How to Stop Procrastinating Right Now

How to Stop Procrastinating Right Now

How to Stop Procrastinating Right Now

The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast with Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby


Music in this episode is from
The Wimps, with “Procrastination.”

How to Stop Procrastinating Right Now

Have you ever handed in a paper still warm from the printer, panting and sweaty from your sprint across campus? 

Or selected a gift from the aisles of a gas station, en route to the baby shower you’ve known about for months? 

Do you find that, no matter how much time you have to complete a project, you’re still working on it up until the deadline? Or maybe even past it? 

If so, you have my wholehearted empathy and understanding, because we are kindred spirits: We are procrastinators. 

A procrastinator is someone who habitually delays getting started on important tasks, and scrambles around to get things done at the last minute, often under a great deal of stress. If you have a tendency to procrastinate, you know it’s a habit that leaves you feeling harried, ineffective, and bad about yourself. You also know that not procrastinating is easier said than done. 

But, as someone who has gone to battle with her own procrastination demons, and helped many coaching and counseling clients do the same, I know you can build new skills that will help you become more productive, more effective, and to do it all in a timely manner, with serenity and grace… (ok, still working on that last part). 

That’s what we’re discussing on today’s episode of the podcast. I’m going to be exploring the real reasons you procrastinate, how procrastination affects your life, and the positive changes you can make today to overcome procrastination and start working toward your goals in a steady, intentional way. 

I hope you’ll join me, on this page, Apple podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen. 

All the best, 

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

How to Stop Procrastinating Right Now 

The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast with Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby


Music in this episode is from The Wimps, with “Procrastination.”

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How to Stop Procrastinating Right Now : Episode Highlights

There really are some people who glide through their to-do list, devoting a reasonable amount of time to each item, passing by black holes of distraction without a second glance, and routinely completing projects with plenty of time to spare. 

For the rest of us, procrastination is a real and ever-present threat. When procrastinating is a way of life for you, getting things done takes some thoughtful maneuvering. 

Effects of Procrastination 

Procrastination is a tough habit to break, despite its sometimes serious consequences. Here are just a few of the effects of procrastination, which I’m sure you’ve lived firsthand if you’re a real-deal procrastinator: 

Underachievement 

It’s incredible what a human being can do when the panic of an approaching deadline sets in. You might stay up until dawn writing a paper, or complete a project that was supposed to take months over the course of a long, terrible weekend. 

You may even feel a little swell of pride when these flurries of work generate halfway decent results — a B+ paper, a good-enough project review. “Imagine what I could do if I didn’t procrastinate,” you may think. 

But that’s the tragedy of chronic procrastination: You’ll never know what you’re capable of if you do everything at the last minute, in an adrenaline-fueled panic. To reach your full potential at school, at work, or in any area of life that calls for consistent effort over time, you’ll need to overcome procrastination.   

Unnecessary Stress

Stress is quite literally a killer, and nothing adds unnecessary stress to your life like a habit of procrastination. 

In fact, procrastinators need stress. It focuses the mind, making it possible to prioritize tasks and take action toward our goals. Without the looming threat of a missed deadline, a failed class, or letting down the people who are counting on us, it’s too easy to convince ourselves that watching TikTok dance routines or rearranging our bookshelves is the correct use of our time. 

So procrastinators learn to live with stress, and to leverage it to get things done. But that doesn’t stop stress from taking a toll on your mind and your body, putting you at greater risk of burnout, and generally making you feel crummy. 

Damaged Relationships

If you complete a large job in a few frenzied hours, the client isn’t getting your best work. If you end up at a burger joint because you put off making a reservation, your partner isn’t getting the “anniversary dinner” treatment. 

Procrastination can look to others like you just don’t care enough to try — when in fact you care so much that getting started feels overwhelming. But regardless of your true feelings, perceived apathy can feel insulting and hurtful to others, and can take a toll on your relationships. 

Feeling Bad About Yourself

Finally, procrastination makes you feel bad about yourself. 

You might recognize that you’re capable of more, and feel lazy when you reflect on your history of underachieving. You might feel less-than when you compare yourself to others who seem to manage their time more effectively. You might feel shame and guilt about letting down friends, partners, or coworkers because of procrastination. 

Worse, you may feel helpless to do anything about it. But luckily, procrastinating is entirely within your power to change, and understanding why you procrastinate is the first step in changing it. 

Why You Procrastinate

Every procrastinator has their own unique reasons for putting things off, but here are a few of the common culprits that may be behind your procrastination (and ideas for tackling each): 

You’re Doing Too Much

Sometimes we think we have a problem with procrastination, when in fact we have a problem with taking on too many tasks, particularly tasks that aren’t interesting to us, or necessary, or that someone else could do better (and be happy about it!). 

I don’t enjoy bookkeeping. I can do it, and as a small business owner, I used to: begrudgingly, and usually at the last minute. But when Growing Self grew to a certain point, I was more than happy to hand that task off to a professional, a magical unicorn who actually enjoys tracking expenses, creating financial statements, and submitting tax forms. 

These people exist — thank goodness! My bookkeeper frees me up to focus on tasks that I’m actually good at, and that I don’t feel like hiding from indefinitely. Before you beat yourself up about putting something off, ask yourself if the task really needs to be done, and if you’re the right person to do it. Your time and energy may be better spent elsewhere. 

You’re Dreading a Complex Process  

When I first brainstormed this episode, I imagined sharing what I know about procrastination with you, like I was having a chat with a friend. But actually making the episode was a lot more complicated than that. It required research, moving meetings around so I could record, messing with equipment I don’t entirely understand, sending audio back and forth with my podcast editor, choosing a song, changing the song, writing this post, and a hundred other tiny steps that I won’t bore you with here. 

You get the idea. The sheer number of steps involved in a complex task can be enough to paralyze you. You might anticipate getting stuck, or feeling overwhelmed, confused, frustrated, or any number of unpalatable feelings our brains would rather avoid.  

When you take the time to plan and visualize each step of a complex task — what they’ll entail, how exactly you’ll do them, when you will do them, where you will do them — the process feels a bit more manageable. And even better, mentalizing the task is step one, so once you do this, you’re already over the “getting started” hump! 

You’re Dreading a “Cognitively Heavy” Process

You might also be dreading the process because it is “cognitively heavy,” meaning it just takes a lot of brain power. I love to write, but it’s not something I can do while half paying attention, listening to a podcast, or keeping an eye on my kids. It requires my full brain, and an uninterrupted period of time. Afterwards, I feel a bit drained. 

For “heavy” tasks, give your brain what it needs to do its best work. When do you feel your sharpest? Whether it’s in the morning, afternoon, or evening, dedicate that time to your heavy tasks. Make sure you give yourself a large chunk of uninterrupted time — you can’t do deep work in fifteen-minute fragments between Zoom meetings. It takes time to enter a “flow” state. 

When your brain gets to do its most demanding work under better conditions, you may not dread the process so much, and you may feel less inclined to procrastinate. 

You’re Getting Distracted

Distractions happen, and some of us are more distractible than others. I know I can sit down at my desk with an earnest intention to Get Stuff Done… and come to 20 minutes later on the Wikipedia page for El Chupacabra, wondering how I got there. 

To head off distractions, construct your work environment with intention. Would it help to leave your cellphone in your bag, rather than keeping it on your desk? A tiny keystone habit like that can make a big difference. How about adjusting your notification settings, so a little box doesn’t pop into your visual field every time you get an email or a text? If noise tends to pull you out of flow, how about some noise-canceling headphones? 

None of us are immune to distractions. But you can prevent many of them with some simple tweaks to your environment. 

Perfectionism and Procrastination

“Perfectionism is a self-destructive and addictive belief system that fuels this primary thought: If I look perfect and do everything perfectly, I can avoid or minimize the painful feelings of blame, judgment, and shame,” — Brené Brown

Striving to do your best is a good thing. But perfectionism is something else entirely, and can be a powerful form of procrastination that keeps you from actually getting things done. 

Perfectionism can show up as a tendency to “overdo” things. If a hardcore perfectionist is having a dinner party, they might feel unable to do the big stuff (shopping for and preparing the food, setting the table) until they figure out the little stuff (like making hand-lettered place cards for each guest). 

“And really I should take a calligraphy class first,” the perfectionist thinks, “so maybe it’s best to reschedule for next fall.” (Or, more likely, never). 

If perfectionism is at the root of your procrastination, watch out for “scope creep.” Don’t let simple tasks grow out of control, taking on unwieldy ambitions that require you to clear your schedule. Instead, practice aiming to do a good-enough job. You’ll get more done, and you’ll have a better time doing it. 

You Never Developed Certain Skills

Finally, you may procrastinate because you simply never developed certain skills, and it’s holding you back from success

We’re not born knowing how to create a reasonable schedule, devote an appropriate amount of time to a task, exercise self-control, or adapt to setbacks as they arise. All of these “executive functioning” skills take some practice, and once you develop them (something a good career coach can help you with), you’ll be able to work more effectively, and spend less time procrastinating. 

How to Stop Procrastinating: Get Connected to Your “Why”

You do a thousand little things every day. You feed the kids, floss your teeth, fill out the spreadsheet, send that “Thank You,” submit your invoice, return the call, pick up the prescription, fold the laundry. 

But why? How do the things you do connect to your values and the goals you have for your life? 

Ask yourself these questions about the items on your to-do list. If you can’t see the connection, cross it off. The items that will remain are the essential things that are actually serving your larger life’s purpose

Now you know what to focus on. For the rest, you have permission to procrastinate. 

Episode Show Notes:

[02:53] Effects of Procrastination

  • You might have to work during what should be your down time, or fail to meet deadlines. 
  • Procrastination can lead to issues in your personal relationships.
  • Your partner may feel hurt if you fail to follow through on things. 

[10:32] Strategies For Overcoming Procrastination

  • Outsource or delegate the job to other people who are better suited for the task.
  • Stipulate your most productive and high-energy time of day for completing your most important tasks.
  • Use a calendar to schedule your tasks.

[26:28] Perfectionism and Procrastination

  • Perfectionism is the tendency to base your self-worth around what other people think of your work.
  • Perfectionists tend to be overly detailed and to get attached to overly ambitious outcomes.
  • Set a timer for every task and establish a mental boundary to stop yourself from doing more than what needs to be done.

[35:45] Connecting With Your Values

  • Reflect on your “why”.
  • Cross out tasks, projects, or habits that aren’t serving your larger goals.
  • Release the idea that you can or should do everything.


Music in this episode is from The Wimps, with “Procrastination.”

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby: That is, once again, the Wimps — one of my favorite bands — with a song, “Procrastination”, because that's what we're talking about today.

I've been meaning to make this podcast for you for about two years now. But yes, the struggle is real. I'm just kidding — not really. But I, too, have struggled with procrastination over the years. I know it's a very real thing. A lot of you are struggling with this. I wanted to spend our time together today sharing the tips, and tricks, and tools, and ideas that I have learned over the years that have helped me, and that I routinely teach my clients so that you get control over your time and energy too.

If this is your first time listening, hello and welcome! I am Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby. I'm the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling & Coaching. I'm a licensed psychologist, a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, and a board-certified coach, and draw from all of these things to help you create love, happiness, and success. This podcast is just me tossing out bread crumbs and bottles into the ocean that are hopefully helpful to you on your journey. 

I always try to craft my topics about things that I'm hearing from you, my listeners, that would be helpful and important to you. So thank you, everyone, who has reached out through Instagram, or Facebook, or through our website growingself.com. Quick heads up to let you know — we're going to be starting to experiment with something a little different that I think would be pretty interesting. In addition to the kind of informational format of the show or the interview format of the show, I'm also going to be answering some listener questions on the air. 

If you have something that is on your mind, and you would like to talk through it with me on a podcast sometime, I invite you to get in touch on Instagram, @drlisamariebobby, or hello@growingself.com are easy ways. Just raise your hand, let me know what's on your mind, and perhaps you and I can talk things through. That is an exciting new thing and I'll be interested to see what we can collectively create with that. 

But let's just dive right in. Let's not procrastinate, shall we? Let's dive into our topic together today. Because procrastination is a very real issue for many people, and it doesn't just lead to issues where you're not getting things done or you look around your house, and you see the stuff or the unopened mail — those are minor annoyances. It, over time though, can lead to a lot of bigger problems — anxiety — when you start to feel really overwhelmed and stressed and anxious about all this stuff piling up that is starting to be important. Maybe, there's a tax document and a pile of mail that you need to do something about. 

Effects of Procrastination

I can also, I think — lead to people feeling really badly about themselves after a while, almost a depression-ney kind of shame experience where you're like, “What is wrong with me that I can't get my act together and do these things?” Then, if that does spiral into a capital D depression, that leads to exhaustion and avoidance, and even less likely that you will get things done. 

It can also lead to real consequences either in your job if you're not meeting deadlines or leaving things till the last minute. After a while, people will get annoyed with you. It can also lead to issues in your relationship, particularly if your partner is asking you to do things or follow through with things that are personally important to them. I think it's easy to forget that actions, tasks that may seem small, simple things — unloading the dishwasher when you said you're going to, running an errand, taking care of something around the house — over time, those things can become kind of heavy with meaning. 

It feels to us like it’s just about the task or the thing, but it can start to feel to your partner like it is a symbolic representation of your feelings towards them, often interpreted as that you don't care about them. It can lead to a lot of negativity and bad feelings in relationships. For all of these reasons, and in addition, of course, to you just feeling happy and content to kind of in control of yourself in your life, it is important that we talk together about procrastination.

In looking around, there are sort of standard-issue pieces of advice about how to deal with procrastination. I think that they do all have some validity. But I want to take it a little bit deeper today because in my experience — and I am saying this as somebody who, especially when I was younger, really did struggle with this. I would try all of these organizational systems — I read the books, and the whatever — I tried all the things, and they never worked for me. 

I interpreted this, in my 20s, it’s just another side of my personal failings. But I think as I've gotten older and done more work on myself, I've come to realize that there is a reason why people tend to procrastinate, and often it goes a little bit deeper than one would think. I think we can assume that it's about strategies and habits, and so on and so forth. I do think to a degree that that can be true. 

But without really opening the door — the basement, walking into the basement, and understanding really why, in a compassionate and fully aware sort of way, it can be difficult to use the tools and incorporate the habits. That's where I would like us to go today. I wanted to start this conversation, though, with just a compassion-building exercise. If this is the thing for you, I'm sure you're well aware of the emotional toll that it takes. 

Also, if you are listening to this because you are partnered with somebody whose procrastination is driving you insane, it is also, I think, important for you to have some understanding and compassion for their emotional experience because the struggle is real, and it can be easy to get mad at yourself or get mad at your partner when they're doing these things, “Like what's the big deal? Just do the thing, and you won't feel bad anymore.” 

But it tends to sort of snowball. The very best and most hilarious description of the procrastination cycle that I came across was from a really cool blog post, actually — by a civilian. He was not a licensed mental health professional, but he's still incredibly insightful and very funny. His name is Tim Urban. A while back, he did a piece called The Dark Playground on his blog called Wait But Why. I will link to it somewhere in the post to this podcast. 

