Finding Balance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Obsessive commitment to anything is not sustainable.

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

Your future self will thank you.

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

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

You are not the job.

You are so much more than that.

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


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Boundaries

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

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

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

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

Possibly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is that so much worse than the alternative?

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

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


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Being Good Enough

Many of my clients have struggled with the reoccurring thought that they are not good enough. That they are going to fail. They drive themselves towards some undefinable perfection. During my career, with every bigger step I took, I have also struggled with those beliefs and fears. What if I fail….what if this doesn’t work out…what if I’m not good enough…

Anytime we compare ourselves to other people we lose over and over again. If we perceive ourselves as being better than others we completely disconnect ourselves from those around us, which feels lonely and miserable. On the other hand, if we perceive others as being better than us then we feel terrible because we have now classified ourselves as less than.

Unless your comparisons breed inspiration, it’s just a cruel game we play with ourselves.

The misery that we create for ourselves when we compare ourselves to others is astronomical. So what’s the solution?

Accept that no one is perfect, no one should ever want to be perfect, and that maybe we’re all just really good at being exactly who we are. And just maybe the beauty of this world is that there are so many of us unique human beings each contributing in our own way (if we could only embrace our uniqueness and stop comparing ourselves to others!).

In coaching, we can certainly work around those beliefs and navigate their hold on us, but what if we didn’t have to?

What if part of being human was simply carrying with us this recurring anxiety and worry that we aren’t good enough?

What if we stopped giving weight to those worries but also stopped fighting to change them?

What if being human and being the best version of ourselves simply meant that sometimes we wonder if we’re doing it right?

Whenever I catch myself wondering if I’m not good enough or if I’m going to fail, I just allow myself to recognize this completely natural thought offered by my completely human brain. I see it and I move on. It’s just my biological drive to stay safe and not do the hard things.

I know that we all have that challenge from time to time and I know that thought will only get louder as we all take steps to do the hard things. I believe that if we don’t periodically wonder whether we are good enough or whether we are doing it right, then we are not truly striving to live as the best and most authentic version of ourselves.

In sum, if you aren’t wondering whether you are good enough and regularly being confronted with those fears, you aren’t living big enough.


Blame

“Doodah made me do it.”

When I was a little girl, my brother had an imaginary friend named Doodah. Every time he would get into trouble for putting spiders down my shirt, he would insist that Doodah made him do it. Nothing was his fault when Doodah was around!

Not all of us had imaginary friends when we were kids but, like all other kids, we were never quick to take the blame for our actions.

We’ve all seen those kids in the airport. There you are waiting for your bags to plop off the carousel and while you wait, you watch two kids, worn out from travelling, annoying the goodness out of their harried parents and each other. Then, inevitably, one of those kids will haul off and smack the other one. Hard. While seemingly no one is watching.

Naturally, this results in an avalanche of tears and lots of drama punctuated by the aggressor-child insisting they “didn’t do anything”, indignant at the accusation. Such a comical and common display of our basic human instincts.

As adults, we like to tell ourselves that we have grown out of that propensity. Most of us would never outright deny doing something that we clearly did or that could easily be proven – hello, there are cameras EVERYWHERE!

But just because our logic-reasoning skills have improved and we know that it’s not prudent to lie about things that are likely memorialized on camera, it doesn’t mean we have gotten any better at accepting the results of our actions.

In fact, most of us have just gotten really good at dressing our blame up in prettier clothing: victim clothing.

Years ago, I found myself working in an environment where I did not fit in. I was one of very few women working in a role other than secretary. I was working in an environment where I felt completely isolated. I looked around and saw that the vast majority of my co-workers and nearly all of the organization’s leadership consisted white men from the same colleges and grad schools, even from the largely the same high schools. Most of them practiced the same religion if not the same parish. Most of them were in the same political party and most of them grew up in the same city. Lastly, the majority of them had the same family structure –  2-3 kids with a stay-at-home wife, even where those kids no longer lived at home.

