Are You Digesting Life Properly?

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultant

Have you ever had something come up in your life that feels eerily similar to an issue you’ve dealt with in the past?

A while ago, I entered into a business partnership that was all wrong, and while my intuition was sending me alarm signals the entire way, I chose to ignore them. Sure enough, the partnership had to end, and it wasn’t a pleasant experience.

Something came up recently within a completely different context, but it had the same icky texture. Since our brains like to find commonalities and make sense of new experiences, my brain immediately declared, “This situation is just like that other one was, which means it’s horrible and you need to get out!”

In some ways, this is really helpful – I was noticing some of the same intuitive signals, and I’ve learned my lesson well enough now to pay more attention to them.

But something else was happening: it became clear to me that I hadn’t fully digested the first partnership, and without doing more emotional work there, it would shadow opportunities to collaborate with others in the future.

I wasn’t able to determine whether this new opportunity that came up was actually right or wrong for me without revisiting and dealing with the old one.

angel Kyodo williams is a Zen priest, writer, and visionary who recently spoke at the Sister Giant conference. While there, she shared an analogy that really stuck with me. She said that people who don’t meditate are going around eating and consuming life, but they’re not digesting any of it.

That is the truth.

Without consciously digesting our experiences, we end up having spiritual diarrhea, constipation, or all sorts of maladies in-between.

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultantOur bodies are amazing, aren’t they? We consume food throughout the day, our bodies take what they need in order to nourish us, and then they eliminate whatever’s left over and ready to go.

Most of us don’t even have to worry about this process – it just happens automatically, and it gives us the energy we need to enjoy life.

Digesting our experiences is just as important as digesting our food, but many of us have to learn how to do this – it’s not always something we’re taught.

But how do we digest intangible experiences and the thoughts and feelings that come along with them?

When I realized that old pain was informing how I felt about this new opportunity, I got quiet and asked myself some questions: what was the old story I was telling myself, what still hurt, and what was I ready to let go of?

Then I journaled about it so that it got out of my body and onto paper, where I could see it more clearly. This is the digestive process that works for me, but here are some others you could try:

  • Create rituals of processing and releasing. Maybe you write something down on paper and burn it, hike up a mountain and imagine releasing that thing at the top so you’re free on the way back down, or you toss rocks into a lake.
  • You could burn sage or incense after you’ve examined what the experience(s) meant to you, what they taught you, and what about them can be eliminated.
  • You can process things out loud with a loved one or support person.

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultantWhatever you do, I hope you’ll just start by being more aware of your emotional and spiritual digestion, because it’s so important.

When our bodies don’t digest things slowly enough, we can’t absorb the nutrients we need. When our bodies digest things too slowly, we get stopped up, which causes pain and an inability to take in any more food.

So it is with the things that we experience in life. We need the time to process and draw out lessons from what goes on in our lives, but we also need to release them and move on in time to receive new experiences.

If there were a continuum between “Digests Experiences Too Quickly” and “Digests Experiences Too Slowly,” where would you fall?

Is your spiritual body in balance, able to take in and eliminate regularly?

If not, consider what you might be holding onto that’s ready to go or savor your next experience and see what nutrients can be drawn from it.

Transcending Fear: Rabbit Medicine


photo-1433769747000-441481877cafIn honor of being authentic and bringing some spiritual wisdom into our worklives, I want to share a story that’s adapted from a book I love: Medicine Cards by David Carson and Jamie Sams.

In their book, they define “medicine” in the traditional Native American way, which “is anything that improves one’s connection to the Great Mystery and to all of life.” It’s a much broader definition and goes beyond just fixing what’s broken in our bodies.

I’m not Native American and don’t lay any claim to the story below, but I want to share it because I think it’s such a helpful reframe for those of us in the working world. This is about Rabbit and how Rabbit became the Fear Caller:

A very long time ago when the Earth was young, Rabbit was a fearless and brave warrior. Eye Walker, who happened to be a witch, was a friend to Rabbit. They spent a lot of time together sharing and talking about all sorts of things. They were very close friends.

One day Eye Walker and Rabbit had walked a long way and decided to sit down for a rest. Rabbit said, “I’m thirsty.” Eye Walker picked up a leaf, blew on it, and handed Rabbit a gourd of water to drink. Rabbit drank but said not a word of thanks. Then Rabbit said “I’m hungry.” Eye Walker picked up a stone, blew on it, and turned it into a turnip for Rabbit to eat. Rabbit ate the turnip with relish and still remained quiet.

The pair started back on their walk and ended up in the mountains. Near the top, Rabbit fell and rolled almost all the way to the bottom. Rabbit was in very sad condition when Eye Walker got to him. She tenderly applied some of her magic salve on his little body to relieve his pain and to mend his broken bones. Rabbit said not a word of thanks to Eye Walker.

After a few days, Eye Walker was looking for her friend but could not find him anywhere. She finally gave up her search and went on with her daily activities. One day, quite by accident, she ran into her little friend. “Rabbit, why are you hiding and avoiding me?”

“Because I am afraid of you! I am afraid of magic,” answered Rabbit, cowering. “Leave me alone!”

“Oh I see,” said Eye Walker. “I have shared my magical powers to help you and now you turn on me and refuse my friendship.”

“I want nothing more to do with you or your powers! They frighten me terribly. I hope we never meet again!”

With tears in her eyes Eye Walker said, “We were once companions and great friends, but no more, Rabbit. I have the power to destroy you but I will not. Instead, I lay a curse on you and all of your tribe. From this day forward you will call your fears and they will come to you! The sweet bonds between us have now been severed.”

photo-1455869434262-b664819692f5Now Rabbit is known as the Fear Caller. He goes out and shouts, “Eagle, I am so afraid of you!” If Eagle doesn’t hear him, Rabbit calls louder, “Eagle, stay away from me!” Eagle, now hearing Rabbit, comes and eats him. Rabbit calls bobcats, wolves, coyotes, and even snakes until they come.

When I first read this, I laughed out loud, because the image of me running around like Rabbit was crystal clear. I pictured myself hysterical in an open field yelling out all of the things I’m afraid of. I could see myself as a magnet for eagles, bobcats, and wolves.

What kinds of predators do we call in with our fear? I can think of a few examples from our worklives: “Rejection, stay away from me!,” “Layoffs, we are so afraid of you!,” “Change, keep out!”

Our days are often guided by fear and urgency, not by what’s actually important. The organizations and professionals who will thrive in our complex, changing world are those who transcend their fear and put their Rabbit tendencies aside while they do the work that is meaningful.

photo-1444465585361-21136b9b6430Rabbit helps us remember to take responsibility for what we call into our lives.

