Once in a while, I find a book that I wish I could put directly into the hands of everyone who is struggling with a certain topic. When a friend recommended Rachel Friedman’s book And Then We Grew Up: On Creativity, Potential, and the Imperfect Art of Adulthood, I was excited to read it, but I had no idea how much it would speak to some of the core issues that thirtysomethings struggle with. I highlighted the book within an inch of its life, and I knew I had to talk to Rachel and share her insights with you all.
Last week, we talked about the Order of Operations problem when dealing with Thirtysomething Panic (or changes at any stage of life). In preparing to share my insights from ten years (!) of coaching with you over the course of this 10th anniversary year, I’ve faced my own OOO problem: since each individual is different, the Order of Operations of how my clients and readers will create change in their lives is different for everyone. And yet, because I’m writing to you as a group instead of coaching you as an individual, I have to make some decisions about how to order these insights and action steps.
So over the next few posts, we’re going to begin with some concepts that can be really useful to start with, no matter who you are and what you’re working on. We’ll explore ways to lay the foundation for a successful change odyssey. In particular, we’ll look at and practice some key commitments and skills that will set you up for a powerful journey towards creating the career, relationships, and life you want:
|When I was in seventh grade, I remember Mrs. Mezzocchi teaching us the acronym PEMDAS—Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally. This was a mnemonic trick to help us remember the order of operations for solving a mathematics equation. |
Fifteen years later, when my first taste of Thirtysomething Panic came on like a tidal wave, I found this phrase flashing through my head. What is the order of operations here?!? I kept wondering. Where is my Thirtysomething Panic PEMDAS?
My relationship, my career, my purpose on this planet—EVERYTHING felt up in the air. Whenever I tried to start working on figuring out one piece of the puzzle, I felt like I couldn’t make any headway, because I’d start thinking about how it hinged on the other variables and second-guess every idea I’d had towards action.
What should I focus on first?
At times, this question can be very useful. At other times, it can stop all progress in its tracks.
Dating in your thirties can be discouraging, demoralizing, and exhausting.
If you’re a single 30something and want badly to find a partner, what used to be fun and exciting can take on a different weight and urgency.
Some of us always assumed we’d be partnered and settled down with “the one” by now, and are surprised and frustrated to find ourselves still single, exhausted from the search, and scared that “it” will never happen.
|Wow. Wow, wow, wow. What a seismic shift we have experienced in the last few months.|
How are you hanging in? What are you focusing on?
There is so much to say, as well as a great, quick little tool to share, to help you center in what is good right now. But to start, I want to say this:
Whatever you are experiencing, however you are feeling: you are not alone.
Most everyone is experiencing significant stressors and accompanying “thought chaos” at this time. But people are having a huge range of experiences.
Recently, I’ve had the pleasure of returning as a guest on Dr. Dawn on Careers (previously titled Career Talk), a call-in career advice program on SiriusXM, Business Radio Powered by The Wharton School. The host of the show, Dr. Dawn Graham, is the Director of Career Management for the Executive MBA Program at Wharton AND an all-around awesome human. Here we are in the studio!
I highly recommend that every single one of my readers and clients check out this FREE resource.
“Phil: What would you do if you were stuck in one place, and every day was exactly the same, and nothing that you did mattered?
Ralph: That about sums it up for me.” –Groundhog Day
Are you feeling stuck in an unsatisfying loop?
Do you wake up each day to the same depressing job, relationship, home, and financial problems?
Do you feel like you can’t change things until external circumstances change—circumstances that are totally beyond your control?
In other words, does your life feel like the movie Groundhog Day?
We’re almost halfway through December—incredible, right? I’m finding it hard to believe the end of 2016 is in sight. The crazy all-over-the-place weather certainly didn’t help with the confusion; in Philadelphia, as in many places, this fall was a full-of-surprises game called “What Season Is It, Anyway?”
But there’s no doubt about it—here we are, closing out another year. And that means you have a powerful opportunity.
What you do in the next three weeks has the power to positively shape:
- the value you gain from the past year (and yes, there is huuuuge value buried in there, even if it was a really tough year for you)
- the momentum and energy with which you greet the new year
- …and the focus, structure, and support you’ll have to get you where you want to go over the next year of your life.
Here are three concrete ways to set yourself up for a great 2017:
“You’re older than you’ve ever been and now you’re even older
And now you’re even older
And now you’re even older
You’re older than you’ve ever been and now you’re even older
And now you’re older still
Is marching on
Is still marching on
This day will soon be at an end and now it’s even sooner
And now it’s even sooner
And now it’s even sooner
This day will soon be at an end and now it’s even sooner
And now it’s sooner still
TIME is marching on!
And time…is still marching on!”
—They Might Be Giants, “Older”
There’s something very cathartic about hearing your tough experiences well-articulated. And I think this song articulates the experience of 3am-sit-up-in-a-sweat-OMG-where-the-hell-am-I-going-with-my-life Thirtysomething Panic pretty well. As well as the 3pm-sitting-at-my-desk-OMG-what-am-I-doing-here panic.
Did your heart rate rise a little just reading those lyrics?
When I was little, I LOVED laying out my school supplies for the beginning of a new school year. Fresh pencils (or, once I was in high school, pens—that transition from pencils to pens was how we knew we were cooler and more grown up)…
And the binders! Oh, the binders!
I LOVED the binders. (Yes, yes I am Leslie Knope.) Fresh new containers, ready to be decorated and filled, bit by bit. Empty, and thus paradoxically full of possibilities.
