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Tag Archives: Kathy Caprino

The Biggest Fear That Keeps You From Building a More Satisfying Career

 

This week, I spoke with a friend who has been a stay-at-home mom for 13 years, after building a career as an engineer. She told me that her job had served as a good paycheck, but nothing more. As her children are now in their teens, she’s beginning to see the next chapter of her life approaching quickly. She’s intrigued at the idea of having more time to herself, and engaging in different work, outside the focus of caregiving. She even has an idea or two about what she’d like to try her hand at in terms of employment.

But seriously entertaining this idea (and doing anything concrete about it) is scary and intimidating to her.  Her fear makes it hard for her to even stop for a second to contemplate it, so she pushes it aside and squashes it down. And that, in turn, makes her more hyper-focused on what’s happening at home, which exacerbates her fears, unhappiness and exhaustion. I’ve seen this exact same scenario countless times. People want more, different and better for their lives, but are completely daunted by the prospect of change, so they resist moving forward even one inch to explore it. And their “stuckness” makes them ill and unhappy.

My friend also shared with me the one critical fear I hear every week in my career coaching work, and the fear is this:

“I’m worried that I’ll try my hand at this new direction, and it won’t work out. What if I end up not liking it or feel it’s wrong again, like my other work?”

This one fear keeps people stuck for years, and sometimes for a lifetime. This “what if it doesn’t work out?” worry is crippling. There are many versions of “what if?” that keep people paralyzed in inertia:

What if I grow to hate it?

- What if I can’t do it well?

- What if I can’t make any money at it?

- What if I can’t juggle my family life and am exhausted by it?

- What if people laugh at me for wanting to try this?

- What if my family (husband, parents, etc.) think I’m crazy?

- What if it lets me down like all the other directions I’ve taken?

I remained stuck in the “what if” mode for years as well, and know full well how potent and paralyzing it can be. When I started to become unstuck (after a brutal corporate layoff in the days following 9/11), I remember reading the great book The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron, and suddenly realized that there were so many more opportunities for me than I ever understood. I began seeing people with very cool small businesses in my community whom I had never noticed before, and it was enlivening and exciting. There were new possibilities I’d ignored for years. I had a friend with her own very lucrative market research firm, and I so envied her freedom, flexibility and authority, but I thought, “That’ll never be me. I can’t have that.”

I desperately wished to do something more creative for my livelihood — more flexible, productive, and meaningful in my professional life, and being laid off from my corporate job allowed me to see that it was only fear of the “what if’s” that had kept me stuck in something that was so wrong for me. Now as a writer, speaker, and career success consultant, my creative juices are finally flowing and the dots have been connected.

How do we effectively address that “what if?” fear and move through it? These four simple strategies will help you move beyond the fear, into action:

Just do one tiny thing today (and every day) to “try on” a new direction.

Most of us have no idea how to go about exploring a new career. I know now that there are scores of ways to simply “try on” a new direction before we leap. We don’t have to reinvent completely, or chuck our old life in order to go in a new direction. We can just explore it in small, digestible, doable ways – through volunteering, interviewing, shadowing professionals, taking on a small project, talking to someone who does it, consulting, working part-time, etc. The key is to view the exploration and research as a “project” in your life, not as a wholesale life change. You don’t have to risk or lose everything to try out a new path. Just take one tiny step every day or week.

Get your creative juices flowing again.

I believe, as Julia Cameron does, that creative expression is the natural direction of life. So many people I work with (and throughout the world) are highly creative but have become blocked and stymied in their creativity, which in turns brings about unhappiness, pain, and suffering. Limiting beliefs, fears and other inhibiting forces hold us back from sharing our creative energies and talents with the world.

When we get unstuck and start using our creative talents once again, our lives change for the better , as does the world around us. Think about the creative endeavors you used to engage in as a young person that brought you great joy. For me, it’s singing and performing – I’m simply not as happy or productive if I’m not engaged actively in music. What is that for you? Is it scrapbooking, playing piano, interior decorating, designing clothes, writing a novel, making jewelry, playing jazz? Figure it out, and bring it forward in your life today in some small way. When you do, a myriad of exciting new opportunities, relationships and experiences (both personal and professional) will open to you.

