The Biggest Lie You Tell Every Day

I don’t know. Have you ever noticed how often we use that phrase? When we think about verbal pauses, many of us immediately think of “um” and “uh” but we often forget about this funny little string of words that we throw around to fill awkward silences or to deflect our discomfort. In honor of the close of the ultimate year of uncertainty (2020, for those of you not following along), today I want to consider how these three little words, when used unconsciously in this manner, can rob you of your credibility and make you a liar.

When you ask a child what they want to do when they grow up, they will quickly offer all sorts of fantastical imaginings. Flying to the moon, raising a gaggle of unicorns, and becoming a fairy princess seem to be fairly obvious responses (both then and now — who doesn’t want to fly to the moon on a unicorn dressed as a princess?).

What is most interesting about fantastic childhood plans is not the plans themselves but a child’s commitment to making them happen.

Have you ever asked a child where they plan to find a unicorn, let alone an entire gaggle of unicorns, or how they plan to fulfill their lifelong dream of raising unicorns in every color of the rainbow? Such a question may be met with a variety of unique and interesting answers but, amongst those answers, you will not hear a child respond: I don’t know.

Kids don’t care about the how. That is an adult problem that we have gifted to ourselves.

Kids don’t care about how they are going to accomplish their dreams. They simply commit. When pushed, they brainstorm all sorts of ideas as to how they might accomplish this goal. Their little eyes squint with focused effort and their little brains hum away offering all sorts of solutions to the problem. They get to work solution-ing the problem, without hesitation or doubt.

The beautiful thing about watching a child do this is that it is a living reminder that we too are wired in this way. We too have the ability to solution all of our problems. The trick is that we must stop investing in the phrase “I don’t know.” Those three little words slam the door – no eye squinting with thought-exertion, no brain humming away to work. Just pure silence. Dream foreclosure!

Using those three little words suggests that we must know how something is to be accomplished before we can get to work doing it. In what realm does that make any sense? Why does it matter that you don’t know how to accomplish something?

Isn’t it simply enough to want it and chart your course from there?

(Get support charting your course by taking advantage of limited free coaching sessions that I offer every week.)

Our world is not filled with problems that have secret, solitary solutions that must be discovered. Our world demands that we must get to acting and crafting potential solutions before we know what will work. We must acknowledge that we don’t know the how and get to work sorting that out.

Not knowing “how” is not a stop sign, it’s the starting line.

We know this intellectually but yet our brains freak out whenever we are tasked with something significant that we have never done before. That freak out sounds like this:

I don’t know.

You DO know. You may not know the exact right solution but without a doubt you can brainstorm your first step. If you force yourself to imagine what you would do if you DID know, you will develop a first step. You will start learning what might work and what won’t work. In contrast, if you resign to a world of I don’t know, you will most certainly continue to not know because those words never spurred anyone to action.

In a world of balance — yin and yang, up and down, good and evil — everything has its opposite. Everything has its counterpoint. Wouldn’t it then follow that where you are “not knowing” there also exists in you the corresponding “knowing”? 

When you use IDK as a means to fill the space and avoid taking action, you discredit yourself and your resiliency. You communicate to yourself and those around you that you don’t have the ability to brainstorm like a 6-year-old child. Furthermore, you communicate to those around you that it matters that you don’t know the precise solution to the challenge at hand. It doesn’t matter! The only thing that matters is your investment in acting to discover a solution.

Lean into solution-ing like a child and give yourself space to be the problem solver that you are. No one is hiring you because they want you to know everything. People hire you because they trust you to craft a solution, no matter what it takes. That leaves very little room for “I don’t know.”

In sum, stop staying I don’t know and give yourself space to offer what you DO know. That is so much more truthful than “I don’t know.”


Photo by Bermix Studio on Unsplash

When Your Boss is the Villain…

In every drama, there are three characters — the villain, the victim, and the savior. But for any drama to continue, the characters must remain fixed. The villain remains bad; the victim remains the loser, and the savior never saves anyone. Cinematic dramas only end when one of those characters decides to stomp out of the drama and write a new story.

