You’ve decided to invest your time and money into improving yourself and your life situation. Do you need a life coach or a therapist?
Well, as with most things, it depends. It depends on a lot of factors. We all need a little help sometimes. And it’s important to choose the right kind of help for your specific issues and what you’re hoping to get out of it.
So here’s what you need to know before reaching out.
What is Life Coaching?
I get this question a lot from people who are curious about life coaching or working with me, and they’ve never worked with a life coach. They usually know about therapy from personal experience, from friends or family going to therapy, or from seeing it in movies or TV shows (remember Frazier or even the Sopranos).
Life Coaching can be therapeutic, but the two professions are very different. I like to describe life coaching as a partnership with the life coach asking insightful questions that clients wouldn’t ask themselves, so that aligned and helpful answers can come to light. I believe you know yourself best, you just need a little help in the form of coaching questions and other support to experience that clarity or a-ha moment where things begin to make sense and can begin to change.
Life coaches also help you evaluate your current situation so you can get crystal clear on your true desires and goals. They encourage your progress, and provide you with accountability, support, structure and tools so you can produce your desired results more quickly and efficiently.
How is Life Coaching Different from Therapy?
The Core Difference
Most therapy involves a diagnosis of some mental or psychological disorder – a problem that needs to be treated because it’s disrupting one or more areas of your life. Life coaching typically takes someone who is already functioning well, but may still be suffering, and helps them to develop and grow to the next level.
When my Mom died expectedly I found a therapist to help me with that tremendous loss. I continued to function at work well, but my personal life was disrupted by my grief and sorrow; I didn’t think I would ever get past it. I needed support to work through the depressing thoughts and to function in this new world without my Mom. Therapy was the best choice for me at that time.
Past, Present, Future
Another difference is that therapy typically goes into depth about various issues, usually dealing with the past so that you can function better. And life coaching focuses primarily on the present and future and is more action-oriented and results-driven.
Types and Specialties
There are various types of therapy, like talk therapy, psychotherapy or hypnotherapy. There are also specialties within life coaching based on the coach’s skillset, training and experience.
In my life coaching business, I work with hard-working professionals dealing with a lot of stress and pressure (like me when I worked in my corporate HR job). I combine life coaching tools, like what I call thought-healing (or what others call mindset or mindfulness), and I combine it with my specialty, energy work, that is very effective at getting to the oftentimes hidden, or subconscious, root cause of what’s preventing you from achieving your goals. We meet weekly or biweekly for consistency and momentum, and before long goals like reducing stress, feeling better, improving relationships, or having more fun in life are achieved.
Lastly, sessions with a life coach will feel a lot different than ones with a therapist. Life coaching provides structure and accountability while therapy is more open-ended.
In my coaching sessions, I combine inner (energy) work and outer work – but there’s an underlying structure tied to the client’s prioritized goals. This structure helps us celebrate successes and progress, and discuss challenges or unhelpful blocks slowing down progress. And in each session there’s always homework for the client to accomplish between sessions.
So, Which One Is Best For You?
Do you need a life coach or a therapist? Actually, you don’t have to choose, if you need both. I have life coaching clients who are also actively in therapy, that’s perfectly fine. I’ve also had clients who I referred to other professionals, including therapists, for more specialized support.
The most important message here is to get help. I’m a big proponent of getting help rather than suffering alone. Especially in the challenging times we’re living in, life can be hard.
Some of us grew up being taught that asking for help is a sign of weakness and have a hard time with it, but you must push past that limiting belief for your health and wellbeing. It’s that important!
Over the years, I have had a hard time seeking out help, but I’ve come to learn and now know that most people love to help other people. It’s unhealthy to suffer for long periods of time, thinking whatever you’re grappling with will get better on its own; it usually won’t. There are resources out there for you, you just have to find the best one for your specific needs.
If you’re not spending time investing in your mental and emotional health, with a life coach or a therapist, you will not only continue to feel terrible but you’re blocking your ability to be the best version of yourself, in your personal life, your relationships and in your career.
Do you have any questions about life coaching not answered above? Drop them in a comment below.
Almost everything you do is driven by habits. We all have good, helpful habits and bad, or unhelpful, habits. You can think of your habits as the drivers getting you closer or further away from achieving what’s important to you. Habits are the foundation for major change in your life. That’s why it’s so important to understand if you’re cultivating helpful or unhelpful habits. To achieve your goals, you want to provide the best support and conditions that set you up to be successful. This happens by cultivating helpful habits that are directly aligned to those goals. And by eliminating any unhelpful habits that are slowing or blocking your progress.
How to Cultivate Helpful Habits
Bad habits are the saboteurs that make it harder to achieve what we desire. As mentioned earlier, helpful habits move you toward achieving your goals and desires, whereas unhelpful habits slow or block your progress. To increase your success when changing an unhelpful habit, it’s best to replace it with a new helpful habit. It may be as simple as making a small pivot. Like when you quit drinking soda you replace it with Zevia instead for a week or two, and gradually pivot again to water or herbal tea. Decide what you want to achieve and move toward that goal. It’s more effective than focusing on what you need to stop or get rid of which often creates more pressure and feelings of being deprived. Also, start small with new habits. If it feels too big you’ll either get stuck and never stop or quit after a few days. For example, if you want to begin a daily morning routine that includes journaling and prayer or meditation, start with 5 minutes per day, and gradually increase it by 1 minute each week. To increase your chances of success, create a process and track your results. Something as simple as placing a check mark on a calendar for every day you complete your morning meditation is helpful. Track your results for at least 8 – 12 weeks to evaluate your progress, make any adjustments and to ensure long-lasting results. Get leverage and support when working on your habits. Ask a friend or colleague to point out if you’re demonstrating a habit you’re trying to change, or to complement you when they see you sticking to your new habit. For instance, they can point out when you’re late to a meeting or if you’re on your phone and not listening when others are talking. Cultivating your habits using the above strategies will support positive results. More tips on cultivating habits for success can be found here.