Do you ever miss it? That feeling of a fresh new school year? That clean-slate-fresh-start-anything-could-happen-this-year sensation?
It’s Labor Day, a national holiday in the US, and I’m working. And feeling so grateful for that.
I considered taking the day off. Don’t get me wrong, I am a huge believer in taking time off, in vacation, in rest and replenishment, in designing and maintaining boundaries between work and the rest of life that serve both of those arenas…and I took some gah-lorious time off this summer.
Do you wish you were more…SOMETHING?
More confident? More generous? More loving? More calm? More determined? More joyful? More courageous? More thoughtful?
Here’s a powerful truth I’ve found again and again in my own life and with my clients:
Think about a problem, a question, a desired change, a toleration, or an unmade decision you’ve had in your life for a long time. (Hint: if you feel that nagging “UGH—still stuck!” feeling when you think of it, you’re on the right track.)
If you know in your head, heart, and gut what your next tiny or huge step or steps should be—if you have been contemplating forward movement for a long time, but not committing to action—ask yourself this powerful question:
Do you feel not-so-crazy-about-yourself these days?
Are you seeing yourself acting again and again in a way that doesn’t line up with who or how you want to be?
When you start to recognize that it’s been a while since you felt good about yourself—like, since you thought, for the most part, yeah, I’m pretty great!—here’s a powerful turnaround for you:
Do you often tell yourself you’ll “figure out” the important stuff as soon as you have time?
Every night as you go to bed, you think about how you want to change your career, or improve a relationship, or start a project.
You may even get feverishly excited with ideas—and then those ideas have to wait until tomorrow.
Or next week.
Or next year.
Or whenever you have time.
Because after all, you have A Lot To Do.
You don’t have All The Money In The World.
You only have So Much Energy.
So naturally, the steps you need to take to get on purpose and on your path get shuffled to the bottom of the to-do list.
Lots of people make New Year’s Resolutions, but most people don’t take the time to reflect on the year that has passed.
As a new year begins, we’re often in such a hurry to “fix” ourselves and our lives that we don’t stop to take stock of the year that’s ending.
Often, we just make last year’s resolutions over again, and end up a year later in the same situation with the same goals and the same frustrations.
When you hurry ahead into a new year without looking back, you’re likely to miss out on reaping the benefits of the previous year.
Happy New Year!
As we launch into another holiday season*, I’m thinking of you.
Panicking that your career is not where you want it to be.
Panicking that your relationships, or lack of relationships, will never change.
You may even feel guilt on top of the panic: after all, you are so blessed, and you are supposed to be grateful.
Do you have the feeling that you could be accomplishing soooo much more than you are?
I had a day like that recently.
I did some important things—had an awesome foundation session with a new client, Skyped with my mom (we are determined not to fall out of touch!), and completed some writing…but I still felt a little underwhelmed with my productivity.
Looking back on the day, I knew that some potential had slipped through my fingers.
So I woke up the next day determined to GSD*.
I used a strategy that I think might help you too.
Last night, a friend and I sat in a bar drinking a beer, watching the Taney Dragons give their all in the Little League World Series with a bunch of other proud Philadelphians (including two dogs!), and catching up.
As we shared the joys, challenges, and amusements of our respective summers, our conversation wandered to what can be described as overload moments—moments when you find yourself in a state of physical, mental, and/or emotional overwhelm or depletion.
Overload moments can emerge when you push yourself really hard for days on end, or when you’re surprised with a sudden emotional punch to the gut. (A communication snafu. A professional disappointment. A loss. A failure to live up to your own standards or values.) They can build gradually or sneak up on you all at once.
From the very beginning, this summer has been a pretty intense walk down Memory Lane here in Carrie-town.
It started in the technically-not-summer-late-spring, when I walked down the street and saw the shades up and a big “FOR RENT” sign near the front window of my first apartment in Philadelphia.
I pressed my nose against the glass and looked at the empty space.
Memories came flooding over me, in a clearer and more visceral way than they had in years. I couldn’t pull myself away.
Vulnerability is a part of life, no matter what. It tends to be significantly heightened if you are pushing yourself to grow, taking risks, and moving through a period of transition.
The good news is, there are strategies that can really help you to manage the vulnerability of change and putting yourself out there.
Learning and practicing these strategies will build your resilience muscles, and help to carry you through the ups and downs of your journey.
Resilience is a practice, not a destination—so be kind to yourself, and know that it’s normal to feel knocked down from time to time. Here are some ways to get back up:
“I’m feeling all this weirdness lately. I feel apprehensive, depressed, frustrated, insecure, self-critical—all this at a time when trees are blossoming and temperatures are more—well—temperate. Spring is supposed to be a time of rebirth, of hope. Yet I feel worried and at times sad…”
What’s wrong with me?
Sure, I’m not perfect, but I’m reasonably attractive, interesting, and smart.
I’ve been putting myself out there, making the time to go on dates, and it just isn’t working. I’m just not meeting anyone. Well, not anyone who’s right for me.
What are the world and the people in it trying to tell you?
If you feel lost, it might be time to listen. up.
When I was in the midst of my own career transition, I didn’t know what I wanted to do, or even that it would involve a career change, but I did know some sort of change was on the horizon.
And that, in and of itself, was scary as hell. Not knowing what that change would be made it even scarier.
As I was trying to figure it all out, inventing my own transition, cobbling together an outline so that I could write my own mysterious next chapter, I didn’t feel like I had a roadmap at all.
Do you and your partner, family, or friends fight about seemingly ridiculous things? Are you and your significant other far from the perfect couple you think you should be? Would you be embarrassed if people knew the completely mundane triggers of your arguments?
