Wanting It Is Not Enough – Part 2

This is the second of a two-part series on getting it done. In part one, we explored our baggage and took a hard look at our list of “To-Dos.” The key takeaway was simply this: It is not enough to want it. First, you have to decide whether it is a priority. If it’s not a priority, put it on the list for a future date and move on.

What I challenge my clients to do is to take all their wants and to-dos and write them down. We have to start getting very serious about the things that we ask ourselves and the things that we tell ourselves we want to accomplish in his life. Many times the things that we put on this to-do list and allow to pile on the pressure are things that we don’t really want. Pipe dreams. Things that we really aren’t committed to doing but we are really good at telling ourselves we need to do. We have to do. We should do. None of this is true.

When we start getting really honest with ourselves about the bag of burdens that we carry, and we eliminate the pipe dreams, we are left with what is really important at this moment — our priorities.

Now, the second step is to decide to either develop a plan (or stop carrying that junk around).

We have to develop a plan. This is what distinguishes people who accomplish everything we want from those who spend their lives carrying around a long list of to-do’s and dreams.

It’s not difficult to accomplish things in life; the only difficulty is following through on your commitments to yourself.

You must first sit down and get very clear about what you want, develop a plan to get there, and follow through. For me, most of my planning requires me to sit down and focus on my calendar and what is on my plate in any given week. The only thing that makes it on to my calendar are priority items. Everything else is up for debate and the whims of my fancies once everything else is accomplished. I might decide during an afternoon where I have two hours of free, unallocated time to seriously consider where to hang that chandelier. But that’s for me to decide; that’s for me to determine how I want to use that free time and whether or not I want to look at any of my other low-hanging wants in those moments.

Need help getting clarity around your to-do list and taking actions on your goals? Get free support now, you have so much to gain.

My to-do list is not something that I need to carry around and remind myself of every day to use as a sword against myself. Instead, my calendar reflects my priorities. If I want to go to the gym two times a week, the only thing I have to do is put it on my calendar and allocate the time of preparation beforehand to ensure that I can accomplish it. I anticipate the obstacles. I know that my brain is going to tell me that my bed is so cozy, my muscles are sore from the last workout, or I didn’t sleep that well last night.

My brain is going to offer me all sorts of reasons why I can’t do this.

In these situations, time can also be a barrier. I have three dogs and oftentimes one of them wants to go outside and then the other one will want to go out and then suddenly they want to be fed at 6:30 in the morning rather than waiting for me to get home and feed them after the gym. Never mind the fact that I can never figure out what to wear to the gym and that constant agony of “I have nothing to wear today!” drags on the entire process in the morning making me feel hopeless before I even get out the door.

I know these obstacles will come I know these challenges will happen. So I anticipate them and I strategize around them. I plan my workout clothes the night before I decide whether I am going to feed the dogs before I leave or whether I will feed them when I get home and I stick to that decision. If I decide the dogs need to go out before I leave, it is the first thing I do when I get up before I start getting ready to go to the gym. I have to know the things that are going to pop up to try and keep me stuck. This is not complicated. This is not rocket science.

We identify obstacles to our goals and we strategize around them. We expect the worst so that we can be at our best.

What does that look like? All it looks like is deciding how you’re going to get it done and deciding what might keep you from acting. From there, we can strategize how to guarantee the accomplishment and ensure that we are in the best possible position to accomplish that task and check it off on our to-do list. We can then give ourselves a pat on the back and consider it a job well done.

When we allow our days to operate on a whim out of control and without planning, it makes it more difficult for us to tackle the things that we really do want to accomplish in our life.

It might seem overly regimented and stringent to put all these things on your calendar and live by that. But it’s actually freedom. I know that everything I want to accomplish in my life I will accomplish and I don’t have to worry, or stress, or stew about it. I just have to show up. I have it on my calendar. I have a plan. I have a strategy. I just have to do what it tells me and not question it. That’s all it takes. My days are more efficient, and my focus is clearer when my head is no longer jumbled with all of the things that I want to do and all of the shoulds bouncing around making me feel terrible.

For any day, I know exactly what I will accomplish, what I have accomplished, and what I can do next.

That is what it means to do more than just “want” it, because wanting it is simply not enough.

