The Six Dominant Action Styles: How You Take Action and Why It’s Critical To Know

Part of my series “Living and Working Better”

Over my 11 years of coaching professionals, five years as a therapist, and 18 years in corporate life, I’ve worked with and seen every type of person with every type of challenge you can imagine. Through the process of coaching and studying professionals, I’ve observed that there are six dominant action styles – six key ways in which humans naturally and preferentially take action towards a goal and approach change.

I’ve discovered too that these six styles shape what people deeply want, need and dream of in their work and personal lives. Our preferred action style influences the type of people we get along with, the impact we long to make, the outcomes we care about, and who we’ll allow to help us.

If our dominant action style isn’t respected, appreciated or allowed to be exercised fully in our work and personal lives, we often feel misunderstood, undervalued, thwarted, disconnected, and unfulfilled.

The impact of our preferred action style is very significant, but we aren’t trained to recognize it,

So we pursue jobs that are wrong for us, and careers that fail us.

I’ve found that our preferred action styles have roots in our hardwiring, but are also nurtured throughout our lives and experiences. In addition, our dominant action style shapes how we see life, how we envision success and happiness, and why we so often have painful conflicts with (and negative judgements about) others who demonstrate a different action style.

In each of us, there is some crossover among styles, and a certain style might emerge at a given time to address a particular kind of problem. But overall, there is one main style that represents who you are at your core.

What are the top six action styles and why do you need to know?

I’ve observed these six categories that reflect how humans take action to a goal:

(For an illustration of how these styles are different, let’s use as an example that all of the individuals below have identified a goal of taking a road trip and journey this year from New York City to Los Angeles):

The Striver

This individual is motivated keenly by achievement and accomplishment – by setting goals and doing what’s required to clear the pathway to achieve those goals. Strivers work hard consistently to overcome their challenges, and won’t hesitate to get outside help, advice and support from others to achieve their visions. They are deeply driven by accomplishment and by getting to the other side of their goal as expeditiously and efficiently as possible, as if to make a “check mark” on their to-do list that represents “Done.”

The strength of this style: The ability to move toward a goal continuously and proactively, without letting outside obstacles and distractions get in the way.

The potential limitations  of this style: Strivers sometimes prioritize achievement and accomplishment over other important dimensions of behavior and human experience, such as empathy, compassion, interconnectedness and patience. The Striver is often a “perfectionist overfunctioner” striving to do more than is necessary, more than is appropriate, and more than is healthy, and driving to get an A+ in all of it. The Striver has been known to “leave body parts” on the floor in the wake of achieving what they believe is important.

The journey will look like this: This individual will actively plan his/her road trip, choose the date, find the best companion for the trip, and make it happen in the most efficient and effective way possible, without much question, concern or deliberation. The ultimate goal is arriving at the destination.

The Seeker

The Seeker is motivated by expansion, learning and growth, and sees evolving and learning as the key objectives of experience. Seekers may change directions frequently, embracing the idea of “going with the flow,” and are more than fine with modifying their dreams and visions based on what new “material” shows up in their lives at any given time.

The strength of this style: Incorporating input from many different sources (including their gut and intuition), Seekers listen to their mind, body and spirit to guide them and are fluid in determining the best goals and approaches to having the fullest experience of life.

The potential limitations: Seekers place such a strong emphasis on intuition and internal guidance that they sometimes fail to design practical goals that will support them, or follow proven methodologies and approaches to the goal. They sometimes can rely too heavily on positive thinking as a strategy, failing to take concrete, action-oriented steps toward specifically-defined visions and goals.

The journey: The road trip for this individual might not end up in Los Angeles at all, or occur at the designated time. The Seeker may decide to detour to Santa Fe or somewhere else, and end up staying weeks longer than originally planned because of who they met or new experiences they engaged in. The Seeker cares most about growth and learning, and relies on a great deal of other input and information that flows in through experience to evaluate if the goal – and the approach to the goal — as originally outlined is the most desirable.

The Researcher

The Researcher is deeply motivated by the process of study, research, exploration and evaluation – assuming a wide range of angles and perspectives in order to understand the best goals to pursue, and the best avenues to achieve these goals. The researcher needs to turn an idea or concept over and “peel the onion” to investigate, dig deep, explore and uncover as many alternative approaches and options in order to arrive at the best plan.

The strength of this style: The researcher brings to the table a keen ability to explore new ways to achieve a goal, and new ways to conceptualize the way we operate around a goal. Through mining data, brainstorming new questions, and uncovering vital information that informs our decisions and visions, the researcher can bring to light game-changing information and perspectives that shape our decisions.

The potential limitations: The Researcher’s need for data, validation and research can at times impose obstacles to efficiency.  Sometimes life requires a leap of faith where data on the potential outcome is not available, which is difficult for the Researcher to tolerate, and sometimes fear-inducing.

