Should You Slow Down After Kids? 

When I was practicing law at a large international law firm, every time a female attorney in the office announced she was pregnant, other female colleagues would always ask: “What are you going to do after the baby is born?”

What they meant by that question was:

  1. Are you going to quit?
  2. Are you going to slow down and opt for a flexible work arrangement?
  3. Or will you continue full-time on the partnership track?

And it’s a question that every female professional who is expecting has likely been asked.

Any of These Is A Good Choice

The good news is that you really can’t make the wrong choice here.  You can make any decision the right decision for you.  The important thing is that you make an informed choice and that you make it consciously.

By informed choice I mean that you fully explore what options are available to you.

For example, say that you would really like to quit and stay home with your baby but don’t see it as a viable option financially.   If it’s something you really want, take a hard look at the numbers and ask yourself “how could I make this work, even if just for a few years?”  Would an extended leave of absence for a longer period of time be possible?  Would you be willing to move to lower your expenses?  Really ask yourself what you’d be willing to do or not do.  How important is it to you and what are you willing to give up in exchange?

If you’d like to try option 2 but you don’t think it’s available to you, I encourage you investigate further before discarding it.  Many companies, agencies, and firms offer flexible work arrangements in terms of hours or working from home,  but people don’t ask about them because they are afraid of getting “behind” in their careers, being seen as less committed, or working full-time hours for part-time pay.

If that’s true for you, investigate that fear.  What would be the actual consequences of going part time?  Would it truly be detrimental to your career? Can you find any evidence that it would not be?  For example, think about whether you know anyone who is working part-time and still highly respected.  Talk to as many people as you can to find out who is working on a flexible work arrangement, where they are employed, and how it’s going for them.  Organizations like the Diversity and Flexibility Alliance are actively working with employers to build work cultures that are accepting of flexible work arrangements and can be a great resource for connecting with people who are successfully working part-time.

Even if your employer doesn’t have a flexible work arrangement policy in place, you can always ask them to create one for you.  I know of several successful women who announced that they were resigning after their requests to work part-time or from home were denied, which prompted their employers to reverse their initial decisions and grant their requests.  Find out what’s really available before giving up.

Also consider how much weight you’re giving other people’s possible perceptions versus your own deeply-held priorities and core values.

When I was working at the firm, a female partner told me that some of the most successful female attorneys slowed down when their children were young and that it didn’t negatively affect their careers.  While I was there, I knew several attorneys who were promoted to partner while working part-time, even if it took a year or two longer than it otherwise would have.  The point is that this option is underutilized by a lot of professional women today, but in my experience, a 30% decrease in hours (and pay) while my children were babies led to a huge increase in my health, happiness, and overall wellbeing.

Examine Your Reasons

Once you’ve done your homework to figure out what’s really an option and what’s not, take a hard look at what options remain on the list.  Write down your reasons for choosing the remaining options.  Your reasons can include “because I know in my bones/heart/gut that I want to  ____.”  Even though we like to cognitively analyze our decisions, sometimes we just have an inner knowing.  Trying to override that intuitive knowing with “logical” reasons is what most often leads to bad decisions, so if you do have an inner knowing, go with it.

If you don’t have a clear sense one way or another, then look at each set of reasons and decide which one you like best.  The best reasons for doing anything are reasons based on love, excitement, fulfillment, and other positive emotions.  The worst reasons for doing anything are based on fear, guilt, and other negative emotions.

For example, a good reason to stay home with your kids is because you love staying home with them.  But if staying home with them drives you crazy and you really want to keep working but you feel guilty about that, that’s not a great reason to stay home—that’s a guilt-based reason.  And you can totally learn to let go of that guilt, which is not needed here.

If your reason for wanting to stay full-speed in your career is “I show up better as a mom when I’m living out my purpose at work,” that’s a great reason to keep working full-time.

So what are your reasons?  Which do you like best?

Own Your Choice

The truth is, that raising kids is challenging no matter what.  It’s hard for moms who stay home all day.  It’s hard for moms who work part-time.  It’s hard for moms who work full-time.  It’s hard because little humans are incredibly demanding and exhausting to raise.

But when you’ve made the choice consciously, you can feel good knowing that it’s the right choice for you and your family.  The kids really will be alright no matter what you choose.  What they need most is a happy, healthy, thriving mom. 

How are you happiest?  How are you healthiest?  In what environment do you thrive the most?  This is not a one-size-fits-all answer.  Only you can know what will truly bring you the most joy, the most happiness, and let you live your very best life.

Go forth, grow, and bloom.

XO

Charise

P.S.  If you need help with this decision, contact me to set up a free strategy session.  You’ve got this!

How To Be More Confident

The lack of confidence is the number one thing that I see in high-achieving professional women that holds them back in their careers and their lives.  It’s not knowing when to speak up at meetings, second-guessing your own decisions, not trusting yourself and your capacity to make good decisions.

Confidence has been studied and written about at length, but it’s really just an emotion, which, like all emotions, is created by our thoughts.  Confidence comes from having and believing positive thoughts, like “I’ve got this,” “I know I have what it takes,” or “I trust myself to make a good decision.”

