3 Steps To Building Stronger Boundaries and a Happier Life

Part of my series “Finding Brave To Build Your Best Life”

One of the most powerful concepts I’ve learned in my life emerged from my training as a Marriage and Family Therapist. It’s about boundaries – the invisible barrier that separates you from the world around you. Boundaries define who you are, and they keep you safe and secure, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

Having well-developed, appropriate boundaries ensures that you’re protected from behaviors and actions that are injurious, disrespectful, or invasive. People with healthy boundaries know their limits and are able to enforce them with quiet strength and authority. Healthy boundaries—well-established limits regarding what you expect and need from others and what you will and will not tolerate from others’— allow you to move forward on a fulfilling and satisfying path, both at work and at home.

Those who have insufficient boundaries, I’ve found, have almost always experienced some form of emotional manipulation or trauma in their childhoods and upbringing. Children who’ve been abused or mistreated (emotionally, sexually, physically, etc.), for instance, experience a violation of their boundaries before they had the power or ability to advocate for or protect themselves. Unless we recognize this later in life, and do the necessary work to strengthen our boundaries, we experience ongoing mistreatment from others, and a great deal of pain, confusion, and unhappiness as a result.

Of course, we can’t control other people’s actions and words, but we can control our responses to them, as well as our actions in the face of language and behavior that violate who we have defined ourselves to be in this world.

If your boundaries are weak, others can and will find a way to get under your skin and hurt you, invade your privacy, suck your energy, drain your resources, and wreak havoc on your life. Another way to say this is that without strong boundaries, we allow people to drain us parasitically, taking from us whatever we’ll allow them to.

Healthy, strong boundaries ensure that you:

• Experience and demonstrate self-respect and respect of others

• Understand and articulate effectively the limits you’ve set for yourself

• Know unequivocally when your limits have been overstepped

• Determine with surety and confidence the actions you wish to take when your boundaries have been violated

• Live and relate well with yourself and others, and build a rewarding life that matches what you value and believe in

A few basic steps are required to strengthen your boundaries, and for many people I’ve coached and spoken to, particular those who had narcissistic parents or emotionally abusive childhoods, these boundary-strengthening steps aren’t easy or at all comfortable. Boundary development requires courage, strength, patience, and time, but it’s an essential step toward a happier, more rewarding life and livelihood.

The 3 key steps developing stronger boundaries are:

#1: Gain Awareness Of What You Need More Of

First, it’s critical to understand more deeply what you need more of in your life and work, and what isn’t working today.

Ask yourself:

What do I desperately long for? Perhaps it’s more time, energy, honesty, compassion, respect, care, commitment, or power?

Begin the process of exploring when you feel thwarted, angry, resentful, drained, and undervalued. Most likely your boundaries need bolstering in these situations. Is your boss demanding that you’re available 24/7? Is your spouse refusing to do his/her part of the necessary work at home to help raise the children or manage the household responsibilities? Is your friend demanding, selfish, and critical, unable to relate to you in a caring way? Is your parent horrible to you?

Once you recognize exactly what you need that you’re not getting, and what you’re allowing that is no longer tolerable, start setting clear and unwavering limits – both out loud and to yourself – as to what you desire and need from others to feel respected and valued, and what you will no longer stand for.

Take some time this week to think about your boundaries, then write down what your rules will be going forward in terms of what you expect, need, and will allow from others. Then communicate these limits to the outside world calmly, clearly, and unemotionally. Know in your heart and mind what the consequences will be if people don’t respect your limits. And don’t be surprised when people react negatively to your asserting your boundaries. After all, they’ve become very used to being able to walk all over you.

Here’s a personal example: I remember in my 30’s, I made a decision to finally walk away from the habit of gossiping or speaking negatively of others in the chronic and mean way I had done previously.  I realized that in my life, I would habitually engage in  triangulation –  an emotional manipulation tactic where one person who is not comfortable communicating directly with another person or dealing directly about something challenging, uses a third party to relay communication to the second individual, or to intervene and get involved somehow. This allows the first person to relieve his/her own anxiety by complaining about the situation, but prevents the individual from actually taking the brave, direct action necessary to remedy the problem. Instead a triangle is formed.

To ease my own anxiety, I’d speak critically about one friend or colleague who was upsetting me, to the other. I realized finally that this was a destructive habit fed by my own insecurities, and I knew it always came back to hurt me. But since I’d been doing it for years, the people in my life were used to engaging in this with me, and I needed to change that.

The next time a friend spoke ill of another in front of me, I said, “I know I used to do this in the past, but I’m working really hard not to speak ill of my friends, or gossiping like I used it.  I’m just not comfortable speaking about Terry this way. Would you mind if we changed the subject?”

While a few people got annoyed or offended, most not only obliged my request, but also seemed to respect the decision and began to realize themselves how speaking ill of their colleagues, friends or family members just didn’t feel right or helpful. In fact, it made them feel worse.

#2: Stop Pleasing Others In Order To Feel Safe

Many hundreds of women I’ve worked with, especially those who grew up with parents who were emotionally manipulative or narcissistic, discover that as adults they are striving desperately to please others as a way to either feel safe from punishment or to fulfill their own neediness.

Accommodation to others can be healthy and caring in the right situations, but for those who’ve been culturally trained to be pleasing and self-sacrificing (as many women are today in our society), it is a self-demeaning act, and can destroy our chances for a happy, rewarding and empowered life.

Why do people overly accommodate and acquiesce to another’s wishes?

The key reason is fear. People are afraid that approval and acceptance will be withheld if they are their most authentic, truthful selves. They’re deathly afraid that others will become angry or reject them for being honest (because it actually happened to them again and again in the past).

Many people fear too that they are not worthy, smart, or strong enough to stand up for what they believe. They believe that if they stop giving in to the needs of others, they’ll cease to be loved, needed, cared for, or accepted.

