Tag Archives: goals

11 Ways to Move Forward When You Feel Stuck

photo cred: lauren-mancke via unsplash

No matter how meaningful your work, everyone feels stuck sometimes. Here are research-based quick, easy actions for getting past the inertia and taking action when you are feeling stuck. Pick one when you are resisting moving forward or are generally stuck on what’s next.

  1. Plan ahead. Make a task list for your day (or week) the evening (or weekend) before. In the morning, go through your list of to-dos in a mechanical way. Nothing to think about. No decisions to make. Look at your list and do it.
  2. Don’t worry alone.* If you cannot get out of your own head or past your resistance, call a friend who believes in you. Make a pact with someone who will be there for you, with an ear of support. Promise to always answer calls from one another and to only take a few minutes.
  3. Take a shower. There is actually science behind this method. A shower enacts cornerstones of creativity including: dopamine release, relaxation, and distraction from decision making. Some creatives/innovators are known to take several showers a day when in the middle of a project.
  4. Exercise. Go for a quick walk. Try an interval app. Jog in place. Do 20 jumping jacks. Stand in mountain pose.
  5. Take a micro-action daily. Break down your to-do’s into steps that seem ridiculously easy. This is the most effective way to break free of inertia.  
  6. Clear out a drawer or quit an activity. Clearing physical space or your schedule can clear your mind and energy too.
  7. Use the power of morning pages. Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way, suggests starting each day with a written braindump – no agenda, no worrying about how it sounds. Even if you write, “I don’t know what to write over and over again.” I’d say start with one page and see if it helps free your energy.
  8. Know your goal. Remind yourself every day where you are headed and WHY. Write your BIG goal and your WHY down everyday. If you are unclear on your goal, download this exercise from Reclaim Your Dreams to get started.
  9. Read every word of The Art of War.  In his book Steven Pressfield focuses on how to move forward on creative projects and work through resistance.
  10. Start with thanks. Begin every day with a list of one to three things you are super grateful for.
  11. Rest. Don’t quit. We all need a break so step away from the computer and take a nap or grab a cup of tea or….you name it.

*Thanks to Dr. Halowell via Marie Forleo for this gem of a quote.

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The Power of the Sh*tty First Draft

One day you will wake up and there won’t be any more time to do the things you’ve always wanted to do.” -Paul Coehlo


For many years, I didn’t move forward on what I truly desired; there were many factors holding me back.  Now, I see my most significant barrier was expecting absolute clarity and preparedness before moving forward. In other words, I was waiting to be perfectly ready and for a direction to be so unambiguous that there would be no doubt as to whether or not it was the right path for me.

That was a long time ago and you won’t be surprised to hear that I thought and worried a lot about my dreams and goals, but didn’t make much progress. Everything changed when I started to apply the concept of the sh*tty first draft. Anne Lamott, NYT best-seller author, describes the concept in her book on writing, Bird by Bird: Instructions on Writing and Life

“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft. I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won’t have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren’t even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they’re doing it.”

Of course, this sense of doing it just right applies to more than just writing. It is relevant to starting a business or choosing a new career path or starting a blog or showing your photography or going back to school or…

Rather than waiting to be ready to start or 100 percent positive that I was choosing the right goal or creative project (read having the experience and expertise of someone who had already done it well), I started to produce sh*tty first (and second and third) drafts, by taking imperfect action.

And although mistakes are a part of the process, the sh*tty first draft is how I became a VP and Leadership Board member at a start-up, started my own technology consulting company, co-founded my first girl empowerment company, wrote my first book, traveled to India with Habitat Humanity, backpacked through Europe, and how my admittedly non-athletic self even ran my first 5k and sprint triathlon.

All, because I was ready to take imperfect action, sometimes in a very public way. I was (and still am) willing to be a novice, even when I feel embarrassed because what I am producing doesn’t match my high standards or creative expectations.

That’s how I made real progress and you can too! So, don’t wait, okay? I am down with reflecting, preparing and planning as many of you know, but action is the only way you will make progress and gain clarity.

