What To Do If You Dread Mondays

Mondays are a great litmus test to determine if something is not working in your life and career. 

If it’s Sunday evening and you think about the week ahead and feel energized, that’s a good indicator that you’re thriving.  

But if you think about Monday and feel dread, overwhelm, or a pit in your stomach, consider that to be like an engine indicator light on your car. It’s a warning sign that something needs your attention.  

Just as like hunger or thirst indicate when our bodies need food and water, persistent dread and overwhelm are internal signals that something needs to change.   

If this is where you find yourself, here’s what to do. 

Get To The Source Of The Problem 

The first step is to begin an inquiry to figure out the real source of your distress. 

To do that, follow the feeling: Is it the actual work that you dread or just the feeling of overwhelm from the number of tasks on your plate?  Keep digging deeper at each level, always looking to be as specific as possible.  

If it’s the work itself, ask yourself what is causing the feeling of dread.  Is it interacting with your boss or a particular co-worker?  Is it that you find the work boring and uninspiring?  Is it the work environment that you dislike? 

If it’s the feeling of overwhelm that’s bothering you, figure out the exact issue: do you feel like there’s not enough time to take care of work and household tasks? Or is it because you don’t have a plan for the week?  

With every answer, continue to go deeper, as if peeling off the layers of an onion, until you finally get to the primary source of your pain. (If it’s all of the above, then focus on identifying the issue that you most dread, or that feels the most painful.)  

The Magic Question 

Once you identify the real source of your dread, write down your thoughts about the problem.  For example, if you dread your work because you hate the work, you might write down “this work is mind-numbing.”  If you feel overwhelmed and stressed about time, you might write down “I don’t have time to do everything.”

I want to offer that these optional thoughts are creating more dread and pain for you than the actual circumstances. And they are also not serving you because they’re not really helping you solve the problem and can actually be counter-productive. If you look closely, you’ll probably find that you spend a lot of extra time dwelling on the negative thoughts, rather than just getting on with the work and finishing it.

Also, as true as these thoughts feel, notice how they don’t actually help you to solve the problem. If you had already solved it with those thoughts, you wouldn’t be reading this article!   

The good news is that you can, in fact, choose different thoughts about your circumstances, which will create different feelings, which will allow you to show up differently and create different results.  

It all starts with a magic question:  How do you want to feel about it? As in, how do you want to feel about your job?  Or your to-do list?

The question presupposes that you have a choice about how you feel because you do.  It creates space in your brain to consider the possibility of another option that will allow you to feel better about your current circumstances right away. (That’s why I consider it to be magical!)

Maybe you truly do find the work you do to be boring, but you want to feel content (as opposed to miserable) in your current job while also looking for a new one.  Or maybe you just want to feel grateful that you have a job that pays the bills right now while you strategize your next move. Looking at your busy schedule, maybe you just want to feel calm about it all. These feelings are available to you now.   

Once you identify how you want to feel, ask yourself this: What thought do I need to think and believe in order to feel that way?

Brainstorm thoughts until you find a few that feel better than what you’re currently thinking. Perhaps the thought “there is enough time to do the things that are important” creates a feeling of calm for you.  Every person is different, so you need to find a thought that works for you and that you can believe now.  

Practice

Creating new thought patterns and new neural pathways takes time and practice. You might not be accustomed to practicing your thoughts, but choosing thoughts that serve you on purpose is a skill that you can learn like any other.

Once you find your new thought, deliberately practice it several times a day by reading it and saying it to yourself.  Put it at your workspace or on your phone as a reminder. Have it on hand to look at when your brain takes you back to the old thought patterns, as it inevitably will.

Each time you do this, you will notice an instant shift in your feelings. When you feel better, you’ll start taking productive action. And when you do that, you’ll get much better results. It seems almost too simple, but actually putting it into practice makes all the difference.

What results are you going to create this week?  

Have a beautiful week.  

XO,

Charise

P.S. I work with clients one-on-one to help them learn how to solve the problem of persistent dread, overwhelm, and lack of fulfillment in their careers and lives.  It all starts with a free call to see if my program and coaching are a good fit for you. Click here to schedule your one-hour call with me.  It’s an hour that could change how you think about Mondays forever.  

Changing Your Life Is Not As Frightening As It May Seem

There is one thing that I see almost every day that holds people back from taking action toward what they want is the fear of making a huge mistake.  We all do this at some point. Our brains tell us that the only way to change is to make a big leap that we might regret. FOREVER.  One HUGE decision, which (if it turns out badly) could lead to our ruin, such as ending up living under a bridge or some other dreadful worst-case scenario.

