4 Ways To Get Your Calendar To Work FOR You, Instead Of Against You

4 Ways To Get Your Calendar To Work FOR You, Instead Of Against You

As we roll into a new year, and those of us in public accounting roll into a new tax year, I thought it would be a great time to talk about your calendar.  It doesn’t matter whether you have a super organized calendar or you’re a hot mess, understanding how to get your calendar to work FOR you, instead of against you, will be super helpful this year.

If you think about it, time management wouldn’t be possible for accountant moms without a calendar because in these modern times we just have so many things we are involved with.  From our meetings, deadlines and work obligations, to our family appointments, activities and important dates to remember, being both an accountant and a mom requires a lot of planning and help from our calendars.

When my kids were younger I had a giant dry erase board calendar on a wall in the kitchen where I marked down all the soccer practices and games, the karate classes, the doctor’s appointments, and the other activities our family was involved in.  This was before things like Outlook or Google calendar, so I also had a large wall calendar next to my desk at work in order to try to stay on top of things as much as possible.

The thing when it comes to using a calendar, is that even though you may have your favorite type of calendar, whether it’s digital or paper, I promise you that you probably aren’t using your calendar in the best way possible.  A lot of us are using our calendar against ourselves, trying to be organized, but ironically still feeling overwhelmed in the process of getting a sense of control and having things become simpler.

An interesting study by the University of North Carolina proved how much we use our calendars – they found that 66% of us always keep our calendars open, while 21% of us check our calendars several times a day.  It’s probably no surprise to you that these numbers show what we already knew – the frequency of consulting our calendars is high, especially in the deadline driven field of accounting.

Whether you’ve taken training on better time management or you’re just winging it with your own system, there are things you should know about calendaring your time, especially as you enter busier times of the year like tax season.  As you well know, especially as a mom, there’s nothing more precious than time, so it’s important that you set yourself up with the best way to make the most of it.

I can tell you from experience, having had a 30+ year career in public accounting and having been a mom for almost that entire time, that getting your calendar to work for you is one of the best things you can do for your career and your family.  Honestly, being able to help you better manage your time so that you can spend more time doing what you love, is one of my passions and one of the reasons we have The Balanced Accountant Program with CPA MOMS.

While I coach my accountant mom clients on the various challenges they face, better time management is truly one of the most important skills you can focus on for your career and your family.  I’ve seen it time and time again, that once you learn how to better manage your time, life just gets more manageable, more enjoyable, and more peaceful – things that have been important to me and I know are important to you as well.

This week I’m going to discuss 4 ways to get your calendar to work FOR you instead of against you, hopefully helping you to be able to spend more time doing what you love as well.   

 

Plan for reality rather than fantasy

Everything I’m going to share with you, I learned in my studies with The Life Coach School, and has made such a big difference in how I implement my own time management system and in how I coach my clients to personalize and create theirs.  Once I discovered something that helped me have much more control over my time and increased my ability to get more done in less time, I knew this was something that other accountant moms needed to know as well.

The issue for a lot of working moms is that we feel so much pressure to get it all done that we actually use our calendars against ourselves, often without realizing it.  We’re trying to do our best, but unfortunately we’re setting ourselves up for overwhelm and procrastination.

This might sound obvious but it’s important to point out – the #1 thing that you must do in order to manage your time is plan in advance how you’re going to use your time.  You cannot skip the planning phase and expect to have a powerful sense of control, productivity, efficiency, and balance. 

The Balanced Accountant Program that we offer through CPA MOMS shows you step by step, exactly how to have a better time management system, as well as the key that you were never taught to actually focus on, but for this podcast I just want to make sure you know how incredibly important planning your time is.  It cannot be understated.

With that said, the first way to get your calendar to work FOR you instead of against you is to stop planning unrealistically when you’re scheduling your time.  This is something that trips up a lot of the accountant moms that I work with because they believe that cramming as much as they can into their calendar time blocks is how to get everything done on their to-do list.

For example, they’ll schedule 30 minutes to pick up the kids from school, and get them home to start homework or head to some after school activity, but in reality it actually takes more like 45 minutes to an hour.  The issue is that when they plan for the fantasy of 30 minutes, they feel rushed, they’re not calm and focused, and the kids can sense their rushed energy.

When the fantasy doesn’t happen, they’ll often get mad at their calendar, at themselves, or at their kids for not being able to get things done as quickly as anticipated.  Again, in order to have better time management, you need to plan your time more effectively, but the problem is that when you plan for a fantasy instead of reality, you set yourself up for failure which can then lead to believing that calendaring and time management just doesn’t work for you, your situation, or your busy life – but I promise you that’s not true.

The best way that I learned to begin planning for reality instead of fantasy is to keep “field notes” – just like a scientist keeping notes of their discoveries, you can use a small notebook to track the average time that things tend to take or what you noticed about different blocks of time and the reality of how best to use that block.  By not beating yourself up, and instead coming from a place of curiosity, you can adjust your calendar to reflect reality rather than being frustrated or overwhelmed trying to live up to a fantasy, letting your calendar work FOR you instead of against you.      

 

Don’t be vague

So many of us, myself included, tend to be vague in our calendar blocking, often calendaring generalities instead of specifics.  The issue is that when the time comes to do something scheduled on your calendar and you were too vague when you planned your time, you are actually setting your brain up to be confused, often wanting to procrastinate, and then eventually feeling overwhelmed.

Why does that matter?  Because confusion is one of the tricky things that your lower brain loves to use, due to one important fact – when you’re confused, you won’t take action.  Remember what I’ve shared on previous podcast episodes – your lower brain does NOT want to expend energy so it uses confusion to keep you from doing what needs to be done.

For example, let’s say you scheduled “Call with XYZ client” on your calendar for 10 am on Wednesday – it sounds like that would be fine, but the issue is that now your brain has to expend energy thinking about what the call needs to be about, what needs to be discussed, and what the outcome should be.  When you’re too vague on your calendar, you’re not doing your brain any favors, again, unfortunately giving it easy access to overwhelm and possibly procrastination.

Another reason why it’s important  to not be vague when calendaring your time is because when you make decisions ahead of time, you are using the higher, executive functioning part of your brain.  This makes it so much easier to carry out what you had on your calendar later on, because you’ve made it clear what result you plan on having with that block of time. 

So instead of being vague, you will want to make sure that you’re breaking down your time blocks enough so that you know each step and that you’re specific about the result you want from that block of time.  It might sound ridiculous at first, but you’re going to want to know what results you’re creating in every block of time, so much so, that there is no confusion when the time comes.

For example, if you’ve calendared FOR yourself instead of against yourself, you’re going to have planned for time to review XYZ client’s file on Tuesday, blocked time to jot down the points you want to discuss, scheduled time to do any other research that is necessary, and then scheduled time for the call with XYZ client on your calendar for 10 am on Wednesday with all the information, topics, and discussion points you pre-scheduled included in the description of that time block, or in an easily accessible place.

When Wednesday at 10 am comes around, you’re making it much more likely for your brain to easily do what’s on the time block because you made it as specific as possible, not allowing for confusion or overwhelm.   By knowing and planning for exactly the outcome or result you want from that block of time, you make it so much easier yourself.

Again, the secret is that when you’re planning, you’re using the executive functioning part of your brain, but when you’re carrying out the plan, you’re typically using the lower brain.  By not being vague with your time blocking, you’re being much kinder to your future self that has to do the thing or create the result.

