Dream Snatcher

images dream snatcherI was terrified when I contemplated going back to school to complete my Masters degree. To be truthful, I wasn’t a terrific student, although I had always excelled in the workplace. My fears about school were so strong that every now and then, the subject turned up in my nightmares.  Usually, I was running to get to my class and would realize that I had not studied for the final. (Which, of course, was happening right at that moment.)  In the nightmare, I could feel the anxiety coursing through my body as I asked myself why I hadn’t attended the classes or prepared appropriately for the exam. This scenario played itself out over and over— whenever I was feeling anxious in my life.


Yes, I had fears about school and succeeding. So, when I made the decision to go back to school, you can imagine what an obstacle that represented to me. I began to tell people my plan, with the hope that every time I shared my news, I would become a little more self-confident about the path I had chosen.  This was my dream and the only thing that was stopping me from going after it was my fear.


As you know, every time you share your life plans with someone, you run the risk of receiving a negative reaction. I remember vividly sharing the news with a good friend who reacted in a way that I couldn’t have expected.  As I excitedly laid out my plans for the future, she questioned my decision.


“Why would you do that?  How can you possibly be successful when you still have two kids at home? That’s not going to work”.


This cut straight to my heart. I needed a friend that supported and encouraged me to move forward.  I didn’t need help with feeling any more vulnerable or unsure about my decision. I was more than capable of handling that one.


This person was a DREAM SNATCHER.


You know the type. They could be loving members of your family or long-time friends.  The bottom line is that they discourage you from wanting more and believing that you are entitled to receive more. They go out of their way to share all the reasons why your decision is a bad idea and it’s not going to work.


But why do they do this? There are many possible reasons but these two are the most common.


They don’t want you to get hurt.

It’s possible that they have lived their own life following the rules and doing what’s safe.  They love you and they can’t bear to see you get hurt, stumble or take the wrong path.  Therefore, they will convince you to keep things predictable.  They will encourage you to stay where you’re familiar and comfortable.  Their pain while watching you risk this fall is so great that they feel compelled to convince you to stay “status quo”. They just can’t take the risk of having to see you struggle.


Your plans make them feel vulnerable and insecure.

Nothing is more threatening to the Dream Snatcher than watching others move forward and go after their dreams.  The Dream Snatcher doesn’t have the courage to take this leap; therefore, they feel relieved if they can discourage you from taking it.  Your ability to move forward is uncomfortable for them— they might have to face some decisions in their own life.  When my friend asked me how I could go back to school, she really was talking about herself. This was really about her, not me.


There will always be plenty of people in life who want to give you reasons why your dream is NOT valid.  Dream snatchers are everywhere and they’re more than happy to go into detail as to why your dream will fail.  Be sure to surround yourself with individuals that encourage, empower and support your efforts to go after your dreams and live life to the fullest.



Reaching Out

images reaching out

One trait that a resilient person has is the ability to stay involved and reach out to others during the low times. When you are struggling in life or going through a crisis, it’s quite easy to go inside yourself and spend time thinking.  Actually, it’s easy to spend way too much time thinking and overthinking, mulling things over.  You can become consumed with your thoughts and begin to descend into a negative spiral.


On the other hand, when you’re in this position you can make a point to fight this ingrained habit and change your behavior.


A couple weeks ago, I was coming back from Florida on a very early Monday morning.  The whirlwind of a weekend had included my son’s college graduation in Ann Arbor, where I stayed for less than 48 hours and then flew out to attend my nieces wedding in Marco Island. As you can imagine, by Monday morning at 6:00 AM, things were beginning to catch up with me. As can be expected from modern transportation, the trip back home would take all day.


If that wasn’t enough, I had an important keynote presentation to give the very next morning. Feeling exhausted and stressed while thinking about my impending commitment, I pulled out my notes to study.  To be honest, my head wasn’t in a good place as I focused on my work responsibility. I looked up from my notes and realized that the hurried professional woman I had noticed at check-in would be sitting next to me.


