Stepping Out Of Your Comfort Zone

Stepping Out Of Your Comfort Zone

Stepping Out Of Your Comfort Zone

As accountants, doing what’s familiar, what seems logical, and what appears safe, is often what leads us to an accounting career in the first place.  Most of us did well in subjects like Math, enjoying the structure, the ability to solve problems, and the good feeling when a problem was eventually solved.

If you think about it, you didn’t choose a more riskier career path for a reason.  Like a lot of the accountants I work with and coach, you might have been leaning towards some other area of study –  maybe you considered being a lawyer, a doctor, or a teacher.

But something made you gravitate towards accounting; something made you either choose it early on, or switch gears and choose it after trying something else.  No matter what your reasons were, you made various decisions that led you to where you are today.

But what happens for a lot of accountants is that we gravitate towards, and can often get stuck in,  comfort zones that can make it challenging to grow and evolve.  We become so comfortable in what’s familiar that we forget to question whether we’re really fulfilled, and then we convince ourselves that “here” is better than some unknown “there”.

I’m sure you’ve experienced this in many different ways, where it’s the “devil you know” that keeps you in a relationship, a job, or a situation that’s not ideal, but you convince yourself to stay because at least it’s familiar.  Maybe you stayed in a marriage longer than you really wanted because you convinced yourself it wasn’t that bad; maybe you’re currently in a job that doesn’t value your worth or your time, but you stay because it’s where you’ve been for so long that the thought of leaving scares you.

We all have comfort zones that seem to make sense on the surface, but unfortunately they are often what’s holding us back.  At first glance it makes sense that we don’t want to end that relationship, leave that job to become an entrepreneur, or get that bold new haircut, because stepping out of our comfort zone can be uncomfortable.

You also may have found that the older you get, the more you want to exist and operate in your comfort zone.  You were probably more willing to do unfamiliar things when you were younger, but now that you’re older and you’ve had various life experiences, you may not even realize how much time you spend in your comfort zone.

There’s nothing wrong with having a comfort zone, however, when you consistently live within it, the size of that comfort zone begins to shrink.  In essence you start out doing a lot of things, then you begin doing less, and eventually what feels comfortable becomes less and less.

If this past year or so of the pandemic has shown us anything, it’s that life can be incredibly unpredictable, which is why we might be gravitating even more to our comfort zones. It’s relatively predictable and safe, so we don’t have to worry about threats and unpleasant surprises all the time.

The issue is that, if you don’t take an honest look at your comfort zones every now and then, consider how they might be holding you back, and how to step out of them, you are going to wake up 5, 10 or 20 years from now and wish you had done something differently.  Hopefully this episode will teach you that stepping out of your comfort zone does not need to be such a scary thing and that it’s possible to do things that are unfamiliar.

Interestingly, if you look back, many of your best experiences were times you were outside of your comfort zone.  Even things like something new you did on vacation, a new recipe you were willing to try, or just new ideas you were open to learning from; there have probably been many times that you benefited from pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and didn’t realize it.

This week I’m going to discuss where your comfort zone comes from and why it exists, as well as why it’s important to step out of your comfort zone and how.

 

Where your comfort zone comes from and why it exists

No matter where your comfort zone lies, whether it’s in the work you do, the relationships you’re in, the clothes you wear, or even in the way you get ready in the morning, comfort zones exist because of one important reason – you have a primitive part of your brain that thrives on sameness.  This part of your brain has a very important job, and that job is to keep you alive.

It keeps you alive by sending up warning flares, in the form of stress hormones, whenever you think about something that’s unfamiliar.  For example, when you get frustrated at your job and consider leaving, your primitive brain is what offers you thoughts like:

  • It’s really not that bad
  • You have no idea how much worse it can be somewhere else
  • You’re not qualified to do something else

To the primitive brain, anything that’s familiar is safe, even if it’s not helpful to you in the long term.  Your primitive brain is completely risk averse and is all about immediate reward, which means if it’s not immediately pleasurable, that part of your brain is not on board, especially if the reward or the pleasure might take awhile.

The interesting thing though is that the drive for growth is innate in us as humans.  Think about it – everything we’ve done, created and advanced over tens of thousands of years is because we have an intrinsic desire to expand and to push ourselves to be, do and have more.

So what happens for most of us, is that we wind up having a battle between our innate need to grow and evolve as a human and our primitive brain’s desire for sameness.  The issue when it comes to staying in our comfort zone for too long is that when we’re not growing, we wind up being grumpy, dissatisfied, and discontent because we’re actually not tapping into our full potential.

On the one hand your primitive brain thinks it’s protecting you from danger, and that the safest place for you to be is in your comfort zone.  But on the other hand your inherent desire to not stay the same, to do, be, or have other things, can create a big, confusing, sometimes exhausting tug-of-war.

It’s important to understand that as an accountant, a lack of personal growth can often be a huge reason why you are dissatisfied professionally.  You may have all the professional credentials and take all the CPE courses, but still be unhappy with the direction your accounting career is going.

This is also one of the reasons why a lot of accountants consider leaving the profession – you’re not focusing on personal growth as much as you could, opting for the more comfortable path of focusing on professional growth, and having a tug-of-war between your innate desire to evolve and your primitive brain’s desire to not step out of your comfort zone.  Thankfully, there is a way to manage it all.

So my challenge to you is to apply the tools I’m going to teach you, WHILE you are in your current comfort zone, and then from THAT place, make a decision about what you want to do next.

 

Why it’s important to step out of your comfort zone and how

First let me share my personal journey with pushing myself out of my comfort zone so that you might be able to relate to my struggle:

My early childhood entailed a lot of upheaval and drama, so once I was encouraged to study accounting in high school, and was told that accounting was a great career for a woman, I loved the idea of having a straight and steady path to take.  I liked believing “If this, then this” that math and accounting seemed to offer; I found comfort in the idea that I could find the answer to math problems.

Fast forward to 12 years working with the Big 4 and then 12 more years working for smaller firms, my innate human desire for growth was pulling at me.  Just like the carnival game “Whack a Mole”, I kept slapping the desire down, over and over, because my primitive brain was only on board with keeping things the way they were; working as an accountant, raising my children, and taking 2 weeks vacation each year.

