Facing the Facts

I have a lot of trees in my yard.  Most of the time, I enjoy the beautiful foliage and appreciate the way they shade my yard. However, in the fall, I wonder whose crazy idea it was to plant so many trees. The amount of falling leaves is overwhelming and the time I must allocate for raking is ridiculous.


Last year, I placed bags of leaves by the road to be picked up by the county. I had worked for hours stuffing leaves in bags and I still was far from done. Apparently, I had the wrong pick-up date and the leaves sat there more than a couple days. When they were finally picked up, I noticed that the grass had died underneath the bags of leaves.


Yesterday, I was walking the dog and we were on our way back to the house.  As I got closer, I took a good look at my yard. My eye went right to the spot where the grass was obviously discolored and dead. The same spot where I had placed the leaf bags 9 months ago.


This was the first time that I was really paying attention to the patch of grass. How could I have not really noticed it until now? How is that possible?


Isn’t it interesting the way our brain plays tricks on us? Why didn’t I notice how bad it looked before now? Every single day I come in my driveway and pass this patch of grass. However, today, is the very first day that I really processed how it was a problem.


Did I consciously avoid this issue that needed to be addressed?


I’m not alone in this type of avoidance. I bet if you rack your brain, you can think of instances where you have been neglecting some issues because they might cause you some distress, discomfort or require some hard work.


I would be a rich woman is I had a dollar for every time I work with a therapy or coaching client that is searching for an easy way to solve their problem. Usually, they have been neglecting, avoiding their issue(s) for quite a while and now they finally want to address the situation. However, they want a quick fix to the situation. Something that won’t cause them to much distress, or won’t be so difficult, or won’t take too much energy.


Yes, we are all looking for that quick fix for that problem that we have been trying to pretend doesn’t really exist.


Maybe you are a leader and you’ve been putting this dysfunctional habit of yours into action with your team.  You’ve been neglecting some things that need to be addressed. And for the first time, you have opened your eyes and realized that you have a big problem. You are wondering, when did this happen? How did this issue become so enormous?


Maybe it’s because you have been conveniently avoiding the whole issue. It’s very possible that it makes you uncomfortable and it will take some hard work to fix.


Open your eyes and see what’s right in front of you. Walk into the storm and face what you need to face, because the issue is not going to go away.


Stop pretending it doesn’t exist and take action NOW.




Creating a Culture

As I sat in the lobby waiting to speak with a potential client, I took a look around their massive space. I had never been there before, and I was impressed with the building. The lobby was new, clean and impeccably decorated. I sat waiting for my contact as I spied their mission and values on display. I read through the information and was impressed again by the mission and the values that represented this company. I was excited to talk to this organization and learn more about their people.


We were having a nice talk when I brought up the awesome mission and values on display in the lobby. I loved that they were on full display for everyone to see. My contact agreed and said that they had done a great job creating those values a while back. After some probing questions on my part, my contact began to get a little more transparent.


He told me the whole truth.


He wanted to address issues concerning each departments inability to come together and work as one unified team. The problem was that each department viewed their responsibilities as most important, most valued, and failed to see how they had a responsibility to work better with others. They couldn’t grasp that their organization only succeeded when all the departments worked together seamlessly to create the perfect product.  At this point, they were far from perfect. The product was suffering because of the inability for all the teams to see they were working toward the same goal.


After more probing, I discovered that leaders were struggling to be assertive and handle situations when they arose. They constantly shied away from conflict and swept it under the rug. And invariably, the truth came out in passive-aggressive behaviors between team members and leaders.


Even though it is obvious to you and me, that this company was in dire need of an intervention, this leader in charge was ambivalent about moving ahead in any way. It was apparent that the status quo was a much more comfortable place to hang out, than making these much-needed changes.


Now, remember the company’s mission and values prominently displayed on the wall?  They were really great values like respect, communication, transparency and teamwork.