The journey: The road trip for this individual will involve a great deal of investigation, research, questioning, discussion and testing out, before the journey even begins and before a course of action can be charted.

The Pacer

Pacers will get to their goal, but they’ll approach the process very slowly, methodically, and often in a plodding way. The Pacer is like a great giant turtle with a hard, protective shell. When events or situations emerge that threaten the Pacer, s/he will submerge under the shell until the threat has passed. The Pacer will reliably plod to the goal, but often others have to move around the Pacer if they wish to speed up the process or take the most expedient route.

The strength of this style:  The Pacer has a strong, steady and reliable approach to moving from point A to point B, and is not easily pushed off the track or distracted from the goal.

The potential limitations: The Pacer can sometimes be stopped in his tracks by experiences that appear to threaten his status quo. Change is very scary to the Pacer, and his/her fears have to be mitigated before they can move forward.

The journey: The road trip for this individual will be slow, steady, paced and very well plotted. Progress may not happen as planned (if something emerges that makes the Pacer fearful of proceeding), but the Pacer will not give up until he arrives at the goal that was set.

The Challenger

The Challenger feels the urge to challenge everything – asking questions, disrupting conventional thinking, and not taking any advice, authority or direction given as definitive. The Challenger thrives on being able to turn a goal or a belief over on its head, and questioning why it exists. He is motivated by following his own, authentic answers to deep questions, and views himself as the highest authority on what is the right, or wrong, way to approach a situation or goal.

The strength of this style: The Challenger doesn’t take anyone’s word for it, so he often brings completely new solutions to the table through his skepticism and questioning of what’s in front of him.

The potential limitations: The Challenger can expend more energy than necessary or helpful in challenging for challenging sake, exhausting his energy and resources (and everyone else’s) before forward action can be taken.

The journey: The process in planning for the road trip, and engaging in it, for this individual will be full of questions and challenges that need to be addressed, including: Why now? Why this? Is it worth it? What will I get from it? Who should come? And who says this is a good idea?

The Advocator

Finally, the Advocator drives to a goal only when it has “juice” and excitement for her – when it holds a deeper meaning and purpose, usually around advocating for some desired transformation – for herself, others, her community or the world.  Advocators need to have deeper meaning and purpose in their work and in their goals, and long for outcomes that will bring forth positive benefit to everyone involved.

If there isn’t some form of championing an idea or supporting a cause for positive growth embedded within the goal, the Advocator tends not to be fully satisfied or motivated to complete it. Advocators aren’t motivated by personal gain – they are motivated by transforming some aspect of the world for greater good.

The strength of this style: When the Advocator is motivated toward a goal, she can be highly compelling and convincing, enlivening everyone around her to support her vision, paving the way for a great deal to be accomplished.

The potential limitations: The Advocator has a strong “warrior” sensibility, and sometimes can be myopic in her views and approach, which can alienate others who aren’t as aligned with the advocacy aspect of the goal.

The journey: With the Advocator’s strong belief in transformation, she won’t be stopped on her journey. She’s able to cut through red tape, make the impossible happen, scale mountains, forge rivers and get to the destination when all others before her have failed.

Why do you need to know your preferred style to build a happier career?

There are five key reasons that knowing your dominant style is critical to your success:

First, gaining greater self-awareness of your dominant action orientation will help you choose the right work and career, and the right path for you that will leverage and honor your preferred style.

• Understanding what motivates and drives you will help you make better, more satisfying decisions in terms of what career and lifestyle choices and relationships you pursue.

• Learning how others are different in their action styles will help you get along better with (and manage/lead) others whose styles are different than yours, and develop a greater appreciation and respect for diversity and difference in styles.

• Seeing the potential blind spots of your preferred style will help you bypass the inherent challenges and pitfalls of that style, and encourage you to surround yourself with individuals who have complementary styles.

• Understanding how you like to take action means you’ll understand what you need to do in any new situation, in order to navigate it more successfully to achieve what you long for authentically (including how to build a happier career).

Which of these six dominant styles best reflects you? And is there another action style of the six that you wish you had? Why? I’d love to hear. Please share your thoughts and questions below.

To learn more about your action style, take my quiz and visit And to learn how to be truer to yourself, watch my Facebook LIVE video “How NOT Being True To Yourself Crushes Your Life.”

Are You Brave Enough To Live The Life You Long To? Most Aren’t, and Here’s Why

I had an 18-year a corporate career, and on the outside it was very successful (I earned a lot of money, rose to the level of VP, managed large budgets and global initiatives, etc.), but on the inside, it was not successful. It was bumpy, challenging, and sometimes even harrowing. Throughout that long chapter in my adult life, I couldn’t figure out what was really at the heart of my challenges, nor could I determine the best steps to take to free myself of the pain and unhappiness I experienced in the workplace.