But something kept pulling at me to step out of my comfort zone.  There was something nagging at me to be, do, and have more than I was giving myself permission to have, even though it would be uncomfortable to do things that were unfamiliar and possibly risk failure as well.

That’s when the idea of studying to become a life coach and having a coaching practice became apparent to me.  Taking what I already learned being an accountant for decades, building a business from scratch, creating this podcast, being able to speak to hundreds of accountants every week; it all came down to learning how to step out of my comfort zone and step into my possibilities.

But here’s a benefit that I hadn’t really considered about why it’s important to step out of your comfort zone – because you then become much better at handling changes and challenges like we all just experienced this past year with the pandemic.  Experiencing various moments of stress and anxiety as I pushed myself out of my comfort zone, studied to become a coach, and built a coaching business, all made it easier to be more comfortable with things being uncomfortable.

Since most of the listeners of this podcast are moms, consider this analogy – a baby learns to eventually walk by pushing itself past it’s comfort zone.  The fact is that by continually falling and getting up again, a baby strengthens its leg muscles in order for its body to actually hold itself upright and steady in order to perfect the act of walking.

So just like your children, every time you challenge yourself to go out of your comfort zone, whether it’s with big or small things, you’re actually creating evidence for yourself that you can feel scared or uncomfortable, and do something anyway.  You begin to train your primitive brain to see change or growth as doable, by virtue of the fact that you’ve got proof that you survived the discomfort.

Because of the work I had done in order to become a coach and create a coaching business, it was also much easier to say yes when my daughter said she wanted to jump out of a plane with me for her 26th birthday.  Of course there was a mixture of excitement and fear, but I was able to step out of the comfort of staying on land so that I could have the amazing experience of jumping out of a plane at 13,000 feet.

So in order to step out of your comfort zone, I first suggest that you start small.  Choose something that is challenging but not totally overwhelming, like changing a daily routine, delegating something you normally do to someone else, or setting a small goal like drinking a specific amount of water each day.

Here’s the next most important step – when you feel uncomfortable with whatever you’re doing that’s out of your comfort zone, ask yourself this question – “Why am I feeling uncomfortable?”  This might sound like a silly question to ask, but it will get you to the heart of the matter.

The only reason you feel uncomfortable is because of a thought, so it’s important to know what that thought is.  Once you know what the thought is, you’re more than halfway to learning how to step out of your comfort zone because you now know what’s causing the fear or discomfort, and more importantly, you can do something about it.

As I’ve shared many times on this podcast, your thoughts are 100% optional, but most of us don’t realize that.  We just go about our lives, having various thoughts and feelings, doing or not doing certain things, and getting results that we believe we have very little power over; basically, we have a thought and automatically believe it’s true.

The good news is that all you have to do is manage your mind better.  You have to sit down and decide on purpose what you want to think, instead of what you’re currently thinking.

For example, what I was originally thinking when my daughter requested that we jump out of a plane was simply “That’s insane.  We’re going to die” which of course created fear and anxiety.  But wanting to step out of my comfort zone and do this with her, I chose the thought “This could be fun.  Plenty of people do this all the time”.

I didn’t judge myself for feeling fear and anxiety, I just let that primitive part of my brain tell me what it’s programmed to tell me in order to keep me safe; it was just doing its job.  Once I understood that, then I chose different thoughts on purpose in order to move past the initial discomfort.

It also helps to look at times when you’ve overcome something in the past so that you can choose feelings like pride, strength, or resilience.  Choosing those feelings on purpose and then choosing thoughts that will create those feelings, is one of the best ways to step out of your comfort zone.

The experience of doing hard things is not as hard when you’re not indulging in mind drama.  When you can understand that your primitive brain is just doing its job, but that you can also use your higher brain to decide to do something unfamiliar, that’s when you grow professionally and personally.

For the next week, think about how you could become a better accountant, a better mom, a better friend, etc.  Are you challenging yourself or are you waiting for someone else to?  Do you think it’s someone else’s job to make your job, your relationships, or your life more satisfying?

Think about something you’d like to do but aren’t sure you can do; something you’re just too afraid to do; something that you feel really uncomfortable when you think about it.  Now decide to do it, fear and all.

The worst thing that can happen is an uncomfortable feeling, and you can totally handle that.  Besides, an uncomfortable feeling like fear is just small chemical reactions in your body; that’s all it is.

It might be uncomfortable at first, but once you practice being comfortable with being uncomfortable, then stepping out of your comfort zone will get easier.  So don’t let your brain’s natural desire for a comfort zone stop you from stepping out of it.  There’s so much to be discovered and experienced outside of it!

 

Summary  

  • What happens for a lot of accountants is that we gravitate towards, and can often get stuck in,  comfort zones that can make it challenging to grow and evolve.
  • The issue is that, if you don’t take an honest look at your comfort zones every now and then, consider how they might be holding you back, and how to step out of them, you are going to wake up 5, 10 or 20 years from now and wish you had done something differently.
  • When we’re not growing, we wind up being grumpy, dissatisfied, and discontent because we’re actually not tapping into our full potential.
 
Interview With Bridget Kaigler, CPA, About Her Humble Beginnings and Non-Traditional Path To Becoming A CPA

Interview With Bridget Kaigler, CPA, About Her Humble Beginnings and Non-Traditional Path To Becoming A CPA

Interview With Bridget Kaigler, CPA, About Her Humble Beginnings and Non-Traditional Path To Becoming A CPA

 

Bridget Kaigler, CPA, CGMA, CMA, MBA is a seasoned professional with more than twenty years of experience in tax and financial analyses.  Bridget’s humble beginnings and non-traditional path to becoming a CPA was the foundation and encouragement to begin her own company, Bringing Leadership Back, LLC.  The company was founded to help aspiring leaders grow.

Bridget is the recipient of the 2021 Society of Louisiana CPAs Distinguished Public Service Award and is a frequent speaker and freelance writer on the topic of leadership and career strategy.  She was featured by Career Mastered Magazine, Accounting Today, Journal of Accountancy, and was the cover story “Bringing Leadership Back: Perspectives in helping aspiring leaders grow” in Lagniappe Magazine.