But anyway — I'll just read you a little snippet from his work. Here, he's talking about the emotional depths of what happens with somebody who is in a habit of procrastinating, has put things off, and that they eventually will enter the dark playground. It is a place every procrastinator knows well. It's a place where leisure activities happen at times when leisure activities are not supposed to be happening. The fun you have in the dark playground isn't actually fun because it's completely unearned, rather, and the air is filled with guilt, anxiety, self-hatred, and dread. 

Sometimes, the rational decision-making part of you puts his foot down and refuses to let you waste time doing normal leisure things. Since the other side of this — he's calling the “Instant Gratification Monkey” — wants to keep distracting you and won't let you work. You find yourself in a bizarre purgatory of weird activities where everyone loses. If you are a habitual procrastinator, I'm sure you can relate to that. 

It's like there's these two sides of you — there's this part of you that is screaming at you, “Just do the things, you know what you have to do. What's wrong with you?” But there's this other part that's like that, “I'm going to do this, I want to do that, I want to…”, something else… Then, he has a third character in this narrative called the “Panic Monster” which emerges as you get closer and closer to a deadline, or begin experiencing real or threatened consequences of procrastination. 

Then, that sort of motivates you into this big flurry of action where you wind up — yes — doing some things usually in a half-assed manner. You kind of get it done, but it wasn't really good enough, and it was incredibly stressful, and people are still annoyed with you anyway. For a full description of The Dark Playground and the emotional toll that procrastination can take, I would encourage you to visit Wait But Why. It's worth your time. 

This is a difficult place to be in. I think one of the big well — there are many, I think, deeper reasons why people can’t do this. But I think in my experience, I have isolated it to a few. I'm just going to talk through these one at a time. As I do, I would like for you to just kind of listen and think about which of these might fit best for you. It may be that there are a few of these that fit well for you. The answer is often multidimensional and complex. 

Strategies For Overcoming Procrastination

But one of the biggest lessons for me, and something that I have actually since coached many clients through is the discovery that these things that I was procrastinating and putting off and feeling badly about were actually things that I wasn't good at, that I didn't enjoy, and I really was trying to make myself do things that I shouldn't have been trying to do in the first place many times. This would be related to different aspects of work, oftentimes, or even stuff around the house, or in my personal life

I just want to invite you to consider if the things that you have on this giant list that you're telling yourself you should be doing, could potentially be things that you don't enjoy, that you don't value, that you don't really have an interest in. Maybe, you're getting societal messages that are telling you that you should be valuing or doing these things, but then you actually, legitimately, do not care and that you don't feel like completing these tasks is going to be particularly meaningful or helpful in your life, and you're not good at them, you don't really know how to do them, it's not stuff that you enjoy, and perhaps to give yourself permission to not do them. 

I just want you to consider what could change about your life and your relationship to these tasks, and also your relationship to yourself. If instead of kind of beating yourself up and trying to make yourself do things that you don't want to do, and that you probably shouldn't be doing — and accept that. What doors could potentially open up for you? If you're like, “Yeah, I'm actually not going to do that.” 

Let's just pause here for a second. Let that sink in. You may be feeling a surge of anxiety around like, “But these things need to get done!” Maybe, they do need to get done. But maybe you should not be the one to do them. It could turn into a very different exercise in problem-solving if you just kind of shifted into this mindset around, “I am not going to do these things. How could they potentially get done anyway?” 

This could turn into all kinds of creative new possibilities for you. For example, maybe you have strengths in an area. There are things that you are good at and that you do enjoy. When you do them, it feels like flow. It is like, “This is why I am here, and I'm having the best time right now.” And you don't procrastinate with those things. They're like fun — you move towards them instead of away from them. 

As you get clearer about what those things are, and how those things would bring value into the lives of other people, you, now, have a poker chip that you could potentially trade with somebody else. There are people — and I'm just going to use this as a quick example — there are magical creatures in the world that I sort of view as this semi-unicorn, pegasus creature, sparkles, that enjoys things like administrative tasks, bills, opening mail, organizing things. They exist, they exist. You might be one of those people. 

Perhaps, as you're listening to this, many procrastinators tend to be on the more creative side of the spectrum. Maybe, you are really good at painting things, making music, coming up with new ideas, rearranging furniture. It's possible to develop relationships with other people where they can have a good time coming into your life and helping you do things that you can't really do that well. In exchange, of course for your energy, and talent, and abilities, and the value that you can bring to their life doing the things that would help them. 

That may not be intrinsically part of their kind of skill set and value set. It could be even simple swaps with your partner. If you're getting into power struggles around certain tasks at home, seeing, “Okay, I don't procrastinate around these things. These are things I can get done. I can be in charge of XYZ. You do that over there.” 

I think the central point is that not everyone is good at everything. Actually, nobody is good at everything. The sooner that we can move into a state of acceptance around that, and spend your time and energy really identifying your strengths, the things you do enjoy, and figuring out how to do more of those — a lot of this is instantly going to get easier for you. That would be strategy number one, is to swap or even outsource if you have the means to do it. 

I felt terribly guilty for years and years about the idea of having a house cleaner come in periodically. I had all these mental narratives around that “I can’t, that feelings around it. I tell you what — I am not a fabulous housekeeper. I aspire to be. I look at things and I'm like, “Man, someone will need to clean that.” I see it, but in terms of my time, and I'm going 900 miles an hour, and not really good at it anyway. 

To have a support in that area has been incredibly helpful for me. I had to work through a lot of guilt. And yes, of course, there's the money component. I understand that not everybody can do that. But if there are things that you can just cross off your list and get some help with, do it. 

Another piece of this that is very, very common for many people… Maybe, it is something that you need to do. It is actually your job to do. Generally speaking — like big picture — it is stuff that you're good at, it is stuff that you enjoy doing, it is within your kind of sphere of talent, and value, and ability, and it's also difficult to do. 

I know that many of my clients who are in creative positions or positions where their role is, even if it's not an artistic kind of creative position — I'm thinking of a developer, marketing people, project managers, product managers… In my group, we honestly work with a lot of people in the tech industries. Their role is really to come up with ideas and be solving complex problems with lots of different moving parts that might involve a lot of different people. 

Or even I know for myself, sometimes, I love to write. I enjoy it, I think that I can do it somewhat well when I put in the time. Cognitively though, any of these activities are very cognitively demanding. They are cognitively heavy work. It takes a lot of mental effort to do these things. It may surprise you to know that your body, your physical body — okay, we all know we have physical bodies, and they burn calories. You have energy that powers your body. 

Your brain, particularly when it is working hard, consumes more calories and more energy than anything else in your body which might surprise you because we think about all these moving parts, right? But it's actually your brain. I bring that up to reinforce and validate the fact that, sometimes, when we have these big complicated things to create or problems to solve, we can feel the enormity of that load in our brains, and it's like anticipating lifting something extremely heavy — just this like, “Ugh!” 

I think what also goes along with that is that some things, whether they are cognitive in nature or even physical projects, can be quite complex. They have many different aspects of them. It looks like, on the surface, a fairly simple task like, “Okay, I'm going to paint the wall in the bedroom.” Something like that. It’s like a 97-step process. 

You have to get to the paint store to look at colors, and then bring the colors home, and then take them to the wall, and then look at them, and then argue about them, and then take half of them down — that. Then, you have to get the paint, and then you have to get the stuff, and then when… When are you going to do that? Anyway, it's just like everything is complicated. 

What happens is that we begin to feel the bigness of the project, either the all of the physical steps, and it starts to feel overwhelming, or the cognitive load of it. It turns into a situation where we can begin subliminally, subconsciously dreading the process. This sort of anticipatory dread about how hard it's going to be — even though intellectually, you want to do it, you enjoy doing it, and maybe, you want the outcome of having done it. 

When it comes to — if you're feeling like, “Yes, this is what I do.” When it comes to the cognitive pieces of this, what I learned is that with the cognitive work, it is extremely important to do a few things. First of all, get really clear about your natural energy cycles. For example, I tend to do my best work. If I'm going to do something very cognitively heavy, I need to do it in the morning. For some people, their brains are not working at full capacity at five o'clock in the morning when I'm ready to write stuff and think about stuff. 

They are at like five o'clock at night is when they turn on. But I think gaining that awareness about yourself, “Is it the middle of the day? Is it late at night? Is it in the morning?” Then, planning your cognitively heavy work during those times. That is one really important strategy right there. In addition to that, to have a dedicated chunk, big chunk of time to do deep work, particularly if it is cognitive in nature. 

I work with so many people who are in roles where they're managing people, or they're guiding teams, or they're part of a team. I've had clients show me their work calendars before because they're telling me that they're procrastinating and have this big project to do. Then, they show me their work calendar and their fragmented days. They'll have 10 meetings in a day, and they're like, “I just can't make myself do this thing.” I'm thinking, “You might need an hour to settle in to even getting mentally prepared to doing this work.” 

I think that people tend to underestimate the amount of time that they need to enter into this — I think it's almost like an altered state of consciousness in some ways to do really deep, creative work, or intellectually demanding work — but like a three-hour chunk, a five-hour chunk. I don't know what that might look like in your life. But if you're struggling to get those big things done, I would honestly recommend that you look at your calendar and see what you can do to move things around so that you have time and space that is protected and dedicated to those very heavy cognitive tasks. 

That's what I began doing — blocking my calendar. I have different kinds of activities on different days. I do have days where I have meetings from morning to night — and it's fine. I have to do it, and I enjoy talking to people and having meetings, and having sessions. But I can't do that on days that I have to do things like make podcasts for you. I can't focus deeply enough to be able to create that for you, so I have to have days that are like my days to do creative work. I wonder what might happen for you if you tried that strategy. 

Also, you're responsible for setting boundaries. People aren't going to set boundaries for you. But to be able to communicate those needs to your team, to your boss, say, “Hey, I have this big project to do, so I am going to be unavailable for the next four hours. I'm going to produce great results for you in the meantime.” Also, it's important that when you do have this protected time to be setting boundaries with yourself, and right now, I'm thinking of the notifications that come in or you see something on your phone, and 20 minutes later… 

The protecting yourself from those intrusive kinds of notifications or interruptions that can shift you out of that deep work. In addition, though, and this is where we have to get very serious, is to identify the usual suspects that are — in Tim Urban's words, “part of The Dark Playground”, and knowing yourself well enough to know that you cannot actually look at YouTube or whatever for five minutes even though that's what the little voice in your mind is telling you. 

I had to implement a new rule with myself that when I go into the office, first thing in the morning, I go in with my coffee. I had to start bringing my phone in with me because I would easily spend an hour just scrolling through crap on my phone during the most productive, high-energy time of day that I had. If I was going to get something done, it was going to be at that time — just noticing that pattern and being so annoyed with myself. 

It's like these small habits that you can develop. I think you've heard on previous podcasts that I did about this idea of a keystone habit, which is the one little thing that you can implement that can lead to a chain reaction of other positive habits. For me, that is not bringing my phone into my office early in the morning. It sounds like the silliest little thing, but it's really that one keystone habit. I don't have my phone, so I sit down and I think about what I should actually be doing, and I'm much more likely to do it. 

Perfectionism and Procrastination

I would encourage you to reflect on what your kryptonite is and find some keystone habits that will help you set some boundaries around it. Some of the other usual suspects when it comes to reasons for procrastination and things that you can do to manage them. I know we talk about perfectionism sometimes. I'm sure that that's a word that everybody is familiar with. I sort of take perfectionism to mean other things as a — one of the many disciples of Brené Brown. I loved her concept of perfectionism, and I want to share it with you. 

She sort of referred to perfectionism as being a tendency to base your self-worth on what other people think of your work. So that when we are being perfectionistic, we are really working to get approval and recognition from others. We should probably talk about that in-depth on another podcast at some point, but that's kind of my working model of perfectionism right now. That is different than the concept of excellence of doing a good job, of striving to do something well. 

I think that that is okay if we get feelings of satisfaction from that — to be able to think, “I did a good job, I did that well.” I certainly don't want to take that away from you, and I don't want you to think that if you are trying really hard to do a good job, you're being perfectionistic because that might not be true. I respect people that do excellent work. I'm sure that you do too, and probably aspire to be one of those people. 

Where this begins to cause problems and lead to procrastination is when you, I, we tend to become so over-detailed and start broadening the scope of the project, and incorporating all kinds of things that maybe don't need to be part of the project or the thing we have to do, and begin to become attached to very specific and possibly over-ambitious outcomes that lead us to feel that overwhelmed feeling and dread the process of something as simple as reorganizing the kitchen like, “Man, my drawers are a mess. I need to reorganize this kitchen.” 

If you're not careful, can turn into a full day of tearing everything out of the cabinets, and having to take a bunch of stuff to Goodwill, and re-papering all of the drawers, and, “We should probably get new organizers.” “While we're here, why don't we just repaint the place, and I should probably get new dishes.” I mean, it just explodes into all of these different things. I think that a real helpful goal here is can be to narrow our focus and notice when we're doing scope creep in any of the things that we undertake. 

I know that I have a tendency to do this, and I know many of my clients have too. I do think it's attached to that noble intention of wanting to do a really good and thorough job — and that's great, but not if it prevents you from actually doing anything. If it sort of snowballs into many other ideas, and you can't plant flowers in the front yard before you figure out your whole concept for landscaping. We're probably going to put a new addition on the house at some point, so you have to figure out what we're doing that first when you could have just gone out and spent approximately 20 minutes planting some Iris bulbs, and it would have been fine. 

To kind of have this mental jujitsu where you can help yourself stay focused on the one small task that would bring some value in the short term, and it would make things better than they currently are. Your life might be incrementally better if you literally spent 20 minutes just reorganizing your silverware drawer. But you have to have a mental boundary that stops you from going further than that. That is just another cognitive strategy that I've noticed can be really helpful for people — is actually making the bar lower, and much more narrow and focused.

Another neat trick is that if you have something that you need to do, and it is one of those smaller projects — ones that are easy to put off, but that probably should be done every once in a while — is to set a timer. “I am going to rearrange some of the silverware drawers to the best of my ability for the next 10 minutes. Siri, set a timer for 10 minutes.” Do your thing, and when the timer goes off, you stop. Your silverware drawer is halfway better, and it's still better than it was, and you have done something. 

I think setting almost those little challenges with yourself is a way to gamify procrastination, and actually get yourself to do some of the things that you have been putting off in addition to finding a place and time to do them. That is kind of flowing us into another reason why people often procrastinate is because they have not developed what we clinically call “executive functioning skills”. This could be for a variety of reasons. 

Many of us were never specifically taught “executive functioning skills”. We are sent to school, and given assignments, and do these things. But I never had a teacher show me, “Okay, here's a planner; here's how to use a calendar; here is how to manage your time in such a way that you can actually get these things done.” We're just given a syllabus, and like, “Good luck with that.” 

I think that there's this assumption in the educational system, but also in many occupational environments that we know how to do that. For many people, that is simply not true. They weren't taught it or  — this is also a very real thing — they may struggle with ADHD as adults. That can really mean that they have to work even harder to develop very robust executive functioning skills and systems in order to be able to manage themselves. 

It can be simple things — like we all have that to-do list of the things. Unless you have good executive functioning skills, your to-do list will never work because you don't have a system for saying, “Okay, this is how long this task is going to take, and this is where and when I am going to do this task.” Just like we're told that things that, in order to have like an organized environment, we have to find a place to put our stuff, and that's like where its home is. 