I tried to focus on my presentation notes like I had promised myself, but then quickly changed my mind.  Out of the blue, I reached out to the woman next to me.  I asked her where she was going and if she lived in Florida.  We began to talk and I quickly became engaged in the conversation.  She shared that she had served in Congress, had raised a family and continued to travel to Washington to work as an attorney.  We told stories about our careers, our children and life.  Before we knew it, we were in Atlanta and we were both searching for our next connections.


Ann had no idea how bad I needed to sit next to her that morning.  She did me a favor by engaging me in conversation and letting me take my mind off my own work to focus on her.  I say she did me a favor because I know that she had work of her own that she probably hoped to accomplish that morning.  And it doesn’t end there. When I got home later, I told my husband about meeting her and he inquired whether I had asked her to speak to my women’s group, 85 Broads— I totally forgot. I emailed her and told her that if she ever got up this way, we would love to have her speak. I truly didn’t expect an email back.


I was wrong. I got a long email back about how she would love to speak and how she had so enjoyed the conversation on our trip.


Let me recap what’s important about this story.  I was feeling stressed and anxious and focusing on myself was not aiding me in the preparation for my event the next day. My ability to recognize this as an issue was key.  I was able to change direction, reach out to someone else and be involved. In the process, I made a fabulous new friend and expanded my world.


The next time that you’re in a similar position at work or in your personal life, resist the urge to go inside your head and get lost in your own pain.  Issues often become much bigger and more muddled in your head.  Make an attempt to reach out to the people around you— it will help you move forward in life.

Knowing When to Fold

I was listening to a friend talk about her career the other day.  She told me that she was content in her first job right out of college when she decided to make the leap to a new position.  Within the first two weeks, she knew that she had made a huge mistake in this move.  Despite this realization, she stayed for another 4 years at this company. Why did she stay? She told herself that she needed to persevere and keep trying harder.


If you want to be a success in life, you need to try harder. You need to be inspired to push more.  You need to hold on tighter and never let go.  Just keep pushing yourself and keep trudging forward in your goal. I’ve read countless books, articles, and motivational sites that push this concept.


Is this truly the answer to finding success?


Not always.  Sometimes the right thing to do is to fold your cards and reassess your place in life. Take a step back and get in touch with your honest self.  As for my friend, she realizes now that she was trying to make something work that was never going to work.  She felt that quitting after one workweek showed weakness and that the strong thing to do, the right thing to do, was to persevere.


This really resonated with me.  I’m the queen of motivation and pushing forward in life.  That’s wonderful in most situations, but I can think of a few instances where it didn’t quite benefit me.  For example, there was the time I stayed at a certain job that was so incredibly wrong for me that it was obvious to everyone but me.  I fought the urge daily, thinking that it actually made me a stronger person to fight this urge.  I believed that I would persevere and rise above as the winner.


I didn’t. It was a romantic thought but definitely not based in reality. I wasn’t listening to my honest self. If I had listened to my honest self, it would have been screaming back at me to “exit as quickly as possible”.


This doesn’t only happen in your career. This happens in your friendships. At some point in your life, you will hold on to a friendship that is way past its expiration date.  At some point, you will realize that the friendship is imbalanced and not functioning well. Despite this fact, you will try harder and harder to make it work. You will take on more responsibility than you should and try desperately to breathe life into something that needs to be let go.  You will convince yourself that the right thing to do is to try harder, because that’s what strong people do. That’s what motivated, successful people do.


You’re wrong.


I don’t even want to get into intimate relationships.  I’m sure that you’ve had the experience where you’re working much harder than your significant other to build the relationship. You probably convinced yourself that it’s the honorable, right thing to do.  It shows strength and reveals your character.


You might be wrong again.