Here are the highlights from this interview:

  • Bridget was raised by her grandparents and was encouraged to go to college, but they unfortunately both passed away when she was 18
  • She felt like she lost her “cheerleaders” when they passed away so she didn’t start college after finishing high school and wound up marrying at a very young age and divorcing.
  • During that time she had a son and he became her motivation to figure out her next steps
  • At the time she was working minimum wage, part-time jobs, she had disconnect and eviction notices
  • It was a struggle being a single parent and not having the support system she had with her grandparents
  • To make ends meet she took temp jobs as a receptionist, a telemarketer, and as admin
  • For 3 years she didn’t have a car and needed to take the bus with her young son, drop him off at daycare, get back on the bus, and take it to her temp job
  • One day a complete stranger came up to her, as she was complaining about her situation, and said “I don’t know you.  I don’t know what you’re going through, but I feel like I need to tell you, but what’s going to get you out of it is an education.”
  • That stranger changed her life by echoing what her grandparents wanted for her as well.
  • She decided right then and there, a change starts now.
  • She needed to find a university that she could still work full-time and take school at night, having to support her son.
  • Although she was studying accounting, having one professor ask her if she considered becoming a CPA, that also changed the trajectory of her life and career.
  • She says she wouldn’t change anything about her journey because she learned her journey wasn’t about her; it was about all the people she would cross paths with that would hear her story and that it would give them hope.
  • Even though she started her education and career later than most, she believes that we can all encourage each other and share our stories in order to bring hope to others.
  • Because of her struggles she has so much openness and compassion for others as well.
  • When she started leading her own teams, she started approaching leadership in a different way.
  • Her state’s CPA society recognized how powerful her non-traditional path and story are and encouraged her to speak about her struggles and her experiences.
  • She discovered how to improve her confidence and she encourages leaders to have a vision.
  • She asks you to not be afraid to ask for help, to be vulnerable, and to find those mentors and allies that can support you.
  • She shares that we need to define what success looks like for you, not what it looks like for others, and to check in with yourself at various stages in your life to redefine what success means to you at that point in your life.
  • She encourages you to dream big and just start taking action on micro goals.
  • Ask yourself what your “personal brand” is and don’t let others define what you’re capable of.
  • Her 5-year vision is to support the accounting profession, to encourage non-traditional individuals, to expand her reach in diversity and inclusion, and to move forward with her company Bringing Leadership Back.
 
Strategies To Help You Handle Disagreements

Strategies To Help You Handle Disagreements

As an accountant, you’ve probably learned some form of conflict management in your continuing education or in some type of corporate training.  You’ve most likely come across an article, a seminar or possibly some continuing education class that addresses conflict management. Most of the time we’re taught conflict management in terms of work conflicts.  For example, there’s an issue between lower and upper management, and you’re taught how to approach, manage, and resolve conflicts in as productive and efficient a way as possible, often with certain protocols put in place to ensure that conflicts are dealt with in a fair and professional manner. While there are also many books and seminars that teach conflict management, especially in business settings, what about just normal, everyday disagreements?  What about when you don’t agree with your spouse, your mother-in-law, or your children?  Most of us, me included, aren’t very good at disagreeing with someone without getting upset. Unfortunately, if the 2020 election year and the pandemic protocols in the United States are any indication, disagreements can become so divisive that they can tear relationships apart, divide us to the point of explosive anger, and leave us with a Grand Canyon-size gap between those that agree with us and those that don’t.  Sometimes we can agree to disagree, but more often than not, we can’t even sustain that agreement. So before I discuss a better way to handle disagreements, let’s first discuss what a disagreement really is.  The definition that I found is a “lack of consensus or approval”, which means that, on the spectrum of disagreements, you could have a slight difference of opinion on one end, or an all out feud on the other end. For example, on the lower end of the spectrum, you can disagree on what restaurant to eat at and not have it be a big problem.  However, on the other end of the spectrum, you can disagree on who said what last night and have a full blown fight. The issue for most of us is that we’ve never been taught the real reason we even have disagreements in the first place, or how we can have different opinions about things and have calm conversations about them, without needing to change other people’s minds.  What often happens is we either assume we know why someone disagrees with us, or they actually voice their differing opinion, and we feel the need to defend ours. If you’ve been listening to the podcast for awhile, you’ll probably know the answer to the reason we have disagreements in the first place – it’s because we have a human brain and that brain has thoughts, beliefs, opinions, and perceptions that can often be different than other people’s human brains.  There are many factors that go into how we perceive things, but when it comes to human brains, it’s absolutely true that no two minds ever consistently think alike. You most likely have people in your life with very similar beliefs, yet there are things you don’t agree with, and maybe you’ve expressed your disagreement or maybe you haven’t.  For a lot of women, we often don’t want to disagree with others out loud because we’re afraid of what they will think of us,  making us go along with other people’s differing opinions in order to “keep the peace”. But the issue then becomes not being able to express what’s true for you, eventually becoming more comfortable with avoidance than authenticity.  When you don’t know a better way to handle disagreements, most women, myself included, would rather stay away from them as much as possible. This week I’m going to discuss why we tend to struggle so much with disagreements, as well as strategies to help you handle disagreements.

