Never Enough Time

“I never have enough time.”

I hear that comment every week from many of my clients. As women, we have so many hats that we wear — wife, partner, mother, sister, daughter, friend, boss, advisor, career-woman. We inevitably have a ton of things on our plate, it’s no surprise that we are periodically overwhelmed with life and all that is demands of us.

One of the reasons so many of my clients struggle with time management is because of the expectations they put upon themselves. In order to become a lawyer and snag that great position at that amazing firm, we bust our asses. We have grit and tenacity and that is what gets us to this place.

That grit and tenacity is also what sets us up for this battle with time. 

We know we can do hard things. We know we can put our noses to the grindstone and make it happen so we never stop trying to achieve more. As you know, I am a huge advocate for goals, in general, but my question to all overachievers is this: What is your why? Why are you doing all those things? What will it get you?

What are you looking for?

For many of us, we have spent the majority of our lives chasing the dream of becoming a lawyer. When we get there, the excitement that comes with achievement doesn’t last very long and we end up right back where we started — looking for some other mountain to climb.

The rationale for this pursuit, is typically that my clients are looking for something to make them feel fulfilled. They want to find something that will bring purpose and meaning to their lives. They want to feel like they have succeeded.

That. Never. Works. Many of my clients spend years pursuing accomplishment after accomplishment only to feel empty all over again once each new accomplishment high wears off. The truth is that those things outside of ourselves will never give us the purpose and happiness we seek. We have exclusive authority over our sense of purpose and happiness. Piling on goals and tasks and achievements will not only fail to give you that sense of pride you are seeking, it will bog you down and overwhelm your life. It will prevent you from being able to see and appreciate everything you have accomplished because you will always be distracted by the things you failed to do–the cleaning that you didn’t get done, that email to your new client that you wanted to get out, that phone call to your friend for her birthday. You will always be clouded by self-judgement because you have set yourself up for failure.

Part of this is driven by imposter syndrome. We haven’t internalized our worthiness so we seek outward validation that we belong. We don’t believe we are good enough to be here so we try to manufacture feedback confirming that we DO belong, that we are good enough. Implicitly, we care more about what others think about us than what we think about ourselves. We put the wants and needs of others (and thus their opinions of us) before our wants and needs for ourselves. Self care goes out the window and over-achieving pushes down the throttle. It’s no wonder that so many of my clients are overwhelmed with their self-created pressures.

At the end of a busy day, my clients are frustrated by all the things they DIDN’T get done. They spend zero time considering all of the things they DID get done and all of the ways the day was a huge success. Instead of committing to drink more water every day and get their billable hours in on time, they commit to reading a new book every week, working out four times a week, walking the dogs every day, cooking dinner three nights a week, and calling their mom every Thursday. We pile so much on that it would be impossible for any human to keep up. We set ourselves up for the complaint — I never have enough time.

You will never “have enough time” when the expectations you are putting on yourself are unreasonable.

Read that again.

It is not about not having enough time. It is about what you are choosing to pile on your plate and why!

Whenever you find yourself thinking that you don’t have enough time, I challenge you to take a hard look at all the things you have put on your list and ask yourself “why” for each and every one. Why do you think you need to cook a fresh meal every night of the week, why do you need a read the newspaper every day, why are you committing to a book club? Underneath all of our to-do list tasks are often a series of shoulds as well as a desire to feel accomplished and have others see you that way as well.

Are those good enough reasons for you to run this hard?

You are amazing, just as you are, without anything more. But unless and until you believe that, you will also be pursuing an unattainable form of happiness. You will never “have enough time.” It all comes down to our relationship with ourselves. If you aren’t investing in that relationships first, everything else you are doing in this life is just noise.

Stop this madness and start reconnecting with your intrinsic value. Sign up for a free session and let’s see if we can get to the root of this mania and find you more time for real happiness.

I’m Not Going To Make It

When we look around at our live and see all that we have, it is important to recognize where it all came from. How you were able to create it.

