Life Design: How to Construct Your Pathway with Hope for the Future

Life Design: How to Construct Your Pathway with Hope for the Future

Life Design: How to Construct Your Pathway with Hope for the Future

Design Your Life

As a certified career counselor and life coach, I’ve had the unique opportunity to connect with folks from all around the world this year through 45-minute Zoom coaching sessions. What I love most about what I do with clients is helping them build hope by understanding their career narrative and how it’s impacting them so they can move forward with new strategies for success. 

Many of my life coaching and career counseling clients – and myself included! – are experiencing a deep upheaval of what we know about ourselves and the world of work because we’ve needed to adapt so much of our lives this year. 

Work is foundational to our lived experience because our careers really impact every other aspect of our lives! Have you thought about it this way before? In fact, I bet you can’t think about a day where you haven’t thought about your career! That’s especially salient as we round out 2020. So, let’s start by having a quick check-in with yourself: how are you thinking about your career? What’s your current career narrative and how is it impacting your day-to-day life?

A Year That Changed Everything

I remember at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us were adjusting to working from home and trying to understand how to be in quarantine with family members, roommates or on our own, all while attempting to find toilet paper products and hand sanitizer that had somehow vanished overnight from every store within a 50-mile radius. Our basic physiological needs – the foundation of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs pyramid – including access to things like food, water, and shelter, were drastically impacted due to a health crisis that changed the world in a matter of a few weeks. 

In modern society, the way we meet our basic needs is through having a sustainable income (aka having some sort of a job) and the rates of unemployment skyrocketed across the board because a virus prevented us from conducting business in the ways we were used to. 

And, yet, we were doing our best to cope by baking bread, watching Tiger King, and learning how to host Zoom happy hours to connect with our people. We went on springtime walks to get fresh air, read books or did DIY projects, and watched as social media transformed into an information sharing platform and a vessel for social change, rather than a place to simply view cat videos and share photos of our weekend escapades. 

I recall checking news headlines more frequently than I ever had, even though I knew things were bleak, and watching case numbers rise seemingly exponentially day by day. Every large group gathering from concerts to weddings to places of worship were cancelled or closed to protect us from this devastating virus. Workplaces were shut down, entire industries and supply chains affected, and millions faced unemployment. Anxiety and fear were commonplace as we awaited some sort of hope to grasp onto.

One of the highlights of hope from March to May was seeing people doing what people do best in times of crisis: showing kindness, rallying together in support of our essential workers, and staying at home as much as we could to flatten the curve. John Krasinski hosted the popular YouTube series, Some Good News, during that time as well and we watched dreams come true in magical ways, participated in virtual prom, and found inklings of hope in the uncertainty.

Flash forward to the end of 2020 and those days of quarantine seem like eons ago! Since then, there has been a continued deep sense of turbulence felt with no end to this global health crisis in sight. And, now that it’s December, we’re also continuing to address systems of power and privilege, dealing with an election year, and trying to figure out what the holidays look like in the middle of a pandemic. (Thanksgiving dinner on Zoom sound familiar, anyone?) Maybe the hope we need is that we’ll get a glimmer of hope in the coming months; but hope seems to be in short supply.

I share this spiel to shine light on the layers of the 2020 experience because nothing really looks the same nowadays as it did before. We’re settling into this “new normal” and reflecting on the immense losses we’ve faced collectively while also trying to envision what we want 2021 (and beyond) to look like. 

So, how do we plan ahead when nothing is certain? As a career counselor and life coach, I argue that the answer is through a process I like to call career flow and life design. Here’s what you can do RIGHT NOW to amp up your hope and construct your pathway forward!

Using Life Design to Construct Your Career

We are in the midst of the third paradigm of career development known as life design. But it hasn’t always been this way! Don’t know much about career development? Here’s a very brief history: 

  • Vocational guidance: workers have certain traits that link them to certain jobs, where it’s assumed that our skillsets remain static over time


  • Career education: people should pursue certain educational opportunities to train them on how to launch their career in a certain industry, where it’s assumed that industries and jobs will remain stable
  • Life design: individuals can gain understanding of who they are and what they have to offer the world, where it’s assumed that nothing is static or stable so we must design the future ourselves

Which paradigm does your career currently exist in? If it’s vocational guidance, you probably knew that you were good at something from a young age so you pursued a pathway that lined up with that skill. If it’s career education, you probably have some sort of educational background that linked you with a certain career path. OR, if you’re like most of my clients, you thought you had an idea of your skills and pursued certain training options like we’re “supposed to”, but aren’t finding a fit in the modern world of work or are overwhelmed by the options.

What you need is career flow experiences to build your hope and life design strategies to build your future!

And, as you can imagine, finding hope and designing your life is more relevant now in 2020 than it’s ever been before because the way the world used to be is no longer the reality – at least, for now. We’re creating a “new normal” for how the world operates and it’s met by a need for creative solutions in how we think about our options.

The following tips are for those of you reading this who are currently seeking work (or know someone who is!) and who are trying to plan for the future. My hope is you can use these tools to refresh your current narratives and beliefs about careers, knowing that regardless of the struggle, you can do this and you’re not alone

Career Flow Job Searching

If you’re currently job searching and finding yourself feeling frustrated by the process, you’re not alone. It can be so debilitating to put in so much effort to fill out job application after job application with no response from any employers. Oftentimes, when I meet a new client who’s experiencing this hopelessness about their job search, I want to check in on their process that led to where they are now and help them focus on the specific aspects of their search that are stifling their progress.

To do this, we talk about career flow, which includes six competencies that help us build hope in our process. Career flow is not like psychological flow – it’s recognizing that our careers will evolve over time and our task is not to simply “go with the flow” but to “be the flow.”

To evaluate your own career flow in this moment, use the following prompts:

  • Hope
      • If I’m feeling stuck, do I believe I can solve this problem and find a job?
      • Do I believe there’s hope for my career future?
      • Can I make a difference in this situation?
  • Self-reflection
      • Can I identify what makes me happy right now?
      • Do I reflect on what’s important to me before I make important decisions?
      • How are my career circumstances influencing me right now?
  • Self-clarity
      • Have I thought about what motivates me in my career or studies?
      • Do I know what I’m good at, what I enjoy, and what is important to me?
      • Can I identify the life roles I hold, besides my career?
  • Visioning
      • Can I imagine future possibilities for myself?
      • Have I thought about what my life and career could look like in 5 years from now?
      • Do I have a clear vision for my future?
  • Goal Setting & Planning
      • Have I set any long-term goals for my future?
      • Do I have several things I’d like to accomplish on my way to seeing my long-term goals achieved?
      • Can I set specific goals for myself for the next month?
  • Implementing & Adapting 
    • Am I currently monitoring my plans and actions so my goals are met?
    • Have I evaluated the effectiveness of my plans recently if I’m not meeting my goals?
    • Do I know how to adjust my plans – even in the midst of uncertain, trying times?


If you answered NO to any of the questions posed above (very common!), here are some useful action steps you can take to develop your career flow:

Take the time to reflect on the outcome you’re hoping for from your job search

Are you looking for a long-term position but having no luck tracking one down? With the uncertainty in many industries, or if you’ve been in job searching mode for months on end, it might be time to find a bridge position. 

What I mean by this is landing any role that you’d be willing to do for the next few months as you continue to look for a long-term job in your field. My best advice is not to worry about what the job is itself; think about it in terms of the types of skills you have and the experiences that would be enjoyable to you.

Tap into your network and build connections 

We’ve all heard it: network, network, network! But how many of us actually know where to start on that front? Networking is important, as it’s been found that around 80% of available jobs never make it to a job board. So, think about who you’d be interested in connecting with to learn more about a job or an industry from: you have a warm network (folks who you know or who know someone you know) and a cold network (literally anyone else!). Ask for a virtual informational interview and see what you can learn!

Tailor your resume when applying for positions through job boards

Job boards are still a great place to keep your eyes on, because you never know what will be posted. Ensure that if you’re applying to a position through a job board that you’re tailoring your resume to that job and company. 

To do this, look at the keywords in the ‘required qualifications’ section – take 5 minute to list them out and include as many as possible on your resume and cover letter. The best way to do that is to use what you already have written and then switch up the keywords as necessary. 

Many employers and recruiters use an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) and will see how much of a match your materials are to the job search. You won’t have to worry about that if you’re able to tailor your resume!

By implementing the strategies of career flow, you’ll be more intentional about your job search and have a direction to go in. Take the time to think about what your end goal is, who you might be able to network with, and how you can tailor your current materials to any jobs you apply for. And, consider working with a career counselor if you’re feeling a bit lost on where to begin. It’s completely normal to be feeling this way and we’re here to help you build the career that you’re hoping for! We can also help you navigate a tricky job market and find your confidence in that process. 

Life Designing for the Future

I’m a firm believer that career development work requires a sense of creativity to truly access breakthroughs. The things we subconsciously believe about careers based on our experiences or the experiences of those around us really do impact how we progress in our career development. 

Let’s use the Great Recession from December 2007 to June 2009 as an example. In terms of careers, many families experienced job loss or money insecurity, so a recent graduate who’s entering the world of work during that time frame might have the belief that the job market is unstable and uncertain due to a challenging and long-term job search process. This could impact their current career beliefs in 2020 when that instability and uncertainty is back in full force. So, if they’ve lost their job this year, they might find themselves in the same headspace as they did more than 10 years ago because they’re experiencing yet another tumultuous job search. 

We repeat what we don’t repair.

If you’re holding onto tough career-related experiences from your past, it’s time to see what can be healed in this current moment. Or, if you’re feeling stuck or overwhelmed by your career, it’s time to move from this passive suffering into active mastery and see what advice you can lend yourself in times of struggle. And the way to accomplish that is to tap into your career story and narrative and to construct your career with hope for the future, while also developing career adaptability to take you into the uncertain future!

Whatever your career or life situation is as we approach the end of the infamous year of 2020, I’m here to strategize with you about how to create a hopeful career pathway that will allow you to plan ahead and continue to dream, all while developing your career resilience in the face of uncertainty. As a career counselor and life coach, I help clients from all over the world create a hopeful career narrative that allows them to confidently move forward and build momentum through my three step coaching process of exploration, clarity, and action. So, if you’re feeling overwhelmed or stuck in your career, this article was written for you and I’d love to connect to provide additional support in your own journey!

Best wishes, warmest regards,
Elise Ross, M.Ed., NCC, CCC, LPCC 



Dr. Rachel Merlin, DMFT, LMFT, M.S.Ed.

Elise Ross, M.Ed, CCC, NCC, LPCC, helps people get unstuck! Whether it’s a career concern, personal challenge, or the need for something new, she will partner with you to identify strategic ways to achieve your goals and be your best self.




Real Help, To Move You Forward


Everyone experiences challenges, but only some people recognize these moments as opportunities for growth and positive change.



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Start your journey of growth today by scheduling a free consultation.

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Empowerment in The Workplace

Empowerment In The Workplace

EMPOWERMENT IN THE WORKPLACE: Have you ever felt disempowered at work? Like your voice isn’t heard, your needs and rights aren’t respected, or that your efforts go unrecognized?

Sadly, feeling disempowered at work is an everyday reality for many of the professionals who come to us for career coaching and professional development services here at Growing Self. This is a tough space to be in, especially if you’re in a career that you love otherwise. 

Empowerment in the workplace is crucial for your long term success. Even if you love the work itself, if you’re in a situation where it feels like your colleagues or leadership are keeping you down it’s an unsustainable situation long term. Feeling disempowered on the job can make you feel withdrawn, can contribute to feelings of burnout, and can even make you feel depressed!