It just takes a little practice to calendar things more specifically, but I promise you that you’ll see a big improvement in how much easier it is to get more done in less time, especially when you’re not confused or overwhelmed.  The best question to ask yourself – would everybody understand what will be created at the end of that block of time?  That’s how to get your brain onboard, make time management easier on yourself, and how to have your calendar work FOR you, instead of against you.


Be honest with yourself, be kind to yourself

I see this time and time again, where a coaching client is so focused on getting things done and crossing things off their to-do list, that they’re not considering the future version of them that has to do all the things they’re planning and when they’re planning them.  In my experience, this is one of the reasons why coaching clients procrastinate – their calendars are planned without consideration for being honest with themselves and being kind to themselves.

For example, do you really think that you’re going to want to drop off that Amazon return to the UPS store on Tuesday at 5:30 pm, when you’re going to be dealing with that difficult client at 3:00 pm?  Instead of calendaring the UPS store on Tuesday at 5:30 pm, when you know that what you’ll really want to do is just get home and unwind with your family, be honest with yourself and either look for a better time or delegate the task to someone else if you can.

One of the things that I was honest with myself about early on, being both an accountant and a mom, is that I really don’t like shopping, especially grocery shopping.  I tried scheduling it after picking up one of my kids from school because I would bring them with me and then let them choose a treat for helping me, but I dreaded it every week.

Once I discovered grocery delivery services I was thrilled, but I also had to deal with the self-judgment about what “good” wives and mothers do.  After grappling with it for awhile, I decided that instead of thinking about what other people believe about what good wives and mothers do, I would instead choose what this smart wife and mother would do – block time on Friday to plan the next week’s meals, plan time to order the groceries to be delivered every Saturday morning, and plan time to unpack and put them away.

Maybe in your case you’re not being honest about the fact that you’re a night person and you don’t want to change that about yourself – you could, but you don’t want to.  Instead of trying to force yourself to get up at 5:00 am, when really the best time for you is to get up at 8:00 am, you just need to be honest with yourself and plan around that.

Again this is why planning is so incredibly important, but by being honest and kind with yourself, you would still get everything done that you want to get done, but you’d also be the person you want to be in the process.  The most common reason most of my clients aren’t being honest with themselves is because they’re trying to trick themselves into being someone they’re not – that is a clear recipe for procrastination.

You need to set up your calendar for success – your success and your time’s success.  By choosing to plan your time around being honest with yourself and being kind to yourself, you make it much easier to get things done, but more importantly, not burnout in the process.




Don’t beat yourself up


As you get better at calendaring your time, one of the worst things you can do is beat yourself up when things don’t go as planned.  This is a habit I see a lot with the accountant moms I work with on a personalized approach to time management, and I can tell you, it only makes your calendar work against you, instead of for you.

Unfortunately, we’re so used to being hard on ourselves, as both accountants and moms, that we often use time against ourselves without realizing it.  Since the accounting profession is a breeding ground for perfectionism, we have to recognize when we’re trying too hard to fit a round peg in a square hole and when we’re beating ourselves up in the process.

Here’s what I tell my clients when we work on the Better Time Management portion of The Balanced Accountant Program – this whole thing is an experiment and will continue to evolve and change as their work lives and personal lives change.  The process of creating and managing your calendar is meant to be a compassionate practice, where you are continually learning what works and what doesn’t.

That’s why the notion that you can take a time management class or read a book about time management and have everything run smoothly, is ridiculous.  Everything about you and your life is completely unique, therefore your time management system needs to be personalized and given the chance to unfold and shift as you do.

So be open to the idea that there may never be a “perfect” calendar because it doesn’t exist.  There will always be new seasons, new projects, and new goals, so don’t beat yourself up when things don’t go as planned.

Every intended or unintended result that you create with your time is an opportunity to learn what worked and what didn’t – again, this is where those field notes come in handy.  Just make sure that you use your calendar as a supportive tool, not as a task master that berates you if you didn’t get everything done the way you planned.  

I highly recommend that you use a calendar, particularly a paper calendar, in order to be able to organize and manage your time, but make sure you’re having it work FOR you, instead of against you.  Your calendar is one of the most amazing tools you have as an accountant and a mom, so use it wisely.  As a side note, we’re in the process of creating a CPA MOMS Planner, so stay tuned and I’ll tell you more about it once it’s finished.

For now, just remember to plan for reality and not fantasy, don’t be vague when you’re scheduling your time,  be honest with yourself and kind to yourself, and don’t beat yourself up when things don’t go as planned.  Your calendar can work FOR you, when you understand how to work it.

 

Summary  

  • The thing when it comes to calendars is that even though you may have your favorite type of calendar, whether it’s digital or paper, I promise you that you probably aren’t using your calendar in the best way possible. 
  • A lot of us are using our calendar against ourselves, trying to be organized, but ironically still feeling overwhelmed in the process of getting a sense of control and having things become simpler.
  • I can tell you from experience, having had a 30+ year career in public accounting and having been a mom for almost that entire time, that getting your calendar to work for you is one of the best things you can do for your career and your family
How To Switch From Unhealthy To Healthy Pressure

How To Switch From Unhealthy To Healthy Pressure

Whether you are in public or private accounting, if there’s one thing that all accountants have to deal with, it’s pressure.  Before the pandemic, the accounting profession was already dealing with a fair amount of pressure as a whole, but since the pandemic shifted so much of what we do, where we do it, and added so many changes that accountants have to make sense of for their companies and clients, there’s even more heaviness weighing on us.

When you add the pressure that accountants in general have, to the pressure that working mothers have, especially since the pandemic, it’s no wonder so many of us are buckling under it all.  It’s a common sentiment among the accountants that I speak to and coach that “It’s just too much”.

Although we’d all like to live pressure-free, peaceful lives, it’s also important to consider the fact that pressure isn’t always the enemy – it isn’t always a bad thing.  If you think about it, pressure is actually what can propel us forward if we’re not moving, but unfortunately, if there’s too much pressure and things get out of balance, that’s when pressure can become overwhelming and damaging.

The interesting thing is that in the deadline driven world of accounting, there are work-imposed pressures that cannot be avoided, but as moms we often create self-imposed pressures.  For example, we add pressure to ourselves and our children in our expectations and beliefs about the way things “should” be – how we should be as mothers, and how they should be as our children.

While it sounds positive to say that we want a stress-free job or a stress-free life with little or no pressure, pressure can actually be healthy, as long as it’s pushing you along and not drowning or steam rolling you.  The forward movement that can be created by pressure is actually important as you define what you want now and in the future.

To show you what I mean, if you’ve ever had a job or a time when you were bored out of your mind, you can probably see where it might be okay for a little while, but eventually that loss of momentum would start to weigh on you.  Without anything pushing you towards some movement, you might find yourself stuck wondering how you got there or how to get out.

The interesting thing is that we think we don’t want to have pressure, but that’s usually when we want relief from the enormous amount of pressure we’re currently experiencing.  It’s when we’re looking for an escape from the way we’re feeling, that we think that having no pressure at all is the answer.

But just like there’s a healthy range for your blood pressure, in reality the pressure being too low is as concerning for a doctor as the pressure being too high.   Low blood pressure can cause dizziness, fainting, fatigue, and loss of concentration, all due to the blood not flowing at the optimal range of momentum that your body needs to function properly.