As attorneys, it’s easy to look to our law school education as one of our greatest accomplishments. Have you ever thought back to that time and considered what you were thinking that got you through it? What were you believing about yourself that propelled you through those 5-hour finals?

Have you ever considered the opposite end of the spectrum? Consider some of your struggles in life. Times when you weren’t showing up in a way that you were proud of or times when you threw in the towel. What were you believing about yourself in those times?

Our beliefs about ourselves and our abilities bubble below the surface in everything that we do.

I can support you to identify your negative thinking patterns and shift to some prettier thinking but if the beliefs you have about yourself are toxic, none of our work will stick.

What we believe about ourselves and our abilities are often based upon our past experiences. What we were taught, what we have learned about ourselves from events 5, 10, 15 years ago. The truth is that none of that is relevant today. There is no reason our pasts have any bearing on our abilities today.

We can choose to believe anything we want to believe by ourselves.

We are not constrained by our pasts.

There is no universal truth about your ability to create the life you want to. It all depends upon whether or not you believe you can do it.

Many of my clients set big goals for themselves and whenever they are faced with challenge, their brain immediately offers them those deeply ingrained beliefs about themselves. I just don’t have what it takes. I’m not cut out for this. I’m not smart enough. I’m not good enough.

We have so many beliefs like these rolling around our brains, running automatically in the background like elevator music behind everything we do and everything positive thought we try to believe. We treat these words as if they are facts. There is a part of us that believes those statements about our abilities are true.

Unless and until you can identify and address your negative beliefs about yourself, you will never be able to achieve you dreams.

This is why so many of us achieve big things but those accomplishments never hit our radar. We finished law school, we landed that major clerkship, we got the job at prestigious firm but we still don’t feel fulfilled and we don’t feel happy. We barely pause for a moment to recognize the achievement because we still don’t believe we deserve it. We believe we aren’t worthy or good enough. We’re impostors and they will find us out! Those thoughts are playing in the background and drown out any positive interpretations of our accomplishments.

The accomplishments never make us feel better because our negative beliefs about ourselves jump in and remind us that it is never going to work. So many of us spend our lives caught in this cycle, constantly achieving and reaching goals but never feeling fulfilled.

The first step in learning to believe new things about yourself is to recognize the negative beliefs you are carrying around.

Take a look at them and see them for what they are: optional thoughts. Choices you are making.

Do you want to continue to believe those things?

Are those beliefs serving you?

How would your life be different if you chose to believe something different?

Second, allow yourself some grace for those thought errors.

You are human and your brain is really good and repeating those thought to keep you safe and cozy. There is nothing wrong with you. Recognizing that your brain has this thought pattern, is not a free pass to dive into another batch of negative self-talk about yourself. These negative thought patterns are normal; don’t beat yourself up for having them.

Third, force yourself to argue with the thought.

What if I am good enough?

What if I can  do this?

What if I can figure it out?

Let those questions lead your brain to some better fodder.

Finally, choose an alternative belief about yourself that does serve you and your goals.

Consider these suggestions:

It’s not what we do—it’s who we are.

There is nothing wrong with you.

You are enough.

Sometimes I doubt myself and that’s okay, I am learning to be more confident.

Nothing has gone wrong here.

I’m responsible for everything I think and feel.

My purpose is the life I am living now.

If you don’t do this work of recognizing and addressing those closely held beliefs you have about yourself and your worthiness, you will always be striving toward your goals while dragging a ball and chain.

Stop fighting yourself and get on the same team.

Get support for free by signing up for a free mini-session. I reserve three slots a week–get yours before it’s gone!

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Managing Overwhelm

One of the primary reasons that my clients struggle with the practice of law is that they often feel like their life is out of control.

Their time and their practice is completely out of their hands. There’s a general feeling of helplessness and overwhelm. As if every moment, every lull in workflow is just another calm before the storm where there is too much work and no room to breathe.

We want to believe that we don’t have any control. We want to believe that work overload just happens to us and we have no role to play in it.