The lack of confidence, or insecurity, is an emotion that comes from negative thoughts.  The negative thoughts I most commonly hear from people with law degrees, MBAs, and PhDs, are:

  • I just don’t know if I’m capable of this
  • I don’t know how to make a good decision
  • I don’t trust myself to know what to do
  • I don’t think I’m qualified to do this (despite my credentials and experience)
  • I’m afraid of making a mistake
  • People will think I’m stupid if I mess this up

No wonder they don’t feel confident!  No one would feel good if they were hearing and believing these thoughts all day long. Even though we would never say these things to someone else, we have no problem saying them to ourselves.  And it’s universal.  We all say things like this, but those who are more confident don’t spend time believing the thoughts and have figured out ways to override those thoughts.  You can override those thoughts, too.  Here’s how.

Understand The Source

These thoughts, sometimes referred to by psychologists as negative automatic thoughts, come from our primitive brain, whose job has been to ensure our survival as we’ve evolved. The primitive brain is really good at finding the negative (such as noticing the crouching tiger in the tall grass), which kept our ancestors alive.  In our modern life, we’re not usually faced with tigers, but our primitive brain continues to harp on the negative, mostly to our detriment.

Realizing that these thoughts are just your primitive brain’s natural reflex anytime you consider doing something outside your comfort zone, you can recognize them for what they are. Start to become aware of them and create some distance between you and the thoughts.  If you’ve ever tried meditating, that’s exactly what you do in meditation:  from the perspective of the Watcher, you observe your thoughts in a detached way, without identifying with them or believing them.  One of the reasons that meditation is so good for you is that it makes you aware that you are not your thoughts and gives you the space to decide how you want to react to what happens in your life.

Just The Facts, Ma’am

Once you understand that your thoughts are not you, it becomes easier to look at what is a fact and what is your thought.  For example, your circumstance may be that you have a certain amount of knowledge about a particular case and you’re at a team meeting to plan the case strategy.  Your thought may be: “I don’t know enough about the case to make a meaningful contribution.”  Even though that statement feels like a fact to your brain, it’s actually not at fact.

Reasonable minds can differ as to what “enough” is.  Write down what the actual facts are.  There is a case.  You know things about it.  There are things you don’t yet know.  Other people on the team know some things and don’t know other things, too.  So what?

Is it possible that you can raise helpful ideas and solutions based on your current knowledge, even if you don’t know everything about the case?

Find Evidence To Support The Opposite Thought

What evidence can you find to support the opposite thought, that “I know enough about this case to make a meaningful contribution”?  What are the ways that you do know enough?  Are you really being expected to know everything?  Or is that an artificial standard that you’ve created in your mind that is holding you back from meaningfully contributing?  Are there ways that you could ask questions that could contribute to the strategy session?  How have you been able to make meaningful contributions to other cases even if you didn’t know everything?

Making a list of all of the reasons why the opposite thought is true can help you shift your thinking and see that your automatic thoughts are both inaccurate and unhelpful.

Take Small Risks

One of the best ways to accumulate evidence that you are capable is to start doing things that feel uncomfortable.  When you go outside of your comfort zone, you will (by definition) feel uncomfortable, but you’ll also start to see that it doesn’t kill you and that you can actually do things that you weren’t sure you could.  The more experience you get going outside your comfort zone, the more trust you’ll develop in yourself about your abilitites.

You Are Not Your Work

When you believe that your self-worth is tied to “getting it right” or “doing a great job,” you’re going to be a lot less likely to want to take risks and you’re going to second-guess yourself every step along the way.  Why?  Because if you believe that making a mistake means that you’re not worthy as a person, of course you’re not going to want to make a mistake.  This fear of making a mistake is going to paralyze you because you’re going to want to avoid making a mistake at all costs, which means you’re going to avoid speaking up on the fly, making fast decisions, and putting your work out there without double- or triple checking it.

But what if you stopped choosing to believe that your self-worth is determined by how well you do at work? What if you chose to believe that you are already 100% worthy just because you’re human and no mistake can ever take that away from you?  What if you are already completely worthy, even if other people don’t see that? What if they’re wrong about you?  What if making a mistake means that you’re brave and you’re trying new things?

When you realize that you’re already worthy and you don’t have to do anything else to earn worthiness, life becomes so much more fun.  Since you don’t have to prove your worth, you can start to try new things, which will create even more evidence that you are qualified and capable.  You’ll start to trust yourself and know that no one can take that trust away from you.  It’s an amazing gift to yourself and it’s available to you now.

Go forth, grow, and bloom.

XO

Charise

Finding Happiness Where You Are

Every single one of my clients comes to me because she wants something different than she currently has.  Some want to advance in their current jobs and they need help developing the confidence to do that, but many come to me because they want to find a new job.

So they are often surprised when I suggest that we take some time to work on how they can be happier in their current job.  They don’t understand why they would want to spend time on that because they know clearly where they want to go, and they want to get there fast.  But I always recommend that you find happiness at your current job before you leave.