Finally, in the years following a crushing corporate layoff after 9/11, I did figure it out. I totally changed my life and career, and moved into the helping profession (therapy and coaching) which was so much better suited than corporate life to my core values, personality, talents and passions, and my desires for making an impact that meant something personally meaningful to me. And I became a researcher and writer on professional women’s challenges, and I loved it. In short, I found brave and finally began speaking up and honoring who I am inherently rather than trying to cram myself into a mold that never fit.

After 11 years of doing this work and research, and working with thousands of professional men and women around the world, I stepped back to evaluate if there is one core missing element that’s at the heart of so many of these unsatisfying lives. I re-examined all my research, and the assessments, surveys and quizzes I’ve developed and administered as well as hundreds of case studies of professional crisis in women (and men), to attempt to identify the one most basic issue underlying the majority of these challenges.

It turns out there is one core factor undermining our happiness and success.

My research revealed this: Thousands upon thousands of people are simply not brave enough yet to honor their true selves.

Women and men by the millions haven’t yet mustered the necessary courage, passion, confidence, commitment and perseverance to rise up, speak up and stand up boldly for themselves, and shift what needs to change in their lives and in the world around them.

That doesn’t mean that I don’t see, experience or acknowledge the many societal, cultural and institutional influences and barriers that limit and constrain women today. I do. I’ve personally lived through gender discrimination, sexual harassment, toxic colleagues, being passed over for a promotion by a man 10 years my junior with no relevant experience, and being told I was the “B” word when I was doing exactly what my male colleagues were doing, and getting a promotion for it. And the list goes on and on.

But my perspective now that I’m on the other side of that treatment and behavior, and in running my own business and calling the shots, is that all individuals who feel that they can’t create life as they want it need to rise up more bravely and boldly and take control of their lives. That is the only the pathway to shifting your life, and altering how society, culture and institutions treat individuals who are finding their pathway to success, reward and impact blocked.

What are the top three areas we need to muster more bravery today?

In my recent TEDx talk for TEDx Centennial Park Women, I share my take on why it’s time to brave up, and how specifically to do it.

The three most critical ways we need to begin finding brave to be happier and more fulfilled are:

#1: See yourself as you truly are – amazing, talented, gifted and important to the world.

I’ve reviewed hundreds upon hundreds of responses to my Career Path Self-Assessment – a survey I created with questions I wished someone had asked me 30 years ago. The most pivotal questions are “How are you special? How do you stand out in the world that makes you different?” (Here’s a link to the survey – don’t make a move without taking it.)

Over 90% of the women who take this survey cannot answer this question. They either leave it blank or offer very vague descriptors. They don’t see about themselves as I see them – extremely gifted, brilliant, talented, accomplished, important and necessary in the world.

The problem is, if you don’t see your amazing gifts, then you can’t act on them, and you waste them. Now’s the time to understand exactly how you’re talented, gifted and deeply valuable in the world, and start doing something important with your special talents.

So, do you know how you’re special, talented, and vital to this world?

#2: Speak up bravely and share the real truth of what you think, feel and believe.

Research study after research study has revealed that women are viewed significantly more negatively than men when perceived as forceful or “assertive.” Our society just isn’t comfortable yet with passionate, authoritative and confident women who don’t hold back. Hundreds of women have shared with me personally that they’ve been penalized at work and at home, for being assertive and bold, and standing up for what they believe.

What’s the answer? Don’t hold back. Period. The time for that has passed.

Clearly, the world needs millions more examples of powerful, authoritative and confident women, and each of us needs to be a role model.

But research also reveals there are two critical ways both men and can speak more forcefully yet mitigate and lessen the negative backlash.

First, the fascinating research done by David Maxfield and Joseph Grenny on gender bias reveals that, if you offer a “framing” statement that is grounded in a core value prior to making a forceful comment that may anger people, you’ll mitigate the backlash.

The value statement helps listeners hear you in a different way, and allows them to understand your intent more deeply.

Here’s an example: If you’re participating in a board meeting and don’t like the direction the group is suggesting taking the company, you can say, “I believe fully in honesty and integrity, so it’s really important for me to share honestly what I think here. I’m just not on board with the direction we’re discussing, and here’s why.”

Secondly, it’s critical to say what you need to say but with care, compassion and empathy in your heart, showing respect for all people and all ideas. You can vehemently disagree with an idea, but it’s critical to hold compassion in your heart for the individual sharing the idea.

When you analyze the words and language of some of history’s most memorable and inspiring leaders (for instance, Mother Theresa, Eleanor Roosevelt, Lincoln, Gandhi, and Martin Luther King) you’ll hear language that uplifts, inspires, enlivens, and presents a compelling vision of a better world for all, and a world that represents a higher version of us all. These amazing leaders don’t condemn, tear down, ridicule, or demean with hate or condemnation. They uplift.

To be assertive and compelling – to be a true visionary leader — avoid all hate and divisive language. Stay far way from sharing critical, biting, disrespectful and demeaning messages. I’ve found that anything can be said when it’s said with the utmost respect, empathy, care and compassion for all human beings.