The same thing goes for you – a healthy range of pressure is what can keep you balanced and moving forward, allowing your life to function properly.  The question then becomes – how can you make the switch from unhealthy to healthy pressure?  What’s really within your control when it comes to pressure?

This week I’m going to discuss the warning signs of unhealthy pressure, the root cause of unhealthy pressure. and how you can switch from unhealthy to healthy pressure.   

Warning signs of unhealthy pressure

The interesting thing that I’ve found when it comes to a lot of the issues we have balancing an accounting career with being a mom, is that we tend to normalize how we’re feeling, whether it’s being stressed, overwhelmed, or anxious, because of one important thing – it’s what’s familiar.  I’ve shared this on the podcast before, but our brain is motivated to keep things the same because change would take effort and your brain likes to expend as little energy as possible.

So what can unfortunately happen is that we often miss the warning signs for ourselves and others, that unhealthy pressure is present.  We’re so caught up just trying to survive, that we can miss the warning signs of unhealthy pressure and often only recognize it after the fact or when something happens like someone quits or we have a health diagnosis.

Since it can sometimes be easier to see the warning signs in other people, let’s start there.  Whether you’re in a leadership position at work or not, here are some of the warning signs of unhealthy pressure.  Someone might be in the overwhelming stage of unhealthy pressure if:

  1. They’re not showing up on time
  2. They’re not keeping their commitments
  3. They have a hard time holding a train of thought
  4. They complain a lot
  5. They’re not solution focused
  6. They feel justified
  7. They seem more withdrawn
  8. They seem more irritable than usual

When you notice some of these behaviors, there can obviously be a lot of factors involved – a change in personal circumstance, outside pressure from others,, changes in circumstances at work, things going on at home, struggles with different relationships, children, finances, or issues with their health, to name just a few.  There are so many challenges that can be happening behind the scenes.

But again, we can also tend to normalize how we handle different things, never really getting to the root, or the cause, of the issue.  Thankfully, once you understand the root cause of unhealthy pressure, you can learn a much better way to switch out of unhealthy pressure and instead, learn how to handle healthy pressure.

Now think about that list of warning signs and see if any apply to you – are you not showing up on time, not keeping your commitments, have a hard time holding a train of thought, complain a lot, not finding solutions, feeling justified, being more withdrawn, or feeling more irritable than usual.  These are important for you to be able to see in yourself as well.

While certain levels of pressure in a field such as accounting are unavoidable, the key is to understand what creates unhealthy pressure so that you can actually do something about it.  Most people want to deal with the symptoms by changing the situation, but when you can get to the root cause, you can actually take your power back.

 

 

The root cause of unhealthy pressure

So many of us, myself included, blame the situations and the circumstances in our life for the amount of pressure that we’re experiencing.  We want to blame the time of year, the amount of work we have, or our situation at home, for why we’re feeling stress and pressure.

I know you’re going to want to argue with me, but the best news that I can give you is that nothing and no one is actually causing the pressure we feel.  It’s totally natural to want to blame circumstances or situations for our feeling of pressure, but once you truly understand that that is not the case, you’ll be able to switch from unhealthy to healthy pressure much more easily.

Remember, healthy pressure creates momentum and moves us forward, therefore, we want to be able to handle healthy pressure.  By understanding the root cause of unhealthy pressure, we can take back control when things seem like they’re not within our control.

Here’s what I want you to know about unhealthy pressure, especially as an accountant and a mom – the root cause of unhealthy pressure is your brain, specifically the thoughts your brain is believing about you.  Basically unhealthy pressure comes down to one thing – self-doubt.

The truth is that there are things out there in the world that happen, that are facts, and then there are the thoughts and beliefs we have about those facts.  Most of us, myself included until I learned how to manage my mind, just let our default brain think how it wants to think about all those things out there in the world, and we don’t realize that we also have an executive functioning part of our brain that is so much more powerful than the default part of our brain.

Unfortunately, as young girls and then women, we’ve had many years and a lot of messages and programming that has been stored in this default part of our brain.  The repetitive thoughts that that part of the brain often offers us typically goes something like – “This is too much.  You can’t handle this all.  You’re going to fail.  You should probably give up.  Look at all the times you’ve failed in the past.  You’re not good enough.”  Does any of that sound familiar?

It’s important to know that since your negative-biased brain has over 60,000 thoughts a day and a lot of those thoughts are negative towards you, it’s no wonder that you have self-doubt about your ability to handle situations.  Even labeling things as “challenging” or “stressful” is a sneaky way that your default brain convinces you that you’re not capable or good enough, creating an unhealthy tug-of-war between self-doubt and self-confidence.

The key is understanding that there are things in the world that are facts, like the fact that you have work to get done for a client, or your spouse told you that they’re unhappy with your relationship, or your son got a C on a math test and his teacher wants to meet with you – but those things don’t cause unhealthy pressure.  The root cause of unhealthy pressure regarding any of these situations is your thoughts and beliefs about your ability to handle them.

For example, if your spouse told you that they’re unhappy with your relationship and you think “I’m never going to be able to handle a divorce”, you can see why you would be feeling pressure and feeling overwhelmed.  From those feelings you would probably spin in your head about worst case scenarios, not be able to focus at work, and not be able to decide on the best course of action, creating a lot of unhealthy pressure for yourself.

But in this scenario, unhealthy pressure is not caused by the fact that your spouse told you that they’re unhappy with your relationship, it’s your thought “I’m never going to be able to handle a divorce” that’s causing it.  It’s the self-doubt that is causing you to feel unhealthy pressure, which then leads you to not take steps to handle the situation, eventually proving to yourself that you can’t handle a divorce or whatever happens with your spouse.

Let’s take the scenario where you have to get a lot of work done for a client, the deadline is approaching and you think “I’m never going to get this all done in time”.  The truth is that the amount of work you have and the deadline isn’t what’s created pressure for you, it’s your thought “I’m never going to get this all done in time” that creates the feeling of unhealthy pressure.

It can be challenging at first because we’re so used to blaming things like the amount of work we have or the deadlines we’re faced with, but it’s really important that you understand that the cause of unhealthy pressure is not the people, places and things in your life.  The good news is that the cause is actually your brain and you can definitely do something about that.

Thankfully, there is a much better way to shift unhealthy pressure into healthy pressure, so let me show you how.

 

How to switch from unhealthy to healthy pressure

So many of you are overwhelmed with balancing your careers with your families that you may not even know what healthy pressure is or feels like.  You might be feeling like you’re just drowning and wishing someone would throw you a life preserver.

So here’s what healthy pressure looks like:

  1. Having a steady stream of things to get done at work
  2. Having a steady stream of things to get done at home
  3. Having a to-do list
  4. Having people to see and places to be
  5. Having expectations and deadlines
  6. Focusing and staying on one task after another
  7. Handling the unexpected
  8. Helping others
  9. Adding value
  10. Coming up with good ideas and solutions
  11. Working well with others
  12. Giving and taking suggestions
  13. Not working so hard to prove your worth

Notice how nothing on that list is probably out of the ordinary for you – it sounds like a pretty typical life of an accountant and a mom.  So if that’s what healthy pressure looks like then why do we feel so much unhealthy pressure?  The answer is because of what we think about our ability to handle each of those things on the list.

In order to switch from unhealthy to healthy pressure, you don’t need your life to change, you need your perception to change.  Having healthy pressure means you like where you’re coming from when you show up at work and at home – it’s taking care of things without the added layer of mind drama.

