Difficult Co-Workers

In every moment of our life, we have the option to choose how we perceive our experience. It’s easy to believe that what is occurring in our life shouldn’t have happened that way the things have gone wrong and that things should have gone differently. The problem with that thinking is that we become so wed to it and so invested in it that we believe it is the truth of our experience. We believe that what is happening to us in our world is bad and negative.

I recently worked with a client who was challenged by two women that she was working with. She believed that these women were the source of her unhappiness. She believed that they were the reasons she needed to leave her job. She believed that her job was not going the way she had wanted it to go. She was so invested in these beliefs and in the mentality that made her the victim and them the villain that she could not see her way out.

Through coaching, I worked with her to try and show her that all of these thoughts and beliefs were nothing more than choices and opinions in her head. Her opinions were not true for anyone unless she chose to make them true. And she was invested in making them true for herself. When I challenged her to think differently about her experience I was met with strong defensiveness. Immediately, she challenged me and asked if I was trying to get her to think pretty thoughts about these bad experiences in her life. Those of you that work with me know that my goal is never to shift you to prettier thoughts; my goal is simply to open up your awareness to the possibility that there are other ways of thinking about things  — that there may be more than one “truth” about a given situation.

There is never just one truth. There are multiple truths that can coexist at the same time.

For her, I needed first to get her to a place of neutrality where she could recognize that her perceptions of the experience were just that: choices. Her perceptions. Her opinions. And she could change them to something else. It didn’t mean that she needed to shift to something happier. We can always choose to live with those negative perceptions and interpretations of our life. But the power there comes from our choosing to feel negatively about those experiences and to think negatively about those experiences. My goal in teaching my clients to work through these challenges is to see that they are in fact making a choice. No experience is inherently negative. No fact of our life is inherently bad. We choose to make it bad. We choose to make it negative.

My goal in working with these clients is just to break loose that death grip that we have on our negative perceptions of reality and to open their eyes to that negativity bias and to be open to the possibility that there is always more than one truth available to us.

It doesn’t mean shifting from believing that our boss is the devil Incarnate to believing that he’s a saint. What it simply means is instead of living in the mind space where we always see our boss as a horrible human being and treating it as a hard fact, we shift to a mental space where we can see that he is there to teach us something about ourselves about our journey. For my client, what I wanted her to see was that she was choosing to be negative and to believe that this situation she found herself in was inherently negative. That was just a choice and she had complete authority to choose something different. She could choose instead to believe that this was part of her path. That it was time for a change. That truth could be equally as true as her belief that this was a bad outcome of her dreams. The choice was ultimately hers and each choice would dramatically impact how she showed up and experienced her time at that workplace.

Through my coaching programs, I help my clients to take complete authority over their life experiences. To take ownership of every emotion they experience and to consciously CHOOSE how they want to feel and what they want to believe about their lives.

“You see persons and things not as they are but as YOU are.”

What does your perception have to teach you about yourself? 

Photo by Engin Akyurt from Pexels

Standing In Your Own Way

I’m a firm believer that everybody needs to be doing this work. Why is that? Because we all have ugly thinking that we are carrying around with us that acts as an energetic ball and chain keeping us from creating the life that we really want.

To illustrate this point, I’ve been thinking through accomplishments in history where it’s clear that the champions were able to challenge the thinking of the time in order to create something great.

One thing that most readily came to mind was the concept that our earth is flat. And yes, I have seen the Netflix documentary Flat Earth exploring those of us who continue to subscribe to the belief that our earth is, in fact, flat. Flat Earth people aside, let’s consider the thinking that led to the discovery that our earth is actually round. In order to take the actions that ultimately confirmed the earth’s spherical shape, early thinkers from Pythagoras, Eratosthenes, Aristotle, Plato, Columbus, etc. had to be open to the possibility that the current thinking about the earth was wrong. They had to consider the possibility that everything we had always thought might not be the absolute truth. At the time, these men might not have known how right they were but at least they were open to the possibility.

We cannot do great things while carrying with us opposing beliefs.

These historical figures could not have generated the confidence and curiosity to challenge the theory of the earth’s flatness while being equally invested in the belief that the earth was flat. They had to shake that belief loose and consider the possibility that it might not be absolute. They were open to challenging the predominant certainties.