Surround yourself with amazing supporters, not critical naysayers.

If the only people in your life right now are critical, judgmental naysayers who would make fun of you for trying a completely new direction, then you have the wrong people in your life. Period. End of story. The people who surround us dramatically color, shape and influence our lives. Become more selective and careful about who you let into your life. One by one, purge out the negative naysayers, and build a new group of supporters, friends, allies, and advocates. If it’s your family members who put you down and squash your dreams, build a stronger boundary and protect yourself from their negativity. It’s up to you. From this day forward, become extremely discerning about who you allow to influence your thoughts, actions and beliefs.

Finally, recognize the true value of your life and your talents.

More than 60,000 people have downloaded my Career Path Self-Assessment since I developed it a few years ago, to help professionals figure out what’s missing in their lives and what’s needed to build more joyful livelihoods. In reading their responses, I’ve seen core themes, blocks and patterns jump off the page. I can see what my clients can’t — that they are immensely talented, gifted, and accomplished, and each person has so much to offer the world that others don’t have. I can also see their blocks, frailties, and vulnerabilities — what they’re ashamed of and hiding from (I call those their “power gaps.”). Finally, it’s clear to me how they could shine in the world, but they can’t see it. None of us can, without some help.

Get some outside help in the form of a mentor, friend or coaching buddy who sees the highest vision of you before it’s hatched. Find someone who inspires you and can help you see yourself in a way you cannot – that you’re talented, gifted and amazing (every person on the planet is), and there is great value in what you have to offer. You’re not only as good as your last job, performance appraisal, or raise . You’re much, much more. Don’t waste any more time doubting it – just do something today.

(To build a happier career, visit kathycaprino.com and take my 6-day Amazing Career Challenge.)

The Top 5 Life Lessons You Should Be Learning (But You’re Not)

 

Years ago, I launched a project that generated some interesting attention. It was called My 52 Mistakes, and it outlined what I believed were the worst 52 mistakes I’d made in my life. Even when I read these today, they all still ring true – these were the most serious missteps I took that led me on painful detours away from happiness, fulfillment and success. And they resonated with lots of other folks too.

While I use the word “mistakes,” I actually don’t believe in mistakes. I believe that if we can learn from our missteps, then we can make tremendous gains, and they are often blessings in disguise. If we commit to drawing on the powerful wisdom we’ve achieved from these momentary errors in judgment, behavior and thinking, then we’ll thrive.

How do we make the most of these missteps or detours so they help us thrive and don’t have to be repeated?

We all have life lessons to learn, but many of us miss these lessons (I sure did, years ago). Sadly, we often learn the wrong things, and internalize damaging, negative messages instead of positive, uplifting ones – messages that make us feel inferior, incapable, and unworthy. We don’t see what we should see. Instead, we end up feeling like losers or hapless victims of fate and circumstance. And when we feel like this, it’s very hard to move off the painful detour and get going in the right direction again.

The best way to turn this around is to learn the positive, empowering lessons that your life is trying to teach you – not lessons about how you blew it and how you’re a failure. The lessons that are essential to learn are about how you’re extremely talented, capable and worthy, and you deserve what you long for, but you’ve just been pointing in the wrong direction.

Here are the top 5 lessons I believe people need to be learning from what’s happening in their lives, but aren’t:

1. You are much more than what your current boss (or job) is telling you.

I’ve been so surprised lately at how intensely we humans focus only on what’s at the tip of our nose, what’s happening this very moment (especially if it’s bad), and forget all the good that we’ve achieved and created. So if you’re in a toxic job with a toxic boss, don’t let that be all you see. You’re better than what your boss thinks of you this very moment. You’re more than the paltry raise you just got, or the promotion you were just passed over for. Take some time to get off the hamster wheel, and take a thorough inventory of everything you’re fantastic at and everything you’ve created and achieved in your life. If you don’t focus on the good and the great, you’ll forget what you’re capable of. (Take my free Career Path Self- Assessment to remember who you really are and what you’ve accomplished that you’re proud of.)