Why we tend to struggle so much with disagreements

As I said, when you don’t know a better way to handle disagreements, you either tend to avoid them, or you do have a disagreement but don’t know how to handle it in the best way possible.  This can make it very uncomfortable to be in certain situations or with certain people. What often happens is that, when you have a disagreement with someone, you feel the need to defend your position.  As if you’re an attorney presenting a case to a judge and jury, you start to build up a case in your mind, defending why you think the way you do about the subject being disagreed upon, often just waiting for your turn to interject your point of view. So in essence, what typically happens for a lot of women is that we’re either in a defensive stance or a passive stance, which means we’re either defending our opinion or not sharing our opinion.  Unfortunately, this can become habitual and then affect us both professionally and personally. For example, you might find yourself often at odds with your spouse about things like finances, division of household chores, and child rearing, just to name a few.  Or you might have a habit of not speaking up at meetings at work or with clients, going along with what others think even if it’s not what you think. Since you’re a creature of habit, when you encounter a disagreement, you probably tend to handle it in one or both of the following ways – defensively or passively:
  1. You try to get the other person to agree with you – this is most often the defensive stance.  When this happens, you become aware that someone else’s opinion differs from yours, you have a discussion, but during the discussion you’re really trying to figure out where you’re right and they’re wrong.  The issue with this is that you’re listening to what the other person is saying through the lens of “Where can I point out where they’re wrong?”.  When you’re trying to get the other person to agree with you, you’re looking for ways to poke holes in their argument in order to prove that you’re right; in order to defend your opinion and for them to change their minds and agree with you.  You’re listening, but with an agenda.  That agenda winds up being a tally of all the ways you think they’re wrong.
  2. You try to control how the other person is feeling – this is most often the passive stance.  When this happens, you’re trying to make the person feel good, feel heard, or feel valued.  In essence,  you are making your feelings dependent on theirs, so you try to please them by passively not sharing a differing opinion.  The issue is that you cannot control how other people feel, no matter what you do or do not say.  How someone feels is not caused by you sharing a differing opinion from them; it only comes from the thoughts they have in their brain.  Honestly, you don’t have the power to create someone else’s feelings.  The only thing you do have power to create is your own feelings and how you show up in situations where you disagree.  Sometimes people want to feel bad, and that’s okay.  Trying to control other people’s feelings is a futile way for you to feel better as well.
Whether you tend to take a defensive stance or a passive stance, thankfully there are better ways to handle disagreements so that you no longer need to either be bracing for a fight or shying away from expressing yourself.

Strategies to help you handle disagreements

Whether it’s a simple disagreement with your family about what movie to watch, or a more complicated disagreement with your business partner about a different direction to go in with your business, I’m going to share two things you can do to better handle disagreements.  Instead of letting disagreements escalate into bigger issues, here are two strategies that can help:

Check in with how YOU are feeling 

Sometimes you can get so caught up in what someone else is feeling that you forget to check in with yourself to understand what’s really going on for you.  It’s interesting to point out that as humans, we naturally mirror each other’s emotions, which means that we often abdicate how we want to feel because we’re not aware of the fact that we’re mirroring the other person’s emotions. This is why it’s important to understand that how you feel depends on the thoughts you’re having, and that you can actually choose, on purpose, how you want to feel.  The reason you want to get clear about how you are feeling is because that’s how you’re going to show up during that disagreement. For example, if you’re feeling angry, frustrated, or defensive, then what you say, the tone you use, the points you make, and how you listen or not, will be completely different than if you were feeling open and curious about what was going on for the other person.  By getting clear about what you’re thinking, you won’t be so prone to automatically mirror what others are feeling. Another interesting thing is that most of us enter a disagreement feeling bad about something and then try to defend our right to feel bad.  We feel angry, frustrated, or defensive and then try to convince the other person why we feel entitled to feel that way, without really questioning whether that’s how we actually want to feel and whether that’s useful or not. Think about it – instead of wasting your energy and your time mirroring someone else’s negative emotions, or trying to convince them to mirror yours, why not choose how you WANT to feel instead, and let them mirror that.  It might sound strange at first, but imagine choosing to feel love on purpose and then discussing movie options with your family, or choosing to feel compassion on purpose and then discussing future business plans with your business partner. When you deliberately choose to feel emotions like openness, love, or compassion, you create an opportunity for the other person, or people, to mirror YOU instead of giving them the power to influence you in a negative way.

Practice curiosity more often 

I’m sure you can relate to this, but more often than not, we assume we know what someone else is thinking, what they’re feeling, and why they do or don’t do certain things.  We believe we know their motivations before we’ve really gotten all the facts straight. The reason this happens is because we have a human brain and our brain likes to make assumptions because it’s one way that our brain saves energy.  It’s important to understand that we naturally draw on our past experiences to find patterns in how the world works, so when we encounter new situations, we apply these patterns, or assumptions, to the new environment. This process saves us the energy of analyzing each situation completely anew, and it can often be quite useful.  For example, if your daughter liked wearing the purple backpack to school everyday last week, it’s easy to assume that it will be okay this week, which then gives you the opportunity to not use much brain power trying to decide what backpack to give her. The problem is that when we believe our assumptions, or our ways of interpreting situations, are the only way to interpret them, we open the door for disagreements and we make anyone that doesn’t see things our way wrong.  In the daughter’s backpack example, suddenly the knee-jerk reaction is frustration towards your daughter when she doesn’t agree with you, that the purple backpack is the best option today. But when you can try to be genuinely curious about another person’s side of a disagreement, instead of allowing your brain to automatically make assumptions, you might be surprised at what you discover.  When you can approach a situation with questions like “I wonder what’s going on for them?”, “Is it possible something else is happening here?”, or “Is there something I’m missing?” you open the door to curiosity. Who knows, maybe your daughter was made fun of for wearing the purple backpack and didn’t tell you.  Or maybe she saw someone she admires wearing a different color and thought that might make her liked more.  You’ll never know until you practice curiosity more often. One of the most powerful strategies I learned in order to help better handle disagreements is to be curious about what someone else is thinking and then put yourself in their brain by saying to yourself, “If I was thinking (fill in the blank with their thought), I would probably feel the same way they do”.  It doesn’t mean you have to agree with them; you’re just understanding that if you had the same thoughts they’re having, you might feel the same way they do. For example, let’s say that you and your friend disagree about who was paying for dinner.  When you come from a place of curiosity, you would ask them how they see the situation and why they feel the way they do; then you would put yourself in their brain and see if you can be open to feeling the same way they do based on thinking the way they might be thinking. So in this example, you would ask your friend from a place of curiosity, rather than defensiveness, what they were thinking about who is paying for dinner and let’s say your friend says, “I thought we were splitting the bill because we had discussed that I needed to be more aware of my spending habits”.  Now you can put yourself in their brain with the thought, “We’re splitting the bill because we had discussed that I need to be more aware of my spending habits” and then you would most likely understand why she disagreed with you wanting her to pay for dinner because you paid the last time you went out. It’s important to note that when you practice curiosity more often, it doesn’t mean you have to agree with anyone, it just means you can see how, if you were thinking what they’re thinking, you would feel the way they’re feeling.  You aren’t making you or them wrong for your differing perceptions, you’re just being more curious and less defensive. One of my favorite authors, Byron Katie, famously said, “Defense is the first act of war”, which means a better way to handle disagreements is to be open and curious instead of letting your brain make assumptions and become defensive.  Checking in with how you feel so you can choose a more helpful feeling on purpose, as well as practicing curiosity more often, will definitely help. Hopefully you now understand why we struggle so much with disagreements and you’ve learned some strategies to better handle disagreements when they happen.  As I said before, no two minds think consistently alike, so it’s completely natural that disagreements will happen, but now you have some tools to think about and put into practice going forward.