Take 5

For more inspiration, check out this video by Ira Glass on taste and the gap. Then start working on your sh*tty first draft today.

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Why You Should Do It Badly


“If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly.” C.K. Chesterton

Recently, a psychologist who I deeply respect sent me an email regarding my book for teens, Take 5 for Your Dreams. Here’s an excerpt:

“I was nearly in tears reading your beautiful book…Somehow you were able to take such huge concepts and bring them into focus for moms and teens in a way that was just beautiful – I love the graphics too!”

OMGosh, are you kidding me?! I respect her work with women and teens and was humbled by how clearly she captured the intent and essence of the book. She also passed the book onto a few friends who run mother-daughter book clubs. Wow. Really? That’s quite an endorsement.

But, in addition to taking in all of her juicy, feel-good encouragements, I felt a little embarrassed that she read my book…and had to resist the urge to enumerate the major flaws and inadequacies of the book in my reply. Not out of insecurity, but because objectively Take 5 could be a whole lot better and a part of me wanted her to know that I knew that.

But I did talk myself out it…that would not serve a useful purpose. As imperfect as it is, Take 5 has also impacted thousands in a positive way. Besides, despite its flaws, I did it – I published a book about a topic that matters deeply to me, all while raising two kids and running a profitable consultancy business. The process was pretty darn messy, but also incredibly rewarding. 

The moral of the story is do something that is so important to you that it is worth doing badly. Please don’t wait until you’re ready. Don’t let perfect get in the way of making your difference in the world and living a happier life. Don’t wait for the perfect timing because we all know when that will be. Most importantly, whatever you do, don’t wait for permission to do that thing you want to do.

Other than newborns and nature, I have never seen any flawless work released into the world. Start today. Do something that it is so important to you that it is worth doing badly.

Love, Paula

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7 Reasons Your Start-Up Isn’t Working (and How to Fix it)

Photo by: Marco Verch, CreativeCommons.

Photo by: Marco Verch, CreativeCommons.

Many of the women in the Reclaim Your Dreams community start entrepreneurial ventures. Starting a business can be hard (even when it is your dream), but for many of us the freedom, meaning, and financial upside make it worth the risk and challenges.

As I look to 2017 and my personal and professional goals, I have been considering what mistakes companies that I have worked with make (never me, my execution is flawless) as they move toward traction-point. Not always, but my experience is major issues pretty consistently comes down to not addressing the following fundamentals. (Interesting that these same principles apply to other goals too.)

  1. Unclear vision. Know where you are going. Being firmly committed to providing a product or service that provides benefit to a particular customer is always the starting point. Write down the answer to these three questions and you will have the start of your vision. What’s your product or service? Who is your target customer? Why is it important (beneficial, life-changing, impactful, etc.)?
  2. Bad idea. Evaluate your idea and ensure that it is providing significant value to your target audience. Every day I drive through a small town center. Among the flourishing storefronts, I have seen many business failures. For the most part, it’s been painfully obvious from the moment that they opened their doors (even to my kids – who would do there?!) that the owner did not have a viable business model. Business success is not guaranteed, of course, but you can reduce your risk of failure. Start by completing some baseline market research. Also drill down on a revenue and expense model to ensure that you will be able to make a profit.
  3. No short-term goal. Research shows people achieve goals when they are no more than eighteen months away. Beyond that, know what action you are going to take today. I love big visions, but every business needs short-term goals as well. What are the goals of your business in the next six months to one year? I recommend three goals: a revenue, give-back, and organizational.
  4. Doing too much. Focus is non-negotiable, especially if you are bootstrapping your business. It may feel counter-intuitive, but the more you hone your focus the larger your market opportunity. Commit to one product or service to a very targeted customer and expand from there.
  5. Poor business development plan. Let your customers know that you exist and why! Build it and they will come is a nice idea, but who is they and how will they know you exist? Many business owners avoid selling because they don’t like to feel sales-y.   Your job is providing information to your potential customers and it’s up to them to determine whether or not it’s beneficial.
  6. Not hitting launch on your imperfect product. No action. No progress. The new business model favors businesses that are willing to launch imperfect products. It’s easy to get derailed by unimportant tasks or the next shiny idea to talking about your plans. Once you know your goals for the year and have a plan, start every single day with essential micro steps that will move you toward that goal. If the unexpected happens, hustle like a motha and figure out your Plan B for staying on track.
  7. No support. Bootstrapping a new venture can be a lonely endeavor; know who your go-to business peeps are. It’s a better alternative than wringing your hands or hiding under a blanket eating a pint of ice cream when you encounter an obstacle or make a mistake.

