How to Make Any Decision

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

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

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

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

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

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

What could we gain if we end up succeeding?

What does it cost you to NOT act?

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

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

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

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

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

That is simply the price of evolving.

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


Photo by Tingey Injury Law Firm on Unsplash

Productivity and Perfectionism

Many of my clients describe themselves as perfectionists. They don’t want to do something unless and until it can be done properly. While that sentiment sounds noble and worthy, its impact on our lives is much more nefarious.

The truth underneath that notion is that when we allow ourselves to delay action until it can be done perfectly, we are really just trying to protect ourselves from failure.

But what I often see happening is that perfectionism morphs into complete inaction; permission to remain in place. I’m not ready to move forward yet so I’m just going to stay where I am.

It is not logical to believe that we can plan everything to such an extent that we can eliminate all risk of failure.

You are going to have to risk failure if you are ever going to act.

Those that work with me regularly know that I believe perfectionism is for scared people and I’m not the only one who objects to perfectionist tendencies. Perfectionism is a just a prettier word for self-protection.

While I agree that we must all act in a manner that protects ourselves in the highest sense, that self-protective impulse is not relevant when it comes to commonplace activities — applying for a new job, reaching out for support, finishing a large project, sending an email. So many of us apply that self-preservation impulse to those every day tasks and the net result is that we don’t apply for the job, we never reach out for support, and we agonize over the tiniest details of projects and simple emails. Our work takes longer and our emotional fortitude wanes.

When we allow ourselves to linger in preparation mode rather than simply acting, not only do we prolong our current state (assuming we will EVENTUALLY act, which is not always the case, some of us prepare indefinitely) but we rob ourselves of the opportunity to create self-confidence.

Self-confidence is not something we are born with; it is something we create for ourselves.

How do we build it? We take action and fail and develop the ability to move forward despite the failure. When we know we can survive failure, heartache, embarrassment, shame, humiliation and all the other fantastic emotions that accompany failure, we learn to trust ourselves. We realize that we can weather any storm, overcome all those negative emotions. In that experience we develop confidence in ourselves because we know we can do and survive anything that comes our way.

Naturally, that means that in order to become more confident, we must fail. We must take action and set ourselves up to experience failure. If we don’t ever experience failure and adversity, how can we learn to trust in our ability to do and survive anything?

If we play it safe forever, allowing ourselves to linger in preparation so that when we do act, we can act perfectly (as if that ever really works) we prevent ourselves from simply acting and taking the chance that we might fail.

At the same time, we rob ourselves of the possibility that we might act and do it perfectly the first time. It just might work out! All those details you wants to distress over and sift through might never even matter. But you won’t know until you take the risk.

When we linger in preparation we imply that it is possible to know exactly what is needed for success and what is necessary to prevent failure. That is ridiculous.  If that were true, our lives would be very different. The truth is that we never know what will work or won’t work until we start acting and learning all the things that didn’t work.

When my clients explain to me why they aren’t taking action on things or why they are taking so long to complete their work, I challenge them to experiment with the concept of B- work. What if you allowed yourself to present B- work where it was warranted? What if you allowed yourself to recognize that sometimes done is actually better than perfect? What if you accepted that all the minutia, all those nagging second-guessing thoughts might not actually be important to the overall project? What if a client wants a B- answer and doesn’t want to pay for a A+ dissertation-worthy response?

What is the worst that could happen if you just committed to acting and stopped second-guessing?

Embarrassment…shame,…guilt…?

Those are all just vibrations in your body, caused by your thoughts. YOU and how you talk to yourself when things don’t go as planned, THAT is what causes those emotions.

The beauty of it all is that you control those thoughts and you can decide what you want to make it mean when your commitment to action is met with failure. 

It doesn’t have to mean that you are a failure or that you aren’t cut out for your job. It could simply mean that you learned how to not do something; you can add that learning to your arsenal, practice experiencing the feelings of embarrassment of guilt and just keep moving.

Without acceptance of failure, you will never create meaningful success. The price for success is repetitious failure. The process of repetitious failure creates self-confidence. What do you have to lose?

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How to Know When It’s Time for a Change

No matter what profession you are in, there will be times in your career where you will wonder if it’s time for a change. One of the most common phrases I hear in coaching is:

How do you know….

When it’s time to quit your job

When it’s time to find a new firm

When it’s time to ask for a divorce

When it’s time to change professions

When faced with these questions from clients, we work through a three step process:

myths, justifications, and so whats

The myth: there is no predestined “right time” that must be known before we can make big decisions.

What is the benefit of that line of thinking?

It’s like handing your life over to some unknown scheduler, hoping that they will let you know when you can move on. It assumes that there will be a time when the change you are questioning will be easy. It also assumes there will be a time when you can act without any fear or reservation.