The good news is that there are things you can do to cultivate empowerment in the workplace. We are discussing them ALL on this episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast! 

Empowerment at Work

To make this as info-packed and helpful for you as possible, I’ve invited career coach Mory Fontanez of the 822 Group to share her insights with me around how to increase your empowerment on the job. 

Mory has so much to share: She works closely with leadership and executive teams as a “purpose coach”  to create company cultures that are healthy and affirming. She also has lots of experience in helping talented professionals from historically underrepresented groups, like women and minorities, learn how to advocate for themselves, get the respect they deserve, and advance professionally. 

Understanding Personal Power

One of the most important things to understand are the power dynamics that occur in every workplace. But understanding these, you can act strategically to increase your personal power on the job. 

These are some of the questions we discussed, for your benefit: 

  • What are some of the reasons why people begin to feel disempowered at work?
  • How does feeling disrespected or taken for granted on the job begin to impact you?
  • Who is most vulnerable to disempowerment at work, and why?
  • What are some of strategies that anyone can use to increase their empowerment in the workplace?
  • How can leaders grow in their effectiveness by creating an empowering work environment? (Hint: Emotional Intelligence skills are just the start!)
  • What are some of the biggest challenges that leaders face in cultivating a genuinely empowered organization, where people feel respected and supported?
  • Why empowering leaders create the most effective and productive teams
  • And more!

I also asked Mory the zillion-dollar question: “Can you change a disempowering organizational culture from the bottom up?” 

Her answer surprised me, and it might surprise you too. I hope you listen to our conversation to  hear her honest advice for what to do if you find yourself in this situation. (Hint: You have more power than you think!)

It also led to another really important and related topic… the reality of irredeemably toxic workplaces. They're out there!

Toxic Work Environments

Any career advice involving a discussion of workplace empowerment would be incomplete without an honest talk with a leadership coach about the realities of toxic workplaces. They're out there!

What’s a toxic workplace? It’s a company culture that grinds people down on every level. One sign you're in a toxic workplace is that when no matter how much sacrifice and hard work you put in, there are still external forces that take away your power and make you feel used, unsupported, and even mistreated.

Toxic workplaces are not just disempowering. They can be outright abusive and even traumatic. A toxic workplace will make you doubt yourself, and over time will tank your self-esteem.

When it comes to dealing with a toxic workplace, knowledge is power. We discuss some of the key “tells” of a toxic work environment so that you can spot them and make an action plan to protect yourself if you’re in that situation. (And better yet, know how to identify a toxic workplace before getting involved with any organization you’re considering joining). 

Professional Empowerment

This was such an interesting conversation and one with so many inspiring takeaways:

No matter what your circumstances, you do have personal power. Part of embracing your power requires recognizing it. Then, you can take steps to empower yourself professionally and personally.

In this episode, we’re discussing everything about empowerment at work for both leaders and professionals. We tackle topics including the realities in some toxic work cultures to the struggles of becoming empowered at work, and why it’s even harder for some people than others.

But we’re also bringing you thought-provoking insights on how to take back your power, and strategies you can use to create change through self-awareness and informed decisions. I hope you tune in!

5 Powerful Takeaways from This Episode

“True power is actually a very stable force that comes from that internal awareness.” 

“I would argue that, especially as women, we were not empowered enough to even think that the system was flawed until recently.”

“Once you have that awareness, you don’t need that validation anymore, and you’re able to uphold your boundaries, which allows you to start to get into that seat of power.”

“If you’re accountable and you are doing your job and you’re upholding your boundaries, and people are making you feel as though you have to fear your security, then we’ve now transitioned into capital T toxic.” 

“Gone are the days of not bringing your humanity into your leadership. People aren’t going to stand for it anymore.”

Enjoy This Podcast?

As always, thank you so much for listening If you enjoyed today's episode of the Love, Success, and Happiness Podcast, hit subscribe and share it with your friends!

Also, pay it forward: Post a review. If you enjoyed tuning into this podcast, then please don’t hesitate to leave us a review. If you have a loved one who's struggling to feel empowered at work, please share this episode that they can discover how to empower themselves at work.

If you have follow up questions I'd love to hear them, either in the comments below or on Instagram!

Wishing you all the best on YOUR journey of growth and empowerment,

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

P.S. As you'll quickly realize when you begin to listen to this episode, cultivating empowerment at work starts with a solid sense of self-esteem and trust in yourself. If overall self esteem is a currently a “growth area” for you here are more resources for you: Signs of Low Self Esteem (Podcast), You Are Good Enough, (Podcast), and a Self Esteem Quiz. xoxo, Dr. Lisa



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Empowerment at Work

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

Music Credits: The Gun Club, “Calling Up Thunder”

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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.



Real Help, To Move You Forward


Everyone experiences challenges, but only some people recognize these moments as opportunities for growth and positive change.



Working with an expert therapist or life coach can help you understand yourself more deeply, get a fresh perspective, grow as a person, and become empowered to create positive change in yourself, your relationships and your life.



Start your journey of growth today by scheduling a free consultation.

Empowerment in The Workplace 

Access Episode Transcript

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby: This is Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby, and you're listening to the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast.

[Like Calling Up Thunder by The Gun Club]

The Gun Club with Like Calling Up Thunder, a song about embracing your personal power if there ever was one. Because that is our topic today. If you've caught recent episodes, you will notice that this is part of a larger theme. I've been talking a lot lately about feeling good about yourself, feeling self-confident, restoring your self-esteem because if you don't feel good about you, and if you're not advocating for yourself, no one else is going to. Today's topic is really all about how to get more empowered at work, and it requires some pre-work to get into a place where you're feeling that level of confidence. 

If you haven't yet a great starting point, it could be to take my online self-esteem quiz. You can access that by texting the word, ESTEEM—E-S-T-E-E-M—to the number 55444. It'll give you an overview of where you are currently in terms of your personal levels of self-esteem, and it will give you some directions on where to build yourself up so that you feel as good about yourself as possible and ready to tackle the world, take on, perhaps a boss, who is not fully aware of the magnificence of your power and abilities, and advocate for yourself in all different areas of your life including friendships, personal relationships, and more. And thanks to, for all of you that have been sending your questions and letting me know what you'd like to hear more about. Today's topic on feeling more empowered at work is a direct result of your advocating your needs to me through our website at, by tracking me down on Instagram @drlisamariebobby, and of course, Facebook at Dr. Lisa Bobby

So let's do this, you guys. Let's talk about empowerment at work. I think, on some level, we can all relate to the experience of feeling disempowered. You know, feeling like maybe we don't have influence or that our ideas or even our needs and rights are not being respected by other people the way that they should be. I know that this can happen in romantic relationships or friendships or family relationships, certainly, but a place where it often happens for people is on the job. And we don't talk about this experience of disempowerment, I think, as much as we do when it comes to personal experiences of being disempowered. And I think it's also the case that when people are in careers that are perhaps dominated by individuals who have more influence and power than you do, this experience of being disempowered, and then it's difficult to get traction and earn respect and authority, is even more challenging. 

And so, if you can relate to this, and if you have been struggling to gain a footing in a career, or if you'd like to feel more powerful and secure in your current role, today's podcast is all about helping you navigate this very narrow path with both confidence and courage. We're going to be talking about things you can do to increase your personal power and authority and also some inner strategies that you can use to help you feel more secure and empowered as you do. And to help us with this, my guest today is Mory Fontanez. 

Mory is an Iranian-American purpose coach and the CEO of 822 Group, a values-based business consultant company. Mory has had a long career in Corporate America and knows a lot about personal empowerment, particularly for women, people of color, or other historically marginalized groups who are trying to be powerful in systems that are not always receptive to their empowerment. And she has lots of ideas about things we can all do to help us allow our differences to make us more powerful and more respected and authoritative than we even know. So Mory, thank you for being here with me and talking about this.

Mory Fontanez: Thank you so much for having me. I am delighted to be here.

Dr. Lisa: We are going to have an interesting, interesting conversation today. I just know it. 

Mory: Absolutely. 

Dr. Lisa: Well, I'm so interested to get your take on the subject of empowerment, particularly for people who are struggling to feel powerful and who are in systems that don't easily allow for that many times. But before we jump into that, let's just start by talking about power and what we mean by that. And so, could you speak a little bit just about what it means to have personal power and, in particular, to have empowerment on the job. Like, what do you view as being that experience?

Mory: Yeah, I love that question on personal power. And I feel that you know, over the last few years and really digging into coaching, I've really simplified it to this, which is, it's to be cognizant or aware of your value and to come from that awareness. I think, oftentimes, when we are not in our power, it is that we are not coming from the awareness of how truly valuable we are to that person, that situation, that job, or that team. So it's simply just awareness of your value and coming from that place. 

Dr. Lisa: And so do you feel that awareness of your own power and your own worth is enough? Or is there also an intersection? I mean, I'm thinking right now, you know, of people that I have certainly worked with as clients, who have been working with great diligence and sincerity in organizations that are dominated by people who have more power than they do, and I'm particularly thinking about, you know, younger female clients I have had who have had a management positions, frequently in tech-based companies that are founded by, and all the CEO level executives are not just men—they're white men. And often, white men have a particular social class that is very privileged—they've gotten to good schools, they know how to talk to people, they know all the unwritten rules—and it is a very intimidating position to be in. And I guess what I'm asking is that internal, subjective confidence in your own power enough? Or is there an actual power differential in these situations that also needs to be navigated?

Mory: You know, I love that question because we can get into this definition of power and really dissect it, but I always tell people this—true power is actually a very stable force that comes from that internal awareness. What we experience as power, especially in dynamics at work, particularly with those that have had structural power for a long time, you know, when you look into those dynamics, and you look into how that power has been held on to, what you see beneath that is a lack of that personal power—you see fear. And that is what drives the kind of power that we defined today is “This person has more power over me.” No, it's that there is a dynamic that's been created that we bought into that allows us to forget our own value and our own worth. And so, that then creates this dynamic of being disempowered. 

Now, are there power structures? Absolutely. We cannot ignore them. But I am one that believes that with diligence and work, by tapping into that sense of value, you are at least able to change the dynamic. You are able to very organically, cellularly shift the way that you show up in those dynamics, which is the only way that those dynamics themselves will change over time. It’s that if each one of us, like dominoes, stops buying into this concept of power, that those that are in power are so afraid of losing, and so deeply want us to believe that.

Dr. Lisa: I see. So you're saying… that there certainly are power structures that need to be reckoned with and dealt with and that they will not change unless, first, you're able to kind of create in yourself that basic sense of your worth and your value and then begin behaving as such, and then your ability to do that will begin to kind of ripple out and change the power system around you to a degree. Is that it?

Mory: 100%. Yeah, absolutely. 

Dr. Lisa: Okay. Well, I definitely want to dig in a little bit more to that.

Mory: Yeah, let's do that. 

Dr. Lisa: But first, before we jump in, in your experience, do you find that it can be more difficult for some people to even like, have that internalized sense of their own power and value, and I'm thinking particularly, you know, people that have maybe been or stepped down socially. I believe women, people of color, minority women, or even like, you know, disabled individuals trying to make their way in a world of people that's dominated by able-bodied people. I mean, is it just like a bigger step to make for some, do you think? Or is it, in your experience, the same inner process?