The interesting thing is that our brains aren’t telling us the truth about what is really required to create the change we want.  Where you are may feel miles apart from where you want to be, but changing your life doesn’t happen in one huge leap.  

It happens in a series of thousands of decisions and steps. And each step of the way, as you gather information and test your hypotheses, you get to reevaluate and decide if you like where you’re going.  If you don’t, then you can pivot and change direction.  

Shine A Light On Your Fear

The way our brains experience fear of the unknown is like a shadow being projected on a wall with a flashlight.  In a dark room, a shadow projected on a wall can look large and frightening, but when you turn the lights on, you can see that it’s actually very small and harmless.  

When we think we have to do something huge to get the change we want, we’re terrified of the shadow projected on the wall.  In the work I do with my clients, we flip the lights on and take a look at what change is actually required and pick the smallest possible step. 

For example, a client who wanted to start a wedding planning business recently told me that she was just too scared to take any action because she would have to quit her job and might fail publicly, which would lead to financial ruin.  Her brain was telling her there’s only one way to start a business: to take a massive, scary leap.  That felt entirely too frightening and she wasn’t taking any action whatsoever, so she wasn’t creating the result she wanted.  

When we shined a light about the next step to learning more about starting a wedding planning business, she saw that the changes she would have to make weren’t actually so scary. It could involve keeping her current job and talking to a few people she knows who do this.  She could arrange a few meetings with some wedding venues and vendors where she lives.  She could plan a smaller event for someone she already knows.  

These steps aren’t that hard and they will help her discover if she truly likes planning weddings as much as she thinks she will, without risking her family’s financial security.  

Take The Smallest Possible Next Step

I recently heard Mel Robbins say that the best way to bridge the gap between where you are and where you want to be is to build a bridge one brick at a time.  I could not agree more.  Action is what will help you get unstuck.  One small step after another.  

Think about a result you want to create.  What is the very smallest next step that you can take toward that result?  Now take that step and break it down into the smallest possible unit of time, such as getting started on something for three minutes. You’ll be amazed at how easy it can be.

Have a beautiful week.

XO,

Charise 

4 Simple Steps To Creating The Change You Want

When I practiced law as a litigator, I spent months–and in some cases years–going through evidence to support my clients’ cases at trial. Everybody knows from TV or the movies how this works: the plaintiff or prosecution (depending whether it’s a civil or criminal case) presents its case before the judge or jury and then the defense presents its evidence to contradict or poke holes in the other side’s evidence.

What we don’t usually realize is that each of us has this scenario going on in our own minds every day and throughout our lives, which has a huge impact on how we live our lives and the results we create.

Here’s what I mean. Most of us have an inner prosecutor who is keen to convict us for all of our faults, shortcomings, and mistakes. We also have a much more forgiving defense attorney who is trying to come to our rescue.

Our mind acts like the judge by considering the evidence presented and deciding what it will believe. When the inner prosecutor says things like “I’ll never figure this out” or “I’m such a mess,” the judge tends to believe that and finds evidence that those thoughts are true. (There will always be evidence for those types of thoughts because we’re all human, after all!)

But when your inner defense attorney shows evidence that you actually are capable of figuring things out or reasons why you’re actually doing pretty well, the judge can believe that, too, and can find evidence to support that belief. You’ve figured things out before.

So the question becomes: Are you going to give more weight to the evidence presented by your inner prosecutor or your inner defense counsel? If you’re like most women, you inner prosecutor is far more vocal.

One of the most life-changing things you can do is to start deliberately looking for the evidence to support positive thoughts and beliefs about yourself and your abilities. Here’s how:

  1. Identify a positive thought or belief that you want to believe but can’t yet fully embrace. For example, “I’m capable of finding work that I love” or “I’m capable of thriving in my career and in my personal life.”
  2. Ask yourself this question daily: “What are 3 ways that I’m capable of finding work that I love?” Write down different reasons everyday. Keep asking your brain to come up with new ways that that’s true for you.
  3. Track the evidence. When you watch something, it grows. Start to write down every bit of evidence that you have to support the belief you’re trying to cultivate. I recommend that you buy a small notebook that you carry around with you for this specific purpose. Call it your Belief Book.
  4. After you track the evidence from your past, create new evidence as you go. Ask yourself on a daily basis: “How can I create evidence that I am capable of this?” This question is incredibly motivating and you’ll find yourself starting to take action to support the belief that you’re the kind of person who is capable of finding work you love or thriving in your career and at home. Record the answers to this question in your Belief Book as well, and watch as the evidence grows.

As long as you stay focused on the right set of evidence, your belief and confidence will grow, which will motivate you to continue taking action and creating more results, which provide more evidence.