Two Words that Help Change Your Mindset
Here’s a suggestion from one of my own coaches. Change the phrase “I can’t” to “I don’t” when in a situation where you have a hard time sticking to your helpful habit or goal. For instance, let’s say you have a healthy eating goal of limiting high carb processed foods like flour and sugar. You’re out to dinner and the bread basket arrives. Instead of saying or thinking, “I can’t have any bread”, say or think “I don’t eat bread, that’s not for me”. This subtle shift helps change your mindset. “I can’t” is very limiting, and puts you into a victim or less-than mindset which may blow up on you in the long-term. “I don’t” is empowering, you’re in charge, you’re taking responsibility and it’s your decision. You should be able to feel the difference in energy in these two statements. Where can you make this shift? Think of a few examples and commit to making this shift at the next opportunity.
Act with Intention: Cultivate Helpful Habits
This method of cultivating helpful habits works for creating helpful habits and for changing unhelpful habits. The key is to put intention into the helpful habits you want to create, and be as specific as possible by adding in a situation, time, and location. For instance, you’ll meditate each morning for 5 minutes in your bed immediately after waking up, at 6 a.m. Include how long, where, when and how frequently. Or another example is you’ll take a fun 20 minute walk around the block with your dogs after dinner on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. For unhelpful habits, you make the trigger of that habit your situation, and then change how you respond. It’s a simple pivot toward what you want to achieve, like in the quitting soda example earlier. That response (having Zevia, water or tea when habitually reaching for a soda) becomes your new habit. Two more tips for cultivating helpful habits are: Make it fun. You’re more likely to stick with something you enjoy doing. For example, add your favorite music to your exercise routine or listen to your favorite books or podcast during your new walking routine. Be compassionate, kind and easy on yourself. You may slip up and that’s ok. Pay attention and stop any negative self-talk or harsh judgments, like “I knew you’d fail” or “you never stick with anything”. Instead, just refocus on the results your striving for, get excited about achieving them, and kindly say or think to yourself, “this slip is ok, you’re making great progress”. In the comments, please share one helpful habit you’ve successfully created this year and what goal it has helped you achieve. Photo by Rawpixel on Unsplash
Let’s put a stop to your self-sabotage once and for all.
Do you want something in your life but can’t seem to attain it? Maybe it’s a goal, dream, or vision you have and yet, month after month, year after year, the time passes by and you’re no closer to achieving it.
Have you already realized you’re sabotaging yourself? Do you actually witness yourself about to do the opposite of what could make you fulfilled, yet you still take that unhelpful action.
Sometimes it feels out of control or like you’re not the one driving that behavior. That’s your subconscious keeping you from living your best life.
Or maybe you’ve rationalized that it’s ok to watch TV for 5 hours when you planned to work on your finances, organize your office and then go for a walk.
You tell yourself that you’ve had a long stressful week at work and you deserve to numb out while binge-watching a TV show. But this short-term ‘reward’ doesn’t support or help your long-term goals.
Dissonance and Cognitive Dissonance
Dissonance is the opposite of harmony. It’s the tension when two conflicting or disharmonious things are combined.
For instance, you say you want less stress in your life and began to see good results by meditating daily, yet now you don’t make it a priority and don’t take the time to meditate at all.
More specifically, cognitive dissonance is a theory in social psychology. It refers to the mental conflict that occurs when your behaviors and beliefs don’t align, like in the meditating example above. You believe and know meditating daily reduces your stress, but your behavior of no longer doing so doesn’t align with that belief.
This mental conflict, or cognitive dissonance, can cause you to feel uncomfortable, stressed, anxious, ashamed or guilty. And since you have an instinctive desire to avoid these types of feelings, you attempt to relieve it.
That’s where the self-sabotage comes in and can have a significant impact on how you think and behave, and the decisions and actions you take. You may get some temporary relief, but in the long-run it’s unhelpful and destructive.
For instance, you may ignore your doctor’s advice, blood test results or published research that causes dissonance. And you may explain things away or devalue them to continue in your pattern.
Years ago, one of my co-workers knew smoking cigarettes was cancer causing yet she explained that it was necessary to calm her nerves given her demanding role at work. She also justified her smoking habit by saying she was concerned about gaining weight if she quit, like she witnessed in her other family members and friends. We’ll believe and keep doing just about anything to relieve the discomfort.
Self-Sabotage: Your Saboteur at Work
You may believe that this sabotaging voice is trying to protect you from harm or that it’s really helping you in some way.
But self-sabotage really is you creating problems for yourself that interfere with your true goals.
It’s not some outside force creating havoc in your life. Realize this and take responsibility for you and your saboteur.
And understand that your saboteur wants you to maintain the status quo in your life.
These are examples of saboteur thoughts. Do any of these sound familiar to you?
- You’re not good enough or I’m not good enough.
- You don’t deserve this or I don’t deserve this.
- They’re going to get upset with you.
- That’s too hard.
- I’ll never be successful at this or you’ll never be successful.
- I’ll do it tomorrow.
- It’s not okay to be wealthy/happy.
- It’s not safe to put yourself out there, they’ll criticize and judge you.
Listening to your saboteur is a choice you’re making so that you can feel differently. Pay attention to these thoughts or beliefs; noticing them is the first step in stopping your self-sabotage.
Additionally, expect the saboteur to get stronger whenever you begin to make positive changes in your life. Expect it and be ready for it. The action steps below can help.
Act with Intention: Identify your saboteur and stop your self-sabotage
The saboteur loses its power over us when we’re aware and can identify it, realize we have other options in that situation, and then consciously choose the action at that time that serves us best (gets us closer to our true goal).
Here are some actions to take to identify your saboteur and stop your self-sabotage. It takes practice and work, and consistency, and over time you’ll be back in control and seeing positive results.
- Identify your saboteur by answering these questions. Where are you sabotaging yourself? What does your saboteur often think or say? In your environment, either at work or at home, what self-sabotaging language is being used, by you or others? For instance, a new opportunity at work has come up. It would be a promotion for you and you’re excited to learn more about it. Then you feel a little apprehensive, even nervous or scared, and the following thought stream pops into your head “I’m not ready for this. What if I fail? It’s easier to just stay in this role and not put myself out there to be rejected.”