Why?  Because when you learn that your circumstances do not determine your happiness, you will truly understand the power of your own mind.  Also, when you learn how to find contentment in your current job, it takes the pressure off of your job search.  You don’t have to worry about taking the first job you’re offered, even if it’s going to double your commute time or require longer hours than you’d like.  You can be methodical and confident in your job search and take your time finding the right job for you.  Which is the best way to find a job.

Case In Point

A client whom I’ll call Allison was feeling desperate to leave her current job at her first coaching session.  She had a new boss and things weren’t going well at work.  Although she had thrived at that job for the past seven years, she no longer felt happy there and she wanted out.

We looked at the thoughts that were creating Allison’s unhappiness at work. They boiled down to this:

  • My new boss is not communicating well with me, like my old boss did.
  • He is not efficient.
  • He’s going to run this place into the ground.
  • He should be different than he is.
  • There is no longer an opportunity for me to advance here.
  • I need to get out as soon as possible.

Allison’s co-workers also had their own negative thoughts about the new boss, and when they commiserated together, Allison found even more reasons or evidence to support those negative thoughts, which left her feeling even worse.

Allison was convinced that every single one of her thoughts was a fact, that she was just observing reality.  But the circumstances were really:

  • She had a new boss.
  • Her new boss had made decisions that Allison did not like.
  • Her new boss did not send an email to the team informing them of the decisions.
  • The team learned about the decisions at a meeting.

Everything else was a thought, a sentence in her mind.

The overarching thought that “he should be different than he is” was causing Allison the most grief.  The reason it was creating so much unhappiness for Allison is because that thought was, as Byron Katie puts it, “arguing with reality.”

When Allison was thinking “he should be different than he is,” she felt angry.  When she felt angry, she wasn’t productive at work because she was spending lots of time spinning in her mind and also commiserating with co-workers.  When she did that, she didn’t enjoy her job anymore.  She was miserable.  When we looked at the result that her thought was creating for her, Allison realized that she was the one who could “be different” in this circumstance because she was the only person that she could change.  Arguing with reality produced no real benefit because Allison could not control her new boss.  As much as we would like to change what other people say and do, we simply can’t.

I challenged her to look for evidence to support the opposite thought.  What if he should be exactly how he is?  How do we know that he should be exactly that way? Because he is that way.  That’s the best evidence there is.  When you realize that you can accept someone else exactly as they are and still have inner peace, it feels amazing because you realize that you are always in control of how you feel.

Feeling Better Is Always Available

This is best illustrated with an extreme example.  In Man’s Search For Ultimate Meaning, Victor Frankl said “[t]he last of the human freedoms” is “to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”  He learned that when he was a Jewish prisoner in a Nazi concentration camp, which proves that if he could choose acceptance in those circumstances, it is always available to us well.

When Allison decided that there was no use arguing with reality and started choosing to think “my boss is exactly the way he should be,” she felt acceptance and relief, like a huge weight was lifted from her shoulders.  The feeling of acceptance drove her to get back to work, become productive again, decline to commiserate with co-workers, and enjoy her work again.  She still wanted to continue her job search, but she no longer had a desperate sense of urgency to leave.  She could be thoughtful and systematic about her search, to make sure she would find the right job for her.

What about you?  What are you telling yourself about your current situation that isn’t serving you or that is creating unhappiness for you?  What are the actual facts and what are your thoughts about them?  Knowing that you always have the freedom to choose, how do you want to feel in those circumstances?  However you want to feel, it’s available to you now.

Go forth, grow, and bloom.

XO

Charise

P.S.  If you need help figuring out how to get to a place of acceptance and contentment, let’s talk in a free strategy session to get you feeling better and back in the driver’s seat of your life.

Letting Go Of Mom Guilt

We have, as a cultural, pretty much accepted that being a mom comes with an emotion that we now call “mom guilt.”  Mom guilt seems to affect nearly all moms, but it’s particularly common in working moms.

So what is “mom guilt” really?  Guilt, like any emotion, is just a vibration in our bodies that comes from our thoughts, which are just sentences in our mind.  The most common thought that I hear from clients who are working moms is that they aren’t doing a good job as a mom or in their careers, and that thought often creates strong feelings of guilt.

Mom guilt can also be shame in disguise.  When we feel guilt, it comes from thoughts that we’ve done something wrong.  When we feel shame, it comes from thoughts that something is wrong with us.  And that is just not useful.  It’s hard to show up as the best version of yourself when you’re feeling shame. Additionally, shame usually wants to hide, which makes it hard to heal.

Is There Anything To Be Learned From This? 

Guilt actually can be a useful emotion if it’s used as a learning opportunity.  For example, if we yell at our kids and feel guilty, guilt can actually deter us from yelling the next time.  If we learn from that experience and correct our behavior, it can be a useful emotion.

In most cases, however, mom guilt does not really serve us well because it comes from thoughts about how we’re not measuring up to an impossible standard of perfection.  For example, if you feel guilty about working but you have no intention to stop working, the guilt really serves no purpose.  There’s no upside to feeling guilty about working if you want or need to work.

