Motivational Triad

When it comes to practicing law, our minds and our internal conversations will be our greatest assets. It won’t be the accolades and background that make or break your practice. It all comes down to your relationship with yourself and the internal discussions no one hears but you. Given this, it seems that the greatest tool we must understand and hone is that magical mind of ours. Specifically, why is it that our mind sometimes goes rogue and makes it seemingly impossible to move forward?

Our mind will analyze the data before us, we must decide what facts are unimportant and focus on the primary issues to maximize our efficiency. At the same time we must manage our emotional impulses associated with stress.

Practicing law is grueling. It challenges our self-worth, our values, and our ability to honor commitments both to ourselves and our clients but also to everyone around us. It is an emotional and mental boot camp of careers of sorts–it even comes with those fun “drill sergeant” type characters who seem to relish in screaming at you letting you know how pathetic you are.

Surviving these challenges not only requires a good amount of grit but a simple understanding of our basic impulses and how those impulses interact with our brains can be a complete game changer.

We are all familiar with “fight or flight” concepts but many of us are not attuned to our basic, biological instincts: the motivational triad. According to the motivational triad, we are wired to prioritize the following:

Seek pleasure.

Avoid pain.

Maintain efficiency.

Within the realm of a law firm environment, the triad can be found in the following tendencies:

Try every way imaginable to squeeze a compliment out of the difficult partner (seek pleasure) even if it means being on call at all hours of every day

Do not stand up for myself when I am being thrown under the bus to the client by a partner that dropped the ball (avoid pain) because I don’t want to get his wrath

Stay at the firm that I hate because this is what I know and I don’t want to rock the boat (maintain efficiency)

Understanding our basic instincts will help you sift through the BS your brain offers you at times. When you desperately want to leave your job and your brain offers you 1,000,000 reasons why that’s a terrible idea, we can recognize that your brain is responding as it was designed. It is trying to keep you safe. It is trying to keep you in the cave, lest you be eaten by cannibal litigators.

When you want to engage leadership in discussions about your work environment but you decide that it won’t be worth it and won’t make a difference. Those. Thoughts. Are. NOT. True. Those are biologically driven responses. Fear-driven, flight responses. Your brain is trying to keep you safe. On the hamster wheel.

When you are contemplating doing something uncomfortable, your brain will flood itself with all sorts of reasons not to act. They will seem reasonable. They will seem perfectly logical. But we mustn’t be persuaded by these biological responses. In those moments we foreclose our own innate knowing. We put blinders on to the other possibilities. Our brains get to work compiling evidence to support those biological responses and will ignore any evidence to the contrary.

Knowing this will allow you to recognize those thoughts just as they are: thoughts. They are not facts. They are not truths. They are not more important than any other thought. They alone are not reasons to act or not act.

In a world where our brains are going to fight us to keep us safe and cozy in the cave, we must become practiced at asking the right questions and evaluating all the options. We cannot allow our motivational triad to push us to act from fear. To seek safety and avoid challenges.

“He who is not everyday conquering some fear has not learned the secret of life.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Some of the work I do with my clients supports them to examine their beliefs and the source of those beliefs. We analyze beliefs and thoughts to ensure that in anything that we do, or don’t do, we aren’t acting from a place of fear and safety-seeking unless that is our CONSCIOUS decision. I love helping my clients observe the motivational triad at work in their lives, then dismantle it! Sign up today, to start your own journey and see where you biological brain is holding you back.


Photo by Alex Iby on Unsplash

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

Relationships

Our relationships with the people in our lives are at the root of every challenge in our lives.

Our relationships with others play a significant role in our happiness. How do we improve those relationships and overcome adversity in our relationships?

We simply decide.

When we think about our relationships with others, the “relationship” itself is never really truly defined. What comprises our relationships with others?