#3: Leverage the fantastic talents you possess, and do it in service of others.

Finally, the third way we need to begin finding brave up more powerfully to live happier, more rewarding lives is to “shine” bravely. By that I mean,

Stop hiding your light. Let it out and let it shine. Identify those core talents you possess that come easily to you and  that you love to use, and bring them forward in exciting ways.

(And don’t focus on skills you struggle to use; leverage those that are a joy.)

One key to this is focusing on leverage your talents to be of help and service to others. When you do that, life becomes more rewarding and joyful.  Don’t let money, age, time, education, or any other excuse stand in your way. You have only one life to live on this planet and this time, and if you waste it, it’s gone forever and you’ll end up with painful regrets. (Read more about the top five regrets of midlife professionals.)

The one mistake I see professionals make over and over is believing two damaging myths:

• That they have to struggle incredibly hard and work themselves to the bone every day to be “successful.” (If it’s too easy, they feel it’s not success.)

• That they’ll need a total reinvention to be happy.

They’ve come to believe that they have to throw the entire baby out with the bathwater, and change everything in their careers to be happy. It’s simply not true.

What’s required is simply taking one small but bold step every single day – the step of acknowledging your core talents that you love to use, and finding new ways to use them.

When you do that – commit to exploring new ways to use yourself in service — you’ll begin to find new pathways to more exciting work, or you’ll start using your talents in new ways as a hobby or volunteer experience that enriches your life.

Either way, you’ll find that shining bravely means you’re finally honoring exactly who you are, and pursuing your highest potential rather than thwarting yourself at every turn trying to be something you’re not.

If you want to write, write. If you want to be an artist, take a class and hone your skills. If you want to sing, find a local group and start singing. If you want to learn more about becoming a coach, interview five coaches. Stop making excuses, and start finding ways to do the work you long to.

When you take these steps, and call up the bravery you need to honor who you are, your life will radically transform and you’ll finally experience the success and happiness you’ve been deeply longing for.

 To call up the bravery you need to build a happier, more rewarding life, watch my TEDx talk, work with me, and take my Amazing Career Project training.  


3 Life-Affirming Steps To Take When You’re Traumatized By Events Around You

Yesterday, I and several inspiring colleagues of mine who are in the helping, healing and business arenas held an open, online Healing Together call, with the sole intent of offering a much-needed chance for anyone who may be struggling with the events of this week and this year to come together, share authentically and openly, and find a place of respect, care and empathy to express themselves without fear, and process their feelings, and begin to heal.

The amazing women who joined me – Cheryl Hunter, Neha Sangwan, Angie Ruan and Mo Faul – all work to empower and uplift women and to support humanity in important ways. And each of us has been challenged in our own, unique way by recent events and experiences.

In listening to these sage and empowered women talk about how they cope with deep challenge and trauma, and in formulating my own ideas about how we can best marshal all our internal resources and our strength, hope, faith and courage in challenges times — and hearing the beautiful, riveting comments from attendees — I learned so much about what severs and destroys love, connection, strength and positivity,  and also, what restores it.

Below are three strategies I’d like to share and I hope are helpful, about how we can reconnect to our spiritual and emotional centers again, and engage all our capabilities, courage, faith and love to heal and empower ourselves through difficult times.

Reconnect to yourself through your physical being and your breath

So often, in challenging times, we become deeply fearful, and our feelings of extreme vulnerability, confusion and disconnection wreak havoc on our bodies, minds and spirits. [tweet_quote]It’s so important in these times especially, to, every day, get in deeper touch with yourself [/tweet_quote]– physically, emotionally and spiritually—to ground yourself and reconnect to your heart, soul and to our inner guidance, capabilities, strengths and love.  In this way, you’re continually reminded of how powerful you really are, and your personal accountability and sense of self can grow..

Dr. Neha Sangwan shares exactly how we can do this, in my podcast with Mo Faul, Best Work/Best Life. Listen in here for a powerful interview with Neha that helps us all reconnect to what we’re feeling and experiencing, so we can begin to heal.

Move away from the blame and hate place

Throughout my 15 years of personal transformation and reinvention since leaving corporate life after 9/11, I’ve learned a great deal about how I personally operate – including the knee-jerk reactions I have to life and to challenge. I’ve observed in my own reactions that when I’m deeply upset, angry and anxious, I go immediately to the blame place. I look for someone to yell at and blame so I can feel better and not deal with the messy, painful process of identifying exactly what is making me so upset and afraid, and working through it, and being accountable for it. I try to shortcut the pain by making someone else the problem.

Sadly, this is a futile exercise, and in fact, a self-damaging and corrosive one.  Discharging our anxiety is not dealing with it, not taking accountability for it and addressing it in a strong, empowered way.  And deal with it we must, if we want to move to the process of healing and growth, and become the person we long to be.