Whenever we find our lives dripping in dramatics and heightened emotions, we must consider: which role are we playing?

As children, many of us learned that, in every story there is a villain and a victim. Someone is either inherently good or inherently bad. Consider popular children’s movies — Cruella de Vil, Ursula, Scar, Maleficent, Jafar, Gaston, etc. Those characters were the “bad guys”, ever-tormenting the lives of the “good guys.” Foiling their attempts at happiness and the simple enjoyment of uncontaminated apples. Those stories don’t allow for the complexity of humanity that the rest of us come to understand as adults.

People are murky, a mix of light and dark, good and bad.

Rarely are we all able to universally agree that one human is good or evil — even the most despised criminal has family members and lovers that speak to their more redeeming qualities. We are humans, not storybook characters. Despite this awareness, many of us make habits out of classifying others around us as villains, consciously or unconsciously. We see others as out to “get us” and committed to making our lives miserable. We use phrases like “they are freezing me out”, “I have been completely written off”, “he hates me”, “she has no interest in developing our relationship.” We invest in these statements and close the book as if that is simply the end of the chapter in some Disney movie. 

What we fail to recognize is that complexity that we know resides within all of us. That positioning disregards any other possibility than how we are currently seeing things. Most importantly: if they are the villains, that makes us the victim. We are at their mercy, at the whim of their cruelty and there is nothing that we can do about it.

Not only does that mentality ignore the true complexity of human relationships, it provides an excuse to stop trying. It offers justification to leave the relationship where it is and not take any action because, after all, you are very busy being a victim to circumstances beyond your control. There is simply nothing you can do. No way to fix it.

You have tried “everything!”

In keeping with the theme of children’s movies, when we allow ourselves to camp out in this world where this is “no solution” and “I just don’t know what to do…nothing will get better” we ignore the best parts of our beloved movies! We love children’s movies because they teach us about TRANSFORMATION! They invariably revolve around a character who refuses to be a victim. Who refuses to roll over and “accept” their reality. We all want the big transformation! We all want to see the main character stretch outside their comfort zone, use their voice, and give their villain the middle finger. We love seeing people rise above adversity and step outside of victim mode! No one wants a story were the “victim” gives up.

We all want to see the “victim” become empowered and seize their life by its sensitive bits!

Why am I going down this rabbit hole? Because in every day, we have opportunities to be that transformative story. So many of us camp out in the victim mentality. We tell ourselves, there are no solutions, I’ve tried everything, nothing will get better…this is just my life…we immerse ourselves in disempowering thoughts sprinkled with a boatload of self-justifications I tried EVERYTHING, I just know it won’t work, I know he won’t be responsive…. Those thoughts are fraught with victimhood! I have yet to find any human on the face of the planet who has tried EVERYTHING at anything. Yet we develop justifications for our inaction. We tell ourselves there is nothing more to be done and we stay put. Often unhappy and miserable (and we’ve concluded that there is no solution, so we’re here to stay and that’s fun too).

No one wants to read that story! Why do we do this to ourselves?

Because it’s easier to be a victim than it is to do the hard work that comes with transformation.

Being a victim is easy. Growth is hard. 

There will be scenarios in our lives that will afford us an opportunity to write our own transformative stories. Life will give us abundant chances to grow and develop. Similarly, life will give us challenging hands and ample opportunities to see ourselves as the victim. There will be times when you give up and that’s okay! But we cannot become skilled at giving up. We cannot become skilled at being the victim. Instead, we must become skilled at transformation! We must practice doing the hard thing. Trying just ONE more way to break through to your boss…To ask for that raise ONE MORE time…To voice your feelings in another kind of way…To try and develop that relationship with your co-workers one last time.

Too often I see women who have dug in their six inch heels. They refuse to see how they have given up to victimhood. They are CONVINCED those around them are the bad guys and there is just no fixing it. While that is certainly one way to live your life, wouldn’t it be so much more fun write your own hero story?

If you find yourself in a space where you are convinced there is no solution available, I would love to work with you and start writing a new story. You are stronger than you think and the possibilities to rewrite your happiness are endless.

