If you're reading this, you probably need to take a break

I was the kind of student who fell over herself to listen to and truly hear absolutely everything the teacher said. In theory, this was great; who doesn’t love a devoted student? Oftentimes, though, the teacher was trying her damnedest to get through to all the students who weren’t listening, who weren’t hearing her.

“You need to study harder.”

“I was disappointed with the majority of what was turned in last week; you need to spend more time on your homework assignments.”

“You need to take more care on the next exam; so many of you lost points for sloppiness.”

Imagine a room of students, one or two of whom are already so exceedingly conscientious as to not need to hear these particular messages day-in and day-out. The others, the ones who probably do need to hear these particular messages day-in and day-out, are folding notebook paper into fortune tellers or coloring the boxes of their graph paper or frantically completing the homework for next period. And the irony, of course, is that the conscientious students are the only students who are paying such close attention to the teacher; they are the ones who are internalizing the teacher’s frustration, taking it to heart, and trying (always trying) to do even better.

At some point in my schooling, my mother saw what was going on and had to tell me, “They’re not talking to you, Helen. Those lectures aren’t aimed at you.” She had to help me learn to tune it all out, that relentless messaging that said WORK HARDER and DO BETTER. Because not only wasn’t it for me, but hearing it wasn’t serving me. It was turning me into someone who believed her very worst fears about herself, because what the teacher said seemed to confirm those fears: I’M NOT ENOUGH; I CAN’T AFFORD TO GIVE MYSELF GRACE; I DON’T DESERVE MARGIN.

I am here to tell you that you already are enough.

Grace is your birthright.

Margin is a crucial ingredient for your success.

And: An important part of becoming someone who realizes her dreams and achieves her ambitions is being someone who knows when and how to take breaks.

(Really, an important part of being human is knowing when and how to take breaks.)

My clients and the people who tend to gravitate to my work (that’s you) aren’t folks who need to be told to work harder and do better. In fact, that’s pretty much their kryptonite—because it underscores their deepest fears that they’re not doing enough and that there isn’t time to pause or rest without falling too far behind.

My folks need to have their hard-working systems* reviewed.

*Your hard-working system is the relentless way you check things off your list; it’s your protocol for being productive and staying on top of things in your life. It might be a combination of day planners, Google calendars, late nights after everyone’s gone to bed, family chore wheels, hired help, spreadsheets, apps, carpools, and grocery delivery. It might also be that nagging voice in the back of your mind that lets you know repeatedly that you’re behind the eight ball and that you need to keep moving or else risk total collapse and chaos.

They need someone who understands how conscientious they already are to come in, assess, and then trim the excess—to say, “Here’s where a break is necessary for you,” and “Let’s try this more efficient approach,” and “Looks like you’ve forgotten to build some margin into your days; let me help you with that.”

My folks need me to remind them: It’s when you most feel you can’t afford to take a break that you most need to take a break.

Again, that’s the irony.

Same as Little Helen in the classroom, taking those diligent notes and studying excessively, as the teacher tried again and again to spark something in the uninterested students (who were too busy being uninterested to process or even care about anything the teacher was saying).

We all hear the messages we believe we need to hear, the messages that confirm some deep insecurity inside of us.

So much of my work with clients involves helping them to become a trusted voice of reason for themselves, so that they can work and play in a balanced, healthy, and human fashion—breaks, margin, and all.

Do you need to have your hard-working system audited—either because you’ve got the nagging feeling (still) that it isn’t enough, or because it simply isn’t sustainable (and you suspect you’ve overlooked the whole breaks/margin thing)? Leave a comment below or shoot me a quick email and tell me about it. I can help.


Recommended reading/listening:

Thanks to her newsletter this week, my dear friend and colleague, Caroline Leon, brought my attention to this post by Jac McNeil, 5 Ways to Bring Minimalism to Your Work, which reminded me of a favorite podcast of mine, Jocelyn K. Glei’s Hurry Slowly, and referred to these two particular episodes on the topic of rest: “This Is Your Brain on Nature” and “Prioritizing Rest and Reflection”.

Who are you to do this thing?!