I believe that our relationships with others is self-created. Our relationship with other people is something that lives only in our minds. We make decisions about other people. We choose what we want to think about them. From that place we characterize the relationship–good, bad, challenging, irreparable, complete. We make those decisions and “create” the relationship within ourselves. Completely independently of the other person.

Think about it. Have you ever had someone in your life whose understanding of your relationship was completely out of line with your understanding? Think about your former boyfriends or girlfriends. When that relationship ended it is unlikely that you were both in complete agreement about its demise. What is more likely is that one of you thought things were going fine and that nothing needed to change and the other thought the relationship had run its course.

How can it be that two people have such divergent understanding about the same relationship?

Because there is no singular relationships that is shared and agreed upon by both parties.

There are two different relationships as understood by each person. Each person made unique decisions about the relationship’s virtues and drawbacks and interpret the relationship from that perspective.

If that is the case, then it follows that we can simply choose whether or not to have a good relationship with each person in our lives.

We can simply decide whether to believe a relationship has run its course or whether we are in it for the long haul. We simply have to decide.

To be clear, that doesn’t mean that you SHOULD maintain all the relationships in your life or that you should always choose to love the people in your life. You can choose to break up with spouses, friends, and family members if that is your choice. But what I am saying is that there is no inherent “good” or “bad” relationship — we make choices to characterize a relationship one way or the other. We simply have to determine our justification for those choices.

If you want to believe that your boss is a terrible human being who is overly critical, insecure, and passive aggressive, that is your choice. From there you can decide that you don’t want to work at that job anymore or ask for a transfer. But the point is recognizing that you are choosing to think of your boss and your relationship with your boss in that way. It is not inherently true. There is room for dispute and disagreement in your characterization of him.

There is no such thing as just having a “bad boss” as if that were the justification for your poor relationship with your boss.

You are simply choosing to focus your energy on criticisms and judgments of your boss and interpret the relationship through that lens. You could similarly choose to focus on the positive aspects of the relationships or see him through a lens of compassion.

The choice is yours. You can choose to have a good relationship with your boss and operate from that space. That choice will likely require you to see him with more compassion and less judgment than you have in the past. That will require you to stop believing that he is inherently bad and you are a victim.

Take ownership of the relationships in your life and choose how you want to think about them.

Choose what you want to believe about your past relationships and challenging relationships.

Your opinions about others and your relationship with them are not factual. They are your opinions and nothing more. Those opinions will color how you show up in the relationship and the aspects of the relationship you focus on.

If you want to believe that you have a horrible boss and therefore have to leave your job, so be it. But imagine how much you could grow and the skills you could develop if you could learn how to see the relationships differently. If you could choose to believe that you have a good relationship with your boss and act from that place instead?

If you want to have a horrible boss, believing that you do is an assured way to get you that experience. If you want to have a boss that challenges you and helps you become a better employee, the first step is believing that you do and acting from that place instead; interpreting your experience through that lens instead.  Give it a try.

What will it get you if I’m right? What will it cost if I’m not?

Most of the time it is our experiences with other humans that brings most of life’s challenges as well as its high points. Don’t let a “bad” relationship go without first experiencing what it has to teach you about yourself.

If you need some (free) support with a challenging relationship, I would love to visit with you. The work we do with other humans is truly life changing.


Photo by Christina Morillo from Pexels

Re-thinking Your Past

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are you waiting for?

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

The Elusive Happy

Do you ever feel confused about why you are not happier in your life?

You have a job that pays the bills. You have a home. You are healthy. You have family and friends who care about you.

Despite seemingly having all the ingredients to live a satisfied life, you just can’t seem to find happiness.

It always feels like something is missing or you catch yourself constantly wondering is this it?

Most of the women that I work with come to me to work on this very issue. They want to be happier, they want to feel better.

They believe that I can help them complete a task of some sort that will lead them to the elusive happy-land they have been seeking.

Unfortunately, when we learn to understand why we feel the way we do, we also come to realize that there is nothing that I can do to make you happier.

There is nothing anyone can do to make you happier.