To put a bow on this and conclude the title of this rambling: When Your Boss is the Villain…YOU become the victim.

Is that how you want your story to go?

If your life and your “villain” were characters in a children’s story, how would you want it to end?


Photo by murat esibatir from Pexels

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

Fear

I’m afraid of what my life will be like if I stay but I’m too afraid to leave.

It’s surprising how often I hear this during my sessions with attorneys. Logically, they know that long-term big law life is not for them. They know that they don’t want to be a slave to billable hours forever and they do not see anyone above them who has a lifestyle they want to emulate. They have all sorts of concrete, realistic reasons why they don’t want to stay where they are. But it is rare that I encounter a client who is “ready” to leave.

Why do they stay? The answers usually some of the following:

I don’t know enough yet

There is so much more I need to learn

People will judge me

What if it’s worse somewhere else?

Within that head space are the fears that if they leave, no one will hire them because they don’t “know enough” or that they won’t be able to get a job because they left “too early” in their career as well as the fear that everyone at the firm will judge them as someone who couldn’t hack it or wasn’t a good fit anyway. Lastly, the most important fear of them all–what if it’s a mistake to leave and it’s just worse elsewhere?!

So they stay. They stay and they hate it.

They stay and they are bitter and conflicted about it. They stay and they hate the fact that they don’t know where they want to be in five years.

When you make the decision to head to law school the long pursuit lays itself out before you. So many steps become very clear. You take the LSAT, research law schools, prepare applications, go through the motions of law school, apply to write for journals, do on campus interviewing, get a good summer associate position, and on and on it goes. Then you land the job and 2 years into it, you come up for air and wonder what you are supposed to do next.

It is jarring! Understandably, so! You have just spent close to a decade learning and taking all the right steps and now those steps are exhausted and you haven’t given any thought to the next series of steps.

At this point, the majority of my clients have concluded that they don’t want to make partner but that is the extent of it. Should they go in-house, go to a smaller firm, start their own firm, leave law for good? The possibilities of what can be done with a law degree are endless.

The possibilities of what can be done with your life are also endless.

There is no right or wrong answer.

One of the biggest mistakes I see my clients making is that they wait for clarity to come to them. They continue to go through the motions hoping that some day the path will become clear. Maybe they will get a call from a headhunter with the perfect opportunity for them. Maybe they will get fired! Maybe they will wake up one day and LOVE their job. So they wait. They make good money, they don’t hate everything about their job, so they just stick it out. That type of passivity is why so many people stay in jobs they hate forever.

It’s easier to just wait for something to “feel right” than it is to take control and start making things happen.

The only way to truly get clarity about what you want in life is to start taking ownership for your path and experimenting with what you want. We can’t wait for the opportunities to come to us. We can’t wait for the firm or some partner to dictate our future. We have to take our power back.

First, we have to get clear about what we want for ourselves. What are your goals at your firm? What are the things that you still want to learn or think that you need to learn? There will always be more things to learn, that is simply the human experience. Stop allowing yourself to believe that there is some attainable point at which you will “know enough” and be ready to move on. It’s an empty, shifting target that is rooted in fear.

You will never know it all and no matter what you do next, there will be things you don’t know. 

So instead of allowing for this unattainable point of omniscience, set clear goals that are important to you. Recognize that we are overachievers and have a tendency to want to do all the things and cut your list of items down to three actionable goals. Don’t let yourself create a “learning” ball and chain that keeps you stuck forever. Pick three things that will force you to grow and provide you will valuable skills and focus your energies there.

If you can’t think of three concrete things you want to learn from your current work experience, you are in the wrong place. (Psst, it’s time for a change.)

Second, start taking action on these goals. What will you have to do to make them a reality? This step will likely require you to have some discussions with your partners or your supervisors about the type of work you like or the things you want to accomplish. This alone will force you to flex some new muscles.

Asking for what you want and being clear about your vision for yourself is a lifelong skill. Start practicing now.