- Next, you want to challenge and change those beliefs. Every time that thought, belief or language comes up, recognize it as your saboteur and change it. Then consciously choose a new thought and behavior that supports your long-term goals and wellbeing.
In the example above, you recognize those thoughts and beliefs for what they are. It’s your saboteur.
- Challenge “I’m not ready for this” with “Of course I’m ready, this is the perfect job for me.”
- Challenge “What if I fail?” with “What if I don’t fail? What if I don’t even try?”
- Challenge “It’s easier to just stay in this role and not put myself out there to be rejected” with “This new role is part of my long-term career plans, I’m ready for it and I’ll do a fantastic job. If I don’t get selected now, they may consider me for other opportunities in the future because I pursued this role and they know I’m interested in my career growth.”
You may need to get some leverage involved in order to change that thought or behavior. To do that, ask yourself, “What is this costing me in terms of health, wellbeing, relationships, and success? How is this holding me back from my goals and dreams and the vision I see for myself?”
In the example above, the leverage could be envisioning yourself in 2 – 5 years in the future, in the same role, earning a similar salary, not being challenged or growing professionally or personally. How would that feel? What have you missed out on? What are you still tolerating? How does staying stagnant impact your wellbeing, relationships, your long-term goals and dreams?
If you’re struggling with achieving a particular goal, your saboteur could be at work. Sometimes you’re not even aware of it.
I challenge you to get really focused, act intentionally, identify your saboteur and stop your self-sabotage once and for all.
Leave a comment below when you start seeing the positive changes from stopping your self-sabotage. Share your success to encourage others.
of integrate is to form, coordinate, or blend into a functioning or unified whole.
Taking the time to integrate is to intentionally stop taking in more and to combine what you’ve already have for deeper growth and development. Once you integrate, you get to deeper levels of knowledge and fulfillment in your life.
For instance, if you love to learn new things, you may have a tendency to read more and more books, take more workshops and listen to more podcasts. It almost feels like an addiction at times. A friend or colleague recommends a new course or workshop and you sign up, take it, and quickly move on to the next one.
Many times you don’t gain much, in fact, you just consume and never implement what you’ve learned.
You never integrated it; you never took the material to a deeper level where it could make a significant impact in your career or in your life.
The Myth of More is Better
More is better is a myth. The constant strive for more in our culture prevents us from seeing and experiencing the true value of what we already have.
It supports the idea and feeling that wherever you are is not good enough, because more is always better.
It’s hard to be grateful and appreciate all that you have now when your focus is on getting more.
I’ve worked with people who were always focused on the next project or the next job, and never appreciated all they were experiencing in their current role. They missed the fulfilling things like the relationships they were building, the people they were helping and the new things they were learning.
The energy around more is better feels like a chase – a futile one. You’re chasing after things just to accumulate more. And once you have it, you’re dissatisfied and off to the next thing, and the next and the next.
And it’s not just physical things. We’re constantly absorbing more and more experiences, information and energy but without the time or opportunity to sort through it all.
Take the time to sort through it and you’ll begin to feel some significant improvements.
Why It’s Important to Integrate
The chase for more erodes your energy and your sense of fulfillment. Taking the time to integrate gives you your energy back. You begin to feel more in control and organized.
Taking the time to integrate helps to reduce the overwhelm, stress, and exhaustion you experience in your day to day life. If you’re feeling uncentered, off-balance or even fractured, it may be the signal that it’s time to integrate.
Act with Intention: Take Time to Integrate
Here are some suggestions to start taking intentional action around taking the time to integrate.
First off, slow down and realize if you’re in a “more is better” mindset and exhibiting behaviors like described above. When you notice this behavior or thought, change it to a more helpful behavior or thought. Simply saying “slow down” or “stop” can be enough to bring about some awareness.
It took some time to get here, but now I quickly recognize if I’m going down a ‘learning” rabbit hole. Any emails or suggestions for a new book, course, training program or free live event I either delete immediately or I scan it to see if it’ll be useful and put it on my “maybe later” list.
Taking time to integrate is more than just not taking more in. You want to intentionally integrate experiences and information as they occur or directly afterwards.
One good practice is to spend 5-10 minutes after a meeting or workshop to integrate your key takeaways. Things like what you learned, what you’d like to implement from the training, if anything. Better yet, take notes during it to include which things you’d like to test out and apply to your own life.
Additionally, take a break and stop taking more in – for days, weeks or months if needed. That means no new podcasts, books, workshops or courses during this time period.
During this break from consuming more info, data and things, sort through what you already have. This can be done by simply taking the time to think about things. Embrace daydreaming. Let you mind wander. Meditate. This is how your brain sorts and categorizes information.
A good question to ask is: Is this information useful for you and can you apply it to your life? If not, let it go.
If it’s useful, your next step is to take action and test it out. Apply it and experience this information.
Lastly, after testing it out review what you’ve learned through the application and experience of integrating it into your life. Are there any additional lessons or knowledge? Have your beliefs changed as a result?
Taking the time to integrate is the best way to become a more unified whole. You’ll find it brings new levels of understanding and wisdom, and you’ll feel more fulfilled in your life.
Photo by Aiony Haust on Unsplash
A helpful strategy for uncertain and uncomfortable times is to focus on growth. Just like how it’s best to focus on the solution to a problem rather than the problem itself, I’m suggesting you focus on how you’re growing and developing instead of how uncertain things are. Growth brings a sense of confidence, stability and security.
The next time you’re beginning to stress over a particular situation or challenge, ask yourself these questions, “How is this challenging time or situation causing me to grow?” and “What am I learning from this?”
Uncertainty is all around us
It’s a fact of life. Uncertainty always exists. We’re always dealing with the unknown, in positive or negative ways.
For instance, you’re about to start a new assignment at work. You have certain expectations but it’s with colleagues you’ve never worked directly with before. It could be the best work experience ever, or the most challenging that tests your ability and forces you to learn and grow.
Or even something as simple as a trip to the grocery store could be full of uncertainty. There could be traffic, road closures, or a traffic accident that prolongs the whole trip, or the store could be out of stock of the staples you need.
