Recently, I’ve had the pleasure of returning as a guest on 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 with producer Michelle Stucker!
I highly recommend that every single one of my readers and clients check out this FREE resource.
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:
Are you haunted by the Thirtysomething Panic Monster?
“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!”
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.
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 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.
“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…”
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.
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.
Do you wish you could deal with change more effectively?
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.
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?’
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:
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—Ilet 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):
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.
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.
“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.
The choice may have been mistaken…the choosing was not!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
It takes some experimenting to find your own “just right.”
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!)
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.