While this may seem an obvious and unnecessary exploration of history, I point this out because so often my clients are unwilling to dive into the ugly parts of their own brains. They want to develop the pretty thoughts and motivating thoughts or the thoughts that will generate action for them. They don’t want to spend time rolling up their sleeves and looking at their negative thinking and challenging those beliefs.

This is counterproductive and will serve only to create greater cognitive dissonance for my clients as they try to move forward. It’s like stretching a rubber band until it snaps back together — sure, you can make progress in that direction but the progress is never permanent; you always end up right back where you started. You simply cannot generate new action and new results from the same set of beliefs — you have to start thinking and feeling differently.

This requires us to challenge our existing thinking. 

In order to take action in a new direction, we need to generate emotions that will drive new actions and new explorations in recognition that a different truth may exist. Where we have conflicting beliefs that we continue to invest in and give energy to we’re never going to be open to equally investing in a new belief that will generate the energy needed to create the action that we want in order to create a new result.

In sum, unless and until we dismantle pre-existing belief models we will never have the energetic capacity to create new actions and results.

The conflicting, outdated beliefs will act as a ball-and-chain keeping the new beliefs from gaining traction. We will only be partially invested in the new belief, thus the emotions and actions that belief can generate will be restrained. The result is that we will never fully create what we want because we have always hedged our bets by holding onto our existing beliefs.

When we try to breathe life into new beliefs without dismantling our old operating system, we stifle our efforts.

We cannot shift to prettier thoughts and create better feelings and results while at the same time equally investing in opposing beliefs. It’s like putting on a pair of shoes that are 10 sizes too big and trying to run a marathon. It just doesn’t work. Those aren’t your shoes!

The majority of the women I work with want to be more confident. They want to believe they can do it, that they are doing a good job, and that they are good enough. They want to live and act from that space. The problem is they aren’t facing the reality that parts of them are still persuaded by beliefs that they aren’t good enough and that they aren’t going to make it. They are still holding on to the possibility that what they want to believe is not true.

Unless and until they unpack that circus, they will never be able to act from a genuine place of confident beliefs.

We have to look at those existing beliefs and get to a place where we can see them as just that. Choices were making and things we’re choosing to believe. We limit ourselves because we are not coming to new beliefs from a place of investment; rather, we are coming to a new belief from a place of uncertainty and exploration because we’re still committed to believing something else. We cannot create the life we want if we show up every day believing that law firms are unfriendly places for women, places where women can’t succeed as easily as men. That belief is never going to stop sucking part of your energy away from the true intended goal of building a practice you are happy in. That belief will always creep in and reinvest your energy in hopelessness.

If you are truly seeking success in your law firm, we have to start thinking about the law firm life differently.

We have to be open to the possibility that what we have been believing all along is not necessarily true. It’s just our opinion. It’s not factual and it is not serving us. In other words, we cannot shift any beliefs until we find ourselves in a place where we can see the old beliefs as what they are: bad choices that you’re no longer going to make. Not facts and clearly not places we choose to our energy. Only from there can we shift our energy to something new and start creating something new. To do otherwise is to divide our efforts and divide our energy and handicap yourself from the very beginning.

So there it is my friends, get to work looking at your ugly thinking and work on yourself from a place where you can see that all your beliefs about the situation are optional perceptions. You can choose something else. You can be open to the possibility that your perceptions are not the only truth available to you.

Work with me; schedule a free consult and let’s start dismantling your “thought” balls and chains so you can start creating lasting change.

Photo by Joey Kyber from Pexels

Making Peace

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What if it was supposed to teach you something critical?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by Donald Giannatti on Unsplash

Negative Feelings

There will be bad days.

One of the drawbacks of living in a society where everyone is so interconnected and everyone’s lives are constantly on display, is that it blurs the lines of reality.

If a Martian were to observe our society solely through the lens of Instagram or Facebook, they would believe that all humans are incredibly beautiful, happy, and blessed. They would believe that on our planet, we have wide variety of products that we can buy to solve all of our problems: products that will make our bodies beautiful and thin, our bank accounts fat, and our love life abundant.

Not only do these outlets influence our beliefs about ourselves but they perpetuate the belief that we should be happy all the time. If we are not happy all the time, we are out of the norm. Think about it — anytime we see someone who is visibly sad, our question to them is invariably:

What’s WRONG?

As if being unhappy in any moment means that something is wrong with you. Something must be fixed. In fact, you can probably throw some money at that unhappiness and “fix” it.