You also have to have a place in time to put the things that need to be done in, or they will just stay on that to-do list and your life will flow by, and you'll become increasingly annoyed with yourself that you haven't updated your budget or opened the mail in two months because you haven't identified when are you going to do that activity. There are all kinds of books on these sorts of skills. 

If you, in listening to this podcast, become aware that, “Yeah, you know what? I never did learn how to do that. It could be super helpful just to look through some of those.” There are also such things as productivity coaches who can help teach you how to do that. But those are learnable skills. If you didn't learn them overtly somewhere along the way, you might want to consider doing that. 

Those are some of the deeper things that I have found to be at the core of perfectionism. Some of the strategies that I've worked with clients around implementing — there are certainly others. Of course, like any of the podcasts that I create — this podcast is in no way intended to be an answer to the whole thing. For many people, it was certainly for myself. It took a long time. I had to work at this for years in order to figure out what was leading to procrastination, and also to develop the skills, and strategies, and practices that helped me move past it. 

Connecting With Your Values

Before we end, I do want to share one other strategy that has really helped me and helped a lot of my clients. Again, this is a deeper thing. It's not something that you can just start doing right away, but it is very much worth doing. It’s sitting down and spending some time reflecting on your values — like what feels genuinely meaningful and important to you? Like getting connected to your “why”. Why do you do anything? Why do you want this job anyway?

Is it your family? Is your art? Is it other things in your life that are super important to you? Really get clear about those. Then, start to figure out which tasks, or projects, or habits, things that you may have been putting off — how they connect to these larger values. I tell you what, if they don't connect to the larger values, I would like to give you permission to just cross them off your list. 

Unless, of course, they are extremely important values to somebody that you are partnered with, and crossing them off your list could lead to the detriment of your relationship. You certainly don't want to do that. But if you do this for yourself, what you will have left is a collection of things that are actually meaningful and important to you. Then, you can begin to create sort of goals around these. 

When we can get clear about our values and the goals that kind of flow off of those, and then the tasks or the projects that we need to do in order to accomplish these goals that are a manifestation of our values, then there becomes much more meaning in our daily tasks. We also have a lot more clarity about what is important and why. That in itself can be quite motivating. 

Something I've gotten in the habit of doing is every week, we'll think about my values, my long-term goals, and then, “What are just the three most important things I could do this week that would move me towards those?” Then, from those weekly goals, what are the three most important small things I could do today that would carry me towards that, and do those first. Do those during your most high-energy days, and respecting the fact that those times of day are very special times of day that not just anything should wander into your energy field at those times of the day. 

That time is reserved for special and important things that are connected to your highest meaning and value, and getting in the habit of doing those things first. When you do that, every day will be incredibly productive because you'll be doing the most important things. Even if you don't do all of the things, you can feel good and confident that you are living in alignment with your values, and you're making the most important things happen because that's where it's at. 

We all need to release this idea that we can do all of the “everything” — that's not possible. But we should strive to be doing the things that are important to us. That's one last tip. I hope it's helpful. But again, I don't want you to hear this podcast and think that you should be able to do all of these things that I've advised. Then, that just turns into another thing to feel bad about yourself around if you can't. That is not the way that people work. 

These are growth experiences. This is a process, and getting information like this is a part of the process. But true growth — it's never informational, it is experiential, it occurs over time. I just wanted to remind you of that before we end so that you can be gentle with yourself as you are working on this. Anyway, thank you so much for spending this time with me today. I do hope this was helpful, and I will see you next time, next week. In the meantime, here is more Wimps.

Navigating a Quarter Life Crisis

Navigating a Quarter Life Crisis

Navigating a Quarter-Life Crisis

The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast with Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

Music in this episode is from Lone Elm with “okaynowwhat.”

Navigating a Quarter-Life Crisis

Your friends are sending out wedding invites, but you’re still swiping. Your college roommate just updated her LinkedIn with a plum promotion, and you’re wondering whether you want to start over in a new career entirely. By this age, your parents had a mortgage and an infant, and you’re not feeling settled enough to adopt a dog. 

Does this sound like your life? If so, you may be experiencing a quarter-life crisis, or at least flirting with one. A quarter-life crisis happens when we realize we’re not where we think we “should” be in life — or when we realize that the goals we set for ourselves as very young adults don’t match up with the people we’ve become by our late 20s or early 30s. 

A quarter-life crisis, like its midlife counterpart, leaves you feeling stuck and uncertain. But there is a path forward, and following it can bring about a personal growth spurt that will serve you for the rest of your life. 

That’s what we’re discussing in today’s episode of the podcast, which I’m so excited to share with you. My guest is Megan R., a career counselor and coach here at Growing Self. Megan often works with clients navigating this important life phase, helping them find clarity not only about their career paths but about every area of their lives. She’s sharing tips on how to find the right career for you, how to use your internal guidance system to make big, life-changing decisions, and how to ride the waves of doubt and uncertainty that a quarter-life crisis can bring. 

This is a challenging season, but it’s also one that’s teeming with possibility. I hope this conversation helps you see the opportunity in your quarter-life crisis, so you can emerge clearer and stronger than ever before. Some day, you may just look back and think your quarter-life crisis was the best thing that ever happened to you. 

I think you might. 

With love, 

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

Navigating a Quarter-Life Crisis

The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast with Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

Music in this episode is from Lone Elm with “okaynowwhat.”

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Navigating a Quarter-Life Crisis: Episode Highlights

We all like to feel confident about where we’re headed in life. When we realize we’re not so sure — that, in fact, we may be totally lost — it feels scary. 

But a quarter-life crisis doesn’t have to be a catastrophe. It can be a powerful springboard for growth, if you know how to use it. 

What is a Quarter-Life Crisis? 

Many people in their late 20s or early 30s arrive in counseling or coaching in soul-searching mode. They’ve often started asking themselves big, life-shaping questions, like: 

Am I on the right career path? 

Is my partner “The One?”

Do I want to have kids? 

Should I go back to school?

Do I want to move across the country and start over somewhere new? 

The popular term for this period of uncertainty is a “quarter-life crisis,” and while it’s not a phrase you’re going to find in the DSM, it is a real experience shared by many young adults. 

As the name implies, a quarter-life crisis is uncomfortable. But it’s also an opportunity to gain clarity about who you are and what matters to you most, and then use that insight to move yourself closer to the life you want.

Signs of a Quarter-Life Crisis

No two quarter-life crises look exactly the same. 

Yours might manifest as a feeling of stuckness in an uninspired career, or in a relationship that you know isn’t right for you, but that feels difficult to end. 

It might show up as feelings of regret or despair over not being where you wanted or expected to be at this point in your life, and painful comparisons with your peers who seem to be. 

Or, you may have realized that, even though you have accomplished the goals you set out to accomplish, you don’t feel the way you expected to feel. 

Since many of us define ourselves by our jobs, relationships, and life goals, a quarter-life crisis can strike at the very core of your identity, making it a deeply unsettling experience. Working with a good coach or counselor can help you find the courage to look for answers and then act on them with intention to change your life — without having a full-on breakdown. 

Comparison: The Thief of Joy

Many people in the midst of a quarter-life crisis feel left behind. They may be RSVP’ing to wedding after wedding, without a significant other to mark down as a plus-one. They may be scrolling through Instagram feeds populated by new homes, new engagement rings, and new babies, while feeling mired in a less-established life phase themselves. 

In previous generations, people got married, bought homes, and had children at younger ages, because they were living in an economic and social context that no longer exists. Still, young people today who haven’t reached these milestones may be comparing themselves to their parents and wondering if they ever will. 

Teddy Roosevelt said, “Comparison is the thief of joy,” and that certainly applies to anyone experiencing a quarter-life crisis. By resisting the temptation to compare yourself to others, you can empower yourself to carve out your own life path, embrace your growth process, and feel better about your life. 

Navigating a Quarter-Life Crisis

You can emerge from a quarter-life crisis more confident about who you are and what you want, if you use the experience to make positive changes in your life. 

Here are some steps you can take if you’re in the midst of a quarter-life crisis to feel confident about the future, and at peace in the present: 

Explore your Values

Spend some time reflecting on what matters to you the most. It could be family, financial success, independence, partnership, creativity, community, or any number of other important pieces of life. When you have clarity about what you really value, you’ll feel more confident making choices about your future. 

Forgive Yourself

You might be experiencing a lot of regret. Maybe you feel that your education was a waste, given that you’re now contemplating a career change. Or maybe you regret spending time in dead-end relationships, and worrying that you’ll never find a life partner. 

In reality, nothing in your past was a waste. It can all be made useful if you’ll use it to guide your future. Practice forgiving yourself and moving from regret to self-compassion. Make meaning out of where you’ve been, and incorporate that meaning into the story of where you’re going. 

Listen to Your Internal Guidance System

Most feelings have a purpose, even the painful ones. If you’re having a quarter-life crisis, your feelings are alerting you that it’s time to grow. Listen to them. 

You can take good care of yourself emotionally, without stuffing those feelings down or avoiding the big changes that they’re pushing you to make. A good coach or counselor can help you take wisdom from the uncertainty, fear, or hopelessness accompanying your quarter-life crisis, and use those feelings to begin writing your next chapter

Episode Show Notes:

[2:42] What Is A Quarter-Life Crisis?

  • Many coaching and counseling clients in their late 20s or early 30s feel unhappy and unsure about what they want. 
  • To begin probing your own quarter-life crisis, ask yourself: What's going differently from what you expected?

[06:01] The Beginnings Of A Quarter-Life Crisis

  • We choose our careers early in our lives, before we have a clear sense of who we are and what would make us happy. 
  • By age 25 or 30, we often define our lives by our skills and careers.
  • When we realize our careers — or our relationships, or any other major life area — aren’t what we want, it can spark a period of soul searching. 

[09:15] Signs of a Quarter Life Crisis 

  • You may feel stuck or aimless. 
  • It's also common to feel despair, anxiety, and regret.
  • You may be comparing yourself to your peers and feeling that you fall short. 

[15:45] Quarter-Life Crisis: A Generational Curse

  • People in a quarter-life crisis tend to feel left behind.
  • We are not in the same economic or social context that our parents were. 
  • Comparing yourself to others is a surefire way to feel inadequate and unhappy. 

[30:48] Seeking Solace In A Quarter-Life Crisis

  • Make meaning out of where you've come from. 
  • Strengthen your “why.”
  • Share your vulnerabilities with your closest support system, and reach out to a qualified coach or counselor if you need help.

Music in this episode is from Lone Elm with “okaynowwhat.”

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby: I am so excited for today's episode because, today, we're talking about how to navigate a quarter-life crisis. Now, “quarter-life crisis” is not a clinical term, and you're not going to find it in the DSM. People are usually not literally freaking out and falling apart. But this is kind of an existential crisis that we do actually often see with clients at a certain phase of life, here at Growing Self.

It's often people in their late 20s, early 30s, who are showing up in counseling, coaching, because they've started asking themselves some big questions. Often for the first time, they're thinking about where they are in their lives, in their careers and their relationships, how they got here, and kind of contrasting that with where they had wanted to be or where they had expected to be in this point in life, or even how they imagined it would feel to be at this point in life.

There's a disconnect there that helps them recognize that maybe they're not doing what ultimately they would like to be, but they didn't realize that without having some life experience first. This can all be a very uncomfortable experience, but also ultimately, a very positive one because it opens the door for some really meaningful self-reflection that generates a lot of positive change.

If any of this is sounding familiar to you, I am so glad that you're here with us today. We're talking about how you can use this crisis as a springboard for growth and come out of it to be more clear, more confident, and ready for the next chapter. With me today to talk all about this, is my colleague, Megan R.

Megan R.: Hello, good to see you.

Lisa: We're leaving our options open, Megan. Quick introduction — Megan is a career counselor, career coach on our team. Just before we started recording, she was sharing with me — Megan, if I may mention this. Is this okay?

Megan: Absolutely.

Lisa: Recently got married. Maiden name is Rankin, married name is Riley. Still a little bit up in the air which way that one's going to fall, so you shall be known as Megan R.

Megan: You know what? It works. When I got my email at Growing Self, I was like, “No matter what I choose, I’m set as Megan R.” Maybe this is part of my quarter-life crisis.

Lisa: It could be.

Megan: It’s trying to determine what is my new identity?

Lisa: What is my name? 

Megan: How do I name myself?

Realizing You’re Having A Quarter-Life Crisis

Lisa: How very appropriate. Well, thank you so much for being here with me today, and sharing your wisdom and insight on this phenomenon of the quarter-life crisis because I know that so many people come to you for help in exactly this situation. Maybe, we could just start with your understanding of what's going on with people when they're like, “Wait a minute, this is different than I thought it would be. Maybe I'm not doing the right thing.” What is that about in your view?

Megan: Absolutely. But quarter-life crisis, it's a newer term, right? We've got mid-life crisis. A lot of people are more familiar with that one. We are seeing a trend towards it happening potentially earlier. It's doesn't get rid of our mid-life crisis, but it's happening sooner for some folks, and it presents in career most.

A lot of times, once clients do come in, they're walking in the door, saying, “Oh, it's my job. I'm not happy with my job.” That's part of it, and I'm glad that that's what gets them on in. But as we get deeper and deeper, we do realize that the quarter-life goes pretty far outside of career. It is relationships, it is where are you living, it's your social group.

Developmentally, in that stage of life, a lot of things are transitioning, and your career is usually the most obvious one. You come on in and you're like, “I'm miserable. I don't know what to do.” We're going to talk about what is going wrong, what isn't going right, what wants to come with you. I loved when you had said, “How is it different?” Because you do hit a point in your career, even in your relationships in your life, that you say, “I had some of this going differently in my mind. Didn’t I?”

Lisa: “That did not turn out the way I planned.”

Megan: It's frustrating, it's scary, it can be disheartening. A lot of people come in and they're like, “I'm not happy with myself. I thought I would do it differently.” There's stuff to unpack there, but the crisis, thankfully, isn't a full-blown crisis.

I don't often get people in meltdown mode, but you are close to that. You are in so much stress and despair that a crisis could feel like the next step for you. It's, unfortunately, a more common experience. COVID has only exacerbated the rates of it and the experience of it, and I'm sure we'll get into a little bit more of that. But it's pretty common at this point.

Lisa: Well, I can see why. I'm saying this as somebody who is much older than you are, but I think I went through a quarter-life crisis in my late 20s. But now, from my perch as a psychologist, what I know now that I didn't know then it's just a huge amount of growth that people experience in that life. I mean, you're a very, very different person in your early 20s. 

When you're making, unfortunately, career decisions like, “What am I going to major in?”, the internships, the first positions right out of school — you are not the same person by the time you're 30, and there's a lot of evolution there. Is that what you see as being the, “How did this happen?” part for yourself, or do you think there are other things? A lot of kids get railroaded into majors and career paths, and they're like 18 years old.

Quarter Life Crisis at 25/30 years old

Megan: Well, I was going to say, I think it starts even earlier than your 20s — these long-term decisions that we're making. You're in high school, and they're asking you about, “What is that elective course you want to take?”, “What's the classic option — business or psychology?” While those are fabulous things to test out, it's only two things in this giant world of career.