Being alone on an island certainly takes its toll and while every organization comes with its own unique challenges, I quickly started to feel like there was no way I could be successful in that space. They will never take me seriously…they will never understand me or my life…I will always be different and they will always see me as a token: something to be regarded and retained but not taken seriously…My brain was filled with angry pronouncements about my workplace, its leaders, and my co-workers.   

I believed all of those thoughts and I carried them around with me every day. Every time I told myself that my complaints were disregarded, every time I thought my comments were bowled over, every time I felt I was interrupted more than the men, I clung to those thoughts – you will never take me seriously because I’m a woman….you can’t comprehend a woman with a brain and an opinion…you will never treat me like a peer because you don’t believe I am your equal. 

Over time, I found myself having screaming matches with them in my head. If I saw a member of the leadership team in the hall, you could bet I was yelling at them in my head, telling them they were sexist and old school and on and on and ON…Every challenge I encountered in that place was cast in a veil of sexism and anger. It was exhausting.

Now look, I am not saying that any of these thoughts couldn’t have been true. Maybe some of those guys were sexist. Maybe they lacked the skills and experience to treat me as an equal. Maybe it never would change. I don’t know and it didn’t matter.

It didn’t matter because I realized that I could not control them. I could not change them. I could not make them into the kind of men I would respect. They were grown adults who were entitled to act and treat me in any way that they chose. I realized that the only thing I could control was myself and my thoughts and at that point my thoughts were making me miserable. I trudged through each day unhappy, grouchy, unsatisfied and disappointed. It was a terrible way to practice.

I started working through my thoughts and endeavored to re-cast the situation. I had to let go of my anger that these people were falling short of my expectations for good leadership. I started focusing on the fact that my angry thoughts about the situation were making me angry and bitter. No one was negatively affected by my diatribes but me. Eventually I left. To put it more accurately, I RAN out of that place as fast as I could.

Later when I would think back to that time in my life I would find myself bubbling with anger. I blamed them and judged them for my leaving. I blamed them for my unhappiness. If only they had been willing to act in accordance with their values. . . if only they were capable of accepting their short-comings . . . if only they weren’t so freaking insistent upon taking care of their own…if only they were willing to accept different points of view as valuable… I had nothing good to say and every time it came up in conversation or I thought about it, I would find myself fuming with rage and indignation.

That’s when I realized that I was making myself a victim. I knew who the villain was – and so did everyone who made the mistake of asking me about my prior employer! That made me the victim. Yikes. I never thought of myself as a victim or a blamer and the realization stung.

As I thought about it more, I realized that I was blaming the male partners and leadership for all my unhappiness there. I was blaming them for me leaving. I got to work picking through those thoughts and one stuck out in particular: I will never be successful here because I am not one of them. I believed that down to my core. But then I started to probe it. Was that true? Were there really no women there that were successful? Nope. My thought wasn’t entirely factual.

There were women there who had found some form of success and happiness. They worked a lot more than I did. They made less waves. They were willing to “go along to get along.” They worked hard and didn’t make time for indignation – it’s not that they didn’t see it; they just didn’t spend energy on it. That’s when it clicked for me. I was wrong. I could have been successful there and I could have become one of them. I chose not to. I chose not to make those same sacrifices and I chose to use my voice. I chose to leave in honor of my principles and values. They didn’t force me to leave. They weren’t the villain and I wasn’t the victim. I made a choice to leave. I didn’t have to make that choice and no one forced me to do it.

Now when I think about my time with that organization, I am filled with pride and sadness instead of anger and indignation. I am proud that I clung to my values and I am sad that women are still fighting to be treated fairly and equally. I’m no longer villainizing their failures – that is for them to sort out. I made a choice that was all my own and I was not a victim to some faceless villain.

