Dealing with Chaos

To say that life is significantly different today than it was last month is an understatement.

Last month, most of our children were in school. We were at work…in an office…wearing grown-up clothes…with other humans. We didn’t second-guess our toilet paper usage. We planned vacations. We didn’t obsessively track the stock market.

Life has dramatically changed for all of us.

People are scared and feeling lost.

Binging on Netflix

Drinking too much wine

Avoiding work

Ignoring your diet

Skipping workouts

Eating all the ice cream in the house

Any of these sound familiar?

We are struggling. We are gaining weight, we are ignoring our best laid plans, we are skipping workouts, overeating, overdrinking and feeling blah.

Lately, my clients have been coming to me and they want help to stop these behaviors. They want to work on getting focused and motivated. They are pissed at themselves for “falling apart…falling off the wagon…letting themselves go” they are irritated that they aren’t sticking to their plans, that they are unwinding everything they had been working for, why can’t they get it together, GDI!?

As a coach, my job is not to help you learn how to control yourself. My job is to help you understand yourself.

When you are busy beating yourself up and trying to force yourself or guilt yourself to change or stop eating all the things, you are ignoring the dis-ease. You are focusing on the symptom.

In order to truly stop these behaviors, you have to stop berating yourself and look at what is really going on!

Are you avoiding work because you are afraid you are going to lose your job so your work today won’t matter?

Are you drinking that bottle of wine because it feels good and you’re scared about what will happen to your aging parents?

Maybe you are skipping your workouts because you just don’t care how you will look in a bathing suit during quarantine? It’s not like you will be going on vacation anytime soon!!

Are you binging on Netflix because it allows you to escape the news and ignore what’s going on outside?

Would you yell at your best friend for diving into a box of Oreos after a horrible breakup? Of course not! You would empathize with her. You would love her. You would understand why she was feeling terrible. You would be compassionate about her efforts to self-soothe. The last thing you would do is tell her she needs to stop it immediately and explain to her how she was ruining her diet and needs to get it together.

Extend that same compassion to yourself.

Life is getting real right now and it’s kinda scary.

Instead of getting angry at yourself because you are not acting like you are “supposed to”, explore what is really going on. What are you thinking when you turn off the work computer and zone out on Netflix? What is going through your head when you decide to bake that cake?–for yourself, of course.

We are all experiencing some pretty ugly thoughts these days.

What if my parents get sick and I can’t be there with them?

What if we have to quarantine for several more months?

What if we run out of diapers?

What if I get sick?

What if I die?

What if I lose my job?

You have every right to be afraid and upset and worried. Stop beating yourself up for trying to feel better. Stop being such a harsh critic.

It’s okay to be scared and it’s okay to worry about what our future holds. It’s okay that you are grasping at straws to self-soothe. That is human nature.

Life is meant to be 50/50. We are living in the 50% that sucks. Pure and simple. Stop trying to talk yourself out of feeling those rotten feelings. You are a human. That is part of the deal.

Recognize that you are struggling and have some compassion for yourself.

Once you can see how your actions are merely attempts to make yourself feel better and to buffer the discomfort, you can start considering how to shift out of those thoughts and create a new result for yourself.

You can start recognizing when you are feeling freaked out and seeing how your biological reaction is to seek pleasure and soothe yourself. Once you see that, you can start looking for other outlets for those emotions. You can’t do that when you are busy telling yourself you are a terrible person for eating all the Doritos!

The bottom line is that beating yourself up for acting out during times of grief and panic is counter-productive. Have some compassion for yourself. Just as you would do with your friend: let yourself have a good cry, a good ice cream binge, a night on the couch. Recognize the feelings driving those actions, then gently work with yourself to find a healthier outlet for those emotions.

The goal is not to find a solution to erase those feelings. The goal is to recognize that those feelings are PART OF LIFE. They are okay. And it is okay to experience them. They won’t kill you.

You can keep moving forward while feeling all the feels. That is how life works.

See the emotions fueling your destructive behaviors. Acknowledge them. Experience them. Learn to make better choices, despite the feels. Carry those worries with you but keep. moving. forward. consciously.

Now more than ever, people need support. Email me if you need a free session, I would love to help you move through this chaos.

What Are You Planning?

Lately, I’ve been reading a lot from Esther Hicks, AKA Abraham. I am loving the synchronicity between what Abraham teaches and my work as a coach. I am a firm believer that so much of the great wisdom in our world represents different spokes on a wheel, all leading to the same place just through different paths. Abraham’s teachings are just another valuable spoke on that wheel.

One of the things that resonated with me and my work as a coach is her explanation of how our thoughts create a vibrational frequency that ultimately attracts our results. She says:

“Whatever you’re thinking about is literally like planning a future event. When you’re worrying, you are planning. When you’re appreciating you are planning…What are you planning?”

