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

Doing the Hard Things

I have always wanted to be a yogi. It always seemed to “fit” with my personal vision for myself–I meditate every day, do some yoga-lite stretching, I am a reiki master, a meditation instructor, I love all this woo woo…. It just seems like a love affair that was meant to be! The problem? I just don’t want to do it. At all. I will do anything to avoid it. I will put it on my calendar and plan to go to a class and when it comes down to that make it or break it moment, I bail out.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my daily stretching routine that I lovingly think of as yoga-lite. I love connecting with my body and taking that inward time before I sit in my daily meditation. Whenever I muster up the fortitude to dive into a yoga class, I feel so good afterwards and sometimes I even enjoy it – the WHOLE time. I know it’s good for me and I know I always feel better once it’s done. So what’s the problem you ask?

I simply don’t want to do the hard things. I am in love with the IDEA of being a flexible, lithe yogi but, put simply: I don’t want to do the work.

I don’t want to hold uncomfortable poses for long periods of time. I don’t want to go to a yoga class. I don’t want to put my leg there or twist in such a way. There is something about it that I really detest. And yes, I know deep down that I should see this as a signpost that yoga is hiding something delicious for me. Somewhere within its depths is an awakening, a realization of some sort that I must find. But, here I am. Not a yogi. Barely a yogi-lite. Annoyed at the thought of it all.

I am in love with the dream but not willing to act on it.

I don’t want to do the hard work. I am rebelling against the discomfort. That’s it. There is no magic here.

I share this story because we all do this! We are so good at identifying all of the things that we want that we don’t have. We have laundry lists of skills and accomplishments that we want to attain or achieve. Most of us rarely chip away at those things because when it comes down to it, we don’t want to do the hard work. We just want to wake up one day and realize that the accomplishment was simply waiting to be unearthed all this time, it was always ours for the taking. All we had to do was wake up, go to that yoga class and suddenly the heavens would open up and rain down our dream.

We want the dream but we want it to come easily. We don’t really want to do all the work that necessarily precedes it.

This is why we don’t achieve our dreams. There is no secret here. We just don’t want to do the work.

Once we see all the work that comes with the achievement, we continue to *want* the thing but we stop taking any action to get there. Instead we resign ourselves to dreams of longing. I wish I could climb a 14-er…I wish I could play the piano…I wish I was really good at yoga. We are more than happy to lament our lacking. Rather than figuring out how to do the hard thing, we resign ourselves to being the victim of our circumstances, as if others were simply blessed with these gifts that we don’t have. For them, it was easy but for us, we just can’t do it. We live our lives with a laundry list of things that we want or wish that we had. If only we had more time…more money…more innate ability….

The truth is while we want these things, it is not our misfortune that we don’t have them: it is our unwillingness to do the damn thing.

I’m not saying that if you decide to climb Mt. Everest and wholeheartedly commit to doing all the work that comes with that endeavor, you will inevitably be successful. What I am saying, instead is this:

Wouldn’t it be so much more gratifying to say: I trained for a year to climb Mt. Everest but eventually opted for a summit where people die less frequently.

Or

I’ve always wanted to climb a mountain so I’ve recently started training for it. 

Those statements are so much more FUN and illustrative about our lives than to say I would love to climb Mt. Everest some day.

Why carry dreams around with you that you aren’t willing to put in the work to accomplish?

The next time you catch yourself expressing a wish/hope/desire for some unattained goal, stop yourself. If you aren’t willing to put in all the hard work that comes with that particular goal, is it really true that you want it? Wouldn’t it be more accurate to state:
 

Climbing Mt. Everest sounds amazing but I am just not interested in going through all that training and the risks!

Even THAT sounds more authentic than all that wishing and hoping and lamenting!

Why is this important? When we offer empty wishes and dreams to the universe without any commitment behind them, we slip into victim mentality. It’s as if we are wishing that we could be so lucky to accomplish such a thing. If only we had been so similarly gifted. Implying: we weren’t blessed with luck or gifts. We just don’t have what it takes. It is an energy of lack. An energy of dissatisfaction with one’s life and place. Is that really the energy you want for your dreams?