No one knows who you will be or what you will want to do with your life once you attain those goals. That is the point. The point is to challenge yourself to grow and develop. Law firms are businesses and so are you. Use every experience as an opportunity to grow the value and worth of your business. The firm is certainly using you for its purposes, start using it for your own. Decide what you want to get out of the experience and make it happen.

The last part of this process is just recognizing that your primitive brain is going to try its best to keep you safe. We are biologically programmed to seek pleasure and avoid pain. So when we shake up our lives, start asking for what we want, or consider leaving the comfort of our current job, our brains lose it. Our brain goes into protection mode and starts offering all sorts of reasons why we can’t do that–you don’t know enough, you’re not ready, people will judge you, etc. Sound familiar?

Just because your brain offers you those thoughts, it doesn’t mean they are true. It doesn’t mean they are a message from the universe to stay where you are. It is biological pre-dispositioning.

As you evaluate where you want to be in life, KNOW that your brain is going to try and talk you out of it. Know that you are going to have doubts and fears. That is normal! The question is, are you going to allow that mind chatter to keep you stuck or are you going to do the hard thing and evolve? The choice is yours.

Unclear about your next move? Get some free support by signing up for a free coaching session. Sometimes all we need an unbiased perspective to see things more clearly.


Photo by Tonik 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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Feeling Unfulfilled

“Success without fulfillment is the ultimate failure.”

Tony Robbins

I rarely encounter a client that isn’t struggling in some manner to connect with her purpose. After so many years of working toward this goal of becoming a lawyer, that life isn’t often everything that we thought it would be. We are left looking for something more.

So how do we find our purpose?

We have to start by looking at where you are now and asking how we got here. What did you think might be your purpose? Did you achieve that thing only to find that it didn’t fulfill you?  What was it that you were seeking to achieve that did not fulfill your purpose? And, most importantly, why did you want to achieve that one thing?

Because I work with attorneys, most of my clients posit that they wanted to go to law school, graduate, and get a good job at a prestigious firm. Why? Because they wanted to make good money, they wanted to be respected, they wanted a life better than their parents had, they wanted to be seen as successful, they wanted their parents to be proud, they wanted to prove themselves to those who had doubted them, they didn’t want to be a failure, etc.

When we look even one layer deeper and explore why all the above reasons are so persuasive, we are left with the core of the issue: I want to feel important, I want to feel valued, I want to be proud of myself, I want to feel like a success.

Therein lies the problem.

All of these motivations are rooted in a belief that we are not yet enough — we are not important, we are not valued, we are not someone to be proud of, we are not successful. What’s more, we are looking for something outside of ourselves to make us important, valued, proud, successful. This is a recipe for a never-ending cycle of letdowns.

You cannot achieve the life of your dreams from a place of lack and self-judgment. That energy is never going to serve you and those negative beliefs about yourself are only going to generate more self doubt.

Why are you believing that without more you aren’t good enough and that you must find that missing piece to become whole and worthy?

I believe that all humans are worthy and whole, just as they are. You, dear reader, are worthy and valued just as you are. You are something to be proud of; nothing more is needed.

I know, most of us don’t believe that, I get it.

But what if it were true?

What if you didn’t need to do anything to become whole and complete? What if you already were all of those things? Then what would you do with your life?

Stated another way, if you were already important, valued, proud and successful, what would motivate you? What would you want to do with your life?

You can learn to believe and trust that you are good enough and worthy just as you are. Most of us aren’t there yet and that is okay. We aren’t taught this kind of self love but it can be learned.

Why is this so important? Because if you can truly take ownership of your worthiness, what you choose to do with your life becomes so much less important. There isn’t some monumental purpose to be found. There is just you, perfect and whole, and the things that bring you joy.

When you remove all that pressure from the things you do, you are free to choose whatever you want to be your purpose. You can simply decide what you want to be your purpose today. It’s not a monumental decision because it doesn’t add any intrinsic value to who you already are.

You can simply choose the type of contribution you want to make to the world. Tomorrow, next week, next year, you can choose something different. It doesn’t mean anything about you — you are simply a complete and lovable human, making decisions about how you want to spend your time and what’s important to you in that moment. Nothing more.

