally got close to shore, thankful to be alive, I found myself pummeled right into the ground by enormous waves. Apparently, it was a bit rougher than usual according to our captain, but we carried on. Just below the surface, our captain promised that we would find the most unbelievable seashells; however, given the waves, this required us to completely submerge ourselves in the hammering surf to escape certain death.

After getting tossed about the sharp rocks and shells on my way to shore, I was scratched and bruised and wasn’t really all that interested in floating about beneath the cruel waves but I decided to be a good sport. Once I dropped below the surface and swam to the ocean floor, I was encapsulated by the silence and peace below. I was completely removed from the danger of the crashing waves and relished a wonderland of beauty. Naturally, as this was not Waterworld, I had to return to the surface to get battered around in the waves once again. Despite this pummeling I was eager to swim back out and dive below to that peaceful scene.

The contrast of this experience reminded me of my first encounters with meditation. I started pursuing meditation as a means to find more peace in my work and home life. As any overachiever personality would do, I downloaded three meditation timers and ordered 10 meditation books and manuals. I wasn’t just going to meditate; I was going to be the BEST meditator. (Move over, Siddhartha.)

If you are reading this, you know that I did not, in fact, become the next Buddha; however, what I was able to find was that place of peace and silence below the crashing waves.

At that time in my life, I was working in a particularly unhealthy practice group where my days were spotted by partners bickering and politicking and at least one attorney crying in her office. Gradually, I started taking a few minutes each morning to meditate. The more I started to meditate, the more I was able to carry that space with me throughout the day. I started to realize that “this job is not my life” “I am not this job; I am not this place”.

My meditation practice helped me to find space and quiet beneath the chaos of my professional life. It also taught me how to be more mindful of my thoughts.

When things got harried, I was better able to focus and be present rather than allowing my thoughts to run mad, creating unproductive anxiety.

Whether meditation is something in your repertoire or not, mindfulness is a skill we all need. How many times have you been in a meeting with a partner or a client and realized you were off thinking about that brief that’s due or the memo you need to finish?

Being present is not only a gift to yourself but it is a gift to others.

Honoring those who are choosing to be with you in that moment not only demonstrates respect and builds relationships, it clearly shows that you are able to weather the storm without crashing on the shore. You can be present and focus even when there are so many “fires” waiting to be put out.

As part of my coaching practice, I work with my clients to become more aware of their thought patterns and how those patterns impact their actions and results. Coach with me and learn how to find space within the chaos that so often contaminates our practice.

Sometimes, Life Stinks (here’s why that’s a good thing)

Lately, I have been spending a lot of time focusing on the notion that life is supposed to be rough, 50% of the time. It brings to my mind the ancient Yin Yang symbol. The Yin Yang can be interpreted, literally to mean “shady side” and “sunny side” and stands for the idea that two opposite dualities create the balanced whole. The Tao Te Ching describes the same:

“When people see things as beautiful, ugliness is created. When people see things as good, evil is created.”  One cannot exist without the other.

In our modern lives, these ancient concepts mean that there is a higher purpose for our negative experiences and emotions. If that is so, why is it that so many of us spend our lives trying to avoid and resist negative emotions? In honor of this concept, I’ve been spending more time examining negative emotions in my life. Specifically, I have been trying to better understand what it means to experience negative emotion – where is it located in my body? What do I do when I feel that emotion? How do I act? How do I show up? What is going on in my head that is creating that feeling?

One of the most common misconceptions so many of us have about our lives is that everything should be good – better – happier.

Everyone just wants to be happy. Your marriage should be happy, parents should be supportive, family members should be loving. Abuse should not happen, infidelity should not occur, etc. These thoughts that our lives “should be” happier are toxic. They cause us to resist the bad bits of life, to struggle against negative experiences and emotions, to bury them and avoid them. When we are feeling upset about life, we tell ourselves It wasn’t supposed to be this way. This was not supposed to happen. Or we make ourselves the victim of our circumstances. I was the victim of abuse. My horrible boss fired me. None of these actions or thoughts create happiness. They just perpetuate the misery until it resurfaces again.

So what is so bad about these emotions that we have to run from them and bury them? What is so bad about being angry? What is so bad about feeling sad? It’s just a vibration in our bodies. It stems from our thoughts about neutral circumstances.

What so many of us struggle to see is that negative emotions and experiences are the foundation of a happy life.

If we didn’t know the pains of loss, we wouldn’t be able to understand and experience love. If we hadn’t experienced anxiety, we wouldn’t be able to appreciate or even identify feelings of peacefulness. In other words, if our lives were 100% positive all the time, that positivity would lose its value. It would no longer mean anything to us. We would not be able to see those positive experiences and emotions for what there are – they are a departure from sadness, loss, guilt, fear, etc. Happiness and positive emotions exist only in the absence of the negative and vice versa. Yin and yang.

So why, then, is it that so many of us spend our lives trying to avoid negative emotions and feelings? What are we so afraid of? I have clients that want so much more in their lives but they aren’t willing to take action because they are afraid they will fail.

They are afraid of what the failure will feel like.