Dream from a place of abundance. A place where your words are more a forecast for your future than a condemnation of your present. Where your dreams are at your fingertips and not some vague hope.

The first thing I do with all of my clients is cast the dream: what is it that you want from life? From there we start planning and taking actions to bring that dream closer and closer. Interested in getting some clarity for your future? Ready to dive into some righteous discomfort? Sign up for a free session before they are all gone!

Asking for Help

By nature (or creation) most attorneys are notoriously terrible at asking for help. We are conditioned to do it all on our own and figure it out and so far, it has worked out well for ourselves. In the practice of law, however, this reluctance can not only be detriment to ourselves but also our clients.

In my opinion, this starts with the study of law. Law school and the pursuit of lawyer-dom is a solitary pursuit. We spend hours and hours alone, reading casebooks, working on our outlines, and reviewing class notes. It’s not that the solitude of legal studies is unique from other kinds of scholarly pursuits but it is unique in that, becoming an attorney means becoming a business of one. People hire an individual attorney based upon their knowledge and skill set.

There is some expectation that we, standing on our own, will have the answers.

Pair that implicit expectation with the study of law and those long hours of solitude and drop in the competitive gauntlet of the legal job market. Everyone is competing for positions at the top firms or clerkships; you have to lock down a job before your last year of law school even begins lest your career be over before you even graduate.

This solitary, competitive realm breeds attorneys who are silo-d. We get really good at the grind and problem solving. But this environment also breeds attorneys who are not very good at asking for help.

There are going to miscommunications and disconnects between you and the rest of your team. Partners will omit essential information and facts when giving you assignments. People will make false assumptions about your background or skills. When we resist asking for help or seeking additional clarification, we are ignoring all of those truths.

When we don’t ask for help we are choosing instead to believe that we have been provided all of the facts, communication was clear, and no one made any assumptions.

We ascribe absolute perfection to others involved in the project and assign absolute imperfection to ourselves. The wildest part about these scenarios is that we KNOW, logically, that the partner or assigning attorney is far from perfect. They may have a habit of omitting pertinent information or forgetting to provide key documents or they may simply have a reputation for providing terrible direction. But in the heat of the moment, we are so busy focusing on ourselves and our failures in the situation that we overlook the roles of others involved.

We provide no room for compassion toward ourselves. It’s so much easy to be hard on ourselves!

When you fail to ask for help it is usually because there is some nasty thing you tell yourself in that moment. You make asking for help mean something negative about you. The next time you find yourself spinning your wheels in confusion, ask yourself what you are making it mean if you went to ask for help or clarification? Do you believe that it means you aren’t good enough? You should not be an attorney? The partner is going to judge you and think you’re an idiot?

You are none of those things. You already are an attorney. If you weren’t able to do the job, you wouldn’t have made it through the LSAT, 3 years of law school, the bar exam, and landing your first job. Don’t let something as simple as a miscommunication or misunderstanding erode all of that value.

Approach the situation with curiosity–why am I struggling? Why am I confused? What am I missing? And get to work sussing out that information.

That may require you to seek some additional support and follow-up with the assigning attorney. Remind yourself that the other attorney is not perfect either and it is possible they omitted something or miscommunicated something. In fact, that is more likely true than the possibility that you are an idiot who shouldn’t be practicing law.

Open yourself up to alternative possibilities and stop making it all about you!

Your team and your clients are counting on you to put aside your ego and get the job done.

Take advantage of an opportunity to take this work deeper and apply it directly to your practice. Sign up for a free one-on-one coaching session with me. I would love to help you reconnect with your value and get your career back on track.


Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

I’m Not Going To Make It

When we look around at our live and see all that we have, it is important to recognize where it all came from. How you were able to create it.

As attorneys, it’s easy to look to our law school education as one of our greatest accomplishments. Have you ever thought back to that time and considered what you were thinking that got you through it? What were you believing about yourself that propelled you through those 5-hour finals?

Have you ever considered the opposite end of the spectrum? Consider some of your struggles in life. Times when you weren’t showing up in a way that you were proud of or times when you threw in the towel. What were you believing about yourself in those times?

Our beliefs about ourselves and our abilities bubble below the surface in everything that we do.