When we buy into the notion that we are supposed to be happy all the time, we freak out anytime we are not happy. We don’t know what to do with those emotions so we avoid them, we resist them, or we react to them. We get into a mad scramble to get rid of them ASAP.

For some people, negative emotions means that someone has done something to them. Someone else is to blame. They lash out with anger and defensiveness which seem much more productive and valid than feeling guilt or shame. Instead of recognizing their role in anything and feeling shame, they reject that emotion. They reject the idea that they are faulty and lash out at those around them. They react to the negative emotions in a way that creates more negative ripples in their life.

They REACT to and RESIST negative emotion and in turn just amplify their problems.

Others spend most of their time avoiding the negative emotions. They reach for anything they can to self soothe and dull the emotion. Bad day at work? Feeling like a failure? Go for that extra glass of wine and a piece of chocolate cake. You deserve it. You’ve had a bad day.

They AVOID negative emotions and bury them in substances or actions that generate dopamine. This eventually creates more problems (excess weight, overdrinking, overspending etc.)

We’ve all been guilty of an impulse splurge.

But what is really at work is our desire to NOT feel those negative emotions of shame, self-doubt, or fear.

Instead of experiencing them, we bury them in dopamine hits from sugar, alcohol, shopping, sex, whatever. Or we throw the negative back at those around us — they are the problem, not us.

This approach only works for brief periods of time. Like a boomerang or a beachball held under water, eventually both will gain force and resurface even stronger.

Once we are done with our little excursion of avoidance, those emotions are right there waiting for us.

Only now they are stronger because we have over-consumed, gained weight, feel hungover, made poor decisions, etc. and we have to face those consequences ON TOP of the negative emotions we were trying to avoid.

Around and around we go ultimately only increasing our negative experience through out acts of avoidance, resistance and reaction.

I recently had a free mini-session with a client who believed she was “fine”. No problems, no negative emotions to deal with. Every time we identified a negative thought and tried to discuss the associated emotion, she would immediately shift and offer the other pretty thoughts she was thinking instead. She immediately shifted to positivity any time a negative emotion came up:

I’m not always thinking I’m a horrible person and a failure, it just pops into my mind sometimes. I really think I’m a pretty good person.

Then, two weeks after our first session she had a complete burnt out meltdown. She fell into a black hole and eventually had to take time off work to regroup.

She had spent so much of her energy ignoring all her nagging, self-judging thoughts and suppressing the associated emotions, that eventually it blew up in her face.

It is not sustainable to paint over the ugly parts of our feelings and just pretend like they are not there. 

Now my work with her focuses on examining those negative emotions and thoughts and truly processing them rather than resisting them.

The point is that our lives are supposed to be an equal balance of positive and negative. Good emotions and bad emotions.

We know we are happy because we have experienced the emotion of sad. We know we are excited because we understand how it feels to dread something.

If we don’t open ourselves up to experiencing the negative, we can’t ever truly understand and appreciate the positive.

When we convince ourselves that we are supposed to be happy 100% of the time, we set ourselves up for failure. We set ourselves up to avoid, react to, or resist our negative emotions to “fix” them. In the end, all of those approaches only serve to make us more miserable! None of them resolve anything. They simply magnify the misery in the long run.

What I offer as a solution is to simply co-exist with negative emotions and understand that they are a part of the human experience.

Be open to experiencing all that is available to us in this life — the good and the bad.

If we can stop freaking out every time we have a negative emotion and we can simply experience it, it will diminish in power and eventually will pass. We can adjust our thinking to stop spinning in toxic thoughts.

Fully experiencing the bad days is so much more productive and easier than patching up the relationships we destroy when we react with blame and anger or losing the 15 pounds we gain when we avoid emotions through food or other outlets.

Recognize how you are handing your negative emotions and ask yourself: What is the worst that could happen if I just experienced this disappointment right now?

After all, it’s just a vibration in your body.

Whenever you catch yourself reaching for the chocolate cake or buying needlessly on Amazon, examine your predominant thought and emotion. Are you trying to make yourself “feel better”? How is that working out for your waistline and your bank account? What is you just experienced the emotion and journal about it instead of eating or shopping?

I spend a significant amount of my time supporting my clients to process their negative emotions and examine the impact their choices to resist/react/avoid are having on their lives and I challenge you to do the same.

