Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right. —Henry Ford

It’s all between your ears.  All those thoughts.  As a client said to me “It’s a hamster wheel”.  The same thoughts over and over and over and over again.  The I think I can’t, I think I can’t, I think I can’t mantra.  You see your boss’ door closed and you assume you’re in trouble.  Your wife doesn’t respond to your text and you decide she must be mad about something.  You hear your coworkers laughing and you feel shut out.  Guess what.  You get to choose your thoughts.  Really you do.

But, Cathy, I can’t!  I can’t stop my mind chatter.  It’s always negative.  I know.  I’ve been there.  There isn’t a magic wand that is going to turn off that faucet.  What it takes is deliberate practice.  Having a coach (like me) is a really good way to change course.   A good coach will hold up a mirror and help you pick through those thoughts and question their value.  We all have different beliefs around trust, money, love and work.  “If I love, I will be hurt.” “I’ll never get a promotion, so why apply?” “I’m not worth more money than I am making.”  And then that broken record keeps playing over and over and over again.


Here are some disciplines to begin doing now and so you can throw out the recording:

  • Practice mindfulness. This means stop dwelling on the past or assuming the future.  Be in the moment. Now. And now.  And now.  Feel the chair you are sitting in.  Feel your chest rise with each breath.  Listen to your dog sighing.  Smell the aroma of your coffee cup.  Feel your big toe.  Mindfulness is being in the moment and tapping into all your senses.  It takes you out of your head and into your body.
  • Accept failure. As J. K. Rowling said, “It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all, in which case you have failed by default.” You cannot break out of the status quo unless you are open to failure.  Most of your thoughts are full of “what if” scenarios.  That is a waste of energy.  It’s OK if you fail.  You’ll learn something if you do.
  • Stop worrying.  A quote from Arthur Somers Roche that I love: “Worry is a thin stream of fear trickling through the mind. If encouraged, it cuts a channel into which all other thoughts are drained.” I’ve met a lot of people who view worry as a sort of penance.  If I worry about my son driving to Orlando to meet me, then I am preparing myself for the worst. I’m expending energy and I can assure it is not changing the outcome.  It is futile and exhausting.  Worry does not change the future.
  • Think about positive outcomes. This is the flip side of worry.  So instead of worrying about my twenty-year-old son driving to Orlando safely, I think about embracing him when I see him.  I think about his magnetic smile.  I think about how his reaction times are so much faster than my own.  His flawless driving record.    I feel more upbeat now.  I’m in a much better mind set.
  • Use mantras. I have a mantra that I use in the middle of the night if I wake up from some sort of stress.  “In an easy and relaxed manner in a helpful and positive way, joy comes to me easily in its own perfect time for the benefit of all.”  I put that on a broken loop in my head.  Make your own.  Make sure it is simple and positive.
  • Good enough. So many of my clients are frozen by perfectionism.   Let it be “good enough”.  I’m not suggesting you do sloppy work but let go of it being perfect.   If there is anything blasting thoughts through your head it’s the perfectionism judge.   “I won’t apply for the job until I have that certificate.”  “I’ll sign up after I’ve lost 15 pounds.” “I’ll ask for a raise after I finish that project.”   It’s good enough. Quit being paralyzed.

This is not a quick fix.  Your thoughts have been riding the same railroad track for a while.   Even acknowledging that your thoughts are not the truth can help you slow it down.  Get off the train at the next stop and see the possibilities.

Letting Go. Are you attached to your kid’s success?

You verify every grade on the report card. You double check your kid’s homework to make sure she has it all “right”. You make sure they do their homework for two hours before they play any Minecraft. You take over the science project to ensure they win top prize. You want to make sure your child is a success and your happiness is dependent on it.

Really? Do you want to be dependent on your child’s success for your own happiness? That will end up being a lifetime of struggle. I’m not suggesting that you don’t want health and happiness for your child. We all want that. But are you measuring your happiness and/or success by your child’s success? What does success look like for your child? And who gets to decide what success is? Is that really up to you?

Letting go

I facilitated a workshop on CRR Global’s Toxins and Exploring Edges. I coached one of the participants on a change she wanted to make in her life (which Edge she wanted to explore). She has two sons. One is academically gifted and the other is academically challenged. Well, she was able to let go of expectations from the challenged son. She realized that letting go of one child’s expectations had heightened the expectations for the other child. The change she wanted to make was to be able to let go of expectations for her gifted son.

So here are some of the insights from the exercise:

  • Trust is the core of every relationship. This is one of the 5 Behaviors of the Cohesive Team by Patrick Lencioni. As Lencioni posits, it’s not just predictive trust (you do what you say you are going to do) but also vulnerability based trust (you admit when you made a mistake). Are you letting your child be vulnerable? Are they allowed to make a mistake without you chiding them? If they can’t be vulnerable, they aren’t going to tell you when they mess up.


  • Autonomy doesn’t have to mean you don’t care. Autonomy is a great gift to the folks in your life. Getting wrapped up in whether or not their homework is done or if they are EVER going to empty the garbage is exhausting and it’s not helping you find happiness. When you don’t let your children have autonomy (within reason folks…don’t let your 5-year-old park the car), they are constantly seeking your approval and reassurance or, on the flip side, are demotivated because they can’t have independence. Autonomy helps them create that on their own. The responsibility of success, failure and happiness are safely resting on their shoulders. Autonomy shows that you do care.


  • Let go in stages that work for you. The mom I was working with, initially “jumped” across the Edge. She then decided to go back and slowly inch her way across the Edge. It resonated when she was able to gradually move across the change of letting go. Her body language relaxed. You could see that she was relieved and that she could control how and when she would let go. How and when you let go is a very personal choice. Don’t jump unless you want to.


  • Acceptance of both failure and success is critical. Mommy client said that she needed to let go of whether her son got a 90 or a 97. “They are both A’s.” I remember standing in the middle of the kitchen when my son was making a complicated cake recipe. I was making suggestions ….er telling him how to fix it when he looked at me, put up his hand and said, “Stop! Let me fail.” I was thunder struck. Whether or not that cake failed is not life changing but him taking responsibility for its failure or success is life changing. Let go of the reins.


  • Communicate your expectations. One of the participants at the workshop suggested she go home and tell her sons about her new insight. If she doesn’t communicate that she is letting go of her expectations, he might feel like she is abdicating. There were several in the audience who talked about a parent who had essentially abdicated their parenting if a child did not follow the path the parent wanted (you know…doctor, lawyer, good college education, etc.). I remember telling my son after a poor semester at school, that I loved him no matter what he did. I didn’t want him feeling like he had to stick to something in exchange for my love. Unconditional love needs to be communicated.

Parenting is the hardest job in the world and is complicated, as in my case, when you are separated with the parent you had that child with. Model happiness for your children instead of measuring their success against unrealistic expectations. You will be happier in the end as well.