One Mental Shift That Will Increase Your Courage And Resilience Today

Part of Kathy Caprino’s series “The Most Powerful You”

I was speaking recently to a client who is struggling intensely with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on her life. The changes she’s been forced to make have been extremely difficult to navigate, and include needing to refocus so much of her time to help her three young children with their remote schooling and managing their time, while struggling in her chaotic, high-pressure job. This job has become unsustainable given her company’s poor leadership and lack of organization and a systematized work flow. On top of all that, she is facing the fear and trauma of trying to support her 89-year-old father who now has Covid-19 but is many states away and all alone.

In times like these, our mental capabilities and the strength we possess internally, become far more apparent. When crisis hits, and when we’re faced with deep challenges that we haven’t been trained to deal with, how well do we do?

Do we fall into a deep depression, unable to get out of bed, or are we able to face the challenges head on, with strength, positivity, and resilience? For most of us, it’s almost always somewhere in between—we might have good days when the sun is shining, things are looking up and we feel we’re able to tackle what’s in front of us. But on other days, we find ourselves slipping into despair and hopelessness.

Years ago, after leaving a very unhappy corporate life behind, I embarked on a three-year training process and Master’s degree as a marriage and family therapist, and later co-founded a therapeutic practice. When I look back on that training and experience, what I learned and how it changed my life, I’m forever grateful for all the challenges that led me to leave my corporate identity behind, and make that change, although at times it was very tough.

Of all the therapeutic concepts and strategies I learned during that time, there have been several approaches that have been true game-changers for me and now my clients. One approach that stands out as particularly helpful in fear-inducing and challenging times is the positive reframe.

The positive reframe

Simply put, the positive reframe is a way to look at the experiences and situations of your life in a realistic way that fits the facts well, while at the same time allowing yourself to see greater possibility, positivity, hope, control and expansion in what is happening and what has transpired.

The reframe shifts your “frame” of reference and helps you see your current situation differently so that you can recognize—and act on—new positive opportunities and changes that are possible. And it focuses on what you can control, not everything that is outside of your sphere of influence. Instead of doubling down only on the dark and terrible about what has transpired, and what you’ve lost, the positive reframe lets you recognize—and believe in—the potential future benefits from what has happened. And it helps you focus on what you can take action on that makes you feel less powerless.

As an example, another client of mine who recently reached out for career change help, shared that she has been mistreated and disrespected in her job for many years, but the pace of the job was such that she felt that she could never carve out the time to do the work of getting a better job or changing her career.

Despite the challenges that this new remote work situation has created for her, and a heap more mistreatment she’s getting, she finds that working from home and reducing her daily commute by 2 hours has given her a brand new perspective on life. She has more positive energy and critical breathing room (and additional control over her own time and how she manages that time) so she can finally engage in the necessary steps to pivot her career to leverage her talents to do more meaningful work with people she respects. She has reframed her thinking about this difficult time, and embraced the potential positive—the concept that she can finally now take the reins on her career, and commit to doing something proactive to change her situation.

Other examples of positive reframes that can change your perspective and trajectory:

Pervasive negative thought: My teen son had such a great summer trip planned that he was so looking forward to. Now it’s all canceled and he is completely derailed and lost.

Positive Reframe: Even though Dan’s summer plans have had to be canceled, perhaps there’s a summer internship that he can do online that would move him forward in an exciting way, that might even be better for him. I’m going to help him with the process of exploring that.

Pervasive negative thought: I hate my job but with the pandemic there’s no way I can look for a new job now. I’m too scared about losing my paycheck.

Positive Reframe: Even though the pandemic has changed the face of employment for many people, others ARE landing great new jobs, and are expanding their networks online and finding great mentors and sponsors that can help them find terrific new roles, now or in the future. I’m going to start doing that today.

Pervasive negative thought: I feel so isolated and alone right now. I hate this! I miss my friends and my days just go on endlessly.

Positive Reframe: While I can’t physically see my friends as I used to, or do the social activities like singing or going to the gym together that made me so happy, there have to be things I can do that would fill my day with more meaning and joy. Where can I help out, connect with others, and offer my talents and abilities to people who are in need? What new ways can I be of help?