Many of us go on a journey seeking our purpose believing that our purpose resides outside of ourselves.

That we must accomplish something or that we must actively be seeking our purpose — it’s waiting out there for us and we just have to find it and everything will click. That breeds such a tremendous amount of pressure — if you find your purpose, you are  a successful contributor to the human race and if you don’t…well, you are just wasting your time here.

When we choose to believe that we are whole and complete and that nothing outside of ourselves can make us more complete, we can decide to make our purpose whatever we want it to be.

Take a look at the things that bring you joy; the things you are good at. What is the underlying theme? How could you tie them all together?

Here are a few examples from my clients of their purposes in life:

I choose to be an example of what’s possible.

I choose to use my writing to inspire women.

I choose to be an effective and inspirational leader.

I choose to help women reconnect with their value and their worth.

Fulfilling any of the above purposes could take a myriad of different forms. Living in accordance with these purposes does not require you to change your job or career plan. It simply asks you to show up in the certain way and dedicate your energy toward that purpose.

Stop pressuring yourself to find some ever elusive purpose. Start looking inward to see why your pursuit of a purpose has failed you in the past — What were you seeking outside of yourself? Why did you want that? What did you discover when you got there?

Make a commitment to believe that you are already enough. You are complete, perfect, loveable, whole. If you could believe that and embody that, what would you do with your life? That, my friends, is the first step in fulfilling your purpose. It’s right there within your complete power and control.

Start living a purposeful life today.

If you are struggling to find more fulfillment in your life, take advantage of a free session to regroup and start taking meaningful action.


Photo by Tyler Lastovich from Pexels

Horrible Bosses

Whether you are a practicing attorney or engaged in another profession, horrible bosses are a thing.

Why is it that we have such a hard time working with certain people?

What role do we play in this interpersonal tug-of-war?

I had a free mini-session earlier this week and my client was telling me that her boss often comes into her office unannounced and loudly explains to her what she has done wrong. He leaves her door open during these sessions so that her secretary, the associate next door, and anyone walking the hall can listen as he surmises her short-comings. These exchanges always left her mortified and angry and she wanted his behavior to stop.

Our challenges with other humans are usually founded upon some faulty beliefs:

There are basic principles and standards of how people should treat each other.

People don’t often act like they are supposed to.

Both of these lines of thinking are problematic. Both of these notions will cause you pain and suffering in your personal relationships.

How are people “supposed” to act?

Exactly as they do.

That is the nature of free will. That is every human’s right. When we tell ourselves people are supposed to act differently than they do, we are fighting against reality.

When you resist reality and argue that people should be different, you will lose (but only 100% of the time!).

There is no upside in thinking that others should act any differently than they do. Let it go. The way they act is exactly how they are supposed to act. Whatever they are saying and doing is not within your purview to judge or control. Just let it be.

The only thing you can control is how you decide to show up and respond to it.

For every relationship, many of us carry unspoken “manuals” about how the other person should act. The manual for our bosses states that they should be professional and collected. Sensitive to your needs and willing to guide your development and growth. They are not supposed to berate you or embarrass you.

They are not supposed to be horrible.

We believe that if they would just act how we want them to act, we would be happier and feel better about ourselves. That is a complete lost cause. That means that the only way we can feel more confident and secure with our practice is if the other person changes.

What are the odds of that working for you?!

We can’t control others. We’ve all tried at one time or other and discovered the impossibility of that task. So if we can’t control other humans and if other people dictate how we feel, we are all screwed.

We get to control how we receive the actions and words of our bosses. We get to decide what their actions mean about ourselves as attorneys and professionals.

When you spend all your energy ranting about how the other person “should” act and all the things they are doing wrong, you don’t give yourself the opportunity to decide how you want to show up in the that moment or what you want to think about their actions.

You are too busy being a victim of their actions.

Take your power back. Make CONSCIOUS decisions about what you want to think about that person and their actions. Be aware of how you interpret those actions to mean something negative about yourself.