Instead, this wait and see approach simply keeps you stuck. It keeps you in the safe familiar. It justifies your unwillingness to do the scary thing and gives you an excuse for not taking control over your life: “It just doesn’t feel like the right time.”

In my experience, those of us that wait to find some certainty that the time is finally “right” to make that big decision only end up getting beat over the head with their own truth.

The truth that they have known all along but that they kept ignoring, waiting for a “sign” that it was the perfect time to act. When we ignore those inklings that we need to make a change and we tell ourselves that we need to wait for the “right time,” life typically just turns up the volume and makes that truth harder to ignore.

You knew the right decision already but you allowed fear to convince yourself that you needed to wait for the right time.

There is no “right time.” If you feel driven or called to do something or make a change, pay attention to those urges. They will not go away. They will just get louder and the messaging typically becomes more painful (so that you cannot ignore it).

The one person that we should innately trust, who always has our back, is ourselves. Why do we ignore her so often and listen to others whose intentions are not always so benevolent? In order to build the life of your dreams, you have to start trusting yourself.

The only person who will join you for every step of the journey is yourself.

So, you might as well start giving her a seat at the table.

The justifications. When we are trying to weigh important decisions, the most important question to ask yourself is “why” do I want to do this. Next, we ask ourselves if we like our reasoning.

It’s that simple.

If your reason for wanting to leave your job is because “It’s too hard…I don’t think I’m cut out for it…I’m not happy here” you have to as yourself if you like that reasoning. Do you feel good about that explanation?

For many of us, these types of justifications are at the root of a lot of decisions. Things get hard. Life will challenge you to grow. These justifications are all based in some sort of fear. Fear of failure. Fear of not being good enough. Fear that you made a mistake.

Furthermore, these types of justifications give away all your power–you imply that your job should give you some sort of happiness. (In case you missed it, happiness is no one’s job but yours.)

You are free to allow yourself to make decisions based upon these justifications, that is wholly your right. But my question is: Do you like your reasons? Do you feel good about your justification?

Be honest with yourself about why you are wanting to do (or not do) something and carefully examine your justification.

So long as you like your reason, you have everything you need to act. From there you simply make a decision and execute. No drama. Just action from a place of authenticity. Simple.

The so whats.

This is the part of the process where we tackle the fear that is keeping us stuck. When we eliminate the drama and get clear about our justifications for acting, the only thing that will keep us from executing is fear. In order to act, we have to take a look at that fear.

If you act and you make the “wrong” decision, so what?

Answering that question will ultimately bring you face to face with your worst case scenario. When we ask “so what?” over and over and over again, we eventually get to the root of the fear:

I don’t want people to think I’m a failure…because then I will believe I have failed.

I don’t want to be embarrassed…because it will mean I have messed up.

I don’t want to admit I was wrong…because it will mean I’m less than.

Facing our worst case scenarios and developing a strategy where we not only survive but THRIVE through those events will dispel the fear that is keeping us from acting.

If we know that we can make a decision, fail, and handle the consequences, there is no longer anything to be  afraid of. There is no longer any reason NOT to act.

Don’t let your brain tell you that you can’t handle your worst case scenario. Believing that will keep you stuck indefinitely.

Don’t make your life a merry-go-round of boring and fear-driven decisions. What would your future self tell you to do?

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Your Legal Career: Having Your Own Back

When trying to make a big decision, so many of my clients get stuck in the quagmire of indulgent emotions.

Indulgent emotions are those emotions that seem really important. They feel like we should pay attention to them. They suck us into their black hole and keep us from moving forward.

They are indulgent because we linger and stay with those emotions for far too long; we allow those emotions to take over and before we know it, we have been out of the game for weeks. We’ve been “busy” worrying.

Worry, overwhelm, boredom, confusion, and indecision are all indulgent emotions — dream killers.

I had a client who was feeling “stuck” because she couldn’t decide what kind of malpractice insurance she wanted to buy for her new firm. Naturally, she was arguing all the options, seeming to wait until absolute clarity would sweep in and bless her decision.

Decision lightning!

(It doesn’t exist!)

Failing to make decisions keeps us stuck. It allows us to spin in this world where there is only one right answer and we need to make sure we figure it out.

If we don’t get it right a whole parade of horribles will march through our homes and destroy everything; all will be lost.

What if you just made a decision and had your own back?

One decision is not going to make or break your legal career. We have to ditch the drama we build up around these decisions and stop making them so monumental.

If we don’t like our decision later on, we can regroup, make a different decision and grow from the experience. Is that such a big deal?

You won’t lose all your clients if you have to rebrand in three years.

The sky won’t fall if you decide maybe you don’t want to be at that firm.

There are no perfect choices.

At some point you have to recognize that indulging in worry and indecision is keeping you stuck–if you want to move forward, you simply have to make a decision.