Pervasive negative thought: I’ve interviewed for 10 jobs and I don’t move forward to the next round. I’m obviously a loser—I don’t have anything going for me.

Positive Reframe: Do I actually, really, want these jobs? Or am I pursuing them only because I think I have to? Maybe I’m not getting these because in my heart I don’t want to do this kind of work anymore and it would be more wasted time in my life if I got them? If that were true, what type of work do I really want to pursue at this stage in my life? Let me do some work now to figure that out.

The key steps to achieving and acting on the positive reframe are:

Gain greater awareness of what exactly is stressing and upsetting you most now and where you feel helpless (the “cost” of this situation)

Understand and recognize what you feel you’ve lost and why you are so upset. What is causing you the most distress? And how is this situation making you feel “less than” or unable to cope? How is it making you feel that you don’t have what it takes to thrive? What have you lost?

Be open to seeing the potential “benefits” of the situation

OK, so you’re clear on the negatives of this situation. What are the potential benefits? Perhaps you’ve been longing to write that memoir or start your blog or podcast. Could now be the perfect time? Perhaps your child lost her chance to go away to summer camp— could it be possible that something better is waiting in the wings for her? Perhaps those jobs in marketing that you’ve interviewed for and didn’t get are exactly the jobs you don’t want and wouldn’t thrive in. What roles call to you now to pursue?

Focus on what you can control

Viktor Frankl, in his groundbreaking book Man’s Search for Meaning, shared this:

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing; the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

When we feel helpless, out of control and hopeless, we falter, and life because extremely hard to endure. But when we shift our attitude and consciously “choose our own way,” mustering the bravery and power to take the reins and say, “There IS something I can do here, to better my situation, to improve my attitude,” our lives transform.

Decide how you want to feel, then do the things that generate those feelings

My daughter recently shared with me the powerful Isolation Journals—a daily creativity project to help us make sense of challenging times, from Suleika Jaouad (watch her amazing TED talk What Almost Dying Taught Me About Living, for powerful inspiration). One of the journal exercises — Day 51 — was to write a “To Feel” list rather than a “To Do” list. The idea is to name your deepest yearnings and aspirations. Then take time with each of them, “teasing out the nuances of what each contains with depth and specificity…” Then review your list again.

Jaouad asks:

“Are your priorities, habits, and rituals serving these feelings? What steps can you take to honor the items on your “to-feel” list.”

What do you want to feel in your life, and how can you reframe the way you are perceiving your challenges so you can recognize the potential positive and do something different that uplifts and enlivens you? What can you do today to take the control back on your life, and help yourself feel better, stronger and more powerful, even in the face of what you’ve lost?

For hands-on help to build a happier and more rewarding career, work with Kathy in her Amazing Career Project course, and read her new book The Most Powerful You: 7 Bravery-Boosting Paths to Career Bliss.


My Theme For 2018 Might Inspire You As Well

Part of Kathy’s series “Finding Brave To Build a Better Life”

Every year at this time, I love to identify a “theme” for the coming year – a word or phrase that represents what I want to cultivate more of in my life, work, relationships, and in the world directly around me. I’ve found that what we focus on truly expands, so focusing on an exciting and meaningful new element in my life brings it closer to me, and in greater abundance.

My theme for 2018 is “finding brave.” It’s amazing that, from the minute these two little words came into my sphere (and I thank my dear friend and author Avril McDonald for that), I’ve truly experienced more bravery, resilience, strength and hope, and I can see more clearly how I’m on the Finding Brave path.

I remember just when this term was birthed. It was in Mykonos, Greece this past September, while I was co-hosting a women’s retreat Light From the Dawn with Avril, Miisa Mink, Kaisa Peltola, and Charlotte Gillbanks. For the past year, I had been using the term “Brave Up” extensively in my work, writing, TEDx talk and other places. But in September as I was working on launching my new podcast (hope you’ll check it out on January 4th), I discovered that someone had trademarked the term.