In order to transform our life from a list of dreams to a list of accomplishments, all we have to do is sit down, plan, strategize, then show up. From there they only this you have to do is honor yourself and honor your commitments.


Why We Procrastinate (and how to stop)

Procrastination much? We all do it from time to time and, with effort, we can develop different habits. Dare I say, we can stop procrastinating for good? I rarely procrastinate anymore and many of my clients have developed better planning skills and tools to combat the urge to procrastinate but we’ve done that song and dance so we aren’t going there today. Today, we are exploring the rationale behind our procrastination.

First and foremost, let’s blame biology.

In brief, as humans, we are hardwired to seek pleasure and avoid pain. This means that when our brains perceive danger, rightly or wrongly, our brain will begin crafting an escape route. This biological wiring is designed to keep us out of the mouths of hungry lions.

So where does this danger come in? For those of you living in the thick of your practice, you might be thinking that some of your partners and clients actually resemble hungry lions out to rip your throat out and that’s actually not too far off…. When we have something that we are avoiding, the REASON we are avoiding that project is because we have some underlying fear associated with the project. There is something about the project that is arousing your biological flight response. It might sound something like this

I’m not going to get this right and she is going to be so pissed at me.

I don’t know how to figure this out and he is probably going to fire me when I mess it up.

I cannot stand working for this client, they always leave out crucial facts.

I am so nervous, I cannot botch this project.

I hate working for this partner, I really don’t want to do this.

This is going to be miserable.

All of those thoughts will arouse some type of fear-based response. All of those thoughts trigger more negative thoughts and on and on it goes until we have built up this project to be cruel and unusual punishment that must be avoided at all costs. We are afraid of the consequences of not getting it right, pissing off the partner or the client, or we simply dread the perceived misery of the project.

In either case, we are being driven by some unacknowledged fear.

No problem, says the procrastination fairy, Starbucks has a new latte you need to try, and have you checked out your ex-boyfriend’s Facebook page lately? Then we indulge in our other biologically motivated response–seek pleasure! Gobble up endorphins wherever you can find them!

This routine will stretch on only until another, larger, and more critical fear enters the dance floor:

the deadline

Suddenly, the fear that we won’t get the project done in time looms larger in our minds and drowns out the earlier fears of failing the project. We start to imagine the SHOUTY CAPS emails raging over our missed deadline or failure to respond. Our mind is abuzz with a full-on parade of horribles showing us what will happen if we don’t stop shopping on Amazon and get. to. work.

Off we go, motivated by fear once again.

But this time, our earlier procrastination has likely set us up to fail in the exact same manner we were afraid of failing to begin with. We work frantically, our thoughts are scattered, and our work is filled with a chaotic sense of urgency. Ultimately, we end up beating the project to death with the procrastination stick until it is unrecognizable. We make mistakes that are completely out of character because we are rushed and panicked and now even MORE convinced that the partner is, in fact, going to seriously impede your survival at the firm. When we work from that mental space, motivated by fear, we do not do our best work. We miss things we would not normally miss and we overlook basic things that we KNOW. In sum, we fail ourselves and show up much less than our best.

This whole routine is tethered together by one small similarity: fear. We procrastinate because we are avoiding some negative emotion; we are afraid of something about the project. Then we procrastinate until a larger fear gets us moving. Ultimately, we end up creating our own self-fulling prophecy where we do the really terrible job that we feared we would do in the first place.

So what do we do?

We have to start getting honest with ourselves about why we are procrastinating to begin with. Once we get to the root of fear, we can ask whether we like that reasoning. Furthermore, we can acknowledge how this story will end if we choose to invest in that fear and go down the Facebook rabbit-hole instead. Combating procrastination only requires one thing from you: honesty. Honesty with yourself about your actions and your justifications. From there, all you have to do is ask yourself whether you like your reasons for acting or not acting and make a new, informed, honest choice about your next steps. Those are the choices that will determine the type of person you become — one who procrastinates or one who doesn’t. The choice is ultimately yours and all that matters is whether you are comfortable with your reasoning.

“Following-through is the only thing that separates dreamers from people that accomplish great things.”

Gene Hayden

Start taking actions towards your goals and stop letting fear derail your progress. Sign up for a free session and stop procrastinating today.