To the contrary, there can be a very real downside to this chronic, everyday mom guilt because when you feel guilty, you are likely not showing up as your best self both at work and when you’re with your kids.  The thoughts that create the feeling of guilt do not usually lead to productive action or deep introspection about how to improve.  The are usually just very self-punishing and tend to create more negative emotions, such as stress, overwhelm, and anxiety.

If you’re feeling mom guilt, ask yourself, “Is there anything that I can learn from this?  Is there anything that I want to change?”  If the answer is yes, then it may require taking a deep look at what you really do want to change.  If the answer is no, it’s time to question the thoughts that are creating the feeling of guilt.

Fact or Thought?  

Mom guilt is typically created by thoughts like these:

  • I should spend every waking moment with my kids
  • My working outside the home is going to permanently damage my kids
  • I am failing at being a good mom
  • When I’m not around, it causes my kids to suffer
  • I should want to be with my kids more
  • I shouldn’t want to do things that take me away from my kids

If you struggle with mom guilt, what are the thoughts that are creating that feeling for you?  Write them down.

None of the thoughts listed above are actually facts.  Science has actually shown that kids of working moms turn out just fine.  So if they aren’t facts, it means that they are just sentences in your mind and they are completely optional.

There Is Another Way

I want to offer that believing these thoughts and feeling guilty is actually doing a disservice to you and your kids, and there is an alternative.

The alternative is this: as a mom, my own happiness, peace, and wellbeing is the most important gift that I can give my children, both in the short- and long term.  I am not able to give when I am myself depleted, so taking care of myself, acknowledging my needs, and meeting those needs is actually my responsibility, both to myself and my kids.

It is only when I do this that I show up as the mom I want to be.  For me, taking time to meet my own needs means that I get enough sleep, get exercise a few days a week, have time to shop for and prepare healthy food, work in a career that brings me fulfillment, spend time with my husband, spend time with my friends, and make time for inspiration and creativity.

Doing these things necessarily means that I will not spend every waking minute with my kids, but the time that I am with them is so much better.  I have more patience with them, I smile more, I savor them and watch them with wonder.  They love it when mommy shows up this way, instead of as the stressed-out banshee that I used to be when I was believing the old thoughts and feeling guilty about everything.

Motherhood is hard. Expecting it to be easy and expecting yourself to be perfect is a recipe for guilt and shame.  There is no upside to that.

I know you love your kids mightily.  The best way to show your love for them is to show up as your best self.  Try it. You’ll never go back.

Go forth, grow, and bloom.

XO

Charise

The Real Reason We Procrastinate

The real reason why any of us procrastinate is because of our thoughts.  Positive thoughts drive productive action and negative thoughts drive inaction or unproductive action (such as reaching for a pint of ice cream).  Trying to change your actions without examining your thoughts is like trying to get a broken car to go without looking under the hood.  You can try pushing the car, you can try having a tow truck come along and pull it, but it’s going to be a slow, painful process and you’re not going to get to where you’re going nearly as fast.

But once you understand that your actions are driven by your feelings and your feelings are created by your thoughts, it becomes a lot easier to get to the source of the problem.

Find The Root Cause

When you’re procrastinating about something, whether it’s preparing a presentation for work, starting a job search, or going to the gym, take 10 minutes and write down all of your thoughts about why you’re not doing the thing you wanted to do.  In other words, all of your reasons.  This is called a thought download.  It’s like doing an inventory of what’s going on in your brain and it’s the equivalent of a mechanic looking under the hood of a car.

Let’s say for example that you want to start looking for a new job but you’re not taking action.  What are the thoughts that you’re thinking when you don’t feel like setting up informational interviews, applying for jobs, or updating your resume?

  • If you have the thought that you don’t have time, that might create the feeling of anxiety or apathy, which drives inaction.
  • If you have the thought that you are tired and deserve a break, it’s likely to create the feeling of lethargy, which also drives inaction.
  • If you have the thought that you no one will want to hire you, that will create the fear of rejection or maybe even shame, which will drive the “action” of wanting to hide and distracting yourself with Netflix.
  • If you have the thought that job searching is going to be painful and uncomfortable, that will create the feeling of dread, which will drive you to stay in your comfort zone and watch Netflix.

You get the idea.  Just identifying the feelings that are creating your inaction, and understanding the thoughts that are creating those feelings can have a powerful impact because once you understand it, you’ll be in a position to change it.

Have Compassion For Yourself

It’s very important that you have compassion for yourself when you’re becoming conscious of the effect your thoughts are having in your life.  We all have these kinds of negative automatic thoughts.  It’s part of our wiring, so there is no need to judge or shame yourself for this.  Realize that you are not your thoughts.  You are a human soul with a human brain that generates 60,000 thoughts a day.  Try to become the Watcher of your thoughts to get some distance from them.