What I’m trying to say is that having perseverance is a respectable trait. Being strong and refusing to back down to your competition is admirable. However, there are going to be certain times in your life that it really doesn’t apply.  It calls for you to stop battling and take a step back.  Dig down deep inside and check in with YOU. Maybe the best thing for you to do is cut your losses and move on.


Sometimes it shows even more strength and success if you just walk away.



Women and Friendships

I was having dinner with two work friends the other evening and the talk turned to women and friendships.  One of my friends shared how she had recently joined a new group and certain women were making it abundantly clear that she was not accepted.  She had “heard” that they resented her material possessions— her house, her car etc. Of course, this was conveyed in a passive-aggressive manner. Never the less, she had received the very clear message that she was not like them.  She was different and that was not a good thing.  She felt understandably angry about not being accepted, but beneath the anger was hurt.


The conversation turned to why women take part in this negative behavior.  You know, the junior high and high school antics that are forever etched in our memory. Well, at least they are in mine.  I remember clearly being iced out of my clique in 8th grade by a group of mean girls. The hurt was devastating at that age and it truly felt as if I wouldn’t survive this experience.


The pain is not any less intense when you encounter the same behavior as an adult. In the 2005 book, “Mean Girls Grown Up”, women studies and relational aggression author Cheryl Dellasega explored what happened to those mean girls when they grew up.  Will it shock you if I tell you that the author concluded that a significant number of them continue to act aggressively (or passive-aggressively) in their personal and professional life?  The power games and targeted, attacking behavior are a part of their regular interactions.


So what can you do when you encounter this type of behavior?


1. As difficult as it is, don’t get caught up in this toxic encounter.  Step outside the experience and take an objective look at the situation. Sometimes you can get so tied up in your own hurt and anger, you can fail to see how this is less about your insecurities and more about someone else’s. This is typical behavior for a woman that feels threatened.  Understand and accept that you probably have nothing to do with her reaction. If you can do a self-check and agree that you have been nothing but kind and respectful to this individual, then try your best to move on.


2.  Focus on the friendships that nourish and feed you.  It’s human behavior to focus on what we can’t have and the negatives in our life.  However, force yourself to focus on the good and the quality friendships that do exist.  Invest your time in the relationships that are based on non-judgmental acceptance. These friendships are proof that you are more than capable of lasting, loving relationships.


3.  If you’re feeling strong and your emotions are in check, attempt to have a healthy discussion with the individual. State the facts, convey how the situation made you feel, and say what you would like to see happen. To be effective, you must approach this devoid of all emotion, name-calling, and finger pointing. Don’t expect miracles in this approach— chances are good that she’ll refuse to take any responsibility. However, expressing your feelings in a healthy manner could help YOU feel some power in the situation and more at peace.


It’s difficult enough for women to succeed with the pressures in today’s workplace. All women need to support one another and REFUSE to turn a blind eye to mean girl behavior in the workplace and beyond.


I’m calling an all out war— who’s with me?

Past Memories

I woke up Sunday morning, excited to go on my bike ride. I did one last check on the weather and confirmed that it wasn’t predicted to rain until the afternoon. According to my calculations, we would be able to ride at least 60 miles and be back before the downpour.


I threw my bike shorts and shoes in a pile on the floor and walked over to the drawer where I keep my bike shirts.  As the drawer opened, I spied my shirt choices.  There, front and center was my purple bike shirt.  I reached for it, and in the span of a few seconds, I relived all the memories.


You see, my purple bike shirt has some “baggage”.  It’s the shirt that I was wearing at the Cincinnati Ride event, where things didn’t go so well. I ended up flipping my bike and landing on my head. Firsthand, I experienced an exciting rescue squad ride to the University of Cincinnati Emergency room. The end result was some serious road rash and a bruised, dislocated shoulder that haunted me for a good 2-3 months afterward.


While reaching for the shirt, I honestly felt all the feelings that I had on that fateful day. In the span of a few seconds, I felt a myriad of emotions— none of them remotely positive. Quickly, I let go of the shirt. It was as if it was tainted and couldn’t be worn safely again.  I sifted through my shirts, looking for a better one for the trip, one that didn’t make me feel so uneasy. And then my conscious thinking took over.