I can’t tell you how many times that I have uncovered a huge disconnect between the organization’s spoken values and the daily behaviors that take place inside the organization. And that’s what we are talking about-the thousands of rituals that occur inside an organization, day to day. All these many behaviors add up to a culture that doesn’t quite meet the standards of their proposed values. Over time, these seemingly insignificant tiny reactions become your culture. And every day that you don’t face the truth about your culture, your organization suffers.


As uncomfortable as it might be, I’m asking you to take an honest look at your organization. Are you and your team living up to the values that represent the organization? What changes need to be put in place to meet this goal? It’s time to take action and develop a game plan to attack the issues.




Walk Through the Pain

Recently, I have perfected a new skill. My cat was diagnosed with diabetes in December and I now must administer insulin injections twice a day. At first, I was amazed at the way that Joey wasn’t even fazed by this new routine that we shared morning and night. Since he likes attention, he seemed pleased that I was interested in spending time with him.  However, after a couple months, everything began to change.


I would walk downstairs to find him for his 7am shot, and he would be nowhere to be found. That might not sound unusual for a cat, but before this point, he would come running to see what I wanted. But now we had started a new routine. I would call out his name and he wouldn’t respond. I would keep saying his name while I searched and searched under every piece of furniture in the house.  I would run up and down the stairs like a crazy person, frantically calling his name, and looking at every possible hiding place. I would become distressed knowing that this cat was controlling my world, making me late for work.


Eventually, I would find him, just strolling into a room like he hadn’t heard me calling for him for the last 30 minutes. And when I finally gave him his shot, he would flinch and give a guttural cry.  Sometimes, when he would see me walking toward him, he would back away and scamper off in a different direction.


He was on to me-I represented pain.

Joey is no different than you or me. Over the course of years, you have come to experience situations that cause you pain or make you uncomfortable. You have learned to avoid these experiences, which sometimes is good for you, and other times, gets in the way of you moving forward. For example, learning to not touch the stove when it’s hot, makes sense. You learned this at a young age, and it has served you well. However, avoiding the need to learn a new software system, or avoiding the speaking presentation that would help you gain that promotion at work, might not serve you so well in the long run.


The thing is, you might find some really great reasons why you shouldn’t take on these responsibilities. Your resistance to them might be well thought out and make perfect sense. However, beneath your rational thinking is your fear. You are terrified of the pain that moving forward might cause.  And humans will go to great lengths to avoid painful situations-just like cats!


I’m asking you to give thought to the situations in your life right now that you are avoiding. You now understand WHY you are avoiding them-they cause discomfort. This is a human reaction to pain. But being a human also means you have the ability to process these feelings and make a decision to walk through the pain anyway. You will push yourself through this journey because in the long run, it will help you achieve your goals.


Have the courage to face the pain and get to the other side. You will become the leader that you aspire to be.


Accepting Change

I eavesdropped on a conversation at the gym the other day. A woman was describing to her friend the reason that she hadn’t been to the gym in a very long time. She shared that she had been too busy and she couldn’t fit working-out into her schedule. Her friend then took it upon herself to spend the next 10 minutes trying to help her overcome this problem. However, for each solution the friend threw her way, the woman had a very convincing rationalization for why that would never work. Does this sound familiar to you?


Maybe this reminds you of someone at work. You have long in-depth conversations about needed behavior change with an employee, but nothing ever really changes. Maybe this hits a little close to home. The confusing thing is that you might have a heartfelt desire to change, but you never seem to really move forward in any way.  So what is really holding you back?


“If it’s important to you, you’ll find a way. If not, you’ll find an excuse”. Author Unknown


Maybe it’s really not that important to you.


Changing a habit is hard work and if you don’t make it a priority, you’ll never make that change. There will always be something else rivaling for your valuable time. There may be a piece of you that truly wants to change, but there’s another bigger part that isn’t really sold on the idea. And, some changes are easier than others. It always goes back to the pleasure vs. pain thing. The more painful the change, the harder to change the habit. As you probably know, we tend to shy away from experiences that are painful. In fact, we will go out of our way to avoid them.