You are going to have to go this one alone.

In our society, so many people blame their unhappiness on things outside of themselves:

I’m unhappy because I hate my job.

If my spouse was more affectionate, I would be happier.

I’m unhappy because I don’t make enough money.

I’m unhappy because I’m always broke.

Circumstances outside of us have no way of imparting feelings upon us. There are no magic feeling zappers that other people use to control how we are feeling. People cannot reach out and inscribe emotions onto your brain.

Your feelings are created by your thoughts and the often-times nasty things swirling around in your head.

If you are unhappy, it might be because you spend 99% of your time thinking about how much you hate your job, or how your partner isn’t good enough, or you don’t have enough money. Those thoughts feel terrible.

Those thoughts will never create happiness.

People are so incredibly wed to this notion that circumstances create our feelings. When I explain this concept, they get so defensive. They want to tell me how terrible their boss is or how broke they really are, because once I really understand their circumstances, I will get it. Then I will see that their bank account balance is what is making them unhappy.

Nope. Your bank account balance is just a circumstance. When you see that balance and think how am I going to pay the bills, that thought is what is creating unhappiness. That thought only leads to worry and a whole parade of terrible emotions, insecurities and does not create any good results.

If circumstances were able to change the way we felt, then we would all feel the same way about your bank account balance. But we don’t. There are undoubtedly people on this planet who would see your bank account and think wow, that’s a lot of money or I wish my account was that big. They might feel jealous or envious of your bank account based upon the thoughts that come up for them. The point is, the circumstance is neutral. Your thoughts about it create your emotions.

The same is true for happiness. If you want to be happier in your life, take a look at the thoughts you are carrying with you. Do those thoughts invoke happiness?

If your thoughts are breeding negativity and pain, it’s important first to understand that your brain is just running some old patterns, rinsing and repeating thoughts it is comfortable with. That is what brains do—they want the easy route, the neural pathways that they know and are good at running.

Second, try to shift how you are viewing and characterizing the circumstance. Instead of agonizing over the job you hate, consider thinking I am a good employee and you are going to miss me when I’m gone or I am using this opportunity to learn how to use my voice or this job is a stepping stone to get me one stop closer to my dream job.

I call this truth shifting. Find a better truth to focus on and ditch the old one. The key is that the thought has to be something you believe: something true.

Any of those thoughts will create feelings of motivation, inspiration, focus and excitement. Spend more time in that space and less time in the space where you are feeling depressed and unhappy about your job.

Imagine what you could create and who you could become if you learned to create positive emotions instead of letting your brain keep you stuck in a mental rinse and repeat cycle of negativity.

The next time you find yourself wanting to be happier, think of it as an opportunity to sit with yourself and examine your thoughts that are creating those emotions. The truth might surprise you.

Need support? Schedule a free coaching consultation and learn about how to take this basic concept to the next level.

Forget NYE Resolutions

New Year’s came and went and here I stood, resolution-less. That might seem odd, given my profession. Let me explain.

I don’t like New Year’s resolutions because they usually have such a negative flavor:

This year, I’m going to lose weight.

This year, I’m going to finish my college degree.

This year, I’m going to find a boyfriend.

This year, I’m going to find a new job.

These resolutions all smell of lack and unhappiness for our present state. They suggest that there is something wrong with where we currently are—that we need to find something better.

This year, I’m going to lose weight because I hate my body.

This year, I’m going to finish my college degree because I’m not good enough without it.

This year, I’m going to find a boyfriend because I’m tired of being alone.

This year, I’m going to find a new job because then I will be happy.

So often, we set resolutions because we are fed-up and throwing in the towel. We are sick of where we currently stand and tell ourselves, this is the year we “fix” things. It’s a resolution because you are resolved to do better, be better, find better.

This is one of the reasons people avoid setting goals—it reminds them that they are not happy with their current state.

It reminds them of what their life is currently lacking.