You’ve got this wild idea. It’s big. It’s maybe even revolutionary. You have a strong feeling there’s a place for it in this world—and it has the potential to be truly awesome once you figure out how to get it off the ground.

In your darker, fearful moments, it seems farfetched and like you’re kidding yourself. You don’t know anyone who’s done anything like this, so not only do you lack a trustworthy precedent, but you start to wonder if you might also lack credentials. ‘Who am I to do this thing?’ plays on repeat in your mind.

There’s a few mental obstacles you keep encountering, and while a big part of you knows they’re just mindset things, a much smaller but somehow louder part of you insists there’s some legitimacy there; it insists there’s some hard facts about what’s possible for you and what isn’t.

If you could just get a handle on this teeter-totter between conviction and self-doubt once and for all, you’d know how to move forward; you’d know where you need to expand your thinking and where you need to enhance your skill set.

I can help you. I know what a janky mindset looks like (and how to remedy it) and I can spot the missing tools in your tool belt (and help you find the right resources for filling them) pretty swiftly.

Leave a comment below to get the conversation started, or, if you’re ready to dive all the way in, go here to book your own 90-minute session.

The truth behind your Shiny Object Syndrome

Here’s a question and distinction I’d like to invite you to consider: Is your SHINY OBJECT SYNDROME actually a FEAR OF COMMITMENT in disguise?

You’re highly cerebral, exceedingly intelligent, interested in learning about everything. Curiosity propels you. Your mind does wild amounts of work every hour of every day—processing, considering, scheming, dreaming, problem-solving, puzzling, you name it. The list of things that fascinate you is infinite.

I suspect boredom is something you remember feeling quite a lot as a child in school; maybe even as a young adult at a pointless and brainless minimum wage job; and possibly in your first few serious, college-age romantic relationships.

You weren’t challenged. Your mind was restless. It all felt too easy and stupid.

Shiny Object Syndrome became your way of navigating and staying engaged with the world. You grew accustomed to chasing whatever piqued your interest because that feeling of piqued interest is both addictive and life-giving, and it reassured you that you wouldn’t die of boredom.

But that same chasing is a crutch now. It’s a familiar excuse and it’s an acceptable way to not commit to any one thing. (And if you don’t commit to any one thing...you can’t fail at any one thing. It’s genius, really.)

To be clear: I believe you’ve got a whole slew of interests and passions. Of course you do—you have a brilliant and hungry mind.

But I also wonder if you’re afraid to commit. Because you’re afraid of becoming bored, sure—but more than that, because you’re afraid of giving everything you’ve got to this one thing. Of giving yourself over absolutely. Of being all-in. Of sticking it out for the long haul, come what may: failure, restlessness, discouragement, disappointment, frustration, and everything else that’s possible when we make and move forward with a choice.

If you’re willing to ditch Shiny Object Syndrome in order to lock it down and commit to one Big, “Impossible” Thing at a time, I can help. Leave a comment below (“I’m ready!” will do just fine), and I’ll take it from there.

Your Big, "Impossible" Thing vs. your day job

You’re struggling to really sink into your project, because you’ve got responsibilities that prevent you from hanging out in that sweet headspace where the magic happens.

You get home from the day job, and by the time dinner and dishes are through, maybe a load of laundry, you’ve got an hour or so before you need to get to bed...just to start it all over again tomorrow.

You want to know how you’re supposed to build your Impossible Thing (no air quotes this time, because some part of you really believes it’s a lost cause) when you can barely find the time to get into it, let alone get lost in it.

A measly hour before bed isn’t enough; it just doesn’t feel even remotely worthwhile, and yet, you’re watching as week after week slips by like this and your dream reliably stays out of reach.

You watch the inspirational videos and walk away with the message that maybe you don’t need nearly as much sleep as you think you do (uh, no thanks, Gary V), and that if you were really and truly committed, you’d do ANYTHING to make this dream a reality.

So: Do you scale back to part-time work so that you can swap some money for some time? Do you put half as much effort into your job and squirrel away energy for your Thing? Do you start saving up bits and pieces of your salary so you can buy yourself a job sabbatical?

Hold up. Your first step is to consider all your options so you know what you’re working with.