If you feel like you’re constantly surrounded by predators, or fear, you have some things to consider:

First: what are you currently calling in? Are you running around like crazy complaining about how there are no qualified candidates for your open positions? Are you frenetically responding to angry emails from customers who don’t understand you or your product?

Stop. Instead, find a way to focus on building the things that matter: recruiting practices that are human-friendly and sustainable…products that speak to the people you’re actually trying to reach. Choose to transcend your fear and call in something different. Choose to call in the future you want instead of the one you’re afraid of.

Second: Is what you’re afraid of really a predator? Eye Walker scared Rabbit, but she never intended him harm. What things in your life feel scary, and is it right to reject them and their power? Maybe you have a gift you’re ashamed of or not sure how to use. Is stuffing down your ability to draw/design/sell/caregive/etc. helping you, or are you turning your back on a powerful ally? Is your competitor really a competitor, or is there an opportunity for collaboration and mutual benefit? Is going out of business really a failure, or will it allow you to travel and start your life anew?

Consider the power behind what you fear.

Know someone who might enjoy this story? Pass this post along and share the love!

10 Non-Creepy Ways to Show Love at Work

In honor of Valentine’s Day (and every day, really), I want to share some ideas for how you can demonstrate care to those around you without looking like you’re trying too hard. Whether you want to use these tips on a love interest, colleagues you normally can’t stand, or your office BFF, they’re guaranteed to give you and the recipients the warm and fuzzies.

You’ll see them in list form, but I’ve also included a fun infographic below that for your viewing pleasure!

10 Non-Creepy Ways to Show Love at Work

  1. Be present. Stop making a grocery list in your head while Debbie from Payroll is trying to talk to you. Take a deep breath and actually be present with her – focus on her words, her demeanor, what she’s asking of you. When we know someone is truly present with us, we feel seen and connected, which is ultimately what it means to be loved.
  2. Bring treats. This one’s obvious. Pastries, lunch, sweets – eating yummy things releases oxytocin in our brains, which makes us feel relaxed and cared for.
  3. Remember something they said or did. You know how it feels when someone brings up something you said or did that seemed inconsequential to you but that touched them enough that they remembered it? It feels amazing – you feel meaningful and like your existence matters a little bit. Do that for someone else today.
  4. See them in new ways. Our minds like to put people into tight little boxes and then go find information that confirms what we already believe about someone. Pay attention to the stories you have about those colleagues that really irk you and choose to let go of them. Allow yourself to see the people around you in new ways.
  5. Smile more. Even when you don’t feel like it, smile. It tricks your brain into feeling happy, and it’s uplifting to others.
  6. Notice when they’re really trying. It sucks to be a newbie at something, and most of us are newbies in one way or another – we’re learning a new system, trying out a new skill, or working to make personal changes. Notice when someone is trying to improve and tell them privately how much you appreciate or admire their efforts.
  7. Give more. Hone in on one person you work with and ask yourself what you could do today that might lighten their load a bit. Find one small thing and do that for them.
  8. Be specifically grateful. We throw “thanks!” around like it’s nothing. Instead, thank someone for something specific, like “I really appreciated how quickly you got this report back to me” or “Thank you so much for helping me unload that box of papers – it was going to be too much for me to carry on my own.”
  9. Ask them questions. Be genuinely curious about people. Use your ability to be present to really see them and be inquisitive – what do they think about this situation? What’s it like to be them in this job? What’s on their plate that’s getting them stuck?
  10. Radiate love. Did you know that you actually radiate a certain kind of energy depending on your mood and the level of “stuff” you’re carrying in your chakras? When you take care of yourself and choose to be loving, you make those around you feel good without even trying. 

And now, in infographic form!:


If you’d like to download or print this infographic, click here

Three Ways to Embrace the Unknown

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultantMost of us have an aversion to the unknown. We’re uncomfortable with whatever’s unplanned, mysterious, or hidden. A lot of us were raised to believe that things should be known – that if we don’t know something already, we need to learn it, measure it, shed light on it, etc.

There’s an air of desperation behind this belief, and it can drive us to create a false sense of knowing and control through excessive planning and worry. 

But the unknown isn’t inherently bad. It’s not a problem that we don’t know what will happen tomorrow or in five years – it’s simply how things are.

All of us are constantly in a state of change, but some of us – especially in the United States – are experiencing massive upheaval. The unknown future can feel grim and scary, and in response, we might cling to old habits or fears that make us feel safe but that actually keep us stuck.

I can share an example from my own life:

I’m about to become a mother, and sometimes that is really fucking scary. For a while, I resisted the change as much as I could – I sort of pretended like I wasn’t pregnant, I committed to things I knew I was too tired to do, and I tried to control every aspect of my environment. It got to the point where I was in full-on panic mode because I couldn’t pinpoint what life will be like once the little guy or gal is here. Because of my fear of the future, I was clinging to my habits and routine with a white-knuckled death grip.

My brilliant therapist pushed me to consider another way: to actually start doing things that are new.

To try out swimming even though I’ve never swam a lap in my life (at least not on purpose). To take a nap instead of writing another blog post. To try yoga nidra and ditch my regular morning meditation.

My instinctive brain freaked out at first: “I’m nesting and feeling extremely fragile and you want me to start trying to do things that feel unfamiliar?!”

But I trust her, so I did. And you know what? It really helped.

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultant
A snapshot from my first day at the pool, via my profile on Instagram (@mleather)

I got a swimsuit that fit my much larger figure and went to the pool for a swim.

I napped.

I did yoga nidra and got lots of insights that my busy mind had been getting in the way of.

I also accepted the fact that motherhood is a great unknown to me and that it’s coming – whether I’m ready or not.

I was watching the livestream of an amazing event called Sister Giant the other night, and the organizer, Marianne Williamson, was fielding questions from the audience. A woman stood up and expressed how angry she was that Donald Trump is President. She asked questions like “How could this be?” and “How can I accept the people who voted for him?” I loved Marianne’s two-fold response:

First, stop judging and being so self-righteous, because it’s getting in the way of your ability to make change in a loving way, and secondly: it’s time for us to be adults and accept that this is what’s happening.

Embracing the unknown is a very adult thing to do.

We have to grow up and accept that we can’t control and plan for everything.

Now, of course this is easier said than done, but it is something we can get better at through practice.

Here are three ways that we can skillfully embrace the unknown:

First, get grounded.

The unknown is much, much scarier when your limbic (instinctive) brain is on hyper-alert for threats in your environment. None of this will work without some sort of meditative or contemplative practice. I’ve sort of tiptoed around this for years, but I’m done: the point is that you just have to meditate daily, in some form, for any of this to work.

Second, let your inner vision guide you.