Finding and losing balance is necessary for growth
When we’re in the middle of uncertainty, we feel out of balance. Something feels off.
Some people feel excited, like the uncertainty of a vacation to a place you’ve never been. Other people may feel anxious or stressed in that same scenario.
Our journey here in life is about finding and losing balance, and that is necessary for you to grow and develop. This fact alone helps put things into perspective and provides a more productive way of dealing with life’s challenges.
Think about when you were a child unable to walk yet. You had no balance or coordination.
One day, you gained enough balance to stand. Next, you threw yourself off balance to take that first step. You got balance again, then with your next step, threw yourself off balance again. Eventually you mastered walking and moved on to the next thing you could learn.
Growth nurtures confidence, and propels us toward the next opportunity for continued development.
How the Covid-19 pandemic is causing growth
I tend to look for the positivity in things. I’m not making light of the illness, deaths, physical and financial loss, and breakdown of systems (healthcare, political, social, financial) that we’ve been experiencing for most of 2020. I acknowledge this Covid-19 global pandemic has been one of the most trying times in recent history.
In a recent conversation I could hear my friend’s jaw drop when I stated how this Covid-19 pandemic has brought about a lot of positive things.
In disbelief, she said, “Oh really? Like what?”
I see families spending more time together going on hikes and bike rides; non tech-savvy people “going” to church or other meetings via webmeeting and some even holding their own Zoom meetings who never even heard of Zoom 6 months earlier; people are reevaluating their careers and current roles and organizations given the response to this pandemic and what their own core values are.
I see a slower pace that allows for more reflection and meditation/prayer; more enjoyment of reflective hobbies like gardening, reading, walks, music, dance, yoga; less traffic and stress over hectic schedules and routines (like commuting business professionals who now have 1 to 3 extra hours in their day as they work from home). There’s also less pollution, less driving, less air traffic, less noise and less unnecessary shopping.
There’s an intentional slowing down to enjoy sunsets, full moons, comets, beautiful clouds, beautiful trees and gardens.
Most importantly is this sense of global community – we’re all in this together no matter where on this earth you reside.
This pandemic is certainly allowing us all to expand and grow. And an intentional focus on growth is helpful during this time.
The loss, death, illness, and breakdown of systems is putting you off balance. And the focus on growth can be that step toward creating balance again.
Act with Intention: focus on growth
If you struggle in tough times, when things seem to not go your way, here are some things to do.
1. Determine what you’re focused on. Take a few deep breaths and ask yourself “what has my attention right now?” This helps you become more present with what it is so you can begin to address it.
2. Pay attention to your thoughts and language. I’ve heard people say things like “Things never work out for me” or “Why do I have so many problems”. These are limiting and unhelpful thoughts and language that once you’re aware of, you can change them in the moment. Read more about harnessing the power of your thoughts here.
3. Change limiting and unhelpful thoughts and language to statements of intention. Some people call them affirmations or incantations, but they are basically statements of intention to get your egoic and monkey mind to focus and learn a new way. It’s a way to set a new intention of how you want things to be.
You can state them aloud when one of your limiting unhelpful thoughts or statements come up. And you can build them into a daily practice where you review them each morning or 3 times a day. Keep a list in your phone for easy reference.
Some examples are: “I release everything that’s not serving my highest good”, “I know that this struggle is a normal part of life’s ups and downs, and it’s only temporary” and “This challenge is allowing me to grow and expand.” One of my favorites is “All I need is within me now.”
4. Lastly, ask helpful questions to focus on growth. The next time you’re beginning to stress over a particular situation or challenge, ask yourself these questions, “How is this challenging time or situation causing me to grow?” or “What am I learning from this?”
Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash
You know what you want in your career and in each of the important areas of your life (finances, health, relationship, spirituality, etc.), yet you’re not seeing the desired results. Are you getting in your own way? If so, get out of your own way and get things done.
Does this sound familiar: “I set a goal on January 1, here we are halfway through the year and I’m no closer to achieving it.”
How do you get in your own way? This could be an extensive list, but to keep it short I’ll focus on two areas: 1. Energy drains and 2. Unmet or unacknowledged needs
One way you get in your own way of getting things done is by not managing your energy drains. Energy drains are the little or big things that tax your attention and energy.
They slow down your progress and prevent you from achieving your goals. Read more about what could be draining your energy and what to do about it here.
Unmet or Unacknowledged Needs
We all have needs and its okay to have them. Needs are a normal part of being human. It’s important to recognize if you’re not meeting those needs in a healthy or satisfying way, or you’re not even acknowledging them. You’re slowing down or stopping important things from getting done.
You’ve most likely learned about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs in psychology class. It’s a five tiered hierarchy that’s typically shown as a pyramid. that suggests people are motivated to fulfill basic needs before moving on to more advanced psychological and self-fulfillment needs.
It’s helpful because it illustrates the various types of needs and reminds us that all humans have needs. It also stresses the importance of self-actualization needs at the top of the pyramid.
It includes physiological needs like food, water and sleep followed by safety and security needs like health and wellness, or a safe place to live. Social needs like family, romantic partner, and community come next, followed by esteem needs like appreciation and respect from others. Last are the self-actualization needs which are growing and developing to achieve your highest potential.
What are your needs?
Use these categories in the Maslow’s Hierarchy to think about and identify your needs. How are you meeting these needs? Can you find healthier ways to satisfy them? Are there any needs that you’re not fulfilling? Do you think it’s not okay to have these needs?
An example that comes to mind is the typical caretaker who puts everyone’s needs ahead of their own. My mother would work all day, and then go visit each of her parents (one lived at home, one was in a nursing home in another town) every evening after work and on the weekends.
On her way home she would do grocery shopping or pick up dinner for her husband and kids. She pushed her needs aside while everyone else’s needs were the priority.
Like my mother, many of us learn to pretend like we have it all together and can handle it all without help from anyone. Unfortunately, that’s how we get in our own way and prevent or delay the achievement of our biggest dreams and goals.
Another example is the person who hears they shouldn’t be boastful or act too proud as a child. Her needs for recognition and being valued are not satisfied. goes unmet as her achievements are not acknowledged.