Putting these four simple steps into practice on a daily basis has been a life changer for me. It’s one of the fastest ways that I know to get unstuck and start taking real action toward the results you want.

What change do you want to create? What evidence do you have to support that you can do it? How can you create additional evidence to support that belief this week?

Have a beautiful week.

XO,

Charise

What Future Are You Creating Today?

You’re creating your future by what you do today, whether you realize it or not.  

That’s because your future is created both by what you do or by what you don’t do.  Declining to deliberately create your future is a decision to create your future by default.   It’s an invitation for more of the same or to let outside circumstances create your results. And most of the time, those results are not what you really want.

It’s Going To Be Hard Either Way 

Why is it so hard to make choices about our future?  The word “decide” comes from the Latin word decidere, which literally means “to cut off.”  When we decide, we cut ourselves off from other options.  That feels scary to our brains.  We fear missing out on the path not taken.   

But what our brains don’t tell us is that not deciding is actually far worse in the long run.  When we don’t decide we are also cutting ourselves off from what we really want.  It’s nearly impossible to create the results we really want without intentionally choosing them.  Those of us who spin our wheels in indecision can find that years go by and we’re not any closer to the results we want.  

So either way, it’s going to be hard.  It’s hard to decide that you want certain things and cut off the rest.  And it’s hard to not decide and then not get what you want.  The difference is that when you decide what you want and deliberately create your future, you end up with results that you love.  Results like a career that you adore, learning how to play an instrument, publishing a book, traveling the world.

If it’s going to be hard either way, which results would you rather have?  

The Time Is Now

Regardless of what your brain may tell you, it’s not too late to decide to create a future that you love. In fact, decision happens in an instant, so you can decide what you want right now.

The results you get in the future will come from the commitment you make today, the plan that you create now, and how you implement that plan.  But the first step is deciding and committing, which you can do now.

The present moment is the only time that we can currently control.  If you realize that, it’s easy to see that the next year, five years, or decade of your life depends on the decisions that you make TODAY.  

Now is the perfect time to ask yourself:  What future do I want to create for myself?  What life and career do I want?  And what do I need to do to get there?  

Plant that seed today, water it, and give it lots of sunshine, and you’ll be delighted with the results you create in the future.

Have a beautiful week.

XO,

Charise

P.S.  If you need help deciding what’s next or creating a future that you love, let’s talk in a free strategy session.  You’ll walk away with clarity and motivation to begin creating a deliberate future.  Your future self will thank you later.    

Remove These Three Words From Your Vocabulary

When we’re uncertain of what do next, we have two options.  

The first (and by far the most common) is to say, either to yourself or somebody else, “I don’t know what to do.”  

The second is to say “I can figure this out.”  

Which do you think produces better results?  

When we tell ourselves “I don’t know” it creates the emotions of confusion and uncertainty.  This is an indulgent state of mind.  It’s indulgent because it puts us into emotional childhood.  We no longer feel responsible to decide what to do or find a solution.  Instead, we get to wallow in our own confusion and do nothing.  

I can say this because I spent years doing this.  I knew I wanted to do something different in my career, but I told myself that I didn’t know what it was.  I was convinced I had to find the one, perfect path and I didn’t really take action to change anything.  I spent a lot of time exploring possibilities in my head, but I didn’t pound the pavement and get out there and do anything different.  

It wasn’t until I saw that staying stuck was not serving me or the world that I finally decided to take action and make a real change. I wanted to do more with my life and I had the painful realization that I was wasting precious time. That pain was greater than any uncertainty I had, so I finally took action and moved forward.

As Anaïs Nin put it, “And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” There is some risk in dropping the words “I don’t know.” When you commit to figuring it out, you may have to fail along the way. But failure is actually not a problem unless you make it a problem.

Based on my experience, I recommend that you remove the words “I don’t know” from your vocabulary when it comes designing your life or figuring out what to do next in your life and career.  They aren’t useful and they aren’t even true.    

What To Say Instead

My coach doesn’t allow me to respond with “I don’t know.”  She always says “but if you did know, what would the answer be?”  When she asks this, I’m always able to come up with an answer.  Try it for yourself.  The next time you find yourself tempted to say “I don’t know,” challenge yourself to go beyond that thought and find an answer.

Telling yourself “I can figure this out” is also a great alternative to “I don’t’ know.” This thought actually presupposes the “I don’t know” but it doesn’t stop there.  It focuses on moving forward to figure out what’s next and it’s motivating, which drives action.  

It’s also usually easy enough to believe.  If you’ve figured out things in the past, which of course you have, then it’s not a stretch to believe that you can figure out your current challenge.  