Embracing the unknown isn’t about not caring what happens in the future. In fact, visualizing outcomes that make you feel the warm and fuzzies is part of what makes the unknown less scary to your brain. Spend time each day imagining things from the end. What do you want out of this job interview? How do you want to feel after getting coffee with that friend? What kind of home do you want to be in next year? For some practice, check out a little recording I did called One Act That Will Transform Your Next Meeting.

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultantFinally, let go of anything that comes from a place of worry or obligation.

Like I said earlier, I was clinging to old habits out of fear – fear that if I let go too much, my world would come crashing down around me. My resistance to this major shift that’s happening in my body and in my life manifested as a desire to control every minute of my day. But that meant that my old habits, like my regular meditation practice and other routines, had become stale. I was just doing them on autopilot.

Chances are, we could all use some letting go of old habits and routines. By doing so, we train ourselves to embrace newness and change. We can actually practice embracing the unknown in small, manageable ways that show us that the world is a friendly place.

The unknown isn’t our enemy.

It’s okay not to know what you’ll be doing for work in one, three, or five years. It’s okay not to know what the next few months will look like. If you can get yourself grounded, visualize what you want, and then let go of tired old patterns, you’ll be well on your way to embracing the mystery.

I still don’t know what exactly life will look like once this baby is here, but you can subscribe to my email newsletter to stay up to date on me and my work (and see a photo of the sweet babe once they make their appearance 🙂 )!


“Am I Doing It Right?”

*Reprise: I’m winding down to one new post per week between now and Baby Integrated’s arrival in March 2017. Enjoy this repost!*

I grew up as the oldest of five kids. Our family of seven was…bustling, to say the least.

As the oldest, I thought it was my job to minimize the stress on my parents as much as possible, and so I got very good at being obedient (until my teenage years, anyway – but that’s a post for another day).

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultant
My mom and one of my sisters sitting sweetly as I look on suspiciously.

I was a pretty mellow kid and didn’t get bored easily, and my siblings were fairly similar. One thing we heard over and over again at church was “you kids are so well-behaved!”

Picture five little blonde kids all in a row in a pew, angelically coloring quietly or singing along to the hymns. We’d smile sweetly as adults would pinch our cheeks or tell us how mature we were in the fellowship hall after the service.

It’s easy – and natural – for kids to pick up on the cues from adults, especially the cues that let them know how they can be “successful” in their environment.

In school, at church, and everywhere in-between, I learned that I would get praise and love if I followed the rules and did things “the right way.”

Color inside the lines. Glue the macaroni in just the right spot on the paper. Write my name in that corner. There was so much to do correctly, and everyone saw what happened to the kids who had trouble with or refused to fall into line – their macaroni art looked like shit.

One question loomed large in my childhood, as it does for many kids, and it was “Am I doing it right?”

This question got lodged deep into my brain, and it’s no wonder that it continues to show up in my adult life. Since it’s in me, it’s easy for me to see it in others, too, and the question permeates so many of my interactions with my clients. They wonder if they’re going about their job search wrong, or if they said the right thing to a co-worker, or if they’re just doing life completely backward.

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultantThey wonder if they’re missing the “right” path, and the fear that they’re getting this all wrong causes them so much stress.

But our journey to create a life that we love isn’t some step by step coloring exercise. There are no lines.

There’s no one right way that you’re supposed to do this. There are a million right ways, and the trick is to find the one that works for you.

Here’s a question I like a lot more than “Am I doing this right?”:

“Does this work for me?”

Does the macaroni face I just made work for me? Does this organization work for me? Does my obsession with money, status, appearance, prestige, etc. work for me?

You are the only one that can answer that question, but if you’re going to break free of the pressure to do more, faster, and by someone else’s standards, you have to.

Does your life right now work for you?

Does your work work for you?

If it doesn’t, that’s okay – it can change. If you’re willing to choose to live according to the things that work for you, it becomes easier to recalibrate and get back on your own perfect flight path.

megan leatherman a wild new workStarting 2/4/17, working women have an opportunity to create space for a worklife that works for them in whatever beautiful way they need it to. I’m offering a three-week online series that will dive into these issues, so if anything in this blog post resonates with you, I’d encourage you to join us.

If you’d like to learn more and sign up, you can click here.

I hope you’ll try to let go of “Am I doing this right?” and embrace “Does this work for me?” instead.

You’ll feel about 1,000,000 pounds lighter and be well on your way to a life that is full of beauty.

4 Easy Ways to Discharge Workplace Stress

*Reprise: I’m winding down to one new post per week between now and Baby Integrated’s arrival in March 2017. Enjoy this repost!*

Have you ever watched two dogs fighting with one another who separate, shake it off, and then go about their day as if nothing happened? Or how about one of those National Geographic videos of a herd of wildebeests escaping an attack, slowing down, and resuming their search for grass to eat?

megan leatherman career coach human resources consultant workplace stress
Take a cue from the animal kingdom and shake it off.

Doesn’t it seem like they get over that cheetah attack a little too quickly? That’s because animals – humans included – have instinctual methods of discharging stress and trauma almost immediately after it happens. They literally shake it off.

Before the human species developed its robust thinking mind, we would experience stress or trauma, shake it off, and move on. Now that we have these hyperactive minds at our disposal, when we experience stress, we create a story about it. When our coworker disagrees with us in a meeting, our bodies are sent into a stress response, which instead of just dealing with and shaking off, we turn into a story about our worthiness, our coworker’s intentions, et cetera.

The energy that’s created by a stressful response has to go somewhere. It will either stay in your body and make you sick, get displaced and hit those around you, or, ideally, be intentionally released in a healthy way.

Our workplaces generate a lot of this energy. Many organizations foster feelings of competition, unworthiness, and insecurity, and most of us simply absorb that energy into our own bodies or use it to attack those around us (either accidentally or intentionally).

We’re often completely unaware of how we’re feeling, what those feelings are doing to our bodies, and how we deal with the energy behind those emotions. We’re all walking around with the stories that we use to explain the presence of this tense energy, which don’t actually help us release it.

Our workplaces would change dramatically if we simply learned how to be better stewards of this energy.

We have a choice in how we react to our environments, and taking notes from the animal kingdom seems like a great place to start. Our natural response to stress is to discharge it quickly and without attachment.

While many of us are used to creating a story around the stress (e.g., “Jane disrespected me and is a bad person,” or “Larry isn’t talking to me anymore because I’m incompetent”), we can change that behavior and choose a different method instead. We can hit “pause” on the story and discharge the stress so that it doesn’t become toxic in our bodies or to those around us.

megan leatherman career coach human resources consultant workplace stressI should note that hitting “pause” doesn’t mean that you don’t deal with the external situation or simply walk away after someone causes you harm. It does mean, however, that the impact from that event is contained and released so that you can think clearly about the right action(s) to take in response. This way, your response can come from a place of ease and detachment instead of insecurity and threat.

