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.


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Why You Are Frustrated

At the core of this work is accepting that our emotions are wholly created by our thoughts. That whenever we are experiencing any feeling, it is because of the thoughts we are having. So if we find ourselves experiencing an emotion that we don’t want, it is up to us to shift our thinking to generate a new emotion IF we want to be feeling differently about a situation.

Logically, this makes sense to us but in the heat of the moment, it is often incredibly challenging to remove ourselves from the experience and examine our role. I remember one instance many years ago when I was just starting this work. At the time my partner had just moved into my home with his dog and my 2 dogs to create The Brady Bunch of dog families. I had lovingly decorated my home with beautiful blinds and floor-to-ceiling curtains that accentuated the high ceilings and 100-year-old architecture of my home. One morning, I was enjoying a leisurely breakfast and looked over to my white linen curtains and realized that the bottom half of one of the curtains was yellow. I quickly began investigating and realized that my boyfriend’s male dog had been consistently marking this particular curtain in the dining room…and when I say “marking” that is my eloquent attempt to say that the dog had been pissing all over the nice things in my home. I was livid.

Later that day, I was talking to my coach about it and I explained to her how frustrated I was that this dog was ruining all the nice things in my home! She very simply asked me, “Do you want to feel frustrated about this?” Emphatically, my answer was NO.

Then she asked, “So why are you frustrated about it?” Naturally, I once again launched into my rant about the horrible dog destroying the house (because clearly, she wasn’t getting it) and she started to laugh.

She was laughing because it was pretty clear that I believed the dog was what was making me feel terrible rather than my thoughts about this dog peeing in my house. From there I went on to realize that while I can certainly choose frustration about this experience in my life, I didn’t want to be frustrated about it. Truly, I wanted to not be frustrated and show up more proactively in my life. I didn’t want to let this dog get the best of me and cause friction in my relationship. That was the crux of the issue.

If I wanted to not be frustrated about the situation I was going to have to accept the possibility that there was more than one way of thinking about it. It didn’t mean that there wasn’t validity to my thoughts that were making me frustrated but what it meant was that there were also alternative truths about my experience. It meant that I was going to have to gravitate toward another line of thinking that didn’t make me want to scream at the damn dog. I needed to find another “truth” about the situation that I could throw my emotional weight behind.

Having realized that the dog was not, in fact, implanting frustration and anger into me, I took ownership of my role in those feelings. From there I found an alternative truth: I shifted to believing that if this was the worst thing that would happen when cohabitating with my boyfriend, then life was pretty damn good. I also shifted to believing that this was just another obstacle that we are going to have to figure out as a couple. Neither one of those thoughts were pretty or flowery or made the situation OK. Rather, those thoughts allowed me to live in a space other than frustration. They allowed me to see the bigger picture, ditch the anger, and start strategizing. It allowed me to foreclose an angry blowup with my boyfriend and an unnecessary battle with his poor dog.

This situation sound familiar? Get support with your frustrating situation by signing up for a free consultation now.

That’s really the heart of the work that we do. I could certainly have chosen to live in those thoughts that I felt so strongly about. I could continue to believe that the dog was ruining everything and that he was a horrible monster destroying all of my nice things. But that would have to be my conscious choice. When asked how I wanted to feel about it the situation, I truly didn’t want to feel frustrated. I didn’t want to be happy about it but I didn’t want to live in a dark pit of annoyance and bitterness toward this dog that I actually loved and that was loved by the man that I loved. That meant that if I wanted to feel something other than frustrated, I was going to have to work at it.

When we find ourselves living in frustration over the circumstances of our lives we must take a step back and acknowledge that what is making us frustrated is not the events around us but rather our thinking about them. From there we can truthfully ask and consider do I want to be frustrated and if so I will continue with these thoughts. If not, I am going to have to do the work and find some alternative truths. We must shift from seeing our perspective as the only truth and invest in believing that every situation can have multiple truths available to us.