Your brain may protest and say “but I don’t know how to do this.”  The “how” is not actually that important.  You can just decide to figure it out and then start trying different things until you figure it out.  Decision happens in an instant, so once you decide you’re going to figure it out, you can start moving towards that result.  

Telling yourself “I don’t know” is the number one cause of wasting time for almost everyone.  Deciding and getting busy taking action and trying different things is the best remedy for that.  

If someone stops and asks you for directions and you truly don’t know or don’t have time to look it up on your phone, politely say “I’m sorry, I don’t know.” 

In every other decision point, cross-roads, or challenge in your life that feels new, difficult, or uncertain, there is only one option going forward: “I can figure this out.”  

And you know what? You can and you will. 

Have a beautiful week.

XO,

Charise 

P.S. If you’d like to learn more tools for making powerful decisions for yourself, let’s talk in a free strategy call.  We’ll look at what’s holding you back and keeping you stuck in confusion and you’ll leave the call with the insight and strategy you need to confidently decide what’s next for you.  

The Secret To Having More Time

We all want more time in our lives.  Most of know that planning is a great tool to help us be more productive and efficient, so that we can have more time for what we want.  But most of us don’t plan as much as we could.  That’s because there’s an important rule to planning that most of us never learned.  That rule is: Be nice to your future self when you plan!  

Too many of us make overly-ambitious plans that we would never actually enjoy implementing.  If you make a plan like that, you’ll likely give up on the plan.  

And when you give up on one plan, you’re much more likely to give up on planning altogether, which is a wasted opportunity to make your life more manageable and to create more time for what you enjoy.  Here are some ways to be nice to yourself when you plan, so that you can ultimately end up with more time.   

Post-It Note Plans

When you want to create a life of your dreams, you have to be intentional about creating that life. The smallest unit of your life that’s important right now is your day.  To make the most of your days, plan each day the night before to create what you want ahead of time.  This will help your mind gear up and prepare for the next day, even as you sleep.  

I like to make my plans on square post-it notes because the small amount of space forces you to constrain to what is really important, manageable, and doable.  This is a great way to remember to be nice to yourself when planning.  If it can’t fit on a post-it note, it shouldn’t be on the plan for the day.    

At night, I make a plan for the following day by writing down what I want to do from when I get up to when I go to bed.  I put in a big chunk of “family time” for when I’m with my kids after school and in the evenings.  Planning that time reminds me that I’m not checking work emails or doing anything except being with the kids and taking care of dinner.  

I also have post-it notes on my refrigerator for the daily morning and evening routines, which do not change. 

I do my meal planning on post-it notes, too.  Wednesday is leftovers night and Friday is pizza night, so those are already decided. Planning a whole week of meals just requires five decisions, which are made easier by assigning themes for each day of the week:  Monday is soup, Tuesday is fish, Thursday is Italian, Saturday is something fast and easy like grilled cheese sandwiches or crepes, and Sunday is chicken with roasted veggies.  I write it all down on a post-it note in about 2 minutes and I’m done.  I recommend saving any new recipes for the weekends when there’s more time for the unknown or unexpected.  That’s to be nice to your future self who isn’t going to want to make an elaborate new meal on a Thursday evening.

Give Yourself A Margin

I’ve already written about Greg McKeown’s excellent book Essentialism, but it contains so much wisdom that I have plenty more to say about it. One of the most useful concepts I’ve learned from that book is the concept of building in margins when planning. In other words, give yourself extra time for everything, so that you don’t feel like you’re always late or on the verge of being behind.  

There are many ways to implement this, but I found that just building in 15 minutes to my morning routine makes for a much better, smoother morning.  We get up earlier and aim to leave the house 15 minutes earlier than we need to leave.  This margin gives us a cushion for last-minute requests from my pre-schoolers and unexpected traffic.  It also allows me to let my dominant morning thought be “there’s plenty of time,” which creates the feeling of being calm and relaxed, instead of the stressful thought “there’s no time for this!” 

I’ve also started planning more margin into work deadlines.  If I want to finish a project by Friday, I’ll make an artificial deadline for Wednesday. This is a concept called “proactivation,” which is kind of like procrastinating ahead of time.  Proactivation means that you act as if you have an immediate deadline (even though you still have plenty of time) and so you rush to finish the project. Then, you finish the project early and can build in a little extra time to go back and make any necessary corrections and edits.  You’ll be amazed by how much you can increase your efficiency and productivity this way. 

The Smallest Possible Unit

Most of the time, just getting started on a task is half the battle.  An excellent way to combat this is just get started by spending the smallest possible unit of time on a project.  