Summary  

  • For a lot of women, we often don’t want to disagree with others out loud because we’re afraid of what they will think of us, often making us go along with other people’s differing opinions in order to “keep the peace”.
  • Another interesting thing is that most of us enter a disagreement feeling bad about something and then try to defend our right to feel bad.
  • The problem is that when we believe our assumptions, or our ways of interpreting situations, are the only way to interpret them, we open the door for disagreements and we make anyone that doesn’t see things our way wrong.
The Secret To Really Disconnecting From Work At The End Of The Day

The Secret To Really Disconnecting From Work At The End Of The Day

The Secret To Really Disconnecting From Work At The End Of The Day

Separating your work from your personal life is more important than ever, especially for accountant moms.  We have the ability, and for a lot of us the necessity, to work virtually, especially since the pandemic, making the lines between work and home so blurred that you might be asking yourself whether you’re working from home or living at work.

These blurred lines can also make it difficult for accountant moms to switch from work mode to mom mode.  Before so many of us were required to work from home due to the pandemic restrictions, we might do something like putting a load of laundry in before we left for work or clean up the kitchen when we got home, however now we just take 10 steps away from our computers and the laundry, dirty dishes, and kids toys are all there waiting for us.

For those of us still working virtually, it can be even more challenging when there isn’t a dedicated room just for your office, where you can close the door and simulate a traditional office space.  For many years my home office also doubled as my step son’s bedroom, with his mattress propped up against the wall to give me a little more room to move around.

Even for those of us that have gone back to working in a physical office as opposed to working from home, the lines can still be very blurred between our work and our life.  You’re probably still questioning whether you’re working from home or living at work because of one key thing – the advancement of technology.

As our accessibility to each other and to work has grown exponentially, so has our inability to disconnect from work at the end of the day.  Our mobile devices have become our traveling home offices, making it possible to answer email, send Slack messages, and have conference calls anywhere, at any time.

As I’ve shared in previous podcast episodes, while it’s exciting to be living during this time of ever-growing technological advancements and the development of various programs and applications that help us to do our work as quickly and productively as we can, we’re also becoming incredibly dependent on those technological advancements.  They’re with us when we’re at work, and they’re with us when we’re “off the clock” from work.

Because of the pressure accountant moms can often feel to be high performers in our careers, it can be challenging to not check our work email while we’re making dinner or to glance at our phone and be tempted to answer a Slack message while we’re watching TV with our family.  Even though the old adage says, “What you don’t know won’t hurt you”, we often get caught up in the fear of not being on top of things so we overcompensate by needing to know too much.

I’m definitely guilty of checking my phone when I’m away from work, convincing myself that even though most of the time a work issue can wait until tomorrow, it’s still good to know if there’s an issue.  But here’s the problem – whether I read a work email that contains an issue or not, I’m still plugged into work when I’m not supposed to be working.

The other issue is that we live in a time of such instant gratification, that we’ve all become so impatient with the speed of a response to and from people.  Unfortunately, we’ve also become a little addicted to the rush of adrenaline we get when we hear the ding of a phone notification, forgetting the importance of unplugging and unwinding, especially when it comes to being too emotionally focused on work.

This week I’m going to discuss what causes us to constantly feel emotionally focused on work and easier ways to disconnect at the end of the day.

What causes us to constantly feel emotionally focused on work

The interesting thing is that you’ll know when something has become a bigger societal problem, when psychologists come up with a term to describe our collective issue.  So it probably won’t surprise you that being able to emotionally take a break from work has a name – Psychological Detachment From Work.

Basically it refers to an individual’s experience of being mentally away from work and taking a pause in thinking about work-related issues, thereby giving them an “off switch”.  It’s a state in which people mentally disconnect from work and do not think about job related issues when they’re away from their job.

There have been many studies done on Psychological Detachment From Work and the research has shown that employees who experience more detachment from work during off-hours are more satisfied with their lives and experience few symptoms of stress, without being less engaged while at work.  So here’s the important point – just because they mentally detached from work, that doesn’t mean they were less engaged when they were back at work.

Although many of the studies focused on the effects on employees, this is just as important for all levels of management and ownership.  Whether you’re a senior manager, a partner or a solopreneur, the importance of mentally detaching from work cannot be overlooked or underestimated, especially for accountant moms.

The funny thing is that we often have a negative connotation when it comes to the term “detachment”, assuming that it’s done out of frustration or as a last resort in a negative situation.  The truth is that certain levels of detachment are not only helpful, but necessary, in order to do and be at your best.

For many accountants, we often don’t detach from work because we don’t want to appear as a slacker, or appear as if we’re not dedicated or capable.  In all the large and small public firms I’ve worked for, at the end of the workday everyone would look at everyone else to see when they were going to leave work because nobody wanted to be the first to leave.

As both an accountant and a mom, you may feel the pressure to NOT detach from work, especially if you want to get ahead in your career.  But what often happens is you don’t factor in the cost of not detaching; the cost to you physically and emotionally, the cost to your family when you’re still plugged into work even though you’re home, and the cost to your productivity and efficiency when you get back into work.

The truth is that the overarching biggest cause of you constantly feeling emotionally focused on work all comes down to one thing – your beliefs about what a good/great accountant does when they’re not at work.  Just like I always encourage my clients to re-examine their beliefs about what it means to be a “good mom”, I also want to encourage you to re-examine your beliefs about what’s necessary in order to do your job, and do it well, while also being honest with yourself about what your current beliefs are costing you as I said before, physically, emotionally, relationally, and in your ability to be as productive and efficient as you can be.

Along with addressing your beliefs about what a good/great accountant does when they’re not at work, I also suggest that you take a look at your relationship with people-pleasing, setting boundaries, and the common accountant affliction of perfectionism.  This is really important because until you understand what’s happening in those areas, you’re going to continue to perpetuate certain beliefs about what’s necessary in order for you to do your job well.