In order to avoid embarrassment, guilt and shame, they simply choose not to take action at all. Because they are afraid of those negative vibrations in their bodies. Many of us are driven by avoidance of those negative emotions. We buffer them with work, exercise, alcohol, blame, etc. just to try and create a jolt of happiness or distraction to cover up the negative emotions underneath. Others make themselves victims rather than face their negative feelings of embarrassment or shame. They never truly own the fact that they are feeling embarrassed or shameful and can’t recognize that it’s okay to experience those emotions—it’s part of the human experience. They make excuses and buffer so that they can forget and ignore the feelings. But this never works! It just delays the inevitable meltdown.

Similarly, some of my clients are dreaming big. They want more for themselves – bigger houses, more money, more prestigious jobs, etc. When we work through those dreams, what we ultimately find is that they want those things because of how they believe they will feel once they achieve those things. Feelings of worthiness, pride, peace, etc.  Only once they achieve those goals will they allow themselves to think positively about themselves and experience those emotions. So they strive toward those goals, looking for an external source of internal positivity.

In the end, whether you are acting towards your dreams or not acting towards you dreams, you are being driven by your feelings –feelings you want to have or feelings you are avoiding.

Now consider that everything you feel is the product of your thoughts. You can choose to think thoughts that create peace, pride or worthiness. You don’t need to wait for an external event to think thoughts that will generate those emotions. One the other hand, if your thoughts are creating feelings of worthlessness or shame, how is that so scary? It’s just a thought creating sensations in your body. Those thoughts are not truths and those feelings are not going to hurt you. 

Now this doesn’t mean that we should automatically replace all of our negative thinking with positive thoughts so that we can feel happy all the time. That is directly inconsistent with the premise that life is 50-50 and that we can’t have the good without the bad.

But what is so essential is being able to accept that sometimes you will feel negative emotions and that is okay.

What’s more, you recognize your negative emotions and positive emotions and learn what thoughts are creating those outcomes. We can gain so much understanding about our lives and our experiences if we can become better stewards of our minds and our emotions. This doesn’t mean that we replace negative thoughts with positive thoughts, what it means is that we become intimate acquaintances with negative emotions. That we learn the thoughts that are generating those emotions so that we can learn more about ourselves. Certainly at some point you may be able to start adjusting those thoughts to stop creating negative emotions but at that point, you will have a deeper understanding of those negative emotions and they will no longer hold you back. Once you become intimate acquaintances with anxiety, for instance, you will no longer fear that emotion, it will no longer control you. You will be able to recognize it and choose how you move and act when you are feeling the emotion of anxiety. You will reclaim the driver’s seat.

For example, Sunday evenings are often anxiety-ridden for me. On Sunday nights, my weekend to-do list resurfaces and I start feeling guilty about all the things I did not accomplish over the weekend. Then, I inevitably tell myself that instead of relaxing with my partner, I “should” tackle a few more things on my list. Then I start feeling guilty about my lack of accomplishments, and then I start feeling guilty for not being present with my partner, and then I beat myself up for my inability to relax, and thus the cycle begins! Whenever I am feeling this way, I snap at my partner and criticize him, I pull away from him and don’t show up as the partner I want to be. Then, after I have sufficiently beaten myself down, I get up and started running around, an anxiety-fueled speed demon trying to get 10,000 things done at once so I can feel like I am worthy and productive. All the while this goes on, I beat myself up, telling myself what a terrible partner I am and how I should be better to him, and I should be more organized, and around and around it goes.

Lately, I have been focusing on simply sitting with this anxiety. I know it is coming and when it does, I just sit with it and feel it in my body….a tightness in my chest, a dull headache and dizziness, a slightly racing heart. I just sit still and feel those sensations in my body. As I sit there, I observe the thoughts swirling around my brain and resist the urge to spring up and get to action in an attempt to make myself feel better (buffering!). Instead, I just sit there, watch the thoughts, feel the sensations in my body and introduce myself to my friend, anxiety. Hello, my friend, I see that you have arrived once again. That’s okay. Come sit with me awhile…

It has been transformational to observe this from a removed perspective. I had no idea how strong the urge to act and buffer against those negative emotions was for me. I was so used to letting those thoughts and feelings switch me into auto-pilot. Since starting this work, I have been able to overcome the visceral urge to jump up and do something to “make myself feel better.” Instead, I just identify all the negative things in my mind that were making me feel terrible. As I sat there and watched them, it was like they lost their power. I no longer felt anxious or scared and the urge to act slipped away like an afterthought. The chatter in my brain dimmed. I was still left with my knowledge of those negative thoughts but the power of that emotion of anxiety waned significantly and I was able to show up and be more present while carrying the weight of those thoughts and feelings with me. I have no doubt that this will continue to be a challenge for me but I am lessening the fear of that feeling of anxiety. I am learning to identify it and just live with it – it doesn’t have to control me or drive my actions like  a mad woman. It is just a part of my life sometimes and that is okay. I can carry it with me and be just fine. I can just be still with it and learn to better understand it. Maybe someday I will be able to let go of those thoughts creating my Sunday night anxieties but for now, we are still getting to know each other.

Are you being driven by negative emotions? What could experiencing, rather than resisting or buffering negative emotions do for you? Have you considered which of your thoughts are creating those feelings? The answer may surprise you!

Experiencing negative emotions is the most valuable skill I can teach my clients. Coach with me and let me show you how this skill can change your life!