Also, taking responsibility for our part of it – understanding the meaning we’re attaching to events and things and seeing exactly what that “meaning” and story is catalyzing in our own minds – is essential if we ever want to achieve any sense of balance, peace and self-control.

As renowned social researcher and vulnerability expert Brené Brown has said, “Blame has an inverse relationship with accountability.” In other words, people who chronically go to the blame place seldom have the tenacity and grit to actually hold themselves accountable for what they’re feeling and doing.

Cheryl Hunter, a resilience expert and national news commentator shares so much wisdom and guidance about how to become resilient after trauma. After being brutally attacked by three criminals while traveling in a foreign country in her teens, and learning how to survive and thrive after this unbearable experience, Cheryl has so much wisdom and beautiful guidance to offer us.

Angie Ruan, technology leader and empowerment of women in the tech field, shares her amazing personal story of coming from China to the U.S., and how rising up in the tech world has taught her so much about what’s required to ovecome gender bias and discrimination, and lead powerfully. Listen to her amazing story here.

Finally, Mo Faul shares about her journey with cancer, and how her dark times with disease have changed who she is.

Finding Brave: Become more of who you really are 

Numbers of people on the call yesterday shared how scared they were about they own situations, and that of their loved ones, children and family members. They revealed their deep anxieties and fears about where our world is going in terms of how dominant culture and society treats members of minority and marginalized groups and cultures. We talked about what it feels like – for women, blacks, and members of the LGBTQ community, for example – to feel demeaned, disrespected, ignored, put down, or worse – overtly and criminally punished and discriminated against.

As a woman and a professional who has lived through numerous experiences of sexual harassment and gender discrimination in my 56 years, I know what this feels like. And I know how damaging, infuriating and overwhelming it is to be pushed aside by a fellow human being, and kicked to the curb like garbage. It’s crushing and it strips us of our faith in good and in humanity. And it makes us feel helpless.

But I’d offer this: we can stay in this place of disenfranchisement, alienation and victimization, or we can do something powerful about it. In my TEDx talk “Time to Brave Up” this month for TEDxCentennialParkWomen (link coming soon!), I shared about what I’ve found to be three essential ways we all need to Brave Up: See Bravely, Speak Bravely and Shine Bravely.

Each and every one of us needs to muster more power, courage and internal commitment and resolve to rise up, speak up and stand up BOLDLY for ourselves and for others. And in doing so, we will all transform our lives, and the world. I don’t just think this – I know it, because I’ve personally moved away from victimhood and so have thousands of women I’ve worked with. And their lives have been transformed.

What can you do today? [tweet_quote hashtags=”#findingbrave” ]Don’t take abuse or discrimination lying down. Speak up and take a stand.[/tweet_quote] Get empowered outside support, join together, address the issues with accountability, strength and clarity. Let’s all become more accountable and stop blaming others for what’s happening around us that we cannot tolerate.

I’ve found that it is exactly in this rising up, standing up and speaking up for ourselves, in small ways at first, then in much bigger ways, that people have created new life experiences, away from victimization to experiencing more and more empowerment, confidence, impact, growth and accountability – and that changes the world.

To build a more empowered life and career, work with me, take my Amazing Career Project video training, and read my book Breakdown, Breakthrough. And if you’re longing for a powerful meditative guide to overcoming challenge, check out my Breakdown, Breakthrough 2-part Meditative companion

How To Identify Your Passion and Fuel Your Work With It

I hear from hundreds of women each month asking a fascinating variety of career and work-life questions, hoping for some guidance. But one question emerges more frequently than any other, from women of all walks, levels, and capabilities.

The one question I hear more than any other is, “How can I figure out what my passion is?”

I had a powerful personal experience this week that I think exemplifies the answer to this question and I’d like to share it with you.

I had the wonderful opportunity to attend two important conferences in New York City that opened my eyes to new insights and learnings. The first conference was on business innovation and “disruption,” sponsored by WOBI, and the other was Claudia Chan’s S.H.E. Summit, a global women’s leadership and lifestyle event. WOBI on Innovation focused on the many, multifaceted disruptions that are impacting business today, and the tremendous upside opportunities they present for those flexible and aware enough to both spot and react to them quickly.

The next day I attended the 3rd annual S.H.E. Summit which convened more than 60 thought leaders and partners igniting change and offering a global conversation and celebration of female potential and possibility.

Both conferences featured renowned experts, and both focused on exciting topics at the forefront of culture and business.