The key is understanding that just like a muscle will get damaged and tear if it’s not given the proper amount of rest and recuperation after a strenuous workout, your brain is a muscle that needs the same consideration as a bicep.  When your brain is always “on” and focused on work mode, like a 24 hour news station, you are pushing and pushing it to the point that it will eventually break down.

Maybe you’ve even experienced this breakdown during tax season or at other deadline-driven times where you probably went to bed so mentally and physically drained, and then dragged yourself back into the office the next day, never feeling like you had a chance to recover.  When you don’t learn to practice psychological detachment from work, the negative effects can be damaging – you can easily get overwhelmed, stressed, and eventually experience burnout in one form or another.

Thankfully there are easier ways to disconnect at the end of the day and still be the best accountant and mom you can be.

Easier ways to disconnect at the end of the day

The first thing I want to encourage you NOT to do to disconnect at the end of the day, is to buffer.  I’ve discussed this in previous podcasts episodes, but buffering is the actions you take in order to avoid a negative emotion, which then have a net negative effect on you, like drinking a few glasses of wine each night and then feeling groggy the next day, or eating those “special” cookies once the kids go to bed and then wondering why your clothes don’t fit once tax season is over.

It’s totally natural to not want to feel the effects of things like stress and overwhelm, especially as an accountant and a mom with a lot of responsibilities, but I really want you to start paying more attention to what you do to cope.  I’m going to encourage you to start becoming aware of those net negative effects you experience when you use things in order to feel better.

So in order to understand better ways to disconnect at the end of the day, here’s an analogy that might help – the way I’d like you to think about your brain is as if it’s a sponge and it can only soak up so much before it’s incapable of picking up any more liquid.  Just like a sponge, you have to give your brain time to rest and dry out before it can be used to soak up more liquid.

If you think about how much we rely on our brains for the complicated, analytical work we do as accountants, we especially need our brains to “dry out” before asking it to soak up and process more and more information.  We need to give it the rest it deserves since it’s what makes it possible for us to do our work so well.

The first thing I suggest you do in order to disconnect at the end of the day is to make a decision that disconnecting is what you want to do, as opposed to what you should do, and like your reasons for doing it.  Anytime you make a decision, especially when you’re trying to implement a new behavior, you want to make sure you like your reason for doing it.

For example, feeling resentful towards work because there doesn’t seem to be boundaries around your time, may not be the best reason to start implementing the new behavior of disconnecting from work at the end of the day.  But if the reason is because you want to be more present with your family when you’re home and that you deserve to unplug everyday, that would be a good reason because it’s moving towards something instead of resisting or pushing against something.

You might also decide that giving yourself a break from work will allow you to be so much more present and focused when you are back in the office.  With the complicated work that we do as accountants, you can decide that when you let the sponge dry out, it’s able to absorb so much more when it’s needed; that being a good/great accountant means not being available 24/7, not answering emails after you leave the office, or not putting work before your family.

The second way I suggest in order to disconnect at the end of the day is truly practicing downtime, where you just allow your brain to wander.  The reason this is so important, especially for accountants, is because when we let our minds wander, instead of processing information, we allow it to replenish itself.

This is not about just focusing on something else instead of work or switching tasks; it’s about truly letting your brain stop running it’s processing motor.  For this suggestion, you’ll want to schedule breaks to purposefully allow your brain to get bored; to allow your brain to just look around without an agenda; without needing to be busy or constantly asking, “What’s next?”.

The most important thing with this suggestion is to turn off your phone or put it somewhere else.  The biggest obstacle we all have with allowing our brain to wander is our cell phones, therefore, you have to make a conscious choice to set aside time each day to put your phone down and let your mind wander; let it stop processing and just relax and restore.

When my children were younger, the way that I would “dry out” the sponge of my brain was, once I left the office to pick them up from school, I would get there about 20 minutes early, put the seat back in my car, and take a power nap.  This allowed the sponge to rest on the windowsill, get some fresh air, and not try to soak up more liquid than it had already soaked up while I was at work.

The last way I suggest in order to disconnect at the end of the day is write it all down instead of expecting your brain to store everything that’s swirling around, whether it’s for work or for your personal life.  Contrary to what you might believe, your brain is not a storage facility, although we often expect it to be one.

That ticker tape that keeps running in your brain, where you don’t want to forget that meeting, to send that birthday gift in time, or to sign that note for your children’s teacher, is incredibly draining and exhausting to your brain.  If you think about it, the amount of energy you expend trying to balance your career and your personal life could probably power your home for a year!

Unfortunately, when you don’t want to forget something, your brain goes to work spinning and spinning to make sure you don’t forget something, creating fear and that nagging feeling that there’s something you may have forgotten.  So do yourself a favor and write it all down so your brain can relax and replenish when you’re not at work.

The other important aspect of writing things down is that it gives you a much clearer picture about the thoughts that are creating the feeling of stress and overwhelm.  When you understand the underlying cause of those feelings, you can be much more efficient and productive when you’re actually at work.

Just know that disconnecting from work is going to help you so much more in the long run.  You deserve a break, your kids deserve you being fully present with them, and your clients will appreciate the fresh mind you’re able to bring each day.

Summary  

  • Because of the pressure accountant moms can often feel to be high performers in our careers, it can be challenging to not check our work email while we’re making dinner or to glance at our phone and be tempted to answer a Slack message while we’re watching TV with our family.
  • There have been many studies done on Psychological Detachment From Work and the research has shown that employees who experience more detachment from work during off-hours are more satisfied with their lives and experience few symptoms of stress, without being less engaged while at work.
  • If you think about how much we rely on our brains for the complicated, analytical work we do as accountants, we especially need our brains to “dry out” before asking it to soak up and process more and more information.

Are You An Insecure Overachiever?

Are You An Insecure Overachiever?

Are You An Insecure Overachiever?

When it comes to being smart and driven, the accounting profession really does attract some of the best and the brightest.  Whether it’s a high school student in the top 10% of their graduating class or a determined mother of 2 who studies nights and weekends in order to pass the CPA exam, we are in an industry that requires intelligence and perseverance.

While we all know that working as an accountant thankfully has its rewards, there are also many challenges that accountants face as they try to balance their career aspirations in addition to trying to have a happy life.  There are so many external demands placed on accountants, that for the first time for many, accountants are rethinking their career choice more than ever before.