That is not the way to set goals.

The other reason people avoid goal-setting is because it creates discomfort. Setting a goal positions your brain to start lecturing you about how this goal will never work. Why you won’t attain it or can’t attain it. Those thoughts create tremendous discomfort and, if unobserved, will create tremendous inertia. (Resolution: go nowhere fast!)

The end result is broken resolutions and more proof that you simply aren’t good enough.

It’s no wonder that less than 10% of New Year’s resolutions are fulfilled! We are approaching it all wrong.

In coaching, we approach goal-setting from a place of abundance. We start from a place of gratitude for what you have achieved. In between thinking about what we want, we remind ourselves of what we used to want so badly but now have.

I want to become an accomplished partner and lead a practice group.

I want to spend a month living in Thailand.

I want to spend a summer in China.

I want to work from home.

I want to have a house that is warm and inviting and demonstrates my personality and love for antiques, life, and all things hippie.

I want to have 10 cats and dogs!

I want to teach in a collegiate setting.

Half of the things on this list I have already accomplished. Half of them I haven’t.

When I read this list, I get excited. I remember how badly I wanted some of those things. I remember how I was able to accomplish them. I am filled with pride and hope and excitement, knowing that I can accomplish everything else on this list…I’m already half way there!

That is the space to “goal” from. That is the energy that will bring your dreams to light.

Stop criticizing “here” and dreaming that “there” will be better. It won’t! Life is 50-50, no matter how many goals you check off your list, there will always be good days and bad days.

In contrast, when I create a list comprised solely of things I want but don’t have, it makes my stomach turn in knots. It feels overwhelming and insurmountable. Intimidating. Pie in the sky, adorable little list of dreams that I can throw away in the month and get back to reality.

That is why I hate NYE resolutions.

I encourage all my clients to set “unattainable goals” because we all need something to strive for—a journey that will scare us and try us and mold us into something new. But setting goals must come from a place of grace and thankfulness—a place of abundance.

When setting goals, ask yourself: are you attracting abundance or are you attracting want? Whatever you are putting out into the universe when you set your goals will come back to you. Choose wisely.

Never make a list of goals or NYE resolutions, unless you surround those dreams with the abundance of your life that you have already achieved. Don’t let yourself ignore all the amazing goals you have already checked off your list. You owe it to yourself to recognize those accomplishments. Foster appreciation and recognize your abundance so that you can attract more.

Setting goals is just the first step process. Then the fun begins: fear, doubt, and uncertainty. How do you achieve any goal you set your mind to? Buckle up and start tackling fear, doubt, and uncertainty. That is where having a trusted coach to support the journey can make all the difference.

Need help setting your 2020 goals? Set up a free coaching consultation and let me support you as you plan your 2020 successes.

Our Chaotic Lives

I recently went on vacation to Puerto Vallarta with a group of friends. One night, feeling emboldened by tequila, we decided to hire a funny little man to act as our captain and take us on a fishing adventure in his boat. Naturally, our list of requests was lengthy—not only did we want to fish, kind sir, but we also wanted to see a waterfall, do some snorkeling, visit remote and beautiful beaches, dance with unicorns, and also, if it wouldn’t be too much to ask, actually catch some fish…oh, and if you could find a restaurant to prepare said fish for us for dinner tomorrow night, that would be delightful too. Our sassy little captain said he was up for the task so long as we brought the beer. Perfecto!

So off we went on a fishing extravaganza and yes, it was everything he promised it would be. We snorkeled and caught fish and enjoyed fresh seafood on a beautiful and remote beach. Now, as I sit here in my office, waiting for the snow to signal the beginning of winter, I keep thinking about one particular moment.

At one point, our captain took us to another remote beach to do some “seashell hunting”. We threw down our anchor and swam to a distant beach. When I finally got close to shore, thankful to be alive, I found myself pummeled right into the ground by enormous waves. Apparently, it was a bit rougher than usual according to our captain, but we carried on. Just below the surface, our captain promised that we would find the most unbelievable seashells; however, given the waves, this required us to completely submerge ourselves in the hammering surf to escape certain death.