Do you have a great idea or content to share, but you’re afraid to put yourself out there, where strangers and friends alike might judge you? Are you so sensitive or afraid of criticism that you play it safe and avoid vulnerability like the plague?
If you said yes to any of those questions, you’re going to love this interview.
It’s amazing, isn’t it–how a single life can be an inspiration that carries on and makes a difference long after death.
In honor of Nelson Mandela, who died yesterday at the age of 95 (but will surely live on), here are five quotes of his wise words, with questions they can inspire us to ask ourselves–to make the most of our own single, precious lives.
“You are not the only person feeling the feelings that you’re feeling. You’re not the only person struggling with [these] issues…you’re not alone.” —Kristin Russo
“You have to learn to love yourself for a million different reasons.” —Dannielle Owens-Reid
I know that lot of you are asking yourselves one or more of these HUGE questions:
I get that vulnerability is important—but it’s so hard!! How do I make myself vulnerable enough to connect to people and be honest about who I am—even when it’s scary to be my real self?
How do I cheer up and find laughter and happiness, even when everything sucks?
How do I learn to love and accept myself?
How can I get help with questions I’m too embarrassed or afraid to ask?
How do I quit my day job to follow my purpose and forge my own path?
How do I come out or transition when I’m already in my thirties?
My kid just came out to me…OMG. What do I do?!?
You are in major luck: I have some amazing answers to every single one of these questions for you.
For many people, Thanksgiving is a chance to spend time with family.
That means laughter at old family stories, the joy of reunion…and often, a lot of awkwardness.
And if you or someone in your family is coming out, or struggling with gender identity or sexual orientation, a whoooole nother layer of family dynamics is involved.
Is your heart pounding as you pack your bags to go home for the holidays, as you imagine telling your mom, dad, or sibling that you’re gay or trans?
Are you gearing up to come out to your family and the others in your life?
Or did you already come out or transition, and you’re struggling in the aftermath, dreading sitting at the dinner table with parents who won’t accept or even acknowledge your sexual orientation or gender identity?
So many people use the holiday season to come out to their parents and families, and this time of year can be full of family tension. I’m thrilled to share an amazing resource with you to make it easier.
I’m gearing up for an opportunity I never imagined I’d have, and it got me thinking:
How do we take care of ourselves when we’re venturing into new territory?
When we’re going for something that we really want?
If you are doing something a little scary that really matters to you (and I hope you are—because that means you’re growing!!), tell at least one person what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, and that you are scared.
From the time we are children, each October brings up a crucial question for many of us.
That question gets passed around the playground, fills our dinner conversations, and dances in our minds as we fall asleep at night.
Who are you going to be for Halloween??
As a grown-ass woman, I have a number of thirtysomething friends who are obsessed with Halloween.
For weeks leading up to the last day of October, the conversation grows more and more feverish: Who are we going to be?!?
At this time of year when it’s a common question to ask others, “Who are you going to be?” I invite you to ask yourself that question in a new way.
Are you always re-resolving to “be more present” and “enjoy life more,” only to get knocked down by the bumps in the road of your life?
Do you struggle to handle emotions like sadness, anger, guilt, jealousy, and loneliness?
Do you feel like you suck at meditating, because you just can’t stop your always-working mind?
Do you try to engage in a mindfulness or centering practice, but you feel like you’re doing it all wrong? Like you can’t breathe the way you’re “supposed” to?
Get thee to a bookstore or library, STAT.
This book changed my life.
This may shock you, and it’s a little hard for me to admit…
…because I don’t think of myself as a tech dinosaur.
But here’s why there was no article yesterday:
I left my house to meet a new friend for coffee in the morning, and ended up finally—unexpectedly—completing a project that has been incomplete for over a year.
When you can feel in your gut that you’re on the verge of completing a long-procrastinated task, sometimes it’s good to accept the gift of inspiration and allow your day’s plans to change.
Though I had different plans for my day (including writing to you), I knew that I should ride the wave of motivation to complete this epic (hey, one gal’s mountain is another’s molehill) task:
“Some people have all the luck.”
“I’m just unlucky in love.”
“She just got lucky.”
Is luck a story you tell yourself?
How empowering is that story?
Yes: some things come down to the luck of the draw.
You can’t control what you started out with.
Sometimes good (or bad) things happen to you that could have just as easily not happened to happen.
You can’t control certain aspects of who you are, even if you wanted to.
Right now, though, I want to focus on the things you can control.
If you “get” these 9 things that are totally within your control, chances are you’ll get lucky, too.
If you’re like—oh, just about anyone—you’ve had that moment.
Perhaps you have it many times a week.
One minute you’re sitting down “just to check something real quick,” and what seems like the next, you’re an hour or two in.
An hour into Facebook commenting and sharing, Hulu clicking, TV watching, or thumb twiddling, you realize that you have just completely wasted an hour of your time.
You’re not recharging, relaxing, or replenishing.
Instead, you’re procrastinating, and further draining yourself, sinking further into inertia.
Stalling on taking action—any action—that will actually move you forward, feed your soul, or enhance your relationships, business, or life.
“Your career transition doesn’t have to be this difficulty—this unwanted disruption. It can be a brand new door that’s open for you…”
Your whole life, you’ve been dreaming of doing this job.
You went to school, studied hard, passed the tests, got the credentials, made the connections, and landed the perfect position.
Except…now that you’re actually doing the dream job, it turns out that it’s not at all what you thought it would be.
You finally found a job you love—a job that’s a great fit for you—and then that job disappears. Suddenly you’re starting over again.