Mory: It is absolutely a bigger step. I mean, there is systemic oppression that happens to those groups that you talked about. And you know, I really believe that when something has happened over and over for centuries, that passes on down to you in systems, in consequences, in your DNA—these are beliefs that have been so long held by your ancestors, that it is something that is almost intrinsic to who you are. And so, absolutely, I believe that that hill is much steeper. I am very heartened to see right now people chipping away at that hill. But I absolutely believe that for all of those groups you mentioned, it is a much more difficult step to take to just grab your own personal power. It's not that easy; there's so many systems that have to be dismantled. But it doesn't mean that in parallel, the work cannot begin to start to find that internal—I call it the seat of your power—to really find that throne and identify it first and foremost is so intrinsic, as the systems are changing and to help the system change as well.

Dr. Lisa: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense that it can be a bigger step. And it is, you know, the struggle is real, and I'm glad that you said that and, and also that it is not just possible but really necessary. And also, I think that there is, as you said, like more of an emerging awareness about power systems and how we function in them, and some of them are very subtle too. 

Mory: Absolutely.

Dr. Lisa: I mean, and I know that this shows up in organizations in a different way, but I had an experience where I was like, “Huh.” It was probably a couple of weeks ago, and so I am in the process of just obtaining a different—another credential that's possible for psychologists. 

Mory: Okay.

Dr. Lisa: There’s just advantages to doing that. And there's one organization that I began going through their application process, you know, you have to submit like all this documentation for my educational experience and like licensure and my APA-accredited internship site, and all that jazz, and like checked all their boxes and went down the list. And then at the very end, got this feedback that I did not qualify for this credential because my postdoctoral supervision was not in a—like in my field, there's often like a very structured postdoc year, where a newly graduated psychologist would go work at like a college counseling center or something and have like a very like, almost like a final year. My postdoc experience was through private practice, and so I had to pay out of pocket for supervision, and I could only do so once every other week. So I got my hours over two years with supervision every other week as opposed to weekly, which is the normal, like a standard postdoc. And I was told that because my supervision was every other week instead of every week, I didn't qualify. 

And what though that started bringing up for me and other people that I've been talking to is that this organization is very subtly, and I think probably unknowingly, supporting that only psychologist candidates of a very particular socioeconomic group and like life experience are able to go through this little gap because a postdoc year is very difficult to do. Financially, you get paid nothing. And like in my case, if you have children and child care, like it's kind of impossible.

Mory: Right, right.

Dr. Lisa: And it's like because of this little requirement, you know, and I have a comparatively a very privileged background by class and race and all of this, and was still, like that door was shut. And just thinking about how these little rules and regulations in organizations can serve as gatekeepers and, really, like practical barriers sometimes for people to get ahead if they're not in a very specific social class ability to do certain things. 

Mory: Absolutely. 

Dr. Lisa: And so, you know, it shows up in so many ways, and that wasn’t just for me.

Mory: Yes.

Dr. Lisa: Like, I mean, and it was kind of a long-winded story, but like people who have higher hurdles than that, to be not just advancing in organizations but to like, first of all, craft this core message inside of themselves of, “You know, I'm actually good enough. My training was actually just as good as anybody else's, and maybe better in some ways, and here's why.” 

Mory: Yeah.

Dr. Lisa: It's difficult to sustain that narrative.

Mory: It is. But you know what, without that awareness that you just mentioned around the system itself being taught. 

Dr. Lisa: The system, yeah.

Mory: There is no change to the system, right? So I would argue that, especially as women, we were not empowered enough to even think that the system was flawed until recently. Right?

Dr. Lisa: That's such a good point. Yeah, because instead of like, slinking away and being like, “Okay,”—I  am gonna need to write them a letter.

Mory: Right. Exactly. And you know what, that is empowerment. Now, just because the system has a massive gap in it doesn't mean that you are not empowered to do something about it. That is what I mean exactly by—you proved my point—the perception that these historical power structures have tried to give us that we don't have power. It's like, “That's just the way it is.” You know what? That is not just the way it is. 

Dr. Lisa: No, it’s not. 

Mory: And that is what people are proving.

Dr. Lisa: And that's what you're saying too. It's like the system does not give you power. No one else empowers you. 

Mory: Correct.

Dr. Lisa: You have to take it. 

Mory: You take it.

Dr. Lisa: You take it.

Mory: Exactly. And you know what, we're seeing it. I mean, we're seeing it happen in these really, again, very historically disempowering industries. Look at the fashion industry right now, what's happening to it. Look at the beauty industry. Right? These were industries that are very exclusive. And you now see people awakening their consciousness, awakening to “Wait a minute. You can't tell me I can't be in that specific brand or industry because I look a certain way. That's not okay.” And that awareness is what's hitting these brands out of nowhere, and they don't know what to do with it because all of a sudden, people are aware that it's not okay. It's not just the way it is, and that they have the power to do something about it, and it is transforming a lot of these industries out there.

Dr. Lisa: That is awesome. I love it. 

Mory: Alright.

Dr. Lisa: Okay. So with this premise in mind that power is something that starts inside of you, and it is something that you have to take for yourself, I'm curious to know if you have, in your own practice, or you know, in consulting with organizations, or people attempting to kind of manage this in their own careers, when someone is attempting to function in a, you know—not like Star Wars Deathstar like ultra-disempowering system—but it's kind of a garden variety, like tone-deaf disempowering, what does it look like for them if they're not able to reshape their narrative and their expectations in turn? Like, what happens to people when they aren't feeling empowered both professionally but even personally? You know, because my sense is that it bleeds over, but I'm curious to know what your…

Mory: Yeah. Absolutely. I mean, I will tell you. Let's start with the professional and just the impact on the organization as a whole. The first thing that happens is a complete loss of productivity and creativity. 

Dr. Lisa: Whoa, complete loss.

Mory: Absolutely. Because when people start to feel disempowered, they then stop believing in themselves—and that is all it takes to not be creative or innovative any longer. And if you're not able to do that for an organization, then it impacts your ability to produce, to do your job to its maximum quality. Now, in fact, there are a lot of people out there who can function at 50%, and it looks like 100. Right? So we've been getting by—this is what I tell leaders and executives and CEOs all the time when we come in, it's like, “Yeah, you're getting by, but what would full productivity look like? That would be 50% greater than what you're seeing right now. You're just seeing them get by.” So productivity, creativity, and innovation suffer hugely. 

And then, I love your point about it bleeding over because it does. First of all, it affects your perception of yourself, which your value becomes challenged. And when that happened, I've actually seen it come out in one of two ways in other parts of that person's life, right? One is either you don't trust yourself, and so you allow other people in other areas of your life to take advantage or to cross your boundaries and to disempower you. Or, you go to the opposite extreme, which is that you feel like those other areas are where you must exert control. And so all of the stress and frustration that you have comes out sideways to people who had nothing to do with you feeling so disempowered to begin with, or, you know, that’s same as saying, “The oppressed become the oppressor.” 

Dr. Lisa: Yeah.

Mory: Because it has to come out in some form. And then what happens is you cultivate leaders who take on these really malignant behavior because they believe that that's the way to succeed. And so going full circle back to the organization itself, you've now created a culture, a system, that the only way for success is to behave in these disempowering ways towards others. So, it becomes very cyclical.

Dr. Lisa: Oh, my god. That is just so interesting. And I have to tell you, I have not thought about this in the same way before, Mory. Okay, so that when someone feels really disempowered and voiceless, first of all, they don't believe in themselves enough to be able to like generate ideas and be productive because that, in itself, takes a certain amount of confidence. 

Mory: Absolutely.

Dr. Lisa: I mean, even if you're putting together a report or presentation, like you have to be putting yourself out there and like, “These are my ideas and this is why I think this would be helpful.” And if you are feeling, you know, stepped on, it's hard to even do that. And from that space, though, of feeling kind of disempowered, like it's worse for the organization, but also personally, either people just like carry the sense of being a doormat everywhere or they kind of overcompensate and try to be maybe more controlling or more belligerent in ways that are not actually helpful, either personally or/and—maybe it's an and—when they do, over time, managed to kind of gain a foothold in their career, in the organization, they carry that kind of toxic controll-y disempowerring. It's almost like power hoarding or something, directly because of their own disempowerment, like it's a wound that just keeps on festering. 

Mory: Exactly. Correct.

Dr. Lisa: That is so interesting, and which, you know, one of the questions that I have for you, it goes on to like toxic workplace cultures. And you're saying that, you know, between the lines here, to cultivate empowerment and to help people feel more valued and respected will, over time, create a healthier company culture overall because you have like healthy people that are…

Mory: Right?

Dr. Lisa: …you know, kind of percolating up through management roles. Or am I oversimplifying this?

Mory: No, that’s exactly right, and that is very difficult for leaders to do. And we can get into this later if it makes sense, but that's because leaders have all sorts of things they have to deal with in order to have the competence to deal with an empowered culture, right? Because having a disempowered culture feeds the ego in a way that having an empowered culture challenges your ego. And so, there's a lot of work, that's where I come in with a CEO. It’s like, “Let’s work on this with you, so that you can get over this obstacle, so that your team can become empowered.” 

Dr. Lisa: That is awesome. 

Mory: Yeah.

Dr. Lisa: Okay, so let's take this then piece-by-piece. Because, you know, we have many, certainly, career coaching or executive coaching clients at Growing Self who are in those leadership positions, and I think would be very interested to hear your thoughts about how they themselves can create healthy organizations that will kind of do that inside work to be able to tolerate the indignities of having an empowered workforce.

Mory: I love that.

Dr. Lisa: Or arguing with them. Okay, so we'll talk about that. But, first of all, let's talk about, you know, if we think of people who are on the ground floor, so to speak, of said organization, and they have gotten the memo that they are worthy of respect and appreciation, and that they do know what they're talking about, and they're doing a good job, and they've internalized that, and they are in the system that maybe does not fully appreciate all that they can do yet. What are some strategies that you have seen to be effective for people as they begin to shift the narrative, perhaps not inside of themselves, but around them, so that they're able to kind of create power and influence and help people recognize their own value? Like, what works? 

Mory: If you are in a toxic work environment in order to be empowered?

Dr. Lisa: Let's say, because I think…I mean, I've talked to people who are in like—capital T—toxic environment that may be irredeemable, and we can certainly talk about that too. 

Mory: Correct. Yes.

Dr. Lisa: But let's say garden variety—like not the most horrible, not the best—like a standard-issue company that you need to advocate for yourself in order to be empowered. Let's say that.

Mory: I think that it starts with really understanding your own triggers. And the reason that that's important is because then you can depersonalize whatever is happening in that environment. And what I mean by that is we all have things that have happened to us that created storylines, you know, that’s better than me, of course. I'm sure you help people with this. But really, those storylines create triggers for us, and if we are not aware of them, people very easily push our buttons; they press those triggers, right. So, “I've grown up thinking I'm not smart. I'm not valuable. I'm not wanted. I'm lazy,” right? Whatever these narratives are, if we're not cognizant of them, if we're not looking at them and aware of them, someone can say something to you at work, or you can be in an environment where people feed off of triggering you—because if they trigger you, then they've got you, right? And if you can depersonalize that by saying, “No, this is a trigger. It is not my truth today,” you, first of all, remove that power. So that is the first and most important tool.

Dr. Lisa: Okay.

Mory: Then it comes to really getting to the heart of your value and your values. The difference being, your value is just knowledge of something, anything that you know you bring to the table in that environment. What is it that you know you bring to the table that is valuable? And then your values are, what is it you stand for and believe in strongly? And I don't think people do enough work to really examine their values. And that's where we find ourselves making trade-offs in jobs or in relationships where we don't even know what it is we stand for, so how can we uphold a boundary around it?