When you are ready, look at each of the thoughts that is creating a negative feeling and leading to inaction and ask yourself “who would I be without that thought?”  Imagine letting go of that thought and seeing what that would feel like.  This exercise helps you realize that the negative thought is completely optional.  Your brain may want to go back to it because it’s familiar, but you can gently remind yourself that you could be a person without that thought.

How Do You Need To Feel To Take Action?

The next step is to figure out what feeling would drive you to take the action you want to take.  Usually we need to feel motivated, determined, or committed to take action, but you may need to find a different feeling that will propel your action.  What is it?  Write it down.

Then brainstorm a thought that is believable to you that would create that feeling.  For example, if you want to create the feeling of motivation, you might need to think “I am willing to go outside my comfort zone in order to find a job that I love.”

Or perhaps it motivates you to think about how you could help others if you got the right job, so you could choose the thought “I have so much to offer to an organization with a worthwhile mission.”  That spark of motivation can drive you to take small steps, such as writing down all that you do have to offer and using that list to update your resume or write cover letters.  The more you act, the more evidence you will create to support the thought that you do have so much to offer.

There is no right or wrong thought here:  it just needs to be one that (1) you can believe, and (2) will create positive feelings to drive you to take action.

This is a game changer, because our actions are what create our results.  What results to you want to create in your life?  Imagine the possibilities!

Go forth, grow, and bloom.

XO

Charise

How To Grow Your Mind

What’s Your Mindset? 

One of the most impactful books I’ve ever read is Mindset by Carol Dweck.  I recommend that you buy and read it immediately.

What does mindset mean? I like to define it as a collection of thoughts and beliefs that determine what you believe is possible and how the world works.  As I’ve discussed before, your thoughts create your results, so it’s worth looking at which type of mindset you have.

Dweck holds that there are two types of mindsets: a fixed mindset and a growth mindset.

The Fixed Mindset

People with the fixed mindset believe that you either have certain abilities or you don’t, and if you don’t naturally (or currently) have an ability, you might as well give up and go home.

Here are some examples of the fixed mindset:

  • People are either naturally talented or they aren’t. If you can’t do something easily or well from the outset, it’s best to do something else.
  • You’re either smart or dumb. There’s no way to grow your intelligence.
  • If you have to work hard at something, it means you’re not naturally gifted.
  • You’re either creative or you’re not. If you’re not creative, don’t even try to come up with ideas.  Leave that to the creatives.
  • Relationships are either meant to be or not. If we have to work at our relationship, it means we’re not meant to be together.
  • You either have an ear for music or you don’t. Don’t even try to pick up an instrument if you’re not naturally gifted.
  • You are either confident or you’re not.

The biggest flaw with the fixed mindset is that it’s a complete lie.  It’s simply not grounded in reality.  The people who are doing big things in the world are working hard, developing their skills and talents, and growing their abilities.  History books, biographies, and auto-biographies of successful artists, writers, inventors, scientists, etc. show us that people learn and develop as they go.  They try things and fail, they learn, they keep trying and failing, they keep learning, and eventually they create the results they want.

The fixed mindset is also the biggest dream-stealer on the planet.  The belief that you can’t learn something new and grow your mind is not only untrue, but it creates the feeling of discouragement, which drives people to give up or never even try in the first place.

And it’s not just those deemed “untalented” who are limited by the fixed mindset.  People who are naturally talented and believe in the fixed mindset are also harmed by it because they have the fear that if they try something new and fail, it would mean that they’ve lost their talents or abilities.  They believe it’s better to stay safe with what they know than trying to innovate or develop.

The Growth Mindset 

Thankfully, there’s another (much better) mindset: the growth mindset.  According to Dweck, this mindset recognizes that people have an amazing capacity to learn, grow, and improve over time.  According to the growth mindset, innate talent is pretty much irrelevant:  it’s what you do with whatever talent you have that matters.

The growth mindset is also backed up by science.  Dweck has proven in her research that people can grow their intelligence, creativity, confidence, skills, abilities, and even the quality of their relationships through hard work and trial and error.  But here’s the amazing thing:  the main factor that determines whether a person will actually grow her abilities is her understanding that her mind is capable of growing.

To prove this, Dweck’s team taught the growth mindset to a group of school kids by showing them that every time they stretched to learn something new and difficult, the neurons in their brain would form new and stronger connections and over time they could get smarter.  But they did not give this same lesson to the control group.  Then, Dweck’s team watched the grades of the both groups over the next semester.

The grades of the kids who had been taught the growth mindset started getting better and better, whereas the grades of the kids in the control group got worse over time.   (After the study was over, her team decided to teach the control group about the growth mindset, too.)

To learn more, you can see Carol Dweck’s amazing Ted Talk here:

You Can Change Your Mindset

Just like the kids in Dweck’s study, just knowing about the growth mindset gives you the ability to change your own mindset.  So now that you’ve read this post, you have the ability to change your mindset.

After I learned about the growth mindset, I decided to learn how to play the guitar.  Dweck’s book allowed me to realize playing the guitar was available to me, whereas I had previously believed that it wasn’t.  All it took was understanding that I could grow my mind.  Learning the guitar was hard, especially at first.  But the knowledge that the more I practiced, the more neural connections I could form in my brain allowed me to power through and keep trying.  And it worked because now I can play songs that seemed impossible when I started.