What are you supposed to do now?!?
Live in the present moment?
Be more confident in situations where you feel out of control?
Trust yourself to think on your feet?
As a professional improviser, I’m always finding connections between the skills that improvisers practice and use and the skills that many of us strive to cultivate in our professional and personal lives.
It’s stunning how just 6 well-invested minutes can transform you.
Once in a while I come across a video that breaks open my mind—or my heart—in the most wonderful way.
Each of the videos that follow has the power to create a huge shift in me and in many of my clients.
I turn to them for different reasons—when I need comfort; when I need to be brave; when I need to look beyond my own world; when I need to snap out of a pity party; when I want to get out of my head, get out of the future, and get out of the past, and just be right here in this day.
The next time you need a shift, give yourself a 6- to 22-minute gift and watch one of these videos.
Do you struggle to communicate with confidence?
Do networking and dating make you suuuuper-nervous or exhausted?
Are you intimidated by striking up conversations with new people?
Do you wonder how some people make it look so easy?
You are not alone.
For LOTS of us, talking to people can be scary!
But there’s no doubt about it: relationships are central to everything in our lives, and communication is central to every relationship.
That’s why one of the most important and fundamental steps you can take to improve your relationships, career, and your life is to be a confident, powerful, and effective communicator.
Good news! I just taught a free class on this subject, and I’m sharing it with you today.
What are you avoiding because you feel like a total newbie?
What physical pain are you not getting checked out, because it’s scary to think of what might actually be wrong?
What unmade phone call or inquiry is draining your energy?
How would it feel to have that action behind you?
What would you be able to do with that extra energy?
If you hang out in the in-between place of a transition for a while, it can start to feel like you don’t even know who you are anymore.
A drawn-out period of “figuring it out”—or the even less-empowered period that you may experience before you are taking active steps to figure it out—can get exhausting and draining to the point that it leaves you feeling like a muted, immobile version of yourself.
I’m reminded of a passage in one of my favorite YA books, The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau.
It’s a fantastic and brilliantly written story of a boy and girl growing up in an isolated city that is struggling with dire shortages of food and electricity, and working to find a way to save their city before the lights go out forever.
In this scene, Clary, a greenhouse worker, talks with Lina, a teenager.
“Clary put a hand in her pocket and drew something out. ‘Look,’ she said. In the palm of her hand was a white bean. ‘Something in this seed knows how to make a bean plant. How does it know that?’
On this fourth of July, I’m thinking a lot about interdependence.
I’ll tell you a little (soon-to-be-former) secret:
I have been dealing with a problematic home situation for some time now.
I won’t go into all the hows and whys of my particular challenges, but suffice it to say it was time to make that sh*t a priority.
My stuff—and my life—just aren’t working optimally in the space I have!!
Instead of feeling warm, cozy, inviting, and open, my home has been feeling cramped, squished, blocked, and totally not aligned with my otherwise thirtyawesome life.
I’ve never been blessed with strong spatial imagination skills.
While I consider myself a very creative person, I am not someone who walks into a physical space and immediately sees the optimal arrangement or the possibilities.
After too long living in this draining environment, it became clear:
I need help.
You’ve heard that dirty old dumping line: “It’s not you—it’s me.”
Well, today I’m here to tell you:
It’s not you—it’s everyone.
So many of my clients feel shame about some aspect of how, who, and what they are, or in something they have done.
I call these things the “If They Only Knews,” because many of us fear that if people only knew these things, they would know how mean, bad, selfish, and unlovable we really are.
Imagine you could go back in time (as the adult you are now) and sit down with your 6- to 18-year-old self. What age would you pick, and what would you say?
Write down your response to this question before reading on.
A few weeks ago, I asked everyone in our thirtyawesome community to share your answers to this question. I was inspired by your responses, and struck by the common threads that ran through answers that were sent in from so many different people.
Across the board, the responses centered around four main themes:
Gratitude isn’t a destination; it’s a practice. Here’s a brief, but powerful, exercise you can do to quickly tap into simple joy and appreciation.
Grab a pen and paper, or open up a new document, and take just 5 minutes to work through this brief—but potentially transformational—process.
“I had no idea what I was going to do…I had zero plan… Now I realize what a gift it was.”
Meet Diane Matkowski. She has been a lab aide, a landscape gardener, a car salesperson, a massage therapist, and a business owner.
Join me as I talk to Diane about her multi-stop hop on a career path that led to opening her own business.
Are you thinking, “I could never do that!”?
Well, Diane had nooooo idea that would ever be possible for her, either.
One of the hardest parts of an ending—whether it’s the end of a relationship, a job (or a whole career), or your residence in a home or city—is the knowledge and acceptance that this will have been it.
When you’re going—really going—a particular insidious voice can show up in your head. I call this voice the Never-Dids.
“But I never finished…”
“But I/we never got to…”
“But I haven’t gotten this perfect yet.”
When there’s always a tomorrow in that place, job, or relationship, there’s always a possibility to do better, to complete more, to enjoy or experience more, to perfect and hone.
When tomorrow will find you somewhere new…that’s when the Never-Dids come out to play.
When I was 27, I had a tonsillectomy. After years of having horrible throat pain and other complications every time I had so much as a flicker of a cold, I finally saw an ENT who suggested I get the nasty things taken out.
He warned me that as procedures go, an adult tonsillectomy is “not pleasant.”
I nearly screamed, “I don’t care! Take them OUT!!!!!”
I was ready to put the years of tonsil torture behind me.
