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 

What To Do When You’re Not Fulfilled at Work

If you’re truly unfulfilled in your career, something inside of you is trying to let you know that you need to make a change.  It’s an internal compass indicating that you’re off course and that an adjustment is required. 

If you’re not fulfilled in your career, it means that you’re not living out your true purpose, you’re not using or sharing your unique gifts and strengths, and you’re not living your best life.  

How do we know this?  

Because if you were living out your true purpose, sharing your unique gifts and strengths, and living your best life, you would be fulfilled by your work and contribution. 

Fulfilling Work Is Not Always Easy 

This is not to say that every moment in your career should be glorious.  And it certainly does not mean that living your purpose is supposed be easy.  To the contrary, there are moments in every job—even our dream jobs—that require doing things that we don’t feel like doing or overcoming challenges that we’d rather not face.  Moments like that are part of the human experience, not indicators that anything has gone wrong.

What I mean by being truly unfulfilled in your career is having the incessant feeling of disheartenment that leaves you empty instead of full.  When you look at the totality of what you’re contributing or trying to accomplish, your heart should sing.  If your heart sinks or feels empty, you know there’s something wrong.  

Feeling Unfulfilled Is a Gift—But Only When We Act On It 

It’s actually a gift that we have this built-in compass of feeling unfulfilled, to tell us when we need to make a change.  But it’s only a useful gift when you act on the message.  

Listening to the call to change and then doing nothing about it is like receiving a gift card for your birthday that you keep in a drawer until it expires. The time we have to act is finite.  

If you’re feeling unfulfilled with your work, you’re depriving yourself and the world of the best that is in you. Your contribution matters. The world receives no benefit from your particular gifts and talents unless you make the conscious decision to use them and find joy in using them.

If you find yourself unfulfilled at work, it’s time for a change.  It might not need to be a big change. Maybe you need to ask for more responsibility or change your current role.  Maybe it’s a matter of creating better work relationships with colleagues.  Maybe you need to change your mindset about the work that you’re currently doing. Or maybe you need to change jobs or careers entirely.

Whatever change you want to make, the most important thing is to take action. I’ve had many clients tell me that they stayed stuck for years, even decades, because they were afraid of failing. By not even trying to pursue their goals or take action, they actually failed ahead of time. Looking back, they always come to realize that failing ahead of time didn’t do them (or the world) any good. Rather than wasting any more time staying stuck, do yourself a favor and take action now.

Clarity, Commitment, and Action 

The first step toward fulfillment is getting really clear about what you want.  This means what you want (not what everyone else wants for you) now (not what you may have wanted 15 years ago, or even last year).  What sounds fun, exciting, or important to you now?  What did you come here to do?  What is your inner compass telling you that you need to change?  

The second step is fully committing to that result.  A good way to commit is to ask yourself what your reasons are for wanting that result.  How will your life be better?  How will the lives of others be better? Choosing goals that are aligned with your core values can provide compelling reasons. And when you have compelling reasons, you’re about a thousand times more likely to stay the course and do the work to get what you want.  

The third step is taking deliberate action to make the changes you need to make.  It means trying different things and failing, repeatedly, until you get the result you want.  Action and failure prompt growth.  And you’ve got to grow before you can bloom.

Do whatever you need to do, but please don’t let your gifts go unused.  The world needs you to use your gifts and make your contribution in a way that brings you joy, whatever that may be.  Your time is now.

Go forth, grow, and bloom.

XO,

Charise 

P.S. If you need help getting clarity or taking action to get the results you want, click here to schedule a free one-hour strategy call.

When You Feel Like You Can’t Win As A Mom AND In Your Career At The Same Time – Part 2

In Part 1 of this post, I showed you how to start looking at what thoughts you’re telling yourself that are making you feel like you can’t win as a mom and in your career at the same time.

Here are additional tools that will help you manage your mama brain so that you can begin creating more positive results at home and in your career.

Make A Conscious Choice, Every Day

When I coach moms who have demanding careers, I often hear “I have to” and “I can’t” when discussing potential career options. As in, “I have to stay at this job because I have to pay off my student loans/pay my mortgage/support my family” or “I can’t relocate because my spouse doesn’t want to move.”  

Clients report feeling trapped by their current circumstances, as if there were no way out.

But the circumstances are not what make us feel trapped.  It our thoughts about the circumstances that create the feeling of being trapped.