Below are some quick, easy ways to discharge stress that comes up in your workday (or any day, really). Animals shake off stress multiple times a day, and you should feel free to do the same if you need to!

No matter what you do next, start by getting present with the stressful feelings. You can’t discharge stress if you don’t know that it’s happening. Notice it and just accept that it’s happening inside your body. Notice how it feels and where in your body it’s showing up. Your jaw, neck, or shoulders might be tight. You might feel like you have a knot in your gut or chest.

Once you’ve noticed it, you can try the tricks below or any that you come up with on your own. The most important thing is to process the energy through movement of some kind, and to do it as soon after the experience as you can.

  1. Literally shake it off. Close your office door or the bathroom stall and imagine all of that ickiness coming off of you as you shake your arms, torso, legs, hands, feet, head, etc. You could also do this by dancing in the privacy of your own home (or in public!) to a song that you love.
  2. Flick it off. If you can’t writhe your entire body, flick the negative energy off with your hands. If you’re in a meeting that’s totally stressing you out, you could get present with the stress, imagine it flowing like water down your arms, and then flick it off onto the floor.
  3. Wash your hands. Water is a great reminder to release and let go of stressors. If you just had a stressful experience with a supervisor or co-worker, you can head to the bathroom to wash your hands and just imagine all of that sticky energy spiraling down into the drain. Maybe you even dry your hands by shaking the water off.
  4. Breathing exercise. On an in breath, get present with the stress that you’re feeling. Envision the frustration, fear, or anger in your body expanding in your lungs. On the out breath, release all of it out into the ether. Feel it leaving your body and stretch and expand as it does. Try this 1 – 3 times. Imagine peace, presence, and calm taking the place of the stress that was originally there.

If these techniques seem totally weird to you, that’s okay. We’ve been disconnected from our instinctual natures for a long time, and reconnecting with our bodies can feel really foreign and silly.

That said, most new habits feel inauthentic at first, so I hope you’ll at least give this a try and see if it starts to feel normal again. It might even help to tell your partner or a friend about it and see if they’re open to trying it with you. Chris (my sweetie) and I have used the shaking technique from time to time, and it completely shifts the energy of the situation. We feel stupid when doing it, but it always works, and we feel better afterward.

I hope that if nothing else, you feel encouraged to release some stress in a healthy way today. Maybe you flick some negativity off before pouring that glass of wine after work. Or maybe you release some energy through washing your hands before you reach for that cigarette.

Whatever you can do, wherever you’re starting, is just perfect.

Know someone who needs to shake it off? Consider passing this post along to them.


What Nature Can Teach Us About New Year’s Resolutions

On December 21st, we passed through Winter Solstice – that gate that comes once a year to remind us that we’re returning to longer days and more light. Between now and the Summer Solstice in June, the light will slowly, almost imperceptibly, return.

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultant winter solstice new year's resolutions
Photo via Unsplash

I love two things about the Solstice:

  1. It always comes, twice a year, without any interference from humans. It’s a sure thing, and a good reminder that we don’t have to force change – the Earth shifts and moves in its own perfect time.
  2. It’s a slow change. Instead of everything changing in a jarring instant, it happens in increments that add up over time, until before we know it, we’re out playing in the daylight until 9:00 at night. It’s smooth and artful.


Contrast this with the pushy, neon energy of New Year’s Eve.

I think it’s sweet that people want to celebrate bringing in the New Year, but the whole champagne-popping, bright lights-flashing, party-hat scene has never jived with me.

Not only does the celebration itself feel empty, but the amount of “New Year, New You” marketing emails and advertisements that come at us this time of year feels pretty overwhelming.

The intent behind all of these emails and programs isn’t negative – there really is something to the idea of starting a new year that’s invigorating. But the urgency associated with them is so unnatural.

It’s healthy to seek change and create goals that come from our depths and really support our dreams. That said, too often we’re pushed into creating rigid programs for ourselves that rarely end up producing the benefits we were seeking.

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultant winter solstice new year's resolutions
Photo via Unsplash

We enroll ourselves in “Boot Camp” or commit to “Whipping ourselves into shape,” believing that the new year is a time to fit into stuffy boxes of personal change.

If there’s something your heart really wants to be different in 2017, I think that’s beautiful.

But instead of creating an Excel spreadsheet outlining the steps toward change or signing up for a program that treats you like something bad that needs to be “fixed,” I’d encourage you to take a different approach.

Keep it simple and give it space to grow.

The Solstice comes twice a year without our having to will it. The light waxes and wanes, the waves ebb and flow, and the flora and fauna thrive when it’s time.

We can take notes from the natural world around us and follow a similar arc in the journey of our souls.

I’ll give you an example that I think illustrates the benefits of this approach.

I was working with a client we’ll call “Jo,” who was feeling really desperate to have a new career in 2017. She created to-do lists, she set ambitious goals, and she gave herself a firm deadline to go by.

And yet, every week, making time to focus on her career changes would get pushed aside. I’d check in with her about her progress, and she’d feel down and frustrated that she couldn’t get to the things she wanted to, but she remained committed to her deadline.

So there was tension: not much was happening in the present moment, which made her feel bad, but she didn’t want to abandon the rigid structures and timelines she had set up for herself.

It was a recipe for failure, and she was feeling like shit along the way.

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultant winter solstice new year's resolutions
Photo via Unsplash

So, through some honest reflection and re-configuring, we came up with a new approach: ditch the lists and the deadline, and put that energy toward one hour of career nurturing per week.

One hour in which she was giving her dream of a new career the space to grow, without the pressure to check everything off or figure it out by a certain date.

When we break out of rigid systems that aren’t working for us, there’s tremendous freedom and creativity released.

And that happened for Jo.

Sure enough, she actually started creating the dream she’d envisioned. She looked forward to that hour every week. She was playful with it and found that it created the momentum she needed in order to do the hard work of transitioning into something new.

Making the changes we want in the new year can be a natural, fun, and enlivening process.

We may feel the pressure to set deadlines and whip ourselves into action, but oftentimes that just paralyzes us in a space of inaction and shame because we’re “not doing enough.”

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultant winter solstice new year's resolutionsI want to support thoughtful professionals make the changes they seek in healthier, more sustainable ways.

On January 11th, I’m offering a free webinar called How to Work in a Wild New Way, and it has nothing to do with pushing you to make resolutions or commitments that don’t align with who you really are. It has everything to do with making work fit for you naturally, in your own perfect time, and I’d love to have you join us.

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3 Things You Need If You’re An Airplant

At the end of A Wild New Work, we do a closing ceremony where each person is asked to bring in a gift (real or symbolic) that they’d like to leave the group with. In our ceremony this past November, one of the participants very sweetly brought me an airplant, which is one of my favorite kinds of plants.

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultant
Some of my airplants drying out after their bath.

