Circumstances, Thoughts, and Why You Should Understand The Difference

One of the most important things you can do to change your life is to get crystal clear about the difference between circumstances in your life (and in the world) and your thoughts about those circumstances.  Until we become conscious of this difference, we are convinced that they are one and the same and it feels as if circumstances (and life) are happening to us.  We feel like victims, powerless to change anything.

Once we understand the difference, however, we realize where our power lies and we begin to take responsibility for what we actually can control:  our thoughts, feelings, actions, and results.

Circumstances, Thoughts, and Beliefs

Google defines “circumstance” as “a fact or condition relevant to an event or action.”  Circumstances are always facts, meaning that everyone can agree on them.

The definition of a “thought” is “an idea or opinion occurring suddenly in the mind.”  I love this definition because it underscores that thoughts exist only in our minds, not in the outside world.  I also like to refer to thoughts as “sentences in our minds,” because it helps us see that our thoughts are the story we’re telling ourselves about the circumstances we’re experiencing.

And when we continue to repeat thoughts over and over, they become beliefs, because we’re so convinced that they are true.

The reason it’s so important to understand the difference between thoughts and circumstances is because our thoughts (and beliefs) are what create suffering for us and keep us stuck.  It’s never our circumstances. 

Case Study

Here’s an example to illustrate.  Say that you left your job when you had your first child.  Now that she’s in kindergarten, you’ve been job searching for several months, but you haven’t found anything yet.  You’re starting to believe that maybe something is wrong with you and you start questioning your abilities.  Then you start spinning out in your mind, wondering if you’ll ever find a job and imagining the worst-case scenario.

Your circumstance is: you are not currently employed.  Everyone can agree on that.

Your thoughts are everything else that you’re telling yourself.  “Something is wrong with me” is a thought.  “I’m not sure if I can do this” is thought.  “I might not find a job” is a thought.    These thoughts are what is creating the unpleasant emotion and mind drama, the imagining worst-case possibilities and the hand-wringing.

The good news about thoughts is that they are completely optional.  Imagine yourself (or someone else) in the very same circumstances without that thought.  How would you be feeling differently?  Showing up differently?  How would your results be different?

Take A Thought Inventory

One of the most powerful exercises you can do is to closely examine all of your thoughts and beliefs about yourself, your abilities, your career, and your goals.

To do this, get a piece of paper and write down all of the thoughts about a current career goal or problem.  (Really do this on paper.  It helps you view the thoughts more objectively.)  What is holding you back?  Why are you feeling stuck?  What are your thinking about yourself and your abilities?  Write about this one issue or problem for 10 minutes until you’ve written down all of your thoughts about it.

Then go through and circle the circumstances.  What is 100% factual?  What could everyone agree is true?  Sometimes the circumstances are simply something like “I exist. I have a child.  I have a law degree.  I’m not currently employed.”

Then underline the thoughts.  Notice how there are more thoughts than circumstances.  We often have very long stories.  How do you feel when you think the thoughts you wrote down?  What do you do when you think that way?  Are the thoughts serving you in any way?

Those thoughts are what you can change.  Sometimes it’s just a matter of letting go of a thought that isn’t helping you.  Imagine being in the same circumstances without that thought.  Who would you be?  How would you feel?  How would you show up differently?

The simple exercise of identifying on paper the actual circumstances and your thoughts can create the space in your mind to see things differently.  You’ve been believing your story and it’s felt so completely true.

But if that story is creating suffering for you, you also have the option to let it go.  Just contemplating that possibility is a powerful step because it allows you to recognize that you do have options.  It allows you to imagine yourself with a different mindset. And a different mindset is exactly what you need to create the results that you want.

What story have you been telling yourself about what is possible for you?  Is that serving you?  Who would you be without the limiting thoughts and beliefs?  Contact me for a free strategy session if you need help with seeing your limiting thoughts for what they are.

Go forth, grow, and bloom.

XO

Charise

Why You Need Your Own Identity

When we’re single and kid-less, we know who we are.  We have an identity that is ours alone.  When we start forming and growing our families, our identity can often shift.  We may decide to become a Mrs. instead of a Ms. when we get married.  After I had kids, I became known at home as Mommy, or “Luis and Oliver’s Mom” among my children’s friends.

Taking on a new identity is a beautiful part of life, as long as we don’t forget our original identities.  Even after we become wives and moms, we are still our own selves. We have needs, wants, goals, and dreams and only we can fulfill those.  Meeting your own needs simply cannot be outsourced:  you and you alone are responsible for that.

In order to meet your own needs and fulfill your own goals, you need to know who you are and what you want for your life.  In other words, you need to have your own identity.  Without a clear identity, there is no way you’re going to be able to meet your own needs.  This is especially true because the identities of wife and mother are typically focused on giving to others. In order to meet your own needs, you’re going to have remember who you are apart from being a wife and mother.