Could I have stayed there and found happiness? Sure. It would have required a lot more time working through those thoughts. I could have found a way to be happy. But here’s the thing. I didn’t WANT to feel good about what I seeing and experiencing. I did not WANT to be okay with that environment. That was also my choice. I chose to be unhappy during my time there. Life is not meant to be 100% happiness all the time. My experience at that organization was my time for struggle, challenges, growth and sadness. That, my friends, is how life works and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Cheers!


Photo by Lukas from Pexels

Making Peace

Sometimes we set goals and we make the plan and we just can’t seem to get any traction. We are acting but nothing is coming together. We are doing all the things but it just doesn’t seem to stick. Hopelessness and frustration set in and it becomes more and more tempting to throw in the towel. When our steps forward are harder than they should be and we find ourselves just forcing every action, we have to ask ourselves what is going on behind the scenes? Is there an opportunity to make peace and release some dead weight?

What we miss in those instances is the opportunity to pull up all that baggage that is keeping us stuck.

During our lives we have so many experiences that teach us about ourselves. From those experiences we start to draw conclusions and formulate all the beliefs that mold our understanding of ourselves.

I’m an awkward runner. I don’t like to cook. I’m not good with small talk. I don’t like to step outside my comfort zone.

Those thoughts are all based upon empirical evidence from our past experiences — someone once told me I run really awkwardly, I botched a homecooked meal for a date once and it was horribly embarrassing, etc.

Now we add to those thoughts additional perceptions about our life experiences —

I shouldn’t have done that, I should have known better, how could I have let myself gain this much weight, how could I have been so reckless?

Our self judgments and criticisms relating to our past experiences are also in the mix. We look at past experiences, decide how the experience was “supposed” to go, and then we pile on the blame on ourselves for the bad thing that happened. We punish ourselves for events based upon some manufactured notion of how things were supposed to have played out.

When we use our pasts to criticize ourselves we are fighting our truth. We are pretending like there is some master plan that is comprised of nothing but unicorns, daisies, and margaritas. We imply that our plan is not supposed to include dark nights, mishaps and challenges. This sounds ridiculous as I write it down and I suspect it is striking you as ridiculous too — but this is what we do! Any time you believe It shouldn’t have happened that way you are suggesting that the bad thing was never “supposed” to have happened.

What if the bad thing happened exactly as it was supposed to?

What if that experience was meant to be part of your path?

What if it was supposed to teach you something critical?

It is so much more empowering to own that negative experience and use it as a learning tool than it is to try and erase it, bury it, and beat yourself up over it. You are never going to win your battle with reality — it happened. Period. Why waste any energy thinking that it shouldn’t have happened? What is that getting you?

If you find yourself plugging away toward a goal, going through the motions but not getting anywhere, it might be a good opportunity for some introspection. What is going on behind the scenes that is keeping you stuck? What energy and belief do you need to face and make peace? For my weight loss clients, peace often comes in form of learning to love their body in a new way. It means letting go of their guilt and disdain for themselves and approaching weight loss from a place of compassion. For those of us who have had experiences with abuse, it’s about learning to forgive yourself.

When we blame ourselves and beat ourselves up for our past choices (whether the cake or the marriage!), it is the most insidious kind of judgment.

We deny trust from ourselves. We deny compassion for ourselves. We deny ourselves the insights that could come from that experience — that were MEANT TO come from that experience.

Those quiet self-judgments might not be at the forefront of your mind in every moment of your day but they are there and they are keeping you stuck.

If you buy into the belief that you are a failure who has no follow through, you are never going to lose weight. If you blame your past relationships traumas on your poor judgment, you are never going to open up to new experiences. When you see yourself as the cause of all your problems, past and present, you are always on edge waiting for yourself to do it again. You will expect your past “failures” to repeat in every new opportunity, every new relationship.

When all you have is a hammer, everything will look like a nail.

When all you have is self-judgment, every new experience will look like a new opportunity for you to fail (again). There is no way you are ever going to succeed with any goal if you don’t believe at some level that you are good enough, that you can do it and that you are right where you need to be.