Dr. Lisa: Yeah.

Mory: And then that's the third piece, which is boundaries. Once you've gotten really clear on, “These are my triggers. This is trigger versus reality. This is my value, and this is what I stand for,” that's when you have to get really good at, “Okay, these are my boundaries then. If the person asks me to do their work for the fifth night in a row, and I stay here later, is that me allowing them to tread on my boundaries? Yes. Do I do it because I need to feel valued? Probably.” Right? 

But once you have that awareness, you don't need that validation anymore, and you're able to uphold your boundaries, which allows you to start to get into that seat of power because now you know, what your values are, and you're able to stand up for yourself and create boundaries that allow you to have a life and a working situation where you are at least feeling respected.

Dr. Lisa: Yeah, I could see how that would be really helpful to, I mean, the emotional regulation and what are my triggers and how do I counterbalance that narrative, what's important to me, that then allows you to advocate for yourself effectively. And as we're talking, you know, my background—so in addition to psychology—I do a lot of marriage and family therapy. And rule number one of systems theory, and I'm sure this probably comes up in your work too with organizational kinds of systems, is that if one little piece of a system all of a sudden starts behaving differently than it has been, say, maybe advocating for oneself or not taking on more work that they had in the past, the system will then work pretty hard to exert pressure on that individual to return to the way that they had been. And so, you see this a lot, like people and families where they have been, you know, perhaps not treated well by a family member, and all of a sudden they started setting healthy boundaries and the family's like, “Why are you being so mean to Uncle Joe?” 

Mory: Right. 

Dr. Lisa: You know, like, “What's gotten into you?” And there ‘s like pressure to return. So, do you see that happening organizationally? Or are people like, “Oh, okay. You're not gonna do my work for me anymore? So I'm just going to go ahead and do it myself without complaining that you stopped enabling me.”

Mory: Yeah, that would be so…

Dr. Lisa: Not that I would say that out loud, but you know.

Mory: I see that pressure every day, and I think that pressure becomes really dangerous because it really starts to threaten your sense of security. When people are in perceived, you know, positions of power over you, you then start to fear that you're going to lose that opportunity, that job, their respect. And so, that's where playing on your fear for upholding your boundaries becomes something that we go from lowercase t to capital T toxic, right. And I think to your point, that's when your little red flag needs to go off because if you're upholding a healthy boundary, right—you're not being disrespectful, number one. The other thing I wanted to mention is you're being accountable. Just because you have boundaries does not mean that you no longer have accountability. 

Dr. Lisa: Sure.

Mory: You understand what it is your role is. You understand that if you make a mistake, you own it; if you succeed, you own it as accountability. 

Dr. Lisa: Yeah. 

Mory: If you're accountable, and you are doing your job, and you're upholding your boundaries, and people are making you feel as though you have to fear your security, then we've now transitioned into capital T toxic, and is that then the right space for you?

Dr. Lisa: Okay. Yeah.

Mory: And that's really important because the more people think that way, the more you start to transform the system, right? Because if people start to realize, “Well, if you're not going to allow me to have boundaries, and this then is not healthy for me,” And that happens more and more, and people have that awakening more and more, there's less people to pressure. 

Dr. Lisa: Yep, and that's why we have unions. I'm thinking about that.

Mory: Yeah. Exactly. 

Dr. Lisa: I mean, really, like collectivism is groups of workers being like, “Wait just a second. You're not actually going to work 18 hours a day until you kill us.” Yeah. No, but that's like strength of numbers, and I like it that you shared that if you are not able to set appropriate boundaries and have that be respected, that is a clear warning sign that this could be a capital T toxic environment and that you might need to be on a different plan.

Mory: Absolutely.

Dr. Lisa: Okay, so what I want to talk more about toxic environments, but before we move into that, have you identified any strategies that make it a little bit easier for people to have influence and existing roles or set boundaries? And so I'm thinking, you know, things like managing up or like how you frame things to leaders that you're telling, “No, I'm actually not going to do that.” But are there ways to do it in a way that might have that go down a little bit easier? Or in your experience, is it just like, “Alright, people, here's what we're gonna do”?

Mory: Yeah. I have a little four-part equation, which starts with value and boundary. 

Dr. Lisa: A four-part equation? Okay.

Mory: Yeah, which we've talked about. So the value plus boundaries, so you know your value, which means you're coming from a place of power, you have boundaries, so people are not going to cross them. And then you add in vulnerability, and that's where you're able to be, you know, really transparent and honest about where you're at, what your needs are, what needs aren't being met. You know, what it is like for you, your experience there, in a way that is just factual, right. You can just share, “This is my experience right now”—you're able to be vulnerable. 

And then the fourth part is curiosity. And when I say curiosity, I find this to be one of the most effective tactics for managing up or dealing with a difficult colleague that's out there, which is why, you know, really getting curious about, “Why is it that you ask me to do this every day at 5pm? You know, what is it that you need? Why do you feel that speaking to the team that way is effective?” Really starting to interrogate, in a respectful way, that person’s methodology. Really truly with curiosity—not judgment. That is the fine line. Because judgment can get into places that you don't want to go, right, but to just have that—it's almost like a flashlight, you're turning on inside the other person, like, “Help me understand your motivations.”

And I say it's a four-part equation because I truly don't believe you can do one without the other three. If you don't have the strength in your value, then your curiosity is going to get kind of wonky, right? 

Dr. Lisa: Sure.

Mory: If you don't have boundaries—it's not great to be vulnerable without being able to uphold boundaries. So it is a very delicate dance, but I think that when you put those four things together, then that equation becomes really effective in managing difficult people or difficult situations.

Dr. Lisa: Yeah. Wow. And I have to say more in probably, I mean, how much courage does it take to do that, and then imagine, you know, I sit down and someone with, you know, relative less power in the system using your four-part model, which makes perfect sense—in the values and boundaries and vulnerability and also the curiosity. And I could also see how for very powerful people in an organization, why it would be so important to have a Mory, who is also right there that they have hired to kind of like push them around a little bit for you to be saying, “Why are you thinking that that is an effective way to communicate with people?”  Because I could see like coming from you, they'd be like, “Oh, okay.” 

Mory: Yeah.

Dr. Lisa: Whereas, if it was, you know, Joe, the mail clerk down the hall, it would probably be very easy for powerful people to get defensive and confronted. 

Mory: Well, and let me tell you this…

Dr. Lisa: Yeah.

Mory: Yeah, which is that it all comes back to their purpose. That's why I call what I do “purpose coaching”, right? Very powerful people still need to feel aligned with something. 

Dr. Lisa: Yeah. 

Mory: And so this curiosity from me, which does hold them accountable, is less about really judging them but about, “What is it that fulfills you? What is your purpose? And where are you off track? Why are you off track right now? How do we get you back in alignment with—what I call your own internal GPS? Because that's how you're going to be more effective, more successful, more innovative.” And that's what we find with these powerful executives sometimes, where things are going awry, it's a misalignment with their purpose, like they've forgotten their “why.” And so this is really about tuning the GPS back on rather than making it a judgment framework for them, that they have to operate in.

Dr. Lisa: I know, completely. It’s so important. Well, and, you know, kudos to the people in leadership positions who are inviting that kind of growth experience through their work with you. But do you think that it is possible for someone on the lower echelons of an organization like the ones we've been describing, to create change in that system from the bottom up? Or do you think that leadership needs to be actively participating in the creation of that change in order for it to occur?

Mory: You know, I think that it can go both ways. I think ultimate transformation comes from both sides. I think that if truly the organization is toxic, and it's going to change, it has to come from the bottom up and the top down in order to transform. Now, it is a domino effect. So to answer your question, “Can it just be from the bottom up?” Yes. Because that's what puts pressure on the organization to change, and, you know, I really believe that that has to do with unity and collaboration at those levels, right? Where we are all aware at our level that we are in a toxic environment, so, therefore, we are going to treat each other with respect, and we are going to resist the temptation to get the reward for the bad behavior. Because that's how the toxic work cultures happen, right? You have toxicity from the top, and then toxic behavior is rewarded, and those of us that want that pat on the back and the validation are going to do what we can for that carrot. 

Dr. Lisa: Yeah. 

Mory: And I think that change comes from awareness again, that this is not an environment that can really help people to flourish. And in agreement, at a certain level, organically at that bottom-up level of, “Okay, then we're in this together. Unity is our strength. So not one person is going to then go and get that carrot, we're going to all uphold boundaries. We're going to see each other, and each other, the value, and we're going to interact with one another with respect, even if we're being rewarded for being disrespectful to each other.”

Dr. Lisa: Geez. That’s such a good message, Mory, and I think one that needs to be said out loud. Because I think you see that in toxic organizations where it's more important than ever for the rank and file to be like, you know, working as a team to affect change,  you start to see people turning on each other, don't you? 

Mory: Yes. 

Dr. Lisa: Yeah, that's like survival. Island…

Mory: That survival, that’s what it is. 

Dr. Lisa: Yeah. Ugh. 

Mory: Yeah, and it reminds me of that, I don't know, that Aesop's fable, if you've heard of them. The bundle of sticks where there's a father who had sons who were constantly quarreling, quarreling, and he didn't know what to do with them, and he gave them a bundle of sticks and said, “Try to break this.” And they couldn't break it. And then he untied them and gave them one stick at a time, and “Try to break it.” And they broke it. And then he said to them, “Can you see that if you help each other, it’s impossible for your enemies to injure you. But if you're divided, then you're just as strong as that one stick.” So it really is an ancient truth.

Dr. Lisa: That’s an awesome story. I just got chills. Gosh, I'm thinking like organizationally but, goodness, like as a society?

Mory: Yeah, the society.

Dr. Lisa: Like, ugh.

Mory: Yeah.

Dr. Lisa: Somebody needs to send that one to the powers that be in Congress right now.

Mory: Yeah. 

Dr. Lisa: But anyway, let’s go back. That’s probably not my place.

Mory: That's a whole other podcast.

Dr. Lisa: Really? So, okay. So that is an absolutely necessary survival—not just survival tactic—but you know, change agent for a toxic work environment. Like, if it's going to get better, it's going to require that teamwork. And have you been witness to organizational cultures that are so toxic as to be irredeemable, like there's no changing it, you just gotta recognize it for what it is? Like a really toxic relationship, like this is not going to get better, we need to recognize it for what it is, what it always will be, and like just get out of there as fast as you can. Have you seen that? Or do you think that change is always possible? I don't know, you might be less cynical than I.

Mory: I have seen it, unfortunately, more times than I would like—I've been in it myself. 

Dr. Lisa: Yeah. 

Mory: And I will tell you, it comes from the very top. And if the very top is toxic and has no desire to change, then really, change is very difficult, right? That's when you start to see, okay, maybe it lasts a decade, two decades, three decades, but things start to fall apart at some level because people start to become fed up. So I think you lose your license to operate when the toxicity comes from the top, and that leader is not willing to change. I think if you're in that—listening to this right now—you're like, “Oh my god, there's no hope.” If you see any iota, any kind of clue, that the leader is trying to change, right, you see them with a coach, you see them bringing in third parties, you see them doing surveys. Right? Like any kind of sense that there's a desire to create a change, that’s when the kind of light can glimmer in. But if there's no desire to change, then that is when the toxicity overpower, unfortunately.

Dr. Lisa: There has to be that willingness to change. And then actually, while we're on this subject, and I hope this isn't putting you on the spot, but would you have any insight to share for people who are maybe, you know, seeking a different position and desiring to avoid getting into a toxic situation in the first place? 