I can support you to identify your negative thinking patterns and shift to some prettier thinking but if the beliefs you have about yourself are toxic, none of our work will stick.

What we believe about ourselves and our abilities are often based upon our past experiences. What we were taught, what we have learned about ourselves from events 5, 10, 15 years ago. The truth is that none of that is relevant today. There is no reason our pasts have any bearing on our abilities today.

We can choose to believe anything we want to believe by ourselves.

We are not constrained by our pasts.

There is no universal truth about your ability to create the life you want to. It all depends upon whether or not you believe you can do it.

Many of my clients set big goals for themselves and whenever they are faced with challenge, their brain immediately offers them those deeply ingrained beliefs about themselves. I just don’t have what it takes. I’m not cut out for this. I’m not smart enough. I’m not good enough.

We have so many beliefs like these rolling around our brains, running automatically in the background like elevator music behind everything we do and everything positive thought we try to believe. We treat these words as if they are facts. There is a part of us that believes those statements about our abilities are true.

Unless and until you can identify and address your negative beliefs about yourself, you will never be able to achieve you dreams.

This is why so many of us achieve big things but those accomplishments never hit our radar. We finished law school, we landed that major clerkship, we got the job at prestigious firm but we still don’t feel fulfilled and we don’t feel happy. We barely pause for a moment to recognize the achievement because we still don’t believe we deserve it. We believe we aren’t worthy or good enough. We’re impostors and they will find us out! Those thoughts are playing in the background and drown out any positive interpretations of our accomplishments.

The accomplishments never make us feel better because our negative beliefs about ourselves jump in and remind us that it is never going to work. So many of us spend our lives caught in this cycle, constantly achieving and reaching goals but never feeling fulfilled.

The first step in learning to believe new things about yourself is to recognize the negative beliefs you are carrying around.

Take a look at them and see them for what they are: optional thoughts. Choices you are making.

Do you want to continue to believe those things?

Are those beliefs serving you?

How would your life be different if you chose to believe something different?

Second, allow yourself some grace for those thought errors.

You are human and your brain is really good and repeating those thought to keep you safe and cozy. There is nothing wrong with you. Recognizing that your brain has this thought pattern, is not a free pass to dive into another batch of negative self-talk about yourself. These negative thought patterns are normal; don’t beat yourself up for having them.

Third, force yourself to argue with the thought.

What if I am good enough?

What if I can  do this?

What if I can figure it out?

Let those questions lead your brain to some better fodder.

Finally, choose an alternative belief about yourself that does serve you and your goals.

Consider these suggestions:

It’s not what we do—it’s who we are.

There is nothing wrong with you.

You are enough.

Sometimes I doubt myself and that’s okay, I am learning to be more confident.

Nothing has gone wrong here.

I’m responsible for everything I think and feel.

My purpose is the life I am living now.

If you don’t do this work of recognizing and addressing those closely held beliefs you have about yourself and your worthiness, you will always be striving toward your goals while dragging a ball and chain.

Stop fighting yourself and get on the same team.

Get support for free by signing up for a free mini-session. I reserve three slots a week–get yours before it’s gone!


Photo by Suzy Hazelwood from Pexels

The Mistake Spiral

The most common thing I see among associate attorneys is the fear of making mistakes.

As attorneys, we can become so paranoid about making a mistake that we put a tremendous about of pressure on ourselves. Our minds are filled with nonstop nasty chatter:

Don’t make another mistake

You have to get this right

This has to be perfect this time

You can’t miss anything this time

They all think you are an idiot

Maybe you shouldn’t have become a lawyer

You don’t have what it takes

Not only are you frustrated over the last mistake but now all that noise makes it even more difficult to focus and do a good job.

As a partner, I always knew when an associate was spinning in this fear. They were taking longer to do everything. They were agonizing over the smallest details. The result of all their mental berating was that they usually ended up missing the big picture and billing a ton of time in the process. What’s more, those associates rarely reached out for help before they got too deep. It was incredibility frustrating.

When you spin in self-doubt, self-judgment and pressure to do everything perfectly, you are demonstrating to those around you that you have some doubts about your ability to do it right. When you allow one mistake to send you into a tailspin, it makes it difficult for those around you to have confidence that you believe in your abilities; that you can handle feedback or that you can operate under pressure.