What if you just decided not to believe that there was only one right answer?

Maybe all the roads lead to the same place?

Isn’t that a better place to be mentally than imagining you there are two roads–one leads to sudden death and one leads to rivers of gold?! That is what you are doing when you indulge in worry, fear, doubt, indecision. You are believing that one option is perfect and one option will destroy you. The pressure you are putting on that one small decision! How terrible that must feel.

Skip the drama around the decision. Make a choice and move forward. That’s the first step.

The second step is having your own damn back.

If you decide to change your mind in the future, commit to having your own back.

This means that if your choice doesn’t pan out the way you wanted it to, you aren’t going to indulge in GUILT (another indulgent emotion). You aren’t going to wade through your past….shoulda, coulda, woulda-ing yourself to death.

Have your own back. Be a good partner to yourself.

You have no idea how those other options would have panned out. Don’t use this an opportunity to soothsay. Don’t pretend that you “knew” this wasn’t going to work out and start berating yourself.

Part of the reason we avoid making decisions is because of how terrible we are to ourselves when a decision doesn’t work out how we imagined.

We beat ourselves up, we judge our past actions, we rewrite history to make ourselves feel even worse.

If you can commit to making a decision and having your own back no matter how it plays out, what is there to be afraid of?

Don’t allow indulgent emotions to side-track your dreams and keep you stuck. Be a good partner to yourself. Honor your ability to make a decision and be kind to yourself as you make the journey.

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To Indecision or Not…?

Lately, I had several clients who are struggling to make decisions. One client was struggling to select a topic for a presentation she was giving at a seminar. Another client was struggling to decide whether to ask for a raise. These decisions were weighing heavily on them and they were paralyzed with the options. In their minds, these decisions were momentous. Decisions that could make or break their careers.

Indecision has so much to teach us about ourselves and, particularly, our fears.

How do we move out of indecision? Recognize the tunnel vision and get some perspective.

Many of us have struggled with decision paralysis from time to time because we put these decisions on a pedestal.

We allow them to loom ahead of us like giant crossroads in our lives. In order to move forward you have to separate from the facts from your primitive-brain-thinking.

In my client’s situation, the facts were that she was giving a presentation at a seminar in three weeks and she hadn’t yet picked a topic. Pretty non-threatening.

BUT, in light of those facts, her brain was explaining

You have to pick a good topic or people won’t want to work with you.

If you pick a topic you don’t know EVERYTHING about, you are going to get stumped in the Q&A and people will think you don’t know what you are talking about.

If you pick a topic that is too easy, no one will listen to you and they will think you don’t know anything useful.

All the important partners will be there and they will be measuring you up.

This is a huge opportunity for you to make a name for yourself.

None of those juicy dramas were factual. They were all totally optional choices. Sentences in her head. Sentences that were making her anxious, nervous, and scared.

In order to move out of indecision, you have to first recognize the thoughts you are choosing as just that: thoughts.

Focus on the facts of the situation and examine how else you could be thinking about them.

For this client, alternative thoughts included: This is a great opportunity for me. This is going to make me a better speaker. I can handle any question with grace even if I don’t know the answer. It’s okay to be nervous, this is not supposed to be easy.

While, pretty thoughts can be useful to shift your energy, they ONLY work if you if examine what’s really going on below the surface.

Indecision is fueled by the fear of making the wrong choice. You can’t move forward until you examine and address that worst case scenario.

Whenever, we are avoiding a decision it’s because we have convinced ourselves that there is a right and wrong path ahead of us and if we choose the wrong one, our world will fall apart. In my client’s case, she was worried that if she picked the wrong topic, the audience Q&A would stump her and everyone would think she was dumb.

Your worst case scenario fears are comprised of two things:

Obstacles that you can anticipate and negative self-talk.

When we are afraid of making the wrong decision, it is because of what we will make it mean about ourselves if things don’t pan out how we hoped.

We allow our brains to convince us that if we make the wrong decision it proves something negative about ourselves: we aren’t good enough, we aren’t smart enough, we can’t do this, this will never work out, etc.

Those thoughts feel terrible: shame, guilt, fear, worry, doubt, all come crashing down when we spin in those sentences.

But what if we decided that when things don’t go the way we hope, we won’t make it mean something negative about ourselves?

What if we decided to have our back in the future?

Recognize that when we make choices, we are doing our best in the moment and that sometimes things don’t work out the way you hoped. No big deal. It doesn’t mean you aren’t worthy. It doesn’t mean you are a failure. It could simply mean that you are figuring things out. That it was just another step on your path.

If we can commit to not beating ourselves up if our decisions don’t pan out the way we want to, then there is nothing to be afraid of.

If we make the wrong decision, we can keep moving. We don’t have to believe that the wrong decision means something bad about our ability.