Maybe you have a competing commitment. On a conscious level, you definitely want to change. However, you are as confused as anyone as to why it’s not happening for you. It’s possible that you have a commitment to something else that is impeding your progress to accomplish your goal. For example, let’s pretend that your boss wants to groom you for the next big position. This is exciting and thrilling to hear that she believes in you. You just have to increase your sales by 15%. You know this is a doable, reasonable goal to meet. Yet, for the next 6 months, your numbers go down, down, down. This is frustrating because your numbers haven’t decreased in three years.


So, what’s really going on here?


Deep down on a subconscious level, you have a strong belief that you should spend more time with your children. This new position would involve more time and more travel. You have worked hard for 10 years just to receive this promotion. However, you never peeled back the layers to really look at what’s truly important to you. Apparently, this value of spending more time with your children is more important to you than you anticipated. It is driving your behavior in ways that shock you. For some reason, it’s hard for you to accept this truth.


The bottom line to Change is this-Before you work on a behavior CHANGE, be sure to take some time to reflect on what you really want in life.  The answer may surprise you.

Opportunity Leads to Growth




images change life I was complaining to my husband over dinner last night. I had taken a look at my schedule and realized that I was booked for a seminar the following day. Although it had sounded like a good idea at the time, I was now lamenting the fact that I’d be tied up all day. On top of that, I always felt wary of attending this specific event every year. The truth was that I felt anxious about seeing people from a previous workplace at the event. You see, the job had not ended on positive terms— the supervisor had suddenly become disenchanted with my talents.


As I drove to the seminar, my mind skipped around from thought to thought.  I envisioned being in the seminar and feeling uncomfortable. I imagined that I would have no one to talk to during the event and I wouldn’t have anywhere to sit.  I saw myself asking people if I could join their table with their response being anything but enthusiastic. My brain swirled with these toxic thoughts until I arrived at the event.


As I made my way into the room, I was surprised to spot a good friend.  I had no idea that she was going to be there.  Another woman walked by and was very excited to see me.  She came over to say hello and proceeded to remind me that we had gone to school together. She commented that she had been reading about me and was so interested in what I was doing. We talked for a while and I moved on.  A few minutes later another woman walked by and called my name.


Again, I had no idea who she was but I spent the remainder of the morning trying to figure it out.  It finally dawned on me how I knew her— she had worked at the previous job where things had gone sour. On a break, I worked my way over to her table to talk to her further.


We discussed our current careers and she shared that she was still with the same company. She then looked at me and said, “You know, a funny thing happened after you left.  I was going through some old papers and I came upon a memo from years before addressed to all the employees.  It was concerning some policies that the director felt weren’t being enforced.”  She continued, “The thing that really struck me was the tone of the letter. I wish you could have seen it. It was so harsh, so ugly and so not appropriate. It made me think of the way she had treated you. At the time, I felt her behavior toward you was so out of character.  I realize now that it wasn’t out of character at all.”


I finally spoke. “So I must have made her feel threatened.”  She nodded her head.  I spent the rest of the seminar soaking in this new bit of information.


What if I had given in to my unrealistic thoughts and anxiety and not attended this event? It’s one thing to have negative thoughts, but it’s quite another to give in to those negative thoughts and let it affect your actions in life. Being willing to ride out those uncomfortable feelings that we all have now and then enabled me to have the exhilarating experience of finally being validated.


Each day you have the chance to become a better person.  Each day you have the opportunity to grow as an individual and learn from your experiences.  Each day, you are given this gift but you might not always grab for it.


I hope you grab for it.

Bad Habits

bad habits

After my two appointments downtown today, I got in my car, turned onto Fifth Street and carefully made my way onto 71 N.  I’ve driven this route way too many times. In fact, I think my car knows the way to the freeway and to my house by now.


The point of me sharing this bit of information with you is because of what happened in today’s journey.  15 minutes after getting on the freeway, I was passing an exit when I realized that I didn’t remember much about getting there.  How is that possible?  How did I drive 15 minutes without really being aware of what was going on?  The thought terrified me.


I bet each of you have had this experience at one point or another.  You wake up in the morning and you have your routine.  Maybe you get up and automatically run the shower and jump in.  Maybe you instantly go over to the sink to wash your face and brush your teeth.  Whatever it is, if you do it enough times, you don’t have to think too much about what comes next.  In fact, you don’t have to think at all— you just do.