In his book Time Warrior, Steve Chandler recommends starting projects by just spending three minutes of uninterrupted, focused attention on a task.  Sometimes you may want to spend 10 or 15 minutes jotting down ideas for a big presentation or project.  The important thing is not how much time you spend on it, but that you spend some time on it.  Just getting started will allow you to push through the feeling of overwhelm that sometimes stops us, and is usually enough to give us the momentum to keep going or return to it soon.  

If you’ve got unfinished tasks that are building up and stressing you out, be nice to yourself by planning to start them with the smallest possible unit of time and notice how much easier it is to begin. 

Have a beautiful, productive week. 

XO,

Charise

P.S.  If you’re feeling overwhelmed and could use some help getting more time in your life, schedule a free strategy call here.  We’ll explore what’s really holding you back and you’ll leave the call refreshed with the enthusiasm and energy you need to create the results you want.  

Are You On The Right Path?

The one question that I hear the most from clients is this: “How do I know whether I’m on the right path for me?”  

The problem with this question is that it presupposes that there is a singular “right” path for all of us and all other ways are somehow “wrong” for us. 

That presupposition creates a tremendous amount of pressure to find the one perfect thing that will lead us to happiness.  It makes decision-making difficult because we fear making the wrong decision. And it takes out the fun of being curious and exploring new and exciting options.

This is similar to the thought that there is one single “soul mate” for every person on the planet.  The truth is, you could be happy with any number of partners on the planet.  When you find someone whom you really like and trust and who really likes and trusts you back, that’s a good match. The same concept applies in our careers: we can find any number of careers that we enjoy, find meaningful, and have the skills to do.    

For these reasons, I recommend that clients drop the “is this the right path for me?” question and ask a different question instead:  

“Am I doing something that will lead me to make a contribution in a way that I find both enjoyable and meaningful?” 

If the answer is yes, then keep going!  You’re enjoying the work and also solving a problem that you find meaningful or purposeful.  That’s work worth doing.  

Getting To the Root Of The Problem

If the answer is no, stop and figure out what’s not working for you.  

Is it that you don’t enjoy the work?  That’s reason enough to find something different.  We don’t have to love every minute of every day at work, but if you want to find fulfilling work, your level of enjoyment, engagement, and enthusiasm is key.  

If you used to enjoy the work but no longer do, try to figure out the true cause.

Sometimes people evolve and need to move on to different work. In his excellent book The Great Work Of Your Life, Stephen Cope recounts several stories of people making mid-career transitions or finding encore careers, which can be part of the normal growth process. This is something to be embraced.

But if you no longer enjoy your work because you don’t like your current role or don’t feel challenged anymore, you might not need a complete career overhaul. You might just need to take on new or different responsibilities or shift your work back to your particular zone of genius, i.e., the work that makes you feel energized and engaged.

If you enjoy the work but you’re worried the problem you’re solving isn’t important enough or compelling enough, ask yourself why.  

If you don’t find it compelling enough because there is other work that you’d rather be doing instead, then by all means, make the switch!  It will never feel like exactly the right time, but if you start taking action now to move you in that direction, you will thank yourself later for having the courage to try something new.  

But if you’re worried that it’s not “important” enough because of some external measurement of importance or because you’re afraid of what others might think, it’s worth looking at whether that concern is valid.  

I sometimes hear from clients who would like to do more creative work wonder whether it is “important” enough in the world when there are so many other problems, like injustice, poverty, and disease to battle.  But that thought wholly disregards the critical role that creativity and beauty have on uplifting the human spirit.  It can help to reframe your thinking about the work.  For example, you could decide to think: “There are many different ways to do important and meaningful work, including uplifting and inspiring others.”  

Not everyone will share that thought, but you can decide that that’s okay. They don’t have to agree with you.  Their opinions don’t determine whether it’s true for you or not:  the only person who gets to decide that is you.  

Don’t Expect Your Work To Make You Happy

Just like it’s a bad idea to rely on other people in your life to bring you happiness, it’s also a bad idea to expect your career to “make” you happy. Your happiness has to come from within—from you. 

You can have your dream job and still not be happy if you’re constantly thinking about what’s wrong with you, the world, or the people around you.   

That’s because happiness is an emotion that, like all emotions, comes from our thoughts.  If you’re not managing your thinking and your brain is looping in a negative thought pattern, you’re not going to feel good and you may mistakenly believe that it’s your job’s fault.   

This is why I always recommend that my clients work on managing their thinking and cultivate their own happiness where they are, before they make a big career change.  

We are in an incredible moment in history in terms of opportunities to make a contribution.  If you’re not doing work that you enjoy or that is meaningful to you, ask yourself what is keeping you from that.  If you think that your current circumstances are keeping you stuck, consider that it’s possible to get unstuck by changing your approach.   