2. Just because you failed terribly at one dream, doesn’t mean you’ll repeat that failure with the next.

I realized in working with thousands of people on their careers, that somehow we think that if we failed miserably at one important project or dream, we’ll inevitably fail at all our dreams and visions. Again this is the wrong lesson. Failure, as we all know, is a part of life and we learn much more from failure than from success. But if we all know this, why do we act as if we’re terrible losers, and won’t ever amount to anything, or achieve any dream we have? Remember that your failures are exactly what pave the way for your fantastic successes. Learn to love your failures.

3. Confidence comes from doing. No one is born with it.

Confidence is essential in life if you want to keep moving forward and reaching higher. But people ask me, “Kathy, how do I get confidence when I don’t having any?” They’re learning a mistaken lesson that you need confidence in order to achieve what you want. That’s a faulty way of looking at it.

You get confidence by moving through your fears, by taking action, even while your knees are clanging together with a deafening din. You gain confidence by getting in the arena – by risking, trying, stretching. That’s the only way confidence comes.

I remember, during my internship training as a therapist, after I’d conducted my very first session as a therapist with a severely depressed patient (in front of a whole panel of educators and colleagues critiquing me) saying to myself – “If I can get through that without throwing up or passing out, I can do anything.” My confidence level went up one hundredfold that day.

Confidence comes from doing, so get out there and starting doing what you’re most scared of doing.

4. How you feel and think about your work and your endeavors will powerfully shape what happens.

The more I test out new practices and strategies aimed at helping people build tremendous success, and the more heartfelt success I achieve in my own business, the more I realize this: how we think and feel about what we’re doing will dramatically shape the outcomes we get.

In other words, if you’re trying to build a successful business but your work exhausts and depresses you, then you’re not going to succeed. If you’re building a consulting practice, but are deathly afraid of business development and hate it, then you won’t succeed. Finally, if you’re in a helping profession but resent helping others, you’re not going to succeed or be happy in your work.

Take a very close look at your thoughts because they drive the outcomes you’re getting. You’ll be amazed at the degree to which what’s in front of you in life is directly related to what you’re thinking.

Then, actively revise your thoughts and/or change what you’re doing in some significant way so you can feel happier, and more positive and excited about what you’re engaged in.

5. The one best way to tell if you need a change in life is if you’re unhappy and unfulfilled.

Finally, I know so many people who are miserable in their lives and work, but don’t see that as a sign that anything needs to change. They’re skeptical, angry, resentful, confused – but they don’t realize that those emotions mean they have to make a change. They stay stuck forever in inertia.

They make a million excuses for staying where they are (I need the money, I won’t succeed in my dream, a mission-driven career isn’t for me, I’m too old, I’m too young, I didn’t finish school, I was raised poor, etc.).

There’s one key question that you need to ask in order to determine if you need a change in your life. That question is: “Am I happy with the person I’m becoming and am I fulfilled by my life as a whole?”

If not, it’s time to do something. Here’s more about how to learn the specific lessons your life is trying to teach you:

What’s the ONE biggest lesson your life has taught you, so far?


(For a happier, more rewarding career, take my 6-day Amazing Career Challenge today.)

How To Be Generous Without Feeling Used

 

If you’re like me, you want to be generous to others, and give help in an abundant, loving way to those who need it. You also want to feel like you’re making a difference, that you aren’t stingy with your heart, time and knowledge. But if you’re like me, working in a helping profession or support capacity as your livelihood, that can be really difficult at times.

I hear from hundreds of people each month who are deeply longing for assistance with their lives, work and businesses, and I can find myself frustrated and exhausted, feeling disappointed that, as one person, I’m just not enough. And sometimes, I stretch myself too thin, and then feel resentful.

Every year, I’ll have a period of time where this conflict – feeling generous vs. feeling used – comes up for me in a new way that makes me stop in my tracks. This month, I had an experience once again that prompted me to rethink the issue once more.

After reading the powerful book The Diamond Cutter, by Geshe Michael Roach and Lama Christie McNally (a powerful, thought-provoking book – check it out!), I was led to recognize once again just how potent our thoughts are, and how they impact our reality. The book helped me see that, while I long to be generous with others, and give the help they need and want, without an appropriate boundary and a more positive mindset that I must continually nurture, people will cross into the realm of being extremely needy, demanding and grasping. Or that’s how I perceive it, anyway.