I stared at the purple shirt and thought things through, pragmatically.  “Why are you afraid to wear that shirt? Do you really think you’ll fall every time you have that shirt on?” I questioned my thinking and came up short. It just didn’t make much sense. My negative thinking and fear was not rooted in reality. There was absolutely no evidence to prove that I would fall off my bike again if I wore that shirt.  In a show of defiance, I grabbed the shirt, yanked it over my head and willed myself to let go of the negative thinking.


I only caught myself thinking about it once during the journey.  As soon as it popped in my head, I forced myself to let it go by redirecting my thinking to something more pleasant. In the end, I had a safe ride and enjoyed myself.


Later, I gave thought to the whole morning incident. Just the sight of my shirt had brought on such intense emotions and almost stopped me in my tracks.  In those few seconds, I could conjure up the sights, sounds, and emotions of the whole experience.


And there you have it.  Simmering just beneath the surface are many memories of your past experiences, some good and some not so good. Some of those painful memories are so intense that you may lose sight of the fact that it’s part of your past and not your present. At times, it sure feels like it’s NOW, the pain is so real.

The point is that you can’t let these memories inhibit your ability to see the truth in your present! Question your fear, take control of the situation and don’t let anything stop you from moving forward into your future.



Eyes Wide Open

I never thought about it until my son mentioned it the last time he was home.  We were hanging out in the family room and kitchen area when he looked up at the walls. “You know, you really need to repaint the kitchen and you need to get something new on the windows.”  I just stared at him as he went on. “It’s been that color for a long time and I think you need to update the whole thing”.


The first thing that surprised me was the fact that my son was noticing the decorating in the house.  The second thing to surprise me happened when I looked at the walls.  It was as if I was looking at the kitchen for the very first time in years, and I was shocked.  He’s right, I thought.  It’s been the same way for years and I really need to change the color and update the windows.  How did I not see that?


I was going for a walk last night without the dog.  I purposely didn’t take my music because I just wanted to enjoy the outdoors and hear the sounds around me.  I had walked a while and made it to a few streets beyond my neighborhood when I looked across the road.  There, in the front yard of a house, was the biggest dead tree I had ever seen.  I scanned the tree to see if it was, indeed dead, or if there was a least a piece of it still alive.  No, I was absolutely 100% sure that the tree was dead.  It was the first thing I saw when I looked into the yard.  To say it was an eyesore is an understatement.


I then ran through a number of scenarios as to why the owners had not done something about the tree.  Scenario Number 1 involved the possibility that they were hoping it was going to get healthier, but my gut said it had looked that way for a long time.  Scenario Number 2 involved the family not having the funds to remove the tree. Scenario Number 3 was the one that I decided made the most sense— they were so used to seeing the tree in the front yard that they really didn’t “see” it anymore.


Just like the update needed in my house, the owners probably didn’t even pay attention to it anymore.  They went about the business of living and were completely oblivious to the glaring eyesore in their front yard.


And the question for you is the following— what aspect of your life do you need to update?  What piece of your life needs a fresh eye? There’s a good chance you’re in need of some updating or renovation. Maybe it’s your relationship or possibly it’s your job. It’s great that you’ve found your groove, but it’s now become a deep rut. You’re so entrenched in the daily grind and life’s minutiae that you can no longer clearly see the big picture.


So, I’m asking you to take a step back and do an honest assessment. Take a hard look at the different aspects of your life and decide whether you are pleased with the direction you are headed.  Are you living your dreams or are you settling? Have you been ignoring an area that you need to address? Do you see the reality?


My suggestion to you is to not only take a fresh look at your life but when you note some needed updating, you get into action and make the changes. As for me, I’ll be at the store studying paint colors.


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.