You may need to adjust and rework, but address these issues one step at a time and you will increase your likelihood of success tenfold!!

Take 5: Write down your company vision and/or your six to twelve month goal.

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5 Ways to Hustle Like a Motha’

untitled-design-2The word hustle is often used by online marketers to describe the relentless hard work of moving toward a vision or dream. When I read the bravado on this topic, it annoys me. Not because I judge ambition. I love and respect ambitious and hardworking people (including my own)! But I know what the hustle looks like when you have kids or are a caregiver (and/or are working a full-time while starting your dream business) and it doesn’t look like most of what I see online.

Recently, I made my perfect Monday hustle plan on Sunday evening including a check in call first thing Monday morning with a colleague that is my writing buddy who helps me keep on track with my writing goals.

Great structure and accountability habit, right?! …Except my son was running late for school (which he never is) and missed the bus. We planned to speak a little later than usual…but her mom, who is in the early stages of dementia, needed to be taken to an emergency appointment. (Backdrop…my colleague also has two teens and runs a very successful acupuncture business.) Early afternoon then? Well, typically, but my daughter was sick and had to be picked up from school. Although my husband works from home, he was at a meeting in Boston.

When you are responsible for other humans, hustle can feel disjointed some days even for those of us that have the luxury of working from home and have supportive partners to share the load. (The woman that waited on me at Starbucks this morning is not as fortunate.) The rhythm may be different and the pace even a little slower than you would like sometimes, but it is doable to make the professional progress you desire in the midst of it all. I have done it in my own life and have witnessed many other women (including some of you) doing it too. Here’s how I hustle like a mother:

  1. Know your goal, why it’s important to you, and write that sucker down.  It sounds trivial but this is the most important step. Without clarity of purpose, there is always a reason to not get something done. Exceptions are more the rule in life. The question I always ask about my goal is “how can I get this done despite my current circumstances?”
  2. Narrow your focus by quitting. I hate this one because I want to be helpful all the time to everyone. Last year I learned how critical it is to narrow focus to one or two specific goals for the year. Even dreams need to be prioritized. I rarely say an immediate “yes” to anything anymore. For example, I wouldn’t have grown a technology practice to seven figures, started the What’s Your Brave project or written Take 5 for Your Dreams and Reclaim Your Dreams if I hadn’t resigned from almost every volunteer commitment I had (and the list was long). This is hard for me; I still feel guilty about it sometimes. But I was replaceable – and I mean that in the kindest way; when it comes to volunteering/work, we all are.
  3. Plan your one non-negotiable action the night before. And I mean ONE. I make the day’s plan the evening before, know what the one non-negotiable priority for my day is and chunk that out into one to five essential micro steps I can accomplish to get there. 
  4. Focus on values. I don’t want to hire out picking up my sick daughter and my colleague wants to take care of her mom. Now that my kids are getting a little older, I see these moments as opportunities to connect rather than interruptions and distractions, but I also have vocational goals that I feel called toward and I am not willing to sacrifice those either. Now I know my values. I don’t need to clean my house or lead volunteer committees, but I want to spend as much time with my kids as I can and move forward on my vocational dream.
  5. Practice self-compassion. (Or alternatively, a who-cares attitude about stuff that doesn’t matter to you.) It never doesn’t always look pretty and my house is kind of a mess, but I am learning to keep it in perspective. 

