Newsletter Signup




Tag Archives: Kathy Caprino

Here’s Why We Remain Stuck In Careers We Hate – 8 Essential Reasons


Speaking with people every day who are in careers or jobs they hate, I’ve asked myself, “How did we get here?  How has it happened that so many thousands of people have become despondent, angry and lost about what they do for a living?”

Clearly, there are many factors at play here, including the rise of technology – that makes setting boundaries around our professional lives virtually impossible.  Further, in the past 30 years, we’ve become slaves to the almighty dollar, addicted to acquiring things we can’t afford, which keeps us working longer and harder just to break even.  And, the cost of living is so high for so many, that just making ends meet is tough.  Additionally, many people have jumped into jobs or fields early in their careers, only to discover 10 or 20 years later that they can’t break free.

But I believe there are even deeper reasons for this epidemic of people hating what they do each day for their living.  These reasons touch on underlying emotional, spiritual and behavioral conditions, and reveal a deep disconnection to what it means to live joyfully, authentically, and meaningfully.

By the way, I’m fully prepared to receive comments on this post that debunk it, such as: “Yeah sure, Kathy, you can talk about having a meaningful career, but I’m a single parent with two kids and can’t afford the luxury of liking my work.”


“This is nonsense – work is work, and you should change your expectations if you think you’re going to love it.”

I’ve heard these types of comments by the hundreds.

I learned as a therapist that when people feel completely stuck, they get angry and defensive – like a caged animal.  They experience themselves as victimized and backed into a tight, dark corner.  They just can’t see a way out.  But from my vantage point (and after reinventing my career from miserable corporate VP to supremely fulfilled coach, consultant and business owner), there is always a way out; there are always new options and solutions but often we just can’t see them.  Anyone and everyone can make their lives better, more satisfying, more enjoyable, but only if you believe that having more fulfillment or joy in your life or career is a goal worth trying for and within your reach (eventually).

Based on feedback I’ve received from thousands of professionals here and abroad, I’ve observed the following eight core reasons why people remain stuck in careers they hate.  As I share these, please know I’m not sitting in judgment of any of these; in fact, I’ve lived through each and every one of these conditions.

1. You don’t know yourself deeply enough

The vast majority of people I see in the workplace just don’t know themselves at all.  When asked, “What’s your top priority in life and in your career?  What would you give up anything for?” or “When you’re 90 looking back, what do you want to have done, been, and left behind? ” I get blank stares and mouths hanging open.  People don’t know themselves well or deeply today.  Why?  Perhaps we don’t make time in our lives to get to know ourselves – we’re just too over-the-top busy.  Or perhaps the process of knowing oneself deeply is intimidating and scary.  Whatever the reason – if you don’t know who you are, at your core, and what you stand for and care about, how can you lead a life that aligns with your needs, values, and interests? (My free Career Path Self-Assessment will help you get to know yourself better.)

2. You know yourself, but you make yourself wrong

I’ve seen that women in particular might know themselves and identify what they want, but they make themselves wrong about it.  They tell themselves, “Yeah, I want to change, but I’m wrong or foolish (or selfish) to feel that way.”  Or “I’m lucky to have a job, so I shouldn’t rock the boat” or “I have so much – I should just feel blessed and not complain.”  So many people (women in particular) doubt the validity of their feelings or repress their deepest longings because they think they’re wrong to have them.  Until you can make yourself “right” about what you feel, you won’t find peace or joy.

3. You’ve lost the courage to act

For many who know what they want, they’ve lost the courage to take BOLD action.  We’ve been seduced by some misguided concept that life should always be easy.  Where did we get that idea?  Making change is never easy (it’s scary and threatens the status quo), but it’s so worth it, especially if you hate where you are today. It takes courage, grit, and commitment to bring about lasting change, and you can do it, but only if you decide to connect to your own internal power, courage and fortitude.  (Check out my book Breakdown Breakthrough for real-life stories of courageous women who’ve transformed their lives and careers.)

4. You’ve prioritized outer “rewards” (or other people’s needs) over your own happiness

This reason is yours if you can answer “Yes” to this question: “Are you staying in a career that makes you miserable solely because you think it’s the only one that will keep paying you what you want?”  If money is keeping you stuck, it’s time you think about prioritizing your happiness over your checkbook.  How much money do you truly need?  Is your current lifestyle so important to you that you’d trade it over your health, happiness, relationship, and your well-being?  Of course you have to pay your bills and meet your financial obligations – I’m not suggesting for a minute that you don’t.  I am however recommending that you revisit how you live and what you truly need.  Meeting your financial obligations doesn’t have to mean that you have to be angry, thwarted, unhappy and sick for the rest of your life.