I’ve found that thinking through these three powerful questions helps me feel more generous and helpful in my life and work. They prompt me to give more freely, while at the same time preserving and protecting my life energy, time and well-being.

Perhaps these three questions will help you too:

1. What does “generous” and “giving” really mean to you?

It’s critical to think about how you personally define “generosity” and “giving” and to assess if your personal definition is working for you in your life.

So, when you think of being “generous,” does it mean you are obligated to say “yes” to every request that comes to you? Does it mean that you have to catch every single ball that’s thrown at you? Which requests make your heart sing to fulfill, and which make you cringe? Do you put parameters on the types of people you are happy to help, versus those you may need to walk away from?

I’ve found that when I think a bit more deeply about how I want to be generous in the world, and dimensionalize that more clearly with specifics that make sense in my life, the road becomes smoother in terms of my giving in ways that fill me up rather than deplete me. And once I become clearer about the types of help I want to give, and those I don’t, I begin to experience less of what is undesirable in my life.

2. Is your inability to say “no” – your lack of boundaries — making you feel resentful when you help?

To me, being generous doesn’t mean that you can’t say “no” to anyone. It also doesn’t mean that, if your work involves offering a helping service, that you can’t ask for payment for what you do. If you are besieged with endless requests for free help, think about how you feel about asking for money and charging appropriately for the help you’re giving. If you can’t do it, or if you feel reluctant, ashamed or confused about when and how to ask for money, there’s a critical issue you have to work out.

For me, I’ll stop, breathe, and ask myself, “What feels right here to do?” And I’ll go with my gut and my heart. If I’m simply unable to offer any kind of help, I will do my best to point them in a direction that will be of assistance. I’ve also found that having a range of high-quality free and low-cost programs, support, and materials is a wonderful way to offer help to the thousands of people who may not be able to afford working with me directly. Or directing them to another high-quality source of help, or another individual who might have the resources they need, is a great form of support.

Opening just one door for another is generosity in action. Help doesn’t have to take hours and hours, and drain you to the point of exhaustion.

The key is to look at what is underneath your resentment and conflict around offering help. If it’s a reluctance to charge enough money or be fairly compensated for the service you’re offering, heal that reluctance (here’s more about changing your wealth programming.)  If it’s about not having any other way to help people than to charge them, brainstorm some new ways to be helpful. And finally, if it’s about your needing some help yourself, go out and ask for it today.

3. Are your negative thoughts about receiving requests for help coloring everything?

Finally, take a look at your chronic pattern of thought when it comes to people asking for help. When they come to you, do you immediately go to the negative place, thinking “Oh, no – not this again!” or “Can’t she just help herself for once?,” or “How dare he keep asking for help when I just gave it.” Perhaps as a child you were influenced by how your parents thought about people who asked for help.  Or maybe you were taught that asking for help means you’re weak and lazy. Examine how your negative thoughts about these requests may in fact be coloring your entire work-life experience.

Every time a request for help comes in, stop, breathe, and consciously make a decision about how you want to feel about it, and address it. Our thoughts shape what happens in our lives, and how we experience our work, so it’s important to gain awareness of them, and choose to think and feel the way we want to.

I’ve found that when we engage in this simple process – stop, breathe, and choose – not only do we feel better in the process of giving, but we set up the conditions to receive more respect, appreciation and gratitude for what we’re doing in the world.  We lose the resentment and the struggle, and that’s critical if we want more success and happiness.  If you’re angry and resentful about people reaching  out to you, then you’ll push away the positive as well as the negative.  Once we decide to consciously choose our reactions instead, life changes for the better. That, in turn, fills us up to be of greater help in ways that nourish and enliven us all along the way.

Are you feeling beleaguered by constant requests for free help?