Relationship Advice

Miles and I are pretty firm in our routine.  He knows that I always feed him dinner and take him for a walk around 4 or 5 o’clock. If I’m in the house starting around 2 o’clock, I can count on him to be glued to my side.  Every time I make a move, he’s right there.  If I’m working at my desk, he will sit beside me and stare. He’ll be watching for any sign of movement, signaling my possible descent downstairs to his food bowl.  Watching his behavior, you would think that I never feed him.


By about 4 o ‘clock, I can no longer stand the feeling of someone staring at me and I make my way to the kitchen.  I feed him and get his leash ready for the walk.  He scarfs down the food morsels within a 20 second span and then turns to me for the next act.


Today, I felt pretty lucky that I was able to walk him before the big downpour of rain.  The weather was just perfect— sunshine with a nice breeze to cool things down.  As usual, Miles walked fast and insisted on leaving his calling card on every single bush and tree within a 2-block radius.  When we turned around and began our walk back to the house, Miles sat down.  He sprawled out under a tree and decided he was done.  I didn’t notice this detail, so I continued to walk until the long, taut leash pulled me back.


I told Miles that he could take a little break but then we were going to go back home.  When I got close to him, he quickly turned over on his back to show me he was ready to get picked up.  I tried to “marionette” him to walk but that didn’t work.  Frustrated and angry, I finally gave up and picked him up.  Miles seemed quite content with my decision.


I listen daily to successful women that are unhappy with the relationships in their lives.  They want the people in their professional or personal lives to change and they ask my advice as how to make this happen. They have a proactive approach to life and are very problem/solution oriented. All of this is wonderful but they’re leaving out one very important detail.  You can’t make people change and you can’t convince people that they need to change.  In fact, the harder you try, the less effective you will be.


You can, however, change your own part in the scenario.  A relationship is dynamic and if you change your own behavior, then the other individual’s behavior will also have to adapt.  It might take time before you see the desired changes in the other individual, but it’s definitely an empowering and healthy way to handle the situation.


Now, back to Miles.  I was livid with Miles when he was lying under the tree and expected me to pick him up. I could swear he had a smile on his face. But who was really responsible for this travesty? What had I taught him to expect from me?  He had the routine down from the signs that I was getting ready to feed him until the moment that I gave in and picked him up.   I had trained him on this whole experience.


However, if I changed my behavior, he would also have to make some changes.  Maybe the first time, things wouldn’t go so smooth, but if I stayed the course on this new change, the Pug would eventually have no choice but to adapt.

It’s really not that different with humans.



According to the dictionary, passive-aggressive behavior is a category of interpersonal interactions characterized by an obstructionist or hostile manner that indicates aggression.  In more general terms, people that exhibit passive-aggressiveness express this in non-assertive, subtle ways.


I hit the gym especially early this week since I was very busy with appointments. I was happy to see an old friend I hadn’t connected with for some time.  I took my spot on the elliptical machine and was glad to see that she was close enough to have a conversation with. The time began to fly by as we caught up on various current events.  Suddenly, I noticed a man on the other side of my friend. As we continued to talk, I saw that he was imitating us.  He was moving his mouth in a silent mimic of the two of us talking.  Out of the corner of my eye, I continued to monitor his actions. Off and on, he would make hand signals of people yapping and silently imitate talking.


Apparently, our conversation was bothering him.  He continued to grimace, roll his eyes and make faces of unhappiness.  At one point, he tried to get the attention of one of the workers and mouth to him how we were annoying him.  He was aware I was watching him, which did nothing to squelch his quest for more.  At one point, he talked out loud to himself but I couldn’t quite make out the words.  However, it didn’t really matter because the facial non-verbals told the whole story.


Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore.  Twenty minutes of this type of passive-aggressive behavior is enough for anyone to endure.  Firmly but without emotion, I said, “ You know Joe, you could put on some headphones if our talking is bothering you”.  He pretended like he didn’t hear me and got very quiet.