5. You’ve been brainwashed by the myth that you’ll go broke if you pursue work you love

There’s a prevalent myth in the U.S. today that if you pursue your passions and do rewarding work, you’ll go broke. Another version of this damaging myth is that work is supposed to be grueling, challenging and unsatisfying.  We look at people who love their work and we hate them.  We say, “Yeah, she’s doing what she wants to, but that’s because she was (lucky, born into it, inherited money, beautiful, privileged, etc.)  And I can’t do that because ___.”  We give ourselves thousands of reasons why loving what we do professionally just isn’t in the cards for us.  We do that because it’s too painful for us to watch other people thrive and adore their work.  We want it to be impossible because it seems so unattainable and so far away from us.

6. Your emotional overwhelm sabotages you

Every day I see individuals who are highly competent, smart, achievement oriented and outwardly successful, but are in terrible emotional overwhelm – they’re gripped by anxiety, fear, feeling victimized, and they lack the ability to speak up authoritatively or with command.  They’re in a constant state of paralyzing emotional overwhelm.  The emotionality of their lives keeps them from reasoning through effective solutions and strategies, or finding the physical energy to make a change.

7. Your shame and vulnerability keep you from getting help

One of my favorite author/speakers – Brene Brown – is a shame and vulnerability researcher (don’t miss her great TED Talk here.)  She shares her findings that vulnerability is at the heart of living life full out.  If we’re afraid of appearing and feeling vulnerable, then we blunt all of the other experiences/emotions we desperately long for, including happiness, connection, empathy, love and more. Further, if you need to appear the “expert” and won’t admit your flaws, foibles, or “gaps,” you’ll never get the help you need to make life change.  As Einstein has said, “You can’t solve a problem on the level of consciousness that created it.”

8. You’ve forgotten what career bliss, and true happiness, feel like

Finally, the most depressing reason of all is that you’ve simply forgotten what it feels like to be happy and joyful in your work.  You can’t remember the last time you said about your work, “That was a great day well spent!”  or “What a joy to do this work!” We all strive so hard to achieve, win, or survive – and we’re so beaten down by it — that many have lost touch with what true joy feels and looks like, and we’ve forgotten to want it.

If any of these reasons resonate for you, there’s only one choice to make – stay put in your misery or make a bold change. It’s truly that simple – not easy, certainly, but simple.

What choice will you make – a career you hate or something better?

(To build a successful, rewarding career you love, join me today in my Amazing Career Project career transformation program.)

How To Tell When Your Gut Is Leading You Astray


Recently, I conducted an interview with Herminia Ibarra around the idea that being overly attached to your own authenticity may in fact be holding you back. A controversial idea for sure, it explores that if we’re too wedded to what we have been and who we think we are now, we’ll perhaps be too afraid of and resistant to stretch beyond that concept, because it doesn’t feel like the “real” us to stretch beyond our existing self-definition. I’m a huge fan of authenticity, because I was so constrained in my former corporate life and felt I simply couldn’t be real, transparent and honest, ever. But I see what Herminia means and have to agree.

In fact, I believe that the same problem exists with regard to following our “gut instincts.” I’m not talking here about hard-wired human survival instincts, but about the natural, intuitive way of acting or thinking that each of us has personally developed through the specific experiences of our lives. Other words for the type of instinct I’m talking about are: natural tendency, inclination, urge, drive, compulsion, hunches, and your gut “feeling.”

Regarding these instincts, there are times when our gut is right on, and tells us accurately what to avoid — or pursue — in order to grow and thrive. But often, our instincts are not the best signals to follow, in isolation. They may tell us to run like the wind away from new, stretching experiences and opportunities that are “perceived” threats but in fact would bring us to a higher level of success, satisfaction and reward. Sometimes, you experience the same level of fear and high alert when contemplating significant positive change as you would if you were in a potentially life-threatening situation. Our instincts try to keep us safe and secure, but “safe” in our lives and livelihoods can often bring misery, pain and suffering. My instincts told me to “tough it out, Kathy!” and “C’mon, be a survivor!” and “You’re weak if you give up too soon,” or “Don’t let them get the better of you,” during the very tough times in my corporate career. Sadly, those instincts guided me on a long detour that took years to recover from.

What should we do then? How can we know when we should we follow our instincts, disregard them completely, or balance them with other signals?

I’ve seen that when 6 conditions are present, you need to be extra vigilant to avoid blindly following what your gut tells you to do, and instead, weigh all the other important factors before you make a decision.

These 6 conditions are:

You’re deathly afraid to stretch beyond where you are today.

I’ve connected with literally thousands of professionals in the past 10 years as a coach and a therapist, and I cannot count the times I’ve heard people say “I’m scared to make change.” The “what if” syndrome keeps so many planted firmly in one place, paralyzed, until a crisis hits like a cosmic 2×4’ across their faces and wakes them up. Human beings naturally want to grow and become more, but our fears, insecurities and anxieties can thwart that process. If you want more in your life and livelihood, but find yourself afraid to move, then listen to your heart and your mind as well as your gut. Say “yes” to stretching.