That’s the crux of it: you are right where you need to be. Everything in your life that has happened has brought you to this place. Stop begrudging where you are and start looking for the lessons. Be an anthropologist of your life — what were all those hard lessons supposed to teach you? See the kernel of good in all that has happened and make peace with your past.

You can’t berate yourself into success and you can’t just go through the motions ignoring your baggage. Success only comes from within so you might as well start there.

I am a certified life and weight coach and I help women all across the country create a better relationship with themselves. I am passionate about helping women find their power and start creating the life of their dreams. I would love to help you too. Check me out by signing up for a free coaching session, your life is waiting.


Photo by Donald Giannatti on Unsplash

Relationship Decisions

Have you ever considered what it is that makes a relationship? Is it  set of standards we keep for ourselves and the other person — promises we commit to upholding? When I say I have a relationship with someone what does that even mean?

I believe that our relationships with the people in our lives are based purely in our minds. Our relationship does not exist independently of each person; rather, the relationship is completely dependent upon each individual. Each person has their version of the relationship that they keep and create within themselves. Each person may see the relationship differently and they most certainly will see themselves differently within the relationship as compared to how the other person may see them.

Having reached that conclusion, it follows that:

 our relationships with others are simply a compilation of thoughts about the other person.

That’s it. Knowing that, we then have complete autonomy to make the relationships in our lives whatever we want them to be.

There is no such thing as “I have a terrible relationship with my sister.” That is only an opinion. That opinion is one that the holder inevitably has all sorts of support for: evidence culled from the parties’ history to *prove* that the parties have a terrible relationship. That interpretation of the past and that perception of the evidence is completely one-sided. It is all founded in opinions of the individual person. Those opinions, when taken together, do not create a fact.

When we decide to believe something–my boss is jerk–our brains will get to work finding all the evidence of that belief within our present and past existence. Our brain will not sort through the data in an unbiased manner and weigh the information to determine whether that belief is true. We have already concluded that it is true and now our brain will seek evidence to support it. This is confirmation bias, in its simplest state.

We must become aware that we make decisions in every moment about our relationships.

We have made conclusions about our relationship with each person we encounter. If we want better relationships or different relationships in our lives, we have to change the way we think about the people in our lives. If you want a better relationship with your sister, you have to stop believing that your sister is a selfish little brat. You have to stop telling yourself that the two of you will never see eye to eye.

When we treat our perceptions of relationships as factual, we foreclose the possibility of ever having a different relationship with the people around us. So often, we wish we had better relationships with others but we overlook our role in the relationship–the only reason a relationship is “good” or “bad” is because of where you are choosing to focus your interpretation of the relationship. You will never have a good relationships with someone when you are only focusing on the negative aspects of the relationship.

I find it easiest to put into context with people we love implicitly–whether that’s a parent, a child, a niece or nephew or even a pet. There are people in our lives that we love completely. They have faults and shortcomings that we overlook because we love them. We choose not to focus our energies on the facts that they always borrow your clothes and never return them, are always broke, or can’t help to stop peeing on the carpet.

We focus instead on all the positive aspects of the relationship–that is why it is so easy to think of them so fondly! It is not because the relationship is inherently good; we have simply chosen to perceive it that way. There could certainly be people in this world who would not be willing to overlook a partner’s messiness or irresponsibility with money, who can’t get over a pet who periodically has an accident. For those people, those relationships will not be characterized as good because they are not choosing to focus on any of the goodness.

This does NOT mean we have to think lovely thoughts about all the people in our lives.

What this does mean is that we have to start taking ownership of the relationships in our lives. We get to choose what kind of relationships we have. We get to choose how to think about the people we encounter. In that way, we are choosing the types of relationships we participate in. We have complete control over whether  a relationship is good or bad.

How we interpret and participate in our relationships is a focus of many sessions with my clients. Whenever you feel challenged by a difficult relationship, it is an opportunity for you to take control of your life and start making decisions about the types of relationships you want. It is an opportunity to do your own work and examine why you are choosing to focus on certain aspects of the relationship. If you have a relationship that is challenging you, there is no time like the present. Sign up for a free hour of coaching with me and let’s see what we can do!