And that’s the end of the story.


I am pretty sure that at some point in your life, you have experienced this type of behavior.  Maybe you have experienced it in your own family or perhaps you’ve seen this play out at work.  Whenever this occurs, there are a couple things you need to keep in mind about the person indulging in the act:


1.  Individuals that tend to have passive-aggressive behavior have learned to utilize this pattern to get what they want in life. They have an inability to handle situations in a more direct manner.  Therefore, they often use smirks, off-handed comments and sarcasm to get their point across if they’re irritated.  You know when you’ve hit on one of these characters when they zing something at you and you have to actually think about whether it was an insult or not.  Deep down, they feel that this method is actually preferable to being direct and hurtful.


2.  If you want this behavior to stop, you need to handle it when it occurs.  The passive-aggressive individual doesn’t want to be “called out” in front of others since they aren’t comfortable dealing with situations directly.  Leave the emotion at home, and firmly question the behavior.  Over time, this behavior will only escalate if not dealt with appropriately.  If any of you are dealing with this in your own life, you know exactly what I mean.


Dealing with an individual that is passive-aggressive can be draining and frustrating. If you find yourself putting up with this behavior, nip it in the bud now before it grows to gargantuan proportions.  I’m thinking it just might be a little too late for my friend at the gym.


In my work as a women’s life coach, I often discover that it’s a value or principle incorporated into a woman’s life that’s holding her back from greatness.  It’s possible that they’ve held on to it from very early in their life.  It doesn’t matter when it was internalized or when it became a compass for decision-making— it’s the fact that this principle or value they hold onto so tightly is impeding their progress to move forward that should be alarming.


In lieu of this, I would like to spend some time busting a few popular myths believed by women that get in the way of their happiness and success.


You need to achieve work/life balance.  What the heck is work/life balance?  The truth is that there are going to be times in your life that are way off balance and there’s very little you can do about it.  There may be big chunks of time that you spend in one specific area of your life, and the other pieces are put on hold. With the many roles that women hold, it’s often a juggling act to keep all the plates spinning.   Here’s what you can do: try a routine assessment to see if you’re spending time in the RIGHT places for YOU and expending energy as efficiently as possible. Maybe your floors will have to go two weeks without being cleaned properly.  I guarantee you it will not be the end of the world.


All stress is bad and should be avoided at all costs.  The Internet is crawling with articles that speak to women’s stress levels. Your daily life is filled with too much stimulation and activity, with everything moving at an extremely fast pace. The constant use of technology only adds to the situation.  However, if you didn’t have a certain amount of stress in your life, you wouldn’t be able to accomplish your goals. For example, knowing that your mother-in-law is coming to the house the next day encourages you to clean up the kitchen.  Having that project deadline looming over your head encourages you to complete it.  A little bit of stress can be positive, but constant stress is not.  Be able to differentiate between the two.


You should be happy 100% of the time.  To be honest, this myth really aggravates me.  It seems that everything in our culture tells us that this is our goal— to be happy all the time.  However, that just isn’t realistic.  Good things happen and bad things happen in your lifetime. The most change and growth happens not when you’re happy, but when you’re Unhappy! What you should expect is for you to positively cope with your situation, find meaning in the bad times and then find a place where you can begin to feel contentment.  Maybe, just maybe, happy is the wrong word to shoot for. The real goal should be contentment, peace and understanding.


You should love every part of your job.  I’m passionate about my job.  I get excited when I think about the change that my clients are making in their lives.  However, the daily grind of paperwork is way down on my list of things I enjoy about my job. I love creating new programs and coming up with new ideas, but working on the details is definitely not my strong suit.  I get it done but it certainly doesn’t “feed me”.  There isn’t a job that exists that you will absolutely adore every single minute.  There will be great days and days that you wish would just end so you can start fresh in the morning.  Yet the job can still be perfect for YOU.


Give some thought to these mythbusters, and make some changes to your thinking.