You just have to look at the responses we got in the CPA MOMS private Facebook community where we asked the question “Have you ever considered leaving the accounting profession?”  That question literally had the most responses out of any question we’ve asked, with more than 50% saying they had considered leaving.

Of course everyone has their own reasons for considering leaving the profession, but I do know one thing for sure – the lack of work/life balance is a huge part of the reason that so many accountants are considering making a change.  While career success is one thing, more and more people are reconsidering accounting as a profession partly because they just don’t want to succumb to burnout.

If you think about it, the typical 9 – 5 work day is really a thing of the past due to the fact that we’re globally connected to our work, in one way or another, 24 hours a day thanks to technology.  We’re no longer the factory workers of the 1920’s, punching our time card out at 5 pm, and leaving work at work until we punch back in the following day.

On average, accountants are working more than 50 hours a week, they aren’t entirely satisfied with their level of success at work, they struggle with work/life balance, and they are often on the verge of a breakdown.  Unfortunately, the work from home mandate due to the pandemic only added gasoline to an already burning fire, creating a shift from us sometimes working from home, to where we’re now living where we work.

While we would all like to argue that it’s the fault of things like the industry, the IRS, or the client’s demands, I believe we’re overlooking a bigger issue that has everything to do with us and nothing to do with anyone or anything else.  The bigger reason why so many accountants work so hard, don’t set clear boundaries, and don’t feel fulfilled, is because we are an industry of insecure overachievers.

If you’re not familiar with the term, author Laura Empsom wrote about insecure overachievers in her book “Leading Professionals: Power, Politics and Prima Donnas”.   She explains that in her 25 years of researching leadership and professional service firms. such as accounting firms, she discovered a common thread for many of these intelligent, highly capable professionals –  the driving force behind all the overachieving and ambition was from a profound sense of their own inadequacy.

These professionals weren’t overachieving because they believed they were capable or that they were amazing; they were burning themselves out with overachievements because they were constantly chasing proof that they were good enough.  On the surface it might have looked like they were just super diligent and hard working, but what was really happening was that their insecurity made them feel the need to work harder than everyone else, in order to prove their worth to themselves.

So whether you’ve been told you work too hard or you’re rewarded for working harder than everyone else, it might be time to take a look at whether you’re an insecure overachiever.  You can always continue doing what you’re doing, but it might be helpful to understand why you’re doing it and, more importantly,  whether you like your reasons.

This week I’m going to discuss the things that might be causing you to be an insecure overachiever and what you can do about it.

 

Things that might be causing you to be an insecure overachiever

If you’re unsure about whether you could be considered an insecure overachiever, here are some of the signs to look out for:

  1. You work extra long hours
  2. You have a hard time hearing criticism
  3. Your life mainly revolves around work
  4. You rarely feel like you’re doing enough or that you are enough
  5. You suffer with imposter syndrome where you believe your success is based on luck
  6. You believe your achievements define your happiness
  7. You strongly desire other people’s validation or admiration
  8. You sacrifice non-work commitments in favor of work
  9. Your relationships are often based on competition

Now first let me say that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with having career and business goals, especially as an accountant.  Like I said before, this profession attracts the best and the brightest, so there’s no need to dim your brightness for anyone, for any reason.

The question is, what’s actually driving your ambition; what’s behind working harder and longer than everyone else?  What Laura Epsom’s research found was that insecure overachievers are made, not born, and that they typically experienced some form of psychological, financial or physical insecurity in childhood.

For example, she shares that children who experience sudden and unexpected poverty may find that, as adults, they are never able to earn enough to overcome their fear that this will happen again.  For some children, they grow up believing that they are noticed and valued by their parents only when they are excelling; an attitude that can persist long after they’ve left home because they’ve internalized that insecurity as part of their identity.

This issue can show up in many ways – in your relationship with money, in your inability to set boundaries around your time, in your inability to have downtime or to relax when you do have free time, in your need for validation, and especially in the need to please others.   Unfortunately, being in an industry of insecure overachievers like accounting, you wind up setting the bar higher and higher for each other, eventually making success exhausting and unattainable.

This insidious cycle continues because when new employees see the overachieving behaviors of the seasoned employees, they have a difficult time going against the current.  The newbies bring their own insecurities and then unknowingly wind up accepting the beliefs and behavior of the more senior insecure overachievers, having everyone swept up in the tidal way of overworking and eventually burnout.

I saw this time and again when I worked at Deloitte, where super smart, insecure overachievers graduated from college, got a prestigious job with other insecure overachievers in a large firm like Deloitte, and now they felt like a small fish in a big pond.  They fear not being successful and not exceeding expectations so they work harder and more hours in order to believe they’re good enough.

Another thing that might be causing you to be an insecure overachiever is that it’s often rewarded in one form or another.  In the fast-paced, productivity and efficiency-driven profession like accounting, upper management admittedly LOVES overachievers that will stay later than everyone else, work weekends without being asked, and are looking to go above and beyond.

With a system that rewards you based on your comparison to others, insecure overachievers can’t help but want to prove their value and worth, especially when it comes to performance reviews, promotions and raises.  The temptation to be an overachiever is unfortunately fostered by the inherent competitive nature of the accounting profession.

The issue is that once you’ve set such a high bar for yourself, or the bar was set by others, it can be challenging to lower it.  Before you know it, you’re swept up in that tidal wave with everyone else, trying to keep your head above water.

 

What you can do about it

The catch-22 when it comes to being an insecure overachiever is that the feeling of insecurity can drive you to work long, crazy hours, believing if you worked more and delivered more, that you’ll feel better, but when you don’t, you work harder and longer, and eventually wind up feeling worse.  The key is understanding that most insecure overachievers are just trying to feel better about themselves, but they’re using actions and performance to create a better feeling.

What can make it even more challenging is the fact that you really can get a lot done, and like I said before, accounting firms and companies love these types of employees because they’re driven and typically super productive.  But unfortunately, there’s never a sense of satisfaction within yourself or with your job.

When this happens, the more successful you are, the more you fear failure because you haven’t learned how to fail and like yourself along the way.  This fear can be so all-consuming, that it becomes the thing you constantly try to out run, exhausting yourself in the process.