There is no one right path, but enjoyable, meaningful, and purposeful work is available to you now.  When you know that, you’ll be much more willing to go out and find it.

XO,

Charise

P.S.  If you’re having trouble figuring out which path to choose, schedule a free strategy call with me here.  You’ll walk away with clarity and confidence about what to do next.   

What Is Essential

In his excellent book entitled Essentialism, Greg McKeown advocates for simplifying our lives and our days down to the very essential.  He defines being an essentialist as someone who consciously chooses to do only what is most important to him or her and says no to everything else.  

Of course, in order to do that, you have to know what’s essential to you. In other words, you have to decide ahead of time what you value most and want to spend your time doing.  

I couldn’t agree more.  This exercise of identifying priorities and core values is one of the very first things that I do with my clients who are seeking greater fulfillment in their careers. 

The simple exercise of writing down your top three priorities and putting them in order of importance is a simple practice that can have a dramatic impact on your life.  Having them written down on paper can act as an abbreviated personal mission statement to help guide you in times of indecision.  

Why We To Decide Our Priorities Ahead Of Time 

In the book, McKeown recounts the 1982 Chicago Tylenol Murders case, in which Johnson & Johnson had to react to a series of poisonings in its Tylenol products.  The company had a credo written in the mid-1940’s by Robert Wood Johnson that clearly stated its priorities in order of importance:  the company’s responsibilities were to the customers and medical professionals using its products, then its employees, then the communities where its people work and live, and then its stockholders.     

That credo (which was etched in stone at the company’s headquarters) provided clear direction in a moment of crisis, allowing the company’s management to do what was in the best interest of its customers—initiating a massive recall—even if it meant a massive decline in its stock value.  That approach set the company apart as a model of integrity and was ultimately what saved the brand and allowed it rebound so quickly.  

What Happens When You Have A Personal Mission Statement 

When you have a clear set of priorities in order of importance, you essentially have a personal mission statement that can guide you in your decisions through life, similar to Johnson & Johnson’s credo. This is especially helpful when unexpected (and difficult) decisions arise.

For example, I’ve always prioritized my family over my career.  Work is obviously important and I’ve made plenty of sacrifices for it over the course of my career, but ultimately family comes first. 

Several years ago, my grandmother’s eightieth birthday fell a few weeks before a major trial was scheduled to begin on my biggest case and I had been planning for months to fly to my hometown for the celebration.  Despite knowing about it well in advance, as the date of the weekend trip approached, one of my bosses at the time was feeling nervous about the approaching trial. Even though we were not behind on any projects and had no upcoming immediately deadlines, he questioned whether I should attend the weekend celebration.  

I told him that I understood his point of view but that it was not a trip that I was willing to miss, especially given that there was no real emergency or deadline.  I had worked hard to finish my existing projects ahead of time so that I would be free to go on the trip. It was a particularly important trip for me because my other grandparents had passed away earlier in life and I wanted to be there to celebrate my dear grandmother becoming an octogenarian.  

I went to the celebration without a tinge of regret. The day I returned from the trip, the judge postponed the trial for a year.  Had I listened to my boss, I would have wasted a precious opportunity for nothing. But you’ll never truly regret living your life according to your mission statement.

What Is Your Mission Statement? 

What is the most important to you?  Your family?  Your friends?  Your health?  Your creative projects?  Write down just three priorities and then list them in order of importance.  

Here’s what mine looks like:  

(1) My health and wellbeing; 

(2) My family; and 

(3) My career.  

It may be hard to put your own health and wellbeing at the top of the list. Most women worry that they’ll be considered selfish if they make themselves a priority.   

But if you put your family above your own health for the long term, your health will eventually begin to suffer.  When that happens, you won’t be able to help your family in the way that you’d like or show up as the mom you’d like to be.  As they say in the South: “If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” 

And just to be clear, putting yourself first does not have to mean going on 10-day yoga retreats in Costa Rica (although there’s certainly nothing wrong with that!).  For many moms, it might simply mean getting 8 hours of sleep most nights, going to the gym twice a week, and taking 15 minutes a day for mediation or journaling.  

Because, as McKeown also points out, sleep and self-care are also essential to a life well lived.  

Have a beautiful week.

XO,

Charise 

How You Answer This Question Will Determine Everything

You have two selves inside of you.  We all do. 

Each of us has a self that is curious, creative, full of wonder, inspired by possibility, and that seeks fulfillment, meaning, purpose, and joy.  

And then we have another self that just wants to keep us alive.  It is not concerned with our ultimate fulfillment. It is solely concerned with our long-term survival.  An alarmist by nature, this self is constantly worrying and naysaying to keep us from doing anything that could harm us in any way.  

The former is often referred to as our higher self or our inner mentor or guide.