6 Ways Pushing Past Your Comfort Zone Elevates You To The Next Level

 

As a women’s career coach and leadership developer, I’ve seen that one of the most damaging things you can do in your career is to stay for years where you’re comfortable. I’ve done it, and what often ensues is that you begin to doubt your value in the marketplace. You wonder if you really have the abilities and experience to succeed and thrive outside your current employer.

I’ve learned too (the hard way) that no job is secure. The only thing that is secure in life is you – your spirit, your heart, your talents and gifts, and your ability to contribute at a high level to something that matters to you in life. When you live from that knowledge and experience, you’ll find (and create) gainful, rewarding work no matter where you go, despite the turbulence around you. And to do that, you need to continually push yourself out of your comfort zone.

I recently connected with David Van Rooy, Walmart’s Senior Director of International Human Resources Strategy and Operations, who shared his insightful views about pushing yourself out of comfort as a critical career success move. David is responsible for working across Walmart’s non-US markets to develop and drive the execution of the international HR strategy. In his prior role at Walmart he was responsible for the world’s largest performance management and employee engagement programs, covering nearly 2.2 million employees globally. Before Walmart he held leadership roles at Marriott International and Burger King Corporation. David has a Ph.D. in Industrial and Organizational Psychology and has published over 20 peer reviewed scientific business articles and book chapters.

His book, Trajectory: 7 Career Strategies To Take You From Where You Are To Where You Want To Be explores the concept of Career Trajectory and how you can leverage your skills and create new possibilities around you to forge a positive path and reach your highest goals.

Here’s what David shared about the importance of pushing beyond your comfort zone:

“I’ve seen in my work at Walmart that maintaining placement as the top retailer requires staying ahead of change and a willingness to ‘swim upstream.’ So much of what everyone does at Walmart – whether it is the size or scale of an endeavor, or launching an entirely new idea – has never been done before. This can be daunting because it includes an element of risk and necessitates people stepping out of their comfort zones. The people who do this successfully are able to make a tremendously positive impact and find even more opportunities to make a difference. This can create a fast track for accelerating their career trajectory. It is possible to be successful maintaining the status quo, but true differentiation is achievable only for those who are willing to dive into new areas.

I learned a great deal about my own comfort zone recently. I was sitting in the dark and couldn’t see a single thing. My fingers were sticky and covered with food that I couldn’t see. I was highly uncomfortable and totally out of my element. And this was by design. It was part of an event called Dining in the Dark, which is intended to improve awareness and understanding of visual impairments.

Not only did it succeed with its mission, it made me think deeply about my own comfort levels in various situations – both at work and outside of work. I found that my natural instinct at the event was to do what made me comfortable, not what the blind people in attendance were comfortable with. But I would miss so much if I didn’t break through my lack of comfort.

The event reminded me of a time when I was forced out of my comfort zone at a critical juncture in my life. I was staring at multiple rejection letters from my preferred graduate schools and was beginning to wonder what I would do with my life if I didn’t receive an offer soon. I finally received one acceptance letter and it included both tuition coverage and a stipend. There was just one problem: it was in Miami, which wasn’t where I wanted to live. Growing up in Northern Michigan I had grown very comfortable with the “quiet life” and was anxious about what I would experience when I arrived in Miami. It started worse than I could have imagined. I had no car and my only transportation – my bike – was stolen the first week there. There were issues with my paperwork and I spent countless hours just trying to get enrolled in classes. I was struggling with a language barrier and cultural differences I had not experienced before. The caliber of students was intimidating and I wasn’t sure how I would match up. It seemed like I couldn’t get anything right, and I was beginning to wonder if I would last through the first semester.

But I worked through it and despite the many difficulties I encountered – including a failed initial defense of my thesis. I grew to love Miami, and embrace the challenges that came with it. For financial reasons I really had no choice but to leave my comfort zone in this situation, but I can’t imagine what my life would be like now if I hadn’t. I earned my Ph.D. there; met amazing people, including a great mentor who helped me in countless ways; got my first “real” job; met my wife. It’s also where I learned that maintaining comfort may be easier and safer, but it doesn’t often result in what is best for you. If you never feel uncomfortable in your life and career you are undoubtedly limiting your opportunities to do greater things than you might never have imagined.”

David shares how stepping out of your comfort zone brings 6 critical benefits that will liberate and empower you.