Making the switch from unhealthy to healthy pressure doesn’t require you to run away to a remote island, even though that may sound like the answer.  It only requires you to be much more aware of how you’re thinking about the things in your life.

The amount of work you have to do and the time you have to do it in, the unexpected project that the client needs done by next week, the words your husband says to you about your relationship, the grades your son is getting in Math – none of it needs to create unhealthy pressure once you become aware of what you’re thinking about the facts of the situation.  Nothing creates the feeling of stress and overwhelm other than your brain.

In order to switch from unhealthy pressure to healthy pressure, you only need to become aware of what you’re thinking about the facts of a situation and choose a more helpful way to think about it that replaces self-doubt with something more neutral or more empowering.  Thoughts like “It’s possible that I can get this done in the time I have”, “I’m open to looking at this differently”, or “I’m curious about what my next step could be”, would all make it much easier to switch from unhealthy to healthy pressure.

The point is that the facts of a situation do not need to overwhelm or stress you out because the truth is that they’re not the reason you feel that way.  The only reason you feel unhealthy pressure is because of your optional thoughts.  

This truth has literally changed every area of my life, especially how I balance having an accounting career with having a family, and especially how I manage my time.  When you learn how to manage your mind, something that I teach in The Balanced Accountant Program, you learn how to be nicer to yourself and believe in yourself instead of falling prey to unhealthy pressure.

While it’s normal to experience pressure, especially as an accountant and a mom, you have much more control than you may realize to lessen that pressure.  You’re doing a great job – you just need to understand your unique accountant brain better.     

 

 

Summary  

  • Whether you are in public or private accounting, if there’s one thing that all accountants have to deal with, it’s pressure.
  • The interesting thing is that in the deadline driven world of accounting, there are work-imposed pressures that cannot be avoided, but as moms we often create self-imposed pressures.
  • Just like there’s a healthy range for your blood pressure, in reality the pressure being too low is as concerning for a doctor as the pressure being too high.  The same thing goes for you – a healthy range of pressure is what can keep you balanced and moving forward, allowing your life to function properly.
Being An Example Of What’s Possible

Being An Example Of What’s Possible

If you are subscribed to newsletters or read online articles or blogs, you’ve most likely gotten used to seeing things about setting goals as each new year begins.  You may even be sick of the TV advertisements for gym memberships or new diet plans, promising to have you living your best life in just a few short months if you just set a New Year’s goal.

If you’ve become turned off by the bombardment of this type of message, I completely get it, which is why I’m not going to do the typical goal setting episode.  The reason I’m not going to do that in this week’s episode, as we start this brand new shiny year, is because I believe it’s more important to first deal with a more important issue – your lack of belief in what’s possible.

Most intelligent female accountants have the following in common – we’ll look for an area to grow in, whether the area is professionally or personally, we’ll typically take our company’s yearly review to heart and look at those areas marked “needs improvement”, and we’ll try to be the good little girls we were raised to be by following the rules laid out for us.  We’ll accept our 2-3% raise, say thank you for the much deserved extra week’s vacation, and promise to increase our billable hours.

But what most often stops so many of the accountant moms that I speak to and coach in their tracks when it comes to setting and achieving goals, are the challenges they face believing in what’s possible for them – as far as money, flexibility, time, growth, advancement, etc.  They’re reluctant to even consider certain possibilities.  

They generally dismiss the ideas of what’s possible for them due to factors like doubt, fear, overwhelm, and the biggest factor – confusion about how.  They might like the idea of possibly doubling their income, being able to be home when their kids get home from school, or being in control of their career advancement, but as soon as there’s a flicker of hope in the possibility, that light quickly gets extinguished with either the “But how?” question that stops so many of us in our tracks, or the thought that life is just too overwhelming as it is.

The reason I want to approach this episode of the new year differently is because I believe that before you jump into setting any goal for the upcoming year, you first need to spend a little time creating possibilities, even when you don’t currently believe something is possible.  The issue that I see time and time again for a lot of women is that we short change ourselves when we go after goals because of one very important fact – what we believe is and isn’t possible is often a lie our brain is telling us.

The reason that I know it’s a lie is because most of the time our lower, primitive brain is running the show and it looks to the past for proof of what’s possible right now and in the future.  The truth is that everyone has this issue, especially logic-based accountants, but it’s not the fault of our lower brain because it’s literally not capable of future-focused thinking or planning – just like you can stretch a rubber band to a certain point, eventually it’s going to snap back into place.

Thankfully we also have a higher part of our brain that can override the lower, past-focused part, allowing us to not only open up to possibilities, but also take steps towards making those possibilities into realities.  As you continue to listen to this episode, I really want you to hear this – you are not meant to be here, as both an accountant and a mom, and just settling for your overwhelmed, overworked, and overstressed life.,

You are here to challenge yourself, to push past what’s been possible in the past, and to create possibilities for your future.  You are also meant to be an example of what’s possible for your children, when you stop believing the lie your brain is telling you about what’s possible.

This week I’m going to discuss why the idea of possibilities is an issue for a lot of us and how you can create possibilities for yourself, your career, and your life.   

Why the idea of possibilities is an issue for a lot of us

Is there something that you’d love to have in your life, but every time you even think about it for a second or two, you quickly dismiss it?  Is it more money, more time, better relationships, better health?  What is it for you?  What are the things that you’d like, but just won’t allow yourself to think too much about or hope for?

Are there things that you want that you’re too scared to say out loud?  Would you like to leave your marriage, go out on your own and start your own firm, finally lose those 30 pounds for the last time, or take a trip without the kids?

No matter when you are listening to this episode, whether it’s the beginning of the year or not, I want you to pause for a second and allow yourself to go there.  I want you to open up to the ideas and dreams that you’ve stuffed up in the attic of your mind – the ones that you haven’t dusted off or looked at in quite awhile because you didn’t believe it was the right time, you didn’t think you were ready, or you were confused about how to make it happen.

Now pay attention to what happens in your mind, as soon as you consider dusting off that idea.  If you’re anything like me or the other accountant moms that I work with, your brain probably goes right to the past to look for evidence for whether something is possible or not.  If it doesn’t happen right away, give it a little time – it will.

Like I said before, your lower brain is wired to not only look to the past for evidence of what’s possible in the future, but it is highly motivated to keep things exactly the way they are.  This makes sense because possibilities inherently bring change, and as I’ve shared on this podcast before, change takes effort and your lower brain likes to expend as little energy as possible.

Even if someone else has done the thing you’d like to do, if they’ve shown that it’s possible, there’s still a lot of resistance that your brain will come up with in order for things to stay status quo for you.  The sneakiest and most common thought that robs most women of the ability to create possibilities is the thought,  “But I’ve never done that before”. 

Have you ever had that thought?  It feels so true right?  I’ve had that thought many, many times in the course of my life and my career, and I imagine that you’ve had it as well – “But I’ve never done that before”.

Here’s the problem with that thought – we then believe it and we agree with it.  We don’t question it.  We don’t realize that it’s our lower brain trying to keep us from opening up to, and creating, possibilities.  Often we’ll consider it a “sign” that we should just keep things the way they are.

But what if you’re wrong about that?  What if, just because you’ve never done that thing before – never made that much money before, never left your soul-sucking job to go out on your own before, never took a vacation without the kids before – what if none of that matters because you’re not supposed to know how to do something you’ve never done before.