Remembering Who You Are

One of the reasons that we love to embrace our new identities as wives and mothers is that it feels wonderful to be loved and “needed” by others.  In reality, other people actually can’t “make” you feel loved or needed—you create those feelings by your thoughts about what other people do. But if you start to believe that you need others to “make” you feel happy, loved, or needed, then you start to lose yourself.  It’s difficult to know who you really are when you are depending on external circumstances to provide your fulfillment.

Part of remembering who you are is knowing that you can provide yourself with everything.  If you really and truly believe that, then you are free to identify:

  • what you want
  • what you need, and
  • how you want to show up in the world.

Once you know those three things, you’ve defined your identity.

Being Your Authentic Self

Once you know your identity, the next step is learning how to live it out and take responsibility for getting what you want, getting what you need, and showing up as the person you want to be.

Do you want to feel accepted?  Start working on creating the feeling of acceptance for yourself by looking at your thoughts. Thoughts like “I’m not enough” will create the opposite feeling and keep you in a state of depending on others to validate you.

Once you identify the thoughts that are holding you back, question them.  Why are you choosing to think those thoughts when they are clearly not serving you?

Try on the opposite thought for size: What if you are already enough, just as you are?  Thinking and believing “I am already enough” creates the feeling of self-acceptance for many people.  What thought would create that feeling for you?

Do you want to feel loved? Start by loving yourself first.  Try on the thought “I am 100% loveable because I’m human.”  You would not have trouble believing that about a newborn baby, right?  It was true about you the day you were born and it’s still true today.  Why would you choose to believe anything else?

Once you know that you are whole and enough just as you are, you become free to show up as you really want to show up.  You become free to be your authentic self.

And when you do that, I promise that you will also show up as a happier wife, mother, professional, etc.  Know yourself first and watch the magic happen.

Have a beautiful day!

Go forth, grow, and bloom.

XO

Charise

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How To Believe In Yourself No Matter What

If your default state of mind is one of self-doubt, you’re not alone. Self-doubt is ubiquitous among women, regardless of qualifications, experience, and skills.  The women that I coach are high-achieving professionals who have all the credentials they need to prove their abilities.  They have received high praise from supervisors and colleagues.  And yet, they still doubt themselves.

The problem is, credentials and external praise cannot create a belief in yourselfOnly you can do that. 

Why Don’t We Trust Ourselves?

Women are conditioned to seek external validation from a very young age.  That is one reason why girls generally do so well in school.  Our goal becomes pleasing our teachers instead of trusting in ourselves.  We follow the path prescribed by others instead of taking our own leaps, following our instincts, and thinking creatively.  And that is when we begin to doubt ourselves.

If, when we’re children, we started to internalize thoughts such as “the teacher knows best” or “I need to do what I’m told,” those beliefs become automatic and part of our subconscious.  Unless and until you examine your subconscious beliefs, they will still be driving your actions (or inactions) as an adult.

What Do You Think When You Think About Yourself? 

Changing your belief about yourself starts with changing your thinking about yourself.  To get to the root of the problem, we always begin by looking at the underlying thoughts.  What are you thinking when you’re thinking about yourself (and doubting yourself)?  In other words, what thoughts are creating the feeling of self-doubt for you?

For many of my clients, self-doubt is created by thoughts like these:

  • I just don’t know if I can do this.
  • I don’t know what I really want.
  • I don’t trust myself to know what to do.
  • I don’t have what it takes.
  • Someone else said I won’t succeed. They’re right.

What are the thoughts that are creating self-doubt for you?

When we have these thoughts swirling around in our heads unexamined, they seem 100% factual.  And mandatory.  The good news is that they are neither factual nor mandatory.  They are subjective thoughts and they are 100% optional. 

You can let go of these thoughts.  Right now.

How To Create Belief In Yourself

The first step is to write down the reasons why you don’t believe in yourself.  These are your thoughts.

Then ask yourself why you’re choosing to think those thoughts.  Challenge yourself to think of reasons why those thoughts aren’t actually true.  What are reasons why you are capable?  Why you do know what you want?  Why you can figure it out?

Write down those reasons. Those are the new thoughts that you need to practice thinking.  Practice them daily.

When you’re rewiring your brain, you will notice that you will have moments where you are simultaneously believing both thoughts: the old thought (that you can’t) and the new thought (that you can).  This is normal.  Give more air time to the new thought.  Ask yourself how you can create more evidence to support the new thought by the actions that you take.  The more evidence you create, the easier it will be to believe.

When you realize that you can create belief in yourself by changing your thinking, it’s the most empowering feeling ever because you discover that it’s within your control and no one can ever take it away from you.  You no longer need to rely on external validation for your belief.  You just get to rely on yourself.