After the first day on innovation, my mind was full with new ways to think about business and career problems, how to turn these problems upside down and perceive and analyze them differently. I was inspired and motivated, by Andy Cohen, on Overcoming Barriers to Disruptive Thinking, and by Stephen Ritz, on Transformational Innovation. Ritz’s story is deeply inspirational – it reveals the transformation that’s possible when we challenge assumptions, think very differently, and refuse to accept the unacceptable. Ritz is a Bronx County science teacher leading a double revolution – of education and urban renewal. His world is New York City’s South Bronx, a place traditionally associated with gang activity, poverty and crime. As the leader of the Green Bronx Machine, Ritz is driving a movement that is changing people’s perceptions and transforming lives, based on his belief that students shouldn’t have to leave their community to live, learn and earn in a better one. The best quote of the day for me was his, “I don’t want to accept what I cannot change. I want to change what I cannot accept.” (Now THAT is passion.)

The second day offered the same high level of educational and informational information and experiences – with fabulous speakers including Claudia ChanMarlo ThomasSallie KrawcheckNigel BarkerGary BarkerAmbassador to the U.N. Samantha Power, and many more. I was engaged and upflited, and also had new flashes of insight and revelation about the current state of affairs for women around the world, and new solutions to improve that state.

But one thing grew very apparent to me throughout the two days’ experiences – my heart, spirit and mind were much more actively engaged by discussions, research and information that touched on global women’s growth and advancement.

Throughout the S.H.E. Summit, for example, I cried, I laughed, and felt deeply moved by the speakers’ experiences and often contrarian viewpoints on gender equality, violence against women, fostering diversity in corporate America, integrating men in the support of women, women’s economic independence, education, and more. At times, I wanted to jump up on stage and join the conversation myself, and (dare I say), add my different views and perspectives. I was “buzzing.”

The important lesson I was reminded of from this experience is that when you find yourself learning about an area in which you desperately want to help and simply can’t stop yourself — that’s your passion. And you are happiest in your work when you’re tapping into that passion – giving form to your life intentions in ways that help others (as Maria Nemeth explains in her great book The Energy of Money).

Based on my coaching and training work with hundreds of women around the globe who’ve found their passion, and are leveraging it in their work, here are the hallmarks of the experience when you’ve discovered your passion and are working in your sweet spot:

  • Despite all your concerns about how crashingly busy you are already in your life, you want to DO more to help this situation and are ready to act NOW
  • You’re enlivened by the people you meet who are involved in this cause or area, and they inspire you
  • You feel like a beginner – you realize you have many things to learn and can’t wait to learn them
  • This area of focus for you is deep, rich and inexhaustible – there is so much that needs to be done and explored
  • You feel more alive, valuable, and contributive when focused on these issues, and that makes you happier and more engaged personally and professionally
  • Being involved in this area helps you marry up everything you’ve ever cared about, and everything you are, and allows you to draw on your many talents, skills and capabilities in new, exciting ways
  • This area of focus gives your life meaning and purpose
  • You feel humbled at the enormity of the task ahead of you, but thrilled to be part of it
  • You feel more love and compassion in your heart, and more connected to the world around you

But many women say, “Kathy, I’m not sure what I’m passionate about. How do I discover that?”

To identify what you’re passionate about, dig deep and answer these questions:

  1. Look carefully at what you’re drawn to in life. What do you read, watch, listen to, follow?
  2. What agitates and upsets you in the world and compels you to DO something?
  3. Where are the people who inspire and uplift you? What are they focused on?
  4. If you could take one college level course or program for free on anything at all, what would it be?
  5. In what areas are you drawn to helping others?
  6. What “mess” in your life can be turned into a “message” for others?
  7. What skill or talent do you wish you had, that would be exciting to pursue?
  8. What area do you secretly fantasize about being involved in but feel foolish to say it out loud?
  9. If you knew you couldn’t fail and it would all work out beautifully (financially and otherwise), what would you try?
  10. What did you adore doing as a child that you’ve let slip through your fingertips?
  11. What (or who) holds you back most from pursuing what excites you most?

Before my current career, I lived through 18 years of a corporate life that was devoid of passion and purpose, and that led to depression, illness, and misery. I can tell you without a shadow of doubt that being lit up by your work is the far happier and more productive way to go.

Are you ready to identify your passion and get moving doing important work that fuels that passion?

(To build a happier, more rewarding career, and the Amazing Career Project.)

The Top 5 Regrets of Midlife Professionals

I’ve spent 11 years now focused on career coaching, teaching and training, helping mid-career professionals “dig deep, discover their right work, and illuminate the world with it.” I’ve seen several core themes emerge around what makes mid-career professionals (and middle-aged people in general) feel the deepest regret.

Below are the top five regrets I’ve heard from mid-career professionals around the world:

1. I wish I hadn’t listened to other people about what I should study and pursue.

Many people believe that when you reach 40, you’ll certainly be living your own life, and making your own authentic choices.  Sadly, I’ve found that it isn’t necessarily true. So many thousands of people around the world feel deep regret and pain because they’re actually living someone else’s life – not their own. Most typically, they’re living a life their parents told them to live, and engaging in careers their authority figures demanded or strongly encouraged they pursue.