After getting tossed about the sharp rocks and shells on my way to shore, I was scratched and bruised and wasn’t really all that interested in floating about beneath the cruel waves but I decided to be a good sport. Once I dropped below the surface and swam to the ocean floor, I was encapsulated by the silence and peace below. I was completely removed from the danger of the crashing waves and relished a wonderland of beauty. Naturally, as this was not Waterworld, I had to return to the surface to get battered around in the waves once again. Despite this pummeling I was eager to swim back out and dive below to that peaceful scene.

The contrast of this experience reminded me of my first encounters with meditation. I started pursuing meditation as a means to find more peace in my work and home life. As any overachiever personality would do, I downloaded three meditation timers and ordered 10 meditation books and manuals. I wasn’t just going to meditate; I was going to be the BEST meditator. (Move over, Siddhartha.)

If you are reading this, you know that I did not, in fact, become the next Buddha; however, what I was able to find was that place of peace and silence below the crashing waves.

At that time in my life, I was working in a particularly unhealthy practice group where my days were spotted by partners bickering and politicking and at least one attorney crying in her office. Gradually, I started taking a few minutes each morning to meditate. The more I started to meditate, the more I was able to carry that space with me throughout the day. I started to realize that “this job is not my life” “I am not this job; I am not this place”.

My meditation practice helped me to find space and quiet beneath the chaos of my professional life. It also taught me how to be more mindful of my thoughts.

When things got harried, I was better able to focus and be present rather than allowing my thoughts to run mad, creating unproductive anxiety.

Whether meditation is something in your repertoire or not, mindfulness is a skill we all need. How many times have you been in a meeting with a partner or a client and realized you were off thinking about that brief that’s due or the memo you need to finish?

Being present is not only a gift to yourself but it is a gift to others.

Honoring those who are choosing to be with you in that moment not only demonstrates respect and builds relationships, it clearly shows that you are able to weather the storm without crashing on the shore. You can be present and focus even when there are so many “fires” waiting to be put out.

As part of my coaching practice, I work with my clients to become more aware of their thought patterns and how those patterns impact their actions and results. Coach with me and learn how to find space within the chaos that so often contaminates our practice.

Mr. Personality

I recently attended a retreat where the group was asked to go through personality evaluations so that we could begin to better understand the group and how we all interacted with each other. At the end of the examination, there were four categories of personalities:

  • Controlling
  • Supporting
  • Promoting
  • Analyzing

I ultimately found myself classified somewhere between Analyzing and Supporting. I was a good planner, thorough and organized but I was also equally relationship-oriented, understanding and empathetic.

After we had all been categorized, sorted, branded and shamed for our shortcomings, we started going through exercises to examine how our personality types interacted with those in the other categories. At one point, the group was asked to “guess” where they thought each other should be classified. This was a bit of an odd task given that most of us didn’t really know each other that well. For the most part, we only had a general sense of each other’s occupation and role within the company. Not surprisingly, the fact that everyone knew I was an attorney resulted in me being classified as Controlling by those peers. It was not surprising to me as I too would imagine that most lawyers demonstrate various aspects of the Controlling personality which was described as taking charge, decisive and bottom-line focused. Made sense to me despite the fact that, like all professions, attorneys come from all walks of life and personality styles. While I could certainly flex those skills when needed, it wasn’t where I really wanted to live 24/7.

As part of the process, I started categorizing the people in the my life — the good and the bad. I imagined the people in my life who had challenged me professionally and I categorized them too. I found some interesting patterns. Oddly enough, everyone in my life with whom I had significant professional struggles fell into the category of Controlling. As I read further through the description of the Controlling personality, a few things struck me.

Controlling personalities tend to be impatient, too dominant, insensitive, demanding and unwilling to let go.