We learn this acquiescence in our early lives. Many people have adopted this behavior to survive their childhoods. Narcissism is now rising in epidemic proportions, and thousands were raised in homes that did not allow expression of true thoughts and feelings. Punishment, sometimes severe, ensued when individuals asserted themselves and enforced their personal limits.

Sadly, I’ve seen as a coach and therapist that if you don’t address your habitual pattern of over-accommodation to others, it just won’t change. This damaging pattern will remain for a lifetime, forever tripping you up in your relationships, work and personal life.

#3: Get Help To Break The Cycle Of Mistreatment Or Abuse

When mistreatment is occurring, we often need outside support to help us recognize what’s really going on, and to explore what needs to be changed, and get help to take safe, appropriate action.

If you are experiencing abuse of any kind, help is available. Reach out and get the help you need. In the workplace, if you’re experiencing mistreatment, stop in your tracks, and make an evaluation of what’s transpiring. Also look at how you may be contributing to or allowing the situation. If any of the statements below are true for you, then proactive, empowered action is called for.

• I’m being harassed and made to do things that feel wrong.

• I’m being passed over or not treated fairly continually because I’m ___ (female, gay, African American, middle aged, disabled, pregnant, on leave, etc.).

• I’m being back-stabbed and maligned.

• I’ve been promised things by my supervisors that I’m not getting.

• My work is being sabotaged.

• Money is being withheld from me for no reason.

• I’m being punished or blamed for things I didn’t do.

• I’ve been forced into a position that I don’t want.

• I’m being excluded from meetings and other informational sources and networks that are essential for me to succeed at my job.

• My reviews have been great, but I’m not being rewarded as promised.

• I’ve been asked to do unethical/illegal things for the job/company.

• I have to work around the clock to get my job done, and I don’t want to.

If any of the above is happening, mistreatment possibly is occurring, and proactive measures are needed. But first, try to get in closer touch with who you are, what you will and will not accept, and understand with more clarity what you value in life and work, and what your limits are. Before you can act powerfully, you have to gain awareness of what feels wrong and right. Become very clear now—evaluate in detail anything that feels like a violation, and why, and document it.

The next critical step is to understand the role you may be playing in this negative situation.
Have you communicated clearly your discomfort or your lack of agreement with what’s been happening? Have you said “Yes” when “No” was the real answer? Or have you shared your discontent in ineffective ways (gossiping, self-sabotaging, passive aggressive actions, etc.)? How are you potentially participating in this situation, and maintaining the cycle by not standing up for your convictions or enforcing your limits? What pieces of yourself are you giving away, to be liked, accepted, or rewarded?

Once you have a clearer idea of where you stand, reach out for help to get a fresh, informed, neutral (outside) perspective. This could be a discussion with a mentor, a sponsor, a lawyer, a therapist, coach, your Human Resources representative, your city’s Social Services Department — whatever is called for in your particular situation. Once you share your situation with them, evaluate their perspective honestly and openly. If it resonates as true, then decide what action is called for. If not, seek another source of support. Find help that feels right for you, but make sure you’re open to the truth, even if it’s very difficult to hear.

In the end, strong, healthy boundaries are essential in giving us the strength and power to design our lives and careers as we want them. Knowing what’s critical to you to lead a happy life, then braving up to take the necessary action to enforce those needs and values, is the difference between building a happy, satisfying life versus struggling continually with dismal disappointment and mistreatment.

To develop stronger boundaries, work with me in a personal growth program, read my book Breakdown, Breakthrough and tune into my new podcast Finding Brave.

Why Perfectionism Damages Your Life and How To Overcome It

As a career coach and consultant, I have the great pleasure of working with hundreds of top professionals each year who’ve achieved truly great things in their careers. Sadly, more often than not, these same high achievers demonstrate one key trait that wreaks havoc on their lives and work — their relentless drive to be perfect.

“Perfectionistic overfunctioners” as I call them, do more than is necessary, more than is appropriate and more than is healthy in both life and work.

They feel driven to exhaustion by all that they juggle, and they feel they need to get an “A” in all of it.

Their incessant drive for perfection generates chronic misery and physical challenges, harms interpersonal relationships and erodes self-esteem, robbing their lives and careers of the very sense of satisfaction and fulfillment they’re longing for.

Does this sound familiar to you?

Why do we strive for perfection?

Striving for perfection often emerges as a learned, adaptive behavior in our childhood. There are numerous conditions and situations in our family lives and our development process that encourage perfectionism, including:

– Having love and acceptance withheld by our parents unless an “A+” was earned in our achievements and performance.

– Being criticized sharply and chronically by authority figures, and being compared negatively to others when we didn’t achieve at the highest levels

– Feeling alone, scared and out of control as children, leading us to overfunction in order to gain control over a chaotic world

– Experiencing our parents or caregivers as unreliable, creating the need to overcome their disappointing and erratic behavior.

Whatever the root causes, perfectionism is an addictive, driven behavior that damages your life and career, keeping you from appreciating yourself, recognizing your own worth and value, and building healthy, nurturing relationships. Despite the coping mechanisms we learned in our childhood, when can overcome our need for perfectionism and our drive to overfunction.

Why perfectionism is damaging to your career

Being a slave to an insatiable drive for perfectionism limits your ability to feel joy, acceptance and satisfaction. It also keeps you from a full appreciation of others. In your career, perfectionism demands that you continually pursue validation — inner and outer — to tell you you’re “ok.” If “perfect” is your standard, you find it hard to feel safe, worthy or “good enough” unless you’re achieving some invisible standard you’ve created. You’re on the constant look-out for the next bar to jump over to prove your worthiness, and you become demoralized quickly when others are less than supportive to you.

Worse yet, perfectionists often experience the common dreaded “impostor” syndrome — the fear that if people saw the “real you,” they’d realize you’re a fake and you’re flawed.