Airplants, formally known as Tillandsia, are native to South/Central America, the southern United States, and the West Indies. They’re these adorable little things that can attach to other creatures (you’ll see them growing on trees in the wild), but many of them don’t require any soil.

Some of them will shoot roots, but they’re unlike other plants in that they don’t require an underground support system.

In my work, I talk a lot about how important it is to be grounded (rooted), because without being grounded, it’s easy to lose a sense of who we are amidst the chaos of life. Rooting into what is meaningful for you, whether it’s through a daily spiritual practice, going for a walk outside, or simply living in integrity, is essential for us humans to live well.

But sometimes we’re so taken out of our elements, either by a crisis or a major change like moving or getting a new job, that it feels like we lose our rootedness for a minute.

This is the limbo stage we get put into when we enter into a new phase of our lives, and it can be really uncomfortable.

This topic feels very personal to me right now, as I’m about to enter into the completely unknown territory of motherhood. Maybe for you, the territory is a reconnection to your true identity, a new relationship, or an unfamiliar town that you’ve just moved to.

I think airplants have something to teach us about this place of limbo – this feeling like everything is unfamiliar, or like we can’t make sense of things like we used to. Eventually we’ll get rooted again (hopefully in a rich, healthy soil), but if we take a few cues from our airplant friends, it’s possible to get through this in-between stage with grace.

The three most important things that airplants need in order to survive are light, water, and air. Let’s take a look at how each of these can help us in these times of transition (bonus: this can be a mini airplant care tutorial if you need one!):

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultantLight

Airplants need to be no more than three feet away from a brightly-lit window. They love the light.

The light warms us, helps us see clearly, and bestows invisible vitamins on us without our having to do anything. It’s a gift.

When we’re in this place of feeling like we’ve lost our groundedness, we can seek the light. What is it in our lives that makes us feel warm? Can we get closer to it in this time? And how about seeing clearly? What can we do to have more clarity? Maybe it’s journaling, asking ourselves if we really believe something to be true, or talking to a supportive person in our lives.

Sit in the light of what feels like truth to you and you’ll get all the warmth, clarity, and nutritious vitamins that you need in this time. For me, this light has been the work of Byron Katie and her book Loving What Is, which I highly recommend.


Most airplants need a bath 1-3 times per week for about 20 minutes each time. This enables them to really soak up resources and stay hydrated.

When was the last time you felt totally submerged, in a good way?

Think back to a time when your cup felt really full or like you had a lot in your emotional/energetic tank. Can you feel that fullness in your body?

A few weeks ago, I scheduled a prenatal massage because when you’re pregnant, your body has no idea what the fuck is happening and starts to decompose. Or at least that’s what it can feel like. On my way to the massage that I was so looking forward to, it was raining, I had Lykke Li playing, and my heart was so full. I hadn’t even gotten to the massage yet, but that simple act of showing up for myself and what my body needed made me feel submerged in goodness.

We all need to bathe regularly, and not just literally – we need to feel submerged into whatever it is that fills us up, whether it’s a massage, lighting a candle, or getting outside. Just because we don’t have roots in this time doesn’t mean that we have to run on empty – just like airplants, we can still store up resources to draw from when we need them.
Air Plant Design Studio


Once the airplants get their mini spa day, it’s really important that they dry out completely within four hours. Putting them in a place that gets good air circulation is critical, or else they’ll rot from the inside out (I’ve had this happen, and it’s sad).

Fortunately, when we’re in this place of limbo and newness, there’s already lots of air circulating!

We’re no longer in our stale, stuffy old patterns – we’re breathing in novelty and change. The key is to incorporate plenty of light and water into your life so that all of the freshness around you doesn’t start to feel completely overwhelming.

This sense of limbo won’t last forever. Eventually, we’ll begin to feel grounded again and things will start to feel familiar. Change is a wonderful thing most of the time, but it can cause some real discomfort when we’re in the midst of it.

If you’re in unfamiliar territory, don’t panic: that sense of groundedness will be back soon.

In the meantime, focus on the light, water, and air that are always available to support you.

25 Things I Love About Work

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultantThis morning before I sat down to write, I was feeling stressed out because I got off to a late start and don’t have as much time to write as I normally do.

“What will I write about in such little time?!,” I wondered. “I have to get this done ASAP so I can make those website updates today!,” I thought.

Then, a sweet little ping of inspiration hit me: I can have fun with this.

I can have fun with this constraint, this lack of time.

It doesn’t have to be hard and anxiety-ridden, which is something I’m trying to remember more and more in every part of my life.

So, instead of trying to plan out a dense, wordy post for you, I decided I’d give myself five minutes to celebrate what I love about work. I set a timer and wrote down as many of my favorite aspects of work as I could.

I focused on what brings me joy and tried to have fun with this instead, and it turned out to be an illuminating exercise! I’ll tell you what I learned after I share the list.

25 things I love about work:

  1. Collaborations with cool people
  2. Shaping ideas
  3. Getting paid
  4. Connecting with other humans through the work
  5. Coffee dates
  6. Opening up shop (meaning: starting early)
  7. Starting late when I want to
  8. Learning new things about my clients’ lives
  9. Breakfast meetings
  10. The first email check of the day
  11. Stretch assignments
  12. Building presentations and curriculum
  13. Learning about different company cultures and wondering what makes organizations tick
  14. Having rhythm throughout the day: work, break, work, break, stretch, work…
  15. Opportunities to express gratitude, which are everywhere
  16. Sharing that knowing look with a colleague in the hallway, like “We got this.”
  17. Getting in the zone
  18. Dreaming about what could be…
  19. Dry erase boards
  20. Power Hour
  21. Having a workspace that’s mine and full of inspiration
  22. Color-coded calendars
  23. Looking out the window until my next best thought arrives
  24. Excel formula magic (up to a point)
  25. The fact that we always get to choose how we show up in our work

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultantWhen I looked back over my list, I realized that I really want more of two things:

A dry erase board, and…

More connections/collaborations/partnerships with other people doing soulful work in the world.

I knew my desire to collaborate has been getting mulled over in the back of my mind, but it came out so clearly on my list that it surprised me a little.

Isn’t that what it’s all about for most of us, anyway? Finding connection and meaning in our work? Partnering with others to build something we care about and that serves others?

Work gets a bad rap a lot of the time because, well, it’s complicated. But we can celebrate work – it can be fun and life-giving and meaningful.

What do you love about “work”?

If you’re interested, time yourself for 5 minutes or less and jot down as many things you love about work as you can. What does your list say? And how can you get more of what’s on there into your day to day life?

I’d love to hear about your list or thoughts about this post in our Facebook group, A Wild New Work! Click here to join the discussion.

