No One “Just Is”

It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.

 e.e. cummings

For the past month I’ve been consulting at a family-owned clothing company.

The president of the firm, Rachel (names changed), asked me to coach Betsy her supply manager, a woman who is loyal to the company, is willing to put in long hours and who has strong relationships with manufacturing plants in Mexico.

The one thing she doesn’t have is people skills.

Betsy treats her team with barely a trace of respect – she yells, slams doors and habitually lies when it suits her.

When I asked Rachel why she tolerated Betsy’s antics, she told me, “I need her. I don’t want to go through a search for her replacement.”

Last week I laid it all out for Betsy.

She bristled and then declared,“Betsy is who Betsy is and there’s no changing her, do you know what I mean?”

Yeah, I did – she meant she has no intention of changing!

When I challenged her, she lamented, “I can’t change. This is who I am.”

That wasn’t the first time someone has boasted to me that they “can’t” change.

However, please understand – that statement is simply not true.  It’s a lie. 

We ALL have the ability to change.

We ALL are responsible for how we present ourselves to other people and how we interact with them.

No one “just is.”

Which brings me to Ken.

He and his fiancée Alice are getting married later in the summer and are in the process of interviewing officiants. Ken didn’t smile when we met and seemed uncomfortable when he sat down.

Alice was friendly and engaged (pun intended) as we talked.

Ken never looked at me, never offered an opinion and answered my questions in a low, mumbling tone.

Hey, there’s shy and then there’s “creepy shy” and Ken was creeping me out!

Something seemed “off” and finally I asked him directly if he was happy getting married.

His head shot back, he nervously smiled and said “of course!”

I asked if anything was wrong, as he seemed unhappy or troubled.

Alice gently smiled and explained, “Ken is reserved; that’s just how he is.”

Once again, there’s that phrase, “just is.”

Here’s the thing – if you need your fiancée to explain that you’re reserved, then you’re more than “reserved.”

Just because a person is reserved doesn’t mean they have to present themselves in a rude, weird manner.

Just because someone is loud and impatient, doesn’t mean they have to intimidate team members by screaming, slamming and shutting down.

“Just is” is never an excuse for feeble, off-putting behavior. 

You don’t have to “just” be an a*hole.

You can “just” be someone who strives to be a more dynamically engaged person!


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How Life Skills Coaching Can Help You Stop Saying, “I Don’t Know What to Do With My Life”

Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show.

David Copperfield


When I was twenty years old, I entered the Catholic religious order of Jesuits to prepare for a life as an ordained priest. I was filled with idealism and determined to please my New York Irish-American parents – especially my father.

Almost twenty years later I resigned from ministry, not in repudiation of all I had done, but rather, in the conviction that there was more I needed to learn and do and that I couldn’t do it within the safe borders of religious life. I left the Jesuits not in rancor but in the conviction that I needed to “find my voice.”

When I joined the Jesuits, I thought that religious life would allow me to become the hero of my own life.  From this vantage spot today in my life, I realize that was just the first phase.

These many years later, I’m now coaching a growing number of clients who are struggling with how to become the hero of their own life. They come to me for life skills coaching because they sense their very life depends on it!

Jared (50) (all names changed) came to me for life skills coaching because he doesn’t want to become his father, who was a verbally abusive man, who only had transactional relationships with his family and had no friends.  Jared is self-aware enough to recognize that, indeed, he has more than begun to replicate his father’s ways.

Mary (32) recently sought out my help because she’s exhausted from having resisted turning into her father, a workaholic who lives to make a buck and who is controlling in his family relationships.  Mary has carved out a life for herself and her family that contradicts the career path her father demanded she march down.  Mary, though, is riddled with guilt and has become adept at sabotaging herself professionally. She wants to take back her life.

Kim( 46) was recently demoted at work, the victim of office politics. He came to me wanting to find a new job, a job that will give him money – lots of money.  Job satisfaction is his #2 priority, so he claimed.  As we explored his goals, what became apparent is that he wants money because he wants to prove himself to his father.  He’s never allowed himself to go after a job that he actually wanted because he thought it would bring deep down satisfaction – to him but not to his father.

Jared, Mary and Kim each feels frustrated, angry and helpless.

Each repeatedly said, “I don’t know what to do!”

And by that each means, “I don’t know how to become the hero of my own life.”

Each is courageously embarking on life coaching because each wants to live a life-giving life.

So, here’s what I now know about becoming the hero of your own life – and it’s what I did not know and could not have known when I was that idealistic Jesuit.

10 Things You Can Do to Stop Saying, “I Don’t Know What to Do With My Life!”

  1. Recognize the courage that was needed to get this far – which may not be where you ultimately want to be – but you’ve outsmarted some of your demons.
  1. Grieve and feel the anger for choices made that did not bring you to where you had hoped to go but do not beat yourself up. Being harsh isn’t going to aid you.
  1. Come to terms with the reality that change and newness of life will never come as quickly as you would want.
  1. Resist saying, “Yes, but. . .” when options appear in your life. The forces of darkness don’t want you to heal.
  1. Decide which pain you want – the pain of healing or the pain of self-injury.
  1. Brutally answer this question, “Who do I want to be?” Describe in detail what you would look like and feel like, how you would move and think and react.  And then make peace with the fact that that person cannot be the original version of who you wanted to be because you are changed by pain, loss and, yes, successes.
  1. Those early impulses in your life – impulses of generosity and idealism – they were real, genuine and enduring. They may have been half thought out, gingerly or callously handled BUT they are still your North Star.  How can they be reinvigorated?
  1. Expect self-resistance. Old habits resent newly forming habits especially when the new ones are healthy and effective.
  1. Believe that what you’re doing is a gift – to your self – to those within your immediate circle – to those within that small slice of humanity you interact with.
  1. Find a mentor, a coach, a “mid-wife” – someone you can trust, who you don’t have to idolize, and who can assist you in your heroic becoming.

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