Specifically, your perfectionistic behavior damages your career because it:

1) Makes you more difficult to be with, collaborate with and manage — your need to “win” or be the best alienates your colleagues

2) Hurts people — your critical and judgmental thinking and behavior can negatively impact others

3) Taints your judgment — your ability to manage people, projects and resources is altered because you see “perfect” as the only standard to strive for

4) Crimps your creativity — the creative process is not a clean, perfect, linear one and the “messiness” of creativity makes you uncomfortable

5) Puts up walls — those around you can sense your energy of edginess and your need to be perfect, which pushes people away.

In the end, if you’re a perfectionist, your ability to lead, inspire and engage others — as well as generate trust and loyalty — will be severely impaired.

If perfectionist overfunctioning describes your behavior, below are four tips for releasing your drive for “A” in everything:

Stop “overfunctioning” 

Examine why you believe you’re the only one who can do all that you’re doing, all by yourself. Get support from someone you trust and respect to see what’s holding you hostage in your need to do it all perfectly. Determine where you chronically take on more than your share, and begin the process of letting go today. For instance, identify several tasks each week that your children should be helping with, such as doing their own laundry and sharing the cooking. Request their help, and enforce it. Ask your partner/spouse for more regular support as well. Delegate tasks more appropriately to your staff members as well, so they can learn self-reliance and stretch their skills. Get more help from those who will grow exponentially by giving it.

Say “No” So You Can Say “Yes” to Yourself

Identify where you’ve said yes to projects, initiatives, endeavors and even friends and family because you thought you had to, in order to be perfect. Determine what you no longer wish to do (for instance, a volunteer project, a school task that’s become too much, participating in a committee you’d like to leave, etc.). Make this the year you say “NO” to what you don’t want to do. Stop trying to be everything to everyone else, and learn to give to yourself.

Get a “B” 

Identify an area that you’ve been working yourself to the bone to excel in only because you’re trying to win approval. It could be how late you stay in the office every day, or buying all the latest toys for your children when in fact you’d rather downscale your family’s spending. Determine the one area that will give you the most joy, peace and contentment if you could learn to live with less than perfection.

Tell a New Story 

What we say to ourselves — the stories we tell to ourselves and others — color how we experience life. It’s time to tell a new, more accepting and self-validating story. Engage in a brief inner dialog each day (perhaps during your morning commute or before bed) about your own self-worth, reminding yourself of the enormous intrinsic value you bring to the world, to your work, and to your family — regardless of the level of perfection in your achievements. If you can’t embrace your own self-worth on your own, get some outside support to assist you.

Remember, you’re not perfect — you’re human. When you can fully embrace your imperfection, and appreciate all that you are today, you’ll finally become the person you’re capable of being, and your career and life will thank you for it.

For more from Kathy Caprino, check out her personal growth programs, her book Breakdown, Breakthrough, and her TEDx talk “Time to Brave Up.”

How To Handle Being Insulted Online


Today, I woke up and took a look at my emails on my phone, only to see that I’d been insulted on LinkedIn.  The insult came as a response to a comment I made while sharing a post from my friend William Arruda on 7 Parenting Traits that Help Children Succeed At Work.

The parenting trait that I indicated was my favorite in the list was humility. I won’t dignify the insult I got by repeating it verbatim, but basically, the commentator smacked me down with a few sentences on how I don’t display any humility, so how can I say I like it?  And if I do “like” humility, what do I think it means? (insinuating that I must not understand the definition of it because I’m totally without it). And he’ll be happy to educate me on how I have no humility.

From the moment I read this insult, my morning was darkened.  I noticed I started to breathe more shallowly, and my head and heart starting churning with hurt. I agonized over what to do in response. Should I leave it? Should I respond? And if so, what exactly should I say?

As one who discusses every day the need for women to speak up more publicly and assertively, I felt that saying nothing was the weak way out. For me, not responding felt equivalent to not being the person I wanted to be.

But as I got thinking more about speaking up to this critic, I began having some post-traumatic stress around being hurt and smacked down earlier in my life, after speaking up or “showing up” in a bigger way earlier. Suddenly, I had a flashback of a series of scary, nighttime obscene phone calls I received as a teen girl after being a lead in a school musical, which made me afraid to go to school.

Then, I had a flashback of a very frightening time as a therapy intern years ago, when I asserted myself powerfully to one of my rageful, out-of-control male clients who had a violent past. His response made me feel that he might possibly harm or attack me (as we were alone in the office at that time in the evening). I was terribly afraid as my hand hovered over the red “HELP” button that, when pushed, would summon the police in a few instants.

All this to say that if I’m having these feelings and flashbacks after being insulted digitally — and I’m very used to having my work critiqued in the public eye — I’m guessing that many of you who are reading this can relate deeply to how awful it feels to be insulted online. Especially when the attack is personal and rips at your core personality and the way you engage with the world.

I’d love to share some info that might be helpful to you (and to me), going forward, in how to deal with being insulted publicly.

Here’s my take:

First, we need to get hip to what to expect

I put out a lot of content every week, and some of it is certainly controversial, so I’ve had to steel myself to accept that what I share will inflame some folks. In fact, I’ve come to see that that if I’m not getting people hot beneath the collar and agitated, I’m probably not saying much that’s different, important or helpful.

So lesson #1 for me has been that if I want to share my personal take on issues, especially deep and controversial ones, I simply have to be prepared for people to offer their own personal take that may be very different, and very emotionally charged.

And I also have to accept that I’ll be criticized, and perhaps not in a respectful way. That’s just the price we pay for speaking out and up about complex, important issues that have no easy answer.

Secondly, we have to realize that there are some people lurking out there who are true haters

Most of us are not haters. Most are kind, compassionate, and caring and have some empathy for other people, even strangers. And most of us don’t want to tear people down because we disagree with them.  Nor do we want to rip apart a stranger – we’re just not triggered in that way, usually.

But the anonymity of the internet has made us more cruel. We would be too naive if we didn’t understand that there are indeed haters in the world who are lurking online, wounded, waiting to pounce. They feel the need to rip someone down so they can feel better about themselves. Of course, that never works, but they’ll keep trying anyway.

I realize that this person who insulted me must have been reading my posts or watching my videos and something today triggered him to want to insult me.