Really think about that – what if you just allowed it to be okay that you’ve never done something before AND you’re still going to go after it anyway?  What if you’re looking in the wrong direction in order to figure out how to make something possible?

The truth is that the material you need to build your future possibility is NOT in your past, it’s in the future.  It’s in your ability to not extinguish the light of possibility, and to just let yourself dream and imagine a little more often, for more than a few seconds.

I know this can be challenging for practical accountants to wrap their minds around, but here’s something practical that might help you to see this better – the computer and smartphone that you use on a daily basis wasn’t possible until human brains decided to imagine something they’ve never done before.  The funny thing is, if we only ever did what we’ve done before, we wouldn’t have even gotten past the crawling stage when we were infants.

Just as you’ve witnessed your own children growing and doing things they’ve never done before, humans have an intrinsic need to grow, expand, and explore what’s possible.  By not allowing the past to dictate our future, we’re able to override that lower brain’s tendency to stay as is.

Think about it – other than nature, every modern convenience we have in our world today is actually a created possibility.  It’s all an example of what’s possible.  Over the millenia, human minds have been making possibilities into realities with many, many failed attempts along the way, with not having done something before, but with one thing in common – commitment.

For me, the “But I’ve never done that before” excuse, and looking to the past for proof of whether I can do something has shown up in many ways, but most recently in the possibility of writing a book.  Here’s the thing – I had an 11th grade English teacher who told me I wasn’t good at writing so that’s immediately where my brain went to when I thought of writing a book – I’ve never done it before and in the past I was told I wasn’t good at writing.

The more I considered writing a book, the more my lower brain worked overtime to convince me it was a bad idea – you’ve got enough on your plate, you have no idea how to write and publish a book, you can’t afford to take this on, and you’re probably going to fail.  Nice right?  Thanks brain!

Thankfully, I know enough about how our accountant brains work that I was able to override my lower brain’s focus on the past to keep me from the possibility of writing a book.  As we speak, I am in the process of writing a book for accountants, and to be honest, I continually need to manage my lower brain’s tendency to extinguish the light of possibility.

Hopefully from what I’ve said so far, you’re now open to thinking of some possibilities that you may have dismissed or let your lower brain convince you it wasn’t possible.  Honestly, that’s all you really need at the moment – to be open.  Now let’s talk about how to create those possibilities. 

How to create possibilities

So if you’re anything like me, you’ve probably got some messages or stories in your head from your past about what’s possible for you, whether it’s positive or negative.  Like I just shared, for me it was that 11th grade English teacher telling me I wasn’t very good at writing, but on the positive side, it was also my 10th grade bookkeeping teacher who told me I was really good at accounting.

You see, we’ve all gotten a mixed bag of messages and stories in our heads based on the past – things people have said, things we’ve done or not done, and things we’ve succeeded or failed at.  If you think about it, when we’re children we’re willing to try so many different things without a care in the world, but unfortunately as we get older we tend to use the past against ourselves as proof of what’s possible now.

The key to creating possibilities is using that higher, executive functioning part of your brain more often in order to imagine the result you want to create.  Just for now, forget about the fact that you’ve never created it or that you don’t know how to create it yet, and just use your higher brain’s ability to imagine you having the result.

I know this can sound a little silly for accountants but if you think about it, you’re already good at imagining the future.  You do it in your accounting work when you’re forecasting or doing projections,  but you’re also doing it in your personal life when you’re saving for retirement, planning a vacation, or even planning what you’re having for dinner tonight.

The truth is that you’re simply imagining a future moment in time, and what you want or believe will happen.  Just because you don’t know for sure that your forecast or projection is 100% accurate doesn’t stop you from discussing it with a client, just because you don’t really know how long you’ll live doesn’t stop you from planning your retirement, and just because you don’t know for sure that there won’t be a change in plans for dinner doesn’t stop you from planning on having spaghetti and meatballs tonight.

The interesting thing is that you wouldn’t stop yourself from offering a client a year end projection just because the numbers might change and you might be off, just like you wouldn’t stop yourself from meeting with an investment advisor about your retirement account even though you could die tomorrow.  You’re already allowing yourself to be open to creating possibilities.

So when it comes to bigger possibilities for you, your career, or your life, you have to use an imagined future in order to actually take steps to create that future.  You have to give yourself permission to believe something is possible before you have proof that it is, and then you need to take some action anyway.

One of the ways I learned to do this is to imagine a future moment in time where I had created a possibility and asked my future self “So how did you do it?”  This is actually an incredible exercise to do because it taps into your higher brain in a way that we typically don’t utilize – imagining the end result and the actions that takes us from point A to point B, and then point B to C, and so on.

For me writing my book, I imagined the hardcover version of the book being delivered to my home and showing it to my husband and children.  Once I had that picture clear in my mind, I literally asked myself, “So how did you do it?” and imagined signing up for a writer’s workshop, writing for 30 minutes everyday, finding an editor online, hiring my husband’s nephew to do the artwork for the book cover, self-publishing the book, being asked to speak at accounting conferences, as well as be a guest on other podcasts, and teaching the book’s material at colleges.

Whether any of that actually happens the way I imagined it, doesn’t matter.  Every day I keep imagining the hardcover of the book being delivered the house (I actually put a daily reminder on my phone to do this each morning), I keep checking in with the future version of me that has the result I want to ask her how she did it, and I keep being open to taking some form of action.

So the way that you can create possibilities and be an example of what’s possible  is to give yourself permission to imagine what you want, choose to believe that it is possible in order to create the feeling of commitment, allow your feeling of commitment to fuel your actions, and keep taking action while recommitting to the belief that it is possible.  But it’s also important to understand that even if you don’t create the possibility that you want, the fact that you imagined it and took the steps to make it happen WILL move you beyond where you are now, instead of settling for less or believing there’s nothing you can really do.

As the definition of insanity is “Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results”, the same thing goes with not creating possibilities.  You will unfortunately keep creating the same thing over and over if you let your lower brain tell you that you’ve never done something before, so why bother. 

I really want you to consider that there are millions of people who won’t allow themselves to create possibilities, who wake up every year, 5 years, or 10 years and wonder why things haven’t really changed for the better – why they’re unhappy at their job, why they’re settling in their relationships, and why they’re envious of those that have what they want.  They aren’t willing to be an example of what’s possible.

The best news I can give you is that you get to believe whatever you want about yourself, even if there’s no proof that it’s true.  It’s also important to understand that the executive functioning part of your brain is your best friend – it allows you to believe that you can double your income, go out on your own and be successful, leave your marriage and be okay, or take that trip without the kids and have a guilt-free time.

Just remember, you’re not supposed to know how to do something you’ve never done before, but please don’t let that stop you!  Let yourself be an example of what’s possible for your sake and your children’s.  When you show them what’s possible, you open up their world to possibilities as well.

 

Summary  

  • The issue that I see time and time again for a lot of women is that you short change yourself when you go after goals because of one very important fact – what you believe is and isn’t possible is often a lie your brain is telling you.
  • The sneakiest and most common thought that robs most women of the ability to create possibilities is the thought,  “But I’ve never done that before”. 
  • You will unfortunately keep creating the same thing over and over if you let your lower brain tell you that you’ve never done something before so why bother. 
The Importance Of Having A Personal Brand

The Importance Of Having A Personal Brand

Is it just me, or are you also hearing a lot more about having a personal brand?  It’s funny how you hear something a few times and then all of sudden you hear it in many different places – it’s as if your brain filters things, just like those ads that mysteriously pop up after you have talked about a particular pair of shoes.  Go figure!