Even, pretty much prior to our knowledge, or even conscious awareness, we are beginning a track for ourselves. I find, a lot of times, it's an outside pressure, but it's also an inside lack of resources, which sounds horrible, but it's what's happening.

If you think about 25, 30, when this transition happens, usually the reason you're feeling stuck is because you do lack skills and resources to think critically about what's going on. You know something's wrong, but you're having a trouble putting a name to it, knowing where to go with it, how to get yourself out of that stuckness, that's usually because you have a lack of reflective skills or a lack of career skills.

Lisa: Okay.

Megan: It’s super normal. It's a bummer, but it's totally normal. Think back when you were in middle school, high school, even if you did go to higher education, people are just saying, “What are you going to do,” not, “How did you figure that out? What are you interested in? How does this fit for you? What is the long term?” It's just, “What are you going to do?”

Once you start doing it and doing it's not working, you don't know how to ask the other questions of yourself. It's a little bit of the education system selecting it, almost, for you. You've got those decisions in your majors, you're moving forward with that career, you pick the next entry-level job, but it's also a lack of resources internally that can help you unwind some of that track-setting that happened so early on.

Lisa: That is such a cool perspective. I've never thought about it that way, but you're so right. I think that people have this need to categorize other people, and that's what actually happens. People are asking you, “What's your major?” It's like there's this pressure to define yourself by this whatever it is, and it's not any reflection around, “What is that?”

Megan: I know. Think about, right? We live in a society that has — western culture specifically — identity is so tied to career. We do say things like, “Who are you? What are you doing with your life?” Very strong statements about your career. For some folks, when you do hit 25,30, and you're not identifying — your identity doesn't line up with how you answer that question, that's why it's hitting so deep because it's striking at your identity core.

It's not just what you're doing for a paycheck. This is, “Oh my word. Who am I? What have I become?” Because we think, “If this is what you choose in school, and this is your job, this is who you are.” We don't open up the conversation to, “Are you only your job? Do you have other things going on in your world? Is your identity comprised of multiple pieces?” Let's think about some of those aspects to dig ourselves out of this.

Quarter Life Crisis Signs/Symptoms

Lisa: Taking a much more holistic approach like, “You are not your job”, first of all. But this pressure that people feel to define themselves through those terms? Stifling.

In your experience, and also for the benefit of somebody listening to this, what would you say are some signs — the internal experiences, how people feel when this awareness of mismatch is beginning to emerge? How does it feel for people?

Megan: Absolutely. I would say the first characteristic, at least what folks come in and tell me most, “I feel stuck. I'm just stuck. I don't know where to go. I don't know where I could go if I wanted to change. I don't know how I got here. I'm stuck in thinking patterns.” I would say stuckness is really sort of the first feeling.

The second feeling often too is actually hopelessness. Just this idea that, “I don't even know where I need to go in general. Not just with my career.” This quarter-life crisis we're establishing is outside of just our career, but hopelessness of, “What is next?”, and, “Do I have any control over what's next?”

I see a lot of, almost, signs or symptoms of lack of control, lack of intention. They're 32 years old, they've been in marketing their whole life, and they're like, “I can't even really tell you how I got here. I had no control,” or, “It felt like I had no control over my career. Now, I believe I don't have any control over my next steps. I need intentionality.” Those feelings, they're uncomfortable, they're disheartening, they're isolating. That's also a really big mark of this.

Comparison seems to happen a lot around this age. Developmentally, we're establishing intimacy versus isolation if we wanted to go into a development model, “Are you going to live in this world alone and go at it by yourself? Do you go out and develop…” Typically, it's romantic relationships, but not always. We now are opening that to social relationships. In that, the developing and establishment of relationships, comparison is really natural. You're looking around and, “How is everybody else doing it?”

Another sign of, “Oh my gosh, maybe I'm at that crisis point”, is looking around and saying, ”How the heck are they doing it, and how have I not got there? How have I not figured it out?” I heard a great quote the other day, “Comparison is the thief of joy.”

Lisa: That's a good one.

Megan: Oh, it's beautiful, and it captures, I think, the quarter-life crisis because there is this idea, “I'll look at someone's LinkedIn”, “I'll look at someone’s Instagram”, I'll look at someone’s social media platforms to see how they're engaging with the world at our age. “Oh my gosh, they seem to be doing it so much better than I am.”

Feelings of stuckness, feelings of hopelessness, comparison — it's, unfortunately, pretty easy to spot for me, not so much for the folks that are experiencing that.

Lisa: Well, that's why I wanted to ask you because I think, sometimes, half the battle is just that self-awareness of, “Oh, I'm going through this thing, and there's a name for it, and there's something that can be done to help.”

Quarter-Life Crisis: A Generational Curse

Lisa: Can I ask you about one part of this — and I'm not sure the degree to which this part is in your wheelhouse because I know you're a therapist, and you're a career counselor, and that's your specialization, and I know that you do very holistic work, so people talk to you about, well, all kinds of things. I have more of a relational perspective.

One of the things that I very often hear from my clients at this phase is, particularly, around the sense of — they use the term “being left behind”. Their friends are getting married, they're buying houses, they're starting to have babies or think about it. That piece creates such an enormous amount of anxiety. When they see other people their age, at least, looking like they're moving into these other phases of life that they're not, do you have insight into that aspect of it too?

Megan: Minimal. Just because relationships isn't the direction I had, but absolutely. As I shared, you'll come in for career concerns — that's how it presents originally. We dig deeper, and we realize it is a dissatisfaction with life, with your social relationships, with your financial status even. That’s a big concern for folks is, “Financially, I don't feel stable or independent like I thought I might at this age.”

A lot of it is because they're looking around, and other folks are hitting some milestones that we see in this age group. What I would add to that, and from my personal experience with clients, there's also a reflecting back on the generation prior to us, “What did my parents do? What did my aunts and uncles do?” Just the generation right above us, comparison happens within that too.

Well, by the time my parents were 28 years old, they were married with three kids, and they got a house and a mortgage, and were investing in another property. Someone's 32 saying, “I don't have that just yet.” I noticed, or what I hopefully share with people is think about the context in which those generations grew up in, and accomplished some of those milestones that you're reaching for.

That context is not the same context we're living in now. COVID, a big, big, big, obvious one that has shifted a lot of things. But think about the state of our economy right now, think about our housing market. There are larger societal contexts that make some of those milestones more challenging to meet for folks in this developmental period. Comparisons happening to even the generations above us, not just the generation that we are currently growing up with.

Lisa: That's a really good point. How validating to consider that it's not necessarily your personal shortcomings that you haven't been able to achieve these things that your parents had done. Actually, legitimately, the bar is higher. The cost of entry to even buy a property is so much more than it was even 5 or 10 years ago. Thank you for bringing that up.

Megan: 100%. To swing it back to career, to keep in my wheelhouse here, we've also seen a shift contextually about how jobs line up. The generations prior to us, there was a little more of a linear path — you started with one company, you worked your way up that ladder, you retired from that company.

I giggle with clients to keep it light-hearted. I say, “Find me someone, nowadays, that does that, that starts with the same company and retired from the same company. I'd like to shake their hand and congratulate them on being one of the only unicorns in the world that do that”, 

because we don't follow that same start-to-finish trajectory.

If that's not matching — your parents had that experience, and your experience now looks a little bit more chaotic, your resume has a lot of jumps in it, and you're thinking to yourself, “I'm failing.” No, the job market’s totally different. It's entirely different. It's not going to benefit you to stay in one company from start to finish anymore. You get to change your mind around that context too because it is very, very different.

Lisa: That's a good point. Although, privately, selfishly, I'm sitting here thinking, “I sure hope you're not going to leave Growing Self, Megan”, because I'll miss you so much if you do.

Megan: No, I’m not going anywhere. It’s too early in my career.

Lisa: I have a gift for turning everything we talk about on this podcast to make it a bit about me. There, we've done it, now we can move on.

Okay, another thing that I did want to ask you about. You said, earlier in our conversation, that one of the things you feel are contributing to this experience, that I wanted to learn more about, you said a lack of critical thinking skills. Can you talk a little bit more about that because I'm feeling that that might be an exit door. If people are feeling trapped, I'm imagining this, “In case of emergency, go through this door,” and there’s “critical thinking” written on it. What does that mean, though? What do you do with that?

Megan: Sure. Critical thinking — what a funny phrase that we toss around because I think it does have a very educational connotation to it. But we forget to take those critical thinking skills and apply it to more abstract things: our lives, our trajectories, where we want to go, our hopes, our goals. We could point fingers all we wanted, but it's not necessarily built into our educational system, our work system.

We don't necessarily take the time to pause and have critical thinking moments as it relates to our future, our career. I've got a colleague that I used to work with in higher education who actually brought that to my attention. She shared, “When I'm looking at folks, and I'm trying to get to the root of where this dissatisfaction is coming from or this lack of direction, it, a lot of times, stems from an inability to reflect.”

All these skills are like muscles. If we don't have strong muscles, it's not going to be our reflex to use those muscles. What we get to do, instead, is say, “Hey, let's build up a reflection muscle. Let's see if we can develop your ability to examine a situation, and try to make some sense out of it.” That's why career work works, is because I help you develop those reflexes and those reflection skills.

Some really easy questions, just to start with, it's exactly what we had began with, “What was your original model, or goal, or vision for where you wanted to go, and how is it different?” It doesn't have to be this really scholarly critical thinking. It's just assessing what's happening, and how is that different than what you thought.

Sometimes, just identifying where the changes occurred, that's relief in itself, because we're like, “Oh, no wonder I'm feeling so lost. None of this worked out the way I thought it did.” It opened up space to move into some problem-solving or planning because you've almost diagnosed yourself. “Oh, I am totally in a different field”, and that's okay, “Maybe, I want to get back to my original field, or maybe I don't. Maybe, I'm learning that my vision did change for a really great reason.” Again, through reflecting, it's, “Well, this new vision fits me better.”

I had a life event occur, and I can't go back to that original vision. I take care of my parents now. I had a kid. I didn't finish my educational program. There's a lot of different things that can change a path, but giving notice or meaning to that, saying, “It's okay that it changed.” That's really helpful. I always recommend, start with the reflection question of, “What's different?” Then, assess what's happening presently. “What do you like right now? What is going well?” 

I would even give that as a recommendation before you jump into your reflection and your critical thinking, “What is going well?”, because there's a chance that there are some things that's going well, and it's a practice of gratitude. It's getting your brain into, hopefully, a more positive space. We're pulling from positive psychology here and saying, “What am I doing well?”

It's a strength-based approach. That, even still, is like, “Okay, now, I'm more willing to face critically what's not going right because I know what is going right, and I feel I have a platform to stand on.” It can be a little easier to bring up or begin to strengthen those critical thinking reflection skills when you start with, “I'm doing okay, but I can do better.”

Lisa: I'm so glad you're bringing that up because I think it's so easy for all of us to get very myopically focused on the things that we don't like, and that aren't going the way that we want them to. That's such a good reminder to not forget all of the strengths and abilities you do have, and to be able to keep those in mind as you begin that reflective process.

You know what I'm actually thinking of right now? I'll tell you this. I have been — it's time, Megan, for us to find an internal bookkeeper person for our growth. I have been spending a lot of time lately talking to financial people, which has been fascinating. I usually talk to therapists all the time, so like, “Ooh, this is — they communicate in spreadsheets. What are we doing here?” 

Anyway, I'm always so interested in people's stories, and with talking with these candidates like, “How did you get into this line of work?” It's been so interesting because for a lot of them, it was, “Well, my dad was an accountant, and he suggested that this would be a stable career”, or, “Well, I just kind of XYZ.” But for a lot of them, you can hear through the lines that their passion was somewhere else, that they had wanted to be doing something else.

I remember speaking with this one young woman who had been doing accounting for outside pressures, as opposed to an internal passion for numbers, which is… As I was speaking with her, I was reflecting to myself that this young woman was an excellent communicator. She was clearly very warm and compassionate. I was thinking about that when you were sharing that just a minute ago.

I could see that person being kind of bummed because, maybe, her career isn't going in the direction that she wanted in bookkeeping, but to use those skills in an HR kind of role, or in a mentorship, or something where she gets to work more with people — to be able to be thinking about that and reminding yourself of the strengths, even if they're not totally a fit with a profession you're in currently. I can see that.

Megan: Well, to add to that, that would be a really nice example of values conflict where, maybe, when she did begin her career, stability, family satisfaction, she had those values for her career. Going into accounting, because that's what mom did, that's what uncle did, whatever it is, that was a value for her.

At the time, what critical thinking and reflection also does, at different stages, is that it says, “You're going to change, and you're going to need to assess, ‘You know what, this is in direct opposition to my values now. My values are different, and that's okay. Maybe, I do want to be in a space where being warm, and friendly, and relational is the priority over numbers and spreadsheets.’” And that's okay.

That's not because you are poor at your job, or chose wrong the first time. You have a values change and, quite honestly, I hope you do, because it means you're changing and adapting and you're having experiences that are shaping you. Again, that reflection can almost validate. “I’m not crazy. I didn't do this wrong the first time, I did it for what was right at that time, and that time’s not here anymore. What is right for this time?”

I also heard another great quote. Rich Feller talks about your career, “It's a series of transitions.” That's the best we can we describe it. Not jobs, but transitions because, sometimes, it's a transition out of a job, it’s a transition into a part-time job. You will continue to have these mismatch conversations with yourself all the way up until you retire, you go back into the workforce, whatever it is, because your job is a series of transitions.

If you can remind yourself, “Hey, that's not serving me now, but that doesn't mean it didn't serve me at one point.” You give yourself a little grace. It’s like, “Hey, self, you did the best you could, let's do that again. I know that in a couple years’ time, we're going to reevaluate and make a different choice, and that's great because it's going to serve us in that moment of our lives.”

Lisa: That's very reassuring. Another question related to this, what would you say to someone in this life space who went down a career path, launched her trajectory and got a few years into it, and realized that they do not enjoy the experience of this particular profession — either their values have changed or it feels different than they thought that it would. 

But they are feeling an enormous amount of guilt, or, sometimes, even fear because of the expense it took to get the degree that allowed them to be an attorney or whatever. There's this — I'm not sure if guilt is the right word, but they’re feeling trapped. Maybe they even have student loan debt or if their parents helped them get this degree and they’re like, “Actually…” I'm sure that that's a familiar conversation with you. Do you know what I'm talking about?

Megan: 100%. It's almost an obligation. I’m with you in that…

Lisa: Obligation. There you go.

Megan: But it's not full guilt. It doesn't sit as deeply as guilt can, but it's an obligation, a sense of — I hear this a lot: “I owe it to fill-in-the-blank. I owe it to my parents to try this out. I owe it to my degree to try it out. I owe it to my boss — my boss stuck their neck out for me to be in this position. I need to tough it out”

So the obligation? Absolutely. It, now, contributes to that stuckness. It's not only, “I don't know, really, where I'm headed and how I got here,” it's, “The way out affects other people. Can I actually make this transition?” I think starting with a conversation about how you got into this field, and what it served at that time is important.

I would always start there because I do want to validate, “It has not been a waste of your time, it has not been a waste of other people's times, it's not been a waste of resources in this field. It's just time to transition.” So we start there. Let's make some meaning out of the decisions you did make, and how you got into this field. Validate it.