Research has been done to explore this very fact.  They positioned rats in a maze and monitored their brain activity to see how long it would take them to find their way out.  In the beginning, the rats needed to search and sniff to find their way.  Time and time again, they ran through the same maze.  As the number of times that they ran through the maze increased, their mental activity decreased.  The rats no longer had to think very hard to find their way because it had become their habit.


You probably don’t like being compared to a rat, but we experience this same exact effect. When you have completed the same task time and time again, you no longer have to be fully present.  Your brain can take a little rest. Thanks to habits, you get to preserve your brain energy for the more daunting tasks.


You know those positive affirmations that you enjoy reading on Facebook?  They make you feel good for that moment but you might have problems making them stick before the bad thoughts sneak up on you again. You know why?  The very same reason that you automatically get up in the morning and fix your breakfast without having to think so hard.  It’s possible that these same negative thoughts have become a bad habit for you.


They creep into your mind without you even being aware of it.  They run on an endless loop in your brain and reading a positive statement once a day is not going to solve the problem. Being told to “change your attitude” is not going to solve it either. The problem runs deeper than that.


The good news is that you can break this bad habit.  You can learn to change the thoughts in your head but you need to be present. You need to be engaged in the process and be at full brain capacity to make this change. By consistently monitoring the conversation in your head and using targeted strategies to change each negative statement into a more positive one, you can slowly change your life.


It’s hard to quit a bad habit. To make a change, it takes hard work, commitment and consistent awareness. However, it’s worth the work when you realize that the change can positively impact every single aspect of your life.


Be Yourself!

I was looking out the window while on the treadmill at the gym. I had tired of the usual morning shows on the TV and was enjoying my music. I noticed that a car had pulled up with a mother and her young toddler son .The mother went over to the other side of the car to get her infant child out of the car seat, and Adam immediately found something to keep himself busy.


As he stared at his reflection in the car window, he flailed his arms and began to make funny faces.  He contorted his body and eventually went into a full-fledged dance. Disregarding anyone else, he passionately danced, gyrated and stared at the effect in the car window. The mother got all the way to the door to the gym before she realized she didn’t even have her son in tow.  She yelled to him and he scampered over to catch up.


I watched with amusement as this whole scenario played out. This little boy was totally uninhibited and in the moment. He gave no thought as to how his wacky behavior appeared to others. He was absorbed in his own enjoyment and did exactly what felt right at that minute. The reality is that Adam doesn’t have many years left before he learns that his behavior in the gym parking lot and many other places is unacceptable in society. I bet that by the time he reaches Junior High, Adam will take the utmost care to say and do the right things to get along, be accepted and fit into the world.


If only we could all live our lives with such abandon and joy! The truth is that as we grow up, we learn what’s appropriate behavior and what is not.  We internalize what is expected of us, and the roles that we’re suppose to play in our families, school setting, workplace and the world. To find success in life, there are certain standards of behavior you have to meet, and most of us can tackle this requirement with no problem.  In fact, turning the off switch on that mode of thinking can eventually become an issue in your life.


I coach women that struggle with understanding who they are beyond their roles and expectations in life.  Many have succeeded in numerous arenas, wearing several different hats, but at some point in their life, they realize that they’ve become disconnected with who they are at the core of their being.  It’s possible they’ve spent many years denying feelings and desires in order to accomplish their goals and meet their expectations. Like an athlete, they kept motoring forward toward the finish line. However, there’s a price to pay for following that path in life. Eventually, you can lose touch with YOU and find it difficult to ascertain who you are and what you truly want and need— separate from your many roles and expectations.


The day I saw Adam dancing in the parking lot, he was just being Adam. He knew what he wanted and he didn’t really care what anyone else thought. He wasn’t aware or bound by any expectations— yet. It’s not realistic to think that as an adult you can live like Adam. However, make it a point to incorporate just a little bit of “Adam” into your life every now and then.