In contrast, one of the drawbacks of a Supporting personality (e.g., me!) is that they struggle dealing with critical or aggressive people. I sat there dumbfounded. I could not believe the intersection of those personalities! It’s no wonder that I struggled so much in my past with those people. We were literally oil and water and our drawbacks triggered the others’. Our communications styles are dramatically different and our weaknesses just inflame each other.

I spent the evening really working through this realization and examining how this knowledge could have changed things for me in my past. Knowing that these individuals were simply acting in accordance with their dominant personality characteristics could have helped me disconnect from their aggression, demands, and insensitivities. These people were not singling me out for this treatment and it had no bearing whatsoever on me or my value. The problem was that I had allowed myself to believe that their aggression and antics were about me.

I made it all mean that I was something lesser, that I was an idiot, that they didn’t like me, they didn’t respect me, they didn’t think I was good enough, etc.

I was miserable because I interpreted this behavior as something negative about myself. At the time, I couldn’t help but believe it was all about me.

The problem was that I had allowed myself to believe that their aggression and antics were about me. I made it all mean that I was something lesser, that I was an idiot, that they didn’t like me, they didn’t respect me, they didn’t think I was good enough, etc. I was miserable because I interpreted this behavior as something negative about myself. At the time, I couldn’t help but believe it was all about me.

In the end, it all comes down to our thoughts and how we interpret the situations and the people in our lives. However, it doesn’t hurt to have a little science behind that awareness and appreciate the fact that we all have different personality tendencies that will drive our behaviors. It’s just one more reason to affirm to yourself every day that the actions and words of others have nothing to do with you and everything to do with the other person. The only thing that truly matters is:

What are you making it mean?

As an attorney, I am no stranger to difficult personalities. In my coaching work I have honed the skills to work through our issues with others to truly turn the corner and stop making it all about us. Coach with me and let me show you how.

Judgment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do you see!?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Save the Drama for . . . well, you know . . .

Recently I’ve had several sessions with a similar underlying theme relating to drama and the stories about ourselves and our lives that we carry around with us.

So many of us carry stories about ourselves or our past that are so riddled with drama that it is making all of us crazy!

Not only does this drama typically bring with it some unwanted and unproductive emotions but the habit of creating drama in your life is going to make it difficult to find space for the things you truly WANT to spend your energy doing. As you make bigger goals and strive to do new things, you are going to encounter struggles and negative emotions and if you spin out in drama every time this happens, you will handicap that goal…and you will likely make yourself crazy in the process, so that’s fun too.

I once had a client tell me that the reason she is stuck in her life is because she can’t move home to the Midwest. “I can’t move home to the Midwest because I have this house and it needs all this work and I keep trying to hire contractors but I don’t trust them and there really aren’t any good contractors out there any way, and the house is practically unlivable because the last contractors I hired completed botched the roof and now water is coming in everywhere. . .”

On and on she went about how the house was so terrible and no one could be trusted to fix it for her so she would just have to be stuck where she was until she could figure something else out.

Come to find out that the issue with the house was that the contractors didn’t properly seal her skylights so the roof was leaking over her kitchen. That was the huge catastrophe that was keeping her from moving. Of course, when she initially related all this to me, I was horrified, imaging contractors who had left huge sections of her roof completely unfinished and exposed to the elements and a roof that was about to cave in and lions, tiger, and bears, oh my!

My mind immediately went for the drama.

That is what our reptilian brain does! It looks for danger to try and keep us from getting eaten by lions! This situation was not worthy of that level of panic but that’s what our brain immediately wants to do.

Here’s another example. My partner is selling his home and recently found out that his roof had some damage and would need to be replaced prior to the sale. When I got his message that he was going to have to replace the roof, my mind LITERALLY imagined that there must be huge holes in his roof from some cataclysmic overnight hail storm that I slept through. My heart started to race and I imagined all the horrible possibilities. When I spoke to him, he was very matter-of-fact: the home inspector says there is hail damage, I spoke to my insurance carrier and filed a claim, they will let me know more soon. That was it. No drama. Just the facts. My mental chaos was immediately snuffed out.