Mory: I mean, we talked about relationship warning signs, like what would you say are some of the things to pay attention to if you're interviewing or vetting a new organization to work for that might reveal toxic culture before you actually start working there, which would be way better? 

Mory: Yeah. 

Dr. Lisa: Six months in, right?

Mory: I know. Well, there's two parts of the answer. I'll give the easy part, and then I'll go to the hard part. I'll do it the other way around this time. The easy answer is to really make sure you're talking to as many people who work there as possible and asking them things like, “How do you like being here? What do you feel like the mission of this organization is, and how are you a part of that mission? What does your work-life balance look like? How do you feel fulfilled when you walk in this door? How do you work with your colleagues, and what is that relationship like?” Really try to talk to people that are going to be at your level before you go in.

I think that one warning sign is if you see disengagement in an interview, and I think that if you know how to look for it, you'll find it pretty easily—which is that you just don't see that passion and come through when they're trying to sell you on the job because that's what they're supposed to be doing. And if you feel that disconnect, then there's something missing. They don't feel engaged, and they feel disconnected. If you feel it from one person, but the other five are passionate, okay, that person could be in a different situation. But if you talk to several people, and you still feel that, like, “Where's the excitement or the enthusiasm or the passion?” then there's a disengagement. So that's the, I think, that kind of easier things you can tick off. The harder answer is, like in a relationship, you have to know yourself first before you know what you're looking for, right? 

Dr. Lisa: Yeah.

Mory: And so, I always…

Dr. Lisa: Because toxic is different for different people. Yeah.

Mory: Right. Well, not only that, but you know, I've been asked a lot lately because people are changing jobs. And anytime I get interviewed about job changes, I say, “You have to start by identifying your purpose and your values. What is your “why”? What fulfills you? What are you good at naturally, right? That's your purpose. And what are your values?” And when you have clarity on that, it is on you. You are accountable to go find an opportunity and an environment that matches your frequency. You can't go out there looking for something with blinders on; you have to know yourself first.

Dr. Lisa: Yeah. That's great advice. Like, what am I looking for? What would feel fulfilling? Is this a match? 

Mory: Right.

Dr. Lisa: But also then talking to people on the inside or like paying attention if they seem kind of checked out, or you're like, “Why would that make sense?” So, okay, good advice. Okay, so now—and I know that we're coming up on our time here—but before I let you go, I would love to talk with you a little bit more about, you know, your work with leaders, specifically, and how leaders—leadership—so people who call the shots, so a founder and an owner, the, you know, C suite people. What are some things that they need to be very consciously aware of doing, in order to create an empowering environment for the other people on the team?

Mory: There's really three big ones that I’ve worked on and focused on a lot. The first starts with managing your own fears. What is it that you're afraid is going to happen if you empower others, or if you let go of the steering wheel slightly? What you find a lot of in highly successful executives or entrepreneurs is perfectionism—and perfectionism at some level is driven by a fear of failure. And so, really getting clear on what you're afraid of, and whether that's a reality or a fear, is a very important exercise if you want to build empowered cultures because it's asking you to manage your own stuff and not asking your employees to do that for you, which is what not self-aware leaders are asking. When you're not self-aware, you're not willing to do that work, you're asking your employees to manage your fears for you, and that's not okay. 

The second one, then, once you've been able to do that is to delegate decision-making. That's the second thing I see as problematic is that there's such a desire for control and perfectionism, that others are not given the opportunity to make decisions. This is actually where you see, going back to this idea of diversity in historically oppressed groups, where you're seeing a lack of true innovation is because there's no diverse voices in that group that's making the decisions. Then the problem comes in when the brand is selling to customers that are diverse, but the decision-makers don't reflect that same look. And that's where you start to see, as someone who comes from crisis management, crises happen for organizations because they're speaking to a group of people without having empathy for them. 

Dr. Lisa: I see.

Mory: And so, that's where you need to have diverse decision-makers, and that's where the delegating of decision-making authority comes in. And then the last one is really accepting failure as a path towards growth and innovation. And not being so afraid that failure is going to, you know, snowball into something bigger than it is in that moment. That really, people are only going to learn and grow and become empowered leaders if you encourage them to fail. And then also, that you embrace accountability, that if that failure is, in a way, that truly misrepresents the brand or your values, that you can hold people accountable.

Dr. Lisa: Yeah. Those are all great, great strategies to be able to, I think what you're saying is really like identify and confront whatever fear is driving over control in leaders.

Mory: Yes.

Dr. Lisa: And being able to cope with that to the degree to let other voices in, let other people take charge of some things and kind of trust that that is going to be okay, and also, have confidence that if it isn't okay, that can also be part of a healthy process. It’s, you know, making mistakes and learning from it. That's great.

And I guess I just, lastly, you know, I think what I also see sometimes—people have a lot of power. I think one of the biggest blind spots is that they don't realize how much power they have, like they don't realize how maybe intimidated other people are of them, or the fact that other people perceive them as needing to be handled like delicately. So maybe they're not getting all the information because people are afraid to be as open with them as they like to be. Or that maybe they're kind of subconsciously doing things that gives the impression that they don't desire to have other voices heard. Do you have any thoughts for leaders who might be wanting to gain that self-awareness of things they're unintentionally doing that could be fear-driven or could be creating obstacles to that kind of empowered workplace, that they might desire, but are contributing to the opposite without knowing?

Mory: Yeah, I think there's two things. Yeah, absolutely. There's two things you can do. One is getting curious. You know, really being able to ask questions and then be quiet and listen to the answers, which goes to point number two, which is managing your reactivity. When you're hearing something as a leader that you don't like, you really need to take a beat, like take a deep breath, let that happen, let that person walk away, and then just like process it before you say anything about it. That's how you create a safe space where people can trust you enough to talk to you. 

And then if you really processed it, and you've separated out your own stuff, your own triggers, your own fears from the reality, you can go back to them and address just the facts of what they've said, right? And if they're misinformed, if they are making assumptions that are not fair—if you know, there's a lot of ways that you're going to get feedback that are just inaccurate because someone doesn't have that piece of the puzzle. And you certainly should engage in dialogue. This is not to say that misinformation shouldn't be corrected, but you have to really do the work to separate that out from your own, you know, anxieties or fears that are getting triggered by what you're hearing. And I think what you see when people don't trust their leadership is just reactivity and not being able to manage that.

Dr. Lisa: You shared so many wonderful insights and tips, but I think one of my biggest takeaways from our entire conversation kind of comes back to the idea that personal growth is absolutely essential for leaders to be engaged in on an ongoing basis. That is like what I keep thinking of, like we think of personal growth opportunities as being personal or like in your relationships.

Mory: Uh-huh.

Dr. Lisa: You have to, really, to be an effective leader, and to have an organization that is a healthy, strong place, it requires a lot of deep diving into your own psyche and emotions and core beliefs and expectations and emotional regulation. 

Mory: Gone are the days of not bringing your humanity into your leadership. People aren't going to stand for it anymore, right? They have too much power in being able to share their experiences, thanks to social media, that you don't have the option of not bringing your humanity in anymore. And I think leaders were taught that they had to leave that at the door, and now we have to reteach them how to lead successfully while being personal, you know, human people that are growing and focusing on their own evolution.

Dr. Lisa: Wow, and I love what you said a second ago because the workforce is becoming so much more empowered and, hopefully, even that much more empowered, as a result of listening to all of your great advice today. So thank you for sharing it so generously. I appreciate this. And you guys, if any of you would like to learn more about Mory Fontanez or her work, she can be found at 822—do you say at 8-22 Group Mory, or 8-2-2 Group?

Mory: 8-22. Yeah. 

Dr. Lisa: The number is the website, and she's also on Instagram at @moryfontanez. Mory, thank you so much.

Mory: Thank you so much for having me. I really enjoyed talking with you.


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Being Organized Begins Within


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BEING ORGANIZED: Creating an organized life can sometimes feel like an unattainable goal, especially when it's not your natural way of being. One of the things I've learned over the years as an online life coach and Denver therapist is that being organized is more than learning about “organizational tips” or “time management skills” or a new plan for where to put stuff or reorganizing your drawers. Being organized (genuinely, sustainably organized) is actually a mindset; a way of being that cultivates order and calm. And unless you figure out how to be organized from within, all the “how to be organized” how-to's will be short term and ineffective. 

How to Organize Yourself

Now, before we go further I must be honest with you my dear reader. I'm going to step out from behind the Therapist / Life Coach “Dr. Lisa” facade for a moment to share a secret: I am not a naturally organized person. In my personal life, particularly when I was younger, I have struggled to manage time effectively, keep control of the clutter and chaos, and maintain an organized life. I didn't come from an organized family and arrived into adulthood without organizational skills in place.

I squeaked by for a while, but then when my life got harder I really needed to up my game. I could not get through graduate school or run a business without doing a better job of managing my time, energy and tasks. When I became a mom, that balance became even harder, and in order to do the things that we most important to me I really needed to work on my organizational skills. So I did!

I actually spent a lot of time figuring out how to get organized in order to do the things I wanted to do, to be the person I wanted to be, and to achieve my most important personal and professional goals. On my lifelong quest for personal organization, I have tried all the systems, all the hacks, and read all the “how to get organized” self help books there have ever been.

I am pleased to report that over the years I have grown into a reasonably organized person. I'm able to get important things done, and I usually have my act together. I still lose my keys sometimes (but not my shoes!)

How to Organize Your Life

Many people who are not good at being organized from within do have to work harder to create organizational systems, and stick to them. Many “Messies” dread these systems and will fight tooth or nail to avoid the types of routine and structure that being organized requires. But — I'm here to tell you, from the other side of this chasm — It's much, much less stressful and easier to cope with basically everything when your life is generally in order. There's less anxiety and drama. Your relationships feel easier too.

While it can feel hard to get organized and stay that way, once you do, you'll be amazed at the contrast: Being organized and living an organized life is actually much, much easier than being chronically disorganized and chaotic. (More on this subject in the marvelous interview I did with Dr. Marilyn Paul, on “How to Be Stress Free.”)

I have learned from my own process that being organized, really, genuinely organized, is not about the systems and the containers and the calendars. (Though all those tools can help). Being organized begins with a shift in mindset. Organized people actually think differently than Messies. By learning how organized people think, and cultivating an organized mindset, you too can achieve the Nirvana of feeling genuinely in control of your time, your energy, your stuff, and your life.

The Organized Mindset

I considered inviting an “organizational expert” to come on today's podcast and share their strategies for being organized, but then I had a better idea: My pal, Denver therapist and Denver psychologist Dr. Danielle Kahlo. Dr. Danielle is not a professional organizer, she's way better — a blazingly talented therapist who is also a next-level organized person. She has incredible insights into the life experience of being organized, and how to achieve it.

Let's Get Organized!

Listen to today's episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast for Dr. Danielle's down-to-earth advice for:

  • The biggest differences between an organized mindset and a disorganized one
  • Why being organized has to come from within, especially when you're working from home or managing a household
  • How being organized has a direct (positive) impact on anxiety
  • What causes procrastination, and the new ideas to nip it in the bud
  • How to achieve meaningful work / life balance and still get all the important things done
  • Ways to cultivate present-moment awareness in order to be more organized… and happier too.

I hope that this heartfelt advice on being organized is helpful to you as you juggle all the demands of your beautiful life!

With love,

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby


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Being Organized

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

Music Credits: Jules Gaia, “Two Steps Back”

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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.