It’s also possible to have a growth mindset in some areas of your life, but a fixed mindset in others.  For example, you might believe that you can develop your skills in your current job, but think that becoming more creative or entrepreneurial is impossible for you.  Dweck’s book shows us that beliefs like this are completely optional.

In what areas of your life have you been applying a fixed mindset?  Now that you know that you can grow your mind if you’re willing to take on the challenge and stretch yourself, what are you going to learn?  What skills would you love to master?  What would you love to do that you always believed you couldn’t do because you weren’t talented, smart, or creative, or brave enough?  Now that you know, you can grow.  It’s a beautiful thing.

So go forth, grow, and bloom!

XO

Charise

What You Can Control

First, The Bad News:  What You Don’t Control 

When you’re feeling stuck in your career and you’re trying to make a change, it can feel like you’re at the mercy of circumstances outside your control.

Examples of external circumstances that you don’t control include:

  • Which companies are hiring
  • How many positions are available
  • Who else is applying for the same jobs
  • What your boss will say if you ask for a promotion or raise
  • Whether the partnership committee will nominate you up for partner

New career opportunities often require the approval of an external gatekeeper and many people start to get discouraged if they are putting themselves or their work “out there” and aren’t getting the response they wanted.  This is because they start to make the external response mean something really bad about them. But I highly recommend that you don’t do that.  Because you don’t need to.

Now, The Best News EVER.

The truth is that you have a choice about how you’re going to think about external circumstances and realizing that you have a choice will change your results and, ultimately, your life.

First, let’s get clear on some definitions.

Circumstances are facts that everyone would agree are true.  They are neutral and outside of your control.  In addition to the circumstances listed above, circumstances also include:

  • Anything that happened in your past
  • Anything that other people say, do, think, or believe about anyone (including you)

Although we’ve been conditioned to believe that our circumstances make us feel a certain way, it’s actually our thoughts about our circumstances that create our feelings.  Our thoughts are just sentences in our mind upon which not everyone would agree.  For example:

  • An attorney is pregnant and is about to take time off for maternity leave = circumstance
  • This is going to put me behind in my career = an optional (unhelpful, stress-inducing) thought about the circumstance.

Our thoughts are always optional.  In other words, we control our thoughts.  This is hugely important because our thoughts create our feelings.  And our feelings drive our actions, which determine our resultsThis is the Best. News. EVER.

It’s the best news ever because it means that, even though we don’t have control over our circumstances, we do have control of what we’re going to think, how we’re going feel, what actions we’re going to take, and what our results will be.  It means that you don’t have to be the victim of your circumstances or of what life hands you.  You can decide how to respond.

Warning:  You May Not Want To Be Happy All The Time

When my clients learn that they can control their thoughts and feelings, they sometimes try to feel happy all the time.  But sadness, anger, and other negative emotions are part of the human experience.  You may want to feel negative emotions in response to certain circumstances.  For example, most of us want to feel sad when someone dies.  When something happens that you don’t like, as yourself how you want to feel.  If you want to feel negative emotion, let yourself feel negative emotion.  Just realizing that you have a choice in the matter makes all the difference.

Case In Point

A client whom I’ll call Sherry was on the verge of tears during our first coaching session.  She was desperately unhappy at her current job and had been applying for jobs for months without a single job offer.  One of the jobs she had interviewed for ended up being offered to a younger candidate with much less experience.

Here is what was happening in Sherry’s mind:

  • The circumstances (facts upon which we can all agree) were: Job search for five months + five job interviews + no offer + one employer made an offer made to younger candidate.
  • Her thoughts (the sentences in her mind) about those circumstances were: No one wants to hire me.
  • That thought created the feeling of helplessness.
  • The feeling of helplessness drove inaction, rather than action. When she felt helpless, her mind shut down and started spinning in a downward spiral, and she was more inclined to rock in fetal position than keep looking for jobs.
  • When her mind shut down and started spinning in a downward spiral, her result just compounded the original thought: no one wanted to hire her because she wasn’t getting out there and talking to people.

When I showed her how this was happening and asked her why she was choosing to think that no one wanted to hire her, she was baffled and responded, “I didn’t know I had a choice.”  This happens to everyone.  We get so tied to our thinking that we believe our thoughts are facts and there is no other way.

I asked Sherry how she wanted to feel and she said “hopeful.”  We brainstormed thoughts that would help her feel hopeful and came up with this one:  “I have so much to offer and I’m committed to finding the right job for me.”

I asked her if she would be willing to go on 100 job interviews to find the right job.  After gasping at the number, she realized that she would be willing to go on 100 job interviews, if that’s what it took.  In her industry, going on 100 interviews would pretty much guarantee the result of getting a job offer.  (Other industries might require fewer or more interviews.)  Suddenly, the five previous interviews didn’t seem like so much.  She was ready to get busy and take massive action.  She was ready to start tapping into her network more and going on informational interviews (which is far more effective for job searching than her prior method of applying for job postings on the internet).  And that massive action would lead her to her desired result.