Photo by RODOLFO BARRETO on Unsplash

Doing the Hard Things

I have always wanted to be a yogi. It always seemed to “fit” with my personal vision for myself–I meditate every day, do some yoga-lite stretching, I am a reiki master, a meditation instructor, I love all this woo woo…. It just seems like a love affair that was meant to be! The problem? I just don’t want to do it. At all. I will do anything to avoid it. I will put it on my calendar and plan to go to a class and when it comes down to that make it or break it moment, I bail out.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my daily stretching routine that I lovingly think of as yoga-lite. I love connecting with my body and taking that inward time before I sit in my daily meditation. Whenever I muster up the fortitude to dive into a yoga class, I feel so good afterwards and sometimes I even enjoy it – the WHOLE time. I know it’s good for me and I know I always feel better once it’s done. So what’s the problem you ask?

I simply don’t want to do the hard things. I am in love with the IDEA of being a flexible, lithe yogi but, put simply: I don’t want to do the work.

I don’t want to hold uncomfortable poses for long periods of time. I don’t want to go to a yoga class. I don’t want to put my leg there or twist in such a way. There is something about it that I really detest. And yes, I know deep down that I should see this as a signpost that yoga is hiding something delicious for me. Somewhere within its depths is an awakening, a realization of some sort that I must find. But, here I am. Not a yogi. Barely a yogi-lite. Annoyed at the thought of it all.

I am in love with the dream but not willing to act on it.

I don’t want to do the hard work. I am rebelling against the discomfort. That’s it. There is no magic here.

I share this story because we all do this! We are so good at identifying all of the things that we want that we don’t have. We have laundry lists of skills and accomplishments that we want to attain or achieve. Most of us rarely chip away at those things because when it comes down to it, we don’t want to do the hard work. We just want to wake up one day and realize that the accomplishment was simply waiting to be unearthed all this time, it was always ours for the taking. All we had to do was wake up, go to that yoga class and suddenly the heavens would open up and rain down our dream.

We want the dream but we want it to come easily. We don’t really want to do all the work that necessarily precedes it.

This is why we don’t achieve our dreams. There is no secret here. We just don’t want to do the work.

Once we see all the work that comes with the achievement, we continue to *want* the thing but we stop taking any action to get there. Instead we resign ourselves to dreams of longing. I wish I could climb a 14-er…I wish I could play the piano…I wish I was really good at yoga. We are more than happy to lament our lacking. Rather than figuring out how to do the hard thing, we resign ourselves to being the victim of our circumstances, as if others were simply blessed with these gifts that we don’t have. For them, it was easy but for us, we just can’t do it. We live our lives with a laundry list of things that we want or wish that we had. If only we had more time…more money…more innate ability….

The truth is while we want these things, it is not our misfortune that we don’t have them: it is our unwillingness to do the damn thing.

I’m not saying that if you decide to climb Mt. Everest and wholeheartedly commit to doing all the work that comes with that endeavor, you will inevitably be successful. What I am saying, instead is this:

Wouldn’t it be so much more gratifying to say: I trained for a year to climb Mt. Everest but eventually opted for a summit where people die less frequently.

Or

I’ve always wanted to climb a mountain so I’ve recently started training for it. 

Those statements are so much more FUN and illustrative about our lives than to say I would love to climb Mt. Everest some day.

Why carry dreams around with you that you aren’t willing to put in the work to accomplish?

The next time you catch yourself expressing a wish/hope/desire for some unattained goal, stop yourself. If you aren’t willing to put in all the hard work that comes with that particular goal, is it really true that you want it? Wouldn’t it be more accurate to state:
 

Climbing Mt. Everest sounds amazing but I am just not interested in going through all that training and the risks!

Even THAT sounds more authentic than all that wishing and hoping and lamenting!

Why is this important? When we offer empty wishes and dreams to the universe without any commitment behind them, we slip into victim mentality. It’s as if we are wishing that we could be so lucky to accomplish such a thing. If only we had been so similarly gifted. Implying: we weren’t blessed with luck or gifts. We just don’t have what it takes. It is an energy of lack. An energy of dissatisfaction with one’s life and place. Is that really the energy you want for your dreams?

Dream from a place of abundance. A place where your words are more a forecast for your future than a condemnation of your present. Where your dreams are at your fingertips and not some vague hope.