Whether you believe in the law of attraction and the vibrational energy underlying our every action and thought, we can all appreciate the basic premise: our thoughts craft our feelings and everything we say and do and create is a direct reflection of those feelings. The net result is that your thoughts create your results and ultimately, your life. Each thought generates emotions within you that propel you to act (or not act) in a certain way. Those actions are the building blocks of your life and your present state.

I recently had a client who explained to me, very logically and rationally, that she never finishes anything. She explained to me that she just wasn’t any good at following through on things or keeping promises to anyone or herself. She made these statements as if they were absolute truths. Like they were the basic facts of her life. She then went on to tell me about the things she dreamt about accomplishing in her life but she wanted to explore how she could start creating those things.

When we started working together, she did not see that she was carrying around some pretty heavy thoughts that were responsible for her inaction. Her thoughts about her inability to finish things were not facts — they were simply choices she was making. Those choices were not serving her or her dreams.

When we explored the impact of her thinking I never finish anything, we discovered that whenever that thought occurred to her, it made her feel apathetic and unmotivated. From that space she was taking small actions, never really making any big efforts or changes, she just wasn’t really motivated to do anything massive to pursue her dreams. It was not shocking to her that a feeling of apathy was not motivating her to action. Rather, apathy was creating inaction and proving to her that she never finishes things. She was constantly in a state of struggle against herself because on the one hand, she had all these goals but on the other hand, she was clinging to beliefs about herself that made her goals seem ridiculous.

Like her dreams were simply a lost cause, better suited for someone else.

Like Abraham says, when you think I never finish anything it’s as if you are deliberately planning to never finish anything. You create a self-fulfilling prophecy about your life.

Her inaction wasn’t responsible for her lack of results. It was her thinking. Luckily for all of us, our thoughts are 100% within our control.

The next time you find yourself swimming through some crappy emotional fog, sit down and consider the thoughts driving those feelings. What are you choosing to think and what impact is that having on your actions and your results?

The first step is becoming aware of your thoughts. From there you can craft any future you can imagine.

Re-thinking Your Past

The first step in changing how you think about your past is actually facing your past. Taking a long and hard look at it. You can’t think differently about something or change your perspective on life events if you don’t first take a look at those events and how you are thinking about them.

How we think about our past is 100% within our control.

The past does not exist today. The only thing that does exist is how we think about our past and characterize those experiences.

I recently had a coaching session where I had an epiphany about my past. I came to the session frustrated because I felt like my past was “haunting” me. Like every time I tried to move forward, I would have a nightmare or be overwhelmed by a tidal wave of anxious thoughts and feelings.

I spent a decade of my life in a very challenging relationship. There are so many experiences that I had that I would not wish on anyone. From that experience, I have come to understand and appreciate the mental and physical implications of trauma both long- and short-term.

However, in that session I realized that when I thought of my past, my predominant thought was this:

I am so done with that part of my life; I don’t want to spend any energy thinking about it anymore; I am not that person any longer

On its face, this looks like a strong, worthy thought for me to be carrying around. The problem was that this thought created feelings of frustration about my past. It created tremendously strong resistance to any thoughts about my past or any consideration of past events. I just kept telling myself I am so done with all of that. I was always trying to pivot away from those thoughts. To close the blinds, so to speak.

However, when I am frustrated about my past, I tend to stew and fester on it. I beat myself up every time I think about it and get so frustrated that my past just wouldn’t leave me alone. I beat myself up for my past actions and ranted at my younger self.

How could you get yourself into that situation? How could you do that to your family? How did you get so lost? I don’t even know who you are.

On and on and on it goes. The truth is that my thought I am so done created actions in me that only proved that I was not, in fact, done with that part of my life. That thought was creating the exact opposite result because it was my mental attempt to wipe it clean. To resist my feelings and resist my thoughts about my past.

As I was finding, my resistance would only last so long and eventually my emotions would come flooding back and I would snap or melt down at the slightest trigger. I kept asking myself Why do I keep thinking about this junk? Why does this keep coming up!?

Anytime you find yourself resisting a feeling or pretending that you are past it, the only result that can come of it is that it will boomerang back to you much stronger.

These are all signs that you are resisting the emotions that are trying to work themselves out.

When we resist our feelings, we are only drawing them back to us in a stronger way.

In working with my coach, I realized that my thought I am so done with that part of my life was creating a never-ending cycle of suffering. Unless and until I actually sat down and looked at my past, I would never be able to shift my perspective.

You can’t just close off the ugly rooms in your house and pretend that they don’t exist. You have to enter the room; looks at its cracks and clear away the grime. That is the only way to start thinking differently about that space.

I always tell my clients that this work is never-ending and truly, that is the case. I am always humbled and blessed by the things my coaches uncover in our sessions. This work truly changes lives.

What are you waiting for?

Sign up for a free consultation today and get started re-thinking your past experiences.

Having Difficult Conversations

One of the inevitable results of being a grownup in this world is that you will often be faced with the “opportunity” to have difficult conversations with other humans.

