“I Have to” vs. “I Get To”

I get to

If you want to make one simple change that can alter the way you move through life, change “I have to” to “I get to.” Stress is caused by trying, feeling put upon, hurrying, and a lack of choice. When you have to do things, you can go through life feeling like a beast of burden. You might feel a lack of freedom and joy. Life can feel like drudgery.

If you change your attitude to “I get to” magic can happen. Here is what I mean.

  • Think of all the people who are unemployed and can’t seem to find a job. If you have a job, you get to work. You get to make money to feed yourself, enjoy nice clothes, have social activities with friends, and do all the things that money provides. How lucky is that? Wow, what a great perk of having a job! If it’s not the most fulfilling or glamorous work, okay, but you still have a way to serve yourself, your family, and the world until something else comes along.
  • Think about all the people who can’t walk. Maybe they are in wheelchairs or live in constant pain. You, on the other hand, can move about freely. You can exercise, run, play sports, and do all kinds of things. Exercise doesn’t have to be a chore, but a gift.
  • Today is Mother’s Day. Maybe you and your mom aren’t the best of friends. Heck, maybe you aren’t on the greatest terms with your whole family, but if you have a family, you get the choice of hanging out with them today. Some people don’t have that. Some people never had that. Jeez, how lucky you are that you have a mother to honor today.
  • Do you have a pile of work to do? Me, too. That can feel like a lot of stress, but if I look at why I am doing it, then it becomes a blessing. I get to pay taxes because I am productive and making money. I get to bill insurance for reimbursement because I have clients who want to see me. Today I get to clean my house because I have a house!
  • Let’s say that you have depression or anxiety. Whoopie! You get to cope with that. How is that awesome? Well, there are blessings in everything. Think about all the people who are writers, motivational speakers, and healers who have a story of overcoming something and coming out the other side stronger. This could be your big break. We all need challenges to make life worthwhile. So learn something. Enjoy the ride, and have some fun with it.
  • Now think about your blessings. I just came back from a trip to South America. It was a wonderful time. If you also think of the things that delight you as gifts, well, your whole life becomes one big, fabulous wave of good luck.

Most days I go for a walk for exercise and just to be a part of the big, wide world. I often find myself saying thanks that I get to be here doing this. It’s a small thing. It’s just a walk, but so often we walk by people and things without seeing them. Without appreciating them. When you adopt an attitude of “I get to…” those things don’t escape you anymore.

Try it and let me know how it goes. I’d love to hear!

“I Didn’t Sign Up For This!”

I didn't sign up for this

There may be times in our lives when we throw up our hands and say, “I didn’t sign on for this!” It’s normal to have a pity party when things don’t go as planned. When the pouting is done, there are three things you can do. Deal with it anyway, walk away, or blame and complain.

So what types of things can make us say, “I didn’t sign up for this”? Here are some examples.

  • your child is born with special needs
  • your partner leaves you
  • domestic violence
  • you or your partner contracts a debilitating illness
  • you or your partner gains a lot of weight
  • natural disaster strikes
  • you get fired
  • you or your partner has a mental breakdown
  • infidelity
  • you or your partner goes to jail
  • addiction

Nobody willingly signs up for these things. They may or may not be a result of our choices, but nobody says, “Let’s see how I can make my life really hard.” When surprises hit, it doesn’t matter who is at fault. It doesn’t matter whether or not it is something that you wanted. It has to be dealt with anyway.

This is your life. Only you can decide what your limits are. It’s up to you to say if you’re going to face life as it comes or walk away. Life is not fair. You may not “deserve” what’s happening, but you still have to do something about it. To think otherwise is to get on a hamster wheel of your own creation and run in place. Lots of people would rather do this than make a decision. If this is you, know that you are avoiding moving forward.

Figure out what you need to move forward. Do you need skills? Support? Money? Clarity? Courage? More information? Blaming and complaining is disempowering. Figuring out what you need puts you in the driver’s seat again.

If all we got was what we wanted or asked for, life would be boring. This thing that you didn’t sign up for could be your biggest blessing. It could be the thing that shows you what you are made of. Challenges make us stronger and solidify our values. So act from your values. You can never go wrong when you are congruent with your values. Whether you accept the challenge or say “no, thank you,” you’re living in the stream of life.