I call these people “pouncers” – people who don’t have the courage and fortitude to engage openly, respectfully, and articulately, but just want to pounce and insult.

For these folks, I’ve decided I won’t waste my time responding. In fact, for haters who can’t engage in respectful ways, I’ll block them from my sites and profiles, and I’ll feel good about doing it. In other words, we don’t have to catch every ball that’s thrown at us.

Thirdly, if you want to show up – with your heart, soul and spirit fully engaged – and make a vivid, powerful and courageous mark on this world, you’ll have to learn how to handle critics.

As Brené Brown shares so beautifully in her talk “Why Your Critics Aren’t The Ones Who Count,” Theodore Roosevelt offered advice that changed her life, and it’s shifted mine as well.

Here’s what Roosevelt shared, so wisely and powerfully:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

So the final lesson about how to deal with being insulted online is this:

Understand that you don’t have to concern yourself (or give a second thought to) the hurtful critics who aren’t courageous enough to get in the arena themselves.  

You don’t have to take in their insults, or process them, or do anything at all with their hateful remarks, but eject them out of your sphere, for good.

In fact, the more you stew and fester about an online insult that was given solely as a way to hurt you, the more you open the door to being suppressed and diminished. Sure, take in true, constructive feedback from folks who want to help and encourage you to grow and learn.

But under no circumstances should we allow (or wallow) in cruel, personal insults that are all about the critics’ hate, and nothing to do with our own efforts to show up, be heard and make a difference.

So, I hope you’ll stay your course as I will mine – continue to be active in the arena, and share your messages, and your heart, soul and spirit openly with the world. Haters be damned.

For more from Kathy, visit her personal growth programs here, and her TEDx talk “Time To Brave Up.”

10 Things You Should Never Say To Your Children

Part of Kathy Caprino’s series “Parenting for Joy and Success”

In my 12 years of work in the helping professions, first as a marriage and family therapist then as a career and personal success coach, I’ve been absolutely floored by what I’ve heard parents say and do that severely damages their children.

In addition, I’ve learned through working with over 11,000 mid-life men and women who want more from their life, livelihood and relationships, that what their parents said and did to them many years ago dramatically influenced their own self-concept and their ability to shape their lives in satisfying ways.

It’s clear that, either intentionally or unconsciously, wounded parents wound their children.

The critical takeaway from my recent work with adult children of narcissists too is that the words you utter habitually, and the actions you take as a parent, can and will influence how your child thinks and feels about him/herself, potentially for a lifetime.

It’s so important to be extremely careful about the process and content of our parenting. For instance, if you’ve experienced pain and damage from your own childhood, you’ll want to get therapeutic help to learn how to better manage yourself, your emotions, anxieties, doubts, fears, and “power gaps” because your children will be impacted through osmosis. In other words, try as hard as you may to be supportive and productive in your parenting, your kids will do as you DO, not as you say, and they will integrate some terribly painful lessons that you didn’t mean for them to learn, if you’re not ever vigilant about how you behave and communicate.

I hope you’ll do your child an immense, life-changing favor and make sure you

don’t injure your own children with the trauma and baggage you were burdened with from your parents.

I’m a parent too, with my own set of childhood wounds and baggage, and I’ve made my share of mistakes and missteps, for sure. So this doesn’t come from a judgmental place – I’ve been there many times (struggling to be the best parent I can be). But it does emerge from years of working with people who have been traumatized by parents who, without knowing it, caused damage that isn’t easily healed.

Below are the 10 things I believe parents should NEVER say or do to their children, if they want to ensure their children grow up as healthy, happy, balanced, self-reliant, self-confident, and self-loving as possible:

Never say:

“Your idea (or you) are stupid.”

If you want to teach your children to think for themselves, you never want to give them the idea that their ideas are “stupid,” or that they are unintelligent and incapable of thinking for themselves. Instead, you want to help them build their own internal trust, capabilities and powerful decision-making abilities, so that they can work through new ideas and directions in an effective way that will bring them to the right course of action for the best life possible.

“You don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Again, great parenting is not about you needing to prove you’re right.  In fact, that’s poor parenting. Healthy parenting is all about helping your children address their life’s challenges in a confident, self-empowered way. If you tell them they don’t know what they’re talking about, they’ll be shamed into being quiet, not expressing their thoughts and opinions, and they’ll begin to see you as someone who isn’t safe to share their inner most doubts and authentic thoughts with. Don’t belittle them for expressing ideas that may not be fully “baked” or fleshed out yet.

“You’re wrong to feel that.”

I remember years ago, a neighbor of mine screamed at her young son, saying “You’ll go to church today and you’ll like it!”  That’s not healthy parenting, in any way, shape or form. Sure, you may want to instill in your child a belief in the value of attending church, synagogue or mosque (or follow any other tradition) but you have no right to tell them how they should feel about it.

How would you feel if someone told you “you better be happy” about something that you were miserable about?

When parents insist that their children feel or think a certain way, it leads to one thing only: children believing deep down that it’s not ok to be who they really are. And they sense that they can’t be fully honest with you or reveal their true emotions.  What’ll happen then is that they’ll to stop telling you the truth, and stop feeling that the world is safe for them to be who they are.  And you really don’t want that, especially in the teen years where risky behaviors are all around them and you’ll want them to feel free to discuss things that scare them.

“You’ll never be able to do that.”

Truthfully, you have no idea what your child is capable of achieving in the future, even if you think you do right now.  I’ve seen people do utterly astounding and amazing things in their lives that their parents and others told them were impossible. Saying, “You’ll never be able to do that” is slapping them down and cutting them off at the knees.

Sadly, when you parent that way, you’ll also be cutting off some amazing opportunities in the future for them to soar and thrive. Don’t YOU be the one to tell them that they are not capable – there’s enough of that naysaying and diminishing, critical feedback in the world that surrounds them. Let them find out themselves what they want to pursue, and what they’re capable of.

“You’re too young to know what you want.”