I like to think of these as “opportunities” because, despite being an attorney, I am not a huge fan of confrontation and I really don’t like upsetting other people. These are an opportunity for me to flex muscles I don’t use very often and operate outside my comfort zone.

I find that one of the reasons people avoid having difficult conversations is because they want the other person to like them. They don’t want to be thought of as a bitch or as difficult. They are afraid the individual will bad mouth them to others and they don’t want those other people to judge them too or, worst of all, agree that they really are a bitch on a power trip.

These conversations are scary because it forces us to let go of what other people might think of us. If the conversation is important to you, you like your reasons for having the conversation, and you are in a good emotional space to have the conversation (read: not foaming at the mouth), then have the damn conversation.

Stop worrying about what the other person will think about you.

The beauty of this is that it is an investment in the authentic you. The more you live with authenticity and stay true to your values other people will see it and grow to respect it. That makes it a lot more difficult for bad gossip to find traction. But regardless, we can’t control what other people say, do, or think. The only thing we can control is how we show up.

So the choice really becomes: are you willing to live accordance with your truth or would you prefer to continue living a lie (i.e., ignoring the issue, avoiding the conversation, and pretending everything is “fine”?).

In my experience, any time we try to ignore what we really think and feel about a situation, it simply compounds itself and grows stronger until we blow up. That’s an even better way to maintain your spotless reputation, no?

Don’t ignore the feelings. They will come back. We’ve all had those fights where the other party pulls 1,000 old fights and gripes out of their back pocket leaving you dumbfounded. You can’t fight a battle on 1,000 fronts. If it is important to you, discuss it with the other person or forever relinquish your right to bring it up at a later date as part of another fight. Period.

In that sense, having those difficult conversations now and foreclosing a future explosion is a kindness to everyone involved. Shifting your mindset to this is going to be better for our relationship and everyone around us will allow you to approach the conversation from a much healthier mental space. Often times, we convince ourselves This is going to go terribly wrong; this is going to be a huge fight and we waste so much time and energy ramping up for some battle royale that never comes. Appreciate that this is a positive exercise and that your intentions are to improve the relationship. Stop expecting the worst.

Focus on the WHY.

Whenever I am gearing up for a difficult conversation, I ask myself, What is it that I want? Why am I having this discussion? I usually can find that the true intention is to be honest and my “why” is usually because this relationship is important to me and I want us to have a healthy relationship.  I focus my energy there instead of ruminating about how frustrated I am about XYZ.

From there I can go into the conversation seeing the big picture and understanding why the exchange is critical. It allows me to approach the conversation from a place of curiosity and respect.

Stop worrying about what the other person is going to think about you or how they are going to feel if you are honest with them. You can’t control their thoughts or emotions so stop trying to.

Be in the moment with an open attitude and a sincere willingness to try and understand the other person’s point of view. Make a conscious effort to stop thinking of what you are going to say next and just absorb what is being said. Try to understand what is going on.

Just. Be. Curious.

I sometimes imagine myself as a behavioral specialist examining the other person and trying to understand what is going on with them. It allows me to remove myself from the situation and come to it from a different perspective.

Be quiet, be curious, and invest in the opportunity to be vulnerable and honest with another other person. You must flex the muscle to make it stronger!

Need support gearing up for a difficult conversation? Schedule a free consultation and clear out the mental chatter before you dive in. What do you have to lose?

What’s the Worst That Could Happen?

We are always able to come up with reasons – several reasons – why we aren’t taking a certain course of action. We are masterful at crafting excuses that we sincerely believe are legitimate. We are so good at letting ourselves off the hook!

I can’t go to the gym today because my ankle is feeling a little sore. I can’t start that side business because my boss will fire me. I am not going to that party because I know my ex will there. I can’t go to the gym this morning, I will be too tired later.

I recently had a client who wanted to talk to me about marriage. She was in a serious relationship that she was happy with, but she just couldn’t stop thinking about marriage. It didn’t help, that people kept asking her about marriage. When are you guys going to get married? As she talked about the concept of holy matrimony, she became visibly agitated.

I just don’t understand why everyone expects me to get married. I don’t want to have children so what’s the big deal? Why do I need to get married?! It’s just a stupid social construct!

So, what’s the problem? I asked her.

The problem was that while she was adamant that she didn’t need to get married for those reasons, she couldn’t help thinking that she really did want to get married. It seemed that, despite her best efforts to talk herself out of wanting to get married, she did, in fact, want to marry her partner.

I do want to marry him because I believe that is the utmost demonstration of my love for him. I want to get married because it makes it easier from a legal and tax perspective. We talk about getting married all the time and it makes me really excited to make that commitment but the second I leave the room, I find myself arguing with myself about it ask “Why do I need to do this? What’s the point? I can love him unconditionally without all that!”

Rather than allowing this back and forth to ramble on for the duration of our entire session, I simply asked her What’s the worst that could happen if you did get married?