The truth is, you could walk away from it all today.  Many people do.  They decide to divorce their spouses and move.  They decide to leave their jobs and default on their mortgages or loans.  Some people sell everything and go travel or live in a cabin in the woods. Some people even decide to let their kids live with family members.

These choices are just as available to you now as the choices that you are currently making.  

You might not like the consequences of those choices but recognizing that it is your choice and owning it is the first step toward taking full responsibility for your life and feeling in control again.  

Saying “I choose to work at my job right now to support my family” is so much more powerful than saying “I’m stuck at this job and there’s no way out.”

Saying “I choose to stay in this city and stay married to this person whom I love” is so much more powerful than saying “I can’t relocate because my spouse won’t move.”

Starting today, make the conscious choice about what you want to do with your life and own that choice.  Then recommit to your choices every day and notice how differently you feel when you intentionally choose your life over and over again. 

If you think the difference is just semantics or that it’s not a real choice, I’d like to offer that your brain is already telling you a story.  It’s just a negative one if it’s causing you to feel badly about your circumstances.  You might as well turn it around and make it a story that serves you and makes you feel better.

How To Win As A Mom

The truth is, you already know how to be a good mom because you already love your kids fiercely. That’s all they really need.

But there is one thing that I recommend that will help you win even more as a mom.  I’ve never seen it in the parenting books, but I’ve been applying it in my own life and have found it to be a game changer:  The way to be more loving, patient, and understanding with your kids is to first learn how to be more loving, patient, and understanding with yourself. 

If you’re like most working moms and you’re feeling stressed, it’s easy to lose your patience and get frustrated with your kids. Just getting out the door in the morning for school and work can be challenging, especially with young kids who like to dawdle. When we lose our patience with our kids, we usually end up feel guilty or angry with ourselves. But guilt and self-anger don’t really help anybody and or prevent you from getting frustrated again the next time.

What does help is learning how to be patient and compassionate with yourself when you do lose your patience.

Of course you’re feeling stressed when you’ve got a meeting at work and your child is refusing to put on his socks.  Of course you’re going to yell at your kids sometimes, like when they make a game of pouring syrup all over the dining room table. You’re going to get frustrated, lose your patience, and even yell sometimes because you’re human.

Telling yourself you should never do those things isn’t going to help if you find yourself doing them anyway.  Being compassionate with yourself when it does happen will allow you to quickly recover, apologize if needed, and move on. 

It will also allow you to become more patient and compassionate with your children: Of course your toddler is going to think pouring syrup on the table is fun. He’s curious. He wants to know what will happen. Of course your pre-schooler isn’t going to want to stop playing with her toys and put her shoes on for school. Nobody likes to stop playing. 

The feelings of compassion and patience will be much more readily available for you to apply to your kids if you’re already applying them to yourself first. And when you do that, you’ll notice that you show up more consistently as the mom you want to be. 

Consider Whether You Want to Change Your Circumstances

If you’ve done the work of managing your thoughts, owning your choices, and cultivating compassion for yourself but your circumstances still don’t feel right for you, it might be time to make a change.

This happens for many moms who experience a life-altering shift in core values and priorities after having children.  They find that they want different things now than they did when they chose their careers. This is especially true if you have a demanding career that requires a lot of travel or late nights at the office. 

If you find yourself wanting to do something different, consider what would help you thrive as your very best self. Maybe you’d like to slow down but continue to work in the same industry.  (Research shows that people are happier when they choose to have more free time, rather than make more money.) Maybe you want to change careers completely or move to be closer to family. Maybe you want to downsize and live more simply.  Maybe you want to be your own boss. 

It all starts with getting crystal clear about what is really important to you and what you really want now (as opposed to what you wanted when you were 22 and single).

Whatever you want is available to you.  Feeling better about your current circumstances is an option for you.  Choosing new circumstances is also an option for you.  You get to decide to flourish—as a mom, as a professional, as whoever you want to be.     

Go forth and bloom.

XO,

Charise 

P.S.  If reading this made you realize that you could use some help seeing what options are really available to you and you’d like a fresh perspective, let’s talk.  I offer free one-hour strategy calls, designed to help you see your circumstances differently, so that you can get unstuck and start taking action to create the results you want for your career and your life.  Are you ready to flourish?

When You Feel Like You Can’t Win As A Mom AND In Your Career At The Same Time – Part 1

After my first son was born, I initially went back to my job on a part-time basis.  This worked very well at first, until my biggest case got busy and I started working much longer hours.  I remember feeling like I couldn’t be a good mom to my son and do as well at work as I would like.