Although this commitment felt uncomfortable to her, I pointed out that she was already uncomfortable in her current job.  She might as well embrace the discomfort as part of her journey to success, instead of letting herself be paralyzed by it.  She left our session feeling hopeful, motivated, and empowered.  Her circumstances had not yet changed.  But she now realized how much control she really did have and she got back in the driver’s seat.  It’s a beautiful thing to watch.

Go forth and bloom!

XO

Charise

P.S.  If you need help figuring out how to change your thinking about your current circumstances, contact me to schedule a free mini session and we’ll figure it out. You have more control than you think!

Figuring Out What To Do Next

When you’re figuring out what to do next, you are probably telling yourself “I don’t know” a lot.  As in, I don’t know the answer, I don’t know what I want, I’ve tried “everything” and I just don’t know what to do.

And it sounds reasonable because almost everybody says things like this.  The problem is that “I don’t know” is one of the worst thoughts you can have because it leads to inaction, which keeps you stuck in the same place with the same results.

Telling ourselves “I don’t know” causes our minds to freeze up and keeps us from accessing our innate creativity and ability to find solutions.

Give Yourself Some Credit

When you tell yourself “I don’t know” you are not giving yourself credit for your brain’s amazing capabilities to generate ideas and solutions.  In fact, there have been plenty of times in your life when you didn’t know something and you figured it out.  By telling yourself that you don’t know how to solve your current problem, you’re doing yourself a huge disservice because that thought is blocking your inner wisdom.

There is a part of you that knows exactly what to do.  You can access that part of yourself by asking: “If I did know what to do, what would I do next?”  It’s a surprisingly simple way to tap into your inner wisdom and it’s so much more useful than telling yourself the lie that you don’t know.

Think Like A Scientist 

When scientists don’t know the answer to things, they test their ideas using the scientific method to figure out information, answers, and solutions.  Scientific progress does not come from thinking “I don’t know the answer” and going home.  To the contrary, scientists constantly think things like:  “I wonder how I can figure this out.  Maybe I’ll try A.  If that doesn’t work, I’ll try B.  Or A and B together.”  And on and on.  And thank goodness scientists do this because it brings us fantastic inventions that make life easier for the rest of us.

When you approach your own life in the spirit of scientific inquiry, you’ll be a lot less likely to keep telling yourself “I don’t know” and staying stuck.  I recommend that you banish “I don’t know” from your vocabulary and instead replace it with more productive thoughts that are likely to spark creativity and lead to taking action and getting unstuck.

Here are a few examples:

“I’m in the process of figuring this out.”

“I’m going to think of all the ways that I might try to solve this.”

“I know how to find a solution to this.”

“I’m going to try new things and gather more information until I find a solution.”

These thoughts help us get in touch with our creativity and problem-solving abilities.  They also encourage you to generate ideas that never occurred to you in your previous “I don’t know” mindset.  And ideas inspire action, which is how you move forward and get unstuck.

Are you ready to try this?  Refuse to tell yourself “I don’t know.”  Access your inner wisdom.  Practice creativity-inducing thoughts everyday.  And see where your mind takes you.

Go forth and bloom.

XO

Charise

How to Get From Confusion to Clarity

There are two reasons that most people get confused about what to do next in their careers.  The first is lack of information.  This usually comes from not having investigated either your own internal desires or some external possibility, such as a new employer, industry, or field that you’d like to consider.  When I coach clients who are stuck in confusion and unable to move forward with creating change in their lives, they often believe that the lack of information is the cause of their confusion.

It may very well be that the client needs to take some time to gather information.  Yet there is an abundance of information out there on how to investigate both your internal desires and new career paths.  It is the substance of most career books, which are readily available.  I have found that if a client is not already looking for information, something else is usually going on.  Otherwise, they would have already started investigating on their own.  In most cases, the lack of information is not the real reason for the confusion.

The Real Source of Confusion

The real reason for confusion is fear.  Fear of change, fear of the unknown, fear of what people will think of you, fear of applying for a new job and being rejected, fear of trying something, possibly failing, and feeling humiliated.  It all boils down to fear.  And it takes a powerful hold on us.  I’ve mentioned before that our emotions are what drive our actions or inaction.  Fear is a powerful emotion that drives inaction.  We feel fear and we think it means that we shouldn’t go forward.

You’re Supposed to Feel Fear

What we don’t realize is that fear is a natural human response that happens whenever we consider doing something new.  Whether you want to call it your primitive brain or your inner critic, every person on the planet has a voice inside that comes up with reasons why we shouldn’t try new things.  It’s part of the human experience.  The difference is that some people—the people who are doing big things in the world—choose to act in spite of the fear, while others choose to listen to the fear and not take action.  People don’t often talk about how afraid they feel, so we think that we’re the only one who feels this way.  Yet this is universal.  I see it in every single client that I coach.  Fear just means that you’re human with a normal human brain.