I’ve heard from so many people aged 40-55 who now realize they’re in the completely wrong career, pursuing the wrong goals, because they studied in college what their parents and authority figures told them was the right thing, for security, stability and status.  They also admit that there was a some unconscious or “hidden” cultural mandate they somehow felt, to become a doctor, lawyer, engineer, architect, etc., for the recognition and status that their parents thought would be achieved in these fields.  The reality is that these professionals didn’t muster the courage to change directions, or say “No, I don’t want this!”  And now many years have passed and they’re still not living life as they want to.

To live a happy, rewarding life on your own terms, it’s critical to starting saying “yes” to your authentic beliefs and values, and stop living someone else’s life that feels so wrong., even if it’s the one your beloved parents wanted for you

2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard and missed out on so much.

So many men and women in middle age share that they regret what they’ve missed out on in life, by working so hard. They missed being in the fabric of their children’s lives. Or they missed the chance to have children. They missed the opportunity to build true intimacy and closeness with their spouses, family and friends. They missed experiencing adventure, travel, enjoyment, vitality, learning, spiritual growth – not having the chance to stop and relish life, nature, good health, peace, or relaxation. They missed so much and sacrificed so much to pursue work goals that now feel meaningless and empty.

I’ve seen that too that when people get to the end of their lives – in their 80s and 90s — they’re not thinking at all about the work goals they strived so hard to achieve. They’re thinking about love and family, about the people that matter deeply to them, and how they made a difference to these people. And they deeply regret what they didn’t do with and for these loved ones.

3. I wish I hadn’t let my fears stop me from making change.

We have many different fears that stop us from taking action, but the biggest fears are around failure, loss, and pain.  Mid-career professionals share with me that they have so much fear and resistance around making change, particularly if it means they have to stretch out of their comfort zone, speak up and stand up for themselves. They fear failing, going broke, not being able to care for their families financially. They fear leaving their “comfort zone” yet they see that perpetuating the status quo is excruciating and damaging.

The fears mid-career professionals, particularly women, often emerge from a lack of healthy boundaries, from intense people-pleasing behavior and a drive toward “perfectionistic overfunctioning” – doing more than is necessary, healthy or appropriate. Until we can get in the cage with our fears and address them head on, fear will keep us stuck in quiet desperation.

4. I wish I had learned how to address toxic situations and people.

When I wrote the post “6 Toxic Behaviors That Push People Away,” I heard from thousands of people (and still do) who shared how toxic their lives and relationships have become. And they shared that they have no idea what to do about it.

Toxicity is rampant today, and so much of it comes from stress and from negative, damaging ways we were raised and parented, and what we were taught (or not taught) about acceptable and unacceptable behavior. It also emerges from people whose self-esteem has been severely hurt– through childhood pain, trauma in later life, and crushing experiences at work that shatter them. Toxicity – at work, in relationships, and in our own thoughts — hurts us terribly, but often we don’t see it clearly enough until our bodies break down, or other crises hit that focus us to take brave new action to learn to love, protect, and heal ourselves.

5. I wish I hadn’t let myself become so trapped around money.

Finally, the money issue – this comes up in almost every conversation I have with mid-career professionals. Their fears around money, or their slavery to it, generate deep regret. People share that they know they’re not living the life they long to, and they’re sick and depressed about it, but they simply can’t see a way out because they’re trapped about money.

Either they feel they need to keep making exactly the same amount as they are today, so they won’t change directions or leave their toxic jobs or careers, or they’re desperate because they’re not making enough, so they want to pursue something “safe” that they know will make them miserable in the end.

I’ve learned that our relationship with money goes very deep, and stems directly from our wealth programming and what we learned from childhood about it.  The negative, fear-based stories we tell ourselves about money keep playing out in our lives, despite all our best efforts. If we don’t get to the bottom of our own money story, and heal it, we remain trapped in unhappy, desperate situations for the entirety of our lives.

If you’re like me, when you hit 50, it was a huge awakening. I felt as if I were suddenly in a new “club” and that club allowed me to be stronger, braver, and bolder, and stop wasting time.  Suddenly, seeing that the number of years you have ahead of you in life is smaller than what’s behind you, is a very motivating experience. For many, it elicits an urgency to address what’s wrong in our lives – what makes us sick, sad, depressed and angry. It catalyzes us to muster the courage, fortitude and commitment to finally do what’s required to start living the lives we long to. And for that, we need to begin finding brave. To find brave and build a happier life, visit my Amazing Career Project, and watch my Facebook video and TEDx talk “Time to Brave Up.”

Read more at:

6 Toxic Behaviors That Push People Away

In my line of work, I hear from hundreds of people a month, and connect with professionals in a more public, open way than ever before. Through this experience, I’ve seen scores of toxic behaviors that push people away (including me). And I’ve witnessed the damage these behaviors cause – to relationships, professional success, and to the well-being of both the individual behaving negatively, and to everyone around him or her.