If you’ve been following the podcast you’ll know that I’m saying this tongue in cheek because I’ve discussed many times how our brain works and how we actually do have a filtering system in our brain that shows us more of what we believe, just like those pop up ads.  The example I’ve often used is if you’re in the market to buy a particular car, possibly in a particular color, and then all of a sudden you see that car everywhere – it’s not a coincidence, it’s your brain doing what it’s supposed to do.

Knowing that this is how the brain works, I was laughing to myself when I saw a book on personal branding, a podcast on the subject popped up in my Itunes feed, and then my podcast interviewee, Bridget Kaigler, in episode #155 mentioned how her mentors had asked her to get clear on her personal brand.  With all these pop ups about personal branding, I figured it was time to discuss this topic with the accountant moms in the CPA MOMS community and with those that listen to this podcast.

In the book I saw titled “Reinventing You”, author and branding expert, Dorie Clark, explains that whether you want to advance faster at your present company, change jobs, or make the jump to a new field entirely, the goal is clear – to build a career that thrives on your unique passions and talents.  But to achieve that in today’s competitive job market, it’s almost certain that at some point you’ll need to reinvent yourself professionally.

In the book she describes several situations where you would consider reinventing yourself professionally and creating a personal brand:

  • You’re at a new phase in life and you want to be known for something different
  • You’ve been laid off and need to ensure you’re in the best position possible to land a new job quickly
  • You want to move up in your company, and you need to take control of your reputation
  • You’ve been trying to win a promotion, but feel you’re being held back by misconceptions about what you’re capable of
  • You’d like to move into a different area of your company
  • You’re just starting out in your career and haven’t built up a powerful resume yet, so you need to find another way to stand out
  • You’re changing careers and need to make a compelling case that your unusual background is an asset, not a liability
     

Her approach to creating a personal brand is understandably very externally focused, helping you to be seen in the best light possible by others as you explore what the next chapter in your career and your life might look like.  It’s about recognizing your strengths and weaknesses, developing the skills you need, having mentors and others to support you, and leveraging what you have in order to take you to where you want to be.

But in this week’s podcast I want to discuss your personal brand in a slightly different way, not so much based on that book I read, but based on the podcast that I listened to, which actually ties into a lot of what I teach you on this podcast.  I think it’s going to help you see the importance of having a personal brand in a way that you might not have considered before.

Whether you think you’d like to have a personal brand or not for work or career purposes, I suggest you listen to this entire episode because whether you realize it or not, the truth is that you already have a personal brand.  You may not agree with me, but you actually do have a personal brand which is why it’s also important to understand what it is and how you might want to mold or shape it.   

This week I’m going to discuss what a personal brand is and an important way to approach reshaping or creating one.   


What a personal brand is

When you think of the word “brand” what comes to mind?  Do you think of big brands like Amazon, Apple, or McDonalds?  Or do you think of smaller things like the brand of toothpaste your family likes or the brand of mechanical pencils you can’t live without at work?

When it comes to the concept of a brand, most of us would most likely mention the name of a company or product that we know, trust, and like.  Similarly, the American Marketing Association defines a brand as “A name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller’s goods or service as distinct from those of other sellers”.

But have you ever thought of the fact that a brand isn’t just its logos or slogans – those are a brand’s aesthetic or how you, the consumer, visualize it.  A brand is really what people think and feel when they see that logo, hear that slogan, or interact with that product or company. 

From an accountant’s perspective, we are privy to the finances of companies and are well aware of the fact that many pay huge amounts of money in order to develop their brand and to make sure that the public thinks and feels a certain way when they’re interacting with their product.  Just take a second and think about some of those brands that you gravitate towards and what you think and how you feel when you consider them.

For example, if you think about Amazon, their well-researched and tested logo has a smile on it, giving the consumer a sense of happiness, whether you’re aware of it or not, because we can’t help but associate a smile with something good.  For a mega brand like Amazon, they’re customer satisfaction is paramount to their success, and they know full well that customer trust and loyalty is the key to their growth.

So in similar fashion to a company’s brand, a personal brand can also be considered what others think and feel when they see you, hear you, and interact with you.  It’s the know-trust-like factor of your product – which is you!

The interesting thing is that, like the focus of that book I mentioned, most of us would consider our personal brand from an external perspective – making sure that people like us, want to work with us, and think we’re valuable.  When we would consider optimizing our personal brand, we would most likely focus on improving the perception that others have about us.

In other words, we would want to understand the impressions of those whose opinions we care about, focusing on our external brand.  It makes total sense since our brains are hardwired to seek approval of others and we’ve been taught to believe that what others think about us matters.  

Of course you would want others to think well of you in professional and personal settings.   You would want others to not only know what you’re all about, but also what your personal brand stands for based on what’s important to you and what your skills and talents are.  

In essence, how they think and feel about you will dictate their actions, just like how you think and feel about certain brands dictates your actions.  Whether it’s warm and fuzzy thoughts about a particular car manufacturing brand that excels in safety features, or it’s cold mistrust of that fast food chain that mistreats its employees, what we all think and feel then fuels what we do and what we purchase.  

So while being externally focused on your personal brand is important, it also puts you in situations where you wind up spending a lot of time and energy trying to control the narrative and someone else’s thoughts and feelings.  Unfortunately, especially for smart accountants, you can get caught up in looking for validation and valuing the opinion of others more than the most important opinion – yours.

While it makes sense to be externally focused when it comes to branding, I also want to help you to see that being internally focused is just as important when it comes to having a personal brand.  The reason this is so important is because how you think and feel about YOU is going to drive how you show up.

Think about all the ways you show up in the world.  How you think and feel affects  things like your body language, the tone of your voice, the ideas that you think of, and your ability to act and react in ways that you want.

When you are internally focused on your personal brand, before being externally focused, you feel more secure, more confident, and less desperate for the validation of others.  Being internally focused allows you to build a strong foundation either before or during your interactions and those times when you might be promoting your personal brand.

The issue is that if you aren’t internally solid and shored up, then when the inevitable naysayers show up and ignore you or reject you and your personal brand, you’re more likely to crumble or have your confidence erode over time.  Or worse, you wind up becoming needy and controlling, trying to change their perception of you. 

As I said before, whether you realize it or not, you already have a personal brand which is based on how you already show up in the world, but also based on how you think and feel about yourself.  This is why it’s important to choose on purpose, rather than by default, what you want your personal brand to be and how you can start optimizing it more, from an internal standpoint, which is where all your power is anyway.

So whether you’re in a board meeting or a PTA bake sale, let’s consider the importance of the internal optimization of your personal brand.  


The importance of the internal optimization of your personal brand

I don’t know about you, but whenever I’m learning something, the easiest way for me to understand a concept is to see examples.  When I listened to the podcast that was teaching this concept of the internal optimization of your personal brand, it was the examples that really helped me to see the difference between the external versus the internal focus of a personal brand.

So with that in mind, I think it’s best if I go through some examples that you might be able to relate to in order to show the importance of the internal optimization of your personal brand in both professional and personal settings:

Example #1 – You have a managerial or leadership position at your company or firm, or perhaps you are a mompreneur with your own firm like our CPA MOMS franchisees.  Let’s say you’ve gone through performance reviews and you had to let an employee go.