Then she transformed into a puddle of tears. I had never seen her so emotional and, admittedly, it took me by surprise. The reality of the situation was that she really did love her partner and really did want to marry him. She fantasized about having a truly meaningful and intimate wedding with only their closed family and friends. She looked forward to the day that he did propose, and she was excited to become his wife. That was what she wanted and no matter how hard she tried to fight it, she couldn’t help it. She wanted to get married and it was important to her.

Unfortunately, she was carrying around some heavy baggage. Her ‘what’s the worst that could happen’ was something she had already endured and it terrified her to have to go through it again. She had been married previously and it didn’t work out. She left when her husband’s alcoholism and abuse escalated to extremes. She didn’t see it coming and she was immobilized with fear that it would happen to her again and she would miss it. Again.

She was so terrified of going through that again that she spent all this time and energy trying to convince herself that she wanted something else.

For better or worse, I believe that she is destined to get married again. To me, it was evident that in order to work through her past traumas, she needed to find the strength to face and own that fear and persist anyway. The alternative is that she could spend her life avoiding that work; avoiding working through those emotions and avoiding marriage at the same time. If she never got married again, she would never have to work through that fear. She could avoid the risks altogether.

The tricky thing is that she survived and thrived from that first marriage. She emerged a true warrior and an inspiration and I know in my bones that if her “worst thing” did happen to her (again), she would survive and thrive again and would emerge another, even greater version of herself.

So often we believe that we couldn’t survive our worst-case scenarios. That is total BS. It is nothing but our reptilian, caveman brains trying to keep us safe and warm. Our brain is lying to us because it believes that fear will keep us safe.

Don’t sell yourself short. Certainly, if you come face-to-face with your worst-case scenario, it won’t be fun or easy but it will forge you into a better version of yourself, I promise you. All great success stories emerge from the ashes of past lives. Don’t stifle your chance at growth by playing it safe. Besides, what if the worst, DOESN’T HAPPEN? What would you lose?

When we allow fear to direct our course, we miss out on the opportunity to grow and learn and sometimes yes, go through the hard things that make us even better.

Once I find my clients explaining to me why they aren’t taking a certain course of action or why they have made a particular decision, I ask them What’s the worst that could happen if you made the opposite choice? If you find yourself going to great lengths to convince yourselves of something or making excuses, BEWARE. We are masterful at letting ourselves off the hook and justifying our actions (or inactions).

If you were really committed to your decision and liked your reasons for your choices, you would not be stuck in these thought loops. It is a sign you are choosing to play it safe. It is a sign you are choosing from a place of fear.

If given the opportunity, we will most certainly come up with reasons why we aren’t doing all sorts of things and we will BELIEVE all of those reasons. Becoming aware of this cycle will allow you stop and ask yourself—What am I really afraid of? What is really going on here? Do you really like your reasons for your action or inaction? Are you just choosing the easier path?

That discussion will help you uncover whether your action/inaction and justifications are founded in truth or founded in fear. More often than not, those justifications are coming from a place of fear.

Growth, evolution, and success do not come from choosing the easier path. Don’t let yourself off the hook that easily. Get. Uncomfortable!

When you find your course in life being directed out of fear or avoidance of something scary or potentially difficult, stop and course correct. You are not on this planet to be a wallflower. You are here to challenge yourself and learn certain lessons. Avoiding those challenges now will not delay them indefinitely, you just might instead have a harder lesson waiting ahead for you, a lesson you might not be able to avoid.

Do the work now. Don’t let fear be the driver. Be afraid but do it anyway. What’s the worst that could happen?

“Sometimes what you’re most afraid of doing is the very thing that will set you free.”

The Power of IDK

I was sitting in a meeting earlier this year listening to a particularly charismatic CEO address all the officers of a Fortune 500 company. At the end of the presentation, he opened the session up to questions from the officers. As questions poured in, I realized that I was sitting next to a particularly challenging question asker (yes, that’s a word. I know, I was surprised too).

My neighbor was hurling intense and challenging questions at the CEO from the back of the room and, at times, interrupting the speaker to add additional questions. Finally, the individual asked a particularly difficult question and the CEO responded, “You know, that’s a good question and I don’t know the answer to that.”

Period. He did not offer to follow-up. He did not offer to take on additional work to flush out the answer. He did not apologize. He gave an honest answer. We moved on.

I instantly l liked him more than I had 30 seconds ago. In my life at corporate law firms I cannot recall any instance where the leadership used the phrase “I don’t know.”

When I was leading a practice, one of the biggest red flags for me was when someone I was working with would refuse to simply say “I don’t know.” In my past, I have worked with seasoned attorneys who, rather than say IDK, would tap dance around the issue offering all sorts of manufactured legal support. At first, I trusted their commentary and ran off on a fool’s errand trying to find the support for what they were telling me. Eventually, I realized that they didn’t know the answer and were just manufacturing legal guidance.