The process isn’t hard, it’s what you discover once you start doing the work that might surprise you.

Photo by Austin Guevara from Pexels

You Can’t Do That

(and other nice things we tell ourselves)

We all have our baggage and ugly thoughts we carry around.

Even with all the skills I can teach you, you will never EVER do away with ugly thinking.

With practice, you can get better at shifting where possible. And, where that’s not possible, carry it with you.

My ugly bag of tricks includes these gems: What am I doing? You can’t do that. You need to lose some weight. You need to grow up. Your arms are terrible. You aren’t that funny. You are not nearly as cute as you think you are.

Join the human race and embrace your imperfect brain.

This who we are. We have ugly thoughts. All of us.

The question is, what are you going to do with yours? Are you going to carry them with you and soldier on or are you going to cozy up to them and tell them how right they are?

Our nasty thoughts about ourselves and our abilities are not isolated to us. We all do it.

We all have a choice about how we handle those nasty little gems. We can bow down to them or we can acknowledge our human-ness and pursue our dreams despite them.

The next time you see that person that seems to have it all together, I promise you they have their very own bag of garbage they are hauling around. Her brain is a dumpster fire sometimes too,  just like yours.

Stop beating yourself up when you realize your brain is causing all your problems. Get to work cleaning it up and being more present.

Recognize the ugly thoughts you are believing.

Stop running on auto-pilot.

Work through them, shift them, or acknowledge their presence and carry them with you to your success. Don’t allow them to be more important than they are.

They are just words in your head. Words you choose. Words you allow to be there.

You didn’t get the one faulty brain that was wired wrong. You got a human brain.

Welcome to the race.

Negativity Bias

If you hadn’t noticed lately, people’s brains are marinating in the negative. Everyone seems to want to spend their energy sifting through the negative possibilities of the coronavirus.

The markets will never recover

I could lose my job

I will never be able to retire

Thousands of people are going to die
We haven’t seen the worst of it yet

We are swimming in it. (Drowning in it might be a more apt description.) There is something magnetic about the negative news these days. Why is it that so many of us are drawn to it?

As with all things, I consulted, the Google box on this one:

Negativity bias” also known as the negativity effect, is the notion that, even when of equal intensity, things of a more negative nature (e.g. unpleasant thoughts, emotions, or social interactions; harmful/traumatic events) have a greater effect on one’s psychological state and processes than neutral or positive things.

When I think about our tendency to focus on the negative while giving lesser weight to equally significant positive data points, I can’t help but think about our motivational triad.

Our brains are designed to keep us alive. Historically, that meant one of three things: seek pleasure, avoid pain, expend the least amount of effort (be efficient!). What does that have to do with COVID and news-binging?

News-binging and catastrophizing fall into the category of avoiding pain (i.e., keeping us safe). Our brain believes that this information is keeping us safe. When we read about the latest coronavirus catastrophe, our brain is stimulated, our nervous system is excited. Our brain reacts more strongly and pays more attention to this stimuli. Why? Because our brains are wired to keep us safe; to avoid danger. Hence, negativity bias.

Ever noticed that when you read bad news you get this frenzied little buzz going on? You feel stimulated, compelled to consume more. Gather more data. Understand the situation better. Learn how to protect yourself better.

Why did that happen?

What would I do differently?

Am I similarly at risk?

We are biologically wired to scan the horizon for signs of crouching tigers. We are programmed to look for danger so that we can avoid it. Stay safe.

Our brains are looking at the news this same way. It is providing data that we need to understand to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe.

Does that mean it’s the best decision for you?

That’s for you to decide.

Is the amount of news you are consuming helping you?

How is it impacting you?

How is it negatively impacting you?

When you find yourself bogged down in negativity bias, I recommend that you acknowledge your biological efforts to keep yourself safe. I also recommend examining the positive inputs you might be overlooking.

Give both the positive and the negative equal air time.

Feel free to examine that worst case scenario swirling around your brain BUT also consider the best possible outcome. Aren’t they both equally possible? We don’t know what is going to happen or what these next few months will bring. What we do know is that our brains tend to focus on the worst possible outcome. Given that, shouldn’t we also give equal attention and energy to the best possible outcome?

If you are able to examine both the best possible outcome as well as the worst possible outcome and accept that reality will likely end somewhere in the middle of that spectrum, you can approach the days and your life with more perspective.