The first thing I do with all of my clients is cast the dream: what is it that you want from life? From there we start planning and taking actions to bring that dream closer and closer. Interested in getting some clarity for your future? Ready to dive into some righteous discomfort? Sign up for a free session before they are all gone!

Dreaded Projects

There are always those projects that we dread doing. We put them off and go out of our way to avoid doing them or ever thinking about them. I recently  worked with a client who was tap dancing around her own version of a dreaded project and wanted to share the steps we worked through to de-escalate the dread.

Get to the root of the dread.

For many of us, we avoid projects that we know will be challenging or that relate to an area of law that we aren’t comfortable with. We put them off because actually doing the project drives home our discomfort with the subject matter. We don’t like being reminded of what we don’t know and it is uncomfortable to wade through uncharted legal mazes.

If it is simply discomfort with a difficult task, the best way to uproot the problem is to break it into bite-sized pieces and schedule them (i.e., GYST). If it’s a large document that needs to be reviewed or a looming diligence project, break it down into segments and schedule time during your week to attend to each segment of the project. If it’s a research project, schedule separate blocks to time to dig into each relevant area of law. Whatever the breakdown may be, it’s easier to tackle the unknown and discomfort when we can do it in small doses.

Furthermore, this approach will force you to get started right away — there is no room to delay the project until the very last minute as we often want to do with these types of things. Take your time, learn what the project has to offer and take it piece by piece.

No one builds a house in a day. Treat the assignment like a construction project and build it brick by brick, day by day. Stop looking at the massive scale of the project and focus on each piece and what it can teach you.

If there is another reason you are avoiding the project–you don’t like the client or the partner–that’s a whole different issue and is going to require you to do some work on your brain. But that doesn’t mean the above concept will be lost on you. If the root of the problem comes from the parties involved, you can utilize the above approach to dip your toes into that relationship pond little by little and practice managing your mind with each step.

Get factual.

My most recent client had a project that she was dreading. She had made time on her calendar to address the project but kept feeling temped to move it. She explained that it was a massive project with lots of interconnected documents and disclosures. She had made significant headway on the project but was avoiding taking the final steps.

When you find yourself hesitating to jump into a project like this, it is likely because your brain has created some drama around the project. In this case, my client believed that the project was “massive.” So, we spent some time unpacking what she meant by massive. How much more time is needed for the project? What are the exact steps you will need to take to get through this segment of the project? Is there a way that you can bring in additional support?

While the project itself may or may not have actually been “massive,” my client was believing that it was. That sent her mind down a dramatic spiral and set her up for avoidance. In reality, the segment of the project waiting for her on her calendar that day would require only one hour and would allow her to lean on her paralegal for additional support. We realized that most of the work for that part of the project was already done; she simply needed to get her head back into the project, do some issue spotting, and utilize her team. When we set aside the drama and looked at the exact next steps, the project was no longer something to be dreaded, it was much simpler than she was allowing her self to believe.

When we allow our brains to tell us that a project is “massive…horrible…never-ending…pointless,” we set ourselves up for failure. We are going to struggle finding motivation to tackle projects when we believe that we are in for some sort of legal gauntlet. We have to recognize the drama that we have created and sift through it.

How much time is needed for the project?

Can you break it into smaller chunks?

Is it appropriate to bring in additional support?

Have you decided to believe that you are the only one that can do it all? Is that true?

By doing it “all” are you making your greatest contribution or is some of the work better suited for others?

What are the EXACT steps that you will need to execute for each chunk of the project.

We have to be aware of our brain’s tendency to create drama. In those moments when our brain is telling us that the sky is falling, we have to take a step back and sift through the facts. What we often find, much like my client, is that the drama in our brains is a lot of smoke and mirrors and underneath it all are tasks and challenges that we are more than equipped to handle.

Let go of the drama and start dominating your project list; it’s so much more fun than worrying about your projects.

Sometimes all it takes is an outside perspective to help you see it. Reach out for some free support if you find your days clouded with avoidance and self-doubt; I’d love to show you a better way to practice.


Photo by Oleg Magni from Pexels

What Are You Planning?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Triage versus Prioritizing

According to Mahatma Gandhi, “Action expresses priorities.” Unfortunately, this is often lost in legal practice where our actions are rarely tied to priorities.