What’s more, that self-doubt spiral convinces you that you can’t reach out and ask questions for fear that it will affirm to others that you DON’T know what you are doing. You end up going down rabbit holes and over-analyzing the wrong details. Ultimately, everyone’s time is wasted and the project drags on.

How’s that working out for your work relationships or your confidence?

It is a never-ending death spiral of self-fulfilling prophecies.

What’s so interesting to me is that below the surface of all these thoughts and pressure is the belief that this path was easier for everyone else. That others didn’t struggle as much as you are.

Why are you choosing to believe that your struggles are special?

Why are you allowing your growth and development to be a sign that you are broken?

Consider the possibility that those around you similarly struggled. You don’t know that they didn’t yet you are CHOOSING to believe that is the case.

At this point in your career, I think we can ALL agree that law school doesn’t teach you how to be a lawyer. Your legal education was no different than anyone else’s. All attorneys wander the morass and confusion fog for YEARS before it clicks. You are not special in this regard!

The root of all those self-doubts and mistake spirals is the ultimate fear of failure. Below each overworked project and overly analyzed email is the fear of what it means when you make a mistake. And further, what it means if you keep making mistakes:

You can’t hack it.

You weren’t meant to be an attorney.

You made a mistake.

You shouldn’t be here.

That sneaky little worry is bubbling below the surface of all of those self conscious acts. You are afraid that those mistakes, when taken in total, are an indication that you can’t do this. From there, you build up these crazy expectations of perfection and try to think clearly and rationally from a place of frenzied panic and tremendous pressure.

It’s no wonder you keep making mistakes! How the hell are you supposed to do a good job when all you are thinking about is how you aren’t doing a good job? It’s madness!

Perfectionism is for scared people.

Repeat that phrase. Live it. Breathe it. Believe it.

When you try to mold yourself into some perfect “out-of-the-box” ready to perform, legal wizard you are setting yourself up for failure.

Law school does not prepare you to practice law. Welcome to the first phase of your life where there are no clear guidelines, metrics are fuzzy, and you have to just start trusting that you are doing it right.

Stop beating yourself up for signing up for the “on site” education that is the practice of law. That is how it works. Allow yourself to experience the process of learning on the job just like every associate attorney on the planet.

One small mistake does not mean that you are not cut out to be a lawyer. Do not let that mistake stoke the fires of fear and propel you into a frenzy.

You are a human. You will mess up.

Welcome to the party.

You want to do a good job and you want to improve and that is commendable. But first, you must do a good job for yourself. Honor the process of on-the-job development. Recognize that you don’t know it all and THAT IS OKAY. No one does.

Second, ditch your ridiculous expectations for yourself and get to work learning how to trust yourself and your judgment despite some bumps in the road.

Besides, what’s the alternative?

Where is all this worrying and fear getting you? What does it hurt to loosen up a bit and just keep rolling with the punches and using each mistake as a learning opportunity? An opportunity to honor yourself, have your own back, and learn.

The only thing you are learning when you continually run the cycle of negative self-talk is how to treat yourself terribly.

There isn’t room for much more and there certainly isn’t room left for growth. Recognize where your current patterns are leading you and decide if that is what you want. The choice is yours.

I help my clients get more confidence, roll with the punches, and have some compassion for themselves. Sound like something your practice is missing? Get some free support now and see what we can do together.


Photo by Axel Vandenhirtz from Pexels

What Other People Think About You

How do you describe your practice to others? When you are at a mixer and someone asks what you do, is there a momentary hesitation about promoting your skills? Why is that?

I recently worked with a client who was hesitant to promote her new practice group. She had a marketing plan but wasn’t executing. She had marketing materials but she wasn’t distributing them. Why?

During our session, we discovered that she was afraid that people who received her marketing materials would judge her. That they wouldn’t like her. That they would think she wasn’t qualified.

We’ve all been there. That junior high fear of not being liked. We never seem to shake it!

The opposite side of that coin is the closely held belief that it’s important for other people to like you. It’s important not to be judged by others.

That belief keeps so many of us like my client paralyzed.