But that is only true if you decide to make it true.

In every moment of every day we have control over ourselves and the choices that we make. We decide how to handle every task that comes to us. We choose whether to do the work or not do the work. Rationally, we all know this to be true. But when we are stuck in the midst of the chaos and struggling to keep afloat, how do we silence the chaos and harness our own agency?

When we are swimming in overwhelming thoughts about our workload, it can be difficult to see the forest for the trees. Given this, my recommendation is very simple:

Get brutally honest.

Write down everything that you are telling yourself you “have” to do. Make a long list of all the things that are overwhelming you. Next to each project write the deadline BUT only include true, factual deadlines. When a partner emails you and says “We really need to get this out today,” that is not a real deadline. That is a preference; a request; a hope. For purposes of this exercise, we note that project’s deadline as “TBD.”

Get all the facts.

For all of those projects whose deadlines are TBD, we develop a communication strategy with the goal being additional fact-finding. We need to determine whether this is a  real deadline or not and whether there is flexibility in how we prioritize this item.

This may require you to contact the partner or the client and express to them where this request falls with respect to your other factual deadlines. Let them know that you want to do a good job and give the project the attention it requires but, given your other deadlines, you are concerned you won’t be able to give it the attention it deserves.

Be honest and focused on the goal: you want to find a way to good work for everyone and you don’t want to give any project short-shrift unless there is absolutely no alternative.

Eliminate and prioritize.

Whenever we start to think “there’s too much work to do,” our brain simply piles on. That email you have been sitting on for a week is suddenly an emergency to your brain; it MUST be dealt with today!

We have to stop this avalanche of “to dos” right in its tracks. If, after completing your list in Step 1 and assigning fact-based deadlines in Step 2, you have a project that is still TBD or unclear, that project gets moved to a NEW list: the Wouldn’t It Be Nice list.

We all have those little nagging projects that we just put off and put off and once things get heated we suddenly make that project a massive, career-making or -breaking priority. Stop doing that. Do not let the overwhelm create an avalanche of tasks. Know what projects are not priorities in this moment and move on. You don’t have to do it all today. You can prioritize real deadlines today and prioritize your Wouldn’t It Be Nice list on another day.

Recognize your limits.

Do not allow yourself to believe that there is no way to get help or support. I often hear my clients tell me “there’s no one who is able to help….everyone else is super busy too…my paralegal isn’t any help…my secretary can’t do that.” Those statements only keep you stuck. They make you the victim to your to do list. Do not believe that any of those statements are true unless and until you have asked for and allowed in support.

You do not and should not have to do it all on your own. (Rinse and repeat.)

You will be a better lawyer and a better team mate if you learn to recognize your limits and ask for help when you need it. If you want to believe that there is no help available to you, I challenge you to investigate the truth of that statement. Maybe it’s true and maybe it’s not but my guess is that you aren’t even open to the possibility of asking to see if there is any truth to that belief.

If you want to believe there is no help available for you, prove it to yourself first. You owe it to your sanity.

An ounce of prevention….

Even before the workload heats up, there are things that you can do to take control over your practice. In order to do that you have to decide what you want your practice to look like–are there certain clients you don’t want to work with? Are there partners you want to avoid? Is there an area of law you want to focus on? Is there an area of law you want to move away from?

If you don’t know where you want to go, you allow yourself to be at the mercy of others and where they want your practice to go.

Early on in my practice, I had a partner who told me that she wanted me to work only on her projects, within her specialty. She didn’t want me to expand my work into other areas of the group; she wanted me to become an expert in her specialty and her clients. Not only did I not want to work exclusively for this partner for a variety of personal and professional reasons, I did not like her type of clients. I wanted to have a broad understanding of our practice area as a whole because I knew that someday I would leave that firm and I didn’t not want to set myself up for a hiring handicap by limiting my experience. I organized a meeting with the other partners in the group and the practice group chair and I told them what I wanted for my career–a well-rounded practice with full exposure to all of our clients and sub-specialties. And that is what I got. Had it not been for that moment, I would never have had the skillset I needed to move on and found my own practice group serving all areas of specialty.