I felt so angry and truly gutted. But there was no one to blame but myself. Even though I had been using this term for a full year and had made my mark on it, I hadn’t protected the term legally (this is something we all should learn from.) The year before, I had even published a great interview with business and branding attorney Ashley Brewer on my Forbes.com blog about not waiting to protect your intellectual property, but failed to take my own advice! Now I’ve learned.

I was with Avril in Greece talking about wanting to come up with a new phrase that represented my work at its core, and Avril said, “What about ‘Finding Brave’?” And it hit me right between the eyes. Yes! That’s it. As I got thinking about bravery and what we need to cultivate in order to be our true selves powerfully and transparently, I realized It’s not about “braving up” in one isolated moment, and then falling off the brave journey. It’s about Finding Brave every week, every day, every minute. [tweet_quote hashtags=”#FindingBrave” ]It’s a holistic, heart-and-soul journey that grabs you by the collar and won’t let go[/tweet_quote], and keeps fueling you to be and share more of yourself, in open, honest, and transformative ways.

In 2018, I’ll be focusing on Finding Brave even more, from what I choose to do in my business (stretching out of my comfort zone and starting new ventures and expanding my focus), in my relationships, with how I invest my time and money to ensure growth, and in seeing my own potential more powerfully.

Here are three core ways I’ll be focusing on Finding Brave in 2018 that might be of help to you in your life:

Brave Sight
While I have a good bit of confidence in myself and my work, I realize (if I’m really honest with myself) that I’ve hesitated moving in some new directions because of fear – fear of failure, fear of success and overwhelm, and even a bit of fear around how “hard” this new work will be. But my focus on Brave Sight helps me see myself in a different light – as someone who has reinvented herself numerous times throughout life, relished the process, and grew exponentially throughout it.

I’m ready to see myself as more competent, confident and ready for more. I hope you are too.

Are you ready to tap into more confidence and trust about what you’re capable of?

Brave Service

While we hear every day (and I teach and coach) that “the riches are in the niches” – meaning, you need a very tight and narrow focus to be profitable in your business – I feel that it’s also important to be of brave service in ways that might stretch you out of your tight niche. For me, for instance, that means that I can be of help to people not only with career growth strategies but also by offering them all that I’ve learned, about psychology, marketing, client development, business growth, management, writing and thought leadership. So why wouldn’t I do that?

I’m going to put a new stake in the ground in 2018 and offer more of what I’ve learned throughout my 32-year career, leveraging my corporate and marketing background, therapy training, and business development experience. I can’t wait to stretch to new domains that I hope will serve others in a brave new way.

What can you do in your work that will stretch you beyond how you see yourself today?

Brave Love

I recently divorced, and this experience has opened my eyes and my heart to so much. I’ve experienced firsthand what society views is the “right way” to live, and the negative projections other people put on you about their judgments and fears around divorce. I’ve seen too what it is to live as an independent individual outside of marriage, and how enlightening it is to begin to understand yourself more deeply in a new context of being single.

I have a great deal more compassion now for single people, and the challenges we/they face in loving and accepting themselves fully when the world pressures us to see married people as the model to aspire to (even when so many marriages are miserable and harmful to the couple and to the children, and in fact should end in divorce).

In 2018 I’m committed to expanding my experience of love, compassion and connection – with myself and with others. I’m ready to become braver in loving, and letting out into the world the most authentic, real and honest version of myself than ever before, which I hope will help others do the same.

I’ve seen that when we feel forced to hide, suppress or alter our most authentic, real selves and our most loving, positive spirits in order to be accepted or appreciated – that’s when we suffer the most.

How can you love and connect to yourself more deeply this year, and start letting out the more authentic, real version of who you are?

In 2018, I hope that “finding brave” in your life will also be a theme that will pave the way for more joy, fulfillment and meaning in your life, career and relationships.

Happy 2018 to you, with (brave) love.

For more about Finding Brave in your life, tune into my new podcast at FindingBrave.org  starting January 4th and work with me in a Finding Brave Life Mastery program.

 


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.