Birthday Lessons

It’s my birthday tomorrow. Thanks to Facebook, it isn’t a secret that it’s my birthday.  It’s normal protocol for people to ask what you’re doing to celebrate this special day.  I feel obligated to tell them something much more interesting than my reality— I’m going out to dinner with good friends.


Actually, my day stacks up like this: at 8:00, I’ll probably go to the gym and work out for an hour.  By 10:30, I have an appointment to take Biscuit and Joey, my two cats, to the Vet for a check-up.  This in itself should be an exciting experience.  The last time I attempted this trip, deep guttural sounds emanated from the back seat and scared the heck out of me. By 12:00, I have a friend taking me to lunch, and then I have an actual work appointment at 2:00. As you can see, my birthday promises to be one thrilling day.


But guess what? If I truly wanted my day to be any different than that, I would have planned it differently.  Anyway, as I contemplate another year on earth, let me share with you what I’ve learned.


Just when I think I have life all figured out, something happens to prove me wrong.

Somehow I thought that by the time I got to this age, I would have a good handle on everything.  I definitely understand myself better than when I was in my 20’s or 30’s, and what I need in my life to be happy.  However, I’m still pleasantly surprised when I learn something about people or life that I hadn’t encountered yet.  Maybe that’s possible because I leave my heart and mind open to learning.  I’m constantly searching for the answer and I’m always open to seeing another way to look at things.


“Things” matter less to me— my friends and family have become much more important.

My husband gave me a beautiful present for my birthday. I won’t deny that I enjoyed that experience, however, I didn’t need it to be happy.  The card made me happy (I’m totally serious). Being remembered made me happy.  Having both of my sons call me today and sing the whole “Happy Birthday” song definitely made me happy.  Going out to lunch with my good friend made me happy.  When you get to that point in your life, you’re at a very good place.


I no longer live my life with expectations of “how it’s supposed to or should be”.

I didn’t EXPECT a present from my husband.  Actually, I was quite surprised when I saw a box on my desk. That’s what made the present so enjoyable.  I didn’t expect my kids to call me.  I had a pretty good idea that they would remember, they usually do (sometimes with prodding).  However, if one of them had forgotten, I wouldn’t have been upset.  I wouldn’t have wondered why I wasn’t important or why this stuff happens to me.  The only thought in my head would be “I’m sure they’re pretty busy today”— and I would leave it at that.  Once you start expecting things, you become unhappy. You put yourself in a position to be very disappointed.


For the first time in my life, I have absolutely no baggage.

I’m being completely honest here— no baggage. If I asked my family, they would totally agree. I’m referring to all that unresolved relationship and experience stuff that you carry around.  Letting go of your baggage takes dedication and hard work, but it’s more than worth it. For the first time, you will experience a feeling of freedom.  I recommend it for anyone that’s struggling with moving forward in her life.


I look forward to sharing my “revelations” about life next year at this same time.


Find Your Strengths

When I was in college and working on my undergraduate degree, each day was like swimming upstream. I had a lot of anxiety surrounding my studying and test taking. This anxiety came with good reason— I wasn’t very good at it.  The information went in my brain and then quickly left.  When I finally did take a test, I often felt that the questions on the test looked foreign compared to the information I had pored over for hours.


If a good portion of it was essay, I would be relieved and my anxiety would decrease considerably.  I knew that I could somehow articulate to the professor my level of knowledge on the subject. I didn’t realize until later why this was so much easier for me. One of my strengths was communication (Imagine that). For many years, I viewed these weaknesses in my learning as deficits in my intellect.  I actually bought into the myth that I simply wasn’t as smart as other people. I also bought into the idea that if only I tried hard enough, I could turn my weaknesses into strengths.


This idea that I could improve drastically in my area of weakness was ingrained in me from an early age. There is this notion that if you work hard enough and care enough, you too can become a superstar in any arena. Think about it, when you were going through school, did your parents pay more attention to your A’s, or was the focus on your one C? Did you believe that you weren’t trying hard enough and with the right amount of investment, your C could easily be an A?