Make a decision about where you want your practice to go and commit to it for at least a year. You can always change your mind later. Do not allow room for thoughts that this will limit you in the future. This is not only intended to allow you to focus your efforts but is also intended to insulate you from project overload.

When you identify where you want your practice to go and you voice that desire to your partners, you have established an order of priority for your work. You permit those partners that you WANT to work with to see you as their “go to.” It will be understood that they get first priority over your time and it sends a message to others to keep their “busy work” projects for other associates.

Rather than waiting in fear that you will get buried in work that you don’t want to do, seek out a stream of work that you WANT to do and continually work to keep that plate full. When your plate is full for a particular partner or client, you can better anticipate the ebbs and flows and practice defensively–keeping your plate full of work you WANT in order to avoid others filling it with work you DON’T want.

In the middle of work overload? Take advantage of a free session, and let’s get your head right.

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Too Much To Do

Would it surprise you to know that we make approximately 35,000 choices every day? Once you factor in the amount of time we spend sleeping, that means that we are making thousands of decisions every hour. It’s no wonder that we are  exhausted at the end of every day.

There are many ways people make decisions in every moment. What I find interesting is that so many of us are willing to hand over those decisions to others. Rather than making a conscious decision, we (subconsciously decide to) answer to whomever or whatever is immediately before us.

Part of being a skilled attorney is the ability to answer to many masters and juggle various projects all at once. But what I often see is that when those masters ratchet up the heat and those juggling balls become flaming wands, all decision-making goes out the door. Instead, in that instance, we hand over our agency, put our heads down, and just keep taking the blows.

In those moments, it may feel like you don’t have a choice. That this is just part of the job. But the truth is that you are making a choice in that moment–to answer the phone, to say yes to that new project, to respond to that email. You are choosing to allow whatever is in front of you to slide into the front of your priority line.

The nature of having various projects on your desk at any given time is that you are going to have to make decisions about which projects to handle first and where new projects fall with respect to your already strained attention. When we allow our project list and the demands of those around us to overwhelm us, we wear out our resolve. We simply run out of clear-thinking. At that point, we just keep drinking from the fire hose until it calms down.

What I offer is a different choice: put in the legwork ahead of time to minimize the decisions to be made in any given moment.

We make decisions ahead of time so that there is no decision to be made in the heat of the moment or, if there is a decision to be made, it is simplified. This means planning in advance from our prefrontal cortex (i.e., fully functioning, good decision-making adult-y brain) instead of allowing our primitive brain (i.e., a tantrum-y, capricious, toddler brain) to make any decisions whatsoever. With my weight loss clients, this means planning meals in advance. For my other clients, this means setting priorities and scheduling each of our to-do list items on our calendars.

We know that work is going to get crazy and we make decisions ahead of time what gets our attention that day; we don’t invite the toddler to the dumpster fire.

When we go into each month, each week, and each day, knowing our priorities, we can get to work the minute we sit down.

There is no need to agonize over the to-do list or make ANY decisions about what you are going to work on or when you are going to check your email. We’ve already decided what is important and everything else has gotten it’s own place on our calendar. There is no decision-fatigue because the most important decision of the day has been made: where we are going to focus our energy.

Having avoided that decision-fatigue you will have the energy to re-evaluate any new project or fire that comes your way. For each item presented to you for your attention, you can decide:

How does this compare to my priority for the day? Is it consistent with my priority? Why or why not? Does this new project require heightened priority?

Those are the only decisions to be made. We don’t have to step into the pool of overwhelm about all the other projects on our list; we don’t even have to look at the whole list. The only metric for comparison in that moment is your priority for the day.