And I know that I wasn’t alone.  Nearly every working mom that I know has felt the same way at some point.  

Understand Your Mama Brain

Adult human brains are exceptionally good at finding problems.  Problems at work, in the world, and in our own lives.  But when you become a mom, your brain gets structurally rewired and becomes even better at spotting potential threats.

These changes are great at helping us form strong attachments to our children and keeping them alive in potentially dangerous situations.  But it can make parenting in our modern world while maintaining a career even more challenging.

Couple that with societal pressure to achieve perfection, as well as the tremendous demands of raising young children and having a busy career, and you have all of the ingredients for a perfect storm.

To make matters worse, nobody teaches us how to manage our anxiety-prone mama brains, so we find ourselves living on an emotional roller coaster much of the time.  Mind management is required if you want to be productive, feel happy, and thrive as a working mom. Here’s the first step to doing that.

Look At What You’re Telling Yourself

The feelings of guilt and inadequacy that I experienced as a new mom didn’t just happen to me, and they don’t just happen to you either.  They are created by the thoughts that we tell ourselves every day.  We often repeat some thoughts so much that we’ve accepted them as true, as beliefs.  Often our subconscious thoughts and beliefs are dictating how we feel and what we do in ways that we don’t realize.  

For example, if your mother stayed home with you when you were a child, you may have the subconscious belief that “mothers should stay home with their children.”  If you are working despite having this belief, you might find yourself feeling guilt-ridden every time you leave for work.  It’s not because you work that you feel guilty, it’s because you’re thinking that you should be home with your children.  Another mother without that thought can go to work and not experience a scintilla of guilt.  

Likewise, if you’re telling yourself “I can’t do everything I need to do for work because I have to take care of my kids,” that thought is also likely to create the feeling of anxiety, guilt, or inadequacy at work. 

But these feelings of guilt and inadequacy do not invite us to become our best selves.  To the contrary, they usually drive us to overcompensate, burn the candle at both ends, lose sleep, and waste a lot of time spinning in negative self-talk, rather than taking productive action. 

When you do that, you’re not showing up as the best version of yourself at work or with your kids, and you become mentally and physically exhausted, on the verge of burning out. It’s really hard to do your best work when you’re operating at this level and you’re likely to be unhappy with your results, both as a professional and as a mom.

The truth is that the negative thoughts that cause us to feel this way are 100% optional. And since they cause us to create negative results in our lives, there is really no good reason to continue to think them.

You Get To Decide How You Want To Feel

The fact is that you have 24 hours in the day and you’re a professional and a mother.  

How do you want to feel about that fact?  Maybe you just want to feel adequate at both your job and being a mom.  

Here are some thoughts that can help create the feeling of adequacy:  

  • I can’t do everything (because I’m human) but I can do what is most important at home and at work. 
  • I’m figuring out how to balance motherhood and my career, and that’s okay.  
  • Working for income is an important part of taking care of my family.  
  • There are times when I cannot work because I choose to tend to my family, and that’s okay. 
  • There are times when I cannot be at home because I choose to tend to my work, and that’s okay. 

Thoughts like these are likely to be very different from what you’re currently telling yourself. You have to believe them in order to feel better, so if you don’t believe any of these, write down thoughts that you can believe that are more neutral than what you’re currently telling yourself.

Begin to practice these new thoughts daily by consciously directing your mind to them. Your old thoughts will be competing with these new thoughts and they’ll be easier to believe at first because you’ve been practicing them for so long. But how you feel is the direct result of how much airtime you decide to give the old thoughts versus the new ones. And feeling better is the first step toward creating better results.

Now that I’ve learned to apply mind management to my own life, my dominant thought about being a mom with a career is this:  I am a better mom because I have a career that I love. My career energizes me. It gives me time and space to make a contribution. After a good day’s work, I relish the time I spend with my children. This thought serves me so much better than the thoughts I had as a new mom. It makes me feel calm, peaceful, and motivated. And it’s available 24/7 to anyone who wants to borrow it.

How do you want to feel about being a mom with a career?

Go forth, grow, and bloom.

XO,

Charise

P.S. Because this is such a big issue for so many moms and there is so much to cover, this post is divided into two parts. See Part 2 for more tools to help you manage your mama brain.

How To Know If You’re Growing

Growth sounds like a nice, positive, wonderful thing that we should all do, both personally and professionally.  