If you need help with this, contact me to schedule a free call.  Once you learn how to believe in yourself, there is nothing you can’t do.

Go forth, grow, and bloom.

XO

Charise

Is The Fear Of Rejection Holding You Back?

I work primarily with female professionals who want to make changes in their careers and I see the fear of rejection holding them back in primarily two different ways.

First, they are afraid of being rejected by some external gatekeeper, such as if they apply for a new job, submit a manuscript for publication, solicit business from potential clients, or put themselves out there in the world in some new way.

Second, they are often afraid that if they make a big change in their careers, they will be rejected by people currently in their lives.  They are afraid of being judged or criticized for wanting something different than they currently have and they are afraid that if they fail in some way, they imagine that all of those people will criticize them or reject them.

Because they are human, their brains are really great at catastrophizing, so this fear can be hugely blown out of proportion and they start to believe that “everyone” in their lives will reject them, which feels like death to the primitive brain.

The Root Cause

What’s really going on in our minds when we’re feeling afraid of rejection?

We know that fear of rejection, like any fear, is an emotion, and that all emotions are caused by our thoughts.  The fear of rejection is always caused by a negative thought that you already have about yourself.  And you might have been thinking that thought, and others like it, so consistently that those thoughts have turned into a belief that you have about yourself, because a belief is just a thought that you keep on thinking.  (Often our beliefs are buried deep in our subconscious, so you might not even be aware that this is going on.)

So, when you consider the prospect of putting yourself out there into the world but you keep thinking this negative thought about yourself, it creates the emotion that we call “fear of rejection,” and it almost always leads to hiding or inaction.  The fear acts like a protective mechanism, so that you don’t have to actually be rejected.  You end up rejecting yourself ahead of time because you’re afraid that someone’s else rejection of you will provide evidence to confirm that negative thought or belief that you already have about yourself.

Case In Point

For example, a client that I’ll call Sarah is a high-achieving executive and she has 25 years of experience in her field.  Sarah wanted to branch out and work in a different field, but she wasn’t taking any action.  She felt completely stuck.  When Sarah came to me for coaching, it became clear that she was afraid of being rejected and the root cause of that fear was her underlying belief that she was simply not capable of working in the new field, despite the fact that her skill set would have easily transferred to that field.

If she were to search for a position in the new field and get rejected, she would see that as “proof” that she didn’t have what it takes.  It makes total sense that if you think that getting rejected means that you’re not capable of doing what you want to do, then of course you’re not going to want to go out and be rejected.

Ironically, by thinking that she was not capable, and feeling afraid of rejection, and not taking action toward her goals, and she was actually creating more evidence to support the belief that she didn’t have what it takes to accomplish her goal, making it harder to start taking action.

Once we identified the thought that was holding Sarah back and she became conscious of it, we could work with it.

Who Would You Be Without That Thought?

This question comes from The Work of Bryon Katie and is an excellent tool to imagine the possibility of existing without the thought that is creating so much pain.  When I asked Sarah to imagine who she would be without that thought, she said she would be more creative about looking for opportunities and braver about pursuing those opportunities, with a willingness to ask more questions and explore.

Find Evidence To Support The Opposite Thought

Then I asked her to come up with evidence to support the opposite thought, that she was actually capable of taking on an executive position in the new field.  She immediately came up with a list of all the skills and qualifications that she already had that would make her capable of doing the job she wanted to do.

How To Think About “Rejection”

We also talked about other ways that she could think about the possibility of applying for a job and not getting it.

  • She could realize that the “rejection” gives us more information about the person or company doing the rejecting than it does about the person being rejected.
  • She could choose to think that going out and applying for jobs and interviewing and getting rejected by some companies could be a tremendous learning opportunity, so that she could find out more about what companies are looking for and how to better market her skills.
  • She could also choose to think about getting rejected as being a good thing because it would mean that she is putting herself out there and taking action.

How Committed Are You? 

I asked her what she was willing to do to find her ideal job.  We agreed that if she went on 50 job interviews in the new field, she would likely find a job.  Would she be willing to do that, if that’s what it took to find the job?  She decided that she was willing to do that. And if she got rejected along the way, she would not make those rejections mean that she’s not capable – instead she would only make it mean that she hadn’t found the right job yet.

How Do You Want To Feel? 

Finally, I asked her how she wanted to feel when job searching and she said “relaxed.”  So we brainstormed some thoughts that would help her feel relaxed and came up with the thought that “I am open to exploring the possibilities that are out there.”  And when she practiced this thought, she indeed felt relaxed, and she immediately came up with a list of creative strategies for tapping into her network and finding a position that she wanted and her mind started generating tons of ideas about how to craft her resume to reflect her experience and skills:  it was like the floodgates opened once she became aware of that one negative thought holding her back.