If the new project conflicts with your priority and there is no justification for reshuffling priorities, then you either don’t take the new project or you decide if you have other open time on your calendar for that project. When our priorities are clear and when our non-priorities are scheduled out on our calendars, we know exactly how much availability we have and we know exactly whether we will be able to fit in anything new.

This approach does not allow room for: When am I going to get this all done?! I can’t say no to this project. I’m never going to have enough time!

If you find your days regularly hi-jacked by surprise projects and feel overwhelmed by your to-do list, I encourage you to implement mechanisms to start minimizing the decisions you make in every moment. That will require you to get clear on your project list–What is a priority? What are the real deadlines? What can wait? Do I have to say yes to this?

Set priorities in anticipation of the chaos that comes with practicing law.

You will get pulled in various directions.

You will be challenged to “do it all.”

Don’t hand over your power.

Don’t offer your day to the mercy of others. Make decisions about your time and your priorities and evaluate everything else from there. Make decisions ahead of time so that you are better equipped to make decisions in the moment.

Need support getting your daily practice in order? I offer three free sessions every week to get you back on track–sign up now before they are gone.

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Overwhelm (it’s not the email)

You know that feeling….

It’s 4:30 on Friday you are just starting to timidly believe that you are going to get out of the office before 6pm, you start to allow yourself to get excited because you are meeting your law school friends for happy hour and your significant other will be joining you later and taking you out for dinner at your favorite restaurant. Finally, a fun Friday night with the people you love. It’s been a long week!

Then your office phone rings and it is your best work friend in the middle of a complete pre-working-all-weekend cataclysmic meltdown. Just as you are about to begin telling her not to quit, you can do this…. “that” partner darkens your doorway. You quickly get her off the phone, promise to call her back, and internally cringe as the partner asks you if you could take a look as these “few sections” of this Stock Purchase Agreement blah blah blah, “I just emailed you with a link to the diligence room”, hands you a 60 page SPA and promptly exists. You glance at his email and it asks for a response by tomorrow morning (Saturday for those of you not tracking…). Then your phone lights up, it’s your boyfriend asking you where the dog food is and could you make sure to put milk on the grocery list. Also, what should he wear tonight? As you are just starting to process what just happened, your paralegal shows up and jumps right into discussing a project you gave her a week ago that she is “struggling with” as she launches into a long and detailed explanation and plants herself in your office chair and you sit there, dumbfounded wondering what the heck she is talking about, how can I get her to stop talking without screaming…and what the F just happened?

Then it sets in.

For me, overwhelm feels like hot compression of my chest and a ringing sound, like after a bomb goes off and your ears are trying to adjust. It’s the worst.

We’ve all been there. In the moment, it’s easy to believe that all of these “things” happening to us are what is causing that sickening, tight feeling. The truth is that none of that is true. That feeling is caused 1000% by your thoughts. You are doing this to yourself.

The email saying “I need you to respond by 11am Saturday” is not making you feel that way. In fact, that circumstance alone is not particularly anxiety-inducing. It’s just words. On a page.

What is anxiety inducing is the thought “There is no way I’m going to get this done in time…I’m going to have to cancel all of my plans…I really needed tonight, I really needed this break, it’s been such a long week…I’m so tired of this BS…I can’t believe you did this to me, AGAIN!…I don’t have time for all of this…how am I going to get all this done?!…you didn’t even think to ask me if I have time!…

THOSE nasty little sentences are what get your heart racing. It’s not the events going on around you. It’s not the email.

Add to it, thoughts about the other circumstance “C’mon Karen, you have a meltdown every week, I don’t have time for this…if I don’t call her back when she needs me, I’m a terrible friend…I have to call her back, she is so upset…I don’t have time to call her back, I need to figure out what I’m going to do…I can’t deal with her right now…she is so dramatic…she is going to hate me if I don’t call her back..” and then the thoughts about the boyfriend “Seriously, why can’t he find things on his own?! I’m at work, I don’t have time to tell you where everything is, look for it yourself, GDI!…can’t you pick up some milk and while you’re at it, get the other groceries, why do I have to do everything!?