Argue For Your Limitations and They Are Yours

Have you ever said, “I can’t because…”
  • the economy is bad
  • my boss doesn’t like me
  • my parents were mentally ill
  • I’m too (insert adjective such as short, tall, young, old, etc).
  • my mom didn’t love me
  • my dad was an alcoholic
  • I’m not (insert adjective like good, smart, worthy, or clever) enough
“Argue for your limitations, and sure enough, they’re yours.” ~Richard Bach
Your mindset is powerful! If your self talk is repeatedly reinforcing your limitations, you will continue to be limited. You are the most powerful part of any change work, so if you aren’t open to a new possibility, it can’t happen. Belief and expectation are powerful. When we believe and expect that nothing will change, nothing changes. If we are open to the idea of change, the door opens. Let’s look at what I mean.
“Sheila” wants to be able to drive over bridges without fear. Her fear started seven years ago when she was in a boat that nearly capsized. Anything that could result in her being in water has her terrorized. She has tried a few things to get over it, but it didn’t help. She now believes that it never will.

Sheila’s fear started in an instant, didn’t it? It wasn’t something that developed slowly or painfully. The brain is really clever like that. It can do things instantaneously to change your reality. For Sheila, this meant that she instantaneously developed a fear of going over bridges to keep her safe from drowning. If Sheila’s brain can work that fast to program her to fear bridges, it can work that quickly to undue the fear, right?

If you look around, you will see people who have the same story as you who don’t have the same limiting beliefs. How many people find financial success in a crippling economy? How many people prevail despite a boss who doesn’t like them? Don’t we all know someone with parents who weren’t the greatest that used that childhood as fuel to do better? What we are and what we do is never about outside influences. It’s always about what’s inside – your mindset.
The fabulous thing is, you get to choose your mindset. So pick ideas that are affirming, encouraging, growth oriented, and open. Let new ideas in. Be curious. Wonder, “What would happen if this were true?” When we entertain ideas like a child, we can have the miraculous growth of a child. We can achieve success. Maybe instantaneously, maybe in small steps, but change not only becomes possible, but probable.

“You Saw Me!”

you saw me

One day I was in conversation with someone who suddenly burst out crying and said, “You saw me!” In that moment it touched me how infrequently that happens. I was also struck by how important it is to be seen. How often do we give that to others? How often do we allow others to see us so that it can happen for us? Think about how much time we spend putting up a shield that says, “Don’t look at me!”

We hide behind our clothes and hair. We hide behind silence, false bravado, lies, distance, withdrawal, and busyness. Then we wonder why we feel so isolated, lonely, weird, and misunderstood.

People are social creatures. We don’t just need each other for division of labor, resources, companionship, and sex. We need to see ourselves reflected back to us in the eyes of others. If we project a false face, how are we supposed to get a real image back? How are we supposed to get that feeling when we think, “You saw me!”

So how do you get this for yourself? You start by seeing the beauty and love inside other people. We are so conditioned to judge and see problems and differences because we live in such a competitive world. We’re bombarded by advertising that tells us we’re too hairy or too smelly. We’re told that if we don’t have the best grades or wear the right clothes, we aren’t acceptable. And we believe it. So, we start to become self conscious of all our potential short comings and see them in others too.

Ooh, what a miserable way to live! It doesn’t have to be this way. What if we started from a place of gratitude, curiosity, and appreciation instead? What if, instead of defaulting to criticism and defensiveness, we approached people with, “Show me who you are in all your glory” and then opened our eyes to see it. If we did that, would they need to hide their faces? And if they felt safe with you, do you think you’d need to hide yourself?

Intimacy and connection starts with safety. When you give that to others, they are more likely to return it. It’s a win win. You get to be seen. They get to be seen, and everybody is encouraged to be authentic, real, present, and honest. Isn’t this what we are all looking for?

When Couple’s Counseling is Not Advisable

couples therapy

As a therapist, I am a huge fan of couple’s counseling. It can help you to grow emotionally, become more effective at work and in relationships, and be happier. There are times when it’s not a great idea however. Therapy is about making repairs and positive changes. Sometimes that is not possible. Here is a look at when couple’s counseling is not advisable.