Guess what? That’s my wheelhouse. I’m an expert excavator and deep-desire archaeologist. I notice the details and nuances that many others overlook or flat-out miss. I ask really good questions because I’m curious and because I’m not one for small talk. And I’m highly skilled at taking what we discover together and helping you determine your next right step—especially if you’re someone who knows she wants a future that’s different from her present, but has no earthly idea where to start. I can help you move from analysis paralysis to a small steps plan that makes sense for you and gets you closer to your Thing.

Ready to consider your options—with me by your side, of course? Leave a comment ("Help needed!” will do just fine) with your best email address and I’ll take it from there.

This is your very first step

I can share with you all the best tips for approaching your Big, “Impossible” Thing. I can help you figure out what your first small step is—or, if you’ve already begun (go, you!), I can help you figure out your next small step. I can work with you to create an effective and consistent roadmap for going after and getting the thing you want.

But what I can’t give you is your WHY. WHY you’re driven to pursue your Big, “Impossible” Thing in the first place. The deep need or desire that’s at its core. Only you feel that in your heart, and only you can communicate it to the world.

If you’re not so sure you know your WHY, that right there’s your first step.

Before roadmapping or logo-designing or outlining or editing a single page on your website or sending an email inquiry—before all of that comes the very preliminary, very crucial step of determining WHY you need to realize this vision in your lifetime.

Without your WHY, you can spend all the time in the world on the legwork of your Big, “Impossible” Thing...and still not have a sense of clarity (and that essential resolve) when it comes to the big picture.

A WHY flings you out of bed in the morning. A WHY makes those necessary admin tasks a whole lot less of a drag. A WHY opens your eyes to opportunity and paves the way for serendipity.

Though I can’t just hand you any old WHY, I can help you dig around and determine yours. I promise you it’s there inside you—you only need a little assistance to articulate it.

Are you clear on your WHY? Leave a comment below, or email me—I’d love to learn what you’re up to, and WHY it’s so important to you.

How's your patience/resolve ratio?

Taking small steps toward your “Impossible” Thing requires a healthy ratio of PATIENCE to RESOLVE.

All at once, you must be willing to hang in there for months or years at a time as your “Impossible” Thing slowly takes shape...and you must be tenacious in the day-to-day in order to drive your vision forward into reality.

Though it will feel like outside circumstances are your biggest challenge, I promise you that won’t ever be the case.

Consider this from William Somerset Maugham, British playwright, novelist, and short story writer from the 1930s:

“If you don’t change your beliefs, your life will be like this forever. Is that good news?”

If you don’t change your beliefs, are you in a good place to actually achieve your “Impossible” Thing? Tell me in the comments how you’re handling your own PATIENCE/RESOLVE ratio these days, and if one or the other needs some attention.

Psst! What's a Big, "Impossible" Thing, anyway?

Wondering what the heck I mean when I refer to your Big, “Impossible” Thing? Before you go thinking you don’t have one (and you might not—no shame!—but there’s a chance you don’t even realize you have one), let me break it down a little.

What I mean by ‘big’ is this: It’s big to you. Perhaps no one in your life understands it or cares about it or even knows it’s something you dream about doing, having, or being. It’s not BIG because it’s flashy or because it’ll bring about world peace; it’s BIG because it feels like a crucial part of you and your life experience.

Examples: creating sustainable self-employment, writing a book, building an app, producing a show for Netflix, running a marathon, renovating a condo, raising a million dollars for your charity, becoming a school board member, buying an Airstream and traveling full-time, growing a vegetable garden in your backyard, locating your birth parents, planning a solo trip through Europe, setting up a stall at your local antique mall, coming off of hormonal birth control in advance of trying to start a family, asking for a promotion at work, etc.

What I mean by ‘impossible’ is this: You don’t yet have a clue as to how you’ll make it happen. It’s entirely uncharted territory for you. You know people do this thing—it’s not truly impossible in the sense that it absolutely cannot be done—but you can’t quite wrap your head around how it is you'll do it.

Some of the folks I work with don’t have a Big, “Impossible” Thing; instead, they have a series of Small, “Impossible” Things. A handful of smaller-scale pursuits that are unfamiliar and challenging in their own right. They might fall along a singular trajectory, or they might be scattered. (Some folks call this their ‘Bucket List,’ but that’s a little too end-of-life focused for me!)