You end up with a ton of emotions racing through your body at the same time: fear, anger, guilt, anxiety, judgment, shame, indignation. These ingredients cause overwhelm, like a pot boiling over, your brain can’t handle the sudden influx of feels!

This cacophony in your brain is what is creating that feeling of overwhelm. It is not your boyfriend, your tearful colleague, the partner, or the email. You are doing it to yourself.

So how do we turn down the noise and sort through overwhelm?

First, recognize that it is your thoughts doing this to you. It is not the circumstances. That email does not reach out of the screen and make your heart palpitate. It’s impossible. So let’s look at the real cause: you have to get the thoughts out. This leads us to step 2:

Step 2: Exercise the demons.

If you had a bat in your attic, you wouldn’t simply close the door and continue to let it bang around up there. You would get it out and then figure out how the F it got in there. Take 5 minutes to breathe and write down every single thought that is banging around up there — get them out. Do not judge them. Do not censor them. Just get them into black and white.

Step 3: Look at them! Separate the thoughts from the facts. You are lawyer, you know facts when you see them. Cut out all the adjectives, adverbs and subjective statements and isolate the facts. Highlight them. Then look at all the lovely thoughts you are having about those facts.

Step 4: Lawyer them to death. Challenge each of those thoughts. Argue it. Question it. Present the opposite side. If you are thinking “If I don’t respond to that email by tomorrow at noon, I am going to get fired,” ask is that true?

Argue with yourself–If I don’t respond by tomorrow at 11am, I am NOT going to get fired and here’s why…. 

For each thought, ask “how is this thought serving me right now?”  Is it helpful for you to think, If I blow this off he is going to be pissed! What’s point?!

The majority of these thoughts are not serving you. Sure, some of them might be true but what is the upside of thinking them and focusing on them?! What is that getting you?

Is it helping you get the work done? Is it helping you triage the situation? I doubt it.

You don’t wander around telling everyone about that time you completely missed the deadline on that IRS filing for a client. It might be a fact but what is the point of carrying it around with you?

Just because it might be true, doesn’t make it useful.

Ask yourself “So what?

If I have to cancel my happy hour with my friends, they will be disappointed….so what? Will they stop being your friend? Can they handle being disappointed? Will it kill them to be disappointed? Will it kill you to allow them to be disappointed? Asking yourself “so what?” forces you to examine the worst case scenario and look at all the drama your brain is offering you. Stop with the drama and start really looking at the reality of the situation. Your friends will understand. They will get over it. They might be sad. They are grownups and they can relate. So what if your perfectly planned Friday night doesn’t work out? So what?

For each thought in your head argue the opposite. If you are thinking “I have to call my friend back, she was in tears!” Challenge yourself to argue the opposite. Do you really have to call her back? What if you didn’t? Do you really need to spend all night working on the SPA review? Can you make an argument that you can do it more efficiently (once you clear all this junk out of your brain)? Do you really need to cancel all your plans or are you just being dramatic?

Whenever we are feeling overwhelmed it’s because we have a series of competing thoughts in our brain that each are causing some form of negative emotion. Those thoughts and feeling converge and we lose our $#!+.

Stop blaming the circumstances around you for those feelings.

Own your role in this. Recognize the source of your feelings and get to work watching and questioning your thoughts. You are lawyer. People pay you to argue. Put that fancy degree to work and start arguing with the ridiculous statements in your head.

Don’t be a pawn to your own drama. You got this.

Whenever you’re ready, there are three great ways to take your work on your career and your brain deeper.

  1. Sign up for one of my 6-week programs that will take you from overwhelm to happiness.
  2. Sign up for a 12-week program that not only provides you with the tools to improve your happiness but more concrete tools to transform your legal practice.
  3. Sign up for free coaching consultation.

Learn more here.