I’ve seen in my therapeutic and energy healing work that we humans know and perceive things very accurately and deeply at a very young age. We DO know what we think feel and want. So when you tell your child that they don’t know what they want, you make them doubt themselves, and you undermine their belief in themselves, and they begin to question themselves at every turn.

As an empowering parent, you want to teach them, from a very young age, to honor what they feel and think, and to respect and work with that. Then, when they’re old enough to leave home, they’ll be much more able to choose positive and productive directions, relationships, career avenues, and other important events and experiences that will be beneficial in their life, without needing your or other people’s advice at every turn.

 “I hate you.”

We all lose our tempers sometimes and fly off the handle. We’re human. But using “hate” language is something we have to avoid. Telling your child you hate him crushes his sense of self, and is very scary for young child, and damaging for an older one.

Having a parent reject us can feel as scary as “death” because it taps into a primal fear that all humans have – of being abandoned.

If you’re so enraged and out of control that you want to say something hateful, you need to take a time out and absent yourself from the room and the situation until you can get it together, and speak more calmly, compassionately, lovingly and respectfully. You’re the adult – you have to act like one.

 “Why aren’t you more like your brother/sister?”

If you’ve had siblings, you probably know exactly what it feels like to be compared to your brother or sister. It’s bad all the way around. If you’re compared and come out on top, you feel guilty and ashamed for being more successful, pretty, talented, intelligent, etc. If you compare unfavorably, you feel “less than” and inferior – and that makes you angry, resentful, sick and feeling unloved and unappreciated.

Each child is a separate soul and a separate entity. Don’t compare them as a way to elicit the behavior you want. That creates conflict and tension, and often pits your children against each other in harmful ways that last a very long time.

 “You have no right to say (or think) that.”

Freedom of speech is a right that we fiercely uphold in civilized societies and civilizations. Every human being has the right to think and share what he/she believes, even if you hate to hear it.

It’s not a matter of “rights.” Your child has the right to think and feel what she does. But it IS a matter of respect, compassion, care, empathy, etc.  If you feel that your child or teen is not respectful to you, then address that head on. Tell them why their behavior demonstrates a lack of respect, and articulate clearly what you want and deserve instead. Set very clear expectations how you want your interpersonal dynamics to go with your child.

“I can’t wait until you leave.”

I hear this one a great deal, among parents who feel that their children and teens are exasperating and extremely “difficult.” The parents don’t know how to handle the challenges that the child presents, and they feel intense anger, frustration, and ineptitude and they want that pain to stop.  So they tell the child “I can’t wait until you’re gone.”

Think about how that’s perceived and felt from a child’s or teen’s perspective. It’s crippling because they’re just doing their best every day to try to navigate their own, very tough and anxiety-provoking challenges in today’s high-pressured world. For their own parent to be fed up and throw his/her hands up and say “I’m done with you,” is frightening and deeply saddening for a child. Even if you think your kid is “tough” and can take that kind of comment, don’t utter it. You’re the parent and you need to demonstrate that you can effectively handle what life is throwing you and your family.

“You should be ashamed of yourself.”

As Brené Brown talks about in her work on vulnerability and shame, shame is an “unspoken epidemic, the secret behind many forms of broken behavior.”  She shares that  “shame is the intensely painful feeling that we are unworthy of love and belonging. It’s the most primitive human emotion we all feel—and the one no one wants to talk about. If left to its own devices, shame can destroy lives.”

There are so many other ways to communicate that your child needs to revise his/her behavior – shaming is not the way to go. Talk about how the behavior hurt someone, or how it’s not appropriate for the situation, or it reveals irresponsibility or a value that you think the child might want to look at more closely. But don’t shame them.


Do these behaviors hit home for you? Which ones do you struggle with most? Know that you’re not alone. Please share below.

For more about healthy, productive parenting, join Kathy in her Parenting For Success and Joy private coaching program and read her posts on Raising Self-Confident Children and  Effective, Empowering Parenting.

Why We Wait So Very Long To Do What Feels Right


Throughout my 34 years of working, I’ve experienced one very chronic pattern –  I’ve tended to wait far too long (years, in certain cases) to do what I instinctively knew was right or that I deeply longed to do. Whether it was staying in business partnerships or relationships that somehow weren’t right for me, or remaining in jobs I disliked intensely, or resisting having the critical conversations with people (including my bosses) that would change everything, I somehow found myself NOT doing what I wanted to, often until a crisis hit that pushed me to make a bold move.

Turns out, this experience – of waiting years before doing what you long to — is a very common practice among thousands of people around the world (I know because I hear from thousands a year asking for help about this).

I’ve discovered too through my research that women fall prey to this much more than men. Through my training as a therapist and energy healer, and working with so many people in my coaching programs and courses, I’ve become much more aware of this tendency, and can now see it more clearly for what it is – a deeply-entrenched fear of nurturing ourselves, and a fierce resistance against bravely honoring what we believe will make us happy, and ACTING on it.

Why do we hold ourselves back from doing what feels right?

Below are the top 5 reasons behind our not speaking up, standing up or braving up to take the actions that will create a more nurturing, rewarding and satisfying life that aligns with what we believe and want deep down:

You question if you’re right to have these thoughts and feelings

Using my life as an example, I waited years too long to take action, because I questioned if I was “right” to think the thoughts I had. For instance, after leaving corporate life and becoming a therapist, I found that the therapy work for me, while rewarding, could be very dark and disturbing. I didn’t want to be in such close proximity every minute of the day with the darkest experiences of human life, including rape, incest, pedophilia, child abuse, drug addiction, depression, and suicidality.  So much despair and pain was wreaking havoc on my own life and it colored my personal experience in many ways. My boundaries just weren’t sufficient at the time to experience all this pain and not have it bleed into my own life.

But I felt very badly about thinking about leaving therapy as a profession and I doubted myself. I asked myself over and over, “What kind of true helper and healer am I if I leave this line of work?” So I didn’t leave, for years. Until a crisis occurred (a client called me one morning to tell me she was going to kill herself that moment by “wrapping her car around a tree”), and I realized that I needed to make a change.  And I’m so glad I found coaching, teaching, writing and training.