For better or worse, most days spent in corporate legal practice start off with good intentions and big plans about all the things we will accomplish that day. Then the train derails and we spend most of the day “putting out fires” and ignoring all of those best laid plans. While some of this may be the result of real client emergencies, more often than not, there is no real emergency.

No one’s life is on the line and no one’s business is going to implode if you don’t immediately respond to that email.

While this approach to practice can certainly be productive and earn some goodwill with important clients or powerful partners, it is not a zero sum game. Making every hysterical email or phone call from clients or partners a priority, will ultimately prevent you from focusing on the projects that are a priority, like that presentation you need to prepare for that conference next week.

In the end, the only one who pays for failing to set priorities and establish boundaries, is you, your career, and likely your clients.

Countless times, I allowed frantic emails from needy clients or intimidating partners derail my plans to focus on other, less exciting but important projects. Over time, I realized that there was part of me that was accomplishment driven. I craved the urge to please a partner or a client and I relished the opportunity to “make someone else’s life easier,” to be needed, to fix something, to alleviate someone’s stress, even if it was to my own detriment. I would spend an entire day running around with my hair on fire addressing every client emergency that showed up, all the while disregarding the new DOL regulations that sat on my desk. This was my job ,right, to help clients?! Not sit at my desk all day reading regulations? Then, inevitably, an important client or partner would ask me what I thought about the DOL’s new guidance and I would freeze, mentally abusing myself for not making time to read those damn regs.

We have all done this. Instead of doing the hard work (setting boundaries, reading those regulations, saying “no”) we choose the spotlight, we choose the emergency, we choose to pursue feelings of accomplishment driven by results. What we loose sight of when we do this are three critical lessons.

When you allow your client to dictate your priorities you create monsters.

There is such a skill as client management. Every client cannot be a priority and every client cannot expect you to drop everything for them all the time. Your time is limited and every single one of your clients deserves your focus and attention. Allowing the squeaky wheel to dictate your day is a disservice to your clients and creates unrealistic expectations. Once your client or partner is used to you being at their beck and call, they will expect it every time. They will never see you as a partner to them. You become much more like a high-priced pizza delivery driver—whatever they want, any hour of the day. That is exhausting.

Overtime, the enthusiasm that comes with pleasing that particular client or partner will wane and give way to passive aggression and shoddy legal work. So many times I saw young attorneys deliberately do crappy work just to get a certain partner off their back or to get a client to start using someone else.

In order to be a good lawyer (never mind an adult human) you need to be able to have open, honest and candid conversations with people, including the people who pay your bills.

By pretending you are comfortable with that imbalanced relationship and telling them you are able to help, when you really aren’t, is nothing more than manipulation. You are taking action in hopes of manipulating what they will think about you. You are hoping they will see you as reliable, dependable, responsive, smart, and necessary. You are acting dishonestly in hopes you can control what they think about you.

What would it be like to believe all of those things on your own? What would it be like to add honesty to that list?

In the long run, honesty will do more for the relationship than manipulation and bitterness. A good client relationship is not built around dishonesty and unwillingness to have the difficult conversations. It rarely ends well. Besides, if clients and partners see you as never busy and always able to jump on things for them, what message does that communicate to them about your value and skillset?

You are setting a dishonest precedent and setting your clients up for sub-par work.

When you are overwhelmed with work and that client or partner asks you Do you have a second or Can you get back to me on this later this afternoon or Can you get this back to me today and you say Yes…you are lying! Piling on more projects will not magically create more time to do the work. There are limits to what you can accomplish in a day. I’m not saying that you need to be rigid about your work schedule and refuse work left and right, my message is that you need to learn to be honest with those people who are depending upon you.

Be honest with yourself about your workload and your ability to meet all those expectations. Being honest with your clients and saying I have a conference call that is expected to take all afternoon, can I get it to you tomorrow morning is a perfectly reasonable response. Telling that partner I am on several deadlines today for XYZ client or ABC partner, I’m happy to reshuffle if they are okay with it but I would need to check is also an acceptable response.

Responding honestly, in this way shows your clients/partners that you are busy and in demand and are willing to problem solve to ensure they receive the best service.

So many times I agreed to do things that I didn’t have time for. When I showed up to the meeting or call, I was stressed, harried, distracted and bitter. That is not the appropriate space for providing great legal services.