Does this resonate? Are you realizing, maybe for the first time, that you’ve got a Big, “Impossible” Thing of your own—one that could use some defining and mapping out? Or perhaps your Bucket List continues to grow while few items are getting crossed off. I can help. Comment below , and we’ll work together to give you clarity and strategy.

What to do when you don't know what to do

Your Big, "Impossible" Thing scares the crap out of you.

You literally have no clue what the first step is in getting what you dream of...and admitting that feels vulnerable, like you have no business dreaming of something you don't know how to start, let alone achieve.

I have news for you:

YOU'RE ENTITLED TO WANT SOMETHING REGARDLESS OF YOUR KNOWING HOW TO GET IT.

 

Not knowing should never be the reason you don't pursue your Thing. Why?

Look around you! There are RESOURCES everywhere! In the form of people! People who DO know what you don't positively abound on this planet!

Some of my clients have believed they've discovered an exception to this (they haven't): "But what if I don't know what I don't know? Then, how do I figure out where to start, what questions to ask, who I need to hire to help me first?"

YOU FIND SOMEONE WHO WILL ASK ➡️ YOU ⬅️ THE QUESTIONS.

 

You find someone who doesn't care what you think you know or what you think you don't know. Someone who doesn't believe your Stories about yourself, your litanies of self-diagnosed shortcomings, your limitations. Someone who will shower you with questions like it's her job (because it is).

If you're nodding your head because you don't know what you don't know about going after your Thing, I have two things to say to you: 1. It's more common than you think (in other words, you're not alone), and 2. get a coach on your team right now.

Comment below or email me privately to start a conversation, which we can take to the phone. If I can't help you, I'll refer you to someone who can. Resources abound!

Why 'flighty' and 'spacey' aren't all bad...

Every groundbreaking invention began as a MOONSHOT (‘moonshot’ deriving from the Apollo and Soviet lunar programs’ initiatives to land humans on the moon).

Someone musing, “Wouldn’t it be amazing if…?” and then getting to work on mapping out the early fragments of her vision just to see what, if anything, might be possible.

Not all of us have a specific, personal moonshot in mind.

Or we might call it something different—our ‘wildest dreams,’ perhaps.

Our ‘Big, “Impossible” Thing’ (that’s what I like to call it).

We might not even think of our idea as ‘big’; in fact, it might not be big, objectively.

It might be as small as a wish. But that’s irrelevant. And it certainly doesn’t make our dream any less important or worthwhile.

We humans are motivated by our desires. Generally speaking, we like having projects; we’re driven forward by our vision of WHAT COULD BE, and that brings meaning and purpose—oftentimes, even structure—to our days.

Whether you call it a ‘moonshot,’ your ‘wildest dreams,’ your ‘Big, “Impossible” Thing,’ a 'wish,' or none of the above, what’s your answer to the question, “Wouldn’t it be amazing if…?”

Leave a comment or email me. I’m so curious to know what’s in your mind’s eye.

Small Steps, Tip #1

As anyone who’s coached with me knows, I’m a major fan of taking small steps in the direction of the thing I’m after.

Small steps keep me from getting overwhelmed by the enormity of my goal and how hard it might be to imagine having actually achieved it.

Also? Progress of any amount just feels really damn good, so why not go for the gradual and consistent approach (and give myself regular hits of dopamine)—rather than going full steam ahead and burning out after a couple days?

When I say ‘small steps,’ I mean SMALL. (Kinda funny to use caps on the word ‘small’.) Like, even half-steps—HELL, QUARTER-STEPS!—count.

Examples of totally valid small steps: googling to find out what city form you need to complete in order to become a farmers’ market vendor; choosing a paint color for the bathroom (even if you don’t plan to paint it today, tomorrow, or this weekend); asking your Facebook friends for a dentist recommendation; finding out which buildings on the main drag are vacant and could be home to your someday, one day small business; pulling the luggage down from the hall closet in preparation for packing for next week’s trip.

It’s nothing complicated or overwrought; there’s really no wrong way to take a first step (however small) toward your objective.

What’s a quarter-step you could take today that’ll get you closer to your Thing?