Now as an adult, she’s often frustrated and feels disappointed when her efforts are not recognized at work. She feels incomplete and sometimes communicates all that she has done to anyone that will listen.
Oftentimes, this comes across as attention seeking or boasting by her colleagues and supervisor. She really wanted acknowledgement, but this isn’t the healthiest way to satisfy that need. She could find a healthier way.
Act with Intention: Take these steps now
First off, acknowledge that all humans have needs and its okay for you to have needs.
Then think about your needs and write down your top 3 needs right now. To help you create your list, review these categories of needs: security and certainty (safety and stability), significance (power, achievement and influence), love and connection (relationships, being listened to and connected to something greater than yourself/spiritual), and growth (learning, development and creativity).
Ask yourself for each of these 3 top needs, how are you meeting them?
Is it in a healthy or unhealthy way? What unhealthy ways are you going to let go of right now? What healthy ways of meeting those same needs are you going to create instead, not only in your career but in your life?
For example, let’s say one of your top needs is to feel safe and secure. Last year you earned a promotion at work and have an exciting and fulfilling new organization to lead. You felt secure in your role.
This year, because of outside circumstances everything is uncertain, especially your role. You put in even more hours and you’re working holidays and most weekends to feel secure in your position, putting your health and relationships at risk.
Perhaps a healthier way to fulfill your need for safety and security is to fulfill it outside of work since you don’t have direct control over the current work environment.
You can satisfy that need in your home environment or with your relationships. You can spend more quality time and get a sense of security and safety from those close beneficial connections you have with your family and friends. Experiencing their unconditional support for you and knowing they are there for you when you need them helps you feel safe and secure.
Remember, we all have needs and it’s critical for you to meet these needs in order to have a fulfilling career and life. So get out of your own way and get things done in healthier and more satisfying ways.
Photo by Minh Pham on Unsplash
A fear mindset could be the main cause of your stress
Your mindset is how you think and what you believe about yourself and your environment. It plays a critical role in how you cope with life’s challenges.
What you think determines what you believe, and what you believe influences what you experience in life. Thoughts shape your reality.
The ancient Chinese philosopher and writer Lao Tzu wrote: “Watch your thoughts, they become your words; watch your words, they become your actions; watch your actions, they become your habits; watch your habits, they become your character; watch your character, it becomes your destiny.”
If a majority of your thoughts are fear-based, you’ve got a fear mindset. It could be thoughts and even statements (your words) about fear of rejection, fear of failure, or fear that you’re not enough.
This fear mindset saps your energy. It keeps you in the predictable and comfortable, preventing you from challenging yourself to achieve your full potential.
Fear is a normal emotion and has its function. It serves as your natural response to possible threats to your physical or emotional safety.
Unfortunately, in our modern world this response can be misused, overused or chronic. (See my previous blog called Letting Go of Fear.)
Too much fear causes stress. A fear mindset is contracting, and exemplified in chronic tension, struggle and hardship. This unhelpful energy is energy you could be investing in growth, in achieving your dreams and desires.
People often give up on what they want because they believe that reaching their goal is beyond their abilities. They continue living in fear and settle into their lives, thinking they shouldn’t try at all.
Fear is part of the fixed mindset
Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D., in her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, writes about the power of mindset. She states that success is influenced by how we think about our talents and abilities.
People with a fixed mindset – those who believe that abilities are fixed – are less likely to flourish than those with a growth mindset – those who believe that abilities can be learned and developed. Fear is part of this fixed mindset.
The most successful people have a growth mindset. They don’t freeze up or flee when fear shows up, they embrace it and leverage that fear into taking action. When faced with a setback, they try harder.
They keeping looking for solutions and trying new strategies. They adapt and grow.
What mindset do you have?
What are your predominant thoughts and actions? If they seem fear-based or fixed, there’s no need to worry. The best part about your mindset is that you can change it.
You can move from a fixed, fear mindset to a love-based, trust-based, growth mindset where you’re more likely to flourish. Trust and love drives out fear. They can’t exist at the same time.
Intentionally Expand and Grow – Take Action
Use one or more of these techniques to move from a fear mindset that’s causing your stress to a new mindset of trust and growth.
1. Watch your thoughts.
First off, pay attention to your thoughts and the words you use. Are you frequently telling yourself fearful or limiting things? Things like: “I’ll never be able to get that promotion, I’m not experienced enough.”; “I’m not smart enough to lead this project”; “What if I fail – will they fire me?”
2. Choose to adopt a new mindset. Change your limiting thoughts and beliefs.
Start by challenging your thoughts the next time you don’t do well on a task. For example, if your presentation at work didn’t go well, and you hear yourself thinking “I never do anything right”, “I’m not good at my job”, or “I’m such a failure”, stop and ask some prodding questions.
What is the evidence for and against your conclusion? You can create a list of all the times your presentations were successful and when you were great at your job in the past.
You could think of reasons why it didn’t go so well this time, rather than concluding you’re a failure. Did you get enough quality sleep?; did you plan and prepare enough?; are there other things going on in your life right now causing you to be off your game?
Answering these questions leads to the new mindset. Figure out what new beliefs are more supportive and adopt those beliefs. Your internal dialogue of “I’m such a failure” can change to “If I’m prepared and feeling well physically and emotionally, I’ll always succeed.”
Keep in mind, these new beliefs take their place alongside the old ones, and as they become stronger, they give you a different way to think, feel, and act.
3. See everything as an opportunity to grow and develop.
Another way to change your mindset is to see every situation and person you encounter as an opportunity for expansion and development. When challenging events happen, ask yourself: “How is this calling me to expand and grow?”, “What am I learning?”, or “How can I improve?”
This strategy works well if you have a demanding or controlling leader at work. You can switch the focus of being judged or criticized to how this is calling you to develop.
It could be as simple as witnessing their behavior and realizing you never want to treat others that way, or maybe it’s a challenge about developing a relationship with a difficult personality.
If you stay in a fear mindset, the stress of living every day in fear of disapproval or of doing something wrong can become toxic. You may become paralyzed from moving forward in attempt to protect yourself.