If there is an ongoing affair, whether it is emotional or physical, there is a third person involved who has influence, yet is not a part of the repair process. In fact, the third party is working against it. This is true even if the third party isn’t aware that s/he is part of a love triangle. In addition, there can be no honesty or openness in the therapeutic relationship. There is no way to deal with a problem that you don’t know you have. The unfaithful partner can’t be totally committed to a change process that will take full participation. This counseling relationship is doomed to failure.


Addiction is a coping strategy. The person with the addiction reaches for something (food, gambling, substances, sex, etc.) when threatened. Couple’s counseling can feel threatening because it requires an honest look at emotions and behaviors. You can’t fight a fight on two fronts. You can’t move towards healing if you are hurting yourself and others with very damaging coping strategies. If the addiction is recreational drug or alcohol use, it’s still damaging because the other partner is simply not present. When addiction is a part of the puzzle, it’s advisable to get the addiction under control first through individual counseling. That will help to clarify exactly what problems are created by the addiction and what problems are really related to the couple.


Most relationships have imbalances. One person may make substantially more money than the other. One may have more parental say while the other has more say over how money is spent or how decisions are made. This is normal. However, when power is used to dominate, intimidate, or control, that’s abuse. Quite often the powerful person doesn’t come to counseling because he doesn’t want his power checked. When he does, he tends to try to dominate the therapist and use counseling as another tool to abuse his partner. If he meets with a skilled counselor, that won’t be permitted, so he drops out. If he is able to dominate and control, the partner ends up even more demoralized than before.

Abuse doesn’t have to be physical. It doesn’t even have to occur often or result in a huge emotional outbursts or fights. It could be that one partner simply covertly pushes for maintaining the status quo. This usually shows up as one partner wanting to heap all the blame on the other person, one person not wanting to give up their comfort, or one person not wanting the other to become more self-assured and independent. She may do things to sabotage progress to keep things the same. She may pick fights and point to the fall out as reasons why counseling isn’t working.

One Is Already Committed to Leaving

Sometimes the goal for counseling is for one partner, who is already committed to leaving, to get the other to a place of acceptance. An ethical counselor cannot and will not try to change the will of another person. If one person doesn’t want to be in the relationship, that’s not couple’s counseling. That’s break up counseling. That’s a completely legitimate purpose for being in therapy, but it’s not likely to result in reconciliation.

In all of these circumstances are present in a relationship, counseling is not likely to result in any positive outcome. Counseling requires commitment, honesty, self-examination, and work. None of the above circumstances will create that environment. If you are in this situation, your realistic choices are to live with things as they are, work on yourself, or leave. If you are in a place where you are still deciding whether you want to stay or go, there is a form of counseling that can help. It’s called discernment counseling. It can help you choose between keeping things as they are, moving towards reconciliation, and leaving things behind. That’s far more useful than pretending to want reconciliation when one of the partners isn’t there yet. If I can help with this, contact me for an appointment.

What To Do When You Can’t Afford Counseling

self help

Professional counselors definitely have their role in health and wellness. They give you support, teach skills, give you motivation and encouragement to keep going, provide interventions that improve functioning, and challenge you to move beyond your present level of functioning. But what can you do when you can’t afford counseling?

The American Holistic Health Association states that 50% of health comes from lifestyle. Heredity accounts for 20%, environment is 20%, and medical care is 10%. That means that 70% of what ails you is within your control! So self-help is absolutely mandatory if you are to achieve wellness. Let me give you some suggestions for how to help yourself if you can’t afford counseling. Once you get on a roll, I am sure you will be able to come up with many of your own.


Meditation – EVERYBODY who lives in the modern world needs to do some type of daily meditation. By meditation, I mean some practice that gets you centered, mindful, and slows down your nervous system. It could be tai chi, Transcendental Meditation (TM), qigong, yoga, breathing, guided imagery, toning, or something else. It doesn’t really matter what method you choose. What matters is allowing the nervous system a chance to reset each day. The brain was not designed to deal with the insane amount of stimulation that it gets each day.