The next time you find yourself frustrated, consider whether that is your conscious choice or whether there is another way to show up in the situation.


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When Your Boss is the Villain…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You have tried “everything!”

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

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

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

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

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

Being a victim is easy. Growth is hard. 

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

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

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

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

Is that how you want your story to go?

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


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Believing New Things

One of the questions I get most often when coaching my clients is:

How do I stop thinking that?

Once we understand the correlation between our thoughts and how those thoughts are creating our present reality, the first thing my clients want to do as professional perfectionists is FIX it. Once we understand the equation, we want to clean it up and get back to work.

As attorneys, it is our job to strategize, navigate, and fix problems. When we realize that our brain is part of the “problem” it is natural for us to want to fix it.

The problem is that our brain is a formidable adversary and, no matter how much coaching we do, will we ever be able to build you a brain that only thinks, productive, worthy thoughts.

So we must learn to co-exist with our nasty little thoughts.

We must stop fighting them! Unproductive thoughts will always be part of our reality. The key is getting to a place where we see those thoughts as neither good nor bad. Simply a sentence our brain is really good at offering us.

Whenever we botch a big project, our brain is always going to want to tell us that we don’t belong, we will never figure it out, etc. We are SO GOOD at thinking those thoughts! It is natural that our efficient, primitive brain would continue to do so.

So what do we do?

(The second most common question I get from my clients.)

We see the thought, we understand the negative impact it is having on our life, and now we are ready to change it, right?!

Nope.

We want to erase the “bad” thought. We want to shift to a new thought or build upon ladder thoughts to feel better or create the results that we want. However, when we jump right in like that, we continually find ourselves back at the original thought and more frustrated that we can’t make the shift.

This is a sign that we are not yet ready to move on to a new thought. We keep coming back because there is a part of us that still believes the original thought. We don’t yet see it as a set of words that pop into our head.

There is still a part of us that hasn’t accepted it as an optional description of reality.

What we have to do in that situation is to challenge ourselves and force a paradigm shift. We’ve all had those experiences in our lives where suddenly a long-held thought or belief is completely deconstructed due to something that we’ve learned, witnessed, or experienced. We need to create that same type of paradigm shift within ourselves about that thought.

For each of those automatic thoughts that we want to move away from we have to really start asking:

Is it true how?

Could I understand things differently?

Where does that thought come from?

Why am I choosing to believe that?

What if that weren’t true?

What are the facts of my story?

What if nothing has gone wrong?

Can I imagine this another way?

What if I did know what to do?

Questioning and challenging the thought will allow your mind the space to start examining whether or not that belief is really true. It helps us get to a place where we can accept that the thought is just a thought–it’s not a fact and other alternatives exist.

Once we start dismantling the belief and seeing it as just that a belief or optional thought, only from there can we starts shifting to a new thought.

Whenever we find ourselves in a mental thought boomerang, it’s a sign that we’re not ready to accept that belief as untrue. We tried to move forward with a new, contrary belief while we’re continuing to believe the old thought.

In order to solidify the shift, we have to come to a place where we accept that the original belief is optional.

We have to allow ourselves to dismantle that belief and start seeing poking holes in it.

If you don’t allow yourself the space to dismantle that belief it will always pop up and continue to derail any shifting that you are trying to make. First we must disprove the thoughts and loosen its grip on ourselves.

Many of my clients have struggled to “clean up” their negative thoughts patterns unsuccessfully. They come to me frustrated with their inability to move to higher mental ground. This is part of the process we work through in the coaching space–dismantling closely held thoughts, beliefs, and assumptions that aren’t serving you.

Schedule a free consultation and check it out for yourself.


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Being Curious

Being curious.

As humans we often spend a significant amount of our time frustrated with those around us. We rant and rave at them in our heads. We boil beneath forced smiles. For so many of my clients, their most common emotions are anger and frustration.