Did I hustle that Monday in the midst of it all? You bet, though not at the time or in the way I prefer. Rather than putting my goal off until the next day, I asked, how can I get this done now despite the changes in my schedule? Later that day, I went for a quick run which always stimulates ideas and wrote in my car. It wasn’t pretty or perfect, but it was done.

How about you? How do you hustle like a mother?

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4 Actions You Can Take While You Are Working *Only* for the Money

My job is soul-sucking.

It’s not the first time I have heard this phrase from someone that is miserable in their work. Many people that are deeply unsatisfied and unhappy at their jobs describe an oppressive (and sometimes hostile) daily existence including: a lack of trust in their co-workers or management, feeling pressure to perform without support (or sometimes active sabotaging), political game playing such as others taking credit for their work, experiencing subtle or overt sexism, finding the work meaningless, boring, or in some cases morally bankrupt, etc…

Others say they feel as though they are not living up to their potential or want to be involved in work and people that matter to them. At some point during the conversation, I usually ask:

So why not quit?

And the response:

I can’t afford it.

This is smart response. Financial security and taking care of your family are meaningful reasons to stay at your soul-sucking job temporarily. If timing is your choice, I never recommend quitting your current position without a transition plan and an understanding of what’s next for you.

Sometimes though, especially for those in high-paying and/or prestigious positions, the conversation leads to staying because of the importance of maintaining a certain lifestyle.

Reminder: A few weeks of family vacation where you worry about your work often, that beautiful house where you can’t sleep without medication, or weekend’s where you feel depressed and exhausted…is not much of a lifestyle.

Whether you are at a soul-sucking job or simply want to do something bigger or more meaningful, there is a third option. Stay while you plan your escape by:

  1. Saving. Reduce or alleviate the financial risk of making a big shift. Reduce your expenses, get a second job, support your spouse in working, or start a side gig. Most people that are unhappy at work feel that they do not have any other choice but to stay. Without some level of financial safety net, the risk and anxiety of leaving your job may be too significant.
  2. Dreaming. There is zero risk in dreaming about what you want. Carve out even five minutes a day to explore and be intentional about your work and life dreams by asking yourself the big questions. Reflect on what it is most important to you in the next phase of work and life.  With the right questions and process in a short time you will see patterns and a direction emerge. Reconnect with your dreams first and then get very practical about what is feasible and what would be a financially profitably way to approach it. Here are a couple of questions to get you started. Remember these are brainstorming exercises, so no filter and no right or wrong answer. This is between you and you.  Your answers may range from specific and small to visionary to vague: If time, money, or the opinion of others were not a factor, what goals and activities would you pursue? What issues, causes, and problems that need solving have you been particularly drawn to.
  3. Taking micro steps. Don’t stop with dreaming, because without action (and eventually a plan), you won’t make progress. Once you know what you want, then start making a list of infinitesimal, doable steps you can take toward it.
  4. Finding something meaningful in your work now. Bringing more of yourself into your life can help. Try one of these every day: write down one way in which you are contributing in a positive way to your company; start the day by recording one thing you are grateful for at work; reach out consciously to someone at work with a kind or encouraging word; go outside at lunch and breathe the fresh air; or brainstorm out-of-the-box ideas to help your company that would also fuel your own passions.

How about you, what one small, infinitesimal step can you take to begin toward work that is meaningful to you?


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How to Do Anything That Scares You

This summer a friend called and asked if my son and I wanted to join her family with some other friends on a whitewater river FUN-yaking tour.

Some people step out of their comfort zone when they give a presentation or take a business risk. For me, it happens taking any serious (and my definition of serious has an admittedly low bar) physical adventure. But, really how difficult can a river trip called, “FUN-yaking” be? Feel the fear and do it anyway, right!

So yay, I pictured a lazy river ride like this:



And said, “We are in?!”

On the day of our fun adventure, I started to feel a little worried when we arrived at the site, and there were helmet and life vest fittings involved. But this again, makes perfect sense. They were a reputable company, right? So safety first and of course, liability issues and all. (Do I even know how to kayak?)