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Being Organized

Access Episode Transcript

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby: This is Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby and you're listening to the Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

[Two Steps Back by Jules Gaia]

That’s Jules Gaia with the song Two Steps Back, which I felt kind of captured this sort of frenetic energy, maybe? That I’m hearing so many of you are feeling these days trying to manage all of the stuff that you have going on between working from home, parenting, homeschooling. Oh my goodness. And you know, for as quiet as our lives have become in some ways during this whole Coronavirus experience, I am hearing from so many people that you feel busier than you have ever been in your life. And that is really a daily challenge—to figure out how to manage at all. If you too, have been living this experience, today’s podcast is for you.

And I have some very special things planned. Today we are talking about not just organizational tips, we’re talking about cultivating an organized mindset. And my guest on the show today I am so thrilled to introduce to you. She is Danielle Kahlo, but she is Dr. Danielle Kahlo. She is a psychologist. However, Danielle is also a wonderful dear friend of mine. And I wanted to talk with Danielle about this because she is the real deal. She is not some organizational guru who wants to sell you an online course to learn XYZ; she lives it. I have been in this woman’s house; I have opened her silverware drawer. I have seen the truth. She is next level organized and today she’s here to talk with us about how to cultivate this inner and outer state of zen. Danielle, thank you for being here.

Dr. Danielle Kalos: It’s my pleasure. And it’s interesting that we’re just doing an audio recording because if this were video, people would just see me cackling.

Dr. Lisa Marie: She is actually rolling her eyes as I’m talking so I can confirm this. No, but it’s true. You are among the mostlike supernaturally organized people I have ever met. Well, you know, it’s important though because some people talk the talk. And they like talk this big game and then you likemeet them in real life and they don’t always live it. But you exude organization.

And so let’s just start with a couple of questions because myselfas a person who can only be kind of organized with great effortit seems like magic. So now, let’s see. You and my stepmother, Bobby, are the two most organized people I have ever met in my life, and you are both from the South originally. She’s from North Carolina, you are from Mississippi. Question one: is this a Southern thing? Is that what makes you organized?

Dr. Danielle: That’s a fascinating question. I’ve never thought about it in that way. I don’t think that’s what drives me.

Dr. Lisa Marie: Okay.

Dr. Danielle: It may be different for other people.

Dr. Lisa Marie: Also, common factors here—you and Bobby both, at least at one time, drink large quantities of Diet Coke. Does that have anything to do with why you’re sobecause I don’t drink Diet Coke. And I was thinking, is that what this is about?

Dr. Danielle: I genuinely do not see any correlation between Diet Coke consumption as my way of being in the world, but who knows, there are so many chemicals in that. Something may have gotten in and changed my…

Dr. Lisa Marie: Yeah. Changed your brain.

Dr. Danielle: …your own wiring.

Dr. Lisa Marie: Okay. Well, I'm then going to write that one down as a hypothesis to continue going into because those, those like, “What? What? What is it? How do I get it?” But okay, so it’s neither of those things probably. Well, let’s talk about other possibilities then.

Dr. Danielle: Okay.

Dr. Lisa Marie: Okay, so for now, so what I am really interested in digging into is… because I think like superficially, you can read books or watch a YouTube video about like, here’s how to clean out a closet, here’s where to put stuff, you know, like that kind of thing. But for people who struggle with organization, it’s always hard to maintain those systems. And I think it’s because it’s really just like a different way of thinking and like being oriented to stuff. Like there’s really an organized mindset. 

And I think it’s so important right now because people are dealing with more stuff to wrangle. And it’s been interesting because like, even people that I have talked with, like clients who are extremely successful people and who have done a lot, like I'm thinking of a client I work with who’s a physician. I mean, she is an extremely confident person. And, um, even her, like working from home, it removes the external structures that you have in place that kind of allow you to be organized. Like you don’t necessarily have to be places on time in the same way. Or you don’t have a routine that you are kind of funneled into. There’s not this external set of guide rails and or a company policy that says, “here is how to do XYZ” that we kind of follow along with.

When you’re working from home, you have to figure out how to be organized in a very self-directed way. You have to figure out your own routines and your own like procedures and processes that aren’t something that you’re being made to do. And so what I’ve experienced is even really highly competent and organized people that function very well in a workplace, when they’re working from home, there’s like this sort ofnot chaosbut it’s like they need to figure out how to organize themselves from within. And so that’s why I wanted to talk with you about the… how the thinking is differentlike that internalized organization, because you do this all the time. You do not just, you know, have your systems at work. 

And like, I don’t know if that makes, make sense or not, but what I’m hoping is like to get a sense of what the inner process is, and like, okay, let me actually ask you a coherent question. Do you feel that you were, like looking back on your life, always an organized person? Like is it just something that you’re born with? Is it a personality trait? Or do you feel like it’s something that you had to learn or cultivate or be taught or practice over the years in order to be organized? Is it? Is it nature or nurture? Is it you? Is it something that everybody else can learn? What do you think?

Dr. Danielle: Yeah, that’s a great question. I certainly, you know, can remember as a kid, having a really messy, messy room and my parents having to say, “Clean up the room, clean up the room,” so I think that I…

Dr. Lisa Marie: That makes me feel so much better.

Dr. Danielle: …came out of the chute this way. Um, I do think… so I do think it can be cultivated. I think for meand I have shared this with you beforeit’s honestly, there’s a lot of anxiety management that comes with a strategy, so I feel less anxious when my surroundings are put together and in order. And I have a sort of an internal structure that helps me sort of navigate the world and feel like there are guide rails, even if they’re not being imposed from outside. But there’s a little bit of anxious temperament that I think goes into that. 

But I think I also have sort of practiced this over the years, and most of us do in school. You’ve got the structure of school, but then you’ve got all the activitiesthe homework, the assignments, the dissertationthat has to be done outside of school. And so you have to practice this. And so I think, remaining in the academic world for me, I’ve had to work remotely for years and years and years. And so there is some bit of things get very easy the more you practice it. Maybe getting started for people is the hardest part. I don't know.

Dr. Lisa Marie: Yeah, no, those are, those are interesting reflections. And but I think that maybe that what you just shared is an important takeaway. And something that would be useful for all of us is this idea that when you do have an organized and kind of serene environment and systems and sort of a, you know, inner slash outer sense of control that everything is sort of in its place, it makes you feel better emotionally. And I can certainly understand. I mean, I think, even for me, like my natural tendency is to get a little frenetic and chaotic and I don’t feel good when things are like that. I don’t know where my keys are. I can’t find stuff. I feel disorganized. And when I can kind of come back and make a plan and put things in place, it just, it feels, it feels better. And so maybe that’s one takeaway is that even though it takes time and effort to create organizational systems, there is a positive impact on… yeah.

Dr. Danielle: I think that does stick from reinforcing, yeah. When you’re cooking a meal and you know where to find the utensils the same place every time or when you’re sitting in your office and you know, you know where this stack of papers or references is all the timeit does make things go smoother in the moment. And then there’s this reinforcing sense of, “okay, that went well” and efficiency and so…

Dr. Lisa Marie: Yeah.

Dr. Danielle: …that is, that is a good feeling.

Dr. Lisa Marie: Yeah, yeah. And then, okay, and so now just, just for the benefit of our listeners, I can tell you that Danielleher homes are always immaculate and you have just such a wonderful sense of design. I mean, I always joke with Danielle that yes, if the psychologist thing stops working out for you, that you should definitely look into interior design because you just create the most beautiful environments.

And I’m curious to know so if you have, you know, want to share, share something for the benefit of a working mom who has like… a family dad, too, that keeps the home together. When there are a lot of people in it all the time and buzzing around and doing things and moving stuff, are there systems or practices that you have found over the years that help you kind of um, keep it together? You know, because a lived in space will always start to get messy because people you know, you take the silverware out of the drawer, you do stuff, and you cook things. Are there any things that you have found to just like make it easier to restore order or maintain order?

Dr. Danielle: Yeah, that’s a great question. I think two things work for me and that’s something that doesn’t work for everybody. But I think keepingyou mentioned earlier stuffa minimalist approach. And that’s not to say you can’t have any art on your walls, but a minimalist approach to stuff like when you get something new, you give something away. So you know, before I make a new clothes purchase, I make purge my closet and see what needs to go to Goodwill. So keeping stuff minimal so that it, there’s fewer things to sort of get, you know, kind of explode in the inner space. That’s one thing.

And then the other thing is, and I heard this from someone years ago, so this quote is not from me but I have subscribed to it for much of my life, “Don’t put it down; put it away.” And that philosophy really works for me because it’s just as easy to drop it on the couch when you walk in the door as it is to hang it on the coat rack. It doesn’t take any more time. And so if you put it away instead of just dropping it down, that just keeps the order throughout the day.

Dr. Lisa Marie: Yeah.

Dr. Danielle: So that’s kind of, those two principles really work for me.

Dr. Lisa Marie: That’s great. I like that. “Don’t put it down; put it away.” Because I, because then here is actually another question that I had for you. So, you know, you are a psychologist and as such, a keen observer of people, and you know, have a lot of contact with different personality types and ways of being and I can absolutely relate to what you just said. Like I think that that is part of my disorganized mindset when things do start to get, you know, too much. It goes in a stack and this sort of mental narrative is, “I will do this later.” Like I know that when I listen to, “I will do this later,” it creates disorder for me. And so I’m going to practice swapping out that “Don’t put it down; put it away.” But, you know, have you also observed like, when people are more chaotic or have more difficulty just kind of keeping themselves organized. Are there other differences that you have noticed in terms of the mindset or the things that they’re telling themselves that seemed, from your perspective, to be contributing to their difficulty? Because we all create our own reality, right? And whatever our world looks like, is a manifestation of whatever is going on inside of us. And so I wonder if you could eliminate this for us, around what is the thinking style or the inner story that contributes to messiness?

Dr. Danielle: Well, I think, you know, to your point, the um, one of the things that I see sometimes with people who struggle with this is a tendency or procrastination. You know, that’s a problem for future me. And I think, you know, that mental way of approaching life creates piles in our mind, in our psyche, in addition to the piles out in the world. And so, for me, procrastination has never been effective. Because the anxiety just builds as the list builds in my mind and as the stuff builds on the, on the desk. So tackling things now is sort of a similar approach to “Don’t put it down; put it away.”

Not putting things off, for me, is a really effective way to stay organized. Because I don’t think that you know, and I recognize procrastination as an anxiety management strategy of its own, but that avoidance of dealing with thing right here, right now, and putting it in a mental pile for laterI think it builds up and builds up, and then life interrupts. And this is what I see happening with clients all the time. Or students even. You know, putting things off, putting things off. And then all of a sudden, there’s some sort of crisis, or things happen or whatever else. And people didn’t bank that into their mental timetable for when they could get this project done or this activity or whatever else. And then suddenly something has to fall off and can’t get accomplished. And so for me, sort of approaching things with “just go ahead and do it now,” because I know that something out there is going to come in unpredictably and I need to have some cushion. I don’t know. I don’t know if that makes sense.

Dr. Lisa Marie: Yeah, no, it really does. That to do it now; don’t put it off; and also expect that whatever you think is going to happen in terms of the plan is not actually what is going to happen. And so to account for thatand because I think too, like when I think about my, my messy mindset, so to speak, there is this overly optimistic narrative about what I will be able to accomplish that has no basis in reality. You know what I mean? Like I can really realistically do probably 25% of whatever is on my giant list or whatever. I think I can get accomplished on a Saturday morning. So you’re saying, I don’t do that and that’s why I’m organized. I love it.