It’s one thing to theorize and say you are theorizing, it’s another thing to answer a question with authority and references to legal support when you have no idea what you are talking about. Within the team, it became a running joke. We all knew when she was going out of her way to avoid saying IDK and we all expressed our irritation for all the time and energy we spent trying to find support for what she was saying. In the end, no one trusted her judgment and we stopped asking her opinion. All because she refused to say those three little words.

Why do people refuse to acknowledge when they don’t know something?

Because they are trying to manipulate you.

Hear me out. When someone is deliberately avoiding those words, it is because they want you to believe that they know. They want you to believe they are knowledgeable in all things. They want you to trust their judgment and their opinions. The common theme here is this:

They want you to think about them in a certain way.

If that is not manipulation, I don’t know what is. Now, I am not saying that these people are intentionally being manipulative. I actually believe that the manipulative element of these interactions is simply a byproduct of a larger issue. That issue is their own damn mind.

When people are afraid to own that they don’t, in fact, know everything, they are making “I don’t know” mean something negative about themselves. Often times, when people say, “I don’t know.” Their brain erupts with thoughts of shortcomings:

I should know this. I’m an idiot for not knowing that. How could I not know that?! What is wrong with me? This person is going to think I’m dumb. If I don’ t know this, they are going to think I’m not good at my job.

They make not knowing, mean something horrible and negative about themselves. So rather than have those thoughts and think those feelings, they run in the opposite direction and throw a bunch of BS at the problem. The net results are this…

When asked a question, a person thinks, I should know the answer to this; if I say “I don’t know” they will think I don’t know what I’m talking about. So, the person offers all sorts of answers and sends the other person on a hopeless quest. The end result is that the original inquirer eventually concludes: They have no idea what they are talking about.

The net result is the exact result the person was trying to avoid!! It’s pure futility!

As practice group chair, one of the things I always told young attorneys was this: If you don’t know the answer to something, say so. Don’t waste my time and yours trying to act like you do. I will find out and I will trust you less thereafter.

Honesty builds trust and helps relationship flourish. Do not make the same mistake my past partner made. In the end, she lost a lot of credibility and isolated herself. Being able to recognize that you don’t know something demonstrates confidence. How do you get there? Try on these thoughts:

No one expects me to know everything.

I can be humble and honest and admit when I have more to learn.

It’s okay if I don’t know everything; I am always learning.

I value honesty in my working relationships.

I am not perfect or all-knowing.

I am willing to admit when I don’t know something.

Those thoughts are going to get you so much farther than thinking:

I’m an idiot if I don’t know the answer to this.

I should have researched that!

How could I not have checked that?!

They are going to think I am dumb if I say I don’t know.

The next time you catch yourself trying to avoid saying, I don’t know, try on one of these thoughts and see how different honesty feels.

Thought work is powerful work. It is simple but it’s not easy. Coach with me and learn how to better manage your thoughts for greater success in your life and your career.

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!

Insidious Boredom

I’m bored. There is something about that statement that drives me nuts. Kids say it all the time and that’s not necessarily what I’m talking about here – although, yes, that makes me crazy too. I had a client come to me recently complaining that she was bored with her job. She was bored with her job but when I challenged her to consider why she was bored or to develop ways that she could become more engaged in her work, she immediately went on the defensive.

She had 1,000 reasons why there was no solution to her boredom. She was just bored and it was making her depressed. She had really committed to this feeling of boredom and was really struggling to see the situation any differently.

As coaches, we strive to demonstrate how these thoughts that we have are really just simple choices that we make on repeat. In reality, this client had committed to her choice to remain bored but she saw her boredom as a fact of her existence and not something she could control. She had made herself a complete victim to this boredom and boredom was winning.

This got me thinking about boredom, in general, and how this simple emotion can be indicative of so many larger issues. Most of us experience boredom from time-to-time but we rarely take the opportunity to learn from this emotion. Here a are few ways to reconsider your boredom and use it as a means for further self-awareness.

Choosing to be Stuck.

If it is important for you to be engaged in your life and connected with how you are spending your time but you often find yourself feeling bored, it’s time for a closer evaluation of things. For instance, if your current experience is “bored” and you want your life experience to be “fascinated” or “learning” or “being challenged” then you have the opportunity to take action to create that result. It’s just like when kids whine about being bored and we as adults snipe at them go outside, go read a book, go find some friends to play with, etc. We have all the solutions for the kiddos but when we as adults find ourselves bored, we often act like this boredom thing was just imposed upon us without our consent or involvement and there’s simply nothing we can do about it.

Boredom is caused by our thoughts! It is a choice we are making. Instead of choosing boredom, you could get to work brainstorming all the things that you could do to NOT be bored. You could get to work examining your thoughts that are making you feel bored. If you are thinking I’m so bored because I’ve been doing this job for 10 years you could consider some alternative thoughts that might make you feel differently I’m so glad that I have a job that is not full of stress and anxiety or I am working on finding new aspects of my job to develop and stimulate me. Those thoughts will yield feelings and actions that are must different that I’m bored. I am stuck. I am not taking action. When grown adults complain that they are bored, I can’t help but think – you are bored yet your level of engagement in your job, your family, your life, etc. is 110% within your control; if you don’t like it. Fix it. If you aren’t willing to take action to change your thoughts and fix it, accept that as your choice and shut up about it.