Changing your mindset to embrace the challenge and grow allows you to take back control in what feels like a powerless situation and live up to your potential.
4. Use the word yet
Adding yet to your inner dialogue may be enough to change your beliefs about yourself and what you’re able to do. It helps with motivation too.
You can change:
- “I can’t do this” to “I can’t do this yet”;
- “I’m not good at this” to “I’m not good at this yet”;
- “This doesn’t work” to “This doesn’t work yet”.
One last thing. Make sure after you change your thoughts you step into those new beliefs. Take an action step in that direction to support the new thought.
Changing the fear mindset that’s causing your stress will change your outcome and results. With a new mindset, you can transform your life and the lives of others.
Photo by Bram on Unsplash
Have you ever thought about what’s draining your energy and what to do about it?
In our fast-paced and ever-changing world, we react to things and don’t realize the negative impact until later. These energy drains can lead to all sorts of issues and keep you from a satisfying career and happy life.
You’re probably familiar with the typical energy drains: not enough sleep, not drinking enough water, little to no physical activity, too much TV or social media, not eating well. In addition, you may be struggling with habits, coping mechanisms, and other situations that have an impact on your energy levels and wellbeing.
When I worked in corporate, the pressure to perform was extreme and unfair. There was a lot of complaining and working in HR, I heard it from all directions. There wasn’t time to take a breath, step back and act with intention. Things felt out of control. Add in office politics, power plays and changing priorities, along with the latest fire to put out, it was the definition of an energy drain on steroids.
These perfect-storm situations suck the life out of you, are unproductive, and at times physically and mentally debilitating. It crushes your spirit, and your happiness.
The Little Things That Drain Your Energy
The little things that drain your energy are the things you just handle. They seem insignificant, or not worth giving much thought. Unfortunately, they add up over time.
You ignore them, or think they’ll get better on their own without making any kind of focused effort toward making it better. Typically, you don’t act until it gets so bad that you can’t stand it anymore.
For example, let’s say you have a messy desk, and your desktop and folders on your PC are disorganized too. These are the little things that keep you from finding things easily. When you have to spend extra time to find something, you get frustrated. Your work and how effective you are suffers as a result.
Other little things that drain your energy are unfinished work items like a project that you push aside for more urgent matters.
Unmade decisions, like hiring a new team member or buying a new mobile phone, pick away at your vitality too. Every time you think about how you haven’t made that decision, it robs you of your energy.
Clutter, in all its forms, drains your energy too. It could be a garage overflowing with unnecessary things you’ll never use again or the clutter in your head as you worry about things outside of your control.
One last thing that you might not realize is an energy drain is a toxic relationship you tolerate. These are the one-sided friendships or the negative friends that leave you drained after spending any amount of time with them.
Let’s say you plan to have an enjoyable lunch with a friend, and the entire conversation is all about her and her problems, all the negative things in the world and a rant about politics.
When you finally get a chance to share about you she’s on her phone or has to leave. It’s exhausting. These types of relationships are energy vampires – they suck all the life out of you and you leave feeling tired, numb and upset.
The Big Things That Drain Your Energy
The big things that drain your energy are the things you know are diminishing the quality of your life. You may accept them as normal, as I did when I brought work home to do in the evenings and weekends. Or tolerating a toxic work environment as if all companies would be the same.
These big things may stem from a habitual pattern you have, like taking things personally when they have nothing to do with you. That in turn leads to hurt feelings and strained relationships.
They may be the things you don’t know how to effectively deal with, like a demanding boss, a challenging relationship with your child or an aging parent who needs more time than you can give them. All draining your energy.
Remember that life is a journey and it’s meant to have positive and negative aspects. You don’t need to create suffering, there will be plenty of it naturally.
Your goal with small and big energy drains is to acknowledge they exist, accept what they’re costing you and then move beyond them.
Here’s a 3 step process to intentionally address how to do this.
Take Intentional Action
1. Make a short list of the energy drains, or obstacles, getting in your way of being satisfied and happy – include 5 from work and 5 from home.
2. Next, ask yourself what each of these items is costing you and write that down. It could be loss of time, exhaustion, inconvenience, frustration, loss of health or wellbeing, strained relationships, or missed opportunities.
For example, your closet is a disaster and every morning it takes way too long to find the clothes you want to wear, usually making you late and frustrated (cost = frustration, being late, anger).
Or you haven’t decided to start looking for another job yet despite thinking about it for months given the current climate at your workplace. It’s causing you stress every time you think about it or when you see colleagues taking action to benefit their careers. The cost here is the negative impact of stress on your health and wellbeing, plus loss of quality sleep since it’s been keeping you up at night too.
3. Lastly, find ways to eliminate, minimize or manage these obstacles. Start off with an easy one, like plan two hours to clean out and organize your closet or garage this weekend. Or commit to updating your resume one evening this week. Click here for help with getting organized.
Delegation works well too. If your energy drain is finding the time to keep a clean home, delegate it by hiring someone else to clean it.
Some of these obstacles could be intentionally delayed. For example, if you need to buy a new computer you can put a day in your calendar for three weeks from now to start the research and shopping, when you’ll have more free time on the weekends.
When you eliminate an obstacle, you’ll feel like a weight’s been lifted when you make that decision. It could be as simple as refusing to spend time with any energy vampires or others that don’t treat you well. Or deciding to not participate in any workplace gossip or drama is another empowering and energizing step.
Keep working your list until you’ve moved beyond all your obstacles that are draining your energy. At any point in the future, redo this process to ensure you’re keeping your energy and wellbeing at optimal levels.
Photo by Twins Fisch on Unsplash
Here’s the greatest advice ever – do what’s best for you.
Especially now as many parts of the world are slowly opening back up following the COVID-19 pandemic.
Here in the U.S. we’re at the beginning stages and it’s bringing on another set of decision making and coping skills.
Some people are acting like nothing’s changed and have jumped right into the deep end of the pool. They are going to restaurants (if open and permissible), to the beach or to other crowded places, like bars. They wear no masks and aren’t concerned with staying 6 feet apart or washing their hands frequently.