One Powerful Thing You Can Do to Feel Less Overwhelmed

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultantI’m due to have a baby in March of 2017, and I never knew (until being pregnant myself) how much pressure there is on new and expectant moms. There are about 1,000,000 things you’re “supposed” to be doing before the baby arrives: take lots of supplements, eat more protein, stop drinking so much coffee, kegels, sleep more, buy things, choose a name…the list goes on and on.

Oh, and on top of all that: relax! Stress hurts the baby, and you need to keep your blood pressure down.

It’s a horrible, annoying spiral of “not enough” that’s so easy to get sucked into.

On top of trying to be a good baby-grower, I’m running a business, which has had to shift and accommodate as I grow and approach giving birth.

I know 2016 has been a year of next-level stress and change for many of us, and we’ve seen that played out on a larger scale through global events.

It’s not difficult these days to feel overwhelmed and like we’re not doing enough. In fact, I think that’s kind of the baseline for a lot of people, especially those of us who want to grow and develop into more awakened, loving professionals.

A not-so-helpful thing can happen when we’re experiencing life stress: we add on the pressure to deal with that stress in a “better” way.

For example, not only did I feel the pressure to be a good pregnant woman, I found myself feeling bad about not managing that pressure in a more “enlightened” way. In an attempt to grow and develop, I’d listen to podcasts about how we need to separate from our egos more, or about how we need to manage our time more intentionally. I didn’t listen to these podcasts because I really wanted to, I listened to them because I believed I wasn’t handling things in “the right way.”

I totally believe the things I heard on those podcasts, but berating myself for still having thoughts that made me feel anxious only compounded my sense of feeling overwhelmed.

If you’re feeling the weight of a shifting world, a heavy load of responsibilities, and the pressure to constantly improve yourself, I want to share one thing you can do today to give yourself some breathing room:

Stop trying to be better.

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultantDon’t read another article about how you can change until it’s because you want to. Don’t get any more advice from anyone until you’ve taken some deep breaths and centered yourself again.

Let go of the pressure to be and do more.

Chances are, you’re being and doing enough already.

I’m all for self-improvement and development, but sometimes I find myself turning the desire to grow into an obligation and another thing I’m not doing “correctly.” But the thing is, we are all already growing. In the natural world, everything that is alive can’t help but grow – even when it’s on the path to death.

If we are part of the natural world, then we can’t help but grow, either. Even in the midst of what feels like a burden we can’t possibly carry or get through, we are growing. We’re progressing in small ways every moment without even trying.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed and like you’re not handling it the way you should, please give yourself some grace and let go of the need to be better.

I know this is a hard lesson to learn – I’m learning it, too – but we have to stop hating ourselves and trust that we’re evolving even when we don’t feel very good.

So just be who you are today.

Do the best you can, and accept that it’s enough.

When you’re ready, you’ll make the tweaks you need to in order to feel more grounded and less overwhelmed. Magically, those changes will be much easier to make when they come from you, not from external pressure to be better.


5 Ways to Be a Grown-Up When Shit Hits the Fan

The week before A Wild New Work started, a lot of weird, gnarly, frustrating things happened. People from my past showed up, clients were having emergencies and cancelling, I broke out in a rash…I could go on.

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultantIt was an abnormally difficult week, and it literally felt like someone had thrown poo into a fan and it was shooting out over every aspect of my life.

I believe in energy, which means that I believe our actions have consequences – often unintended ones. I don’t believe all of the things coming up that week were “my fault,” but I’ve noticed that interesting things always happen before I start a big, important thing in my life.

With A Wild New Work, I was staking a claim and starting a group workshop that I knew I had to do. That’s powerful stuff, and I think it reverberated in good ways and uncomfortable ways – hence, shit + fan.

It’s hard to be a grown-up when things keep coming up that just feel so frustrating, overwhelming, and uncontrollable. It’s much easier to revert back to our childhood and wail on the floor about how unfair it all is, even though that doesn’t help us in any way.

Something had my back that week, though, because I kept coming across books and articles by grown-ass people who showed me how to be like them amidst what felt like total chaos.

I tried their methods, and I’m happy to report that this was my most graceful handling of a horrible week so far.

So I want to share the five major tools that people like Glennon Doyle Melton, Elizabeth Gilbert, and Steven Pressfield taught me about how to be an enlightened adult when things get rough:

First, you need to accept what’s happening. Things get much, much harder if you’re fighting the fact that someone is throwing shit through the fan. They just are, and it’s not always something you can turn off. So here you are, crying on the bathroom floor, or screaming at the person who cut you off on the freeway, and you just have to be there for a minute. No one deserves a happy, easy life all of the time, and you can get through this as long as you accept what’s going on and intend to see it through with grace.

You get to decide how you respond to the things showing up in your life right now.

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultantSecond, you need to take care of your body. This will not get better if you’re exhausted, hungry, or in a ton of pain because you haven’t moved your body in 48 hours. Now is the time to take an extra 30 minutes to do a yoga video at home, drink lots of water, go for a walk, or get some fancy healthy food in your stomach. You’ll be able to think and feel much more clearly.

Third, rally support. It’s not helpful to go into a long, circuitous tirade about how unfair everything in life is, but it is helpful to ask for help from the people who love you. Tell them what’s going on. Ask them to light a candle for you. Take a sick day and let your co-worker cover. Ask for what you need like a grown-up and, if it feels right, humbly accept the help that’s offered.

Fourth, stay still. Don’t make any sudden movements. No major decisions should be made in crisis mode unless a decision is what’s needed to get you out of it. In my experience recently, there was nothing that needed to change that week, even though I wanted to overreact to the difficulties and completely switch up what I’m doing in life. But that wasn’t the time, because those changes would have been reactive and made just because I was uncomfortable.

Stay still and get quiet. Watch what’s happening, journal like hell, and hold your heart.

Finally, practice gratitude like it’s nobody’s business. Gratitude snaps you out of temper tantrum mode and gets you grounded again. You don’t have to be grateful for everything, and it’s really important that expressing gratitude feels authentic to you, even if it’s hard at first. You can be grateful for your next breath, or the water you’re drinking, or the fact that you have heat in your home. Find the things to be grateful for – they’re there even when it feels like everything is falling apart.

Sometimes chaos enters our life to show us what really matters again. It’s uncomfortable and wildly inconvenient, but we always have the ability to choose how we will respond to its presence.

People who have their shit together inside when the world around them is in upheaval are the ones who will learn, adapt, and transform through the chaos.

We can all be those grown-ass people if we stay grounded, healthy, accepting of support, still, and grateful.

You’re Making This Harder Than it Needs to Be

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultantI’ve always made decisions relatively quickly. Part of it is pure laziness – I get bored doing research or hearing myself talk for too long about the pros and cons of something.