Let’s be real – we’ve all acted in toxic, damaging ways at one time or another (none of us are immune to it), but many people are more evolved, balanced, and aware, and it happens only rarely in their lives.

Whether your toxic behavior is a common occurrence, or once in a blue moon, it’s critical for your happiness and success that you are able to recognize when you’re behaving badly, and shift it when it emerges.

The 6 most toxic behaviors I see every day are:

Taking everything personally

In the powerful little book The Four Agreements, don Miguel Ruiz talks about the importance of taking nothing personally. I teach this in my coaching programs and my book Breakdown, Breakthrough as well, and there is so much pushback. “Really, Kathy – don’t take anything personally?”

People are toxic to be around when they believe that everything that happens in life is a direct assault on them or is in some way all about them. The reality is that what people say and do to you is much more about them, than you. People’s reactions to you are about their filters, and their perspectives, wounds and experiences. Whether people think you’re amazing, or believe you’re the worst, again, it’s more about them. I’m not saying we should be narcissists and ignore all feedback. I am saying that so much hurt, disappointment and sadness in our lives comes from our taking things personally when it’s far more productive and healthy to let go of others’ good or bad opinion of you, and to operate with your own heart, intuition and wisdom as your guide. So yes – don’t take anything personally.

Obsessing about negative thoughts

It’s very hard to be around people who can’t or won’t let go of negativity – when they dwell on and speak incessantly about the terrible things that could happen and have happened, the slights they’ve suffered, and the unfairness of life. These people stubbornly refuse to see the positive side of life and the positive lessons from what’s transpiring. Pessimism is one thing – but remaining perpetually locked in negative thoughts is another. Only seeing the negative, and operating from a view that everything is negative and against you, is a skewed way of thinking and living, and you can change that.

Treating yourself like a victim

Another toxic behavior is non-stop complaining that fuels your sense of victimization. Believing you’re a victim, that you have no power to exert and no influence on the direction of your life, is a toxic stance that keeps you stuck and small. Working as a therapist with people who’ve suffered terrible trauma in their lives but found the courage to turn it all around, I know that we have access to far more power, authority, and influence over our lives than we initially believe. When you stop whining, and refuse to see yourself as a hapless victim of fate, chance or discrimination, then you’ll find that you are more powerful than you realized, but only if you choose to accept that reality.

Cruelty – lacking in empathy or putting yourself in others shoes

One of the most toxic and damaging behaviors – cruelty – stems from a total lack of empathy, concern or compassion for others. We see it every day online and in the media – people being devastatingly cruel and destructive to others just because they can. They tear people down online but in a cowardly way, using their anonymity as a weapon. Cruelty, backstabbing, and ripping someone to shreds is toxic, and it hurts you as well as your target. I had a powerful learning experience about this a few years ago. I came into the house one day in a nasty mood, and shared a mean, sniping comment to my husband about the way a neighbor was parenting her child through one of his problem phases. In less than 24 hours, that very same issue the parent was dealing with came home to roost in my house, with my child. It was as if the Universe sent me the message that, “Ah, if you want to be cruel and demeaning about someone, we’ll give you the same experience you’ve judged so negatively, so you can learn some compassion.” And I did.

If you find yourself backstabbing and tearing someone else down, stop in your tracks. Dig deep and find compassion in your heart, and realize that we’re all the same.

Excessive reactivity

An inability to manage your emotions is toxic to everyone around you. We all know these people – men and women who explode over the smallest hiccup or problem. Yelling at the bank teller for the long line, screaming at your assistant for the power point error he made, or losing it with your child for spilling milk on the floor. If you find that you’re overly reactive, losing it at every turn, you need some outside assistance to help you gain control over your emotions and understand what’s at the root of your emotionality. There’s more to it that appears on the surface. An outside perspective – and a new kind of support – is critical.

Needing constant validation

Finally, people who constantly strive for validation and self-esteem by obsessing about achieving outward measures of success, are exhausting to be around. Those men and women who get caught up in the need to prove their worth over and over, and constantly want to “win” over their colleagues or peers, are toxic and draining.

Overly-attaching to how things have to look and be, and to achieving certain milestones and accomplishments rather than going with life in a more flexible, easy manner, can wear you out and bring everyone else around you down . There is a bigger picture to your life, and it’s not about what you achieve or fail at today. It’s about the journey, the process, the path – what you’re learning and applying, how you’re helping others, and the growing process you allow yourself to engage in.

Stop stressing over the particular outcomes like, “I need that promotion now!” or “My house has to be bigger and more beautiful than my neighbor’s.” Your desperate need to prove your success and build your self-esteem through outer measures of success is (sadly) apparent to everyone but you, and it’s pushing away the very happiness outcomes you’re longing for.

To build a happier, more rewarding career, work with me, join my The Amazing Career Project video training, and watch my TEDx Talk “Time to Brave Up.”