Others are optimistically cautious and dipping their toe in, venturing out to a store for the first time in weeks, sometimes months. Proud of themselves that they are taking this big step.
They wear masks and gloves and do all the right things – staying 6 feet apart, minimizing exposure by shopping alone, going through the self-checkout and getting what they need and leaving as quickly as possible.
It feels best for them.
We’ve got more decisions to make now. There’s a constant push and pull of going too fast and not going fast enough.
Occasionally there’s pressure to socialize before you’re ready. Here’s an example: an acquaintance invited you to a 50th birthday party, where you can drive by in your car or venture into the driveway to celebrate (there are lots of creative social distancing party ideas here). Do you go? What will she think if you don’t participate? You may think, I barely know her, why is she inviting all these Facebook friends like me to do this at a time like this?
You may be conflicted when your neighbors ask you over for wine or dinner, yet you know they’ve been shopping every day for weeks just to get out of the house, ignoring the stay at home order. Are they carrying the virus? Will it be safe to be so close even for an hour or two? Even if you stay outside and 6 feet apart?
Or maybe you have a friend who wants to visit you after visiting her son who works in a healthcare facility where they’ve had cases of COVID-19. Do you visit with her outside only? What if she needs to use the bathroom during the visit – is that safe? How will that work?
Sometimes it’s a fine balance between wanting to please others, wanting to enjoy yourself (you miss socializing), and doing what you know is best for you.
Do What’s Best for You
The greatest advice during these times is to do what’s best for you.
Whether or not you’re in a high risk group for getting sick (or living with someone that is), you must do what makes you comfortable and don’t let pressure from others, self-doubt or feeling bad for saying no prevent you from taking care of yourself first.
No one is going to watch out for you so you must do what’s right for you – no matter what. It is that important.
Even if it’s hard to say no. Even if the whole neighborhood is gathering in street for a social distancing party and you don’t feel comfortable being around neighbors who you know have had visitors and service people in and out of their homes recently.
Learning to trust yourself and your decisions is a skillset worth cultivating. It gets easier with time and practice.
Paying attention to your body’s signals is one way to build your intuition. Some people call it a gut feeling; they may feel a tightness or knot in their gut when something doesn’t feel right for them. It’s their signal to say no.
Others really pay attention to their emotions and get curious. For example, maybe you’re feeling excited but also scared when your hair stylist calls now that she’s reopened and has an open spot for you.
You’re conflicted about going to get your haircut and colored – you know you’ll look and feel better, but how safe will you be?
You want to support your stylist who hasn’t been working in almost 2 months which makes you feel connected and supportive, yet you’re not willing to being in a confined space with her for 2 hours. The fear enters again.
Realize it’s perfectly normal to feel conflicted, and trust that you’ll make the best decision for yourself. Perhaps you followed the advice here about trusting your body’s signals (feelings and emotions), and decide to get your haircut but schedule it for 3 weeks from now.
That way, you figure your stylist has some time to work the kinks out and adjust to how she can best keep her customers safe. That helps reduce the fear you were feeling.
At the same time, you’ll be supporting her business and feeling excited about finally getting your hair done. The choice is still yours but you’re doing it on your terms, aligned to making you feel safe, connected and supportive.
Take Intentional Action
The next time you feel conflicted about how to proceed, follow the two steps here to get back to a centered place and do what’s best for you.
1. Slow down and notice that this decision is causing conflict in you; becoming aware is key.
As humans, many times we’re in automatic mode and don’t take the time to slow down. We react quickly without much thought.
This fast-paced world we live in doesn’t help. Taking a few deep breaths and intentionally slowing down does help.
And don’t be afraid to delay your decision – letting someone know you’ll get back to them tomorrow, and then sticking to that agreement, is very empowering. Saying “Let me sleep on it and get back to you tomorrow” works well.
2. Take responsibility and act in a way that’s aligned to what is best for you. Realizing that you are the creator, not the victim, of your life is a great core belief to have. In other words, you GET to decide, what a privilege.
And being clear about what’s best for you before you act is important. Build your instinctual power by practicing it on a regular basis.
A great time to get clarity for me is during or right after meditating. For most decisions, I spend a few minutes slowing down, getting centered and then trusting my instinct and decision. But for bigger choices or ones that I still feel confused about, during or after meditation the following morning is the solution.
So remember, always do what’s best for you. You’ll feel better, make better decisions and have more control as you continue to navigate the uncertainty in this journey ahead.
Photo by Mike Petrucci on Unsplash
How do you feel hopeful when so much in the world is uncertain? At times, it can seem like there’s no hope.
Hope is a feeling of expectation and desire for positive outcomes with respect to events and circumstances in one’s life or the world at large.
How can you expect a positive outcome or make plans when things are beyond your control? I’m sure you’ve heard about people who had to change their plans due to COVID-19. Big plans. Big events. Things like weddings, vacations, graduations, anniversary parties, and other celebrations. All delayed, or even cancelled entirely.
There are many ways to find your way back to hope, below are just a few with specific action steps at the end.
Realize you get to choose
When events seem out of your control, do you choose to be hopeful? You can choose:
- to be hopeful that our leaders will guide us properly during the upcoming weeks and months of opening our environments up again.
- to be hopeful that the economy and your 401K balance will come back as it typically does during these cyclical times.
- to be hopeful that you and your loved ones will continue to stay healthy and safe by taking the right precautions and following good advice and practices to stay safe.
When you take responsibility for your feelings and choose how you want to feel about a circumstance, you become empowered.
It doesn’t matter if that circumstance is within your control or not. You may not be able to affect the outcome, but you can affect the way you think and feel about it.
Modify your expectations
We set ourselves up for frustration and disappointment when our expectations are unrealistic and set too high. Or if we cling to the same expectations when current circumstances are calling for them to be changed.
What are your expectations for your 2020 goals? Now might be a good time to reevaluate where they are in light of the pandemic and modify your expectations for achieving them.
A business owner friend expected to double her sales this year and was on target in January and February, and then her business was forced to shutdown. She’s turned to plan B and plan C to bring income in, and has modified her expectations for the remainder of this year to minimize further disappointment.