The other part of it is just a relatively high level of comfort with not knowing if something is “the” perfect decision, because I don’t believe there are perfect ways to do anything in life.

The way I figure, the road will lead somewhere, and I’ll learn from it, and most things aren’t as dramatic as we make them out to be, anyway.

Sometimes, though, a decision will throw me off my game and I’ll toil over it for weeks, which is total misery to me.

Usually when this happens, I realize that I’m making the decision a lot harder than it needs to be. When I feel like I have to really wrestle with something and lack clarity, it’s for one reason:

I’m not telling myself the truth.

I’m not letting myself really feel what I want, or say what I think. I’m pandering to others, or to the part of me that doesn’t want to change.

Steven Pressfield calls that part of us “the Resistance.” It’s the energy that rises up against us whenever we want to improve our lives, or change course, or do anything that’s unpopular. He tells us that the Resistance is conniving, persistent, and it’s out for blood.

Its best friend is Rationalization.

When a decision is ahead of us, most of us know what we want to do relatively quickly. But then Resistance and Rationalization show up, and they muddy the waters.

They tell us, “You can’t do that – you’ll hurt his feelings” or “That’s a great idea, but you should start tomorrow.” We make ourselves busy with distractions and bullshit and then we wonder why we’re paralyzed with indecision.

It’s because we’re letting our Resistance run the show.

My Resistance is very smart and subtle, and it shows up often in my work. Lately, it’s distracted me from a goal I set a long time ago, which was to write more guest posts on other blogs and websites that I respect.

For many reasons, I don’t want to do this, and the primary one is Fear: fear of rejection.

Resistance loves Fear, because it feeds off of it.

So since I’m afraid of pitching guest posts, Resistance shows up with all these seemingly true reasons for why I shouldn’t put myself out there:

  • I don’t have time – I’m already writing two posts a week for my own blog
  • I’m not sure there are even websites out there that would be a good fit for me
  • It probably wouldn’t even grow my audience anyway, and I’d just waste a lot of time

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultantDo you see how crippling this bullshit can be?

Even though I (big I, my Self) know that guest posting is a valuable way to spread your voice and serve more people, the Resistance makes it so much more complicated and difficult than it really is.

All it would take for me to submit a guest post is to find a blog I like, write a post like I would any other day, and email it to them. It’s really very simple, like most things in our lives are.

We can generally make things easier for ourselves by recognizing the Resistance and telling the truth.

We can ask ourselves questions like:

Why am I really avoiding making that decision?

Why am I really distracting myself with all this busywork?

Why do I really want to stay? Or leave? Or scream? Or jump for joy?

What’s really going on here?

Even though it can stop us dead in our tracks, Resistance is also a gift, because it’s a sign that you’re on a path toward making positive changes in your life.

As Pressfield wrote in his book The War of Art, “The more important a call or action to our soul’s evolution, the more Resistance we will feel toward pursuing it.”

So if something is difficult, try not to worry – it means you’re working through some really important, soul-level stuff. Simply do your best to notice the Resistance and its lies so that you can break free and move forward.

What is True?

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultantI was driving home from the grocery store yesterday, and I was stopped a few cars down from a red light. On the righthand corner ahead of me, there was a man who looked to be in his 30s with a cardboard sign that read “We are people too.”

I liked that, and wholeheartedly agreed with the sentiment. And while he wasn’t openly asking for money, his sign and where he was standing implied that that’s what he was requesting from those of us driving by.

A few seconds later, the light changed to green, and everyone started rolling forward. As I drove by, I noticed he had folded the sign in half so that it read something else:

“Go fuck yourself.”

When I read that, the first thing I felt was surprise.

And then relief.

It was striking. While I’m sure that’s what a lot of people asking for money on the streets want to say after they’ve been ignored, yelled at, or demeaned, I’ve never actually seen a sign with that written on it.

It was refreshing to see someone in real life – someone who was socially and physically vulnerable, no less – say exactly how he felt. “Go fuck yourself.”

How often do you hear or speak the truth at work? How often does a message come in loud and clear from someone’s mouth? Coming from the world of Human Resources, I’ve seen my fair share of spin in the workplace.

“We don’t want to justify paying you more” becomes “Our research shows that this is the appropriate salary range for someone in your position.”

“We have no intention of continuing your contract after three months” becomes “We’d like to see how you do in the role and then talk about the possibility of having you come on permanently.”

“We have no idea where we’re headed and everyone on the leadership team hates each other” becomes “We’re excited about the future and are working hard to find strategic paths forward.”

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultantImagine a workplace that’s been taken over by huge spiders weaving webs of total befuddlement and confusion. Everyone’s walking around with sticky webs all over their bodies, leaving them tangled, heavy, and nearly blind.

Some people have been around the spinning of the webs for so long that they can hardly recognize the truth anymore – in themselves or in others.

Many of us have our polite, outward-facing selves – the parts of us that hold the sign that gently says “We are people too.” While it’s appropriate to keep good boundaries at work and keep some part of ourselves private, too many of us are walking around as victims and accomplices of the befuddlement spiders.

Have you ever shown someone the side of your sign that says “Go fuck yourself”? What keeps you from turning it over?

And the truth doesn’t have to be angry like that – what keeps you from speaking other truths, like “I love you” or “I’m afraid” or “I don’t believe that’s fair”?

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultant
Image courtesy of Mystic Mamma

For most of us, it’s fear and shame. But your truth can cut right through all of that, and it can also cut through the webs of confusion and mistrust that are so prevalent in many organizations today.

The day before I saw the man on the street with that sign, I used a tea bag that had a little message on it. It said “Truth is everlasting.”

The truth isn’t going anywhere, and it will come up again and again until we can’t ignore it. Better to let it in with open arms than to continue being wrapped up in the webs that keep us trapped and confused.

What is true? What do you say to yourself before you make it nice and palatable for others?

What’s on the back of your sign, and will you ever show it to us?


Let Yourself Be Seasonal

photo-1445998559126-132150395033Today is the Autumnal Equinox, which marks the official start of fall in the Northern Hemisphere.

There are two equinoxes every year, one in September, and one in March, and it’s called an equinox because today the day and night will be almost exactly the same length. From here on out, the darkness will subsume the daytime until things change again after the winter solstice in December.

Things are shifting, and I’m sure you’ve felt it already – the mornings are a little colder, the trees are changing colors or dropping leaves, and school is fully back in session.

This season is full of richness, and it’s even more enjoyable if we can let ourselves join in on the changes that are happening around us.

We need to let ourselves be seasonal.

Traditionally, this time of year was a time of harvesting and storing up for the winter ahead. Today, in our ever-abundant grocery stores, it can be hard to tell that anything is different, but try to let yourself notice: you’ll probably see more squash, apples, and all sorts of warm spicy treats.