Similarly, when I accepted too much work, the net result was that every project would get 60% of my effort and time because I didn’t have enough time to do it all 100%. The point is, if you don’t have time or it’s going to take some reshuffling to get things done, say so. By asking the question, you give your client the opportunity to regroup and reassess their own priorities. If you don’t ask, you end up providing hurried and frantic legal services to a client that believed you had adequate time to do it right. If it is rushed, they will know and your reputation will suffer accordingly.

I have heard so many clients and partners criticize associate work by saying They clearly rushed through this or They should never have accepted this project if they didn’t have time, which they evidently did not. This is not where you want to be. That trust is difficult to rebuild. Strive to be legal counsel that is honest and willing to troubleshoot with your clients to ensure they receive proper legal support. The best legal work does not occur at midnight after 10 cups of coffee; it happens when you give yourself space to be present and focused.

Consider whether you are using “emergencies” to distract yourself.

Many times when I was avoiding a particularly difficult project, I would catch myself creating emergencies and burying myself in more “important” things. If I was dreading those new regulations or delaying preparation of slides for a presentation, I would make anything else a priority. I would make ordering flowers for my secretary a priority – ANYTHING. I would take benign non-emergent client emails and dive into them as if they were multi-million dollar lawsuits instead of doing the work I had planned to do; the work I NEEDED to do but didn’t want to.

We all know the negative effects of procrastination so I won’t waste my key strokes, but here, the real issue is awareness. Are you even aware that you are manufacturing emergencies because you are avoiding something else?

As a grown human you are free to manage your workload however you see fit but don’t lie to yourself. If you are doing 1,000 other things because you are avoiding another project, be honest about it.

Don’t run around manufacturing fires, indulging in drama, and telling everyone how busy you are. Then when real projects stack up and the avoided project gets critical you fall apart bemoaning your workload and inability to meet your deadlines as you wallow in the mess that you created. Stop it. If you are deliberately avoiding something, own it and just know that you will probably regret it later. Don’t create drama around it and don’t act like you didn’t create this problem. Instead, consider what it would be like to flex that muscle that makes you sit down and do the hard things? I’m no soothsayer but I suspect that skill will get you much farther in life.

Instead of allowing each day’s emergencies to dictate your life, decide what projects or clients are a priority each day and stick to them. 

When something else comes up, ask yourself: Is this going to impede my ability to focus on my priorities? Is this going to yield as great of results for me and the firm as my priorities? What will I have to sacrifice if I say yes to this project? What negative consequence am I signing up for if I disregard my established priorities?  You may not always be in a place to control your workload but asking yourself these questions will help you to learn how to discern priorities from distractions so that when you do get the chance to control you desk, you will have honed that skill. It becomes even more essential as you grow to manage your practice as well as others.

In the end, the practice of law provides the opportunity to hone basic interpersonal skills. I support so many of my clients to hone these skills. Not only is setting and sticking to priorities a life-long asset but a byproduct of that skill is learning to be honest with your clients and coworkers and ultimately, yourself.

Need support setting boundaries and prioritizing? Schedule a free consultation with me and let’s start building that skill. Your mental health will thank you.

Wanted: Motivation

I recently found myself riding the popular mode of public transportation known affectionately as the Monday Morning Struggle Bus. I was tired and grouchy and just plain did not want to be at work. I didn’t want to be at my regular 9-5 and I didn’t want to work on my coaching business either. I just wanted to go full-on introvert hermit and hide under the covers all day. The problem was that I had made all these commitments – to myself and my clients. My day was full of tasks that I had planned to complete so that my week would stay on course. The constant reminders started popping upon my phone at 8:30 this morning and I knew that wouldn’t stop until 8:30pm tonight.

I told myself that if I could just muster up some motivation, I could get over this hump.

Now, where to find that motivation…. Facebook? A trip to Starbuck’s for a caffeine jolt? Maybe a hallway chat with my co-workers? Maybe if I procrastinate long enough, I will force myself to get to work in a frenzy of stress-induced mania!

My brain came up with all sorts of fun things I could do today instead of work. That’s when I realized that I had just caught my brain in serious reptile mode.