I once had a client whose best friend was not a fan of her significant other. At one point, her friend had told her that she “could do so much better.” My client was furious. She was indignant that her friend would decide not to be supportive of her new relationship. She felt that her friend was being judgmental of her and her boyfriend. She was so angry with her friend that when we first met, she told me that she wanted support to determine whether this friendship was something she should continue to invest in. She was thinking she might not want this person in her life any more: “If she can’t be supportive my life and my choices, I don’t want her in my life at all.”

Any time we approach an issue from anger, our first objective is to shift away from the anger and move to a more neutral space. For most people, this neutral place is curiosity. Curiosity has a way of side-stepping anger, dulling its edge and allowing us to examine the situation from an alien-perspective.

Have you ever stopped to ask yourself why people do the ****** things they do or say?

Believe me, as a fellow human, I thoroughly enjoy a good rant and rave occasionally. While ranting and raving can be a good way to release some stuck energy, it is not on the same plane as rational behavior. Any time you are about to take some action out of anger, I recommend starting with a curious breath before deciding your next course of action.

In this case, I asked my client, Why do you think your friend said that? Why do you think she doesn’t like him? Why does she care who you date? What’s going on with her that would make her say something like that?

All of these questions de-escalated my client and carried her to a space of compassion. She believed that her friend was protective of her because she had been in some rotten past relationships and her friend carried her through. She knew that ultimately her friend was coming from a place of wanting the best for her. She knew that her friend had a hard time letting people in and needed time to get to know people. She wasn’t being malicious. Truly, she was acting from a place of love for her friend. It was just love dressed in a crappy outfit.

By the end of the session, my client was feeling badly for harshly judging her friend who was simply trying to love her and protect her.

It’s not always easy to love the humans in our lives but if you can take a break, make room for a curious breath, can you come back to these relationships from a better place. A place of compassion.

That’s not to say that relationships can’t eventually run their course, that can certainly be the case. People grow apart and need different things from those around them. However, you will never be able to discern whether a relationship has reached its expiration date if you make that decision from a place of anger or indignation. To make decisions you can trust and feel good about, you must do so from a place of love for others as well as yourself.

When relationships come to an end there should be peace and clarity that comes with that climax. Relationships that end in a blaze of glory are likely far from over. Those types of endings simply create baggage that will inevitable resurface. Lingering, strong emotions will only serve to draw that relationship (or another one just like it) back to you again in the future.

Evaluate the people in your life from a neutral space of curiosity and compassion. From there you can truly consider whether this relationship is something you want to continue to invest in.

“Curiosity is making the choice to look deeper into everyday things and seeing their true significance. Realizing that there is much to learn from everyone and everything you can encounter is the first step to living a fulfilling and happy life.” Source

I am a certified life coach and I support my clients in working through relationship challenges to find happier and more fulfilling lives. Take a leap into something new and see how we can create more happiness in your life.

What are you waiting for?

Re-thinking Your Past

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are you waiting for?

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

What’s the Worst That Could Happen?

We are always able to come up with reasons – several reasons – why we aren’t taking a certain course of action. We are masterful at crafting excuses that we sincerely believe are legitimate. We are so good at letting ourselves off the hook!

I can’t go to the gym today because my ankle is feeling a little sore. I can’t start that side business because my boss will fire me. I am not going to that party because I know my ex will there. I can’t go to the gym this morning, I will be too tired later.

I recently had a client who wanted to talk to me about marriage. She was in a serious relationship that she was happy with, but she just couldn’t stop thinking about marriage. It didn’t help, that people kept asking her about marriage. When are you guys going to get married? As she talked about the concept of holy matrimony, she became visibly agitated.

I just don’t understand why everyone expects me to get married. I don’t want to have children so what’s the big deal? Why do I need to get married?! It’s just a stupid social construct!

So, what’s the problem? I asked her.

The problem was that while she was adamant that she didn’t need to get married for those reasons, she couldn’t help thinking that she really did want to get married. It seemed that, despite her best efforts to talk herself out of wanting to get married, she did, in fact, want to marry her partner.

I do want to marry him because I believe that is the utmost demonstration of my love for him. I want to get married because it makes it easier from a legal and tax perspective. We talk about getting married all the time and it makes me really excited to make that commitment but the second I leave the room, I find myself arguing with myself about it ask “Why do I need to do this? What’s the point? I can love him unconditionally without all that!”

Rather than allowing this back and forth to ramble on for the duration of our entire session, I simply asked her What’s the worst that could happen if you did get married?

Then she transformed into a puddle of tears. I had never seen her so emotional and, admittedly, it took me by surprise. The reality of the situation was that she really did love her partner and really did want to marry him. She fantasized about having a truly meaningful and intimate wedding with only their closed family and friends. She looked forward to the day that he did propose, and she was excited to become his wife. That was what she wanted and no matter how hard she tried to fight it, she couldn’t help it. She wanted to get married and it was important to her.

Unfortunately, she was carrying around some heavy baggage. Her ‘what’s the worst that could happen’ was something she had already endured and it terrified her to have to go through it again. She had been married previously and it didn’t work out. She left when her husband’s alcoholism and abuse escalated to extremes. She didn’t see it coming and she was immobilized with fear that it would happen to her again and she would miss it. Again.

She was so terrified of going through that again that she spent all this time and energy trying to convince herself that she wanted something else.

For better or worse, I believe that she is destined to get married again. To me, it was evident that in order to work through her past traumas, she needed to find the strength to face and own that fear and persist anyway. The alternative is that she could spend her life avoiding that work; avoiding working through those emotions and avoiding marriage at the same time. If she never got married again, she would never have to work through that fear. She could avoid the risks altogether.

The tricky thing is that she survived and thrived from that first marriage. She emerged a true warrior and an inspiration and I know in my bones that if her “worst thing” did happen to her (again), she would survive and thrive again and would emerge another, even greater version of herself.

So often we believe that we couldn’t survive our worst-case scenarios. That is total BS. It is nothing but our reptilian, caveman brains trying to keep us safe and warm. Our brain is lying to us because it believes that fear will keep us safe.

Don’t sell yourself short. Certainly, if you come face-to-face with your worst-case scenario, it won’t be fun or easy but it will forge you into a better version of yourself, I promise you. All great success stories emerge from the ashes of past lives. Don’t stifle your chance at growth by playing it safe. Besides, what if the worst, DOESN’T HAPPEN? What would you lose?

When we allow fear to direct our course, we miss out on the opportunity to grow and learn and sometimes yes, go through the hard things that make us even better.

Once I find my clients explaining to me why they aren’t taking a certain course of action or why they have made a particular decision, I ask them What’s the worst that could happen if you made the opposite choice? If you find yourself going to great lengths to convince yourselves of something or making excuses, BEWARE. We are masterful at letting ourselves off the hook and justifying our actions (or inactions).

If you were really committed to your decision and liked your reasons for your choices, you would not be stuck in these thought loops. It is a sign you are choosing to play it safe. It is a sign you are choosing from a place of fear.

If given the opportunity, we will most certainly come up with reasons why we aren’t doing all sorts of things and we will BELIEVE all of those reasons. Becoming aware of this cycle will allow you stop and ask yourself—What am I really afraid of? What is really going on here? Do you really like your reasons for your action or inaction? Are you just choosing the easier path?

That discussion will help you uncover whether your action/inaction and justifications are founded in truth or founded in fear. More often than not, those justifications are coming from a place of fear.

Growth, evolution, and success do not come from choosing the easier path. Don’t let yourself off the hook that easily. Get. Uncomfortable!

When you find your course in life being directed out of fear or avoidance of something scary or potentially difficult, stop and course correct. You are not on this planet to be a wallflower. You are here to challenge yourself and learn certain lessons. Avoiding those challenges now will not delay them indefinitely, you just might instead have a harder lesson waiting ahead for you, a lesson you might not be able to avoid.

Do the work now. Don’t let fear be the driver. Be afraid but do it anyway. What’s the worst that could happen?

“Sometimes what you’re most afraid of doing is the very thing that will set you free.”

People-ing

This year for the holidays, I have been spending a lot of time thinking about relationships and our interactions with other people in our lives. The holidays often conjure up tense emotions and thoughts about family members and friends. Rather than looking forward to spending time with those we love, we often spend time re-hashing old fights and salting old wounds.

So often our struggles with others in our lives boil down to something very simple: we want these humans to act differently. We want our mothers-in-law to be kind and loving, we want our siblings to be non-judgmental and friendly, we want our parents to be welcoming and proud of their kids and grandkids. We want our spouses to be outgoing and friendly to our families, our partners should help us cook and clean for the holiday party, we want our kids to be on their best behavior and for GOD’S SAKE, can grandma just have one nice thing to say this year?!

Whether it’s the holidays or just another Monday, my clients are often challenged and frustrated by the other humans in their lives. In my experience, most of these relationship struggles are driven by our desire for others to act how we want them to act. For example, most of us want our spouses to be responsible, organized, considerate, and loving. There is nothing wrong with those expectations. Those expectations form your “manual” for other humans fulfilling certain roles in your life. We all have manuals. The people in our lives have manuals for us too. For example, my partner would love for me to be a night owl who is easy-going and more than happy to spend all night binging on Tarantino films. I, however, would like him to have “normal” sleeping habits and sleep in the same bed with me at night.

It’s human nature to want and expect certain things from the people in our lives.

The problem is that we want other people to change and live according to our manual. We believe our manuals have their best interest in mind. We believe our manuals are the “correct” way to be. So, when other people don’t subscribe to our manuals or change to fit our models we lose. our. freaking. minds.

Many of my clients are so angry with their partners because they aren’t cleaner, they don’t help with the cooking, they aren’t good with money. etc. They truly believe they are angry because of their partner’s actions or inactions. That could not be farther from the truth.

When we are angry or sad about the actions of the people in our lives, the reason we are upset is because of our thoughts about those actions (or inactions). If my partner doesn’t vacuum the house, that fact is neither good nor bad. I make it something positive or negative by my thinking. Of course he didn’t vacuum, he never does anything around the house. This relationship is completely out of balance. I have to do everything around here. Those thoughts make me feel angry and indignant. Those thoughts lead to a lot of silent treatments and passive aggressive stomping around. Those thoughts typically set the stage for a battle.

Usually that battle brings to light the other person’s manual for you:  I work more than you and when I’m on my days off, I just want to relax and I don’t want to do housework.

Now we have a war of conflicting expectations. These types of small spats plant the seed for dueling manuals and un-met expectations that can rot a relationship from the inside out. Usually, my clients will explain that from these small spats, they are now bogged down with new and more interesting thoughts: We are never going to see eye-to-eye, we have totally different values, this is never going to work, he will never respect me, etc. When each party equally subscribes to the validity of their own model, no one wins. The relationship crack simply grows into a chasm as each party reveals more about their manual and how the other party doesn’t meet its criteria.

How do you move forward? First, recognize that you each have manuals for each other. Second, THAT IS OKAY. It’s human. You will both have expectations of how this relationship should work and how the other should act.

Next, decide if you are willing to live according to other person’s manual. My guess is that the answer is no. Either way, it is your choice. There are thousands of couples in this world that spend their entire relationship pretending to be something they are not. Trying to mold themselves to fit the other person’s expectations. I am not advocating for that approach, I am simply stating that it is not uncommon for people to choose this option. The question is this: Is that how you want to live your life? Is that how you want the other person to live their life? Is it important to you that you both be honest with each other about the relationship and who you want to be in that relationship? Do you want this person to have a relationship with you or their “manual” version of you and vice versa?

The other alternative is that you spend your life trying to find someone who fits your manual 110% on their own accord. Good luck with that. Even if that were possible, would it be beneficial to you to be in a relationship with someone who doesn’t challenge you? Who acts exactly as you would prescribe?

Assuming you still want a relationship with this human, ask yourself if you are willing to love this person as they are—not who you want them to be.

Do you like the relationship once you stop fighting about each other’s manuals?

How do you get there? You must recognize that the only reason you feel upset and frustrated with the relationship is because you want the other person to change. You want them to act in a different way. It is not their actions that make you feel terrible, it is your thought that they should be different. They shouldn’t talk down to me, they shouldn’t criticize my weight, they should be more considerate, they should be more loving. Those thoughts all indicate that a manual is at work. Stop blaming them for how you feel and take 100% ownership for your feelings. Your thoughts are creating your feelings, not the other person.

Ask yourself how you want to feel about that other person. Do you want to feel love and kindness toward the other person? Do you want to feel compassion? You have complete access to those emotions now. You just need to access thoughts that will generate those emotions. Seems like a stretch, I know, but bear with me.

When you approach the person or the situation from a place of sheer curiosity, you can typically work into some thoughts that general feelings of compassion or love. For example, if your partner is terrible with money and you are furious about it, thinking why can’t you be more responsible, I can’t be with something who is always living paycheck to paycheck, consider asking yourself why your partner acts that way. What could be making them spend money with abandon? Maybe they were never taught how to handle finances, maybe their heart is bigger than their finance-brain so they spend all their money on other people? Maybe they are deeply insecure and spend money trying to feel better about themselves? Having done that experiment, can you imagine circumstances in your life where you were uneducated, gave others too much of yourself, or felt insecure? If so, maybe you can relate to and have more compassion for their actions because you can typically find ways in which you might have acted similarly.

If you can examine the other person with curiosity, you can usually generate some compassion for how they are acting, given your own humanness. When you approach that relationship from a place of compassion and curiosity, you can have a productive conversation about the issue at hand. You can approach it from a place of love and understanding rather than a place of judgment, frustration, and ultimatums.

The rationale for this approach is that the key to every human relationship is to see each other as perfectly loveable and worthy. There is nothing that can make that person more loveable. They already are good enough. And so are you. When you are able to put aside your manual and approach other humans with curiosity, you can access that place of love and compassion. Those contributions will always advance the relationship. It doesn’t mean the other person will change and it doesn’t mean you don’t place healthy boundaries where needed—Dear mother-in-law, if you criticize my husband, we are going to leave and will re-evaluate whether we are coming to Thanksgiving next year. What it means is that you can flex that muscle of compassion and learn to love that person for who they are. You meet them where they are, warts and all. From that place you can examine the relationship from a neutral place. Only once you remove the manuals, can you really experience the relationship as it truly is and experience the other person as they truly are. From there you can determine whether you want to be a part of that relationship.

As part of that process, you must evaluate your manual from a place of honesty with yourself. Why are the elements of your manual important to you? What will be different if the people in your life acted exactly as you wanted? What will be the same? When you examine you manual you are able to consider the rationale behind the manual and ask–do you like your reasons? Those answers will support you examination of the relationship from a place of honesty and compassion both for the other person and yourself.

In reality, what’s the alternative? Do you want to spend the entirety of the relationship spinning in frustration because the other person isn’t acting how you want them to act? Or would you rather find a way to love them and have compassion for them as they are? The choice is entirely up to you.

Cheers and happy holidays!

Holi-daze

With the holidays coming up, I can’t help but think about all the things that need to get done. All the year-end work projects that could potentially spring up at 5pm Thanksgiving-eve and sideline some much needed time off with friends and family. All the shopping and cooking and cleaning that needs to be completed. And what about those last-minute home improvement projects we can knock out before company comes over…? In the midst of all these swirling thoughts, I find my brain gently nudging me to pour a glass of wine to help me wind down a bit.

Lately, I have been finding myself barking back and asking “Why?”