The latter is often known as our inner critic or inner drill sergeant.

Regardless of what you choose to call them, those two selves are fighting for air time in our minds day in and day out.  Your fulfillment and success in life is determined by this single question:  Which one are you going to believe?  

Why This Question Matters

You can pretty much bet that, if you’re human, anytime you want to do something new or different, these two selves are going to have something to say.  

Which one you believe is going to determine what you’re willing to try.  And if you’re not willing to try anything, you won’t be able to achieve the results you want.

It’s really hard to find fulfillment and success by listening to the inner critic. Even if your higher self is urging you to pursue something more, believing your inner critic will keep you stuck. About 100% of the time.

Learn The Difference Between The Two

It’s worth taking some time to get to know these two selves, so that you can recognize which one is talking to you.

Your higher self is very future focused and says things like: “It would be really fun to try ___” and “I think I’d really love to do ___.” It speaks of hope, inspiration, and of what could be.

Your inner critic is past focused says things like: “I could never ___ because I’ve never done that before” and “Who do you think you are?” and “You’ve never been able to do anything like that before. What makes you think you can do it now?” In other words, it says things that are cynical, rude, and that you would probably never say to another person.

When I first conceived of the idea of leaving my law firm job to move to Spain and start my coaching practice, I was euphoric for most of the day.  

My higher self was coming up with all the ways that I could make it work.  It told me about all the fun things that we could do, how I could get the time I needed to get my business off the ground, how great it would be to spend time with my husband’s family, and all the reasons why the plan would work. After almost an entire day of this, I was starting to believe that it might really happen and I was practically levitating.

And then, just as I was trying to go to sleep that night, my inner critic woke up and burst the bubble that I had been floating in.  We had a conversation that went something like this:  

Me: I think I can make this plan work.

Inner critic: Um, not so fast.  This could get us killed.  

Me: Excuse me? 

I.C.: That’s right.  You could die on the airplane over there.  

Me: Oh, come on.

I.C.:  And what are you trying to do to your kids?  Ruin them for life?  

Me: Give them an unforgettable experience abroad?  

I.C.:  They’re going to hate you for moving them and leaving their school that they’re so comfortable at right now.  And you’re going to be homesick because you’re going to go from this comfortable home to a smaller flat that will probably have noisy neighbors and loud mopeds driving by at all hours of the night.  

Me: Well, they do have a lot of mopeds in Spain.  

I.C.:  And this is all ridiculous anyway because what makes you think you can succeed as a coach in your own coaching business?  Have you ever tried that before?  

Me:  Well, no.

I.C.: Exactly!  Because it’s a terrible idea!  

This went on for hours and I barely slept at all that night, wrestling with the part of my mind that wanted nothing to do with the new plan that I’d hatched.  

Recognize Your Inner Critic For What It Is

I struggled for months, not knowing which part of my mind to believe.  Finally, I got coaching on the issue and was able to see, with the help of my coach’s objective perspective, what was really going on in my mind.  

The reason why I wasn’t able to see it myself was because the thoughts coming from my inner critic that were swirling around in my mind felt like facts.  I was believing what my inner critic was telling me and as a result, I felt tremendous fear that almost stopped me in my tracks.  

Putting some distance between your thoughts and you is the best way I know to keep your inner critic at bay.  It is imperative to recognize that you are not your thoughts.

What your inner critic tells you are just thoughts that your mind is generating in response to a new situation. That’s not a bad thing, it’s just the way our brains work.  

If you hear your brain starting to raise an alarm, you can ask yourself if you’re truly in a life-or-death situation.  (Note: Other people’s opinions about you will not kill you, even though it might feel like it.)  If it’s not, then you can just notice what your brain is telling you with curiosity and say something like, “There goes my brain again, trying to keep me safe.” 

Get Comfortable With It 

I wish I could tell you that after I made the decision to listen to my higher self instead of my inner critic, that the struggle ended and I lived happily ever after.  I did move to Spain, but the newness of that transition was not always easy, especially during the first two months.  Now that we’ve been here for six months and we’re used to everything, my brain has decided that it doesn’t want to leave to go back home.  Of course it doesn’t.  It doesn’t like change.  Ever.  

Your inner critic will continue to freak out on you on a regular basis, especially if you take any kind of risks whatsoever.  

But here’s the cool thing:  If you know that and actually expect that, then you won’t be inclined to believe what it tells you.  You won’t make it mean that you shouldn’t move forward.  

In fact, you can even make it mean that you’re on the right track. And that’s when the magic begins. 

Go forth, grow, and bloom.

Charise 

Are You Making Your Life Harder Than It Needs To Be?