Then, understanding how you want to transition and what that's going to look like for you. It sounds silly, but it often alleviates the obligation. When you explore values, when you explore strengths, when you explore skills, when you explore interests, identifying the next step, the next direction, it can feel so personal.

I've got folks that say, “Well, I don't really know why I'm here, but I'm going to make this transition,” and they select a different field, and then begin whatever process to get into that field. When it's such a fit, and it's so personal, because it is based on values and skills and experiences and interests, the obligation has a funny way of dissipating.

When you do engage in those conversations with mom and dad who footed that student bill, and you need to explain that you're changing, the idea of not going in this next direction, it's just not an option. You come to mom and dad, and say, “I am so grateful, and I want you to know how that experience that you paid for has set me up to move into this new transition.”

Added from a very personal stance, a leveraging experience happens — that's the second big question I get, “How the heck am I going to become an attorney after I've been a firefighter for all these years? Those skills don't make sense.” Believe it or not, almost every job has transferable skills. That is the beauty of this age that we live in. A lot of jobs have things that we can bring over.

When we go at it from a personal experience, we make meaning out of where you came from, what you've been up to, what you've been building — that lets you also transition into this field with gusto because you're like, “Look, Mom and Dad, if I had not taken that one class, I would never have known I did have this latent excitement for this new field”, “If I hadn't pursued my CPA exam…”

Oh my gosh, that exam right now is the hot topic. I don't know what's going on. I've had more clients come in to me about the CPA exam that's going on. But when they do come on in, and they're getting ready and gearing up to transition, they say, “But you know what, I can use Excel. No one else can use Excel now, and this new field that I'm heading into, it's critical.”

It's not a direct, “You went here, so now you're going into this job.” I did a little meandering, but those skills were direct links. It's a complicated process because it's very individualized. But when we do start with, “Where did you come from? How did you get here? Who are you, and where do you want to go,” the obligation, it will lessen just naturally. Very naturally.

Seeking Solace In A Quarter-Life Crisis

Lisa: I hear what you say. It's like you have to have this really powerful, exciting “why”. You have to have clarity about what you want to move forward to. Then, that last part sort of releases… But you know what, I'm also thinking right now — you know our colleague, Dr. Lisa? Another fabulous career counselor that I've had the privilege of speaking to.

She talks a lot about your narrative — the story that you tell yourself, and I'm just hearing that and what you're saying too, and it's like changing the story to, ”Actually, you have to have different life experiences and learn about different things in order to create clarity.”

To learn from that is how it actually works, as opposed to beating yourself up that you're changing your mind. That's the story. Actually, you have to do that. Is that what I'm hearing?

Megan: 100%. Those varied experiences contributed to your feelings of stuckness, contributed to this desire to change, and will contribute to your success in your next role, in your next educational endeavor, in your long-term career. That's why starting with, “How did you get here?”, has to be square, circle, number zero. Otherwise, we're going to learn about you, and that's great, and we're going to move you into the next path with intention and very personalized information, but you're right, the “why” doesn't feel as strong.

It can feel like an untold part of your story. I have all of my clients that they come on in and we're going to do any sort of job searching, whatever they come in for — I start with their story. There's a lot of benefits to it, but it's ownership of that story, of that narrative, being able to tell it, not only clearly.

It's an interview skill, it's a resume skill, it's going to help you at job searching. It’s also going to allow you to release yourself and say, “That was critical for me to take that odd job that doesn't fit on my resume anymore. But do you remember that one colleague I met? They’re how I know I need to be in a different field.” Making meaning out of where you've come from, it strengthens your “why”. Absolutely.

Lisa: I love that. Making meaning from where you come from strengthens your “why”. That's so good.

I know we don't have a ton of time left together, but I am curious to know. For the benefit of somebody listening to this right now, and who has been feeling that stuckness, maybe who has been feeling dissatisfied, but also beating themselves up because they don't know what else to do. What would your advice be to them for how to get started in moving forward?

I'm hearing you say that it is very much a process — that asking yourself why. But what are some easy first steps that somebody could do, either on their own or with a career counselor like yourself?

Megan: Absolutely. Step one: Nice, big, deep breath, and acknowledging, like we had started, knowing there's a name for this experience. That in and of itself can be relieving. Take a second to pause and say, “I am going through something, and it makes sense that I'm going through something.” Give that some time to chew on. Big deep breath to start.

I would say, and this could even happen prior to your reflection questions or critical thinking that you're going through, reach out to your network. It is the top thing that gets missed in job searching because we do it in a vacuum. Even folks that are coming in to me, I'm your support network. That's fabulous. I don't know you the way mom and dad does, cousin does, roommate does, partner does, spouse does, grandparents do.

They have a very intimate view, often, into your life, and can speak to some of the dissatisfaction. They can remind you of, “Do you remember when you did make that choice to move into that career? This was going on?” “Grandma, you're totally right. Thanks for reminding me that.”

Always if you can, start with your support network to just pour back into yourself and feel, “People do know me, they love me, they support me.” It normalizes not just, “Hey, I am a person going through this.” A lot of times people are like, “Oh my gosh, me, too.”

Lisa: I was just thinking. This experience is so common, but everybody else seems like they have it all figured out, they seem like they have clarity. Why don't people talk about this more? Megan, what is that about?

Megan: Because these realizations happen at midnight when you're laying in bed, scrolling on social media, and you're like, “Who am I going to call?” No, I’m just joking. But it can be like this obligation that we're talking about, those feelings of guilt, maybe.

Lisa: Like ashamed almost, is that it?

Megan: That's exactly where my brain was going. There's shame around, “I don't have this figured out, I don't know where I'm going.” We are a very curious set of people in the States, and that's great, but how often do we say, “Where are you going with your job? What do you do with work? Are you liking it? Are you having fun?” When you don't have answers to those questions, avoid the questions, avoid the situations you would have those questions —  the holidays.

Lisa: Maintain the facade.

Megan: “I am doing well, I'm fine. Everything is great”, and in reality, you're cracking under all of this. It’s shame-filled to share a lot of that stuff. That's why I say start with your support network because those are people who can hold that shame with you, who are safe, and you can be vulnerable and be like, “This isn't going well.”

Your vulnerability is going to lead to their vulnerability often, and they're going to share, “You know what? I had the same thing happen. You know what? I am currently experiencing that now.” That's the best-case scenario. Like, “You too? Let’s see if we can figure this out.”

Starting with your support network — validating, encouraging. Also, it's going to set you up for job search success because, now, other people, not necessarily in your professional network, but your personal network, know that you're potentially job searching. That is your best tool in networking, is telling as many people as possible that you are looking for a new job because now you're on their brain.

When something comes up in their company, when they see a job posting, they're like, “Oh my gosh, Megan and I just had a conversation about this. She's looking for a job. Maybe, I could pass this on to her.” You begin to leverage other people's networks when you invite them into your own network. It's a really cool — not even a trick of the trade. I know a lot of folks that do that, but we forget that because we are so stuck.

It's shame and guilt-ridden, and we're not feeling great. We don't want to reach out, we don't want to talk to other people and share that experience. Yet, when we do, all these benefits seem to unwind or unravel. I always recommend: take a big, old, deep breath. Start with your support system, see how they can help you. Then, jump into some of your reflection, if you can.

When I look into quarter-life crisis — I was curious how it was being talked about in the media right now. Every article I came across had reflection questions to ask yourself. “Here's what to consider if you do want to make a change, if you are in this quarter-life spot.” You don't even have to come up with the reflection questions on your own, they're all on Google.

Lisa: You can Google them.

Megan: You can Google everything. One day, my job is going to be obsolete because Google will be me, and they will ask all the questions. Spend some time journaling, writing it out.

Lisa: Well, no because I want to bring something up because one of the things — I am all about a good journaling question. I know from my own experience and others’, here's what I think is important: We have blind spots. There are things about us that we don't know, and that's why I think having a relationship, either a trusted friend, a counselor, or a coach, because they can ask you questions or reflect things back to you that you would literally not connect.

Megan: 100%.

Lisa: But I also know that a lot of people, unfortunately, don't have access to an amazing counselor, or a coach like yourself, to be shining that spotlight on, “Okay, but what about this?” To take the personal reflection questions, are there any tricks or tips that you have for people to help themselves get past what they know and access new information about themselves through these questions, or is that just —

Megan: Yes. It's not as easy. It is hard. It's why a counseling or a coaching relationship can be so beneficial, and expedite this process. I have, again, Rich Feller, a colleague that I'm working with — we're talking a lot about unknowns, hidden things, blind spots that need to be resolved. Typically, those blind spots are what keep you from success or moving forward.

A good indicator or a place to maybe uncover that: What are your self-doubts? What are your concerns? What are insecurities? Blind spots often show up in those, and that is something — our self-talk As much as we would like to avoid it, we all know our own insecurities, we all know our shortcomings, we all know our doubts. How to answer those questions — that's a nice place to open up a blind spot.

I'll give an example here. I see this blind spot — I don't know if how I come across in that meeting is effective or non-effective. That's a blind spot. That's probably an insecurity for someone. I don't know how I show up in this space. I'm really concerned that I don't show up well. Start with what your concerns are about yourself. That's a pretty good indicator that might be an area where you could do some work, do some self-exploration, and uncover, hopefully, some of the unknown about yourself.

Lisa: That is such good advice, and I'm so glad that you're talking about this right now. I do say this as a grizzled Gen X-er who is deeply suspicious of many things happening on social media, but it's like there's this sort of, “Rah, rah, positive thinking, girl boss, take no prisoners, you got to manifest,” you know what I'm talking about.

What you're saying is that, actually, the door to cracking into a lot of this stuff is giving yourself permission to tap into the darkness, and go there, and write about that stuff — the part that maybe you're a little bit afraid of. That's really where you can make contact with these. Thank you. I'm so glad we're talking about this. You are a force of good in the world, Megan.

Megan: Thank you. Hey, I'm just here to help. Again, open those blind spots for you. If I can expedite that process at all by saying, “What is troubling you?”, let's go there. Sometimes, it is easier to have those conversations with somebody else because it is scary when you're alone with that journal, and you're kind of having to take a look in the mirror.

Sometimes, having someone that you trust in a coaching or counseling relationship to guide you through that conversation, that's just the little extra support that we do need. Some folks, they're like, “Forget it. I got it. I can do this on my own.” Awesome. Other folks, come on in if it's not feeling like, “This is something I can tackle and resolve on my own.”

Lisa: Well, thank you so much. I'm very grateful, though, that you shared so much actionable advice for people who really do — if I were listening to this, I would have like, “Okay, these are a list of questions I need to think about. I am going to resist this toxic positivity and actually tap into this other stuff”, and really giving people a roadmap if they've been dealing with this. There’s so many people are — for how to begin to move forward again.

Thank you so much, Megan — from me, but also on behalf of our listeners today. This was a lot of fun.


Megan: Thanks for having me on. This is a subject that's pretty near and dear to my heart, considering my personal age, but also just what we're noticing in career trends. Always grateful that someone's willing to listen to me babble about what I'm excited about. So thank you.

Keystone Habits: The Key To Changing Everything

Keystone Habits: The Key To Changing Everything

Keystone Habits: The Key To Changing Everything

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. She's the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

You Are What You DO.

At the turn of the year it's a fresh start for everyone. New Year's resolutions are common, but unfortunately, both research and practice show is that resolutions don't work. They don't actually lead to real and lasting change. But there is something that will work, without fail, every single time: Dedication to one, powerful, keystone habit.

As a life coach, I'm in the business of supporting people through the change process. I know from experience that it takes much more than a desire to make positive changes happen in your life. It certainly takes more than motivation, which always ebbs and flows. It even takes more than a plan.

Making changes that stick requires understanding the way our brains work, and the way change occurs. This understanding allows you to essentially hack your way to inevitable success. This process may sound complicated, but it's not: When you find the right healthy habit to cultivate, everything can change.

What Is a Habit?

A habit is a behavior or activity that you routinely do over and over again. So much so, that you begin to do it unconsciously. A powerful habit becomes so ingrained in you that it feels hard-wired — the way you cover your mouth when you cough, put on your right sock first, or answer the phone. You don't actually think about it at all.

It is also true that the arc, even the outcomes of our entire lives are built on the habits that we engage in every day — most of which are almost entirely subconscious. Think about it: Your life, as it is today, is simply the outcome of everything that you've done up until this point. A few macro-decisions have the potential impact our life to a significant degree, like who you marry, the job you take, moving to a new town.

But even then, the actual outcomes you experience in any of these scenarios have much less to do with the circumstances themselves, and more about what your daily “micro-habits” entail. Plenty of people get into Ivy League schools, and don't have the personal habits required to be successful. So they flunk out. Pretty much any relationship has the potential to be a good one or a bad one, depending on how people are in the habit of treating each other day-to-day. All success or failure is determined by your habitual behaviors.

When you think about the changes that you might want to make in your life, and resolve to “save money” or “lose weight” or “have a better relationship” or “expand your social circle” or “keep my house clean” — all of those are fantastic hopes. But they will remain hopes until you understand and learn how to utilize the habits that are creating your current reality, and swap them out for the ones that will allow you to create the life you want — hour by hour, day by day, and year by year.

What is a Keystone Habit?

A keystone habit is a very special habit. It's one, powerful habit that “touches” many other aspects of your life. If you find a single, great keystone habit, it can begin working it's magic on everything from the way you feel, to the way you think, to how much energy you have, to how easy it feels to do other healthy things (and interestingly, harder to engage in the bad habits you might be prone to).

Let's be real: If you think about ALL the habits you might need to change in order to achieve your goals, it can feel discouraging. It can be overwhelming to sit down and take stock of the all things in your life that aren't working, and all of the personal habits you'd have to change in order to create the kind of results you want. Even just having one goal of losing ten pounds requires a number of small daily habits to make that happen: tracking food, consciously choosing healthy lower calorie options, saying no to junk and sweets, minding portion size, getting yourself to exercise, being mindful of cravings and impulsivity, and having a plan to deal with special situations like holidays or outings.

It's probably exhausting just to read that one paragraph! When you tack on other personal goals / resolutions of things you aspire to, like saving money, having a better relationship, being more productive at work, etc, it's even worse. That's because when you start breaking down all the small action steps that achievement in those areas would entail, it's enough to make you want to eat ALL the donuts, isn't it?

I want you to be successful at creating the change you desire in this new year. So for that reason, today's episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast is all about how to find and lovingly cultivate one solid keystone habit that will carry you forward. I'll also be discussing how to make that new habit stick, so that this new year turns into a string of successes for you. 

Specifically we're discussing:

  • How to find your keystone habit
  • How keystone habits work to effect change in many areas of your life
  • Habit loops, and how to make them work for you
  • Habit stacking, and how to cluster winning habits into a life-changing force
  • How long it takes to form a habit
  • How long does it take to break a bad habit? Why it may be easier than you think.
  • Some tips and tricks to help you stay on track with a new habit
  • How to avoid some common pitfalls that could knock your new keystone habit off course

All that, and more, on this episode.

I hope that this info helps you as you craft your path for this new year, and that it brings you only good things.