If you can come to terms with both the worst possible outcome and the best possible outcome, you will be able to accept anything in between those two. You will be mentally and emotionally equipped to deal with the most likely outcome, somewhere in the middle.

Help your brain identify the balance of possibilities that it is overlooking. Help yourself find some balance between reality and the full range of possible outcomes. Recognize your natural tendency toward the negative.

For more support finding balance during times of chaos, schedule a free consultation. I am helping my clients find more peace and balance despite the world’s current uncertainties. I am helping my clients move forward despite the fear. Sign up and get your life back on track.

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.

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.

Sometimes, Life Stinks (here’s why that’s a good thing)

Lately, I have been spending a lot of time focusing on the notion that life is supposed to be rough, 50% of the time. It brings to my mind the ancient Yin Yang symbol. The Yin Yang can be interpreted, literally to mean “shady side” and “sunny side” and stands for the idea that two opposite dualities create the balanced whole. The Tao Te Ching describes the same:

“When people see things as beautiful, ugliness is created. When people see things as good, evil is created.”  One cannot exist without the other.

In our modern lives, these ancient concepts mean that there is a higher purpose for our negative experiences and emotions. If that is so, why is it that so many of us spend our lives trying to avoid and resist negative emotions? In honor of this concept, I’ve been spending more time examining negative emotions in my life. Specifically, I have been trying to better understand what it means to experience negative emotion – where is it located in my body? What do I do when I feel that emotion? How do I act? How do I show up? What is going on in my head that is creating that feeling?

One of the most common misconceptions so many of us have about our lives is that everything should be good – better – happier.

Everyone just wants to be happy. Your marriage should be happy, parents should be supportive, family members should be loving. Abuse should not happen, infidelity should not occur, etc. These thoughts that our lives “should be” happier are toxic. They cause us to resist the bad bits of life, to struggle against negative experiences and emotions, to bury them and avoid them. When we are feeling upset about life, we tell ourselves It wasn’t supposed to be this way. This was not supposed to happen. Or we make ourselves the victim of our circumstances. I was the victim of abuse. My horrible boss fired me. None of these actions or thoughts create happiness. They just perpetuate the misery until it resurfaces again.

So what is so bad about these emotions that we have to run from them and bury them? What is so bad about being angry? What is so bad about feeling sad? It’s just a vibration in our bodies. It stems from our thoughts about neutral circumstances.

What so many of us struggle to see is that negative emotions and experiences are the foundation of a happy life.

If we didn’t know the pains of loss, we wouldn’t be able to understand and experience love. If we hadn’t experienced anxiety, we wouldn’t be able to appreciate or even identify feelings of peacefulness. In other words, if our lives were 100% positive all the time, that positivity would lose its value. It would no longer mean anything to us. We would not be able to see those positive experiences and emotions for what there are – they are a departure from sadness, loss, guilt, fear, etc. Happiness and positive emotions exist only in the absence of the negative and vice versa. Yin and yang.

So why, then, is it that so many of us spend our lives trying to avoid negative emotions and feelings? What are we so afraid of? I have clients that want so much more in their lives but they aren’t willing to take action because they are afraid they will fail.

They are afraid of what the failure will feel like.

In order to avoid embarrassment, guilt and shame, they simply choose not to take action at all. Because they are afraid of those negative vibrations in their bodies. Many of us are driven by avoidance of those negative emotions. We buffer them with work, exercise, alcohol, blame, etc. just to try and create a jolt of happiness or distraction to cover up the negative emotions underneath. Others make themselves victims rather than face their negative feelings of embarrassment or shame. They never truly own the fact that they are feeling embarrassed or shameful and can’t recognize that it’s okay to experience those emotions—it’s part of the human experience. They make excuses and buffer so that they can forget and ignore the feelings. But this never works! It just delays the inevitable meltdown.

Similarly, some of my clients are dreaming big. They want more for themselves – bigger houses, more money, more prestigious jobs, etc. When we work through those dreams, what we ultimately find is that they want those things because of how they believe they will feel once they achieve those things. Feelings of worthiness, pride, peace, etc.  Only once they achieve those goals will they allow themselves to think positively about themselves and experience those emotions. So they strive toward those goals, looking for an external source of internal positivity.