Photo by Timon Studler on Unsplash

Disappointment

As my clients learn to take more ownership over their feelings and their actions, one of the challenges they face is how to address negative experiences. Their immediate inclination is to shift to a new thoughts to try and feel better about the situation. But reality is that sometimes things will happen in our lives that we don’t want to feel good about. So what do we do?

Many of the things we do (or don’t do) in our lives are because we are chasing (or avoiding) a feeling.

We get married because we want to be happy. We don’t volunteer to speak up because we don’t want to feel embarrassed. We don’t ask for more money because we don’t want feel ashamed if they say no.

We spend a significant amount of energy in our lives calculating how certain events may or may not make us feel and we then choose to act based upon those estimates. It seems logically self-protecting. Why would we set ourselves up for a failure or embarrassment? Why would we take any action that would make us feel terrible?

This recently came up when I had a client tell me how she blew an important deadline. She was overloaded and low on sleep and it just slipped her mind. Despite the fact that is wasn’t a career-ending mistake and was completely salvageable, my client felt terrible. She was overcome with disappointment in herself — I should have been more organized, this shouldn’t have happened, I let everyone down. She explained to me that, in the days that followed, she just kept trying to shift her thoughts to a “better” thought. To one that didn’t make her feel so terrible, but it just wouldn’t stick.

The problem was that my client was resisting her feelings of disappointment. She was trying to cover them up by manufacturing prettier thoughts. She was running away from that experience and, not surprisingly, it wasn’t working.

Why? Because she was disappointed. She didn’t want to feel good about her oversight. The truth was that she WANTED to feel disappointed (but she didn’t really want to FEEL disappointed). She didn’t want to feel good about it but she didn’t really want to experience the disappointment either.

Whenever we have an experience that we don’t want to feel good about, we cannot give in to the temptation to try and cover it up. We must allow the feeling of disappointment to be there. To run its course. We can’t try and cover up the 50% of our life experiences that aren’t sunshine and roses.

There will be hard days and we cannot simply write off half of our lives.

Half of the time it’s going to be hard and painful. We have to practice accepting that. We also have to practice processing emotions.

When we resist negative emotions and try to bury them with better feelings, the negative feelings simmer below the surface and compound. They will eventually make their way to the surface. It might not be today but it will likely be at some inappropriate time–when you are stuck in traffic on the way to meet a friend for happy hour and you burst into tears….when your spouse asks you what time you will be home for dinner and you bite his face off.

Those feelings will find a way to get out and whomever is on the receiving end likely doesn’t deserve it.

Aside from the fact that resisting those emotions is futile, there is a practical reason for allowing yourself to feel the disappointment. If we don’t accept that negative 50% of our emotional experience, we never get good and experiencing those emotions and moving on. Instead, we create patterns where we resist and avoid those emotions so we start to believe that we can’t handle them.

When we spend our whole lives avoiding those negative vibes, we rob ourselves of the opportunity to learn how to experience them. To learn that they won’t kill us. To learn that we can experience those emotions and keep moving. Think of it as emotional aversion therapy — we have a hang out with those emotions so we are no longer afraid of them.

When we create a pattern where we fear those emotions, we spend our lives trying to avoid them. It makes perfect sense that we would avoid those emotions that aren’t familiar and that we don’t understand. Of course, they would seem scary! But what if you could explore and come to intimately understand those emotions? What if those emotions were no longer so scary?

Consider what you would do with your life if you weren’t afraid to feel embarrassed? What would be different? What would you accomplish?

As I mentioned at the outset, we spend our entire lives taking actions or not taking actions because we are chasing or avoiding certain feelings. Those feelings are just vibrations in your body. They won’t hurt you. They are created by your thoughts and you have complete agency over those thoughts. But rather than using your brain to try and erase negative emotions, what if we allowed ourselves to experience negative emotions when it is warranted? What if we became practiced and comfortable with those emotions we typically avoid? Then our lives become a series of actions we take simply because we want to; because we know that whatever the outcome, whatever the feeling or negative result, it doesn’t matter because we have no reason to avoid it.

