Saboteurs, Gremlins, and Thinking Traps: Working with Resistance

saboteurs, gremlins, and thinking traps: working with resistance

Call it a saboteur, a gremlin, or a thinking trap. Call it resistance, or the voice in your head. Whatever name you’d like to give it, it’s something we’ve all likely encountered in one form or another. 

Common forms include:

  • Doubt 

  • Fear

  • Comparison 

  • Judgment (toward self or others) 

  • Rationalization 

  • Logic or “Being Reasonable” - to a degree that doesn’t actually serve you 

  • Feeling small, not good enough, not smart enough, not _____ enough (insert your adjective of choice).

Working With Resistance

Resistance can take many forms and serve many purposes. Sometimes, resistance is coming from deep within - and is our intuition’s way of telling us that something isn’t quite right. 

Oftentimes, however, resistance is the way that our mind responds to the possibility of us stepping into our biggest, boldest, and most courageous selves. Oftentimes, resistance is the voice of the saboteur.

Step One: Notice and Name It.

The first step in working with the saboteur is to notice and name it. The saboteur can be so sneaky and so convincing, that often we think it’s the truth. Most often it’s not. So the first step is to recognize and name it. This could include:

  • Naming the saboteur: “this is the voice of the saboteur.”

  • Giving the saboteur a form, shape, or identity: “oh, this is just Judge Judy speaking.” 

  • Visualizing the saboteur as something that is separate from you. 

Step Two: Uncover What is True

Often there is some sliver of truth in what the saboteur is trying to tell us, but it gets buried amidst a whole lot of self-sabotaging beliefs and ideas. After we notice and name the saboteur, we can begin to uncover what, if any, parts of the ideas might be true, or have helpful wisdom for us to use. 

We can do this by asking:

  • What is true? (and repeating this over and over again until we uncover what is)

  • Is it true? 

  • Can I be absolutely certain that it’s true? 

  • What would be different or possible if I let go of this belief? 

  • What could it look like to let go of this belief? 

  • Is this an upper limit problem? (Oftentimes, saboteurs appear when we have hit what Gay Hendricks calls an upper limit - a period where things are going incredibly well, where we are happy and successful - and our mind has a hard time being with all of this goodness, so it finds ways to secretly sabotage things).

Step Three: Develop a New Relationship with the Saboteur

Very rarely do our saboteurs go away suddenly, or entirely. They often have a way of sneaking up on us when we’re least expecting it - even when we think we’ve put them aside once and for all. As a result, it can be helpful to find a new way of engaging with our saboteurs when they do reappear. This may include:

  • Calling the saboteur by name when it appears. “Oh - don’t worry, it’s just Judge Judy trying to make an appearance again.” 

  • Uncovering what job the saboteur is trying to do - and looking at how we might take responsibility for that job instead. For example, if your saboteur shows up in the form of jealousy toward the work or lives of others, could it be trying to nudge you to have confidence in your own work; to take that leap you’ve been wanting to take for awhile; or to finally own your unique genius and start showing your work to the world? Or, if your saboteur shows up in the form of striving, could it be a hint that it’s actually time for a pause? 

  • Remember that we are humans and that saboteurs, gremlins, thinking traps, resistance, and whatever else we might want to call them are a normal part of the human experience. Have compassion. Remember that they are not the truth, that their presence will eventually pass, and that we can learn to work with them over time. 

Recommended Resources:

Cadillac Problems

cadillac problems

Cadillac problems can be described as problems of privilege; problems that arise out of a set of phenomenal possibilities; problems that in many ways we are lucky to have; problems that in the scheme of things aren't really so bad after all.