In the end, whether you are acting towards your dreams or not acting towards you dreams, you are being driven by your feelings –feelings you want to have or feelings you are avoiding.

Now consider that everything you feel is the product of your thoughts. You can choose to think thoughts that create peace, pride or worthiness. You don’t need to wait for an external event to think thoughts that will generate those emotions. One the other hand, if your thoughts are creating feelings of worthlessness or shame, how is that so scary? It’s just a thought creating sensations in your body. Those thoughts are not truths and those feelings are not going to hurt you. 

Now this doesn’t mean that we should automatically replace all of our negative thinking with positive thoughts so that we can feel happy all the time. That is directly inconsistent with the premise that life is 50-50 and that we can’t have the good without the bad.

But what is so essential is being able to accept that sometimes you will feel negative emotions and that is okay.

What’s more, you recognize your negative emotions and positive emotions and learn what thoughts are creating those outcomes. We can gain so much understanding about our lives and our experiences if we can become better stewards of our minds and our emotions. This doesn’t mean that we replace negative thoughts with positive thoughts, what it means is that we become intimate acquaintances with negative emotions. That we learn the thoughts that are generating those emotions so that we can learn more about ourselves. Certainly at some point you may be able to start adjusting those thoughts to stop creating negative emotions but at that point, you will have a deeper understanding of those negative emotions and they will no longer hold you back. Once you become intimate acquaintances with anxiety, for instance, you will no longer fear that emotion, it will no longer control you. You will be able to recognize it and choose how you move and act when you are feeling the emotion of anxiety. You will reclaim the driver’s seat.

For example, Sunday evenings are often anxiety-ridden for me. On Sunday nights, my weekend to-do list resurfaces and I start feeling guilty about all the things I did not accomplish over the weekend. Then, I inevitably tell myself that instead of relaxing with my partner, I “should” tackle a few more things on my list. Then I start feeling guilty about my lack of accomplishments, and then I start feeling guilty for not being present with my partner, and then I beat myself up for my inability to relax, and thus the cycle begins! Whenever I am feeling this way, I snap at my partner and criticize him, I pull away from him and don’t show up as the partner I want to be. Then, after I have sufficiently beaten myself down, I get up and started running around, an anxiety-fueled speed demon trying to get 10,000 things done at once so I can feel like I am worthy and productive. All the while this goes on, I beat myself up, telling myself what a terrible partner I am and how I should be better to him, and I should be more organized, and around and around it goes.

Lately, I have been focusing on simply sitting with this anxiety. I know it is coming and when it does, I just sit with it and feel it in my body….a tightness in my chest, a dull headache and dizziness, a slightly racing heart. I just sit still and feel those sensations in my body. As I sit there, I observe the thoughts swirling around my brain and resist the urge to spring up and get to action in an attempt to make myself feel better (buffering!). Instead, I just sit there, watch the thoughts, feel the sensations in my body and introduce myself to my friend, anxiety. Hello, my friend, I see that you have arrived once again. That’s okay. Come sit with me awhile…

It has been transformational to observe this from a removed perspective. I had no idea how strong the urge to act and buffer against those negative emotions was for me. I was so used to letting those thoughts and feelings switch me into auto-pilot. Since starting this work, I have been able to overcome the visceral urge to jump up and do something to “make myself feel better.” Instead, I just identify all the negative things in my mind that were making me feel terrible. As I sat there and watched them, it was like they lost their power. I no longer felt anxious or scared and the urge to act slipped away like an afterthought. The chatter in my brain dimmed. I was still left with my knowledge of those negative thoughts but the power of that emotion of anxiety waned significantly and I was able to show up and be more present while carrying the weight of those thoughts and feelings with me. I have no doubt that this will continue to be a challenge for me but I am lessening the fear of that feeling of anxiety. I am learning to identify it and just live with it – it doesn’t have to control me or drive my actions like  a mad woman. It is just a part of my life sometimes and that is okay. I can carry it with me and be just fine. I can just be still with it and learn to better understand it. Maybe someday I will be able to let go of those thoughts creating my Sunday night anxieties but for now, we are still getting to know each other.

Are you being driven by negative emotions? What could experiencing, rather than resisting or buffering negative emotions do for you? Have you considered which of your thoughts are creating those feelings? The answer may surprise you!

Experiencing negative emotions is the most valuable skill I can teach my clients. Coach with me and let me show you how this skill can change your life!

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?