I use all my therapy experience and knowledge every minute of every day in my coaching and teaching work, but my professional identify and role has shifted to something I love much more, because I finally honored what I felt, deep down.

Others may disagree with your thinking, so you doubt yourself

So often, my clients tell me that they doubt what they believe or know to be true because others tell them that they’re wrong. I’ve learned this – if you listen to other people about what you should want and what they think is best for you, and refuse to make yourself your own highest guide in all things, then you’ll suffer and life won’t go well.

After all, you’re the only one on this planet who knows everything about you and can make the best decisions for where you want your life to go.

You don’t want anyone to be upset with you, and standing up for yourself upsets people

This is a terrible problem for so many women – we don’t want to upset anyone by our actions or words. We’ve been societally trained, many of us, to be people pleasers – to do, act, appear and speak in ways that are pleasing, comfortable and supportive of others.

The problem with that is that it stifles our independence and strength, our ability to think our own thoughts and act bravely on them, especially if they’re going to be upsetting or angering to other people.

Again, you can’t live the life you’re meant to if you never want to upset anyone.

As a writer, I’ve seen that if you’re not upsetting someone with your ideas, you’re probably not saying anything very important.

You are afraid of change or starting over because you don’t want to lose ground

Many folks know what they want to do, but are deeply afraid and resistant because this new direction will represent some form of a “loss” – of money, status, self-esteem, position, security, etc. So they don’t make the move, until something forces their hand.

The question we need to ask ourselves in these cases is this:

“What are you giving up (what is the true cost) of you’re NOT making the move you dream of and that you know will, in the end, suit you better? What are giving up by staying where you are?

You somehow (subconsciously) are compelled to remain attached to not loving yourself, because that’s exactly where you’re most comfortable

Finally, I’ve seen over and over that, due to pain and damage in our childhoods where we weren’t validated, seen, loved, appreciated or recognized as valuable, we’re more comfortable stuck in pain, disappointment and unhappiness.  You feel more comfortable and familiar with what it’s like to give up on yourself, to play the victim, to hand over your control and to make excuses for all the reasons you can’t have life as you want it.

But once you see exactly how your subconscious sabotage is keeping you immersed in pain and regret, and even self-rejection, you’ll never again agree to keep yourself stifled and suppressed.

Are you ready to start finding brave and finally do what you’ve been longing to all these years?

Join me in my FREE webinar “How to Unlock Your Most Thrilling Life and Livelihood” on March 2nd at 7pm EST, and learn how to finally honor what you know to be true about yourself, and do what you’ve been longing to.

The 8 Most Damaging Ways People Let Themselves Down Every Day

Part of Kathy Caprino’s series “Finding Brave To Build Your Best Life” 

As I enter my second decade of helping people build happier lives and livelihoods, I continually see that our professional successes and failures, and our crushed hopes, have everything to do with what we believe about ourselves internally, and how we’ve come to operate in the world and navigate through our challenges.

People tend to see outer circumstances beyond their control as the culprit for their dissatisfaction and disappointment in life and work, thwarting them at every turn. But in reality, it’s our inner experience that drives our outer one. My research has shown that when people are not sufficiently clear (about who they are and what they are capable of), or confident and courageous enough, they fail at achieving their dreams and goals, and let themselves down on a daily basis.

Below are the eight most damaging ways people fail themselves every day:

You don’t speak up for yourself.

The vast majority of people who are deeply dissatisfied with their lives, work and relationships suffer from one core challenge: an inability to speak up authoritatively and clearly for what they want and what they deserve.

In my work with adult children of narcissists, for instance, what’s emerged is a powerful trend around their not being able to make sense of or evaluate rationally what they want, or take a bold stand on it. But this challenge isn’t reserved only for those who’ve experienced narcissism growing up; it’s also apparent in thousands of women and men around the world who feel guilty or selfish (or unworthy) if they think about pursuing what they want most deeply.

Tip: Commit today to having the one most important conversation in your life that is begging to be had, that will pave the way for asking for what you want and deserve, and getting it.

You don’t take the time to understand what you’re feeling or what you want.

Life is grueling for many today, with zero time to unplug, relax, and be quiet and calm within ourselves. We’re running, chasing, and striving, without giving ourselves the chance to just be. Sadly, when we stop being alone and quiet with ourselves, when we’ve neglected building a relationship with the most important person in our life (ourselves), and when we don’t take the essential time to shut out all the chatter, noise and competition of today’s hyper-connected world, we lose our ability to hear the stirrings of our soul, and the our deepest longings for our lives.


Every day, without fail, take just five minutes to sit with yourself without distraction or disturbance, and breathe deeply. Watch and listen to what emerges for you.

You don’t let go of the relationships that hurt you.

I remember when I was in my late 20’s, it began to occur to me that I had a few “friendships’ that weren’t friendly at all, but were very hurtful. My “friends” were cruel, biting, grasping and selfish, and I’d had enough. I remember committing to doing the tough work of “purging” from my life people who just couldn’t give, or be kind or loving. It was tough, and sad, but I did it, and it was a life-changer. I then started to be more careful who I let into my inner circle and trusted.

So many of the people I work with are engaged in relationships that are demeaning, devaluing, abusive or unhealthy. Why do we enter into these relationships? Most often it’s because we “hook” into them unconsciously because don’t feel we deserve beautiful love and support. Many have never had it as children, so they don’t know what love, care, and compassion truly looks and feels like.

Tip: This week, take a good, long look at all your relationships. Are they loving, healthy, happy? Do they serve and support you or are you the one doing all the work in the relationship? Do they help you achieve your highest potential and growth and allow you to have your deepest needs and wants met? If not, do something bold about it. Where you can, purge out of your life those people who chronically hurt and demean you.

You don’t know how you’re special, important and valuable.

The vast majority of people I meet can’t answer these pivotal questions:

• How are you special?