There will always be “difficult people” in our lives but these people are not difficult because of how they “make us feel.”

They are difficult because they challenge us to examine our thoughts about ourselves and our judgments of others. That, my friends, is the real work of this life.

They are difficult because they challenge us to evolve.

Stop trying to change people and instead focus on evolving yourself. That, after all, is the only thing you can control (but only 100% of the time).

Practicing law is HARD. You will have more people who will challenge you than people who will build you up. Start learning how to deal today.

Stop letting them have the power over your happiness. Life is too damn short.


Photo by Atul Choudhary from Pexels

Frazzled (the worst F-word)

My early years as an attorney at a corporate law firm, can be summed up in one word: frazzled.  The panic that set in when you saw an email at 5:59pm on a Friday from that one partner that always had a way of destroying your weekend plans. Or that feeling you got when you were at lunch with your parents who were in town visiting for one day and you got a call on your cell phone from the office. And my very favorite, when you were in the middle of putting out one enormous fire and you got an email from a more important partner who wanted you to draft a new document within the next hour. Ugh. That feeling of sheer panic is the stuff nightmares are made of!

There is no downplaying the pressure and the stress that comes with practicing law. Learning to answer to many masters and prioritize important projects is a skill and it comes with practice.

One of the things I teach my clients is how to juggle the load and strategize so that when all hell breaks lose, which it will, you can better anticipate it and adjust accordingly. So often, many of us in legal practice simply put our heads down and let the blows keep coming. We don’t take the time to examine what is on our plate because that would suggest that (i) there is time to do this soul-searching and (ii) there are options that don’t involve just doing the work.

Many times I found myself or young associates failing to take appropriate inventory of their projects and workloads and, by the time they realized they were overextended, the only option was to pull an all-nighter or do sub-par work. And, let’s be honest, overnighters only yield subpar work so there truly is only one option (and that option will cost you).

This behavior is usually driven by our belief that there is no other choice than simply doing the work. What I would like to suggest is that there are limits to your ability to produce and if you fail to recognize and address those limits appropriately, your career will suffer.

The first step to this process is simply getting organized. Schedule time once a week (I use Friday mornings) to go through your projects list, update your projects list and prepare a list of all other “to do” items floating around your head and taking up mental space. Write. Down. Everything. This includes: calling the plumber, updating your address with the bar association, ordering groceries, cooking dinner, packing for a work trip, meal prepping, going to the gym. Everything. Write it all down. I also use this time to plan my meals for the following week.

(Side note: An easy way to coordinate your meals for the upcoming week is to create a private Pinterest board where you can save recipes solely for the upcoming week. I have a private board entitled “This Week” where I save recipes I plan to cook in a given week. Then, when my Friday morning planning session comes around, I pull up the board and order the groceries for those meals, schedule my grocery delivery, and decide which nights I will cook which meals. Life. Changing. Added bonus: if you have kids, this will allow you to vet recipes with them and get their buy-in for your upcoming meals — kids like food pictures too!)

Once you have this list, prioritize it. This doesn’t need to be an overly formal process, you just need to know what items need to be addressed immediately and which ones can wait until you are standing in line at the grocery store. Be ruthless in this evaluation. Not everything can be a priority — that is the thinking that gets you into the all-nighter conundrum!

Now that all of the things causing momentary panic in your brain are down on paper, put them on your calendar. Schedule everything. Give yourself plenty of time for each item on your list and do not forget to schedule “free time” as well as time to eat, rest, and breathe.

When it comes to work projects, be sure to schedule prep time in anticipation of any upcoming meetings and schedule blocks of “reserved” time where possible to account for shifts in priorities or unforeseen projects. This is about giving yourself the space to ensure that you are able to show up as your best, every time. You don’t have to be faced with the choice of turning in subpar work because of your poor planning. You are better than that.

Then the best part: throw the damn list away. Burn it. Whatever floats your boat. Just get rid of it and breathe in the knowledge that you have all of those little nagging thoughts addressed and scheduled. Your brain is clear.