Overcoming Boredom Often Uncovers Negative Beliefs.

Choosing to not be bored is often the first critical step in self-exploration. If you decide you want more excitement in your life, you will likely be faced with options and choices that may drum up some negative emotion for you. Are you bored because you are afraid to go out and try to meet new people because you fear rejection? Are you afraid to set up a profile on a dating app because you aren’t happy with your body? Are you afraid to pick up a new hobby because you are worried you won’t have enough time and you will be stressed? All of these thoughts are motivated by fear and resistance to the unknown. These thoughts generate insecurities and negative emotions.

The fear of feeling those emotions is why so many people choose to stay bored. To stay stuck.

These thoughts are not fun and choosing to overcome boredom may require you to push through those thoughts—to feel the fear and do it anyway. Boredom and staying stuck is a hell of a lot easier than working through these feelings. That is the root of why so many people choose to stay bored and choose to stay stuck.

What Are you Making it Mean?

Even before you consider new actions and thoughts that might create a bit more excitement in your life, I always recommend taking a closer look at your boredom. What is going on in your brain that is causing you to feel bored? Are you thinking about how much you don’t like your job? Is there something you think you should be doing with your life instead? Or consider this: What is so bad about being bored? That is really the question so many of us need to examine. When you are “bored” what are you making that mean?

This is a more insidious kind of boredom. I think of it as Buffering in Boredom’s clothing. We all know those people who are constantly piling on the projects and dragging around to do lists a mile long. They say that sharks can’t stop swimming or they will die. While I don’t know whether that is true or not, I always think about that when I meet these people. They won’t stop moving or adding enormous projects to their plate. When I see this with clients, I always ask them what’s so bad about being lazy or bored? What’s so bad about not being busy? What are you making it mean if you are not busy? Why are you always telling yourself you are bored?

They say things like I just love to be busy. I hate being bored. I like to always be on the move. Then, as we continue to discuss it, the “shoulds” start to emerge. When I’m not busy, I just think that I should be doing more, I should have accomplished more, I should have finished this last week, I should be doing XYZ, etc. They have all these reasons why they are “behind” at life and why they have to be sprinting to catch up.

These people are shoulding themselves to death!

They are so afraid of what will happen if they stop swimming. They are afraid of those thoughts and feelings that come up when they stop franticly accomplishing things. They have all these negative thoughts and insecurities about their value that come to the surface when they stop. It’s like they have decided that so long as they continue to check things off their list and add new accomplishments, THEN they will be worthy. THEN they will be accomplished and successful. This belief is so toxic. Unless and until they sort through those thoughts telling them that they aren’t good enough as they are, this cycle will never stop.

There will always more things for the to do list and none of them will ever fill that gap, and the cycle will continue indefinitely.

For me, this rings very true. My resistance to boredom is often driven by negative thinking: You should be doing more with your free time, Why don’t you have more of a social life? Why don’t you have more friends? Why don’t you have a more engaging career or a more exciting job? Why can’t you find a hobby you are passionate about. It is because of these thoughts that boredom makes me uncomfortable. I am not resistant to boredom in and of itself, I am resistant to the feelings it drums up in me. Feelings of inadequacy. Feelings of lack. This is the root of my problem with boredom. These thoughts are why I try to avoid boredom. Being aware of those thoughts allows me to face them, examine them, and work through them.

No Sunshine and Rainbows

Life is not meant to be sunshine and rainbows 100% of the time. There are going to be days/people/projects/experiences that you aren’t going to love. I promise you. But those experiences that aren’t great pave the way for you to have experiences that ARE great. Yin and yang. That is the basic nature of this life. Expecting everything to be easy street will only set you up for a lifetime of disappointments. Believe me, there have been times in my practice when I had to deal with an issue that could easily be classified as “boring.” While I could easily find myself buffering with all sorts of other activities – I need to get a cup of coffee, I’m going to stop by to chat with so-and-so, I think I need a snack, etc. – it was when I was able to buckle down and commit to being fascinated with the topic that I felt truly rewarded. Being able to commit to learning something new and becoming an expert in something is rewarding and exciting – no matter how boring the topic. And besides, approaching those projects with fascination and the intent of getting lost in the work was so much more fun. I would sit down and say to myself, today I’m going to become an expert in this section of the Internal Revenue Code. Yes, it sounds totally boring but when I approached it with that mindset it was so much more explorative and accomplishment-driven. It wasn’t just another item on my list, it was another opportunity to improve myself and to learn something new from a place of fascination.

Growth and development are things I value at a very personal level and being able to recharacterize a “boring” project as an event in furtherance of my core values allows me to see the task with renewed energy and excitement. Making the most of the challenging experiences in our lives is the only way to move through them and make room for the good experiences in life.