I want to offer that you can always choose what you want to make rejection mean.

You can make it mean that you’re getting yourself out there and are getting one step closer to your goals.

You can make it mean that you’re learning and growing and gathering information about what works and what doesn’t work.

And you can make it mean that, because you are learning, you are also becoming the person that is capable of achieving what you want to achieve.

It’s a beautiful thing.

Go forth, bloom, and grow.

XO

Charise

Why Honoring Your Commitments To Yourself Is So Hard – And So Essential

I know I’m not the only one out there who does this:  I make a plan that I love and I’m feeling fired up about it.  And then when it comes time to actually follow through, my brain freaks out.  It wants to do anything else except what is on my calendar for that time.  It’s highly creative in coming up with other things that seem suddenly more urgent and important.

I know that I’m not alone because I hear this from my clients all the time.  A client who wants to write a book commits to spending two hours a day writing.  But when she sits down to write, her first thought is “Oh!  I got an email about a sale at my favorite store – I should look at that right now before I forget!”  And in that instant, it’s as if nothing else matters more than the sale.

We’re all confounded by the conflict created within our own brains.  How can we want the results so badly but not be willing to do the work to get them?

What’s Working Against Us

Humans have evolved to be motivated by three things: (1) seeking pleasure, (2) avoiding pain, and (3) reducing effort by doing the thing that is most comfortable or familiar.  So, when we’re trying to create new results by taking new, unfamiliar actions, our brains are far from motivated.  They are actually highly motivated to do anything but the task we have planned.

For example, say you don’t like your current job and have the goal of finding a new one.  As soon as you sit down at your desk, you remember that you have chocolate in the pantry.  You think “having some chocolate would help my job search.”  (You’re not sure how, but it sounds logical enough at the time.)

You go to the pantry to get some chocolate and then you notice that there is a bag of stale chips there, and suddenly it occurs to you that there might be other stale food in the pantry and the floor needs to be swept.

Before you know it, you’re going through your entire pantry and vacuuming the entire kitchen.  It feels so “productive” because you’re telling yourself you needed to do it anyway, but the truth is, you’ve just successfully (1) sought pleasure (chocolate), (2) avoided pain (by not writing), and (3) reduced effort (by doing something that required much less mental effort than writing).

The problem is that you’ve broken your commitment to yourself.  You said you were going to do something, you didn’t do it, and so your trust in yourself is lost.  You use that failure to follow through as evidence that you’re not a person who follows through or gets things done, so you begin to believe that this is true.  As in, you believe it’s just a fact.  And that thought keeps you stuck in downward spiral of inaction.

How To Change

Change is not easy.  The old, familiar neural pathways in our brains beckon us to do what’s comfortable.  But even though it’s not easy, change certainly is possible.  I watch my clients do it all the time.  I’ve done it myself.  It involves reprogramming your brain to help you take action and honor your commitment to yourself.  Here’s how:

Look At What You’re Telling Yourself

Look at the thoughts you’re telling yourself about your ability to follow through.  If you have thoughts like “I’m just not a person who can follow through,” or “I never finish anything,” you might be believing them as if they were 100% factual and you might have a lot of evidence from your past to support those thoughts.  But those are thoughts, not facts.  Even if you can come up with evidence to support them, you can also come up with evidence to support the opposite thought:  What are the ways in which you are a person who follows through?  List 3 things that you have finished.  Even if it’s hard to find, allow the space in your mind to consider that the story you’ve been telling yourself is not 100% true. That is the first step to telling a new story.

Start Small

If you’ve been practicing thoughts like the ones above, you’re not likely to believe that you have the ability to follow through.  So start small.  Commit to a goal that you know for sure you can achieve.  If you ultimately want to exercise 3 times a week, commit to working out for just 5 minutes, once a week.  After a few weeks of that, increase to 5 minutes twice a week.  You may end up working out more than that once you get started, but by having a small, bite-sized commitment, you allow yourself to create evidence for a new belief:  That you are a person who works out and honors your commitment to yourself.

Realize that change is hard.  And you can do hard.

We want the good results without the discomfort, but that is just not the way the world works.  If you look at anyone who is showing up as the best version of herself, I guarantee she’s felt discomfort on the way there.  For some reason, we sometimes expect that the actions we’ve never taken before should be easy.  It’s like we show up to a marathon thinking it’s going to be another 5k. That kind of thinking sets us up for failure.

Accepting ahead of time that, frankly, this is going to be incredibly hard, can help you mentally prepare for what you’re up against.

And part of that mental preparation requires thinking the thought “I can do hard things.”  Make a list of all the challenges that you’ve overcome in your life.  Things like getting your degrees.  Giving birth.  Getting up every two hours to feed the baby.  Breastfeeding!  (A great example of something we expect to be super easy and then it’s excruciating!)  Practice the thought “I can do hard things” daily. Put it on post-it notes at your computer or reminders on your phone.