Allow yourself to experience the 50/50 that is our lives. What other choice do you have?!

As attorneys, I know that some days, weeks, and months can feel more like 80% negative and 20% positive. If you need help working through the yin and yang of your life, set up some time to get some free coaching. What do you have to lose?


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The Demands of Legal Practice

One of the struggles with being a lawyer, coaching lawyers is that I get it. I can 1,000% relate to the struggles and challenges female attorneys face. I know the pains of receiving emergent emails as you’re about to walk out the door to a funeral, the helpless fatigue and mild depression that sets in on your 10th straight day of working 14-hour days. I’ve been there.

The challenge then, for me, is to remain impartial and offer my clients the opportunity to examine their reality through a different lens. As difficult as it is for me not to get into the drama pool with my clients, my goal is to offer a space where we can reasonably and rationally address the challenges of practicing law and strategize how to stay afloat.

My experience as any attorney has made me intimately familiar with certain “truths” about the practice of law that we are all better off simply accepting:

It will be demanding.

There will be long days.

You will have to make sacrifices.

While I work with my clients to explore different ways of thinking about their practice, a positive outlook cannot insulate us from these truths. Rather than trying to put lipstick on this pig, we work to anticipate these inevitable challenges.

First, we stop fighting these realities.

There are certain aspects of practicing law that simply come with the territory. Litigators and deal lawyers will be at the mercy of the life cycle of the deal or the case. There isn’t much you can do to change many of those deadlines. Non-transactional lawyers will have different marketing expectations and will have to juggle 20 different clients on any given day. That is just part of the deal.

In the same way, we would not sign up to lifeguard and complain about having to wear a bathing suit all day long, we cannot waste energy fighting with certain realities about the legal practice. It’s futile and it is making us miserable.

Second, we have to understand our “why”.

Why are you doing this? Why did you sign up to have your weekends and schedule sabotaged by the demands of the job? Are you trying to develop the skills to land an in-house job, are you trying to make partner, are you wanting to pay off your student loans?

If you are you going to survive the challenges of a legal practice, you must gain some clarity as to why you are choosing to stay.

Because, after all, you are making a choice. The job is not happening to you. You are choosing to invite the above challenges into your life. You are not a victim.

In order to move past our tendency to mourn for the life that we lost or yearn for the life that we want, we have to focus on our WHY. Why do you stay? Why do you do it?

Instead of carrying the mental and emotional weight that comes when we agonize over the realities of legal practice, we can shift that energy to getting through it. Our justification for staying allows us to make that shift. Once we know why we are doing it, we can dispense with the lamentations and weather the storm.

For many of my clients, once they realize and connect with their WHY, they can start seeing the job as simply a season in their life.

It’s the same principle we employ when we lift weights or train for a marathon. It’s painful and it’s grueling and it requires sacrifices but we do it because we see the ultimate goal and we are committed to it. We have a compelling reason for our suffering. Your legal practice is no different.

It’s supposed to be hard and challenging.

That is what you signed up for. But for many of my clients, partnership, and lifetime commitment to billable hours is not their desired result; it’s simply a means to an end. It’s a season in life that has an expiration date. It will not last forever. That is the head space that will keep you on track and allow you to use the experience as it was intended in your life.

Stop fighting with reality and start taking ownership for your choice to stay. I know it’s frustrating and challenging and sometimes soul-sucking but you choose to be there. Focus on what this experience will GET you.

It’s just a season in your life. It will pass.

If you are treading water in your practice and feeling overwhelmed and tired, set up a  time to chat (for free) and let’s get to work reconnecting with your WHY so you can get back to it.


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Believing New Things

One of the questions I get most often when coaching my clients is:

How do I stop thinking that?