A couple of my current cadillac problems include: an ongoing tension with my calendar (a cadillac problem because I am beyond lucky to have it filled with many amazing things and opportunities), and a current state annoyance that it's been freezing cold and snowy this week (a cadillac problem because I am lucky enough to travel across the country for a training, where it happens to be snowing this week). ⠀⠀
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Other cadillac problems might include: annoyance with flight delays (a cadillac problem because we are privileged enough to get on an airplane and fly somewhere); feeling irritated while planning a wedding (a cadillac problem on all sorts of dimensions); struggling to finalize details of a trip; feeling irritated that our raise wasn’t bigger; and even frustrations in relationships (a cadillac problem because we are lucky enough to have that human in our life).
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This is not to say that cadillac problems don't 'count' or that they should be disregarded altogether, but rather that sometimes if we look at our problems through this lens, they really aren't so bad after all. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

While it was the blizzard that prompted this week's reflection on the topic of cadillac problems, I find it to be a helpful way to reframe many of the 'problems' we face in everyday life.

What do you think? Any cadillac problems that come to mind for you?

Trust Yourself, Trust Your Life.

Trust Yourself, Trust Your Life

Trust yourself, trust your life.

Yes, call the psychic, book the session with the astrologer, and consult your pendulum (don’t get me wrong, I usually do all three). Make the pro and con list, think about the options, explore paths A, B, and C. Call your financial adviser, your mentor, and maybe even your grandma.


But most of all, call upon yourself. Tune in deeply and listen. And trust that whatever is happening right now is likely exactly what’s meant to be.

Tune In. Take Action. Create Change. 8.30.19 Edition.

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As you’ve probably read, the Amazon is burning, and has been for awhile.

Forest fires in the Amazon aren’t new. Fire is a common tactic used by some farmers to clear space for cattle grazing for beef production.

This time, though, the fires have reached new magnitudes and new levels of concern.

As we watch “the planet’s lungs” burn from afar, here are some things that we can do.

Tune In. 

  • Learn More. Follow Earth Alliance and the Rainforest Alliance to read more about what’s happening and how to get involved.

  • Read labels. If you eat meat, look at where it’s coming from. Many of the fires are a product of deforestation for cattle grazing – ultimately in service of beef production. Consider buying locally and ethically raised and produced meat. When possible, purchase beef at your local farmer’s market or directly from farmers.

Take Action. 

  • Plant a tree through One Tree Planted. $1 plants 1 tree. Maybe plant a few.

  • Change your default browser to search via Ecosia instead of through Google. They donate 80% of their profits, use searches to plant trees, and don’t track or sell user data.

  • Purchase Rainforest Alliance Certified products when possible.

Create Change. 

Even from afar, there is always something we can do.

Thank you for reading and for taking in action in whatever way feels right for you.

School Supply Shopping for Grown-Ups

school supplies for grown ups - fueling creativity

It’s back-to-school season, which means that the grills and outdoor rugs and patio furniture and colorful poolside goodies have been replaced by pencils and colored folders and notebooks since early July (insert sad violin songs here for those of us who want summer to last forever...). 

The bright side is that shiny new office supplies can be fun. There’s something thrilling about opening up a brand new notebook or writing with a previously-untouched Sharpie or peeling back the wrapper of a new stack of Post-Its. 

On that note, here’s a list of my favorite office supplies for grown-ups. 

*Note: you don’t need any of these things to start a business, become an entrepreneur, go to the networking event, or attend the workshop next week. We humans have a funny way of not starting [fill in the blank] until we have purchased [fill in the other blanks] which can lead to never doing the things we really want to do and buying a lot of crap that we don’t actually need. 

Notebooks 

  • Leuchtturm 1917 Dotted. These are far and away favorites. They are slightly wider than the similar Moleskine notebooks, making enthusiastic note takers like me very happy. They contain page numbers and an index at the beginning so you can actually organize (and later find) your notes - which can be a game changer. 

Pens & Pencils 

  • After much experimentation over the last 6 years, I’ve recently returned to the Pilot G2 for my daily pen of choice - specifically, the ultra fine (.38) version which keeps things a bit tidier for those of us who write a lot. The ink is easily replaced, helping to reduce the amount of used plastic pens in our landfills. (The EPA estimates that Americans throw away 1.6 billion pens each year).