Chances are, the course where you received a C for your efforts was not in an area where your natural talent lied.  The truth is that you have the ability to grow the most in the areas of your strengths. When you take your talent and couple that with practiced skills and knowledge, you have the recipe for off the chart success. Therefore, it makes more sense to invest your energy into areas where you can show the most growth, rather than focusing hours and hours on your areas of weakness. On a side note, there are some weak areas where you still need to be somewhat proficient in life. For example, not being strong in math doesn’t mean you can totally ignore your personal finances. You still need basic skills to get by in the world.


Since I have a little bit more knowledge and wisdom than I did when I was 20, I no longer waste my time attempting to become proficient in certain areas that I know aren’t my strengths.  I’m never going to be an excellent painter and you won’t find me scrapbooking anytime soon.  In fact, if you ever saw my artwork, you would chuckle. My skills are low level and I’m fairly certain that my abilities wouldn’t progress too far beyond average.  I’ve made peace with this, and I don’t spend much time thinking about it.


However, I have noticed that my writing gets better and better the more I write.  I continue to perfect my skills in coaching women the more I work with clients. I’ve realized that presenting to groups gets easier and my skills only keep getting better the more I practice.  These are all areas where my abilities soar since I have the natural talent.  These are the areas that make sense for me to invest my time and energy.


So how about you? Do you know your strengths and utilize them on a daily basis?  Do you spend too much time in your professional and personal life focusing on your weak areas instead of the areas where you can truly excel? If so, then you need to rethink your approach to life.  All you have to gain is success and happiness.

Long-Term Solutions

I was having a conversation with a friend at the gym this morning.  We were talking about our children and our lives, and that led to a conversation about relationships.  She shared that she knew someone that was in a bad marriage and had been for years.  She wasn’t sure why this friend stayed in this relationship, but lately, the friend had been telling her about another man that was paying attention to her.  This new infatuation took up a lot of space in her head and the whole thing really bothered my friend.


She didn’t understand why this woman was turning to someone else when she had a current relationship that obviously needed attention.  I agreed with her.  Frankly, I’ve seen this same scenario play out over and over with numerous relationships.  Instead of dealing with the situation at hand and facing the uncomfortable truth, many turn to other people to give them what they’re missing.  Common sense tells you that this isn’t going to turn out positively.  Eventually, the whole thing is going to combust and the problems are going to be bigger and harder to solve.  But doing this in the short-term is easier and not as painful.


Which leads me to this thought: why do people choose to handle their issues with short-term fixes that feel good instead of dealing with the problem?  I’m not just referring to relationships— I see the same pattern with women and their choices in their careers.  They take the job that pays more initially over the job that has potential and fits their skills better.  The extra money sounds really good and is an immediate fix.  They can’t imagine getting by on less money, even if it means down the road, they could very well have the job of their dreams.  They can’t visualize changing careers and doing what they love because they would have to start over financially and emotionally. All they can see is the long road ahead, which is hard, so they stay exactly where they are.


I see it when people are grappling with the decision to start a business.  Starting a business is a major sacrifice in your life. Chances are, you’ll be strapped for money, overworked, and deal daily with frustration.  Success won’t happen overnight and you have to be willing to wait to reap the benefits.  That “sure thing” paycheck seems like a much easier route to take.  It’s the owners that hang in there and are willing to keep working toward their far-away goal that find eventual success.


What I’m asking you to do is to think about your own life.  Is there an area of your life where you can’t bear to do the hard work?  Is it a relationship, career, or friendship?  Is it your health?  Is that piece of cake your short-term fix to feel better when you really need to do that one-hour workout at the gym and lose 10 pounds?  Do you find yourself giving in to your kid and letting him have that toy in the store because it’s easier than saying no and surviving the anger and rejection (and tantrum) that will follow the decision?


I’m suggesting that you stop putting band-aids on your problems.  There’s no quick way to make a million dollars.  There’s no secret way to instantly lose 20 pounds.  Your obstacles are not going to go away without some long-term planning and hard work. Stop doing what “feels good” in the short-term and face the issue at hand.  In the long run, this is the real recipe for happiness and success.