You are, of course, being marketed to with Halloween shenanigans and Pumpkin Spice Lattes, but pretend for a minute that you’re back in the village with your ancestors.

Pretend you are a part of this harvest – that all of the beautiful oranges and reds and yellows in the food around you really are unique treasures that you only get to harvest once a year.

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultantI know a lot of people dread Autumn or feel ambivalent about it because it means that the cold and wet winter is coming, but that’s like clinging to the dead leaves that are falling off of the trees. Why hold on to what’s already passed?

Can you let those leaves drop and see the bounty around you instead?

You are a part of this earth, which means that you go through seasons of your own and are affected by the seasons of the environment.

I remember how difficult it was to go to my 9-5 job every day in the dark, come home in the dark, and then try to muster up the energy to do “life” in the daylight I saw on the weekends. If that could be you this winter, then I encourage you to take a cue from your ancestors and try a few tricks:

Get outside while you can and submerge yourself in all of the colors and beauty of the Autumn season.

Dive into the harvest. Go to the pumpkin patch, or make apple cider, or hike in the fiery woods. Be grateful for the fact that the trees can be both dead and alive at the same time, and be grateful that you yourself can go through that same metamorphosis this time of year. This season is happening around you, but it can also happen within you if you’ll let it.

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultantStore up your reserves.

Winter is long and dark and can be rough for many of us in the Northern Hemisphere. And yet, it’s one of the most exhausting times of year because we try to pack so much in and pretend like our energy levels are the same as they were in the spring and summer.

In the United States, we’ve got a slew of popular holidays from late October until early January, and on top of all that, many working folks have major year-end projects to work on like open enrollment, budgeting, strategic planning, a huge retail rush, and on and on.

In my former working life, I was almost always tapped out by late December or January, which made me miss out on so much of the winter holidays – the celebrations that are supposed to lift our spirits and nourish us in the dark.

So do what you can now to store up your reserves. Commit to one less meeting, or event, or volunteer gig. Save some extra money if you can so that you can treat yourself on an extra grey day. Make a few extra meals and freeze them for that week in December when you can’t imagine cooking anything healthy ever again.

Remember that you’re going to need some extra spaciousness and energy in the next few months, so make like a squirrel and tuck away all of the sweet little acorns you can.

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultantFinally, let the darkness carry you.

A lot of us in the West are uncomfortable with the dark, literally and metaphorically. We hate it. We resist it, and our easy access to light and electronics makes that really easy to do.

Personally, I love this shift toward more darkness and rain because it gives me another excuse to be lazy and not do as much, but I know it’s not for everyone. Even if you’re someone who loves the sun and is dreading this turn toward night, see if you can roll with it a little more easily this year.

Let the darkness help you do less, introspect more, or release the leaves that are already falling off your branches. Let the darkness give you an excuse to stay in and read a book or throw a Dia de Los Muertos party that brings your favorite people together.

Try partnering with the darkness and see if this time of year can actually be restful and restorative.

Happy Autumn, sweet readers.

Something special is happening this Autumn for working women in Portland who aren’t afraid to go into the darkness and come out renewed. Click here to learn more.

Our Addiction to Productivity

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultantMost of us get the same lessons handed to us again and again throughout our lives so that we can change and evolve and become better versions of ourselves. One of my recurring lessons is this:

My worth is not tied to how productive I am.

This is a tough one for me, and one I thought I’d pretty much dealt with over the past couple of years. I can see rationally why my value doesn’t lie in what I do or produce, but gnarly messages still rear their heads sometimes when I take a break or want to do less.

I think this is a common issue for those of us raised in the United States. We were fed a narrative that says that we’re the hardest-working country on earth – a country full of scrappy individualists who carved out their place in the world with sweat, blood, and tears. Of course, this isn’t true – African slaves built this country, and besides, there was no country needed, as this place was already inhabited and cared for by Native tribes.

Still, we were told again and again that if you just work hard enough, you can succeed here, no matter what.

If it were an equation it would be Hard Work = Success. So simple!

But it isn’t that simple, is it? These beliefs – that we are what and how much we produce, or that the good life lies just on the other side of decades of drudgery – get stuck in our systems. We repeat them over and over to ourselves, and it’s no wonder that we feel like lazy pieces of shit when we’re out of work or unsure of what it is that we want to create for the world.

These messages become part of us, and even when we think we’ve gotten past them, something else comes up to remind us that we have more work to do.

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultantFor me, that reminder has been getting pregnant and growing a little being inside my belly for the past four months or so (Integrated Baby coming March 2017!).

My pregnancy so far has been a mixed bag of feelings. Sometimes it’s lovely, full of joy and excitement, and other times I’ve just wanted to be done with it, forever. The nausea, exhaustion, and an entirely new set of rules about what’s good and not good for me has, at times, felt like a burden I don’t want to bear.

More than anything, this pregnancy has challenged my beliefs about myself, once again showing me how addicted I am to this need to feel productive.

Now that there’s a ticking clock until baby arrives and my life changes forever, I feel extra pressure to put my head down and do work.

Except my body’s like, “No.”

Most mornings in the first trimester, I wanted to lay down and watch nature videos instead of doing my usual uber-productive meditation and writing routine. By about 2pm most days, I’m completely drained and wonder how anyone works until 5 or 6 every day. I simply can’t do as much as I used to, and that’s been tough to accept.

These changes have forced me to shed, more than ever, the harmful beliefs I have about what it means to be a hard-working, professional woman. Which is very frustrating at times (why can’t I just do more?!), but is also a huge gift.

Our addiction to productivity robs us of the sweetness of slowing down. When we’re compelled to go slower, whether it’s because of a pregnancy, an illness, or just being too damn tired to keep going, we have an opportunity to look more closely at ourselves and the lives we’re living. However, we miss out on the gifts of that time when we spend it chastising ourselves for not going faster.

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultantWho would you be if you weren’t able to produce or “add value” in your organization anymore?

What’s underneath what you’ve achieved, and what would still be there if you were never able to work again?

I bet there are things in your life that are being overshadowed by our cultural addiction to productivity. Maybe you’re falling in love and just want more time with your sweetie, or maybe your body is undergoing major changes like mine, or maybe you just want to spend an hour staring out your window.

What can you reclaim by doing a little less today?

Can you slough off any shame or guilt you feel for going at a pace that works better for you and your body?

Like any addiction, productivity or workaholism numbs us from feeling what we feel, and that’s usually things like fear and shame. Part of recovery is looking at those parts of us that want to hide and lovingly holding them instead of bulldozing over them with more and more of our drug of choice.

If any of this rings true for you today – if you think you might have work to do in this arena – then I invite you to slow down and look at why you feel the need to do more.

If it’s helpful for you to process this with other people, I encourage you to check out our Facebook group, where we discuss issues like this.