  • For more colorful notes, I like the iBayam Fineliner pens. They are smooth and don’t bleed through thin sheets of paper. The downside is that they are not refillable, and they don’t last forever - so I try to use them sparingly to cut down on waste.

  • For pencils, I’m excited to check out The Good Pencil Company next time I have a need; they are certified as a B Corp and through 1% for the Planet, and they donate a pencil to a school in need with each purchase. Read more about their impact here. 

Paper 

  • There are few things quite as thrilling as a big, blank sheet of paper. For this, I find that a big chunk of recycled printer paper does the job best. This is what I use for client notes; the blank pages photocopy and photograph easily for clients who want to take copies with them. 

Brainstorming 

  • I wish I didn’t like Giant Post-Its as much as I do, because they are absurdly expensive, comprised of paper, and I do not have tiny handwriting. However, in the six and a half years I’ve been running my business, I haven’t found any sort of suitable replacement for when I’m leading retreats, courses, or workshops in spaces with limited or no whiteboard space. I find that the Sharpie Flip Chart Markers to be the best and last the longest (even over some more expensive brands like Neuland which have the absolutely perfect chisel tip but seem to run out of ink more quickly). Speaking of markers - tip: BYO whiteboard markers when leading anything where you’ll be using a whiteboard. 80% of white board markers in conference rooms and retreat venues across the country seem to be dead upon arrival (insert that sad violin again) so I like to bring my own to be safe. Board Dudes White Board Markers have been going strong for the last several years.

Idea Capture 

  • For this, it can be best to stick with the classics: index cards and post-its. Index cards are great for mapping out ideas and projects in a way that can be easily moved around and re-ordered. A stack of post-its, in various places around the house, are great for capturing impromptu grocery lists, reminder notes to loved ones, and thoughts that are swirling around when we are trying to go to bed.

Electronic Organization 

  • For storage: I am not the best person to advise on this topic because I have a deep love of all things analog when it comes to writing and reading and note taking. “Real” books, real notebooks, real paper, and handwritten over electronic notes for any in-person conversations. However, this system can get a bit cumbersome for a long-time journaler and paper lover. I’ve been working on scanning and uploading some of this paper over the last few years. Google Drive , DropBox, and Google Photos have been the systems of choice. Both might require paying a small monthly fee if you have a lot of files, but I find the small fee to be worth the peace of mind that all documents won’t be lost in the instance of spilling an entire cup of coffee on one’s laptop. Not that this situation has ever happened, though………

  • For project tracking: Trello is great (and free) if you’re a visual person. I’m thinking about trying out Notion at the recommendation of a trusted friend and client. 

  • For note taking: I like to keep it simple with Google Documents. They are easy to use, easy to share with others who need to edit or collaborate, and Google Drive is relatively searchable (though the search function can be a bit spotty). Many clients adore Evernote but I’ve never been able to convert fully. 

It’s sometimes said that September is the new January - a time of fresh starts and new beginnings. Sometimes, a fresh notebook feels like the perfect supplement to whatever it is that we’re starting - whether it’s school, a new project, or tackling a goal we’ve been thinking about for awhile. 

For other fun reading on this topic:


Any favorite grown-up school supplies on your list?

Tune In. Take Action. Create Change. 8.23.19 Edition.

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It’s been a bit quiet over here because, quite frankly, most things have seemed unimportant and irrelevant in the context of what’s been happening in our country. How do we continue to talk about everyday things, post pictures of our lunch, our way of #weekending, or our epic workouts while our fellow humans are being shot while shopping for school supplies or out and about enjoying a summer evening? Or while children are concluding their first day of school to find that their parents have been arrested - not sure if or when they will see them again?

What does it say about the state of our country and our humanity that these types of events have become so commonplace that we can go about our daily business and our regularly scheduled hashtags, turning the other way and going about our lives, as if it’s just another ordinary day?

On one hand, yes. We of course need to go about living our lives. If we were to stop living our lives in the wake of tragedy and disturbing news, we would have all stopped living long ago.