The distinction here is that one person was focused on the facts of the situation and JUST the facts. No superfluous details or embellishments.

Just those aspects of the situation that everyone would agree were universally true about the situation. That is the trick that so many of us are missing. When our brains want to spin out of control joyriding a parade of horribles, we have to stop and focus on the facts. Once these scenarios are boiled down to simple facts, they become so much less dramatic. So much easier to solve for and they require so much less of your energy!

I most often see this when people speak about their pasts. Try it sometime on people that you know well. For instance, that friend of yours who is always sending you 11pm text messages “Call me immediately!” for some new drama. If you ask her to describe her childhood or last relationship, her description will likely be laden with drama.

On the other hand, your friend that always seems calm, cool, and collected will likely describe her past with simplicity and without unnecessary drama or extravagant stories. It doesn’t mean that one of them had a past that was any easier or less challenging, it just means that one of them chooses not to create drama around her childhood and chooses instead to cast her childhood in factual and positive tones.

How we describe our past experiences is a choice.

It doesn’t mean you deny that you have had difficult experiences; it means that when you think about those experiences, you focus on the facts and you find truths about those experiences that make you feel good instead of focusing on the facts that make you feel miserable. This is SO important because if you cast your past in a drama-filled, chaotic manner, those thoughts are not likely going to make you feel like you are ready to take on the world and build your empire. I personally know that when I allow myself to sift through the drama of my past relationships and the negativity of those experiences, the only thing I want to do is sit on the couch and eat an entire bag of chips with queso. Those thoughts are not helpful. They are not making you feel better and they are not helping you move forward.

The only reason your past exists today is because you let it. The only way your past exists is in your mind.

How you think about that past in your mind is YOUR CHOICE. Separate the facts of your past from the drama. You will free up so much mental space when you do.

Here is an example to help drive home this point. I once left a firm and believed that I was not leaving on good terms. I believed that we were both angry about how things worked out and I believed there was a lot of resentment in both camps. So, when I received my last paycheck from the firm and it was about 10% of my usual paycheck, I went through the roof! I was so upset and angry and indignant that they would “do that to me.” I had convinced myself that it was an intentional slight and was the ultimate “last straw” in my relationship with them. I would never have anything good to say about them EVER! On and on I went. I told myself there was no need to call them and challenge my compensation because they would have all sorts of excuses and rationalizations and it “just wouldn’t be worth the energy to ask them about it” I just didn’t “want the fight.” I didn’t want the fight but I was seething no less. I was fighting, alright, I just didn’t have an opponent.

So I decided to heed some of my own advice. I ditched the drama and endeavored to find the facts. That required me to reach out and start asking questions. Turns out, the payment was correct but without the breakdown of how they landed at that number, I didn’t have a full picture. Health insurance, retirement contributions, final deductions, etc.  for the full month of my termination had whittled my final paycheck down to almost nothing. Once I saw the numbers, it made sense. All that drama for WEEKS. What a waste.

What could I have done differently? Rather than making myself crazy for weeks, I could have focused on the facts of the situation: I got my last paycheck, it was $X less than usual, I did not ask for an explanation. Those facts, standing alone don’t seem worthy of a meltdown. Those facts instead beg the question—why aren’t you asking for an explanation? Those facts are confusing and require additional research! Simple. If I had looked at the facts sooner, I could have spared the drama and asked for the information earlier. Or I could have decided not to ask for an explanation and added another fact: I am not asking for an explanation and I am okay with that. Done. No more mental work to be done here.

If you can learn to identify and clean up the drama in your brain and in your life, imagine what you could do with all that extra time and energy. The possibilities are endless!

Need support ditching the drama? Coach with me and let’s start cleaning up your brain.