Allow Discomfort

 As I discussed previously, when we feel negative emotion, such as discomfort, we instinctually want to resist it, react to it, or avoid it.  But doing those things does not bring you closer to your goals.  What does bring you closer to your goals is allowing and embracing the discomfort that you feel when you try something new.

To allow the emotion, first become aware of it and name it.  “Hi, Discomfort.  I notice you’re here.”  Feel where it shows up in your body and notice what it feels like.  Is it a tightness?  Or is it an energy that moves or spins?   Breathe into the emotion and sit with it for a few minutes.  But just a few minutes.

Because then, you’ve got to go to work.

Even if the discomfort remains, you still take the action you said you would take.  Discomfort is supposed to be there when you’re doing something new.  Keep going anyway and honor your commitment to yourself as if it were an appointment with your greatest hero.  If you keep doing that consistently and taking action toward your goals, you’re going to start to trust yourself.  And when you trust yourself, you know there is nothing that you truly want that you can’t achieve.

Get Help

Serious athletes never train for anything without a coach.  If you’re serious about going out and getting the results, you shouldn’t either.  Find a good cognitive coach with whom you can connect and watch yourself transform before your eyes.  Hiring a coach helped me get clarity, get unstuck, take massive action:  I got certified as a coach, left my big firm job, moved with my family to Spain, and am launching a business.  With my coach’s help, I started honoring my commitments to myself and in doing that, I became a better version of my prior self.

When you commit to honoring your commitments to yourself, you’ll set yourself up for success.  It’s a game changer.

Go forth, grow, and bloom.

XO

Charise

The One Thing That Will Change Everything

I used to think that other people were the cause of my feelings.  I was an adult making choices in my life, but if I was unhappy with the results, someone else was somehow responsible.

Instead of making changes, I would come up with excuses why I couldn’t:   I was working too much.  I had no time.  I didn’t know what I wanted to do.

Manufacturing justifications for inaction of course led to more inaction, which, didn’t change my results.

If we think that we’re not responsible for our results, then there’s no way for us to fix them.  We continue thinking that we’re “stuck” as victims of our circumstances, which leads to more inaction, which leads to the same old results.

I finally realized that I was responsible for everything that I was creating in my life.  It was all on me.  And knowing that changed everything because it meant that I could change what I was doing and get new, better results.

What Does It Mean To Take 100% Responsibility For Your Life?

Taking 100% responsibility for your life means that you understand that, although you don’t always control your external circumstances, you still control how you think about those circumstances, how you feel about those circumstances, what you do, and what your results are.

It means recognizing that every decision that you have made until now was yours to make.  Unless you truly acted under duress (i.e., someone was pointing a deadly weapon at you), you made the decision to go to school (and acquire student loans), buy the house (and acquire the mortgage), have the kids (and raise them), take the job, make the move, etc.  There will always be circumstances and events that you do not choose, but you always get to choose your response.  You can argue with reality that something “shouldn’t have happened” or you can accept that it did happen and decide how you want to respond.

Taking responsibility means learning what you can from your past decisions, but then moving on and focusing on your future.  What do you want to create?  Who do you want to become?  If you don’t know, then it’s your responsibility to figure it out.

When you tell yourself “I don’t know what to do” or “there’s nothing I can do,” you’re giving yourself permission to stay stuck in confusion and not figure it out, which means you’re not taking full responsibility for your life.

Empower Yourself

Once you understand that you are 100% responsible for your current results, you empower yourself to change those results.  Think about the result that you really want.  Is it to find a new job?  Create a new business?  Write and publish a book?

Write down everything you need to do to get that result.  Exactly what actions would you have to take?

This is where a lot of people get overwhelmed.  It can feel like too much because they’re thinking negative thoughts, like “I don’t know how to do this.”  But overwhelm is not going to help you create your desired results, so you need another feeling and thought pattern to convince your brain to take those actions.

What are you going to need to feel in order to take those actions and get that result?  Is it a feeling of determination or commitment?  Write it down.

To generate the feeling of determination or commitment, what would you need to think and believe?  For many of my clients, it’s as simple as the thought “I am committed to creating a better life for myself by finding a new job.” Whatever the thought is for you, write it down and practice it.

“Empowerment” Does Not Equal “Easy”

To create change in your life and take 100% responsibility for your results, you will have to change your thought patterns, manage your mind on a daily basis, and take massive action. This requires significantly more effort than being disempowered and feeling like a victim of your circumstances.

There will be times when creating new results feels incredibly hard.  You will want to feel overwhelmed.  You will want to tell yourself you don’t know what to do.  You will want to avoid taking action.  You will want to curl up on the couch with ice cream and watch Netflix instead.