You will let perfection go.

Nobody is perfect – don’t expect it and don’t long for it. Let go of that unnecessary pressure. As soon as you accept this you will find that you will lose the hesitation that has held you back in the past. You will learn to take risks where before you would have run. With risk comes the chance of failure, but more importantly, a chance of greatness. Failure is a given when you take risks, but the more you can embrace and learn from it, the better off you’ll be in the long run.

You will inspire others.

What you do is noticed by others, whether you realize it or not. People are watching you, and what you do gives them an inspiring role model for growth and change. This applies not only at work, but at home with setting an example for your children. We all have a teacher or someone in our lives who unknowingly inspired and motivated us to do more than we thought we could. Taking risks and believing in yourself allows you to be that person for others.

You will have no regrets at the end.

To me the idea of running 26.2 miles for a marathon seemed preposterous and impossible. I never had any serious intention of running one, but agreed to give it a shot when my sister asked if I would do one with her. I may never run another marathon, but because I gave it my all I will never have lingering doubts about my performance. Had I held anything back I would have been left with regret and uncertainty about what I might have been able to do had I just pushed myself. Regrets come when we wonder, “What if?” yet don’t act. Don’t wonder – take the plunge.

You will define yourself authentically.

Comfort is often defined by doing what everyone else does – conforming to norms and to the pressure around you. By pushing yourself into new areas you will have a chance to authentically define who you are, and break free of the limitations of what others think you should be. You are then far freer to shape your career and your life as you truly want it.

You will gain control.

When you step out on your own path, you get to live and work on your own terms. Eventually you may be forced to break free of the limitations around you anyway, so take control now and become the one who sets the rules and initiates change. Having a sense of personal control is not only essential for well-being, but research has shown that it lowers stress and increases job satisfaction as well.

Your life experience will be fuller.

Those of us who’ve been forced to change understand that what is comforting is often not what is best for you. Leaving your comfort zone can create a tremendous feeling of euphoria and self-respect as you learn what you are truly capable of doing and creating, which is far greater and more expansive than you ever dreamed. Pushing past your limits helps you find the fulfillment, excitement, and meaning you have been searching for in all the wrong places.

If you never leave your comfort zone you are likely sabotaging your chances for lasting success and happiness. Don’t be afraid to try something new in any aspect of your life. You will find you are more resilient, capable and courageous than you once believed, and as you rise to these challenges, more exciting ones are waiting in the wings.

Ask yourself, when was the last time you really wanted to try something but you shied away? Next time you find yourself hesitating, go for it. The reward (and the lessons learned) will be, without question, worth the risk.

To learn more about David Van Rooy and his new book Trajectory, visit www.liveyourtrajectory.com and connect with him via Twitter and LinkedIn.

(To build a happier, more successful career, take my 6-Day Amazing Career Challenge and join my community at KathyCaprino.com.)

5 Strategies For Staying Mentally Strong In the Midst of Emotional Challenge

 

In late 2013, I was intrigued to watch a friend’s article on Forbes.com begin to balloon and reach millions. Cheryl Snapp Conner’s post featuring psychologist Amy Morin’s insights on Mentally Strong People: The 13 Things They Avoid, hit an international nerve and is now one of the most read post on Forbes.com.

Interested to learn more from Amy about the back story of this piece, and how she identified these 13 critical ways mentally strong people stay resilient and retain their strength, I asked Amy to share her events that led up to this tremendous hit. Now an internationally recognized expert on mental strength, Amy is a psychotherapist, speaker, college psychology instructor and the author of the great new book 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do.

Amy shared this:
In the Fall of 2013, I found myself in a surreal situation. Celebrities were tweeting my work, national figures were talking about me on the radio, and I was being interviewed by major media outlets across the world.

A mere 600 words, written just weeks earlier, had launched me into the midst of a viral super storm. Within hours of being published to the web, my work was read and shared millions of times. Just a few days later the list was reprinted on Forbes, where it reached nearly 10 million more readers.