My brain knew I wasn’t feeling particularly motivated. It knew I didn’t want to work and it was politely offering me all sorts of ways to indulge myself and run away from those crappy feelings and dumb work projects. My brain got to work coming up with all sorts of ways to self-soothe. In my mind, I imagined some skeezy alter-ego standing on the corner in a dirty trench coat saying “hey, babe, you want to fly to the moon?” Dramatic, yes, but the basic premise is the same.

My brain was selling me a quick fix, promising it would make me feel better and help me avoid the discomfort I was currently feeling – the Monday morning blues.

I had thought “I really don’t want to do this” and my brain responded, “here are some things you can do that would be WAY more fun.” In addition, my brain went to work telling me all the reasons why it was okay to blow off all the things I had promised myself…you worked really hard all weekend, you deserve a break . . . this project isn’t worth worrying about, you can do it tomorrow . . . you work harder than everyone else, you deserve a few hours “off”. . .

That is what our brains do! We are so used to indulging ourselves and going out of our way to bury those negative feelings (buffering) or running away from them outright through avoidance or procrastination, that is what our brains automatically do in the face of discomfort. And now our brains are really good at it!

Once we allow our brains to run that route a few 100,000 times, it becomes a pro and offers us those “solutions” every time we face the same or a similar discomfort.

If you think “I really don’t want to go to the gym today,” your brain is going to get to work running that pattern and offering you all sorts of reasons why you really shouldn’t go to the gym: You really don’t have time today . . . your really should rest, the day was super stressful . . . you seem run down, you’re probably getting sick, better to rest . . . gosh, your knee seems a little tender, if you don’t rest it you will probably strain it . . . Trust me, the brain is a WWE Diva when it comes to this stuff because we have let it practice this song and dance our entire lives.

When you see your brain doing this, just know that it is operating as it should but that what it is telling you is not the truth.

These are not a facts; they are just thoughts your brain is really good at thinking. Your brain seeks to operate as efficiently as possible (e.g., running the same thought patterns) and the reptilian brain wants to keep you safe (avoid discomfort at all costs lest you be killed by lions!). When you get uncomfortable, your brain offers you these thoughts in an attempt to seek comfort and avoid pain. They are all attempts to keep you running the same route you have been running your whole life. This is guaranteed to keep you stuck.

You have to get savvy with your brain. You have to catch on to its tricks! The next time you catch your brain offering you a platter full of delightful excuses not to do something out of the norm or something you aren’t excited about (e.g., 5am gym classes), do the hard work and keep your promises to yourself. THOSE are brain patterns you want to become a habit but they never will if you don’t force your brain to practice the routes.

Recognize when your brain is doing this and see it for what it is – an old pattern. Then work on creating a new pattern.

This doesn’t mean you have to engage in a round of mental arm wrestling, arguing with each of these thoughts. What it means is that you can recognize when your brain is doing this and ignore all those thoughts and justifications your mind offers. Hello, brain, I see all these glorious excuses you are offering me, very adorable, but no thanks. Just clear your head and stick to the commitment. Period. By honoring commitments, you develop a new set of beliefs and patterns that your brain can channel. The next time you find your brain running an old pattern and explaining why you really shouldn’t go to the gym this morning, you might be able to think instead – Yes, I was tired last time I went to the gym at 5am and I still had a great workout and felt energized all day . . . or Going to that gym class always makes me feel so much less stressed out and I always have a better day than when I skip it.

Commitment is a skill and learning to honor your commitments takes practice and it takes foresight. Your brain will try and talk you out of it, guaranteed. Plan on it and know you must push through.

Only through commitment and practice will you build motivation.

Once you start building those patterns, you can literally achieve anything.

Get out there and use your discomfort as an opportunity to teach your brain some new dance moves. This is hard work but it is the work of a lifetime. Commit to yourself. Commit to better results than you have gotten thus far. Coach with me. I’m ready. Are you?

Commitment

I once had a friend who was complaining that she needs to eat healthier and whenever she gets home she’s tired and doesn’t have anything to cook so she just orders in. I asked her Why don’t you plan and prep your meals in advance so you can get out of this cycle of exhausted panic and ordering in? You can plan to have something healthy on hand and ready to cook instead of just deciding to order in and going down this rabbit hole every day? Her response? Because when it comes down to it, I know I won’t want to eat that. I will feel like having something else.