This tactic is not going to protect you from those chaotic, unpredictable moments that are simply a part of life but what it is going to do is provide you with a much better understanding of your capacity at any given moment. It will allow you to properly forecast how you can (or cannot) handle the new project that lands in your inbox in shouty CAPS! The goal here is to free up your brain to allow you to forecast where your energy is going and determine when priorities truly conflict.

When you get all those BS “to dos” out of your head, you will be much less likely to get frazzled. When you have allocated time for all of the things on your to do list, it is much more difficult for your brain to pile on and get sucked into the blackhole of “when am I going to have time to do that, I still have to finish that project for client Y, and I haven’t done laundry for a week, and I still need to get a birthday card for my mom, and oh my gosh, I don’t have any freaking groceries! what am I going to eat this week?!” The spiral is a waste of your mental energy and a distraction.

This approach will take some practice but if you can get into the habit of truly examining what’s going on in your life, finding time for all of those things, and committing to stick to your plans, this alone can transform your stress level.

Practicing law is difficult and sometimes you will have to reorganize your carefully laid plans or have some challenging discussions about competing priorities. It happens. Success is about learning to honor yourself and your abilities and not expecting yourself to tackle every single thing that comes your way. There are limits to your ability to handle it all. Getting organized is the first step to recognizing those limits.

Clean up your brain and throw away your to do lists, I dare you.

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!

The Best Advice

Early on in my practice, I had a mentor who told me, “Never forget that it’s all about relationships.” He was trying to explain to me that there was no magic bullet to marketing—if the relationship wasn’t there, if the other person didn’t like and respect you on some level, you would never work together.

But it’s not just about the clients. The same thing holds true for my relationship with fellow attorneys and bosses.

Rules for playing well with other lawyers and co-workers:

Be someone that others can count on.

If you make a promise to someone else, keep it. If you say you can help on a project—show up and be committed. This also goes for promises that you make to yourself. Honoring your word not only shows others that they are important to you, but it demonstrates your values—you value others’ time and you value your word.

Be honest about mistakes.

If you forget about a deadline or forget to confirm that a case remains “good law,” own it. Be honest about it and don’t make excuses. You are human. You are not a robot. Owning your mistakes demonstrates humility and honesty. People trust others who are honest and willing to make mistakes and own them. People are also much more forgiving if they don’t suspect they are being lied to.

Take confidentiality seriously.

We are lawyers, after all, and part of the gig is keeping secrets. Why is it so hard to apply that to your co-workers and relationships? If someone is confiding in you, it means that they see you as a trustworthy person. Why would you then go and erode that trust by splashing their secrets all over the firm? Do not get a reputation for being the office gossip. Build a reputation of being a person that others can trust.

Stop judging.

Law firms can be incredibly competitive but keep in mind that your day will come when others will have an opportunity to judge you too. Be accepting of others and approach them from a place of compassion and curiosity. Believe me, there are people out there who are confused by you too. Don’t be a jerk; you are all in this together. You are part of a firm, not a solo practice. Build each other up instead of breaking each other down.

Do not exaggerate.

This applies to both your skill sets and your billable hours. Everybody knows who pads the bills and everyone knows who is always pretending to be an expert in everything. If you claim to be an expert in something or claim to have invested significant time on a project, people will count on you to be that expert. One exaggeration can ruin your reputation with an important partner or client. People come in and out of law firms all the time and no one is going to hire you if you have a reputation for padding your hours or mis-stating your skill set.

If you can employ these rules, I promise you, your personal and professional life will flourish.

I’ve seen secretaries become vice presidents at Fortune 500 companies and I’ve seen slacker associates become innovative rainmakers. Never sell someone short or classify them as not worthy of your relationship-building efforts. You never know who will be in a position to support your practice in the future. Your relationship and interactions with others have ripple effects.

“Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr

Besides, is it really so terrible to just show up and try to be a good human to everyone you encounter? If you are successful at that 50% of the time, people will be much more accepting of you when you are failing to be a good human.

It’s never too early to start building your network and your practice. Let me support you in building a powerful and rewarding legal practice. What do you have to lose?