• What important gifts, talents and abilities do you have that you love to use?

• What types of outcomes in the world do you love to support?

• How do you stand out in the world?

• What are your deepest, core values and how are you honoring those in your life and work?

• What matters most to you in life, and why is that important?

• When you’re 90 looking back, what do you want to make sure you’ve contributed, achieved and created?

In our society, we’re not taught to understand ourselves deeply, or even dare to look at how we’re special and valuable. Many are raised to think that exploring these questions means we’re self-absorbed or narcissistic, but it’s simply not true. Every person on this planet is special, valuable and important. But you can’t leverage your unique value and gifts if you’re not even aware of them.

Tip: Answer the questions above as honestly as possible (take my free Career Path Self-Assessment to gain more awareness of who you really are and what makes your talents special and important in the world). Then begin finding brave to leverage your skills and talents that you love to use, to make a difference in the world. If you can’t answer these questions, get help from people who love, respect and value you, to help you see how you’re special and unique.

You don’t believe you deserve a happier life or livelihood.

People who make a positive difference in the world and experience happiness, gratitude and success in their lives believe they deserve happiness.

What we believe will come to be. And those who feel undeserving of joy and success make themselves “right” and never achieve it.

The experiences we have in our childhoods and families of origin teach us either to feel we are worthy, loved and appreciated, or the opposite. Sadly, many thousands of people were raised to feel unworthy and undeserving.

Tip: Think back on the lessons you were taught about yourself by your parents and throughout your childhood. Were you encouraged to see yourself as worthy of love, happiness and success? Were you told you are beautiful, talented, smart, competent, valued, and important? Or were you told you are nothing and won’t amount to anything because you deserve to fail and others have more than you? If those were your messages, it’s time to engage in healing and revising your core beliefs about yourself.

You’ve stopped stretching and dreaming.

We’ve all read 100 times that stretching outside your comfort zone is critical to your success and happiness. Ginni Rometty, CEO of IBM, has said “Growth and comfort do not co-exist.” But how many people are truly stretching in their lives?

I see every day people who are stuck doing work they hate, in relationships and endeavors that limit them, but they’re afraid to stretch beyond these limitations. And they’ve stopped dreaming. They have bought into a million damaging excuses for why they can’t have what they want in their lives, and why their most compelling visions are just absurd fantasies.

Tip: Start stretching and dreaming again. Do one bold thing this week that will allow you to remember what it feels like to be brave, and do something scary and thrilling.

Get used to getting in the cage with your fears and walking toward the unknown.

As I’ve learned in my own personal life, nothing outside yourself is safe and secure – it’s in expanding who you are internally, and building your courage to deal with the unknown, that will make your world safer and more secure.

You let your anxieties and upsets turn into hate, blame and resentment.

There’s a great deal of hate in the world today, and according to recent studies, that hate is mounting. Many people turn to hate and blame because they can’t manage their own anxieties and fears. They feel vulnerable and deeply afraid, and they find that intolerable. As social researcher Brené Brown has so eloquently said, blame is a way to discharge pain and discomfort. And as international bestselling author, mystic and spiritual leader Lorna Byrne shared in our powerful live webinar recently,

“Hate poisons us. We hate others when we don’t love ourselves enough.”

Tip: If you feel wracked with hate, blame and resentment, especially in these anxious times in our country, it’s time to look at your own anxieties and fears, and get help to manage them more effectively. And it’s time to learn to love yourself more deeply. When you do, there is no more room for hate.

You’ve forgotten what you’re capable of.

Finally, we let ourselves down when we forget what we’re capable of. If you’re stuck in an unfulfilling life or career, you’ve lost sight of what you’re truly able to do, create and achieve. There are reasons why we forget, including toxic relationships, bad bosses who tear us down, life lessons that we misread, dashed dreams that bring us to our knees. But when you get back in touch with more hope for the future, and commit yourself to becoming more powerful, life will change.

Tip: Find someone who can be a mentor or accountability partner to help you see the future vision of you before it’s “hatched.” As Einstein said, “We can’t solve a problem on the level of consciousness that created it.” Shift your consciousness by getting empowering and uplifting help from someone who believes in you and won’t let you take “no” for answer about your own life.

For more info, check out my resources on kathycaprino.com, my YouTube videos, TEDx Talk “Time to Brave Up,” and my new personal and career growth programs.

A Beautiful, Healing Conversation with Irish Mystic and Spiritual Leader Lorna Byrne

Part of Kathy Caprino’s new series “Spirituality, Joy and Success”

This week, I had the absolute honor and thrill to converse in a live, 90-minute online call with international bestselling author, spiritual leader, Peace Ambassador and mystic Lorna Byrne. I discovered Lorna’s beautiful work recently through Mike Dooley, whose writings, resources and programs (through his organization TUT.com) I love and have found to be beneficial for years.

This past holiday season, I somehow felt compelled to dive into Lorna’s book Angels In My Hair, and for 11 hours, I listened to the stunning audio book, and found it incredibly touching and moving. I then decided to read all of her books, including Stairways to Heaven, A Message of Hope from the Angels, and Love from Heaven. I also watched her videos and televised programs from around the world.

For those who are new to her work, Lorna has been seeing angels since she was a baby, and she sees angels physically with as much clarity as the rest of us see people. And she sees them every day. This diminutive, soft-spoken, uneducated Irish woman (who did not talk about what she was seeing until seven years ago), says she has no idea why she can see angels when others can’t, humbly adding that she is just “an ordinary person.”

What I’ve found in Lorna is a true mystic whose abilities to experience angelic help and communication directly has positively affected many people’s lives around the world. Her life story is riveting and fraught with serious challenges, including dyslexia, poverty, the early death of her beloved husband, and more). And her powerful messages courageously challenge many of the negative and limiting beliefs we’ve been taught throughout the ages — about spirituality, divine guidance, souls, past lives, heaven and “hell” and much more. Her work has been featured extensively throughout the world, in global events and worldwide television, radio and print media including CNN, NBC Today, BBC, The London Times, The Economist and many others, and her books have sold over a million copies.