Then the nice lady in charge began her safety presentation…including techniques on breaking free if we got stuck on a rock (or I should say I, because you run solo on a fun-yak just you and the beautiful frickin’ river).

She mentioned that you were not to get out of your kayak (where’s the fun prefix?) under any circumstances. It was when she explained how to keep still on your back with arms and legs up when if you flipped over to avoid getting trapped between two rocks and drowning that I was convinced we were headed for this:


And that is pretty much the picture (slight hyperbole), I carried for the bus ride to the launch site and I continued feeling panicked worried until we boarded our fun-yaks and started paddling.

As it turned out, the conditions weren’t quite a river of glass, but were obviously not even close to the Class 5 rapids I was anticipating. A good work out with some fun and easy waves. I did (like everyone) get stuck on a few rock because the water was low in spots, but I used the graceless shimmy technique I learned during the safety lesson (or got help from another fun-yaker) and was on my way. Everyone had a blast and I was all in for trying one of the whitewater rafting trips (Class 3 and 4) that they also run on the river.

My fun-yaking experience reminds me of what happens when we pursue big, meaningful work or take other life risks that take us out of our comfort zone. Going for it always seems like a great idea to start. Then when it is time to take action, fear sets in and you imagine overwhelming and insurmountable circumstances (most of the time not supported by fact). But if you take action, you find it’s almost always scariest before you start. Though you may hit obstacles, you figure it out and use what you know (or get help) to move toward your goal (of getting out of the fun-yak as quickly as possible – kidding.)

Take 5

What’s the easiest way to pursue a dream that scares you? It’s usually scariest before you start, so start taking small actions as soon as you can. 

Is there a dream you would like to pursue, but feels overwhelming? Identify one small action you can take toward it today.

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Where to Start When You’ve Lost Touch with Your Dreams


woman thinking boat shutterstock“I will start by letting you know that I am so out of touch with what I really want that I have to ask my husband what I like.”

That’s how Shannon an independent, put-together and highly successful 50-something business executive introduced herself during a recent Reclaim Your Dreams program.

Although I haven’t ever heard it put in this jarring way before, her sentiment of feeling disconnected from her personal desires and dreams is a reoccurring theme with many of the women that I have met and worked with over the last six months.

Shannon has impressive credentials – an advanced degree in math (way before females in STEM were cool) and a current executive role in the software sector of the technology industry.

The problem was – it wasn’t her impressive. The hours were long, the environment soul sucking, and here is the part that matters most – she lacked passion for the work. Conscientious and skilled at execution, Shannon did her job well even though it wasn’t meaningful to her.

After too many years of staying in line, she was filled with painful regret and felt out of touch with her heart’s desires. Or so she thought.

As it turned out, her boldest dreams didn’t require major excavation – what lit her up was just a few questions away. All Shannon needed to do was give herself time and permission to….dream….without constraints.

She’s not quitting her day job – yet. But after just a few short weeks, she walked into the last workshop looking lighter and oozing with creativity. She’s started her first gourmet chef class and has bold, ambitious plans for taking action on her dreams to fill the world with ascetic beauty through plants and food.

Now it’s your turn. If you are feeling out of touch with your dreams and truest desires, start by asking yourself the big questions.

And by start, I mean take 5 minutes right now, grab a pen and paper. With zero filter or constraints and no requirement to share with anyone, brainstorm your answers to the following:

With no limits, indulge your dreams. For these next five minutes, don’t worry about obstacles like money or time or your age or any other boundary. For just these few minutes, don’t consider what’s prestigious or practical or doable. 

If you could do anything at all, what would be your biggest, boldest most fulfilling dreams or desires?

Ready go. For just five minutes, write down as many as come to mind. No filtering. No concerns about the how.

There will be plenty of time to get practical, I promise, but when you begin by giving yourself the freedom to dream, you will begin to reconnect with what really matters to you. Share in the comments one of your dreams – I’d love to hear and it will encourage other women to do the same!

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