With love,

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

 

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Keystone Habits: The Key to Changing Everything

by Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby | Love, Happiness & Success

Music Credits: Radiohead, “Fitter, Happier” &

J.S. Bach, Suite in A Minor for Violin and Strings: Ouverture  performed by TAFELMUSIK BAROQUE ORCHESTRA

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Start A New Chapter

Start A New Chapter

Start A New Chapter

The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast with Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

Start A New Chapter In Life

“Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.”

– Martin Luther King Jr.

For decades, counselors and life coaches approached career development like a big matching game. They believed that finding the “right” career was a matter of measuring a person’s strengths, talents, interests, and personality, then choosing the path that aligned most closely. 

You can apply this “matching” approach to choosing a partner, or a place to live, or a new hobby. It’s a handy paradigm for making decisions — but it’s not the only paradigm. 

The “life design” or narrative approach to counseling and coaching starts with the assumption that you are an adaptable, malleable human being capable of tremendous growth and positive change in pursuit of your most important goals. 

By approaching your life as a narrative that you’re actively constructing day by day, you become empowered to change your story about who you are and what you’re capable of. 

Change Your Story

When you reflect on the story of your life, which plot points stand out to you as times when you were at your best, tapping into your potential, and truly sharing your gifts with the world

These likely weren’t the most comfortable experiences of your life. In fact, they may have been incredibly challenging. But they gave you an opportunity to grow and adapt, and the result was increased self-confidence and a deeper sense of satisfaction and fulfillment. 

If you can discover what it was about those experiences that put you in touch with your best self, you will have a North Star to guide you in the direction of meaningful, rewarding work that you love

Starting a New Chapter In Life

“New beginnings are often disguised as painful endings.”

Lao Tzu

If you’re feeling stuck in a rut, or have a nagging sense that you could do more and be more, that’s a sign that you’re ready to start a new chapter in life, at work or in another area. 

Start by reflecting on how you got where you are. How did you choose your current path? Which decisions were really deliberative, and which just felt like the thing you were supposed to do, or the logical “next step?” 

Your answers here will tell you a lot about the values, conscious or unconscious, that have been shaping your story up until this point. Once you have a clear sense of what your values have been, you can decide whether to carry them forward, or shed them for values that are more aligned with the new story you want to create. 

Getting Unstuck

When you’ve invested a lot of time (and money!) in education and training to break into a specific career, it’s not easy to admit to yourself or others that you’re unhappy. 

To get unstuck, it helps to examine your expectations about how careers are “supposed” to go. If you’re like most people, you chose your career path as a young adult, and you likely expected to work in the same field until retirement. 

But in reality, major career changes are incredibly common. If you’re unsatisfied — with your career, your relationship, or any other major life circumstance — are you really willing to endure your current path for another decade? Or three? This is the “sunk cost” fallacy at work. It’s a very human mindset, but it doesn’t lead to courageous, empowered decision-making based on the life you really want. 

Instead of focusing on the investments you’ve already made that can’t be recovered, focus on the new insights you’ve gained about what you want out of life, and the opportunities you have here and now to begin creating it. 

A New Chapter Begins

For many of us, the coronavirus crisis has been a time for re-examining how work fits into our lives. 

We’re seeing the result of all that reflection in what some are calling the “Great Resignation,” an economic and labor trend in which tens of thousands of workers have left their jobs since the beginning of the pandemic. 

While the labor shortage has caused serious stress for business owners, it’s a signal that our collective attitudes toward careers are shifting, and that people are beginning new chapters with new values in mind. 

Writing My Next Chapter

When we’re unhappy with some area of our lives, we often feel an impulse to get away and start something new as quickly as possible. We may quit a job to pursue a shiny new opportunity, or leave a partner and immediately enter a new relationship, for example. 

But it’s important to step back and think about your own role in creating whatever circumstances you’re eager to leave behind. If you skip that step before making a major change, you’re likely to find yourself in a similar situation again. 

It’s not easy to take responsibility for a relationship, job, or any other pursuit that didn’t go as you’d hoped. But by looking at past patterns and recognizing your role in creating them, you become empowered to write an exciting new chapter. 

A Fresh Start

The New Year is upon us, and so many of us are feeling energized to make major, positive changes. 

What would you like to bring into your life in this New Year? What would you like to leave behind? 

I hope our conversation gives you a chance to reflect on these questions, and some guidance on making real changes that stick. I’d love to hear your answers in the comments below. 

Cheers to the next chapter, 

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

Music in this episode is by Wet Leg, with their song Chaise Longue.

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Start A New Chapter

The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast with Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

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Start A New Chapter: Episode Highlights

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby: Have you been feeling like it's time for a new chapter in life? A fresh start? A new beginning for your relationship? Or maybe it's time for a career change? Maybe it's time to change your story — the one you've been telling yourself about who you are, what you're worth, and what you can expect from the world because learning how to rewrite your story is one of the single most powerful things you can do, not just to change your life, but also how you experience it. That, my friend, is what we're going to learn how to do on today's show with the help of my expert guest, Dr. Lisa Severy

Now, I am going to go ahead and give Dr. Lisa a proper introduction here because she is so incredibly modest that she would probably never tell you about what a big deal she really is if I gave her the opportunity. You should know that Dr. Lisa is not just an amazing therapist, not just an amazing career counselor and career coach, she is also a past president of both the National Career Development Association and the Colorado Career Development Association. She is the former Director of Career Services at the University of Colorado Boulder. 

She is the author of numerous book chapters devoted to the art and science of career counseling and professional development counseling. Dr. Lisa does career counseling, executive coaching, life coaching, and therapy. She has a PhD in Counselor Education, and a master's degree in Mental Health Counseling. She currently serves on the boards of both the National Career Development Association and the American Counseling Association. I am so proud to call her my colleague here at our practice of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. 

Dr. Lisa, welcome.

Dr. Lisa Severy: Thank you so much. I love to hear that. Such a confidence booster as we lead right into this. Thank you so much.

Lisa Marie Bobby: It's so true. I don't know if I ever told you this, but when you first applied to join our practice, our colleague Rachel sent over your materials, and I looked over your CV, and I spit out my green tea a little bit. I was like, “Oh,” because you have just — seriously such an amazing career. You've been such a leader in the field of career counseling, but you are so modest about it. When we were working on your bio to put on our website, we were like, “No! You have to tell people about all of those things.” And you're like, “Oh, okay,” so nice about it. I mean, it's just amazing. 

Here's the first interview question, Dr. Lisa. Why are the most genuinely accomplished people so humble, while kind of questionable and marginally qualified people are shouting to the world about how great they are. I think Sarah Silverman made a comment not too long ago, “One in five residents of the State of California are now some kind of self-anointed life coach or success coach of some kind.” They're happy to tell you all about it, but not the real deal. Inquiring minds would like to know, what do you make of that?

Lisa Severy: It’s probably funny because it probably has a lot to do with cliches about practicing what you preach. Of course, all the clients that I work with, that's a major part of searching for a new job, changing careers, reaching out to your network. There are introverted ways of doing that. But still, it's really hard to do partly because, I don't know about you, but for most of life, you just doing what you do. Something comes up, and you respond, and you do what you do. You don't usually think about it in that holistic way. 

But I certainly do feel privileged to be a part of working with individual clients and then having conversations at the national and international level about everything that's happening with employment and unemployment, and professional practice things like licensure, and making sure people are practicing within their scope so that clients are protected. There's just a lot going on, and I love those conversations. It's a lot of fun for me. It's nice to have it framed in a nice package. But it really does just feel like — I just kind of do what I do each day and try to keep up with what's going on in the field, which is ever changing and a lot of fun.

Career Counseling

Lisa Marie Bobby: That was awesome. Well, the world needs standard bearers such as yourself to make sure — but that's wonderful. Clearly, you love what you do, which is, I think, the goal of so many people. That's why I'm just so thrilled to get your perspective on our topic today because you are — I know you're a therapist, but you specialize in career counseling and career development, career coaching. 

The reason why I really wanted to talk with you today is because you use a particular theory of change to help your clients figure themselves out, and create a meaningful, meaningful path forward. It is a narrative approach. If somebody is listening to this and is ready to create a new chapter — a fresh start to go in a different direction, perhaps with their career or another part of their life — Tell us a little bit about why that narrative approach is so powerful and important.

Lisa Severy: Yes, great. I'd love to. I think it might be helpful to start off how I came to become aware of this. 

Lisa Marie Bobby: Tell us your story.

Lisa Severy: Exactly. Because when I was in graduate school — in my master's level program, I had a basic class in career development basically geared towards how to pass the National Counseling Exam, which is great. Of course, career makes up a big chunk of that, but it was very much focused on career development practice that had been since we launched. The National Association actually celebrated its 100th anniversary back in 2013. It's been around for a while. But it was, and appropriately at the time, when it came into being, it was a lot about matching. So matching —

Lisa Marie Bobby: You’re talking about the field of career counseling right now.

Lisa Severy: The field. The approach to career counseling was called person-to-position fit. The idea was if you test the heck out of the person and you characterize a position, or a place or a type of job, you just measure the heck out of these things, and then match them up. That was really the career development mode we used for most of the last 100 years. It worked very well, especially when large groups of people were returning to the workforce — like people coming back from war and those types of situations where we had to do it quick. 

Lisa Marie Bobby: Electrician, plumber, right.

Lisa Severy: Exactly, “So here's what we know about you. Here's what we know about this world of work. Let's match up.” It worked, as I said, for a long time. I remember going to a conference and hearing a theorist talk about a different approach, which really is much more proactive, and it fits under two categories, I think. One is positive psychology; so it's very much focused on strengths and what people bring to the world. I mean, the world of work is really how we bring ourselves and our talents to other people. Otherwise, our family and friends know us, but the way we interact with the world is through work. 

The question then became, “Does this really work?” I always think of the quote from Shrek, where he's trying to describe to Donkey that, “Life is like an onion. It has layers, and you just peel it back.” We kind of approached career like that. There is a deep calling. There's a career somewhere inside you, and we just have to find it. That's wonderful for those people it worked for. 

For most of us, no, I don't really have a latent career in there that's waiting to be discovered. Why don't we design it? The whole function of life design, really, is in this group of theories called “constructivist theories,” which is basically, “Let's not just try to figure out something that's there. Let's kind of make it up as we go.” That might be kind of scary for a lot of people. I know it's scary for me, but at the same time, there's a lot of power there. In narrative career counseling, really, take a few steps back, and instead of assessing things like skills and personality type and values, it's kind of clustering it all together under the umbrella of themes. 

What are your life themes? They could be positive or negative. I mean, all of us, but some have had awful things happen in their lives and in their careers. It becomes a part, I think, of the narrator — that voice in the back of your brain that is narrating your life. Sometimes those messages that are coming out, “You're strong. You can do this. You've survived a lot.” Others, quite frankly, not so helpful, right? “You're stupid. You can't do this.” Like all of those things that are negative too. 

The idea behind the narrative career counseling is helping a client to develop, “Okay, these are the themes that I want. These are the themes that I want to keep moving forward here. The ones, maybe, I want to reframe, and rewrite. They, maybe, served a great purpose at the time, but they're not helping me anymore, and I need to reframe them and reuse them.” Then, figure out okay, “Now that I know my themes for my story, what do I want my next plot step to be?” Those things just go hand in hand.

What Is Your Story?

Lisa Marie Bobby: As you're talking, what I'm hearing through my framework — that themes are really those like values, and that, “What is most important to me in the whole world? What am I put here to do? What am I about?” This is wonderful. This is what I love about your work, and why I wanted to talk to you today is because of the depth that you bring to career counseling. 

I think there are so many parallels to all kinds of different life changes. I know you're a coach and a therapist too. Just even the way you talk about career stuff, it's so holistic. I think that you still kind of think about that career counseling as being very cut and dry — like you go see a career counselor, and you take an assessment, and you get the results, “Okay, it looks like I should be a forest ranger. Now, I'm going to research national parks and put out a resume, and now I am standing in the Grand Canyon, swearing in Junior Rangers, and we're done.” Like that kind of thing.

What you're saying is, it's so much different. You're really cracking into who people are, what they are about on very fundamental levels, and where have you been, where are you going, what is meaningful, what is important, and not just with your job, but almost your entire existence. Now, let's talk about how that career path fits into that, which is a totally different thing. The truth is, I think a lot of people could actually do many different things successfully and well, and make a nice living. That's another form of paralysis, right? How do you even choose where you want to go next? 

Lisa Severy: Absolutely. Well, it's always funny to me because so many people, still, will talk about work-life balance. I don't know what that looks like anymore. It's not that we leave work at work, especially as a result of the pandemic. I mean, look, right now. We're both in our houses, right? It's just a very funny thing. Because generally, our work and life are so enmeshed with each other, that it's funny that we still kind of talk about them separately. 

I think in terms of that, really diving into the metaphor of storytelling, and thinking about not what the last chapter is going to be, but what your next chapter is going to be because I completely agree with you too. Most people would be happy and successful in a lot of different career fields. Interest is certainly a huge part of that. What is interesting enough to you that it will hold your attention for 40 hours plus a week? That's, of course, important. 

But in terms of the things that are really reinforcing to you, that you do the things that you do well, and you're working with people that you like and enjoy, and feel a sense of teamwork, and a sense of community — all of those pieces are just as important as your actual work function that you do each day. I like to think of it — I think I've shared this with you before — but I think of two layers related to career and stories. If you think about it for a moment, maybe it's Lemony Snicket, I don't know. 

Lisa Marie Bobby: I love that show!

Lisa Severy: If you think of your favorite story, and some people think iconic things — Gone With The Wind or whatever — just a really important story to use — Star Wars. Think about what's happening. There's generally things happening on two levels. One is the story itself, and that's the part that you get all excited, and you describe to a friend,  hopefully with no spoilers. But you describe that to a friend, “This happened, this happened, this happened.” Then, if you ask them, “Okay, what's the underlying theme?” Most people will share something slightly different. Some things are universal, but some things touch each of us as individuals at a very different level, either personally or because you're at a certain period of your life that you just kind of attach yourself to a certain theme. That, to me, is the difference. 

Things like a resume have been at this plot level, right? You outline, “I was at this job. I was at this job. I have this many supervisees,  this many billable hours.” Whatever the case may be, but the theme underneath is really different for everybody. I think about that. Well, the interesting part is, whenever you ask someone to tell a story — does not matter the topic — they're going to tell you their themes. If I were to ask you, “Tell me about your very first memory.” Because we're humans, and we categorize things, you're going to tell me a story that has something to do with the themes in your life. 

When I work with a client, that is my only goal at the beginning — is just to get them to tell stories about themselves. Not necessarily — it could be work related, but it doesn't necessarily have to be. An example I use is when I was in high school, I was part of the soccer team and part of the choir. Nobody else overlaps between those two. But I was the person on the team that wasn't “the party person” or whatever. But whenever anybody had a problem, I was the one that they came to — with family, boyfriends, whatever the case may be. 

Lisa Marie Bobby: I could totally see that.

Lisa Severy: Now, I'm a counselor, right? That theme absolutely followed me throughout. Again, when I'm working with a client, regardless of what it is, I use a lot of various techniques, various questioning to get people to think about, what are their underlying themes, and how does that come out in the stories that they tell? How can we build that into their story moving forward?