As it happened, in the couple of weeks before my tonsillectomy, I had fallen—hard—for someone I’d started to date.
This was one of those horse-before-the-cart deals; strongly encouraged by the signals I was seeing—and, yeah, okay, probably by some signals I wanted to see—I let myself fall way too fast.
I used to think that people who created certain things—who built businesses, or were on the radio, or wrote books—were fundamentally a certain kind of person.
A kind I certainly wasn’t.
As if there was some sort of predestination involved—and I was not one of those people.
Because who the hell am I to think I could do that?
I always felt I had something inside me to share on a bigger scale, but it seemed downright silly or deluded to even share that feeling with myself—let alone anyone else!
Everyone and their mother thinks they have a book in them, I thought.
But one day, I was in the shower, listening to an interview of a researcher/writer on NPR, feeling a slight twinge of envy, and suddenly, I had a Duh Moment (this is my term for an Aha Moment that seems obvious to the point of idiotic in retrospect):
“I’ve decided that I’m on vacation, indefinitely. And sometimes you have to work on vacation.”
My friend Per made this pronouncement many years ago, during a perfectly normal workweek.
It made me giggle at the time.
Now I think he was onto something.
You know those stretches where your days are so full that the weeks start to run together? Where a minute ago it was March and suddenly it’s May? I’m just coming out of one of those.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not complaining. I love what I’m doing and I’m full of gratitude to be doing a lot of it.
That said, last week I hit the point where I felt I could really use a little break.
By the time you’re in your thirties, you’ve been carrying around a lot of “shoulds” and “somedays” and “by the times” and “when I’ms” for a long time.
There are the promises you made to yourself as a little kid—“When I grow up, I’m going to_______!”
There are the dreams you grew in high school and college.
There are the frameworks you got from your family model of what you should or would emulate someday.
It’s important to hold onto to your dreams, and it’s never too late to go after the ones that are really important to you. When you’ve lost your way, tapping back into your earliest childhood dreams can be profoundly helpful in finding clarity.
But sometimes you outgrow a dream without realizing it, and instead of being fueled by the inspiring energy of the dream, what you carry around with you is the “should have” and the “have to” and the “still haven’t gotten around to” roughage of having this unaccomplished item on your bucket list.
As these bucket list items keep getting added over time, the accumulation can really start to weigh on you.
Never in my life has my living space been neater than it was during college finals.
Truth be told, I have never been the naturally neatest person.
(Somewhere out there, my parents are laughing and thinking, “That’s the understatement of the year!”)
But you would not have guessed that to see my room in college.
For four years, everything had a place.
My bed was always made, my desk always organized, with nary a paper clip astray.
How did I maintain such a neat and tidy space when my room at home was always a disaster area?
When you’re in the midst of a career change, sometimes it can feel like you have no idea who you are or where you’re going.
It’s disconcerting to look ahead and see a big question mark.
We often feel grounded by what we do for a living—we hook our identity onto it.
This is encouraged by a culture where the question “So, what do you do?” is often the first point of connection after “What is your name?” when meeting someone new.
Similarly, your whole internal identity can feel called into question when you’ve just ended—or are considering ending—a long-term relationship.
Even if you consider yourself a pretty independent lady or fella, putting a big question mark next to a human constant in your life can start the identity wheel spinning.
When you’re feeling confused, unrooted, and uncertain due to a huge looming question mark, here’s a little game you can play, inspired by one of my favorite TV programs growing up.
It’s Saturday night, and you’re all alone, sitting on the couch, drinking wine by yourself and watching a sappy movie. The phone isn’t ringing. You have no one to talk to, nowhere to go, and nothing to do.
What just came up for you?
If you are like some of my clients, the singles who long to be grounded in partnership and family, it’s likely you thought, “How depressing.”
And then, maybe, “FML.”
If you are like some of my other clients, such as the mother who can hardly believe that there was a time she had a moment to herself, but knows in hazy half-memory that she did once, and fears that she never will again, it’s likely you got a dreamy look on your face and thought, “How divine.”
And then, maybe, “FML.”
The same scenario; radically different interpretations and experiences.
Perspective is everything.
How can you create perspective for yourself, when you so powerfully long for some part of your life to be different?
Today I have a great exercise for you that will help you do just that.
A couple weeks ago, I broke one of my favorite mugs.
There are a million and a half metaphors here, but today I’m writing about three literal instances of breaking things, and what they can teach us about some common, but destructive, relationship behavior.
My best friend gave me this mug over a decade ago, for my first year as a school teacher.
“Smart Women THIRST for knowledge,” the mug proclaimed.
Every single school day for nine years, that mug held the tea and coffee that helped to power me. On hard days, reading the mug gave me a little boost.
And now it’s broken.
Don’t worry—I’m not throwing myself a pity party.
But I AM going to tell you about a pity party I threw a long time ago. And I bet you’ve thrown the same party.
Whether you’re going on an active adventure, relaxing on a remote beach or in a quiet cabin, staying cozy at home, or visiting extended family, spring break is a perfect opportunity to connect and reflect with your child in a relaxed, connection-fostering setting.
Understandably, many parents wait until the end of the school year to take stock of their children’s progress. While it’s totally natural to associate reflection with an endpoint, waiting for the end of the year is a major missed opportunity for a couple of reasons.
When I work with clients in career transition, it’s common for them to talk about wanting more money like it’s a bad thing.
Many people, especially women, have been taught, consciously or unconsciously, that it is wrong to want to make a lot of money.
Some of my clients say, “Welllllll…I’d like to…make more money,” with something akin to shame in their voices.