But the truth is, growth usually feels really uncomfortable.  Even terrible.  That’s because it requires us to stretch and keep moving past what we know to what we don’t know. It requires that we persevere despite fear, doubt, and uncertainty.  And it requires that we continue to try things even when we have no evidence that we can achieve them. 

Opportunities For Growth Are Everywhere

Although we might think of growth opportunities as those big, pivotal moments in your life and career, sometimes tiny, seemingly insignificant choices that we make can change our growth trajectory or can give us the momentum we need to get unstuck and start growing.  

When I moved to Spain in September, I had such a moment in a parking garage.  Driving here in general presented several challenges for me.  The traffic lanes inexplicably merge without warning.  Left-hand turns are a veritable free-for-all, with people passing you on the left and right when (in theory) you’re in a single turn lane.  You have to change lanes (and therefore look backwards) while driving in circles.  But I dreaded the parking garages the most.  

Spanish parking garage engineers are cruel individuals.  In an effort to fit in as many spaces as possible, they make postage-stamp-sized parking spaces and the narrowest tunnels and steepest ramps you can imagine.  And the worst is that they give you virtually zero space to maneuver into the tiny parking spaces.  

When I first started driving in Spain, I had an errand that required parking in a particularly small parking garage. It would have been easy enough to come up with a way to avoid it altogether.  I could have taken a bus or taxi.  But I was committed to learning how to drive here, so I drove into the garage and was presented with a particularly tiny spot between two columns and to access it, I would need to park in reverse (without a camera).  I had all kinds of negative thoughts about it: “I can’t do this!  I don’t know how!  I’ve never had to do this before!  How can anyone park in these insanely small spaces?”  These thoughts created the feeling of helplessness, which made me want to give up and go home.

That moment was not a moment of growth. It was a moment of being stuck.  

But at the same time that I was feeling stuck, I also really wanted to learn how to park in that space, so that I could face any parking garage in the city.  And to do that, I was going to have to switch my mindset.

So, I coached myself through it.  I reminded myself: “I’ve done new things before.  I can figure this out.  I can do hard things.”  These thoughts created the feelings of motivation and determination, which drove me to figure it out.  I was slow parking the car.  I had to get out to check how much space I had.  But I parked the car without swiping any columns or bumping into anything.

And then, I began parking in spaces like that over and over.  Now, it’s almost easy.  

It could be tempting to dismiss seemingly insignificant moments of growth like this one.  But consider that growth begets more growth, so even a small moment of growth can provide evidence that you’re capable of growing in bigger ways, too.  

Embrace The Growing Pains

We want growth to be easy and when it’s not, we often stop, telling ourselves “I just can’t do that.”  But growth is not supposed to be easy or comfortable.  Accepting the inevitable discomfort of growth allows you to keep going.  There is ease on the other side of growth if you push through it.  

To know whether you’re growing, ask yourself:  

  • Am I trying something new that feels difficult? 
  • Do I feel uncomfortable attempting something new, but continue taking action anyway?   
  • Do I have a goal that I’m pursuing even if I sometimes fail along the way?

If the answer to any of those questions is “yes,” you’re growing.  If that’s where you find yourself, keep going!  Allowing the inevitable discomfort of growth is what allows you to reap the benefits of that later.

If the answer to those questions is “no,” it’s either because you’re not stretching yourself to try something new at all or you started trying but then got stuck.  If this is where you find yourself, pay attention to your thoughts.  What are you telling yourself that setbacks mean about you and your ability to do this?  Are you telling yourself that you just can’t?  

Growth Requires Positive Thoughts 

Since our thoughts create our feelings and our feelings drive our actions, we can’t take positive action from negative thinking.  Berating yourself for not knowing how to do something doesn’t work.  Negative thoughts are make us feel stuck, not motivated.  Only positive thoughts (that we actually believe) can propel us to move forward and grow.  

Growth Makes Life Better 

I don’t want to suggest that we should always be growing in every moment.  Sometimes we just want to enjoy the ease of our current comfort zone.  For example, there is still considerable room for improvement in my driving in Spain. I avoid the incredibly narrow streets in the center of the city completely. I’m sure that my neighbors find it amusing that I park right in the middle of the two parking spaces that we’re allotted in our parking garage at home, because we only have one car here and it’s faster and easier to park that way.

But life is better when we live mostly in growth mode.  By choosing growth instead of comfort, we ultimately expand our comfort zone and find ourselves doing more than we knew we could.  Yes, it’s painful, difficult, and uncomfortable.  But it’s so worth it.  

Go forth and grow!  

XO,

Charise