During those times, think about your desired result:  how will you feel when you’ve achieved it?  Vividly imagine what it will be like to have done it.

Then remember what actions you need to take to obtain it.

And what emotion you need to do that.

And what thought you need to think and believe to create that emotion.

Then practice that thought.  By practicing that thought, you will create the emotion you need to feel, so that you can go do what you need to do.

You’ve got this.

Go forth, grow, and bloom.

XO

Charise

A Simplified Life Is A Joyful Life

Designing your life requires being intentional about what you really want and what matters most.  It requires thinking about the big picture by choosing your core values, priorities, and goals, and letting go of the rest.  And it also requires simplifying your daily life and the spaces that you occupy, so that everything that you do and everything that you have is there because you chose it consciously.

In her book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, Marie Kondo recommends using a very powerful question to decide which belongings to keep and which to release: Does this spark joy?  She recommends that you go through and edit your entire house room by room and let go of the things that don’t spark joy.  When you are finished, all that will remain in your life will be things that bring you joy.

I love the idea of keeping in your life only what sparks joy, both materially and intangibly, so I decided to try to simplify the material possessions in my life and make space for the joy.

Simplifying

I started with my sock drawer.  With the help of a video created by professional organizer Shira Gill (www.shiragill.com) and Marie Kondo’s “spark joy” question, I edited my sock drawer.

First, I took everything out.

Then I threw away the socks that had lost their mates and the ones that were old.

I donated the ones that were in good condition but that did not spark joy or that I simply did not need. Let’s be honest, I did not need 13 pairs of athletic socks when I work out four days a week at the most.  (Did you know that socks in good condition are in high demand by charities that give clothing to the homeless?)

Then I neatly folded the socks that remained and arranged them so that there is space between each pair of socks and I can see them all when I open the drawer.  (Who knew you could leave space between your socks?)

I had never before imagined that a sock drawer could spark joy, but it did!  It has only exactly what I need, exactly what I love, and nothing else. It looks like a beautifully-curated display at a high-end boutique.

I immediately wanted to feel that way about my entire house, so I got to work.

I now have:

  • A closet that has only clothes that I wear and that spark joy. The rest went to charity.
  • A desk that has only the things I need and that spark joy. It’s a pleasure to work there.
  • A kitchen that has only what I need, use, and sparks joy. I did not need five wooden spoons when one will do.
  • A playroom for my kids that only contains toys that they love and currently use. There is enough variety but not too much that they get overwhelmed.
  • A house that has only what we love and need, along with lots of extra space.

Creating Space For Joy

Simplifying your belongings goes very well in tandem with designing and simplifying your life.  I found that removing the extra belongings from my life freed up time and space for me to focus on my core values, priorities, and focus goal.  The more space I created in my house, the more energy I had to dedicate to what really matters.

And what remains, in both my house and my life, is joy.

Have a beautiful Thanksgiving.

Go forth, grow, and bloom.

XO

Charise

What Really Matters

What Is Most Important To You?

There is so much available to us in the world today.  We have more opportunities than ever before, which creates an interesting phenomenon:  we often don’t know what we really want or what really matters.

That is why the exercise of choosing one’s core values can be so powerful.  It helps you constrain your focus to what you care about the most. And when you focus on the most important things, you can make real progress toward creating the results you want to create in your life.

Constraint Is The Only Way

Prior to hiring my first coach, I was all over the map about what I wanted for my life.  I was often distracted by new ideas or options that I wanted to explore and those tangents took me down rabbit holes instead of where I wanted to be.

It was like I was mountain climbing in the Rockies and half-way up one mountain, I would see another peak that I wanted to climb, so I’d head for that one, and then yet another one, and so on. It was exhausting and I wasn’t summitting any mountains.

After constraining my focus to just three core values, I got clear about exactly which three mountains I really wanted to climb and I was able to focus on climbing just those three.

Values and Priorities

Values are different than priorities, although the two are related.  A core value is a fundamental belief or guiding principle that provides a framework for creating the life you want.  A priority is an aspect of your life that you are currently putting before others.

Priorities tend to support our core values.  For example, you may have the core value of living your life’s purpose.  In order to do that, you need to take care of your physical and mental health, so you will likely want to make your health a priority.

Another difference is that core values don’t change much over time, but priorities are usually more temporal.  For example, when you’re raising young kids, spending time with them every day might be a priority, whereas this may not be the case when your kids have grown and left the nest.  Family may be a core value throughout your life, but the way that you live out that value in your daily life will change.

What Are Your Core Values?

As a coach, I love taking my clients through the core values exercise because I know how pivotal it was for me.

What about you?  Think about the three most important values in your own life.  Write them down.

What Needs To Change? 