Some will very forcefully clarify that they do NOT want to be rich. “Not too much!!! Just…enough.”
I’m here to put a stake in the ground today: there is nothing wrong, bad, selfish, or shameful about you if you want to make more money.
“She’s being mean to me!” “He did it on purpose!” Many of us get knots in our stomachs from trying to untie the arguments and tricky social dynamics our children get into!
When the question “How was school today?” brings tears to your child’s eyes, it’s only natural that you want to do whatever you can to help. Chances are, your instinct is to solve the problem, and do it fast—to prevent your child from having to feel any more pain. This is totally normal and understandable! However, if you are always the fixer, your child will learn that others have to fix problems for him or her.
Instead of fostering learned helplessness, help your child develop empowerment and a sense of agency. Asking for help is important—but it is just part of what an effective person does to take care of him- or herself. Here are six foundational concepts to help you lean into the powerful growing opportunities presented by social conflicts, and get in a “facilitating” vs. “fixing” state of mind.
Moving on can be really scary.
When I was in the process of making my own huge career leap, a song I hadn’t thought about in years suddenly came into my head one morning (a Sunday morning, as it happened!).
No coincidence—this was right at the no-turning-back-now time when I needed to hear the message of the song most.
The song was “Move On,” from Stephen Sondheim’s musical Sunday in the Park with George.
In the song, George, an artist, is totally stuck because he feels he has nothing new to add to the world; nothing to say that hasn’t been said.
Then Dot, his ex, shows up to talk to him.
Well, sort of.
It’s complicated and involves what I’ll describe for brevity’s sake as time travel. I won’t go into a thorough explanation of all the plot points that lead to this song—that’s all you really need to know.
Through this song, Dot gives George a powerful pep-talk-kick-in-the-ass combo based on her own bold leap into change.
Even if you’re not into musicals, “Move On” is a perfect career change anthem.
When I work with people who have decided to make a major change in their relationships or careers, one of the most common themes I hear is regret about having waited until now:
“I knew things weren’t going well. Why didn’t I end it sooner?”
“I wasted so much time.”
“I could have been over this and moving on a year ago, but instead I stayed stuck.”
“All those years and nothing to show for it.”
“I lost x months/years of my life.”
“I knew in my heart it was time to go…but I stayed for years.”
“All my friends told me I should leave, but I didn’t listen.”
“If only…I just wish…Why couldn’t I have…”
Today I want to teach you a 6-step process that will help you banish the guilt and self-punishing and help you turn that “doomed” relationship or “dead-end” job into one of the best things that ever happened to you—even after the fact.
If you’re in a no-contact reboot period (something I highly recommend for many breakup situations), there are going to be times when it is really hard not to pick up that phone or send that email.
There will also be times when it feels impossible to stop that vicious spin cycle of toxic thoughts in your head.
Print out this list and keep it on your bedside table, desk, or fridge until you are through your breakup. That way, when you find yourself:
reaching for that phone to call your ex in spite of yourself
constantly checking and rechecking your ex’s Facebook page
or just lying in a lethargic lump on your couch, replaying the same conversations over and over in your head,
…all you have to do is pick up the list and choose something. Make yourself just do it. If the toxic breakup gremlin tries to pull you back into inaction or unwanted action, say, “Thank you for inviting me, but I’m busy right now.”
As a coach, I believe wholeheartedly in the grey areas—of life, and of relationships.
Few things are black and white.
There are so many negotiables.
We choose to honor certain values over others. We decide that there is enough “right” to make it worth accepting or working on the “wrong.”
Yes—when it comes to differences, conflicts, and incompatibilities in a relationship, there is a lot you can work with.
There’s room for give and take.
There’s a place for reevaluating what you thought you needed, and being flexible enough to accept someone as they are and make the relationship work.
But there is one fundamental quality that your partner MUST have, and it’s so important that I’m willing to put a stake in the ground for it. So important, in fact, that I’ve named it the Golden Dealbreaker. It will not steer you wrong. Here it is:
When you’re hurting from a breakup, and exhausted with spending so much time sifting through the mess and emotional wreckage in your own head and heart, turning to an old or new literary friend can be just the medicine you need.
Diving into a good book helps you change your mental scenery and pulls you out of your doldrums (at least for an hour or two).
When you see romantic adventures and misadventures through a character’s eyes, you connect with the universal joys and pains of being a human in (or out) of love. You feel less alone.
In other words, getting lost in a good book can help you feel found.
Today, I’m sharing with you the books I turn to when I need to get away and to remember I’m not alone.
Whether you’re reeling from a recent breakup or happily single, February 14th can be a tricky day to navigate when you’re flying solo.
For the weeks leading up to Valentine’s Day, we’re bashed over the head with messages of coupledom. It’s only natural to want to be able to join in on the lovefest.
This Valentine’s Day, I challenge you to love yourself most of all.
On the day of luuuuuv, here are 7 things for you to do for that special someone (I’m talking about YOU).
When it comes to helping our children or students navigate conflict, our language is so important. Even when you’re not aware of it, children will often pick up on your energy and mirror it. A conflict can easily escalate or de-escalate based on the language a helping adult uses.
When you bring awareness to your language, learn and practice key communication skills, and intentionally choose language that empowers your child, you’ll completely transform the way your child experiences and navigates conflict.
Here are five tips to make your communication with children more positively impactful and empowering, even in the most difficult and painful moments.
This is an article for grownups—but it begins with a little story about children.
At the beginning of my first career, when I was a new teacher, I thought it was my job to fix the problems my students brought to me.