You don’t know yourself or what you want, so your gut says “Stay put!”

If you don’t know yourself – what you want, what you care about, who you are uniquely and what you have to offer the world (in short, if you’re walking unconsciously through life), then your natural intuitive reactions aren’t going to help you, because they’re not based on the authentic you, but on some smaller version that you’ve been taught to see. You’ll miss the real clues about the real life you want to live. Once you open your mind up to the possibility that you deserve better than unhappiness, disrespect or lack of fulfillment, and then dimensionalize for yourself what a happier life and career would be, your instincts can start supporting you better. You have to understand more about what you value and care about, and what gives your life meaning and what you deserve. You need to create a map. But if you remain unconscious and oblivious, your instinctive way of behaving won’t take you in a positive direction.

You have an intense negative reaction to an individual, and think you know why (but actually you don’t).

I’ve had this experience numerous times recently, until I finally “got it.” Just because you have an intensely negative reaction to someone doesn’t necessarily mean you should run from them, or shun them. Sometimes it means that they’re “perturbing your system” – agitating you, clashing with your worldview or values, and threatening the way you think and feel. And sometimes you’re intimidated and jealous but you just don’t want to admit it. When this happens, it’s a sign that your worldview and thinking need some expansion or revision. Your discomfort and agitation with people who are very different from you – or with people who are 10 steps ahead of you in ways you’re envious of — need examining. In these cases, it’s helpful to look more deeply at what specifically threatens and disturbs you, to make sure your bruised and fragile ego isn’t getting in the way.

You’re driven to say “yes” to a terrible job or career move solely because of the money.

Many career professionals come to coaching confused about how to decide on a number of alternatives in front of them. They haven’t formulated a solid decision making process for themselves, so they’re thinking they’ll just go with their gut. The problem is, they’re so consumed with financial worries that their gut tells them to “Take the money!!” even when there are a million other signs that this next move or job would be a disaster, and even when they have other better options in front of them. If you’re in terrible financial straits, or have deep, long-standing fear and trauma over money, you need to address your money challenges in an empowered way, quickly. The answer isn’t to take a terrible job that you’ll fail at or lose. The answer is to strengthen your financial management skills and your overall relationship with money so that you can create more financial stability, which in turn will pave the way for more positive outcomes and opportunities.

You fear that “there will never be anything better than this, so I have to settle.”

I remember when I was a young adult, I was in a relationship I wasn’t happy with, but I was afraid to break up with my boyfriend for fear that no one would love me as he did.  I asked my beloved father what to do. He said something I’ll never forget: “Kathy, if you’re staying with him only because you think you’ll never experience a happier relationship, then it’s time to go. Don’t settle.” That was the best advice he ever gave me. If your gut is telling you to settle and compromise in your life or career because you’re afraid you don’t deserve something better or won’t ever get it, then your “instincts” have been programmed with the wrong input.

You’re driven to leap to new direction and run away – chucking everything because of the pain you’re in.

Finally, if you’re in a lot of pain and anguish over your current job, career or professional situation, you might be driven to just quit and run – chuck it all, walk away and never look back.  What I learned in my therapy training, however, is that this wish to run is called “emotional cutoff” – attempting to manage our unresolved emotional issues with family members and colleagues by reducing or totally cutting off emotional contact with them. The problem is, if you haven’t learned how to deal with these situations in a more positive way, they will very likely repeat themselves again and again, until you do. The better solution is to find new ways to improve your situation and relationships right now – today. Whether it’s a toxic boss, being passed over for a promotion, having your ideas ignored, or feeling undervalued – start behaving differently in your work and taking empowered, authoritative steps to rectify these situations in a strong, confident way. If you don’t, these painful situations will re-emerge in the next role.

What is your gut telling you to do now, and what other signals should you be heeding?

(To learn when NOT to listen to your gut but to stretch boldly instead, join me in my free webinar training Fast Track To Career Bliss.)

23 Quotes to Inspire Joy


This year, working with my wonderful marketing partner Jayme Johnson of Worthy Marketing Group  (who’s an amazingly talented artist and designer) I’ve had a ball letting my creative juices flow a bit more, and designing photo images with quotes all aimed to help you tap into your creativity, your gifts and talents, and your passions, and share them with the world.

Here’s a compilation of my latest quotes. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed co-creating them!


Here’s to inspiring more joy, boldness and fulfillment in your life and work. It’s YOUR time.

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 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.)

Career Path Self-Assessment

6 Days to a Happier Career!

Subscribe and get my:

6-Day Amazing Career Email Challenge
Career Path
Self-Assessment Survey