The beautiful messages Lorna shares with the world can be summarized in six main points: 

– Every person has a soul.
– Every person has a Guardian Angel.
– God is real.
– It doesn’t matter what you believe or even if you believe in
nothing – help is waiting for you.
– There is hope.
– And prayer is powerful.

If you’re open to understanding more deeply how to access spiritual guidance directly in your own life, I hope you’ll listen in to our call, and experience the healing messages she shares for our benefit.

I hope you find the call (and the questions Lorna addresses for us) enlivening for you and your life. Please let us know what you think! Share your comments, questions and thoughts in the comments section under the YouTube video. We’d love to hear from you!

And check out Lorna’s brand new book, Angels in My Fingertips, and her upcoming events.

I’ll be attending her February 23, 2017 talk in NYC – I’d LOVE to meet you there!

With love and light,

How To Figure Out What Matters Most To You and Be True To Yourself


Part of my new series “Ask Kathy”

Dear Kathy,

I follow your work and love your messages about braving up and honoring what matters most, but I need your help on that. I’m a 54-year-old professional woman, and I’ve had a great run at a number of professional directions, including writing a series of books that were very successful, to serving on boards of two renowned foundations, and fundraising for several important health causes. All that said, I just don’t feel I’ve really had the “success” I deserve, and I’m still lacking in confidence to determine what I want to do next, and secondly, to take action on these ideas.  I find that I’m constantly distracted by a million different projects and new ideas, but I can’t seem to sink my teeth into one and just go for it.  What can you suggest to help me figure out what to do?

Thank you for your help,


Dear Jenny:

Thanks for your honesty and openness in sharing your situation.  So many people will resonate with your story, and particularly, with your feeling that despite all the amazing successes you have achieved, you lack the confidence and sense of self-worth and value to take yourself to the next level and identify and pursue what you care about most.

I’d like to address here the phenomenon I see in some many women today, which is a blocked vision about how they are amazing, unique, special and important in the world.  The first problem is that,

when something comes very easily to us – say, writing, or public speaking, or connecting others, or brainstorming fabulous new ideas – we just don’t see our talents for what they are.They seem like “no big deal” and we ask “Well, can’t everyone do this?”

The answer to that is an emphatic “NO!”  Very few people have your powerful combination of innate talents, passions, perspective and ability, and your special way of operating, thinking and perceiving.  And not everyone can do what you do in the way you do it.  You are truly one of a kind.  So the first tip is to start looking at what you do with an eye for appreciating how important, needed, and special it really is.

Another important dimension to this is understanding your special style of taking action. My research has shown that there are six dominant action styles that people demonstrate.

Honoring your own natural style is critical if you want to love the work you do

as well as achieve lasting reward and success in it. Many people are finding that when they identify exactly how they like to pursue action towards and goal, and what motivates them passionately, they can then better identify the new directions that will bring them fulfillment and satisfaction.

Secondly, regarding confidence, I’d love to share some wonderful insights from my friend and colleague, Richie Norton, the author of the book The Power of Starting Something Stupid: How to Crush Fear, Make Dreams Happen & Live Without Regret.

In his book, Richie talks about how to move forward and lean forward into your “stupid” idea – to not shy away from it, but embrace it fully, so you can make your dreams happen and live without regret.  Doing what’s necessary to walk into “stupid” helps you do what’s required to come out on the other side — to stupendous.

Here’s what Richie shares about how to crush your fear:

“It’s not the actual circumstances that we should feel threatened by; it’s the fear of the circumstances that poses the real threat. The bottom line is that people with high aspirations are going to experience a proportionately high level of fear. If high aspirations are equal to high fear, then the flip side to that truth is that overcoming high fear is equal to achieving high aspirations. To crush fear doesn’t mean you eliminate it; crushing fear means you literally crush it down into smaller, more manageable parts and tackle one piece at a time.”

I love this advice for several reasons. First, fear is a given – if you want to achieve anything in this world, you’re going to feel fear around it. So you have to “brave up” and walk into the fear – straight into it – all the while watching yourself in the process, and developing your own personal and effective coping strategies for moving forward despite the fear.

Secondly, Richie talks about “crushing” fear.  He doesn’t mean that we’ll obliterate it – that’s not possible (or even desirable).  But we can break our goals down into manageable, bit-sized, doable steps, and commit to those, one day at a time.  After we accomplish each one, we need to stop and make time to appreciate ourselves and relish what we’ve done, and embrace  the bravery inside ourselves to tackle what we were most afraid of.

Finally, I’d love to help you address your question about how to prioritize and not get distracted. Here’s another fabulous tip from Richie’s book: the “Will I regret it when I’m 80?” rule.  Regret can cripple our lives, and crush our feelings of hope, purpose and strength. (Here are the top 5 regrets I see in midlife professionals, and they’re devastating.) In evaluating all the options in front of you, Richie suggests asking these four questions:

• Do you have a pressing thought or idea that won’t go away? (Make a list of all your pressing ideas.)

• Looking at your list of ideas, what would you regret NOT doing?

• If you had only a short time to live, and were required to rid yourself of all the things from your list but three, which would remain?

• If you had to prioritize these few things in order from most important to least important, which order would you choose?

I’d then ask yourself, “What do these priorities reveal about what I care about most, and why? What are my deepest, most core values that these new directions reflect?”

There you go – you’ve done it! Now you know what’s most important to you, why, and what to focus on first.

So, are you ready to crush your fears and start something “stupid?” Truly, all you have to do is start. Then, you can pivot, adjust, and re-align when you need to. But starting is key.

It’s your time to start finding brave.

I hope that’s helpful to you. Let me know how it goes!

Best wishes to you,

For more on how to become truer to yourself, watch my Facebook Live video “How NOT Being True To Yourself Crushes Your Life” and my TEDx Talk “Time to Brave Up.

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 kathycaprino.com. 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.