If you find yourself feeling unfulfilled in your life or simply bored, ask yourself why you are choosing to feel that way and do you like your reasons? Why does it bother you so much to be bored? What does the feeling of boredom drum up in your mind? Whenever we find ourselves resisting a negative emotion or thought, even something as simple as boredom, it can be an invaluable opportunity to investigate and challenge some of your closely held thoughts, beliefs, and assumptions about your life.

Feeling bored with life? Take the next step. Allow me to push you to elevate and illuminate your true purpose. Coach with me and see how exciting life can be.

Judgment

My most recent epiphany? I am a judge-y biach. And listen, I am not saying this for self-deprecating purposes or to publicly shame myself. I am simply stating my mind’s natural tendency, as I have observed it. If left to its own devices, my brain will run off with all sorts of judgmental criticisms of those around me. I am not a bad person and I genuinely believe in the good of other people; however, regardless of my values, my brain tends toward a cycle of mental abuse of not only others but myself. 

I recently spent some time at a work conference in NYC. As I sat there the first morning and looked around, I found myself in a foul mood. I couldn’t figure out what I was so irritated about. So I started writing down my thoughts… 

I hate stuff like this… I don’t want to meet new people… I don’t want to make small talk…this is dumb…I don’t want to be friends with these people…

And then when I started being curious and asking why I hated stuff “like this” and why I didn’t want to talk to anyone, my brain was more than happy to explain: 

We are all competitors, I don’t want to be friends…you all probably think I’m some country bumpkin who doesn’t know her way around the lawI’m sure you’re all thinking I look like an idiot and probably have no idea what I’m doing…you are all judging me and thinking you are better than me

Clearly, I was on some defensive mission. I imagined that all these people were making judgments about me and criticizing me while pretending to be friendly. In turn, I was fuming and hating them for it. So, naturally, my brain opted to engage in its own bad behavior and started criticizing them. It was a pretty amazing spectacle to observe. I had convinced myself that they were judging me and I’d be damned if there were going to get through this day without me judging them right back. Ha! I was going to show THEM who was right and who was wrong. I wasn’t going to let them mentally bad mouth me without any recourse!  I was on to their game!

Alas, there was the cause of my misery and dark mood. It was almost humorous in its simplicity. My mind had taken off on its own and it was making me miserable. I was swimming in a pool of frustration and bitterness . . . I don’t even want to be here, this is dumb, they are all criticizing everything I say, they think I’m dumb but I already know all of this information, what a waste of time, etc. In reality, no one said anything unkind. In fact, at that point, no one had said anything to me! There was no indication of judgment what-so-ever. Everyone was incredibly friendly and welcoming and the conference was lovely. The only bad behavior was my own thoughts and I was in a rotten mood because of it until I got my thoughts under control.  

This happens so often and it brings to mind a few critical coaching lessons:  

If you spot it you got it – if you point a finger at one person, there are three fingers pointing right back at you – the things we disdain in others, are likely the things we disdain in ourselves – hurt people, hurt people  

I had convinced myself that these people were judging me unfairly, so in turn, I was judging them harshly and without merit. Judgmental people are one of my pet peeves – but isn’t that, in and of itself, a judgment?! More often than not when we find ourselves judging other people about a particular personality characteristic or action, it is often because we have that characteristic in ourselves and we don’t like it.  If we weren’t so intimately familiar with that characteristic, we probably wouldn’t be able to notice it in others, right?

For example, I had a client who came to me furious about her brother. She felt that he was always putting on airs and not being himself around the rest of the family.  

He just wouldn’t open up and was always being fake, she said. 

What do you do when you are around him and he acts like that, I asked. 

I clam up; it makes me so uncomfortable, I don’t even know what to say to him!  

So, when he’s around, would you say that you are not being yourself? Would you say that is because you are uncomfortable? Is it possible that he too, is uncomfortable and that is why he is acting that way? Do you see that you are frustrated because he is not being genuine so in turn, you are uncomfortable and not showing up authentically?

Do you see!?

Often times when we criticize someone for acting a certain way or doing a certain thing, we are likely doing the exact same thing we are condemning!

Furthermore, when we catch ourselves judging someone else about something they are doing, if we can evaluate how we too have shown those characteristics in our own lives, we can see that person with so much more compassion! Instead of judging that behavior we can relate to it, understand it, and perhaps let go of that judgment and replace it with empathy.  

The next time you catch yourself criticizing or judging, ask yourself if you have ever engaged in similar behavior or whether you can relate to what that person might be thinking that may be causing them to act that way. It’s a game changer! 

The second thing that came to me was this: when you find yourself judging others, take a look at your thoughts driving that judgment. Is there something about the situation that is bringing up insecurities or fears? Are you operating from ‘fight or flight’ mode?  What thoughts or feelings are you trying to avoid by mentally lashing out at others?  