Optimizing your external brand – you would focus on wanting others to not feel like you’re a person that randomly fires people.  You might have thoughts like “They don’t know all the things that went wrong with this employee” or “They don’t know everything that went into making that decision”.  You might think you need others to know you’re a good person or that you did everything you could.  From thoughts like those, you would probably show up defensive or worried.  In the end, you actually wouldn’t wind up being the leader you want to be.

Optimizing your internal brand – you would focus on how you think and feel about firing the employee.  You might choose to think “That was hard but it was the right thing to do” or “I understand it was the right decision and that’s enough for me”.  By optimizing your internal brand, you decide that you’re a good person and that you did everything you could before letting this employee go.  From thoughts like those, you would most likely show up calm and compassionate.  In the end, you would move forward as a leader who does what needs to be done and owns the tough decisions that need to be made. 

Example #2 – You’re an accountant mom who is either reentering the workforce after taking time to raise your children and have a gap in your resume, or you’ve had various jobs and just haven’t found the right fit.  You’re now worried that this might be a problem as you go on interviews.

Optimizing your external brand – you would focus on needing to explain or justify what you see as issues with your resume.  You might have thoughts like “I hope they don’t penalize me” or “I hope they don’t point out the issues with the resume”.  You might think you need to make them understand that the gap in your resume or the various jobs wasn’t your fault.  From thoughts like those, you would probably show up insecure or lacking confidence.  In the end, you actually wouldn’t be showing up as your best for the interview.

Optimizing your internal brand – you would focus on how great you feel about having taken time to raise your children or the fact that you are willing to take on various jobs to figure out what best suits you.  You might choose to think “Of course there’s a gap in my resume because I chose the best time to set my children up for success in their lives” or “I changed jobs because they didn’t support the vision I have for my future”.  From thoughts like those, you would most likely show up relaxed and confident.  In the end, you would show up to the interviews, answering their questions, and being able to guide the conversation more towards the future and how you would be an asset.

So hopefully you can see from these few examples that when you are focused on optimizing your external brand, you are in essence outsourcing your results to others and giving your power away.  But when you focus on optimizing your internal brand, you are much more likely to get the results you want.

In order to start optimizing your internal brand and boost your confidence, I suggest you start to pay more attention to what you think about you, than what you want others to think about you.  So if you had to guess, what would you say your personal brand is right now?  Check in with that voice in your head – how kind is it towards you?  What are your values?  What’s important to you?

Do a little exploration about what matters to you but also how supportive you are towards yourself.  You’ll have a much better chance at developing a strong personal brand when you make sure your internal brand is stronger than anything else.

When you focus on optimizing your internal brand, it becomes much easier to then optimize your external brand as well.  And the best part – there’s a lot less chance of people-pleasing when you do.    


Summary  

  • The truth is that you already have a personal brand which is why it’s also important to understand what it is and how you might want to mold or shape it.
  • Similar to a company’s brand, a personal brand can also be considered what others think and feel when they see you, hear you, and interact with you.  It’s the know-trust-like factor of your product – which is you!
  • While it makes sense to be externally focused when it comes to branding, I also want to help you to see that being internally focused is just as important when it comes to having a personal brand.   
How To Get Closure

How To Get Closure

As 2021 comes to a close, I was thinking about the past few years and how much our lives have been turned upside down with the world wide pandemic that began in early 2020.  I was considering all the changes that have happened to me both professionally and personally, and I was thinking about doing a podcast on the topic of “making peace with the past”.

As I was doing the research that I typically do before creating my notes for a podcast episode, I came across a podcast on the topic of closure.  At first I wasn’t going to bother listening, but then I realized it might be exactly what I need to look into, in my understanding of making peace with the past.

You see, just a few months prior to this, a very good friend that I had a very close friendship with for 17 years, decided that she no longer wanted to have a relationship with me.  I had asked her a question, she didn’t like the question, and she texted me that she didn’t want to talk to me, that she had been feeling a “certain way” about our friendship for a while, and she didn’t want to have any contact until she was ready to talk.

To say I was shocked was an understatement, but I decided to just give her whatever space she needed to figure out whatever it was that was bothering her.  The only problem was that now I was left with a bunch of unanswered questions – What just happened?  What did she mean she had been feeling a certain way for awhile?  We spoke, in one form or another, every single day for 17 years, so why didn’t she say something? 

As you can imagine my brain was a jumble of thoughts, questions, and scenarios, and much to my husband’s chagrin, I couldn’t stop thinking about the situation.  I kept asking other friends what they thought, I kept going over the issue with my husband, and I kept reliving the story in my head, trying to make sense of it all.

Needless to say, it took me at least a few weeks to realize how much this issue was not only affecting me at home, but also at work.  I would be focused on some complicated tax return and then all of a sudden I’d be distracted, thinking about how I didn’t deserve to be treated the way she treated me and about what I would say if we ever did speak again.

Honestly, I didn’t want to be consumed by this issue, but my thoughts kept coming back to the fact that I didn’t have closure – that I didn’t know what the issue was or had the chance to defend myself against some unnamed wrongdoing.  I didn’t want to keep focusing on the issue, but it felt like I just couldn’t help myself.

Thankfully in my research about the topic of making peace with the past I discovered that podcast episode on closure and everything began to make sense.  I was able to see what was going on, why I had such a strong need for closure, why my thoughts were also drawn to other times in my life when I didn’t have closure, but more importantly, what to do about it.

I was relieved to discover that there was an answer and once I understood it, I knew I needed to share it with the CPA MOMS Podcast audience because I’m going to bet that you’ve also had situations in your life where you wanted closure and may not have gotten it.  I know I’m not alone in this – where something ended, like a relationship or a job, or maybe something changed in some way, and you were left trying to move forward without being stuck in the past.

So if you have a situation with someone or something in which you need to get closure, I’m here to tell you that it’s not only possible, but that it’s incredibly powerful.  You no longer have to be conflicted or distracted like I was, because there is a way to get closure so that you can move forward.

This week I’m going to discuss why closure is an issue for a lot of us and how to get closure if you’ve been struggling.   

 

Why closure is an issue

When it comes to the concept of closure, typically most of us talk about it in an interactive way.  We’ll say something like we need to talk to an ex-lover or ex-friend and get closure on why the relationship ended, or we need to talk to our parents and get closure about something that happened in our childhood.  We often refer to closure when we have some type of negative emotions involving  interactions with other people.

We then believe that we need to have an interaction with the other person in order to give us closure.  In essence, this thing happened, we feel upset, confused, or angry, and now we believe we need a chance to interact with the other person, or people, involved so that we can stop feeling all the negative feelings we’re carrying around like a heavy backpack.

While this makes perfect sense if we believe that other people cause our feelings, the truth is that they don’t cause our feelings, but unfortunately we’ve never been taught this fact.  As children we were told things like “Don’t hurt his feelings” or “Make sure you apologize for hurting her feelings”, making us believe that the cause of our feelings are often other people, the things they do or don’t do, and vice versa.

The interesting thing is that In my life coaching training and continuing education, I learned that circumstances don’t cause feelings – that our thoughts do – but that knowledge flew out the window when the situation with my friend happened.  I truly felt that her telling me that she didn’t want to talk to me and that she had been feeling a certain way about our friendship, was the reason I was feeling hurt, confused, and upset.  But that wasn’t true.