If something in your life doesn’t support one of those values, it might be time to reevaluate and make some changes. Sometimes the changes might be small, but other times you might decide for a complete overhaul.

I did both after getting clear on my core values.  The core values that I chose are:

  • Family
  • Helping others, and
  • Creativity

To support my core value of family, I initially decided to work part-time at my prior law firm job, and then eventually made the choice to build a business that would allow me to have more freedom over my schedule and spend more time with my children and husband.  I also chose to spend vacation time with extended family and made the decision to move to Spain for a year to spend time with my husband’s family.  Needless to say, these were big changes.

To support my core value of helping others, I initially decided to do more pro-bono cases while I was practicing law.  Eventually, I decided that the best way for me to help others was to commit to my passion for coaching, so that I could work directly with busy professionals who are also moms and help them get unstuck and find fulfilment in their careers.

To support my core value of creativity, I cut down on social media and news programs, to dedicate more time to writing, music, and art projects with my kids (which also supports the family core value).

The best activities are the ones that support more than one value at a time.

What about you?  What mountains are the most important for you to climb?  What changes do you need to make to live in alignment with your core values and priorities?

If you need help choosing your core values, contact me for a free strategy session.  Your mountains are waiting for you.

Go forth, bloom, and climb your mountains!

XO

Charise

What To Do When Life Is Hard

Sometimes life is hard. Something happens that we didn’t want to happen.  Maybe it’s a tragedy, a loss, a diagnosis, or maybe it’s just that you have important work deadlines but your kids are sick and keep you awake all night.  Sometimes it feels like too much, but you have to go on anyway.  Here’s what to do.

Let Life Be Hard

Just a century ago, people pretty much accepted that life was hard a lot of the time.  But more recently, we’ve come to expect that life shouldn’t be hard.  Madison Avenue has been convincing us that we’re supposed to be happy all of the time and we see that belief perpetuated on a daily basis on social media.  The problem with that expectation is that life is not supposed to be easy all of the time.  Life is still hard.  A lot.

If you’re thinking “life should be easy all the time” or “life shouldn’t be this hard,” you’re arguing with reality, which creates even more suffering than the pain you’re already experiencing from life being hard.  It’s been said that pain in life is inevitable but suffering (which comes from resisting the way things are) is optional.  Understanding the difference between the two is key if you want to let go of the suffering.

To “let life be hard,” practice cultivating the feeling of acceptance.  For example, if you decide to think “life is hard right now and that’s okay,” notice the feeling in your body.  Do you feel a weight being lifted from your shoulders?  Do you breathe a sigh of relief, even in the smallest way?  When you stop arguing with reality and accept what is, you eliminate the extra unnecessary suffering that you were creating for yourself.

Allow Yourself To Feel The Negative Emotion  

An additional source of suffering comes from our extreme dislike of feeling negative emotions, including pain. Our brains are wired to avoid any type of pain—physical or emotional—so we avoid negative emotion at almost any cost.

Instead of feeling negative emotions, we often avoid, resist, or react to them.

Avoiding negative emotion is the main reason why people procrastinate, overeat sugary or processed food, overdrink, overspend, overwork, or over-Netflix.  We want to avoid feeling the discomfort of negative emotion, so we turn to things that will flood our brains with dopamine, a feel-good chemical that helps us to temporarily escape the negative emotion.

Resisting negative emotion is like trying to keep the door closed and not inviting it in.  It’s still there, but you’re trying to pretend it’s not.

Reacting to the negative emotion involves some sort of outward act, such as yelling.

None of these are as productive as allowing the emotion.  When you allow the emotion, you just sit with and feel it.

For example, say that a close family member gets a diagnosis.  Allowing the emotion means that you don’t react, even if you feel like it.  You don’t resist it by turning around and trying to ignore the circumstance.  You don’t avoid it by going straight for the fridge to start eating ice cream.

Instead, you just let the emotion well up inside of you and notice it.  You might say to yourself “Fear.  I’m feeling afraid.  So afraid.”  Where is the fear?  Is it in your chest?  Your stomach? Your shoulders?  What color is it?  Feel it completely, allow it to wash over you, and then notice how you survived that feeling.  When you understand how to allow your feelings, you no longer have to run away from them.  You may need to coexist with a negative feeling for awhile.  By allowing it, you invite it in and offer it a cup of tea.  But you don’t let it run your life or drive you to do things you don’t like doing.

Being willing to experience negative emotion will lessen its impact on you.  Experiencing emotional pain–whether it be fear, grief, or sadness–is part of being human.  Arguing that we shouldn’t experience fear, grief, or sadness is what creates suffering and further perpetuates those emotions.

Recognize That You Are Still In Control Of How You Choose To Respond 

When things happen that are hard, it can be tempting to think that life is happening to us and we’re just the victims of our circumstances. When we choose to think that, we give away our power.  We’re not taking ownership of what we can control.