If I couldn’t solve the problem, I thought, it meant I was failing. Failing the kids, failing their parents, failing myself.
No pressure, right?!
If you are in a relationship, and jealous of that hilarious (and hot! Why does s/he have to be so hot!?) person your partner is talking to…
or if you are single, but feel jealous of those incredibly confident, gorgeous, and put-together people around you…
or if you feel like you’re going crazy with jealousy over someone your ex is dating…
or if you’re starting to think nasty thoughts about that rockstar at work who everyone just loves!…
First of all, that is totally, completely, absolutely normal.
Whether or not they show it outwardly, just about everyone feels jealous at one time or another.
But I know…it sucks.
When it comes to things we can’t control, people often advise us to let go.
When it comes to moving on from an ended relationship or job, we push ourselves to let go.
When it comes to, well, coming, we’re told the secret is to let go!
It seems like the right idea—after all, we want to move on or get past whatever isn’t working, and letting go seems like the only way to do that. Sometimes, though, letting go sounds good in theory, but is near to impossible to achieve in practice.
While your heart is aching, your head is racing.
During a breakup, the same old thoughts tend to run through our heads on a spin cycle.
These thoughts are totally normal and downright predictable in the wake of a breakup, but they can become toxic if they’re allowed to spin too long, and they deliver a relentless diet of guilt, sadness, and regret.
When I work with clients at “breakup ground zero,” I hear these thoughts emerge again and again. If your thoughts are holding you back from moving on, it’s time to stare them in the face and call them what they are: total BS.
Here are some of the most common and compelling toxic breakup thoughts, along with the reasons why it’s time to kick them to the curb.
You know that feeling?
The feeling of having a task hanging over you all day? That one to-do that you keep bumping into in your brain—until you do it?
Maybe it’s that tricky email that you need to write…that phone call you’re nervous about making…that pesky errand you don’t want to run.
Now—approximately how many times throughout the day do you imagine doing that task, think, “Ugh!” and move on to something else…only to have it pop up again in your mind?
If you read my last post, you know that my success with my 30-day blogging challenge left me raring to go on the next one!
As I poured my morning coffee the day after completing my first challenge, an idea for my next challenge popped into my head: to drink my coffee and tea without sugar for the next 30 days.
The idea wasn’t to cut sugar out of my diet entirely.
It was just that for months, I’d been thinking about wanting to cut back on this easy-to-overlook addition to my sugar intake. (This girl likes a LOT of sugar in her coffee.) When I’d tried to have less sugar before, I always wanted more—my regular amount—so I decided that a cold-turkey 30 days would be another approach that would, by removing all of the gray area, force-adjust me.
Plus, I wanted to see just how powerful a 30-day challenge could be. On the heels of my first 30-day success, I decided to go for it.
Did you make big, audacious New Year’s Resolutions this year?
First, congratulations on taking the time to self-reflect and commit to a change!
Now—are you overwhelmed, disillusioned, or discouraged yet? If so, you’re in good company.
Mid-January is a time when that fresh resolve that This is the year! starts to flag for many people, as we jump back into all of the responsibilities and to-dos and habits that are still waiting right where we left them at then end of December.
“You can quit your job and do something else…one is not as locked in as one thinks.”
Matt tells the story of the morning carpool ride that set him on the path to a total career change. “I got to work, and went up into my office, and sat down at my desk, and said, ‘So what am I doing?’”
Since this month is all about getting into action on your big goals, I want to share one of my favorite resources to help you break through action’s archenemy (dun dun dunnnnn!): procrastination.
If you identify as a procrastinator, you are not alone. Like those who can’t get out of bed in the morning, most people who are intense procrastinators feel deep shame about their habit—and have no idea how large this club’s membership truly is.
I’ve found The Now Habit by Neil Fiore, Ph.D. to be a phenomenal resource for many clients who struggle with procrastination. Fiore helps you figure out why you are procrastinating and offers concrete exercises and strategies to overcome the most common blocks to getting started.
“It’s only January 7th, and I’m already behind!”
Do you already feel “behind” in the new year? Often, we begin the new year resolving to tackle tasks we’ve historically resisted and put off.
The bigger, scarier, more time-consuming, or more overwhelming the task feels, the more likely we are to make up and believe compelling stories (read: excuses) for why this is not the right time to get started—we’ll do it later!
We are very, very good at making up these stories!
What’s more, we do this not only with tasks that we don’t enjoy, but also with activities we genuinely like to do–things that we know would bring us pleasure.
Here’s a strategy you can use the next time you think “I should,” “I need to,” or “I want to” about a task and feel the urge to procrastinate.
All you goal-makers and procrastinators out there, have you met my friend the timer?
This unassuming little tool unlocks massive productivity potential.
It may look like an inanimate object, but I give this little guy part of the credit for completing my schooling, working out, my home’s relatively organized state, staying on top of my email, and for this blog you’re reading, among many other things. I seriously don’t know where I’d be without it!
I recommend this tool to all of my clients as they tackle their own projects, and I wholeheartedly recommend it to you today.
One of the nastiest beasts that keeps people stuck is what I refer to as the “If-Mores.”
We tell ourselves that if only we had more (fill-in-the-blank), we would be able to do something that we long to do.
This can become an excuse not to take action.
Oh well, we say. I guess I just can’t have that.
This is usually accompanied by some major Poor me energy, along with a grumble or two of comparison to others who have the thing we wish we had more of.
Today, I challenge you to begin a journey to banish the If-Mores by doing the following exercise.