In my case, I was trying to avoid feeling like an outsider. I was afraid of feeling like I was “less than” the others around me and I was afraid that I wouldn’t fit in. Instead of feeling those fears and proceeding anyway, my reptilian brain went into “fight or flight” mode and obviously, chose FIGHT. I was going to fight with everyone (in my head, of course) and let them know how worthy I was and how dare they think otherwise!!

Instead of being myself and being vulnerable, I shut down and closed off, lest I be measured and found lacking. I was scared and uncomfortable. My feelings were driven by all sorts of nasty thoughts about my worth and value and in the end, I was feeling terrible all by my own hand. The end result was that I wasn’t showing up as myself. I was closed off. I was making myself the outsider that I was so desperately trying NOT to be. Pure craziness! 

As a life coach, I don’t have it all figured out and I am just as human and fallible as the next person. What I do have is a good understanding of my brain and how my thoughts drive my feelings, actions, and results every moment of every day. I was able to get to the root of my sour mood and resolve it in a way that lead to greater clarity about myself and my fears.

Every bad mood and negative feeling is simply an opportunity to explore your mind and deepen your relationship with yourself.  This is the journey of life!

Interested in continuing this work? Sign up for a free coaching consultation with me!
 

The BS of Busyness

Most of my clients have areas of their lives that they want to improve upon. Some want to eat healthier, others want to spend more time on their hobbies or with their children, yet others want to get back into shape or develop a meditation practice. I suspect that you, gentle reader, have a laundry list of things that you would like to spend your time doing but you can “never seem to find the time.” That is the most common explanation I get for these challenges –

I just don’t have time . . . I’m so busy . . . my kids are so consuming . . . my job consumes all my time.

So many of us blame Father Time for our inability to have the work-life balance we so desperately seek. Unfortunately, time is not what is really standing in your way. YOU are standing in your own way. The “busyness” that so many people use as a badge of honor is nothing but a cover story for being disorganized and not managing themselves properly.

Think about it. Time is the greatest equalizer. We all have the same amount. Rich and successful people are not given more time than the rest of us. Sure, having piles of cash lying around can allow you to spend your money to free up your time but that doesn’t explain how you were able to get there in the first place; it doesn’t explain how you were able to make that success that created your piles of cash.

So many successful people have commented in their bios how much they had to hustle in their early days to make things happen, to pursue their passion for writing, or their painting hobby, or whatever it was that lead to their success. They wanted to have time for those things and they made it happen. They didn’t magically buy more time.

They didn’t run around exclaiming about how busy they were and didn’t have time for their passions.

People make time for what’s important to them.

In order to have the life you want, you might have to sacrifice a few things. You might have to spend 10 minutes getting ready instead of 30 so that you can squeeze in a 20 minute meditation before you go to work. You might have to get up at 4:30am to spend some time writing or reading before everyone else gets up – this may mean you have to start going to bed at 9pm instead of 10pm and you miss the late night news. Guess what, you can catch a news podcast in the morning on your drive to work. No harm, no foul. It’s all about your priorities and choices.

Whatever you are wanting more of in your life is simply something you are choosing not to make a priority.

I see so many people that want that success, they want to be a published author or they dream about running a marathon but they are not willing to make it a priority and rearrange their lives in honor of that priority.

We want the glory but we don’t want to reach for it. We want that success but we aren’t willing to be uncomfortable to get there.

I have my clients work through a few different exercises to try and banish the busyness demon. For those clients who are convinced they simply “do not have enough time” for XYZ, I ask them to keep a detailed list of how they spend their days, every day, for one month, down to the minutes of every hour.

The results are always mind blowing – did you know you were wasting 1 hour every week night cooking dinner when you could spend 2 hours on Sunday meal prepping instead? The could earn you 3 extra hours a week during those precious week nights! Or did you know you spend 30 minutes in the shower every day? What if you spent 15 minutes and used the remaining 15 to read the paper every morning or start plowing through those piles of books you want to read? Twenty minute commute? Use it to learn that second language or listen to audiobooks.

The possibilities are endless. This can be such a freeing exercise and opportunity to truly look at your life – what are you making a priority? Take a look and approach the experiment with honesty and curiosity.

The second exercise is to practice diligence and commitment to yourself and your goals. This is done by careful planning ahead of time. Making your calendar your greatest friend and ally.

Making commitments to tasks in furtherance of your goal, putting them on your calendar and honoring your commitment to yourself.

If you want to start a business, break it down into bite-sized steps and put each step on your calendar. As the events come up, honor them as if they were a meeting with the CEO of your company. Do not reschedule them.

Commitment creates results and builds momentum but only if you let it.

After working through these exercises, I believe you will come to see that busyness is not a symbol of importance or productivity but rather an indication of mismanaged time and scattered planning. I hope you can use these tools get over “busyness” and make space for your true priorities.

Learning to manage you energy and honoring commitment is at the heart of the coaching relationship. Learn these skills with me and commit to your new future.