Find the silver lining
Look for meaning in the most challenging of situations. It brings a sense of peace and satisfaction, even if the meaning is simply learning something new.
For example, if working from home is new and challenging for you, the deeper meaning could be viewed as an opportunity to work on a skillset you’re developing, like patience, perseverance or how to handle change.
There are so many silver linings with the global pandemic. You can look for examples and find them every day.
I see neighbors being more neighborly and taking the time to get to know each other better, and support each other when in need. Even though we’re social distancing, I see more connection – and deeper connections – via phone calls and webmeetings. Friends and relatives are checking in on each other, even ones who haven’t spoken in years.
There’s less traffic, less air pollution, more empathy and more willingness to help others – so much good from this “slow down” that’s been forced upon us.
Take Purposeful Action
Hope is something you can create. I encourage you to take what you’ve learned above and act. Here are 5 steps to follow to be hopeful when there’s not much hope:
1. Notice the feeling of hopelessness; become aware of it. Awareness is powerful in itself. Pay attention to your feelings or thoughts that may be causing hopelessness.
2. Pause & breathe. It may help to think or say aloud “I’m going to pause right now and take a few deep breaths”, then take 3 or 4 deep diaphragmatic breaths to calm your nervous system.
3. Get curious. Don’t try to stop or shut down the feeling. Sit with it and get curious about it. Ask yourself questions like, what’s causing me to feel this way? Could this be some other feeling instead? Am I physically run down and that’s impacting my mood and feelings?
4. Decide to take responsibility. Accept and trust that your life is exactly that, YOUR life. You create your experiences and can choose what kind of experiences they are. And if you desire, you can change what you’re experiencing at any point.
5. Act: choose a better feeling thought and then take a small action in that same direction. For example, choose to appreciate the positive in your life: like being grateful that you’re still healthy, and then go take a quick walk around your neighborhood, enjoying the weather and fresh air.
You may not be able to control a lot these days. Uncertainty is at unprecedented levels. But you can dismiss the victim mindset, and instead control how you think and feel about certain things.
Hopelessness, and the inevitable suffering from it, is optional. Remember, you have a choice to be hopeful when there’s not much hope.
Photo by Rose Erkul on Unsplash
Becoming skilled at letting go of fear is a powerful step in creating a happier and healthier life. What you may not realize is that fear, like all your emotions, is under your control.
With the proper techniques and practices you can get really good at managing unhelpful emotions and experiencing more positive, helpful ones.
These days many of us are being forced to let go of things due to social distancing and other measures to minimize the spread of COVID-19.
This sense of uncertainty can bring up fear: when will stores and restaurants open up, when will I be able to go back to working in an office, how will this all work so that we stay safe and healthy? There’s no shortage of fear and uncomfortable feelings.
You can let go of negativity around a current situation and focus on positives, and address the fear when it gets to be too much.
Why let go of fear
Fear is your body’s signal alerting you to danger, or what is known as the fight or flight response. However, when you’re not being chased by a tiger or in some other life threatening situation, and that situation is not under your direct control, it’s not helpful.
Fear produces cortisol and a stress response in the body, and if it occurs too frequently (chronic stress), it can lead to health issues and negatively impact your emotional wellbeing.
We often don’t realize how long-held thought patterns and emotions that no longer serve us prevent us from moving forward. Feeling the fear and letting it go helps you move forward and closer to achieving your goals and dreams.
It may be challenging to let go of what you once cherished or feel pressured by others to hold on to, or that you’re accustomed to. But the more you let go, the more space you create for new opportunities and people to come into your life, and the easier it becomes to address future fear or other unhelpful emotions.
Strategic action you can take
Try these 3 steps the next time fear is taking its hold on you.
1 Notice the fear. Become aware of when it comes up – awareness is a powerful tool. Appreciate that this feeling is totally normal. Your mind is trying to resolve what it perceives as “unsafe” to your survival.
2. Be with that feeling. Don’t try to fix it or get rid of it. Take a pause and as your notice it, see where it appears in your body. Maybe it’s a tight feeling in your gut/stomach, or in your chest. Some people say it feels hot, or heavy, or that it has a shape to it. Be curious, and appreciate that it’s there.
3. Let your body do its thing and process it. As long as you don’t attach any more energy to this feeling by creating a story around it and making it more than it is, the feeling will usually dissipate on its own in less than 90 seconds. Remember: notice it, be curious, and see if it’s changing as you stay present with that feeling.
You can do some breathing exercises or body movement to match the energy of that feeling. For example, if it’s a tightness or heaviness in your chest area, take a few deep inhales and imagine the oxygen going directly to that tightness or heaviness. Typically, you’ll begin to feel a shift of energy, and you may notice a lighter feeling or opening of that area.
One of my most scary times
A few years ago I was driving on one of the top 10 most dangerous roads in the world, the Hana Highway in Maui (read more here).
It is a 60+ mile curvy road full of over 600 hairpin turns, many of them blind turns (click to take a virtual drive). There are over 50 one-lane bridges and the trip is full of twists, with the road not wide enough for two cars in many places.
As you can imagine, the fear of driving this road consumed me. The trip takes 2.5-3 hours to drive straight through, for roughly 60 miles!
As far as working through the fear, I had no problem noticing it (step 1). I felt it for weeks. But I couldn’t let it cause me to freeze while driving.
So I felt it, and noticed where it was in my body (tightness from my stomach up to my chest) and felt how strong it was, especially during especially scary parts of the drive (step 2).
Then, I let my body do what it was meant to do, process it (step 3). Lots of calming breathing exercises helped.
I also matched that feeling of fear with singing and praying – loudly – to match the energy of that fear. Especially on those blind hairpin turns, when I had no idea if I would have a car coming right at me when I got around the corner. I also proactively forced a huge smile on my face and appreciated the beauty of the ocean and waterfalls and flowers.
I survived the Hana Highway, and hope this story helps you the next time you’re feeling fear.
Review and practice the above steps with fear, or any unhelpful emotion, and see how things begin to improve.
Photo by Mazhar Zandsalimi on Unsplash