To put this into perspective, The Environmental Protection Agency recommended that we be exposed to no more than 55 decibels of noise because noise produces stress, impacts the immune system, correlates with heart disease, and reduces sleep. Your average refrigerator hums at 45 decibels, normal conversation is 60, and heavy traffic is 70 to 85. That’s just the stress we are subjected to from noise. Add in electromagnetic frequencies, family stress, work stress, financial stress, and you can see how overloaded everyone is. Do yourself a favor and find a meditation practice and do it daily.

Exercise – Every body needs to move. We drive to work or school, sit all day, then come home and plop in front a television. A sedentary lifestyle leads to death. The lymphatic system has no pump. It needs movement to help your body detoxify. Your joints need to be lubricated. They get this through movement. The longer they don’t move, the harder it becomes to move. The sitting position also inhibits lung function and digestion. This may make you want to get out and run. Walk! When you exercise vigorously, you put your adrenals under stress. The adrenals are already stressed by modern living. Walking, qigong, tai chi, and dancing are better choices.

Eat Well – Eating well means eating foods that look similar to the way they did when they were walking, flying, swimming, crawling or growing in the earth. If that was never true, don’t eat it. For example, celery is okay. Fast food, cake, and spaghetti are out. There is no cake or spaghetti tree. Artificial colors, preservatives, sweeteners, fillers, or stabilizers are also out. This goes for what you put on your body too. What goes on your skin goes in your body. Use only natural bath and body products and natural cleaners.

Sleep – Most Americans are sleep deprived. Lots of people forego sleep in order to get more done. Some can’t sleep. The body needs sleep to rest, digest, detox, and repair itself. If you are not sleeping, you are doing yourself a disservice.


self-helpStimulate Your Brain – Your mind needs something to do. I see many people who are so overstimulated that they can’t wait to veg out in front of video games or the television. Do yourself a favor and stop. Your mind needs stimulation, just not the type that you are giving it. Talk to a friend. Listen to a podcast on something you are interested in. Read a book. Write something. Get those brain cells working! A healthy mind is a stimulated one.

Laugh – Laughter makes the body and brain work better. It gives you resilience and helps you to reason through things more easily. It’s restorative.

Surround Yourself With Positive, Flowing Energy – This means natural flowing energy – like a creek- and people or things that are flowing. Weak energy follows strong energy. To get your energy moving and feeling good, surround yourself with people who are positive and moving.

Develop a Growth Mindset – Many people I see create a lot of their own limitations because they have a fixed mindset. This limits the effectiveness of any counseling, any skills you learn, and any energy work you receive because the mind, body, and spirit influence each other. When your mindset is working with you, your potential expands tremendously.


Get Connected – What do you feel connected to? Where do you feel safe? Get more of that. Maybe you really love your cat. Maybe you have a fabulous family or great group of friends. Maybe you really love to engage in art. Maybe you’re part of a really great community. Whatever gets you there, make time for it. This is often what we sacrifice first. Love yourself enough to reclaim it.

Nourish Your Spirit- All true healing takes place at the spirit/energy level. If the seed that created the dis-ease remains, the condition will continue to manifest in one way or another.

Get Out In Nature– Nature has no agenda. It is self-balancing. When you are out in nature, your inner rhythm will follow its own natural rhythm because that is how nature works. If you really want to maximize your time there, learn mindfulness. Practice using it while out in nature. Watch the animals. Observe plant life and the ecosystem. See how everything works in harmony. Notice how it’s all balanced and interconnected. If you can, feel that interconnectedness within you. You can never be lonely when you are plugged into to the web of life. This experience can also help you to notice more quickly when you are out of the rhythm of nature. It will become so unpleasant that you will want to self-correct long before you are in crisis.

Work holistically– The imbalance to your energy body may be caused by a disruptive though pattern (such as “I am not good enough”). It could be caused by a negative environment or a eating too much sugar. When you focus on a symptom, you could be far off base when identifying the problem. The problem isn’t “this thing,” it’s all of you. Fortunately, if you make a positive change in one area, it will create a ripple effect throughout the system.

Please do not dismiss these ideas as trivial. They form the foundation of a healthy lifestyle. When your body is stable and has energy, it can often do what it needs to do to heal itself with minimal help from outsiders. This can mean that if you choose to do therapy, it’s faster and more effective so you spend less time there.