But on the other hand, what can it look like to keep living *and* to keep paying attention? To turn toward instead of turning away; to choose action over acceptance of the idea that this is the blind fate of our country and that there is nothing we can do; to feel empowered and committed rather than hopeless or helpless or like we just don’t have the brain space to think about these things? 

Not having the brain space to think about these things is a privilege reserved for those of us who are lucky enough not to have to think about them. 

As with most instances of privilege, we have a choice about how we use it.

In an effort to turn some of my own disgust about our current reality into constructive action, my commitment is to, each week, for the upcoming weeks, share three invitations:

  • Tune In: one thing we can do to tune into what matters to us and what’s on our mind - in a way that cultivates courage, resilience, or compassion.

  • Take Action: one way to take micro-level action in our own life, to create more kindness, more intention, or more alignment between our values and our actions.

  • Create Change: and one thing we can do to chip away at the collective, macro-level change that we wish to create in the world around us.

The goal of this initiative is to provide invitations for action that can fit into the rhythms of everyday life, that will take less than five minutes and cost less than $5, and that will attempt to address the three most common barriers I hear:

  • I feel helpless.

  • I feel hopeless.

  • I don’t have the brain space to think about these things.

Join along if you’d like in the way that feels right for you. A few possibilities include:

  • Accepting the weekly invitations for action as you feel called to do so.

  • Sharing your actions using the hashtags #tuneintakeactioncreatechange and #concreteactionconsciouschange.

  • Inviting others to join in the next time you hear the words “I feel helpless,” “I feel hopeless,” or “I don’t have the brain space to think about these things.”

Together, perhaps, we can create just a few positive ripples in service of a more loving, more accepting, and more human world.

And with that - this week’s round up.

Tune In. 

  • Fill out the Circle of Concern and the Circle of Influence. Here’s how:

    • Draw two circles - one that takes up almost the whole page, and another inside of it. 

    • Inside the biggest circle, write down everything you’re currently concerned about - big or small. 

    • Then, inside of the smaller circle, write down everything that you could do - big or small - to somehow take positive action toward your concerns. There is always something we can do - often, more than we think. 

Take Action. 

  • Download the Goods Unite Us app. (It’s free.)

    • Look up brands you buy and places you shop in the app. 

    • Look at the reports and the percentage of money that each brand spends supporting different political parties. 

    • Discover what politicians you might unintentionally be supporting through your purchases.

    • Begin to make small shifts in your buying habits accordingly. 

Create Change. 

  • Go to 5calls.org

  • Enter your location. 

  • Pick a cause that you care deeply about. 

  • Let the app guide you through the process of making a call to your representatives - complete with a script, and a way to track your call result (voicemail, contact, etc).

Contributing vs. Accomplishing

contributing vs accomplishing

Contributing vs Accomplishing.


Which are we chasing?


In our current world, there is a lot of focus on accomplishing: more followers online; 6-figure revenue and then maybe 7; more investment; the promotion; the better title to go along with it; our goal time in the marathon.


While pursuing mastery is a deep human desire, what if this desire for mastery could be framed in service of contribution? Around the question of how we might use our gifts to give back, to put a positive dent in something bigger than ourselves, to serve others - versus how we can get somewhere bigger, better, and faster?

Some possible questions to ponder.

Inspiration credit: For the spark of this question, Damond Boatwright. For the stunning flowers, Amanda Schulze.

Copycats

IMG_1772.JPG

Many entrepreneurs, creatives, and makers who have been at their craft for awhile have had the experience of finding their work, their products, or their content repackaged, duplicated, or plagiarized by others at some point in time. Sometimes, it’s a newer entrepreneur or artist taking “inspiration seeking” to a whole new level. Other times, it’s a massive corporation or brand that has used the work of an independent artist without permission.

Most entrepreneurs and makers I work with deeply value creativity and originality - meaning that it can be difficult to look around and find that someone else has seemingly copied our idea, our product, our content, or in some cases, our entire brand. (A dear friend and client found her entire business - the name, the logo, the website, and even the social media images - plagiarized and up and running as its own business in Asia).