When reaching a “breakthrough moment” in creating positive changes in their lives, many of my clients say things like,
“I just wish I’d figured this all out sooner.”
“If only I hadn’t wasted that time in my 20s, I’d have it all together by now.”
“Why did it take me so long to see this?”
When you’ve hit upon a discovery and/or finally taken action that makes you much happier than you’ve ever been, it’s only natural to wish that you could have made that discovery or taken that action in the first place!
We often feel guilty for mourning our own challenges and losses when they seem to pale in comparison to those of others.
As frustrating as small setbacks are, and as painful as larger challenges such as a breakup or a job loss can be, they can suddenly seem like not such a big deal in the light of tragedies such as natural disasters and horrific acts of violence, or a major adversity that another individual is facing.
Many people respond to the insight of perspective by throwing a bunch of guilt and shame on top of their pain—saying to themselves, “There are people with real problems in the world, and I shouldn’t be complaining about this—or even feeling bad about it.”
Then, being only human, they go on feeling bad, and feel even worse for feeling that way!
This approach is taking something with great helping and healing potential (perspective) and transforming it into something destructive (guilt and shame).
Guilt is not a helping emotion. Neither is shame.
Both emotions feed negative energy and keep you stuck—and do nothing to help those “people with real problems,” either.
No doubt about it—the winter holidays can be particularly poignant when you’re in transition.
This time of year is a common “taking-stock” time. As you go to festive parties or head home for the holidays, you can’t help but think about what your life was like this time last year, and the year before, and the year before.
If things were better last year—you had a job you loved, or you were in a great relationship, or you were happily single instead of dealing with the fresh heartbreak upon you now—the comparison can feel really sad, frustrating, or overwhelming.
On the other hand, holidays can be a time of deep awareness of what hasn’t changed.
If last year you vowed that this would be the year you finally (fill in the blank), the realization that it wasn’t can hit hard.
If you were stuck last year, and you’re still stuck now, still feeling in transition, you can get sucked into a defeatist mentality. “I’ll never figure it out.” “I haven’t made any progress.” “I guess I’m just the messed up sister.”
“I thought I would do things that made me happy, but I never once imagined any of them making me any money.”
Rae and I discuss her career journey from “slinging coffee” to being a non-profit fundraiser, and how she ended up finding her passion in a job she landed in—a path she describes as “random, to say the very least.”
You’ll hear about:
- the importance of champions and mentors
- identifying and packaging your transferable skills
- how to make yourself happy (she’s talking to you!)
Resolving to be more present or take better care of your mental/spiritual/emotional self in the new year?
If you would like to maintain a mindfulness practice or incorporate meditation into your life, but you “don’t have time,” The Book of Awakening by Mark Nepo could be a great resource for you.
Want a new way to bond with your family during your holiday gathering?
Are the old standbys getting stale, or do you find yourself wishing for ways to go beyond stories you’ve heard hundreds of times and learn more about your family?
Here are three games you can play that don’t require more than yourselves and, in one case, scraps of paper and pens.
Ever since I was a little girl, I have struggled with getting out of bed in the morning.
If you’re engaged in a never-ending battle with your alarm clock, you’re not alone. So many people share this struggle!
Especially when you’re in transition—working all day at your regular job and then all night on your “second job” of transition; dealing with the emotional upheaval and exhaustion of a breakup; not feeling compelled by your current career or the demands of your daily grind—it can be hard to get yourself up and into action each day.
Here are some questions you can ask yourself to help you get to the bottom of your eternal challenge, and to break the habit.
Is someone on your team at work driving you crazy?
Is another member of your club or association significantly impacting your enjoyment of the activity?
If your job or activities require you to spend time with someone who continually pushes your buttons, it’s time to go back to the age-old, sometimes-annoying-but-always-true fact: you can’t control anyone but yourself.
Instead of focusing on what the object of your irritation is doing, choose to change your own approach to the situation.
Irritation can reinforce itself; if you don’t shift your thoughts about the person, your frustration is bound to increase, and it will likely have an impact on how you are showing up and acting yourself.
Here are six tips for tricking yourself out of annoyance and into proactive transformation.
Let’s face it—putting yourself out there to make new friends can be scary.
It can also be more than a little disheartening when you harness your courage and put in the effort to get out there, but don’t make a connection.
One way to keep yourself encouraged to try new social things is to choose events that have multiple-win potential—meaning, more than one good thing that can come out of them.
When you try a multi-win activity or event, you can be less attached to a particular outcome. Chances are you’ll get something great out of it no matter what—and maybe a new friend to boot!
Another advantage to all of these ideas is that they offer a built-in focus or conversation topic. If you are shy and often struggle with how to strike up a conversation, choosing one of these activities lets you off the hook because there is already a shared focus in place.
Here are five multi-win ways to put yourself out there.
Struggling to get out of bed in the morning because you’re dreading what the day holds?
Dragging your heels as you get ready for another day at a job you don’t love?
Here are five tips you can use when you’re not at work to transform the time you are there.
Last summer, after a year of renovating her new home, my friend Carmen decided it was time to warm her place up with friends.
At the housewarming party, Carmen proudly took us through and around the house, and as the tour finished, our group ended up in the garden.
Carmen showed us where she’d spent hours ripping up the prolific weeds and ivy, in some places leaving the weeds she liked the look of.
The more knowledgable gardeners in the group remarked on this plant and that. Knowing next to nothing about gardening myself, I was interested in Jill’s comment that sedum “roots itself.”
Drop it anywhere, she explained, and it will burrow its way into the soil and not just survive, but thrive.
“There’s a metaphor there somewhere,” I said.