Once you commit to having your own back in the future, the pressure and weight of these current decisions goes away. You can make a decision and know that whether it pans out or not, it has nothing to do with your skills. It’s just part of the process.

From that space, everything else is simply an obstacle to overcome.

For my client, we strategized how she could handle questions from the audience when she didn’t know the answer. We talked through how she could think about that kind of an experience from a place of humility and curiosity as opposed to perfection-seeking.

When you find yourself stuck in indecision, force yourself to examine the worst case scenario. What comes up for you? What negative self-talk do you indulge in when things don’t pan out?

If you can plan to treat yourself kindly if things don’t work out, indecision loses its foothold. It stops being scary because you remove the negative consequences.

Everything else is just planning. Identify potential obstacles that might come from the decision and develop strategies ahead of time.

Don’t let your brain tell you the sky is falling. Tell your brain to get to work figuring out how to handle the sky when it wants to fall.

Don’t allow indecision to take the wind out of your sails. Look at the indecision, it has so much to show you!

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Pretty Little Thoughts

In my house this year, the holidays involved boxes, pizza, and beer galore. Rather than ringing in the new year in sequins and confetti, we celebrated in sweatpants and dust bunnies as we crammed our belongings into moving boxes and hoisted them into moving trucks. I had long lost track of clothes that weren’t sweatpants and didn’t manage to find any makeup until we unpacked a few days later.

Moving can be a lot of work and, like most humans, it left me feeling a bit frazzled and frantically searching for that one thing that “I know I put it in a box somewhere…”

Upon returning to work, I found myself struggling to focus. Every request for support or input ruffled my feathers and made me want to go hide until 5pm. I felt like I was crawling out of my skin…If I don’t get out of here and get some time to relax, I’m going to jump out this window…

In lieu of leaping from a tall building, I sat down and did some self-reflection. Why was I feeling so irritable? Why couldn’t I focus and enjoy spending a day NOT lifting boxes or cleaning our old house? Wasn’t this a nice respite?

I did a quick thought download and started working through each thought, quickly discovering the culprit: I am just so tired. It was like my mantra…I am just so tired. I just need a break. Over and over, I kept returning to those thoughts.

Admittedly, I was a bit physically taxed: my muscles ached, and my back was screaming but after a few visits to the company masseuse, I was really feeling pretty okay. I had gotten plenty of sleep and had made an effort to enjoy some nice long baths at the end of each moving day. So why was I feeling so irritable?

Because I kept telling myself I am just so tired.

When I sit with the thought I am just so tired, it makes me feel hopeless andd it creates an avalanche of similar thoughts: I have so much to do, I can’t handle this today, I don’t want to do any of this stuff, I just want to be left alone, etc.

Whenever I feel hopeless, it creates a lot of indecision. I spin out, second-guessing how to spend my day, agonizing over my to-do list, trying to figure what to do next, then I remind myself that I’m just so tired and then the feelings of hopelessness resurface along with all the other ugly thoughts and the day just falls apart.

In the end, my thinking I’m just so tired, created a cycle of indecision and unproductivity that made me feel worthless at the end of the day because I didn’t accomplish anything. I just spent my day spinning in mental misery, beating myself up and mentally wearing myself out. I was exhausted at the end of those first few days because I wasted so much energy in this cycle, going in 1,000 different directions and carrying around indecision, self-judgement and heavy hopelessness.

After this realization, I acknowledged that, while I may be physically tired, carrying around the thought I am just so tired was making me absolutely miserable and was truly making me exhausted at the end of the day. It wasn’t that I was “so tired” I couldn’t be productive and focus, it was the trajectory I created for myself when I kept telling myself I am just so tired. Physically tired or not, that thought was not serving me; it was making my current state even worse. Seeing this, I tried on another thought:

I can do hard things. I can be a good employee and a good partner during this transition period. I have done harder things before.

We all have days when we are tired and operating with a low tank of gas but when your thoughts compound that physical tiredness, it is a recipe for disaster.

Don’t let your thoughts compound an already difficult situation. Use your thoughts to shift from a meltdown to a triumph.

So many of our thoughts seem innocuous and others like I’m just so tired, can seem like hard facts. That is rarely the case.

Thoughts like this can seem so lovely and founded in self-care yet create all sorts of emotional chaos and stunted action. Only by examining your thoughts can you truly get to the root of the problem.

For me, it wasn’t physical tiredness that was bogging me down, it was tired thoughts and the feelings those thoughts created.

If you are feeling like you are in a funk or just can’t seem to get it together, just one coaching session can make all the difference. Check it out. I promise you won’t regret it.

Not sure yet? I get it. Try out a free coaching consultation to see if I’m a good fit to help you create the life you’ve always wanted. I would love the opportunity to meet you and see what we can do together!