On the flip side, when working with new entrepreneurs and coaches, one of the most common things I hear as an intended early step is “I’m going to go out to [insert name of someone I want to be like]’s site and see how she did it.”

While seeking inspiration can be helpful, the greatest inspiration often comes from looking within - or looking around out in the world - versus looking at other people’s websites or products, especially if those people are in the same industry as we are.

Below, some thoughts on what to do if you feel like you might fall on either side of this equation.

If You Think You Might Be the Copycat:

Have a heart to heart with yourself.

Ask yourself: are you seeking inspiration, or have you moved into imitation? Signs that you might have moved beyond the “inspiration” point: repackaging phrases, content, other people’s wording, descriptions, products or programs; visiting certain websites regularly for inspiration; becoming a bit of a cyber stalker of your favorite entrepreneurs or brands.

Seek inspiration from outside of your industry.

Find inspiring people who do distinctly different work than you do. Get curious about cool things happening in other industries. Ask yourself if it serves you to follow the people who you’re following in your own industry. 

Stop looking around and start looking within.

Take the time you’ve been spending on other people’s websites and LinkedIn pages and Instagram accounts and blogs and redirect that time into reflection and quiet space. Meditate. Go for a walk in the woods. Take time to find your own voice, your own style, and your own way of thinking about and speaking about things. 

Consider: what could be possible if you trusted yourself enough to create your own content and tune into your own ideas, rather than pulling from other people’s?

And what’s currently getting in the way of doing so? Is it a lack of confidence? A lack of trust in yourself? Not being able to find your own voice or your own perspective? Get quiet, spend some time tuning inward, and see what you discover. 

As Marie Forleo, who is often imitated but will never be replicated, says:

“The world needs that special gift that only you have.”

If you think you might have a copycat:

Pause. Take a deep breath. 

In talking with entrepreneurial soul sisters about this topic, I’ve discovered that this can be one of the most hurtful and most triggering things that we encounter as entrepreneurs. We pour ourselves into our businesses, and to find our content recreated, oftentimes by people we historically have trusted, can be a particularly awful experience. First things first - we need to pause and take a deep breath. 

Ask: Is it True? 

Take a page from Byron Katie’s book. When we feel that parts of our business have been repackaged or recreated by someone else, we can ask:

“Is it true?”

And, “can we be absolutely certain that it’s true?”

Oftentimes, the answer - especially to the second question - is no. We cannot be absolutely certain that it wasn’t just a very intriguing coincidence. These questions can help us to move out of a place of unhelpful inner dialogue, and into a place of calm acceptance. 

Remember that it is inevitable. 

If we put our content out into the world, it will be available not only to our communities and our clients, but also, of course, to our competitors. As Seth Godin says, “The easiest products in the world to develop, option, license and get to market are copycat products. They are beyond reproach. They feel safe.”

The truth is that many people want what is easy and what is safe. As a result, copycats will not go away anytime soon. That said, copycat products are rarely as good as the originals. Often the originals are creating more than a product or service; they are disrupting an entire industry and forging a whole new path that others will want to follow.


This is part of the package, and how awful would it be for us to hold back on our content or ideas, for fear of others stealing them? This would be a modern day version of The Miser and The Gold - tragic for everyone involved.

Take a page from my friend Mike’s book. 

A few months back, I asked him how he felt about the number of people who have openly expressed a desire to create an exact replica of the organization that Mike has created. His response? “Good luck! It’s a lot of f$#king work.”

I can’t help but smile to myself each time I think of his response.

Take Oprah’s advice.

“How far you are from the center - from the diveness of yourself, your source energy, that which created you - is how out of sync you are with your life. When you are aligned with this, nobody can touch you.”

Focus on aligning with your center. Put your head down. Make something awesome. Keep creating. And remember that no matter how many words or phrases or pieces of content others might take and repackage, they will never be you. 

Additional Resources, Reading, and Watching: