When you’re dreading doing the thing you say you love to do.

resistance This topic comes up so often with my coaching clients, colleagues, friends and family. Okay, with most of humanity:

“I want to do the thing, I love to do the thing, or at least I think I do, and when it’s time to do the thing, my brain says ‘NOPE.’ What’s up with that?”

There could be two things going on:

1. You don’t love the thing as much as you say you do.
2. You do love the thing but are experiencing what I call “tiny resistance.”

I’ll unpack this for you:

You don’t love the thing as much as you say you do.
Does this feel like a “should?” Is it what everyone else is doing and you feel like a weirdo because you’re not, but everyone else seems happy/successful/perfect whilst doing the thing, so obviously there much be something wrong with you. Get to it! Crack the whip!

Example: Everyone is using Facebook to promote their businesses. But you freaking hate Facebook. You hate using it, you hate the algorithm, you hate that you can’t see stuff when you want to see it, you feel dread about using it even a year in of a good, solid try applying curiosity and experimenting. Maybe it’s time to delete your Facebook page. Find a medium that lights you up, that you look forward to using, that feels like “home.” There are people out there who don’t use social media at all, and are still successful in business. I know, right?

Another inquiry to try: Have you been at it a solid amount of time — several weeks (6-plus) or months rather than hours or days? This could be an adjustment phase issue. If you’ve honestly given it a go for a good amount of time and are still avoiding and dreading doing the thing, then it might be time to let it go, or to tweak it to better suit you.

Until you can connect to and summon that inner voice that tells you “This is all wrong for me,” and listen to it, you’ll end up doing stuff you hate, sometimes for years. Maybe it’s time to set yourself free and do things your way. Because only then will you be able to clearly hear the inner voice that says, “This is totally right for me, and it feels like coming home.”

Remember, just because something really isn’t your thing — and that includes your Great, Big, Shiny Idea That You Totally Thought Was “The One” — consider that you might need to tweak or adjust rather than abandon ship altogether. Look for: Ways to course correct. Like maybe hiring someone to run your Facebook page if you’re getting a decent response there. Or to do other shit you really hate doing, while keeping your bigger idea running with heart.

Or maybe it’s okay to let a big thing go, because that opens up space to explore something that might be a much better fit for you.

You do love the thing but are experiencing what I call “tiny resistance.”
You’ve put in the time, researched, asked all of the right questions, went through training/mentoring as needed, got super-freaking-crystal-clear about your desires and how to fulfill them. And yet, when it comes time to do your thing — the thing you most want, the thing you chose — you don’t wanna.

Here’s why: Newness sucks. You’re a caterpillar newly emerged from the cocoon, and it’s time to fly, and you spread your wings and oh man, this is thrilling, and scary, and it takes up a ton of energy, and you’re afraid of falling, and what if you poop mid-air, and you’re not sure if you’re doing it right, and holy balls, it is ever harder than you thought it was going to be. But afterward? You feel exhilarated! You’re doing the Kevin-McCallister-in-Home-Alone fist-pump and dancing around your office like Mick Jagger. Or Elaine from Seinfeld. Either way, it’s a happy dance.

Bottom line, key point: You feel dread before doing the thing, but you feel consistently awesome and empowered and on the right path both during and afterward. Doing your right thing isn’t effortless, but it flows, and it feels right.

Example: When I was in coaching training, I learned that it’s normal to feel a sense of dread and avoidance before coaching sessions. That this might prove true even in instances where we had a practice client we felt really great about working with, or even that shiny new very first ideal client who is paying you actual dollars and huzzah and confetti is dropping and still, you feel your pits sweating before each call, wondering whether you should postpone until you feel . . . safer, more competent, whatever.

I found this experience to be true: Even though I straight-up knew I was doing work I valued and loved, I felt dread before my client sessions in the early days. And I got over it. How? By doing lots and lots and lots of client sessions. And even now, after every client session, I’m doing a fist-pump and a victory lap around my office, because I just love this work, I’m good at it, and I get so much about connecting on such a deep level with a fellow human being.

Currently, I’m recording episodes for the Do What Lights You Up podcast, which will launch in November. When I’m about to record an episode, I feel that same sense of dread in the hours beforehand. My “How can I get out of this?” instinct darts out of the shadows, scurrying toward the nearest rock for shelter. “Eh,” I’ll think. “It’s just tiny resistance because you’re new at this. Just do the thing and the reluctance will abate over time.” And those thoughts are absolutely correct. I totally shake my booty after every recording, and love every moment while I’m having those lively and deep conversations with people.

Tiny Resistance doesn’t have the same level of dread as a Should; it’s lighter, more like stage fright than going through the motions. I realize that this is a rather fine distinction: Is it garden variety newness or is it a thing I shouldn’t be doing? But your heart knows. You always know the answer.

If you have any thoughts to share about this, I’d love to hear them. Hit ‘reply to this newsletter and get in touch. If not, please know that I’m grateful that you take the time to read these newsletters. Thank you.

When you have really big feelings.

when you have really big feelings Toni McLellan Coaching newsletterLast weekend, while recording a podcast ep with my friend Mike, my husband interrupted us to say there was something wrong with one of our pet birds. Moments later, Ozzie ‘keet died in my hands, surrounded by his adoring family. :(

I *really* loved this bird. My whole fam did. He was my office-mate for many years (he was nearly six), he could talk (and imitate the ice maker on our fridge and a toy drum kit that’s been gone for years), he did tricks, like kicking a tennis ball off his cage or dropping plastic coins into the cold air return. We were all utterly charmed by him from the get-go, bringing him home at just ten weeks of age and my boys were so much smaller than they are now. I have dozens and dozens of videos and photos of my boys and that bird, sharing so many happy memories.

Just, ugh. I’m so bummed. I started sharing some feelings on my tumblr, which I tend to use as a more personal space than my blog on my website. At first, I worried I was over-sharing, that I was being “over the top,” when I realized:

I have big feelings. I’ve always had big feelings.

Those feelings allow me to express myself in ways that make people feel better, that create connections, that make people laugh, that help people realize they’re awesome just the way they are and that their hopes and dreams aren’t stupid or weird (well, some are weird, but that’s totally okay).

Why do I act like this is a bad thing, something to stifle, to smother, to spare other people from experiencing? Why don’t I regard my emotions — a naturally occurring part of me that’s been with me since childhood — as something to appreciate, value, and honor? Perhaps it’s because I was told from childhood on up that I was “too much,” to “tone it down,” to “quiet down,” to “stop crying so much,” to not be “so emotional” or “such a girl.” Maybe it’s also because I don’t want to appear weak, or out of control, or unprofessional, or undignified, or too much of *something* that I’m afraid people won’t like.

Yeah, well, fuuuuuuck that.

I have big feels. That’s not carte blanche to emote all over every occasion, but when it’s deeply important to me, I’m going to consciously honor my way of being. And you totally should, too. Even Danielle LaPorte agrees with me.

Your takeaway about this:

  • Pay attention when you feel scared or hesitant about expressing your feelings and desires.
  • Ask yourself why you’re afraid to just be you, and how you might find ways to express yourself that feel like coming home for you.
  • What gifts are you hiding underneath your desire to go along with everyone else, to not make waves or cause offense, to gain acceptance, to stay safe or invisible?
  • And do you feel ready to share those gifts and see what happens?

If you give this some thought and experience any insights or ‘aha’ moments, I’d love to hear about it. Just post a comment here, or if you’re feeling strongly about this subject, you can always schedule a free clarity session with me and we can explore this together.

Change your mind.

Here's a photo of me enjoying the heck out of a long bike ride. It doesn't really have anything to do with this post, but I thought you'd enjoy it anyway.

Here’s a photo of me enjoying the heck out of a long bike ride.
It doesn’t really have anything to do with this post,
but I thought you’d dig it anyway.

How do you know when you’ve made the right decision?

Do you tend to question yourself, or freak out once you’ve decided? Do you call 20 friends to ask them if it’s the right move? Do you run it by your coach, mentor, boss, team, cat, box turtle, life-size cardboard cutout of Idris Elba (what?) or partner (or all of the above)? How do you react when things don’t go according to plan? (Hint: They seldom go according to plan). Do you feel good about things once you’ve made a decision, and trust your instincts to guide you?

When I make a decision and wonder later on if it’s the right one, I tend to look at three things: Desires, Results and How I Feel.

Example: Last month, I decided to only send this newsletter twice a month.

Let’s break that decision down, a few weeks later:

Desires: My desire was for greater clarity and to be more in alignment with how I work best, as opposed to listening to what experts say is best (which tends to translate into: always be posting/sharing/pinning/connecting). I find that business model overwhelming. Is that desire still valid? Yep.

Results:

I received almost immediate feedback from people who said they love reading my newsletters and were bummed I’d be sending fewer of them.
A decrease in traffic to my website, where I also post these newsletters. I do believe Google ranks sites based on a “use it or lose it” sort of deal, not that I’m all that concerned with hits or traffic in the everyday sense. But long-term? If I were to pursue a book deal or other partnership, they’ll look at that stuff. So it’s on my mind as smart biz growth, even if it’s not a huge everyday priority.
The less structure I have in my week, the less I tend to get done in general. I’ve talked to other entrepreneurs who have experienced a similar sort of lag. So for me, having that structure helped prop up my productivity on my writing days (which are separate from my coaching session days, where I am plenty busy–yay!). (Look for an upcoming newsletter on how structure–but not too much–can really help even the most wild-minded creatives flourish.)

How I Feel: I really, really miss writing each week.

So, guess what? I’ve changed my mind. Weekly it is!

::confetti drop::

I do NOT care about this in the sense of it being some sort of grand announcement. I’m fully aware that nobody gives a shit about how often I email them, unless it’s like five times a day or something (NOPE). But I DO care about it in terms of how my thought process and analysis might help YOU.

I think sometimes we struggle with changing our minds out of fear. Fear of what people will think (are we wishy-washy? Incapable of commitment? Weak-willed?). Fear that we can’t stick with anything — creative types who feel called to chase many ideas at once will get this one. Fear that we’re wrong and should’ve stuck with our first instinct, with an attendant fear that once we start in one direction, there’s no turning back. (Hint: There so totally is.)

That being said, I don’t think that fear usually leads us to our best decisions.

So my hope is that you can take this process and make it your own:

Do you have something that’s not quite working for you? Examine it in terms of your desires, results, and how you feel so far. Then decide from that place — a place of clarity and power — instead of from fear or doubt. You should have an answer after running your choice through those filters.

One last thought: Watch out for continually changing your mind, or getting caught in a cycle of perpetually starting new things and seldom or ever finishing them. Chances are, if you were to run THAT pattern through this three-part series of questions, you’d figure out that this isn’t serving you, either.

What do you think about all of this? I love hearing stories about all angles of these dispatches; if you’ve changed your mind with great or terrible results, I want to hear about it, and we can continue the discussion in future newsletters/blog posts. If you ask yourself these questions about a decision you’ve made, let me know how it goes.

As always, thanks for reading, and I’ll be in touch again next week. Yay!

That time we broke the bed

that time we broke the bed

Recently, my husband and I celebrated 17 years of marriage by going camping, just the two of us. With three kids and two adult relatives with specific needs living with us, this getaway was kind of a big deal to us.

We drove our popup to a favorite state park in Wisconsin only to discover it was full (many of their sites aren’t reserve-able in advance). Then we called a state park campground reservation center and learned that every popup site within a seven HOUR radius was also full. A ranger suggested a county campground 30 minutes to the north, and we found it was mostly deserted (a rarity when camping in a miniaturized version of the suburbs like this) and really lovely.

I was really hungry. And really grumpy as a result. My husband wanted to get the camper set up before we ate, and in his admirable quest for efficiency, he sort of fell out of one side of it. And straight onto his head. And broke one of the beds in the process.

One of the beds that literally provides half the support structure for the entire camper. (If you don’t have any idea what a popup looks like, here’s a picture of a really cute family and one side of their popup containing the bed in question:

Our cute popup in happier days, before we broke the bed.

Now, this entire incident is hilarious to us both in the retelling, but at the time, it was super-stressful. “I have literally lost my sense of humor,” I told him, after checking to make sure he hadn’t seriously injured himself so I could get back to the important work of being pissy.

I felt like crying. I felt like breaking the other bed, just to show that popup — and the Universe — who was boss. I told Dan that I wanted to scrap this whole deal and go home. I think I may have even stomped my foot a time or two. Not very gracious. Full metal victim. Decidedly un-coach-ly behavior.

And then, I looked up.

We’d chosen a site in a far corner of the campground, off to ourselves, and there were very tall evergreen trees all around us. I took a few deep breaths and just gazed up at those trees, and I noticed several impossibly tiny birds flitting around up there. They brought me back to myself.

This is why I’m here,” I thought.

I heard my husband banging on one of the bed rails with the trailer hitch (I am not even kidding) in a futile attempt to fix it.

I also thought: “He’s why I’m here, too.”

My hero. My partner. My best friend. Fixer of Broken Beds. Dude who makes me laugh every single day, and who produces my podcasts because I asked nicely and he loves the work. Awesomesauce daddy and all-around hunky guy.

The tone of the trip changed from there. Were we frustrated? Sure. Did we decide, then and there, to make the best of it? Yep.

The next morning, I woke to a strange bubbly-fizzing noise outside the camper.

“Coffee,” I mumbled.

“I don’t even want to talk about it,” he replied, sounding so defeated that the only reaction either of us could possibly have was to burst into laughter.

Yeah, the stove wasn’t working. Though he fixed it a few minutes later. I came outside and huddled with him in the cold, clean air and we laughed together. The trip was already becoming a “We can laugh about it now” experience. Those are often some of my favorites.

We ended up having a fantastic weekend and went home wishing for just one more day away together, just us two. My man fixed me the best grilled cheese sandwich I’ve ever had in my life. We played Trivial Pursuit, we wandered, we laughed a ton, we talked about our future and explored how far we’d come from when we first started out together.


I’m sharing this story with you so you can know that stressful stuff is happening all around us. But so is beautiful stuff. And we have the power to choose where we put our attention at any given moment. (Click to tweet that!) Sometimes just that choice to look up or look around and breathe deeply and notice something other than whatever it is we’re upset about is enough to create a new perspective and a lighter mood. We have a beautifully designed reset button resting right between our ears.

This is also important: All that I’ve shared online about our trip so far is the photo (above) showing the view up into those beautiful trees and a really cute selfie (my bio pic, below) that I took on the drive back home while texting with my brother (an adult with Down Syndrome who loves texting me selfies, so I often reply with silly faces or whatever to entertain him, too).

Nobody saw me stomp my foot in the dirt at the campsite. Or grump at my husband. Or complain about how it felt like everything was just going SO WRONG all around us right then and how AWFUL that felt. (If a “Wah!” cries out in the forest, does anyone hear it?)

Most of us don’t share those sorts of stories on social media, and maybe we shouldn’t. I don’t like to complain out of habit or to just vent because I can. But at the same time, I don’t want people to think my life is comprised of some glossy collection of carefully curated moments, either. I am gloriously messy, y’all. In the best ways. I am flawed, I can stomp a foot, I get sad, and frustrated, and I complain. I’m also loving, present, and funny, and happier and more fulfilled than I’ve ever been in my life.

Being in this generally-good place in life doesn’t mean it’s all perfect, but it does mean I know how to navigate my way back to my center when things go sideways. Literally.

So the next time you’re in the thick of a terrible situation, try looking up. Or outside. Or removing yourself from the situation, if you can, to go take a few deep breaths in your car. Look for the moment where you can break open the tension with something funny, or by saying something kind; it’s almost always there. You just have to look for that tiny miraculous moment that will break it all open and move you somewhere that feels better.

Oh, and here’s that selfie I mentioned, which I included at the end of my newsletter (you can subscribe to my weekly newsletter by filling in the web form at the top of my site).

Toni McLellan selfie