The most important thing I want you to hear from this episode is this – your negative thoughts and beliefs about yourself are what’s triggering your overperformance.  The reason this is so important to understand is because when you truly see that your thoughts create your feelings, and that when you feel a certain way, you take certain actions, you’ll be able to feel better without needing to be an overachiever.

The truth is that, if you’ve been telling yourself things like, “I could have done better” or “I could have done more”, it’s no wonder you’re overworking.  Thoughts like those are going to naturally create an anxious, unsure feeling, causing you to push yourself harder, work more hours, and try to alleviate that anxiety.

If this has resonated with you so far, here are a few suggestions that can help:

  1. Listen to podcast episode #144 – 4 Steps To Boost Your Self-Esteem.  A lack of self-esteem comes from a lack of believing that you’re good enough.  In that episode I shared that the good news is, you can improve your self-esteem no matter what environment you grew up in or what life situations you’ve dealt with in the past.  The truth is that your self-esteem is 100% within your control because it is only created by your beliefs about yourself and those beliefs are within your power to change and mold into whatever will help you boost your self-esteem.  So take a listen to that episode and work on the 4 steps that I shared in order to help you boost your self-esteem and decrease your insecurity.
  2. Start to become aware of what you tell yourself at the end of the day.  If it’s anything other than “good job”, you’re going to want to know that.  We all have a voice in our head, just like a CNN ticker tape, with a running commentary.  For most women that running commentary is supercritical and comes from the messages we got from the time we were young girls to now, as working moms.  What is that CNN ticker tape telling you about what you are or aren’t doing?  What is it afraid will happen if you slow down?   If you’re working in an environment that fosters insecure overachievers, you might want to consider working somewhere that supports achievement and balance at the same time.
  3. Decide on purpose what a “good job” looks like.  For most insecure overachievers, you’re always trying to prove that you’re good enough by achieving more, that you never stop to define what a job well done is for you.  By leaving it up to someone else’s perception, you give up control.  Start looking at what’s within your control, what needs to be done, in order for you to genuinely be able to tell yourself “good job”?  For example, it wouldn’t be that your boss told you that you did a good job; it would be that you were thorough and productive from 2 – 5 pm that day or that you responded to client emails within 24 hours.
  4. Reach out to me for help.  There’s no shame in being an insecure overachiever and I can help you have the balance that you want and deserve.  If you’re feeling anxious at work a lot of the time and wind up working longer and harder than everyone else, I can help you address that anxiety in a way that makes it possible for you to have success, but not get burned out in the process.  I’ll leave the details in the show notes for how you can schedule a free 20-minute session with me (you can schedule it HERE).

So no matter what the signs are for you that indicate that you might be an insecure overachiever, it doesn’t have to continue being an issue.  Just know that you are so much more than your achievements and that you don’t have to get to some breaking point to realize it.

Summary  

  • The bigger reason why so many accountants work so hard, don’t set clear boundaries, and don’t feel fulfilled, is because we are an industry of insecure overachievers.
  • Unfortunately, being in an industry of insecure overachievers like accounting, you wind up setting the bar higher and higher for each other, eventually making success exhausting and unattainable.
  • The key is understanding that most insecure overachievers are just trying to feel better about themselves, but they’re using actions and performance to create a better feeling.

Interview With Dr. Elana Roumell, MD, Creator Of Med School For Moms

Interview With Dr. Elana Roumell, MD, Creator Of Med School For Moms

https://traffic.libsyn.com/secure/cpa-moms-coach/151_-_Interview_With_Dr._Elana_Roumell.mp3

Dr. Elana Roumell is a Naturopathic Doctor with a passion for pediatrics. She initially founded Nourish Medical Center in San Diego, CA providing holistic care to the whole family, and later created the popular Med School for Moms.

Dr. Elana is also a co-host of the popular “Doctor Mom” Podcast, nearing one million downloads!

Podcast episodes air weekly which give her the opportunity to share her knowledge, stay up to date with new health topics, and interview experts in the health field. Her intention is to empower parents with knowledge so they are well informed to make the best decisions for the health of their children.

She loves to teach parents how to care for their children at home and equip them with the most effective, tried and true natural remedies available.

Here are the highlights from this interview:

  • Med School For Moms is where Dr. Elana gets to safely teach moms how to be doctor moms
  • She resonated with CPA MOMS because as moms, we wear multiple hats and she loves the fact that we are building businesses around the title of being a professional mom
  • She believes that working moms are so incredibly skilled at being able to do everything we do
  • Unfortunately with the ability to do so much, that can lead to burnout as well
  • Dr. Elana had a father who was a CPA firm owner, who died suddenly at 60 years of age
  • She looked at his life – overworked, undervalued, doing the best to stay afloat – and realized she didn’t want that life
  • When it was her turn to create a career path, she knew she wanted one that afforded her the flexibility to have both a career and a family
  • She went to naturopathic medical school because she had lost her brother at an early age to an illness and wanted to study a way to integrate both conventional and natural medicines to be able to present her patients with both
  • Although she started a medical center and saw all kinds of patients, she also knew she wanted to have a bigger impact which is why she started the online business, Med School For Moms
  • The biggest issue she sees for moms around the health of their children is their own mental health, suffering with anxiety, and not trusting themselves to know what to do when their child is sick
  • She teaches moms how to be a proactive participant in their child’s health providing a library of resources and a community that they can turn to
  • She provides the Cliff Notes version of her medical school training so that they can know what she knows
  • One of the biggest challenges for working moms is when their kids get sick, which is why she helps support them in making more empowered decisions when it comes to their children’s health
  • Her doctor moms are taught how to be more calm, competent, and confident, instead of being reactive and suffering with decision fatigue
  • There are so many things that moms can do for their children’s health and well being, that they’re not aware of
  • Integrative medicine is the integration of conventional medicine with alternative medicine, allowing you to choose the best option
  • She suggests that moms should have the following three things at home – Vitamin D (health food supplement), Elderberry (herbal medicine), and Arnica (homeopathic medicine)
  • She wants moms to know that there is so much that you can do to help your children when they’re sick
  • To find out more about Med School For Moms, the Doctor Mom Podcast and get access to the DIY Medicine Guide HERE