What I learned from listening to that podcast episode that I found, is that when it comes to closure, we typically fall into one or both of the following categories in our mistaken way of thinking about closure – we believe we need to understand why something happened and/or we believe we need an apology or an acknowledgement for what happened.

I have to admit that I fell into both categories – I wanted closure because I wanted to understand my friend’s reasoning and, if I’m completely honest, I also wanted her to apologize for treating me the way she did.  But here’s the thing I learned listening to that podcast that changed everything for me – both of those things are lies that our brains tell us.

We actually DON’T need to understand the situation more and we DON’T need the other person or people to apologize or agree with us to actually feel better.  The reason it’s so common to want to get closure from other people is because we believe that other people control our feelings – we also get fixated on closure because so many of us are consumed with our thoughts about the past.

The truth is that we wind up so distracted from what’s happening right here and right now, just like I was when I was at work and at home, because we’re living in our thoughts about the past.  We give the past so much power over us, believing that the past is what makes us who we are and that the past limits who we can be, so of course we’re obsessed about the past and trying to correct any “wrongs”.

But the issue is that when we blame other people for how we feel, we also then believe that they can set us free by giving us closure about something that happened.  Of course there are times where after we’ve talked to someone, we feel a sense of relief from the negative feelings we were having, but that’s only because of one thing – we changed our own thoughts about the situation, not because the other person changed our feelings.  That, my friends, is huge when it comes to getting closure!

The interesting key that I discovered is that even if I understand better what happened by talking to my friend, I won’t actually feel any better because I’d still be believing that it shouldn’t have happened the way it did and that it was negative that it happened that way.  Even if my friend called me up, agreed with me, and apologized, I probably still wouldn’t feel better long term because I’d be believing that it shouldn’t have happened the way it did or that it or she should have been different.   

So basically the reason that closure is an issue for a lot of us, is that what we really want is emotional resolution from our thoughts about the past.  We want to feel resolved and at peace – we want the absence of suffering around a circumstance; the absence of wanting things to have gone differently; the absence of believing that things would be better if they were different.  

What I realized was that when I say I need closure from the situation with my friend, what I was really saying is that it shouldn’t have happened, that I need to understand why it happened, and that I  possibly need to have her acknowledge or apologize for what happened.  In essence, I was putting her in charge of my emotions, my ability to be present in this moment, and my ability to move forward.

I was arguing with the reality of the situation and putting my friend in charge of my relief from the negative feelings I was having.  I wanted to feel better and move forward without being consumed with questions and feelings of hurt and frustration, but I was mistakenly outsourcing my relief.

If you’ve been struggling with an issue that you believe you need closure from, I’m going to help you to free yourself and be able to move forward without being stuck in the past.

 

How to get closure if you’ve been struggling

It doesn’t matter if the situation that you’re trying to get closure from happened recently or a long time ago, the solution is the same.  When you want to get closure, the best news I can tell you is that you need to understand one important thing – that it has to come from you, because no one else can give it to you, nor do they need to.  You may not realize it, but that is the best news ever.

As with the popular definition of insanity – doing the same thing over and over, but expecting different results – the key to getting closure if you’ve been struggling is understanding that the only person who can give you closure is you, not the repetitive thoughts about what the other person should or shouldn’t do.  The reason this is true is because, like I said before, what you’re really trying to get when you want closure is relief from the negative emotions you’re feeling about a situation, but it’s never the person or the situation that’s creating the negative emotions you’re experiencing – it’s only the thoughts you’re choosing to think about it all.

In my example with my friend, what I now understand is that I wasn’t hurt because she texted me that she didn’t want to talk to me, that she had been feeling a “certain way” about our friendship for a while, and she didn’t want to have any contact until she was ready to talk – I was feeling hurt because of the thoughts I was choosing to think about those things.  What I really needed closure from was my looping thoughts about how I need to understand what happened, about how I didn’t deserve to be treated that way, and about how it shouldn’t have happened the way it did.

I was thinking painful thoughts about the situation and creating more and more pain from myself, which is why I was fixated on getting closure.  I was mistakenly thinking that my friend held the key to the relief from my pain, when the truth was it was ME all along – I held the key to the relief I was seeking.

The funny thing is, even if she did go a week or two and text me back with her reasoning, I wouldn’t really have had closure because she would have said XYZ and I’d still be thinking my looping thoughts about how I really need to understand what happened, how I didn’t deserve to be treated that way, or how it shouldn’t have even happened.

The most liberating thing when it comes to closure that I can share with you is that if you have something painful from your present or your past that you’ve been fixated on, you can get closure any time that you want.  You don’t have to be stuck any longer.

So how do you give yourself closure?  You have to pay attention to the negative thoughts you’ve been thinking and believing about the situation, and you have to stop resisting the reality of what happened.  You have to stop believing that things would be better if they had been different.

You don’t have to understand more about what happened or the other person’s thoughts and feelings, you don’t have to get an apology or acknowledgement, and you don’t even need to ever speak to the person involved again.  You just have to decide to accept that whatever happened, happened.

You don’t even need to believe that “it was always meant to happen that way”.  The host of the podcast shared that a helpful thought she uses when it comes to closure is “It couldn’t have happened any other way”.

Think about that – the other person or people involved had certain thoughts, feelings, and actions that created a result.  At a particular moment in time, this IS what happened and the reason it couldn’t have happened any other way, is because it didn’t.

There truly is so much freedom in not arguing with reality.  It really frees you up to stop the suffering, to stop the questioning and needing to get to the bottom of things – it helps you to be able to move forward, free from resentment because you understand that nothing has gone wrong. 

You cannot change what happened in the past no matter how much you disagree with it, and the only reason we ever want the past to be different is because of what we’re making it mean.  In my example, I originally made the situation mean that I must be a bad friend and that I must have done something wrong, which just sent my brain into an unhelpful tailspin of looking for proof of what I was believing.

So here’s what I know now – this situation happened and I get to choose how I want to think about it – I get to be grateful for the 17 years of friendship that we shared, but now I’m moving on with appreciation for the amount of time the friendship lasted and appreciation for myself and how I’m able to let things be.  I’m giving myself closure because I deserve it  – and who better than me, to give me what I need?

I no longer need to spin in confusion about what happened because that just keeps me stuck.  I no longer need to wait for her to contact me to get closure because I can give it to myself.  It couldn’t have happened any other way – our friendship was meant to last the exact amount of time it lasted.  That’s the story I now tell.

My friend has her own story about what happened and why she did what she did, but that no longer matters.  I don’t need to understand her reasons, I don’t need the situation to be different than it was because the best person to give me closure is me.

Now it’s your turn – where are you resisting reality?  Where are you believing that something should have happened differently?  Where are you expecting someone to give you closure?  Here’s my advice – do yourself a huge favor and give it to yourself – I promise you it’s worth it and you deserve the peace of mind.

 

Summary  

  • I know I’m not alone in this – where something ended, like a relationship or a job, or maybe something changed in some way, and you were left trying to move forward without being stuck in the past.
  • When it comes to closure, we typically fall into one or both of the following categories in our mistaken way of thinking about closure – we believe we need to understand why something happened and/or we believe we need an apology or an acknowledgement for what happened.
  • The most liberating thing when it comes to closure that I can share with you is that if you have something painful from your present or your past that you’ve been fixated on, you can get closure any time that you want.