The Standards We Keep

With New Year’s Eve and new resolutions fast approaching, I have been thinking a lot about the challenges that often accompany new year’s resolutions. We can be our best advocate or our worst enemy. For many of my clients, they unwittingly choose to break themselves down instead of building themselves up. We place all sorts of expectations on ourselves and keep “manuals” on how we are supposed to go through this life but we don’t confront those manuals.

Too often we subscribe to the notion that there is a right way to “do life.”

I had a client named Grace who had a knack for setting and achieving huge goals. She had tremendous success in her life but periodically found herself spinning with indecision and inaction. When I asked her what was going on in her head she said that she was stuck in a “battle of shoulds”… “I should be focusing on my business but at the same time I should be focusing on my relationship and also making time to remodel and sell my house.” When I pressed her to explain what the problem was, it wasn’t simply a matter of stress or feeling overwhelmed. Instead, her predominant feeling was guilt. She was swimming in shame and guilt and it was paralyzing her.

As we worked through her thoughts, we uncovered a deep-seated and oppressive set of expectations she had placed upon herself. In her manual for herself, she was not supposed to be stressed. She was supposed to be able to handle everything in stride without batting an eyelash. She was not supposed to be overwhelmed despite the convergence of some very monumental events in her life—she was moving and selling a home and creating a new business and starting a new relationship and starting a new job all at the same time. She was “supposed” to be able to compartmentalize her life and schedule everything out in an orderly fashion for maximum efficiencies. She was “supposed to” have enough time to focus on everything. And do it with a smile on her face.

As she was struggling to juggle it all and take it in stride, she was beating herself up for being exhausted and worn out. She was unwilling to recognize that her life was changing significantly and that it would be a challenge to keep it all in play. She was unwilling to cut herself some slack even just for a few weeks while everything else got sorted. She was vehemently resisting the chaos and pushing back against the stress she was feeling. She was so hard on herself and had put such incredible expectations on herself that she was just swimming in guilt and self-deprecation. She should be doing better…handling this better…getting everything done…shouldn’t be feeling like this etc. She was truly invested in her belief that she should be able to handle it all without any problem at all and without taking anything off her ‘to do’ list. When I asked her why it bothered her so much to allow some things to go to the back burner for a few weeks while she carried out some of these transitions, she said doing so made her feel like a failure. Like she was a quitter. She felt guilty for giving up. She should be able to do it all.

Guilt is the flower that grows from self-judgment. Life is not always going to lend itself to perfect order. Sometimes it’s messy and chaotic. That is life.

By struggling against that reality, you invite yourself to judge yourself. To judge your ability to “handle it.” People get so stuck in the thoughts that It shouldn’t be like this, it should be easier. They blame themselves when things get hard and they struggle. Those self-judgments create ugly emotions that inhibit our ability to work through life’s challenges with grace and dignity. When we indulge in those emotions, we fail to grow from life’s challenges. This is the emotional equivalent of putting our heads in the sand.

Grace wanted to show up strong and compassionate and flexible—willing to ride the rollercoaster and do her best to keep everything moving. To accept that challenge and recognize that it might be stressful and tiring and that was okay. To bend but not break in the middle of the hurricane. To allow things to give where necessary.

That was far from her reality. Instead she was beating herself up for the struggle and challenges she was facing. She felt shameful and depressive because she believed It shouldn’t be this hard, I should be able to handle it. She was not riding the waves of change but instead she was drowning in them because her guilt and shame kept her from making any real progress.

By simply bringing awareness to the “manual” she was maintaining for herself, Grace was able to cultivate thoughts of compassion and love for herself. She approached herself gently and accepted that these next few weeks could not be reduced to a simple schedule. She opened herself up to the unknown and approached her life from a place of peace and love, accepting the challenges as they came.

Embrace uncertainty but do not take guilt and self-judgment along for the journey. Allow yourself to let go and loosen up and ride the waves. Life was never meant to be calm waters all the time.

This year, make a resolution to be kinder to yourself. To love yourself and have compassion for yourself, including your weaknesses. Choose to make an investment in you.

Cheers to a new year!