We all know that life can be hard sometimes.  But did you know that your brain is likely making your life much harder than it needs to be?

That’s because one of your brain’s primary goals is to avoid pain, both physical and emotional.  

The problem with this approach is that pain, especially emotional pain, is inevitable in life, especially if you want to grow by trying new things, have relationships with people who don’t always do what you want them to do (i.e., every other human on the planet), and put yourself and your work out into the world for potential criticism.      

Our brains try to spare us from emotional pain by fighting against negative emotions when they arise. If you’re like most people, your brain is fighting against negative emotions on three levels. 

The first is by avoiding the negative emotions themselves by trying to find a distraction or numbing out the feeling with a hit of dopamine, which provides some temporary relief.  (Think bingeing on chocolate, wine, Netflix, online shopping, social media, etc.)  

The second is by creating more negative emotion by telling ourselves that we shouldn’t be feeling negative emotion in the first place, otherwise known as resisting negative emotion. For example, you might feel tense when you are preparing a big presentation at work. That’s no big deal and is a common response to preparing for public speaking.  But if you start berating yourself for feeling nervous, i.e.“What is wrong with me?  Why am I so nervous about this?”, it will only create more negative emotion (probably shame) about the negative emotion you already had (nervousness). You will then also start to resist the shame by finding a distraction or numbing the feelings.  This is counter-productive and makes your life much harder than it needs to be.    

The third is by reacting to the negative emotion in a way that doesn’t serve you.  For example, if someone cuts you off in traffic and you feel overtaken by your emotion and yell at the other driver even though your kids are in the car. Reacting also makes our lives harder because we have to live with the consequences, which are almost always negative.

There are a few things you can do to coax your brain into making your life easier for you.

How To Make Your Life Easier

The best way that I know to make your life easier on yourself is to learn to feel and accept your negative emotions.  

Negative emotions are (by definition) unpleasant, but if you can learn to allow them, their power over you will diminish.  For example, let’s say that you’re feeling angry after a colleague interrupted you in a meeting.  When you’re feeling angry in the meeting, you probably start spinning in your head about what he did and how he shouldn’t have done that, and scanning for memories of all the other times that you can remember that he’s done something rude.  

But while you’re spinning in your head, you’re not focusing on the meeting anymore, and when your boss asks you a direct question, you might not even hear it.  

This reaction to anger is not useful.  To diminish its hold on you, try just feeling the anger and accepting it immediately, so that you can move on and get your attention back to where it needs to be.  

You can do this by identifying the emotion and then accepting it immediately by saying “and that’s okay.” For example, “I’m feeling angry and that’s okay.  Humans feel angry from time to time and I’m feeling angry now.  Nothing has gone wrong here.”  Then, get back to business. (You can always go back and process your anger later at a more productive time.)

Similarly, if you’re feeling the urge to avoid a negative emotion with a dopamine hit, consider stopping yourself and saying: “I feel the urge to eat these cookies, and that’s okay.  It’s okay to have an urge and not act on it.  I can just notice it, instead.  I can notice how my brain thinks the cookies will solve the problem.  I can notice that, actually, the cookies will not really solve the problem.”  

Then try to find the primary emotion that is creating the urge for you, and accept that emotion. “I’m feeling restless and that’s okay. This is what it’s like to feel restless. I can handle this. It’s okay to feel restless sometimes.”

Just acknowledging the emotion and letting yourself really feel it will bring you a greater sense of ease, even while the negative emotion is still present.

Lower Your Expectations

When I teach clients how to coach themselves to feel better by choosing better-feeling thoughts, sometimes they want to use the tool to eliminate all negative emotion from their lives.  They want to feel better 100% of the time.  After all, the world (especially Madison Avenue) likes to make us think that we should be happy all of the time.  

The problem with that is that life really is 50/50.  If you don’t know what sad is, you can’t really know what happy is, either.  Sad is what makes happy possible, just as we need shadows to really see light.  

To expect your life to be perfect and happy all the time is to create unnecessary suffering for yourself and make it even harder.  By accepting that negative emotion exists and should be present about 50% of the time, we can stop running away from the negative emotion.  

This is true for all aspects of our lives: our careers, our relationships, raising our children, etc.  Expect that it’s not always going to be wonderful.  There will be stumbles, failures, and hard times.  That doesn’t mean that anything has gone wrong. It means that everything is happening just as it should.  

When you lower your expectations, you’ll notice something interesting:  life gets less hard when you let it be hard.   

A good way to keep this top of mind is to put up post-it notes or reminders on your phone that say things like: “Nothing has gone wrong.  I feel ____ and that’s okay.”  

Welcome the negative emotions when they arise and notice the lightness and openness that follow.  

Charise