Dr. Danielle: Yeah, well, I mean, how many of us have you know, started a work day and then a supervisor, a co-worker, a client, an administrative issue pops up that we didn’t build into our work day and it’s like, “when am I going to find time to do this thing that you need me to do that’s suddenly so urgent?” And so I think expecting that, that is the reality does keep me very focused on staying on top of what I can see that I need to do in an efficient way. So that if there’s cushions, I can enjoy the cushions when it comes instead of being taken by surprise.

Dr. Lisa Marie: Okay, so then let’s, let’s go there for a second. So when it comes to like, routines and work days, in order to stay on top of things and do what needs to be done, and not get either blindsided or lost down a rabbit hole of whatever you know… and you have a lot of experience from working. And I should tell listeners: so in addition to being a psychologist and carrying a caseload, that DanielleI don’t want to call you Dianethat Danielle is also a professor of psychology at the University of Northern Colorado. She’s on the faculty.

And so you have a lot of plates spinning in the air. When it comes to personal routines and just like, I mean, do you, do you do like a task list? Do you like prioritize things to figure out what you're going to work on first, or what you’re going to work on second, and when you’re going to work on that? And do youdo any like formalized kind of planning things to stay on track? Or is it so deeply ingrained that you just kind of know what to do and when to do it?

Dr. Danielle: I do think some of it is muscle memory that builds over time with practice. But yeah, I certainly have, um… especially on days when the external structure is not imposed. So, you know, when we’re seeing clients back to back, then that’s just the schedule. That is what it is. But on days where there’s less external structure imposed and it has to be more internal, I absolutely have a mental list. And so for me, the list begins with certain things that have to happen at a particular time.

So you and I had this, this meeting scheduled this morning at eight and I’ve got some appointments with students scheduled this afternoon. And so I’m looking at my day and those have to happen at a particular time. And then everything else gets slotted in around that. And, and then for me, there is a prioritization. You know, which of these things can wait and which of these things is urgent? And I don’t know that, I think that’s a values-based decision. I think it’s a sense of, you know, what the world is demanding from us in different areas of our life and what takes priority. So for me, there is a, you know, “These are my values so these are the most important things. So I’m definitely going to accomplish these. And the other things can wait until tomorrow evening, if, if they need to.” So, I don’t know that that's very structured.

Dr. Lisa Marie: Well no, but, but I think what you’re talking again about the most important piece of this, which is the mindsetwhich is that you’re thinking about, “What is the most important, you know, what’s, what’s the stuff I have to do. But then what’s the most important or valuable stuff for me?” And then I think, I think you were insinuating this without saying it out loud, that you would do that important stuff before you would do the other thing. And so, so then, I mean, that seems like so natural to you. It’s probably not even a thought, but like, I talk to people all the time who like, know that I have these important things to do. And instead, they will mess around with like, low-level tasks because they’re easy. They’ll clean out their email box. They’ll mess around on Reddit for 45 minutes before they start doing stuff. Do you have… you don’t do that?

Dr. Danielle: I know.

Dr. Lisa Marie: What? Yeah.

Dr. Danielle: That’s a great, great observation. And I certainly have clients who do the same thing. I think, two things. I think some of that is avoidance, you know, when we can sort of cross easy things off the list because we know other things are bigger or require more energy. Then some of that could be, is sort of an avoidance or escapist strategylike, “I don’t want to deal with that; I’m gonna bury my head in the sand of the Reddit or the inbox.” But I think some of that is also, at least for some of the clients that I work with, that they haven’t really explored what their values are. They haven’t really explored and outlined, “This is what’s really important to me, and this is what I want to commit my time and energy to,” and made a conscious decision to focus on those things. So they’re much more easily be derailed because they haven’t outlined and committed to those things…

Dr. Lisa Marie: Yeah.

Dr. Danielle: …um, for themselves. Yeah, and so some values exploration is a lot of work that I do with people. “Really what matters to you? Are you aligning your life with that?”

Dr. Lisa Marie: Okay, like a true life coach, like we’re gonna bring you over. But, but really though, and you know, as you’re talking, I’m reflecting on what I have seen clients do. But also personally when I have, again, I need to be much more intentional in order to be as organized and productive as you are. And when I am moving into that space, I do have to be very deliberate about what is the most important thing today, and you know, like as it attaches to bigger goals. And I think what I also probably tell myself is “Do the hardest thing first and resist the temptation to do the easiest thing first.”

Dr. Danielle: Yeah.

Dr. Lisa Marie: Like I have to do the hard thing at the beginning of the day, and then the easy  pesky things in the last hour of the day because that takes less mental bandwidth. And I think I’m hearing a similar process there that the easy stuff happens when it happens.

Dr. Danielle: I think that’s right because you know, we sort of lose steam throughout the day. So when we wake up, and we’re fresh, and we tackle the hardest thingsit’s the whole “eat your vegetables” first kind of a deal. I think there’s a reason, structurally, that we teach and train kids, you know, dessert comes after you eat all the other healthy things so that you don't fill up on dessert first, right?

And so I think there is that, that of, you know, let me get these things out that will require more energy while I’m fresh. And then at the end of the day, if something comes up, if life intervenes, if I get derailed by another urgent issue, then at least I’ve done those most important things.

Dr. Lisa Marie: Yeah.

Dr. Danielle: And the other things can fall off and wait until tomorrow. And you know, I never subscribed to that whole… I don’t know if you remember back when we were a little bit younger. We’ve known each other for 15 years, can you believe that? That’s the whole daytimer process. And you know, there was a big… But there is something there about having a list, having it on paper instead of just in my head, and then being able to prioritize. “This is an A item. This is a B. This is a C.”

Dr. Lisa Marie: Yeah, I have to do that. I have do that.

Dr. Danielle: Yeah, but it’s helpful.

Dr. Lisa Marie: So okay, so prioritizing. When it comes also to time management, have you observed in yourself any strategies that you use that maybe are a little bit different than what you see less organized people doing that help you, you know, I’m thinking get places on time. You are also supernaturally punctual. I should, I should… but like, be able to, like schedule things.

Okay. So here’s a, here’s a more specific question. One of the things that I have observed in myself and also people who are—have of a less organized orientation is that there is a different sense of maybe how long things are going to take. Whereas, and, but this is a hypothesis; I don’t know this for sure. I mean, I’m wondering if part of being punctual and good time management is having a more, maybe realistic sense of how long things take? Or do you feel like it’s attached to something elselike your ability to get places on time and to know, “I’m going to spend this much time working on this report?” What do you think?

Dr. Danielle: Yeah. No, I think that’s right. I think that this goes back to what we were talking about a little bit earlier, which is the idea of building in a buffer that things are going to go wrong. How do I create a cushion for that? Right? So there will be an accident on Colorado Boulevard as I’m trying to get somewhere. Or you know, something, something else will, will interrupt my ability to, you know, get to this particular appointment on time.

And so building in that cushion, I think when, when I haven’t done that so well, you’re right, I have assumed that I could get somewhere or do something in a particular amount of time. And that has, I underestimated how long things would take or what would get in the way or whatever. And so, I may work on fiddly tasks up until the last minute and say, “Oh, I need to go.” And I should have stopped those fiddly tasks, you know, 10 minutes earlier and be more efficient with my time management. So I think there is a little bit of predicting that things may go wrong. And so my strategy islet’s say I’m trying to get to an appointment and the Google Maps says it’s going to take 20 minutes to get there. If I leave 35 minutes early, then I’m not panicked if there’s an accident. And if I arrive early, then I’ve got that cushion to then do whatever that was answer those emails or whatever because we can do that from anywhere now…

Dr. Lisa Marie: Yeah.

Dr. Danielle: …while at, while I'm waiting at that appointment. And so it’s not that I’m getting less done. It’s just that I, you know, plan the cushion, and then use that cushion when I arrive and I’m waiting for the appointment.

Dr. Lisa Marie: Got it.

Dr. Danielle: I don’t know if that makes sense.

Dr. Lisa Marie: No, that’s a fantastic strategy. And that has like, never actually occurred to me before, but I think I’m gonna start doing it, Danielle. No, but so, so like, I mean, so just out of curiosity. So Google Maps says 20 minutes, do you add 50% to that? 75% to that? Like, is there a little mental calculus that you found to be… “If I add 50% more or whatever it is, then it’s usually okay.” I’m just curious.

Dr. Danielle: Yeah, I don’t know that I’ve done the mental math and like actually calculated, “Okay, 20 minutes divided by two and then blah, blah, blah.”

Dr. Lisa Marie: 14.75 seconds. Right.

Dr. Danielle: Right. Right. Right. Right. But, but I think some of it depends on, you know, actually how far I’m going. And so there is a little bit of a ratio there, although it’s more of a gut instinct than anything else. But I think it’s a question of just building in some buffer, instead of working up to the last minute on the project that’s right before. And, and, and then slotting in some of those easier tasks that we were talking about that can sort of occur throughout the day, can then occur in those buffer windows. When I arrived to that appointment 15 minutes early, okay, let me answer those emails now instead of trying to do it before I got in the car. And so there’s a little bit of just sort of restructuring and sliding the smaller tasks in when I find that there’s a window of opportunity. So yeah, so there’s some reorganization of bigger items and then slotting in the smaller items in between.

Dr. Lisa Marie: Okay. Well, that’s great. So this is wonderful. And so okay, then lastly so let’s say you have your, your typical typical familywith you know, mom and dad trying to work and manage a home, but also now managing kids, and keeping them on track, and homeschooling and schedules. And just trying to make sure that everything, everything that needs to happen, happens to a degree, with the understanding that right now for many people, there’s some stuff that isn't going to happen because it can’t. So you know, while we might like to have our socks matched and in the drawer, it may be realistic to get the clean clothes out of a laundry basket that never actually gets put away because nobody has the bandwidth to do that with everything else that needs to be done. I mean, there are, there are finite limits. But do you have any last words of advice for, you know, a family in the situation with going in a zillion different directions in this contextwith not external structure, you know, child care, having to do all the stuff–that might help them begin to create a workable plan to make sure the important things at least get done?

Dr. Danielle: Yeah, I mean, I think that’s a, that’s a great question. And I think it involves, I think, a lot of communication and a lot of sharing together——at least the adult partners in the, in the family system–saying, “Okay, what is most important to us as a family?” And putting those things first, and then coming up with a strategy for managing that together as a team.

I think one of the things that can happen is when we get stressed out and we go into our own, our own little bubblesthat can be isolating in a family system.

Dr. Lisa Marie: Yeah.

Dr. Danielle: And when we can sort of just sort of spin off into our own little solar systems instead of really consciously coming together and saying, “Okay, what’s most important to us? And what do we value here?” Again, going back to those values. And then, and then sort of choosing, “Okay, let’s tag team this. I’m going to do this with the kids today. You’re going to do that with the house. You get that done.” That’s a good day.

Dr. Lisa Marie: Yeah.

Dr. Danielle: And really just making a conscious effort to communicate about that and be, be working together as a team instead of spinning off into our own little zone.

Dr. Lisa Marie: Yeah. That’s fantastic advice. Okay, so to recap, I mean, if I, if I kind of just run down the big takeaways. I think the first thing, the first thing you said was just get deeply committed to, “Don’t put it down; put it away.” And you also talk about minimizing like, you maybe make it, do some curation to make it so that you do have a place for the most important things and that it’s not overwhelming sprawl. And I think that’s fantastic advice.