Even when things are hard, we still get to decide what we think, how we feel, what we do, and what results we create in those circumstances.

When our feelings are so strong that we want to react to them, the truth is that we have a choice about how to respond.  It can feel like we’re acting involuntarily when we react in anger, for example.  “I can’t help it,” we might say.  But it’s just not true.  It might be the way that you learned to react from your own parents or it might be a habit, but it’s still within your control.

As Victor Frankl said, “between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”  Allow for a greater space between the stimulus and your response by recognizing that you have a choice.  You always get to choose.

You’ve Got This

Finally, remember that you’ve done hard things before.  You’ve worked hard and overcome obstacles to get to where you are.  You’ve suffered losses before.  Just because life can be hard doesn’t mean you can’t handle this.  Practicing the thought “I can do hard things” can create the motivation you need to power through.  You’ve got this.

Go forth, grow, and bloom.

XO

Charise

What To Do When You’re Overwhelmed

When you’re juggling a career and family, it can seem like the demands are endless.  The work deadlines, the extracurricular activities, doctors’ appointments, birthday parties, Christmas shopping, and the list goes on. Overwhelm is a common reaction to those demands and it’s one of the most common emotions that I see in moms who are also professionals.

But it doesn’t have to be. Here’s how to manage it.

Overwhelm is an emotion that we feel in our bodies.  As I’ve discussed before, all emotions are created from our thoughts.  The thoughts that create overwhelm are usually variations on these two:

  1. This is too much for me to handle.
  2. I don’t know how to get this done.

When we think these thoughts, our brain likes to fixate on them and repeat them, which sends us into the downward spiral of overwhelm.  When we’re feeling overwhelmed, we’re not taking action because the emotion causes our minds to freeze up in panic, which makes accessing our creativity and ability to make good decisions nearly impossible.

Instead, we end up wasting tons of time spinning out and doing nothing.  The time we spend spinning out is time we could be using to take action if we were in a more productive state.  This is obviously a counter-productive emotion.  It feels necessary in the moment, but it really serves no purpose.

Although it doesn’t feel optional, it actually is.  The circumstances of your life do not create the feeling of overwhelm.  There are other people who are in your exact same circumstances who are not getting overwhelmed.  And the only difference is the thoughts that they’re choosing to think.

Refuse To Tell Yourself That This Is Too Much

There is absolutely no upside to telling yourself “this is too much for me to handle.”  That thought will create overwhelm and indulging in overwhelm is never a good use of your time.

Instead, think about how you want to feel given your current set of circumstances.  Do you want to feel calm and in control?  Creative?  Committed to get things done?

Then think about what thought you would need to think in order to create that emotion.  Make sure it’s a thought that you can believe.  For example, you could decide to choose the thought “I am figuring out how to handle this.”  Just even allowing for the possibility that you can figure out a solution will allow you to access your creativity and problem-solving skills, which will help you find the solution more quickly.

Ask Good Questions

We’re often asking ourselves questions that aren’t very helpful.  Questions like:  Why is there never enough time?  Why don’t I know how to do this?  How did I get so far behind?  Why does this always happen to me?

When you ask questions like that, your brain is not going to give you very good answers.  Instead, it will say things like “Because you’re so disorganized.  Because you can’t pull yourself together.  Because your ex-boyfriend was right and you really are a disaster,” or other such unhelpful answers.

The good news is that you can access the creative power of your brain by deliberately asking positive questions that are going to elicit positive answers from your brain.

For example:

  • How can I break this down so that I can tackle what really needs to get done?
  • Whose help can I enlist?
  • How can I figure this out?
  • What is the solution to this problem?

Constrain

As I discussed when talking about priorities, making the deliberate choice to constrain and focus on what is really important to you can help avoid chronic feelings of overwhelm. For example, you could allow your kids to choose one extracurricular activity instead of three.  You could decide you’ll only go to networking events held at lunch and not after five o’clock.  You can decide that you’ll only have big birthday parties for the kids every other year or every three years.  These choices, made ahead of time, can dramatically simplify your life so that you’re only spending time on what’s absolutely essential.


Overwhelm is completely optional.  When you catch yourself starting to feel overwhelmed, stop and write down the thoughts that are creating that feeling.  Remember that they are optional thoughts and that you could choose to think differently. Imagine who you would be without those thoughts.  See what evidence you can find for the thought that “I am figuring out how to handle this.”  What good questions can you ask yourself to find a solution?  And how can you constrain so that you focus on what’s most important to you, to avoid being chronically overwhelmed?

Overwhelm may be “normal,” but it doesn’t have to be.  If you need help figuring this out, contact me for a free strategy session.  You’ll see immediate results.

Go forth, grow, and bloom.

XO

Charise