Lisa Marie Bobby: Got it. Got it. Getting away from the facts, the circumstances — you had this job, and you had that job — and really thinking more about the things that feel important to you that are almost patterns that come up over and over and over again in your life, times when you felt flow, or sort of maybe were using your natural talents, or just taking pleasure. I bet it felt nice to you when people would come and talk to you. 

Lisa Severy: Absolutely!

Making a Career Change

Lisa Marie Bobby: That sort of quasi-counselor role after soccer practice or whatever — because that was just what you are supposed to do. Without thinking about those times of… When was I being my — I hate to use such a corny phrase — but “best self”? You know what I mean? When was I just being my — this is so vital because I think what you're also shining a light down is the path towards having a career path and work in your life that is genuinely enjoyable and pleasurable, and fun. 

I think that for so many people — which is crappy to think about — but getting hooked into jobs or careers, situations where they're just showing up, they're doing it, they're getting the paycheck, and their life is — it's almost like they're enduring their time. It's like you can actually love it. I mean, we all have days, but, I don't know about you, if I won the lottery tomorrow, I would come right back here, and be sitting at this desk and doing the same thing. Do you know what I mean? Because it's not connected to that for me. It's like I just like it.

Lisa Severy: I talked to some clients before about an 80-20 rule. I find in general, if you like it 80% of the time, there's always going to be stuff that you don't necessarily like. It's not all rosy types of careers. There are careers that are very necessary and very rewarding that are really difficult. One of one of my many career paths was working as a victim's advocate. That was very hard to do. It wasn't the content that was necessarily reinforcing but the ability to make a difference in the lives of those victims who'd been through some very traumatic things — of course that's rewarding. 

Especially for some very high functioning folks who get sort of into traps. They're making a lot of money, or they’re in a very prestigious position, but it's not really connected to who they are. We all know people who are the opposite who absolutely adore their jobs — they do. Like leap out of bed to go do the work that they do because they're enjoying it so much. I know in various positions in my own past, I thought, “That's what I want to be like. I'm here because it's comfortable.” Comfortable might be a terrible word for us. We might want to just get rid of that level.

The thought is, “Can it be better?” When you improve, as with everything else, it bleeds into everything. You could say, “Well, I'm doing this job. I kind of hate it, but I'll keep doing it because I have a family to support, and I need the health insurance.” And whatever. All of those things are valid and true. That level of stress and anxiety is going home with you. Your general sense of not feeling engaged at all in what you're doing. Again, 40 plus hours a week — you can't really be a full healthy human if you're experiencing that, and we all deserve better than that.

Lisa Marie Bobby: I agree. It's such a devil's bargain in some ways. I'm just the parallel of just enduring a really terrible relationship. So much of your life energy is going into that as into a career that is just not compatible and not congruent with who you fundamentally are, and what your life is really about. That's a hard spot to be in, even if intellectually, it makes sense. Also, let's all just acknowledge that there's a lot of privilege involved in being able to do exactly what we want to do all the time. There's that. 

Okay. This is super helpful. I know that we have people listening right now who would love to get some of your insights on how to launch this growth process inside of themselves. With your permission, I'm just going to pretend to be one of our listeners here for a minute. Let's say, I show up to see you for a first session with you, and I say: 

“Dr. Lisa, I feel so stuck. I have a job. It's okay. I don't love it. I feel like there has to be more to life. I know that I can be more and do more, and feel more fulfilled. Not just by my career, but my whole life maybe, right? But I'm just having so much trouble getting a handle on what I should be doing instead. I think about things if I start to feel overwhelmed and paralyzed by all the options. I just don't, right? I managed to fill up my time with distractions. I keep trudging along in my little rut, and oh — look, another year has gone by, and here I am. Dr. Lisa, what do I do?”

Now, I know career counseling is a whole process, and you work with people for months — no, really — like months, helping them dig in and sort through all this stuff. A podcast is not the same as doing this with you. I mean, what advice would you give to a listener who is in that space and really eager to begin doing some of this deep existential work? Making contact with their themes, and trying to figure out like, “Where's my lighthouse? What should I move towards?” What are some questions you might ask, or things you might invite them to think more about, or ask themselves? I mean, I know everybody's different but —

Lisa Severy: Well, I think — as with a lot of counseling of course, my first part of the process is to ask way too many questions. I'm sure that's what it feels like as a client, right? Just like trying to get it everything. I think a starting point is really to ask people how they got where they are. Because most people don't start from, “Okay, I'm going to try to find a mediocre job that I can just slog through.” Sometimes, people's jobs have changed dramatically from when they started. It could be that they kept getting offered — again, self-disclosure. When I was the director of the career center, or even working in a career center, I kept getting offered jobs with more responsibility. Eventually I found myself as an administrator not working with clients. Bummer! It was all positive; that all worked. 

Generally speaking, after “How can I be helpful?” My second question when somebody is in that place of, “I don't know what I want, but I don't want this” is to really ask someone, “Okay, how did you get here?” To really be thoughtful about, not an elevator pitch, not what you tell someone in the seat next to on an airplane, but how did you get where you are, and which pieces were very deliberative in your decision-making, and which things kind of — you were speaking about privilege earlier — which things were sort of, you did them because you were supposed to do them next, but they weren't necessarily part of your process of making meaning out of your life and your career. That would be my starting point, is to really look at the career path, career trauma that has happened because all of us have had that, some horrible supervisor or everybody gets laid off. 

Man, the pandemic caused trauma for a whole lot of people work related. I love reading articles right now about the “Great Resignation,” as a lot of people are saying, “No, it's not worth it.” Now that I've seen what life is like in a different way, not going back. Whatever that process was will tell both of us a great deal about your story and your themes up to this point, and how you got to the place where you made the proactive decision to go find help. Listen to a podcast, have a session with a career counselor. 

Even talking to family and friends about it because once you start to talk about your story with family and friends, they'll tell you from their perspective what your story is. You can decide which pieces fit for you and which don't. Like if you were writing a novel, you need to do all of that background research and figure out all of your characters. Every hero has a backstory. What is your backstory? Where do you want to, sort of as a starting point, moving forward from here?

Rewrite Your Story

Lisa Marie Bobby: Wow, gosh! This is so good and so helpful. I'm so glad that we're talking about this because it's so authentic. You have to get radically honest — but I tell you because I've actually done some of — not related to career specifically so much, but I've done things in my life that I've regretted and felt bad about afterwards. I think that kind of work that you're talking about that, “What was my motivation at the time? What were my intentions?” 

There's also so much, I think, self-compassion that can come out of that because when you really go back and put yourself as that person in the past, and just making the best decisions you could at the time, it's a very healing process I think in some ways. I think people can release a lot of the shame and the regret because hindsight is always that 20/20. With so many things in life, it's okay to say, “I'm a different person now five years ago when I moved to Delaware, or took this job, or started this relationship. Like this is what made sense. When I think about how I got to this place, it makes sense to me. But I also know that I don't want to stay here.” That's that empowering piece.

Lisa Severy: Hopefully building in a sense of hope around various pieces because I really think — you used a great word earlier that I hear often, and that's stuck. What is it that is the stuck part? Is it not wanting to — I don't have a resume that I've done in the last 30 years, and I really don't want to do that. Or is it again, the financial piece that you're stuck? Is it benefits? Why? Why are you stuck? Do you not want to tell someone that maybe you have a position that's prestigious? You want to do something totally different? Some of the career fields that people go into and leave the most are things like dentistry and law. Those require a huge amount of school and investment of tuition money, and time and all of those pieces that somebody's like, “I can't leave that now. I've invested too much of it.” 

There's this Economics 101 of diminishing returns. But do you see yourself doing this until the day you finally get to retire because you really don't like what you're doing? Or is it time to, “Okay, but don't wait another five years. I'll change eventually.” That's the other one. You've earned it, in other words, you've earned the chance to change. I think about the fact that historically, our — well, maybe in the last 100 years — that the trajectory has been very much, “You go to school for however long that period of time is. Then, you work for however long that period of time. Then, you retire and you have a period of leisure.” That's not the way we exist anymore. 

Students take a gap year before they go to college, or maybe after college. Before they start work, they go back to school after years of being in one career. Maybe they want to advance. Maybe they want to change fields entirely — whatever. Same thing. Maybe you take a year off to do that. Now, we're doing, I think, more, which is very fun — fun to work with folks who are willing to, “Well, let's shake that up!” That very linear kind of timeline of school, work, leisure. What if we mix that all up and took leisure when we were healthy, and could travel the world? All of those sorts of questions, and a sense as exactly as you were talking about — giving ourselves — we'll do it for friends — but giving ourselves permission to let go of some of those “shoulds.”

“I've reached here, how could I possibly leave?” Whatever the case may be. And it does, it happens in relationships — relationships with people, relationships with work. It's very similar. How do you sort out what's working and what's not? As you said, give yourself permission to make a dramatic change. You can do that in a very calculated way so it’s not as risky as it feels. Baby steps are okay too. Some people just want to leap, and that's fine as well. But working through those pieces so that there's a comfort level in change, not just a comfort level in stuckness.

Lisa Marie Bobby: Right. I'm just sitting here thinking about the — going back to that idea that we first started talking about the narrative, about the story. Until you are able to change that internal story that you're telling yourself, you can't change the external circumstances — that plotline. It's like doing that internal work around the “shoulds,” and the, “Do I actually have to do what I've been taught I should do? No! I don't,” being able to write new mythologies, so to speak, like the world according to me.

Lisa Severy: I just love all of these superhero movies in the last 20 years or so. As they said, they all have this origin story. Clark Kent, who's working in journalism — doing very well at that, and all of those things working — “Okay, so now I'm going to go save the world.” Okay! Maybe you're going to miss a deadline here or there with your story. Obviously, not everybody is going to develop superpowers.

Lisa Marie Bobby: I was thinking that he probably would have taken an aptitude test, pointed him in the — I mean, he can fly and throw cars. That's fairly specific. You have to wear the tights, and the underpants on the outside if you have that thing.

Lisa Severy: I can't think of that showing up on any norm referenced test though. Very first question on some of those like, “Would you like to be a dentist, or no?” And it just goes through career by career, by career. I don't know that superheroes are on it — but it should be. It absolutely should be. Because how can you contribute to the world? 

Lisa Marie Bobby: I think we all have a superpower.

Lisa Severy: I think so too. Absolutely, I do! So, discovering what that is. A lot of people who come into counseling or coaching with career, they do know. They do know what their superpowers are. Some don't. That's a fun process of discovery. Often, they do. What's interesting to me is half the time, they're not doing any work related to it. That's like a side kind of occupation, if you will. Talk about integrating those things. It's wonderful if you have your act together, and you can do that at 18. I don't know many people who do or did.

Lisa Marie Bobby: I couldn’t. I could barely be a waitress. Like I wasn't even a good waitress — forget stuff, sell things on people. Can we just go back briefly to a thing that you started to mention a couple of minutes ago when we were talking? You are mentioning this sort of new movement in the world, which I think is fantastic. People feeling empowered to leave their jobs. I was kind of curious to know, what you make of this? I mean, I think you just alluded to it. As people were sort of more in their actual lives maybe, and less in this inhabiting a work world all the time, they were like, “Wait a minute, I like my life. I want to do more of that.” Do you think that's what it's about, or is there something else going on?

Lisa Severy: That's a really good question. I think there's a mixture of a lot of different things. I think a lot of people reached a realization where they said, “You know, this isn't worth it.” Whatever they're having to give up — whether it's safety, or safety of family and friends, kids, parents — that whole piece, and really thinking about the fact that we all have time, treasure and talent that we bring to the world. A lot of people feel like, for the first time, they're having that realization, “I don't think that people I'm working for right now value that in the slightest. They don't value my health. They don't value my well-being, what's happening in my life.” 

As more and more news stories get written about how employers can't hire — I'm going to go find someone who can. On one hand, it's not particularly great for a lot of employers, especially small businesses, and they're struggling. At the same time, I do feel like there's this sense of empowerment. There's so much going on with the world that you as an employer have to show me that this endeavor is worth it which is a very different sense of — I think in the past, people have just felt like, their employer — they owe something to their employer as if they've given them some gift of a job. 

There's just been this fundamental shift in terms of the way that people think about things of, “No, I bring this to you. In return, you give me a salary and benefits.” And really thinking about that equation, and am I on the positive side of that equation? A lot of people are coming to the, “No, I don't think so. I feel like I'm getting used.” So, bye! Again, it’s great, especially if you don't have something else to go to. That to me, I have a lot of admiration for that.

Lisa Marie Bobby: Take this job and shove it. But I love this, and this is so interesting because like there's this emotional component. It's almost like people have been trying to have almost a one-sided relationship, and coming to the conclusion, “These people don't care about me. They don't have empathy for me. They don't value me. I'm going to find somebody who does.” 


Lisa Severy: I think the flip side of employers is also customers. That's been a challenge as well. Certain industries — like talk to a flight attendant right now about how abused they are. It's not always just employers, and I get that. You could have phenomenal people to work for. Again, if you don't find any meaning and purpose in working in a career that you're in, and knowing that there are options out there now, especially in things like customer service, that people are saying, “Okay, I'm going to go find something else.” I think it's great. It's scary, but it's great.

Lisa Marie Bobby: Yeah! Well, I think — and changing the system truly, like with our — back 100 years ago, there were unions, and people unionized, and they changed the big systems. Now, we're sort of still doing it collectively, but just in a different way. I’m so curious to see what happens.

Lisa Severy: Me too. I mean, we've worked for so long to try through legilation and things — to change the minimum wage. Now supply and demand is — okay, nobody will work for minimum wage where I am in the world. It's not necessarily everywhere. That's driven it up. So it's interesting — you're right — to see how those dynamics are going to play out, that circumstance. The world went upside down for sure. Back to normal, it's not something I even talk about because, “No, no! We want to go forward to normal, and really create something new and just full circle.” I think that's what's so fun about working with narrative career things is that you're really writing it and creating it. It's not like you're going to take somebody else's script, and start reading off of that one. 

Maybe that's how you've always felt. Let's start from here. I can help you as an editor, consultant, advisor, write the next chapter of what your life looks like. But it's you. You're the one that's going to do it, and take ownership of it. You really should never let, in any circumstance, nobody else should write your story. You should write it yourself, and you have lots of people to support and help you do that. I love working with clients who are doing that. Front and center; you are the author of your own story.

Starting a New Chapter

Lisa Marie Bobby: I'm just sitting here thinking about how important it is to do that work. Maybe this is not an accurate parallel, but when you were talking about people jumping ship to try something better — because you're a career person, and I am a relationship person, American Family Therapist. 

It's really common for people to feel those feelings in a relationship. They feel unhappy. They feel uncared for. “I'm not compatible.” “There's somebody better for me,” so they abandon ship. They ended. They jump out of the plane, and they parachute down. Sometimes, I see this a lot. My relationship work — there's almost this reflexive reaction. It's like wanting to get away from an unhappy situation that they don't know how to fix. But with people in relationships, they end their relationship, they think, “Problem solved.” Because of that, they don't always do their own personal growth work in that kind of time in between, so it's very easy to hop into a new relationship with a different person — but you're still the same you. You have your baggage, your patterns, your ways of relating and communicating, and attachment styles, and dealing with conflict, and all the things that you might not always consciously be aware of. 