Once we understand the correlation between our thoughts and how those thoughts are creating our present reality, the first thing my clients want to do as professional perfectionists is FIX it. Once we understand the equation, we want to clean it up and get back to work.

As attorneys, it is our job to strategize, navigate, and fix problems. When we realize that our brain is part of the “problem” it is natural for us to want to fix it.

The problem is that our brain is a formidable adversary and, no matter how much coaching we do, will we ever be able to build you a brain that only thinks, productive, worthy thoughts.

So we must learn to co-exist with our nasty little thoughts.

We must stop fighting them! Unproductive thoughts will always be part of our reality. The key is getting to a place where we see those thoughts as neither good nor bad. Simply a sentence our brain is really good at offering us.

Whenever we botch a big project, our brain is always going to want to tell us that we don’t belong, we will never figure it out, etc. We are SO GOOD at thinking those thoughts! It is natural that our efficient, primitive brain would continue to do so.

So what do we do?

(The second most common question I get from my clients.)

We see the thought, we understand the negative impact it is having on our life, and now we are ready to change it, right?!

Nope.

We want to erase the “bad” thought. We want to shift to a new thought or build upon ladder thoughts to feel better or create the results that we want. However, when we jump right in like that, we continually find ourselves back at the original thought and more frustrated that we can’t make the shift.

This is a sign that we are not yet ready to move on to a new thought. We keep coming back because there is a part of us that still believes the original thought. We don’t yet see it as a set of words that pop into our head.

There is still a part of us that hasn’t accepted it as an optional description of reality.

What we have to do in that situation is to challenge ourselves and force a paradigm shift. We’ve all had those experiences in our lives where suddenly a long-held thought or belief is completely deconstructed due to something that we’ve learned, witnessed, or experienced. We need to create that same type of paradigm shift within ourselves about that thought.

For each of those automatic thoughts that we want to move away from we have to really start asking:

Is it true how?

Could I understand things differently?

Where does that thought come from?

Why am I choosing to believe that?

What if that weren’t true?

What are the facts of my story?

What if nothing has gone wrong?

Can I imagine this another way?

What if I did know what to do?

Questioning and challenging the thought will allow your mind the space to start examining whether or not that belief is really true. It helps us get to a place where we can accept that the thought is just a thought–it’s not a fact and other alternatives exist.

Once we start dismantling the belief and seeing it as just that a belief or optional thought, only from there can we starts shifting to a new thought.

Whenever we find ourselves in a mental thought boomerang, it’s a sign that we’re not ready to accept that belief as untrue. We tried to move forward with a new, contrary belief while we’re continuing to believe the old thought.

In order to solidify the shift, we have to come to a place where we accept that the original belief is optional.

We have to allow ourselves to dismantle that belief and start seeing poking holes in it.

If you don’t allow yourself the space to dismantle that belief it will always pop up and continue to derail any shifting that you are trying to make. First we must disprove the thoughts and loosen its grip on ourselves.

Many of my clients have struggled to “clean up” their negative thoughts patterns unsuccessfully. They come to me frustrated with their inability to move to higher mental ground. This is part of the process we work through in the coaching space–dismantling closely held thoughts, beliefs, and assumptions that aren’t serving you.

Schedule a free consultation and check it out for yourself.


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Feeling Defensive

As lawyers, it is our job to be right. To get the right answer, to find the right solution, to have the right words. In truth, you could say that about any profession, unless you are a meteorologist (no one is ever surprised when they are wrong). No one likes to be wrong.

Many of my clients struggle with being wrong because of what they make that mean about themselves. If they are wrong, it must mean they are not good enough, they aren’t cut out to be lawyers.

I recently had a mini-session with a young attorney who was telling me about her horrible work environment. When I asked her to give me an example of how her horrible boss had berated her, she said that he told her the memo she prepared for him was terrible and that she completely missed one of the most important legal issues. “What were you thinking?!” he had said to her. And. She. Was. Pissed.

How could he speak to me like that? I don’t deserve to be treated like that. He completely embarrassed me in front of all my colleagues.