Why do we often reach for a glass of wine or another piece of cake when we are feeling stressed or had a bad day? Why is it so ingrained in our culture that having a glass of wine at the end of the day is how to best find relief from the day’s stress? 

On the one hand, there are certainly some cultural pressures that have conditioned us to believe that this behavior is acceptable, even normal. But have you ever asked yourself why you pour a glass of wine at the end of a stressful day? I did. Here’s what I discovered.

Years ago, when I was again working in a not-so healthy environment, I found myself in the habit of pouring a glass of wine every night after work. Why? I asked myself.  Because it’s been a really long day and I’m tired. Because today was really stressful. Because I deserve it. I worked really hard today. But why? I kept asking because none of these answers really resonated with me.

The more I thought about it and dug into it, I realized that I was coming home at the end of the day utterly spent. Completely exhausted. Feeling a bit depressed. My job was hectic and stressful and at the end of every day I just felt completely out of gas. When I would get home, a new overwhelm would bring up all the things I needed to do at home but didn’t seem to have the energy for. It created a heavy, depressive feeling…like the stressors in my life were never ending.

Like I would simply ride this frantic treadmill until I died of old age or imploded.

So, I would pour a glass of wine. I would pour a glass of wine and sit down and relax and let the booze wash away all those stressors. The dopamine in my brain would skyrocket and I would find some peace and happiness. Finally.

We all do this. Whether it’s with food or alcohol, sex, drugs, shopping, Starbuck’s coffee, WHATEVER. Rather than sitting with our discomfort or accepting the fact that life is 50/50, that sometimes it just sucks, we look to artificial sources to boost those “feel good” hormones.

For me, it was a glass of wine. That glass of wine provided me with an artificial happiness that would vanish the next day. That glass of wine kept me from sitting with my discomfort, accepting the struggle and learning how to take care of myself in a way that didn’t create a deficit the next day. While I wasn’t drinking entire bottles of wine at night, that one glass created a deficit. It delayed the inevitable meltdown that would happen when I couldn’t keep it all together. It’s the equivalent to kicking the emotional can down the road…eventually that can hits an emotional landmine.

Avoiding and buffering negative emotions or discomfort only heightens those feelings. They will come screaming back.

You are avoiding your life and seeking “fake” feelings created by external sources. That is no way to live.

The holidays seem to make this phenomenon even worse. As if our lives aren’t stressful enough, we pile on awkward family dynamics and travel obligations as well. So many of my clients eat because they are uncomfortable around their family. Their families bring up all sorts of old resentments, grudges, and unspoken words and their brains swirl with all sorts of nasty thoughts and cruel self-talk. Eventually, most of us end up face diving into the carrot cake because we want that rush of endorphins, that temporary high to alleviate all our feelings of discomfort.

What would it be like to just sit with those feelings?

What would it be like to just monitor those feelings your body? To become aware of those thoughts that make you so uncomfortable so that maybe you can start to work on those thoughts? After all, feelings are just a vibration in your body. What’s so scary about that?

If we can’t learn to allow and process emotions, we will never learn to stop indulging in those urges and using external things (food, alcohol, etc.) to make us feel better.

This holiday season, I am challenging all my clients to sit with the negative thoughts and emotions that bubble up for them. Observe them. Recognize that life is not supposed to be sunshine and rainbows all the time. Maybe today was a bad day and you are feeling sad. Why is that so terrible? Sadness provides a basis to later experience happiness.

Instead of running from those feelings, I challenge you to do a brain download every time you start feeling negatively. Figure out what thoughts are causing you to feel that way. Are those thoughts factual? Why are you choosing those thoughts? Is that negative feeling really that terrible?

Trust me, if you can learn to experience and sit with negative emotions and stop being afraid of them—fear, anger, jealously, sadness—nothing will ever be scary ever again. Think of what you could accomplish and who you could be.

Coach with me and I will show you how.

Get. Uncomfortable.

Our Chaotic Lives

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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