What you often see is that people will, over time, start to just almost energetically elicit the same kinds of reactions from their new partners that their old partners are having to them, and the relationship starts to feel familiar in not a great way. I'm wondering if there's ever that — do you see that with your career coaching clients, like leaving a job because there are new opportunities available, and so they kind of jump into the next one without really thinking about it or doing that deep work that you're describing that, “Okay. What happened? How did I get here? What do I want next? What do I want to do differently next time?” Do you find them sort of vulnerable to recreating the same patterns if they're not fully self-aware before they make an actual change, or is it different?

Lisa Severy: No, I think absolutely. I think you're right. I think pattern is the right word to use, which is really funny because, again, it's easy to see in other people but really difficult to see in yourself like, “Well, I'm just attracted to the bad boy.” Hold on a second! The one consistent in all of your relationships has been you. I think because we are naturally sort of comfort seekers, so we'll seek out a similar environment to what we had before. If I'm trying to get away from a supervisor that is not supportive or whatever, but then I get into a new supervisory relationship. Somehow, I set the same patterns and end up with a similar thing. Am I just unlucky, and I've always had bad supervisors, or do I need to be more thoughtful about how I establish a relationship with a supervisor? How I nurture a relationship with a supervisor? Maybe doing things I've never thought to do before — like finding an external mentor who can help me process some of the things that I used to unload on a supervisor. 

Just unpacking all of those stories and again, seeing what patterns are repeating that maybe I don't want to include moving forward. “I really want to do that in a new way.” I absolutely think the relationship parallels are there because we talk about work as if it's this inanimate object, but really, it's a series of people doing a series of tasks. It's not all that different. It is funny the things that repeat like, “I stayed in for the children.” That can certainly describe a marriage or a job you don't really like that has great benefits and a great salary, those things. 

I think that pieces are relatable, which again, you described it as holistic earlier. I completely agree because, as I said, if you're in a bad work situation, it’s going to impact your relationships elsewhere and all of those pieces. How do you kind of unpack — I mean, in the counseling textbooks, we talked about it — the locus of control, right? I don't want to feel lucky when things go well, and unlucky when things don't go well. You have to take more ownership and more power than that. How do I make things go well, or how do I set myself up to be in a situation that things are more likely to go well? Because obviously, we can't control everything. But how we respond to the things that are happening to us is everything. It’s the difference between being satisfied and successful at work, versus just sort of sailing along. It’s how much ownership and control, so that we're not — to extend that metaphor — drifting all over the place, but rowing in a particular direction. 

I do just meet a lot of people that I think, “Of course you can decide that.” Whatever the question is, or if somebody says, “Well, I can't do this.” Who told you that? Like those types of questions that really, oftentimes, that's what I love about the coaching aspect. You have these skills, get in the game and use them, which sometimes again, people just need that a little bit of extra external validation to go do. Maybe they have a few tools that aren't quite there yet, so we need to work on those. Once you can get them together — but you do have to have your own sense of agency that you can write the next chapter, and you can do these things. You don't have to wait for that lucky break.

Lisa Marie Bobby: To be the author of your own story, and write your next chapter where you're the hero, and you do have superpowers, and you can actually do anything you want.

Lisa Severy: Absolutely. 

Lisa Marie Bobby: I love it. What a nice and empowering note for us to end on. Is there anything else that you'd like to share with our listeners who might be feeling like they're on the cusp of a new chapter and ready to go? Actually, let me ask you more directly. If I were to ask you to tell us a story, maybe about somebody that you worked with who did this work and did go on that amazing hero's journey, and did start writing their own story — of course not identifying details or anything — but what have you seen happen?

Lisa Severy: That's a really — that's a good question. That, to me, is the reward of the work as well. I do remember, I was working with a group of people, and we were using collages. Back to kindergarten, we're going to cut stuff out of a magazine, and there's a lot of pieces that really fit the narrative piece in that. Sometimes, what happens if you are to just flat out ask people, “okay, so tell me what are your life themes?” It’s very difficult.

Lisa Marie Bobby: I don’t know.

Lisa Severy: “I don't know.” But again, if you ask them, “Okay, what sort of magazines do you read?” Or watching people as they go through a magazine. Some people pull out words to use that are very meaningful to them. Some people pull up pictures. It's just this process, and you don't have to think about it very much, which is great. I was watching somebody, and they laid out all these beautiful pictures of things that they liked and used very empowering words, which are great, out of magazines, and all of those pieces. There was this giant white space in the middle. We went around in the group, and people were sharing various aspects of their collages, and other people were giving them feedback. 

Then, he kept deferring — like, no, no. Somebody else should go. Finally, like, “Okay, your last. That’s it, you have to share.” So, he described the whole thing, and then held it up, and he was like, “But I don't know what goes here.” Then, there was this giant pause, and he said, “I don't know what goes here. I need to figure out what goes here.” There was just this — nobody even said a thing. He realized that he may have a lot of, “These are the things I kind of want, but what is my essential sort of totally ‘blank’ slate.” And that was very scary to think about a blank slate, but also incredibly empowering for him to start to do the work, “I need to figure out what's right here.” And I thought, “Couldn't have said it better myself.” It was great.

It was, as I said, everything that you described was in his own language, in his own words, using his own pictures. None of that came from me, which I think is sometimes the danger of, “Well, you're very articulate. I think you should do this.” No,no. It all should come from him. Just in talking about it, that he was the one that had that realization of the work that he needed to do. It was a great launching place then for the rest of the work of the group. It was really fun. I thought, “I hope you put this on your fridge and you look at it every morning so that you know what you're doing, and you know what you're working on.” That right now is enough. To know that you don't know is enough right now, and we'll work on it from there.

Lisa Marie Bobby: Do you know how that story ended, or was it a group that maybe he kept doing his own work after that’s ended? 

Lisa Severy: That is sort of the, sometimes, the drawback. I mean, we did work on figuring out what that essential piece was, and got a lot of work done in that area. Last one, the group ended, he was still in the same position — just trying to figure out sort of what to do next.

Lisa Marie Bobby: Well, what a gift though that he got from his work with you, it was just that realization of I don't have a central theme. I don't have a meaningful anchor in the middle of my life to kind of hold all this stuff together. Just how cool that you were able to help him connect those dots experientially without somebody telling him that when he was like, “Wait a minute!” Everyone within the sound of our voices, get yourself a glue stick and start ripping up some magazines, and see what happens next.

Lisa Severy: Absolutely. It's a little bit harder to do online, but those types of activities where we can because so much of career stuff is in our brains. A lot of us overthink a lot of things. Sometimes, you need to stop thinking about something. It's like trying to think of a name. You can think of it as soon as you stop trying to think. Some of those types of exercises are when I'm asking people to tell me a story about their early childhood like, “What's the earliest thing you can remember?” You're not overthinking, “Should I take a manager or director position at that point.” You're way in a different space, and that allows for that creativity to come out.

Lisa Marie Bobby: Wow, that's yeah, people get trapped by their own minds, don't they?

Lisa Severy: Absolutely. And I do it all the time. 

Lisa Marie Bobby: As I do, routinely — the human condition. Well, Dr. Lisa, this was such an amazing conversation. Thank you, on behalf of our listeners today, because I know that a lot of people listening to this got not just inspiring ideas, but also some actionable advice for things to start thinking about and asking themselves about. On behalf of them, thank you so much for being so generous and sharing that with us.

I would love to have you back on the show again sometime because one thing I didn't get to ask you more about — we ran out of time — you had talked about toxic or traumatic work experiences. We're going to plant a flag in that, and I'd like you to come back and talk to me about that again.

Lisa Severy: Yep, absolutely. That'd be great. Thank you for your time today. This is great.

Lisa Marie Bobby: This was wonderful. I'll see you soon. 
Lisa Severy: Thank you.

[Outro song: Wet Leg, “Chaise Longue”]

Music in this episode is by Wet Leg, with their song Chaise Longue.

You can support them and their work by visiting their Bandcamp page here: https://wetleg.bandcamp.com/ Under the circumstance of use of music, each portion of used music within this current episode fits under Section 107 of the Copyright Act, i.e., Fair Use. Please refer to copyright.gov if further questions are prompted.

Do What You Love

Do What You Love

Do What You Love

The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast with Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

Music Credits: Brick Fields, “Gotta Sing Your Song”

How To Do What You Love

So many of our life coaching and career coaching clients come to us because they feel stuck.

Sometimes they're stuck in paralysis, not knowing which career move to make. Some (many, actually) of our clients feel stuck in a career that they don't really enjoy, but that is stable and fairly well-paying. They know it’s time for a career change, but they don't know how to pivot in their career without creating chaos in their lives.

Still, other career coaching clients are feeling stuck in work-related circumstances, like a toxic work environment, or in difficult relationships with co-workers. They don't necessarily want to quit their jobs, but they know something needs to change. 

How to Find Your Career Passion

Can you relate? Feeling stuck in your career can be frustrating, stressful, and even paralyzing. Finding clarity and direction about your next move allows you to move forward fearlessly and find your career passion. 

On this episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast, I'm speaking with Teena, a career development coach.

She and I met over tea to talk about the questions to ask yourself and the mindset to adopt when you’re ready to get unstuck, find your passion, and create a career that's in alignment with who you are.

Every “Mistake” Is a Step Closer to Finding Your Passion

So often, people fear making a “mistake” in their careers. Teena and I discussed how this type of Success-or-Failure thinking creates additional stress and pressure on your career decisions and contributes to a feeling of career paralysis. 

You can — and should — learn as much as possible about a job or a career that interests you before you ever work a day in the field. But eventually, you’ll have to dive in and see what that career feels like, and it’s entirely possible that you’ll discover it’s not quite right for you. 

That doesn’t mean you’re tethered to a bad-fit career until retirement, or that your time, energy, or education were all a big waste. It means you’ve learned something about what you enjoy, what you value, and what you’re good at, and now you can use that insight to bring yourself closer to finding your passion. 

Listen for some great perspective to help you find valuable, meaningful life and work-related experience in all of your efforts, so you can avoid falling into a failure mindset and cultivate a growth mindset instead.

Find Your Passion

Many people reach out for career coaching when they're just starting out in their careers. Perhaps they've just graduated from college and are figuring out what to do with their degree… or finding that their true interest is not what they went to school for. 

No one teaches you how to find your passion, so it makes sense that many of us need a little help. 

We're sharing some excellent advice for helping people who are just getting started in their careers get clear about who they are, and about what type of career will be meaningful and enjoyable… as well as lucrative.

How to Love Your Work Again

So often, working professionals launch careers that they develop for years, only to find out that what they're doing for a living is not truly congruent with who they are. 

Sometimes, people start careers out of what's available, or what's stable, or what's expected of them, rather than through a thoughtful self-discovery process. Over the years, as they become more aware of who they are and what they're really about, shifting their careers to match their true selves becomes an important part of their personal growth.

We have great advice to help you consider who you are at the most fundamental level, and how to use self-awareness as the key tool to finding work you love, or to learning to love your work again. 

How to Do What You Love and Never Stop Growing

Your career story doesn’t end happily ever after once you land on the job that’s right for you. Professional development is an ongoing process of personal growth, and Teena and I discussed how that growth work happens. 

As your position of responsibility grows, it becomes necessary to step up your game on every level. Learning how to be more productive and organized, understanding the impact of emotional intelligence and working to raise your own emotional intelligence, creating positive coworker relationships (even with difficult colleagues), figuring out how to get ahead at work, and learning how to lead are all part of the ongoing personal growth process that doing what you love requires. 

We offer some great tips for continuing to develop yourself both personally and professionally so that you can tap your potential to the fullest as your life and career evolve.

Love Your Work — And Your Life

While we do spend a lot of time in our professional roles, a truly meaningful and satisfying career needs to fit in with your entire life. Teena shares her perspective around how to create a healthy work-life balance, how to balance your career and your relationships, and how to keep your professional success in perspective as just one aspect of your entire life.

We talk about some of the stress management skills and boundary-setting skills that she helps her career coaching and life coaching clients build, so they can stay in a good place physically, mentally, and emotionally — even when they have a lot going on.

Ready to Do What You Love?

Ready to find your career passion?

Pour yourself your own cup of tea and join a conversation about creating a career that is in alignment with your authentic self, breaking through career-related paralysis, and managing the anxiety that starts to bubble up around making big career changes.

Have you submitted a career-related question for the podcast lately? We're answering listener career questions, so be sure to listen for yours!

Your partner in growth,

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

Do What You Love

The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast with Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

Music Credits: Brick Fields, “Gotta Sing Your Song”

How to Deal with In-Laws

How to Deal with In-Laws

How to Deal with In-Laws

The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast with Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

Music credits: “We're Leaving,” by DeVotchKa

Music credits: “We're Leaving,” by DeVotchKa

How To Deal With In-Laws — A Survival Guide

The holidays are upon us, which, for many, means spending time with our partner’s family. While family togetherness and holiday cheer can be beautiful, it can also be a time of stress, particularly when it comes to dealing with in-laws. If you’re worried about dealing with in-laws this holiday season, don’t worry — we’re here to help

In-Law Problems? You’re Not Alone

If you have in-law problems, you’re not alone. In-law relationships can be difficult to navigate, especially if you come from a very different family of origin than your partner. You may not know how to deal with in-laws if they have different ways of resolving conflict than your family, or if they’re noisier about your parenting or your personal life than your family of origin tends to be, or if they hold political views that you find a bit…off-putting. 

Holiday visits with children can be an especially fraught domain when in-laws get involved, especially if you have controlling in-laws, pushy in-laws, or in-laws with boundary issues. If you’re doing your best to parent your kids without losing your mind, while keeping your relationship strong after kids, any unsolicited parenting advice will sound a lot like criticism, no matter how well-intended. 

Around the holidays, couples often get into arguments about how to deal with their in-laws: Whose family to visit? Which subjects to discuss, and which to avoid? How to respond when Uncle Bill takes his Facebook rants to the Thanksgiving table? What if you don’t want to spend time with in-laws?

Even outside of the holidays, many couples find dealing with in-laws difficult, and struggle to find a healthy middle ground that respects the integrity of their new family while also maintaining relationships with each other's “first family.” Overbearing mothers-in-law, judgmental fathers-in-law, or in-laws who simply don’t treat you like family are the stuff of holiday comedies for a reason — they’re tropes many of us can recognize in our own in-law experiences. 

Help For Dealing With In-Laws

If you don’t want to spend time with your in-laws (and many people don’t), it can be incredibly hurtful to your partner and so it’s important to navigate these important relationships as best you can. 

On this episode of the Love, Happiness & Success Podcast, I put together an “in-law survival guide” for you to not just handle in-laws with diplomacy and grace, but to come together as a couple around setting appropriate limits with each other's families, both now and in the future.

I'm sharing my best advice on how to strengthen the family you created together and come into each other's “first family” as a couple. We'll also talk about communication strategies, as well as tips to help you stay in a good place if you find yourself in a challenging interpersonal situation with your partner's family.

I hope that these ideas help you honor and respect each other, while also maintaining the extended family relationships that are so important to both of you.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

How to Deal with In-Laws

The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast with Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

Music credits: “We're Leaving,” by DeVotchKa

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