Steps for Overcoming Confusion and Fear

When you’re trying to decide what to do next, ask yourself:  what would I do if I knew that I would succeed at all of the options that I’m considering? This question allows you to push your fears aside and let your higher-self identify what you would really love to do.

Then ask yourself what fears you have around doing that thing.  What do you fear could happen?  It’s usually that you’ll either fail or be rejected in some way.  Realize that this is your primitive brain coming up with reasons to try to keep you safe in your comfort zone.  Write down the reasons and then ask yourself “why that is a problem?” to get to the root cause.

For example:

“If I apply for a new job, I might get rejected.”    Why is that a problem?

“It would mean that I failed.”  Why is that a problem?

 “It would mean that I’m a failure.” Why is that a problem?

“It would mean that I’d be a worthless human being.”  Now we’ve identified the root cause of the problem.

If you’re making risking failure or rejection mean something terrible, such as that you would be a worthless human being, then of course you’re not going to want to risk failure or rejection.  It would, according to your brain, put your very worth on the line. But that thought—if I fail it will mean that I’m a worthless human being—is completely optional and it’s definitely not serving you.  You could choose a completely different thought, which would create a different emotion other than fear.

Because fear is a normal human emotion, we can’t always banish it from our lives completely.  And pushing fear away tends to make it stronger and make us feel ashamed of having fear in the first place.

The best thing to do instead is to find ways to take action in spite of the fear and the best emotion to help you do that is courage.

Here are some thoughts that you could choose to think to generate the emotion of courage:

  • I’m learning something new and that’s okay.
  • I am willing to feel fear and still take action toward my goal.
  • I have so much to offer the world and I am committed to doing the work that is important to me.
  • Making mistakes and failing means that I’m learning.

What other thoughts can you come up with to generate the feeling of courage?  If you need help moving from confusion to clarity, contact me to schedule a free mini session.

Go forth and bloom.

XO

Charise

Feeling Stuck? Here’s The First Step Toward Taking Action

One of the main reasons that career decisions can be so hard once you’re a mom is that it can seem like you’re limited by your external circumstances.  My clients often feel economically or geographically constrained by their mortgage, kids, spouse, etc., and they get stuck in the rut of thinking that those circumstances are preventing them from taking action or having the life that they want.

You do have a choice

Even when you feel constrained by your circumstances, in reality you always have a choice.  Our circumstances are not what cause us to feel stuck.  It’s our thinking about our circumstances that creates the feeling of being stuck.

The first step is recognizing that you always get to choose.  When a client that I’ll call Jane came to me, she felt utterly trapped.  She told me that she had to stay at her job that she hated because she had to pay her mortgage.  She said she desperately wanted to move back to California, but she insisted that she had to stay on the East Coast because her husband didn’t want to leave his job.  She said that she couldn’t leave her job because she had to provide for her kids and because their family relied on her income.  But the problem was not her circumstances.  It was that she didn’t realize that she had a choice in the matter.

Telling ourselves that we “have” to do something that we don’t like is a negative thought that creates negative emotions such as dread, feeling trapped, or even despair. Realizing that we actually have a choice changes our feeling about our current circumstances.  And how we feel drives the actions that we take (or don’t take), which determine our results.

In reality, Jane could choose to leave her job and use savings to pay her mortgage or default on the mortgage.  Or she could choose to sell her house and move to an apartment with more affordable rent.

She could choose to divorce her husband and move back to California.

She could even choose to leave her kids behind.

When I offered those as options, Jane did not want to do any of those things.  She did not like the consequences of doing those things, but when she realized that it was her choice, it put her back in the driver’s seat of her own life.  It allowed her to take 100% responsibility for herself and leave behind the powerless victim role that she had been creating with her prior thoughts.

Own Your Choice

Let me be clear that I’m not advocating for defaulting on your mortgage or leaving your family.  What I’m advocating is that you consciously make a deliberate choice about what you really want and then own that choice like a boss.  Because that’s where your true power lies.

Notice the difference:

  • “I can’t quit my job because I have to pay my mortgage” becomes “I choose to work at this job right now because I want to pay my mortgage and live in my house.”
  • “I can’t relocate because my spouse doesn’t want to leave” becomes “I am choosing to find opportunities here because I would rather stay with my spouse here than divorce and relocate.”
  • “I have to support my kids” becomes “I am choosing to work for money to provide for my family.”

This is more than just semantics.

The thoughts that we choose to think create our feelings, and those feelings drive our actions or inaction.  When we think negative thoughts (i.e. that we “have” to do something) and we feel dread, trapped, or despair, those negative feelings keep us stuck in inaction or drive us to take actions that don’t serve us, such as reaching for a pint of ice cream.  When we deliberately choose, we feel empowered, which drives us to take massive action and get unstuck.

What about you?  What are you telling yourself that you “have” to do or you “can’t” do?  What feelings are those thoughts creating for you? What are those feelings driving you to do (or not do)?  What result is that creating in your life?

If you want more help figuring out how to get unstuck and start taking action, contact me to schedule a free strategy session.

Go forth and bloom.

XO

Charise