These are just some ideas to get you started when you can’t afford counseling. You have absolute control over your lifestyle and environment. You can make a difference in your life by just making one change. If you find that you can’t do it, you just don’t have the energy, it’s time for professional help.

Don’t say “I can’t.” You can if you value it enough. I see people every day who say they can’t afford this or that, but they find a way to buy those new shoes, a video game console, or get their kid in soccer. Value yourself enough to put yourself first. You are the most precious thing you have. Care for yourself enough to get you to the point where you have the energy to care for yourself. Ultimately it will be you who decides whether you are healthy or not (because 70% is within your control), so it’s a small investment with a potentially huge payoff.

How to Get the Most Out of Therapy


Here are some quick tips on how to get most out of therapy.

Shop Around

Finding someone with the right fit is very important. Maybe you are more comfortable with someone of a specific gender, age range, or who has a specific skill set. Or maybe you just need to talk to the person first to get a feel for if you click. One of the most important indicators of whether therapy will be helpful or not is client/therapist fit. Shop around! Interview a few. Trust your instinct. Whatever you do, don’t go to someone just because they are located close to your home or work. Don’t settle for someone just because he or she is in your insurance network. This decision is more important than that! Shop around. It will take some time on the front end, but save lots of time and trouble on the back end.

If you find, after a visit or two, that things aren’t the way you thought they’d be, don’t stay. You don’t owe your therapist anything. This is about you. Do what’s right for you and shop around until you find the best fit. It’s totally okay. It’s an expected part of the process. You aren’t going to hurt anyone’s feelings. If you want to get the most out of therapy, choosing your therapist well is the number one consideration.

Be Truthful

You’d be amazed at how many people drop a bomb six months into the therapeutic relationship. If it takes that long to get comfortable articulating something, that’s fine. It takes as long as it takes; however, the earlier you give pertinent information, the sooner that it can be worked on. Therapists aren’t there to judge you. They need full disclosure to be effective helpers. Help them help you.

Being truthful also means to be authentic. You are in therapy to learn and grow so that you can feel better and be more effective. It is not particularly useful to you to complain about how all the things in your life are someone else’s fault. It’s not particularly useful to you to talk about other people. It’s not useful to you to hide your flaws. Your issues can’t be addressed if you spend your time pointing fingers at others, focusing on others, or hiding yourself. Let this be your safe place. Let your hair down. Put the protective barriers away and just be yourself. This is the one place in the world where it is perfectly acceptable to be completely self–indulgent. It’s a luxury. Take it!

get the most out of therapy

Come Prepared

Coming to your session prepared means to do any assigned homework. Write down any questions that come up between sessions. If there is something new you want to talk about, don’t rely on your memory. Write it down. If there are any relevant observations that come up during the week, write those down and share them at your next meeting. Your therapist needs to know about positive developments as well as negative ones.

Be an Active Participant

Your therapy session is about you. Participate! If there is something you want or don’t understand, ask about it. If you want more of something or less of something, let your therapist know. Understand that a therapist’s role is not to tell you what to do, but to help you make your own decisions. It’s about empowerment, not dependence. To help to get you to that place, a therapist will support you, not do the work for you. So, if you are given homework or suggestion on how to help yourself, try them. If they create positive results, continue them. If not, let your therapist know so that the two of you can come up with something that does work. If you want to get the most out of therapy, you have to be involved.

Commit To the Process

This means to come to therapy regularly and on time. If you only walk when the sun is shining, you won’t get very far. You have to come when you don’t feel like it, when you are in crisis, and on good days if you want to make progress. Understand that there will be days when you have huge breakthroughs and days when it seems like you are spinning your wheels. It’s a process. It will take time to get where you want to go. If you want to get the most out of therapy, commit to the process.

Know When It Will End Before You Start

Go into counseling with an end goal. When you like your therapist, it can get really tempting to just hang out and stay. After all, life is full of problems, right? Therapy could just be endless. As I said before, a therapist’s job is to help you to stand on your own feet. Enabling dependence is not helpful. When you have a clear therapeutic goal from the outset, it will help you to know when it’s time to go. When you are able to cope with less handholding and need less accountability, it’s time to stretch out the visits. When you are hitting your treatment goals consistently, it’s time to terminate the relationship.