As we talked about it, I asked her to answer this question: what exactly she was thinking when she turned in the memo? I just wanted it to be over with. I hate working for him. It as a terrible legal issue and I just wanted to be done with it. The more we discussed it, we discovered that the memo was not great, was not well thought out, and she had, in fact, missed an important legal issue. Everything this partner had said to her was true.

When we feel ourselves getting defensive, the most important question you can ask yourself before you explode on the other human is this:

Are they right?

Is it true?

If it is true, what am I making that mean about myself and why?

Whenever we are feeling defensive, it is because you believe that part of whatever criticism you just received is true. If it wasn’t true, at least in part, it wouldn’t bother you.

If someone were to say to me, That article you wrote for the paper last week was pretty terrible, it wouldn’t bother me. I wouldn’t care because I didn’t write an article for any paper. There is no truth in that statement for me. It doesn’t resonate with me at all.

However, if someone were to say to me, You and your partner should have kids, you’re going to regret it, my hair would practically start on fire. That hits a mark because it hits on thoughts and doubts that I have had about my life. It challenges decisions I have made and second-guessed. There is a possibility that, some day, I might regret our decision not to have kids. It hurts because I have grappled with and questioned the truth of that exact statement.

For many of us, when people hurl these types of comments at us, we ignite. We get defensive, we get angry and indignant.

The reason we are defensive is because we see that fleck of truth and we don’t like what that means: it reminds us that they might be right.

For my client, acknowledging the truth of what her partner said meant owning the fact that she didn’t do a good job. When she opened herself up to that possibility, what quickly followed was the conclusion that she was not cut out to be lawyer. She just wasn’t good enough. She was never going to make it. Those thoughts made her feel hopeless and scared.

Instead of working through those ugly thoughts resulting from the truth of the statement, we resist all of it.

We push it back onto the other person. We try to argue that what they said wasn’t true. It is always easier to be angry and defensive than admit our faults.

If we allow the other person to be right, at least, in part, we have to examine what that means for ourselves. What are you making it mean when you do a sub-par job at work? What are you making it mean when you regret a decision you made years ago?

Most of us make those mistakes mean something terrible about ourselves. We allow ourselves to conclude that we are bad people, less than, failures. Defensiveness and anger are a means to avoid those thoughts and feelings. It is a way to cover them up and distract from what you are really feeling and thinking about yourself.

Life is yin and yang, good and bad.

If you can take full ownership of the uncomfortable parts of life, acknowledge and accept when we mess up, how much easier would life be? What if we could mess up and not torture ourselves for it?

So how do you stop this cycle? First, whenever you feel yourself getting defensive, stop and recognize the parts of the criticism that you believe; recognize the critical thoughts you have had before.

Second, recognize that you are making your failures mean something terrible about yourself. You are beating yourself up every time you aren’t perfect. That is the root of your avoidance. It is why you are getting angry and defensive.

If you can allow yourself to fail gracefully and simply own it when you mess up and not make it mean something negative about yourself, there is nothing to avoid. There is no reason to be angry or defensive.

Could you imagine how my client’s relationship with that partner would change if she was able to respond, “You know what, you’re right, I can do better than this. I apologize and I will use this as a learning experience.”

Commit to believing that every failure is simply one more step on your path to figuring things out. Each time you mess up is another opportunity to learn and grow.

It’s what makes you human and being human means you are never going to be perfect.

How many relationships have we contaminated by being defensive when we knew, deep down, we were in the wrong but didn’t want to admit it?

How many times did we allow our mis-steps to be fodder for self-deprecation?

Stop doing that to yourself. You are a human and that means you come equipped with a certain level of imperfection. Instead of resisting your imperfections, own them, accept them as a part of life and love yourself regardless. Do not resist them and cover them up with anger and defensiveness. It’s not serving you and it’s not true.

Need support? Sign up for a free consultation and take the first step to cleaning up your relationship with yourself and those around you.


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