It is not possible to go through this life and have every human you encounter like you. Test this theory. Think of someone you think is unimpeachable. Run some Google searches to seek out their critics. You will be amazed. (I conducted this experiment with Mother Teresa. Yep, she had her haters too.)

You will always have people in your life who are going to judge you.

Get over it.

Move on.

When you cling to the belief that it’s important for other people to enjoy your lovely persona and appreciate everything you have to offer, you are setting yourself up for failure.

Every single person in your life is going to have a different notion of how you are supposed to act, what you are supposed to say,  and how you are supposed to spend your time. Those expectations will conflict. There is no way to meet everyone’s expectations of you.

Pleasing everyone is an impossibility; yet we secretly hope that everyone will like us.

The real question is my favorite: SO WHAT? So what if people don’t like you?

The “so what” in this story is really what is at the heart of this matter. When you ask yourself these questions, what you will likely discover is that it’s related to some thought about your worthiness.

We believe that if people don’t like you or if people judge you, it must be because something is wrong with you. It’s confirmation that you are doing it wrong.

There is part of you that wants to agree with them — they are right in their judgment and you are a failure.

When you place your worthiness in the hands of other people and the whims of their likes and dislikes, you are signing up for a course in misery. Why would you give those people all the power? I’m sure there are people in your life that you don’t really like and you don’t really trust but you are allowing their sentiment about you to dictate whether you believe there is something wrong with you.

Do you really want to give them all that power?

Or anyone for that matter?!

Besides, what does it even mean that “there’s something wrong” with you?

Who decides?

How do we know?

Who decides what is “right” about you?

You are subscribing to some undefinable standard and allowing other humans to decide whether you are worthy.

Those thoughts are not serving you. They keep you playing small.

When you transition your perspective to a belief that the only person who decides your worthiness is you, it becomes so much easier to start taking action.

Rip the worthiness metric out of the hands of your haters.

You are enough. Just as you are. How someone else perceives you has nothing to do with you and everything to do with them.

You can’t control the humans; you have to stop living your life in a manner where you are trying to manipulate their thoughts about you.

You will not be everyone’s cup of tea. And. That. Is. Okay. That is how it works. It doesn’t mean there is something wrong with you.

In this life, people will judge you and criticize you. You always have a choice as to what you make that mean about yourself and your values. Stop making their words mean something negative about your abilities or value. That approach is never going to serve you or your career.

Your beliefs about yourself will either help you build the career of your dreams or they will help you crash and burn.

The choice is yours.

As part of my 6-week programs, I dedicate time specifically to the beliefs we carry about ourselves and how they impact our actions. Curious? Sign up for a free 45-minute session now before they are gone.


Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

You Can’t Do That

(and other nice things we tell ourselves)

We all have our baggage and ugly thoughts we carry around.

Even with all the skills I can teach you, you will never EVER do away with ugly thinking.

With practice, you can get better at shifting where possible. And, where that’s not possible, carry it with you.

My ugly bag of tricks includes these gems: What am I doing? You can’t do that. You need to lose some weight. You need to grow up. Your arms are terrible. You aren’t that funny. You are not nearly as cute as you think you are.

Join the human race and embrace your imperfect brain.

This who we are. We have ugly thoughts. All of us.

The question is, what are you going to do with yours? Are you going to carry them with you and soldier on or are you going to cozy up to them and tell them how right they are?

Our nasty thoughts about ourselves and our abilities are not isolated to us. We all do it.

We all have a choice about how we handle those nasty little gems. We can bow down to them or we can acknowledge our human-ness and pursue our dreams despite them.

The next time you see that person that seems to have it all together, I promise you they have their very own bag of garbage they are hauling around. Her brain is a dumpster fire sometimes too,  just like yours.

Stop beating yourself up when you realize your brain is causing all your problems. Get to work cleaning it up and being more present.

Recognize the ugly thoughts you are believing.

Stop running on auto-pilot.

Work through them, shift them, or acknowledge their presence and carry them with you to your success. Don’t allow them to be more important than they are.

They are just words in your head. Words you choose. Words you allow to be there.

You didn’t get the one faulty brain that was wired wrong. You got a human brain.

Welcome to the race.