It seemed like everyone in the media had the same question – “How did you come up with your list of the 13 things mentally strong people don’t do?” I always responded by explaining the concepts were based on my training, education, and experiences as a therapist. While that was true, it certainly wasn’t the whole story. But, I wasn’t ready to reveal the painful situation that was still unfolding around me on national television. Now I am.

In 2003, my mother passed away suddenly from a brain aneurysm. Then, on the three year anniversary of her death, my 26-year-old husband passed away from a heart attack. While publicly helping others deal with their emotional pain as a therapist, I’d spent years privately working through my grief. It was hard work but I made slow but steady progress.

A few years later, I was fortunate enough to find love again and I got remarried. Just as I felt grateful for my fresh start however, my father-in-law was diagnosed with terminal cancer and I found myself thinking, “I don’t want to go through this all over again.” But just as quickly as I began to feel sorry for myself, I was reminded that self-pity would only make things worse.

I sat down and created my list of the unhealthy habits I needed to avoid if I wanted to stay strong while facing my inevitable circumstances. When I was done, I had a list of 13 thoughts, behaviors, and feelings that would hold me back from facing my circumstances with strength and courage. Although the list was meant to be a letter to myself, I published it online in hopes someone else may find it helpful. I never imagined millions of people would read it.

Throughout my painful experiences, there were five critical strategies that helped me personally stay mentally strong during my time of emotional trauma and pain:

1. Exchanging self-pity for gratitude
When life became difficult, I was tempted to exaggerate my own despair. Losing my loved ones was certainly terrible, but I still had much to feel grateful about.After all, I had a job, a roof over my head, and food to eat.

Whenever I’d begin feeling sorry for myself, I’d create a list of all the things I had to be grateful for. It wouldn’t take long to recognize all the loving, supportive people I still had in my life. And it served as a wonderful reminder, that although some of my loved ones were no longer here, I was fortunate to have had them in my life.

2. Focusing on what I could control
The repeated losses in my life served as a reminder that there are many things I didn’t have any control over. Wasting energy focusing on all those things however, wouldn’t be helpful. Instead, I needed to focus all my energy on the things I could control.

And no matter what, the one thing I could always control was my attitude. I could choose to allow my difficult circumstances to turn me into an angry, bitter person or I could choose to remain a hopeful, positive person with a desire to become better. Focusing on all that I could control – whether it was helping a family member with a practical task or making a decision about my finances – helped me recognize that I wasn’t simply a victim of my circumstances. Instead, I was able to create a wonderful life for myself by making the most of every day.

3. Living in the present
The loss of my loved ones tempted me to dwell on the past. After all, the past was where my loved ones were still alive. And I feared that if I didn’t constantly think about the past, or if I moved forward, I’d somehow be doing them a disservice.

It takes courage to make the conscious decision to live fully present in each moment, rather than ruminate on how life used to be. But once I was able to shift my focus to honoring my loved one’s memory – rather than trying to prevent life from moving forward – I was able to begin fully enjoying life again.

4. Retaining my personal power
When I was going through tough times, everyone had an opinion about what was best for me. Although their intentions were well-meaning, doing things simply because others advised me to wouldn’t be helpful.

I had to deal with my grief in my own way and I needed to create my own plan for how I was going to move forward in life. Taking ownership meant I couldn’t blame anyone else. Instead, I had to accept personal responsibility for my thoughts, behaviors, and feelings.

5. Embracing change
My world changed drastically over the course of a few years. And, although it was tempting to dig in my heels and try to prevent my world from changing, it wasn’t going to be helpful. I had to embrace change – whether or not it was welcomed.

I had to create a new sense of normalcy without my loved ones present. Often, that meant giving up certain goals or activities that were no longer meaningful and searching for new opportunities that would give me purpose. Embracing those changes allowed me to move forward and create a fulfilling life for myself.

* * * * * *
Amy’s advice is both powerful and empowering. As holocaust survivor and renowned psychiatrist Viktor Frankl shared in his life-changing book Man’s Search for Meaning, “…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.”

Check out Amy’s new book 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do, and learn more about her work at http://amymorinlcsw.com.

(To build a more successful and rewarding career, visit kathycaprino.com and take my 6-day Amazing Career Challenge.)

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