You also talked a lot about figuring out what your priorities are, and what is most important, and making sure that you do whatever that is first, and the lower value or less important things after that. Yup. And, and I think woven throughout this is sort of this core belief of that, you can probably do less than you think you can. And it’s probably going to take longer if it’s driving or doing a task. So maybe, I mean, is it fair to say like, lower your expectations about what is possible, and really focus on what is important? Does that kind of summarize it?

Dr. Danielle: Yeah, I think that’s right. I think that’s right. Having a, having a sense of buffer for anticipating that, you know, things will, you know, go wrong or take longer and, and really focusing on what matters most.

Dr. Lisa Marie: Yeah.

Dr. Danielle: And then, and then making that explicit for yourself. And so whether that is you know, as a calendar or a list or whatever else. Getting it out of your headwhere things tend to swim around and get lostand really outlining it for yourself in a very clear way, so that you can feel like, “Okay, yeah. I'm, I'm actually, my behavior is consistent with what I’m saying matters most to me.”

Dr. Lisa Marie: Yeah. Yeah. And then doing it now. Don’t put it away.

Dr. Danielle: And then doing it now. That’s right. That’s right. Easier said than done.

Dr. Lisa Marie: Wow, so many, so many wonderful tips. Danielle, thank you so much for spending this time with me today.

Dr. Danielle: Pleasure. Thanks for having me.


Burnout Prevention + Recovery

Burnout Prevention + Recovery

Burnout Prevention + Recovery

Burnout Prevention + Burnout Recovery


Burnout Prevention and Burnout Recovery: If you've been feeling mentally and emotionally exhausted, and that the daily grind is relentless… you are not alone. The realities of “corona-life” are wearing down even the sturdiest and most productive among us.

On the bright side, things that feel unsustainable usually are, and if you're coming to the conclusion that you cannot actually go on living this way you're in the perfect position to make full use of today's podcast episode — because help is here!

Today is all about helping you recover from burnout, reclaim control, cultivate resilience, reprioritize time and energy, and craft a sustainable “burnout prevention” plan for yourself, your career and your family.

Signs of Burnout

In case you hadn’t noticed, we’ve been living in a burnout culture. As a Denver therapist and online life coach, I’ve worked for years with clients who struggle with work fatigue, mom burnout (or dad burnout) and show up for therapy or life coaching feeling mentally exhausted or experiencing emotional exhaustion. The struggle is real!

Symptoms of burnout can mimic those of depression, often leading to exhaustion, apathy, irritability, and like you just don't care any more. You might feel sad or angry, or you might just feel numb.

Feeling burned out and like you had nothing left to give was true long before the “coronavirus life” experience cranked it up 10x. Now busy professionals are attempting to do it all… quite literally.

  • Balancing a full-time work-from-home job with
  • Full-time stay-at-home parenting
  • Without even a smidge of respite from the community that once sustained you
  • Homeschooling
  • Increased stress in your relationship
  • Managing the chaos of always-home family in need of regular feelings, entertainment and some semblance of order
  • No boundaries between work and life, with the result being that there are no natural breaks or stopping points in the day which leads to working from home from the crack of dawn until late at night.
  • Not having access to the simple pleasures or self-care activities that once allowed you to bounce back from burnout, like getting a  massage, having an evening with friends, or even going to a movie is fraught with danger. 

The daily grind is endless, stressful, with no end in sight, and opportunities to replenish your energy and recover from burnout are few and far between. It's a lot. It's non-stop. If you're feeling burned out from trying to do it all… of course you are!

Burnout Prevention

To help you start to restore your energy, cultivate resilience, and boost your mental and emotional reserves, today’s episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast is all about helping you not just recover from burnout… but prevent burnout in the first place.

I’ve enlisted the support of an expert on this topic: Eileen McDargh. Eileen has spent over thirty years researching the subject of work fatigue, burnout prevention, and burnout recovery. Her new book is Burnout to Breakthrough: Building Resilience to Refuel, Recharge, and Reclaim What Matters.

Eileen is with me today to share her insight, tips and strategies to help you prevent burnout in the first place, or — if it’s already taking hold — regain your resilience and restore your sanity.

We're discussing:

  • The first and most important mental shift you can make to reclaim control
  • How to identify energy takers and energy makers
  • Why questioning everything can cultivate your resilience
  • Daily practices that restore you (when you have zero time for anything) 
  • How to craft a lifestyle focused on sustainable productivity and burnout prevention
  • And more!

I hope this episode offers you guidance for how to rebuild your energy, restore your resilience, and start feeling like yourself again.


Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

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Burnout Prevention + Burnout Recovery

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

Music Credits: Wimps, “Monday” 

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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.

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Real Help, To Move You Forward


Everyone experiences challenges, but only some people recognize these moments as opportunities for growth and positive change.



Working with an expert therapist or life coach can help you understand yourself more deeply, get a fresh perspective, grow as a person, and become empowered to create positive change in yourself, your relationships and your life.



Start your journey of growth today by scheduling a free consultation.

More Love, Happiness and Success Advice 

Career Growth: How To Set Yourself Up For Success!

Career Growth: How To Set Yourself Up For Success!

Career Growth: How To Set Yourself Up For Success!

Career Growth and Transition Tips 


The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has impacted all of us in one way or another. When it comes to talking about career growth and how to use this time productively, there is a lot you can do without making big drastic lifestyle changes. 

This is a great opportunity to take time to explore your options, make decisions, and prepare yourself to take steps towards your ideal future! As an online career counselor, I wanted to give you some activities that you could explore to help you find clarity about career growth and career transitions while also tackling that looming feeling of “Where do I go next?”

Take Your Time: Reflect

Whether you are out of work, working from home, staggering shifts, or continuing work as essential personal, create a space for you to tune in to yourself and reflect on your career beliefs. 

Be intentional while thinking and answering the below questions, taking note of the answers that you come up with or that feel scary to admit. This is a beautiful space to begin wondering about your career growth choices and figuring out what feels like the best next step for you.

Ask yourself:
Am I happy with my current employment situation?
What would I want to change about it?
What’s most important to me when it comes to career options?
What would I like out of my career? 

Think about things such as:
When would be a good time to pursue this?
What does it take to achieve this goal?
Where do I see myself in this job?

Write down the pros and cons of transitioning careers. Some things might be both a pro and a con! Go through and give each topic a point value between 1 and 5. With 1 being the lowest importance. 

By attributing a value system to your list, it can help you recognize what’s most important for you right now.

Do Your Research

So you’ve taken the chance to reflect on your beliefs and desires; congratulations! As a career coach and individual therapist, I view taking time to reflect on big life transitions as a huge area of potential. 

It takes a lot of courage to think about change and what might feel uncomfortable. 

Take a moment to write a list of 5 different career options that seem interesting to you. Remember, writing them down does not mean you have to pursue them! 

Take the list you’ve created and search them individually at both of these sites: and

These sites are helpful in providing details such as; demand for the job, pay range, qualifications, as well as other related positions. Give yourself permission to go down a rabbit hole and explore things that look interesting to you!

Update Your Professional Information

Think about what resources need to be updated to appeal to your ideal or prospective job. Some jobs use social media more than others, some are more focused on your resume and cover letter

Put yourself in a hiring manager position and think about what they might want to see out of a prospective applicant. Linkedin, Indeed, and even Instagram and Facebook can be media sources your future employer might want to review (depending on the job of course). 

Keep your profiles up to date to reflect YOU! Let your personality shine through. Yes, employers want to see your accomplishments but they also want to see who you are! 

Go through and tailor your profile for the job you want – cutting out redundant content, elaborating on your accomplishments, and creating uniformity throughout your profile.

Your Resume Matters! 6 Useful Resume Tips

Updating and keeping up with your resume is critical to pursuing the job you want. Most jobs are looking for a one page ‘summary’ on your professional experience. Make sure your resume looks clean, consistent, and easy to read. [If you want to work with a professional, view here is information on connecting with an expert resume and interview coach: Resume Writing Services in Denver | Online Resume Consultant]

  1. Keep important information on your resume that applies to your ideal position while omitting information that might not be completely relevant. I like to keep a ‘full length’ resume that I can copy and paste my experience in and out of.
  2. Highlight aspects that might be important to the job. For instance, if the job you are applying for is in education, it might be important to highlight your academic accomplishments. (If you are applying to jobs in several fields, it might be handy to keep a couple of different versions of your resume like, professional, service industry, education, etc. on hand.)
  3. If you are looking to apply to a specific job, look through the job description, and incorporate keywords into your resume. Hiring managers are looking for those keywords and this can help you organize your experience.
  4. Use concise summaries of your experience using bullet points and action words that match the tense. For example, if you are currently working as an office assistant you might use: “Organizes specialized data spreadsheets.” If you are not currently working there, go back through and change ‘organize’ to a past tense verb.
  5. Formatting should be consistent throughout your document including font, text size, punctuation, dates, etc.. Keep an eye on small things such as; are there periods at the end of every sentence? Is the date format consistent throughout (03/2020 vs March 2020)?
  6. Find someone you trust such as a mentor, professor, or career coach to review your resume and give you feedback.

Some positions require a Curriculum Vitae (CV) or you might have the option to submit a CV in place of a resume. 

A CV is an extended version of your resume that expands on your life accomplishments and academic pursuits. Unlike a resume, which typically is only 1 page, a CV can be as long as you would like. 

Keeping an up to date CV allows you to track your accomplishments, awards, certifications, and projects that you’ve worked hard to accomplish. Here’s a good guide to writing a CV:

Time To Upskill Yourself

Due to the pandemic, companies know there are a lot of people with more time on their hands. Take time to think about what skills your current or next job is looking for. If you have the time and means, take a course or a training to update or learn a new skill that will contribute to your career growth. 

These could be courses from your local college, classes taught online through your field’s board, or one you found through Google. This can be valuable information when going into an interview or preparing to get a new job. 

Financial security is also important to consider during this time. There are ways to upskill yourself for free. Khan Academy offers free courses on several subjects. Plus, there’s no harm in looking! 

Many public libraries have opened up their online databases and have made it more accessible to read Ebooks. Look at your local library and find a book relating to the subject you’d like to learn more about. 

While reading, take notes. It might seem silly but taking notes can help you retain information. 

Youtube can also be a great resource for free information and techniques. Make sure you are looking for credible information in whichever free course you choose. 

It might seem like the world is in a standstill in terms of employment. Although there might be a freeze currently, this pause creates a great opportunity to reflect and spend time with your thoughts about career growth. 

Our professional life is always changing and developing and sometimes it can be easy to lose sight of that. I want to encourage you to be kind to yourself during this time and give yourself permission to explore those ideas that may have gotten tucked away.

Wishing you success,
Megan Brice, M.S., LPCC, NCC


P.S. If you have recently lost your job, you're not alone. For helpful tips and encouragement read: Coping With Job Loss and article focused on self-care, career-care, and hope. 

Denver Career Coach Online Career Counselor Therapist in Broomfield Online Therapy

Megan Brice, M.S., LPCC, NCC is a career counselor, life coach and therapist who creates a warm environment for you to explore the depths of who you are, so you can grow. She challenges, encourages, and empowers you to embrace transition in order to create future fulfillment.

Let's  Talk



Real Help, To Move You Forward


Everyone experiences challenges, but only some people recognize these moments as opportunities for growth and positive change.



Working with an expert therapist or life coach can help you understand yourself more deeply, get a fresh perspective, grow as a person, and become empowered to create positive change in yourself, your relationships and your life.



Start your journey of growth today by scheduling a free consultation.

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