This logic is one of the most time-sucking, goal-derailing theories my clients subscribe to. And let’s be honest, we have all been guilty of it — I don’t FEEL like doing XYZ even though I said I would. I used to avoid planning my outfits for the week because I wanted room for creative liberties – because, what if I don’t feel like wearing a skirt that day?! So, instead I would waste 20 minutes every morning laboring through my closet and the I HAVE NOTHING TO WEAR AGONY before rushing out of my house in a sweaty, flustered, and grouchy tornado.

Forget that. Years later, I have gotten wise to my propensity to wear approximately 5% of the clothes I own. Why? Because those are the clothes I most often feel like wearing. So, two years ago, I decided that I will get rid of one thing every single day. Whether that is the extra can opener or those strappy pink sandals that I never wear, every day something has to find a new family. With respect to my clothes, this means that on Sunday, I take about five minutes to pull five work outfits and hang them in my closet. That’s it. Either those clothes get worn that week or they go. I either like them enough to wear them no matter what or they find a new home. This has been magically freeing (but more about that later). I have stopped allowing myself bask in fashion creativity. I force myself to be decisive and no longer give energy to what I feel like wearing. What does that even mean?!

Anywho, the point is, we don’t like to make decisions ahead of time because we want to allow ourselves to make decisions in the heat of the moment, guided by our feelings. The problem is that our feelings are fleeting and our feelings are often driven by our primitive brains. Our primitive brains want to keep us happy, safe, comfortable and warm. The primitive brain will seek safety and pleasure while avoiding resistance. That brain is NOT the brain that will help you climb a mountain or do anything that scares you. That brain is not a cheerleader for healthy choices or difficult workouts. That brain wants the dopamine hit from chocolate cake and takeout Chinese on the couch. That brain cannot be allowed to make any decisions, unless you are running from a tiger, naturally.

Instead, we must make plans ahead of time from our prefrontal cortex – the part of our brain associated rational thinking, cognitive behavior, and decision making. This is the brain that says go to the gym, do not face dive into the box of red velvet cupcakes. Unfortunately, this brain is like your silent partner whose solid advice is often drowned out by the rantings of a lunatic toddler (i.e., your reptilian brain). You have to allow your prefrontal cortex to make decisions ahead of time, when your toddler brain isn’t participating because toddlers don’t care about planning. Once those decisions are made, you have to stick with them. This is where the real work comes in.

Most of us would not deliberately stand up a friend at Happy Hour or bail on your friend for that 5am Zumba class at the last minute so she is left to suffer alone. But we don’t hold ourselves in that same regard. When it comes to commitment to ourselves, we are terrible, horrible, no good, very bad friends. We ghost ourselves on the regular. We make plans and then we skip them. We promise ourselves we will go to the gym and then we hit snooze instead. In those instances, we are letting our warm and cozy, reptilian brain run the show. We refuse to trust the earlier judgment of our prefrontal cortex. We refuse to honor those commitments and will expend all sorts of energy rationalizing our flakiness.

Stop. Doing. That.

Make decisions in advance and commit to yourself that you will do it. Make a meal plan for the week and stick to it. Decide which days of the week, you will have a glass of wine and honor it. Set benchmarks and tasks in furtherance of a larger goal and freaking do them! My clients ask me all the time, How do you accomplish so much? How do you have time for all of that? Here’s the secret: you just do it. There is a reason that Nike’s slogan is Just Do It. Anyone who has done anything hard knows that the only trick is to simply DO IT. There is no magical formula for motivation or progress. You make a commitment to yourself and you honor yourself. It’s time to start treating yourself as well as you treat your friends and the commitments you make to them.

Here’s the icing on the cake. So many of my clients want to feel inspired and motivated to achieve their goals. They don’t act because they are waiting to be moved and inspired. Sorry, people, motivation and inspiration are not synonymous with lightening. They don’t just suddenly appear. They are created by action. Action creates momentum, which creates inspiration and motivation on repeat. How to you take action? Honor your commitments to yourself.

It all starts with learning to make commitment to ourselves and respecting ourselves enough to show up for ourselves. If you can master that skill, you can do anything.

If you are interested in a practical tool to help you organize your life and start sticking to your commitments, sign up to get my free tool for Finding More Time.

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