Ep #18: Four Phrases that are Holding You Back

Strong as a Working Mom with Carrie Holland | Four Phrases That are Holding You Back
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There are certain phrases that my clients say to me during our coaching calls, and I hear them over and over again. These thoughts and phrases are presented as absolute truths, but they most definitely prevent my clients from moving forward.

When we pick these phrases apart, my clients realize that they aren’t helping or serving them. So this week, I’m sharing what these phrases are, how to acknowledge if you’re saying any of them, and how to remove them from your vocabulary in favor of more effective, helpful phrases. 

In this episode, I’m showing you how to get really clear on what matters most to you, where you want to invest your energy and talents, and why doing so is so important. Find out the reason I want you to remove these four phrases from your vocabulary, and some alternative phrases you can use to stop holding yourself back and start moving forward.

If you like what you’ve been hearing, please review the show. Your suggestions have inspired episodes and will help me make this show better for you. Want to get the word out to other working moms who want to feel strong inside and out? Share this podcast with a friend by texting a show link, sharing a screenshot, or posting a link on your social media, and help other busy working moms feel better and change things up.

Be sure to tag me on Instagram or Facebook so I can follow along and engage with you!

What You Will Discover:

  • The two different types of “I don’t know.”
  • How to stop blocking your own wisdom.
  • The problem with being “too busy” and how to stop taking this on as an identity.
  • How to stop closing yourself off from opportunities to improve.
  • Why you get to choose how you think about yourself.
  • A tool to help you move away from “I’m working on it.”
  • Some alternative ways to think about the thoughts you are having.
  • What a result goal is and how to set one.
  • How each of these phrases can stop your progress in its tracks.

Listen to the Full Episode:

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Featured on the Show:

Full Episode Transcript:

You are listening to the Strong as a Working Mom podcast, Episode #18. If you find yourself saying any of these four phrases, you might be holding yourself back. Let’s talk about alternatives.

Welcome to the Strong as a Working Mom podcast. If you’re balancing career, family, wellness, and some days sanity, you are in the right place. This is where high achieving, busy working moms get the tools they need to eat, move, and think. I’m your host, physician, personal trainer and Certified Life Coach Carrie Holland. Let’s do this.

Hey, how are you? What’s new? What’s good? So, what’s good here, is I just returned from Chicago where I spoke at a conference about being a coach. And, it was pretty cool because it was a conference that I actually attended nine years ago. So, to be able to bring it back full circle and stand on stage, instead of being in the audience, and talk about my career was really awesome.

One of the things that I spoke about was my key function as a coach. This is what it is, my job as a coach, is to listen to you and pay close attention to your thoughts, and then in turn, reflect them back to you, and ask really great questions. Because listen, it’s really easy to get stuck in your own head, right? Your stories become your truth.

And often, it’s not until you start sharing those thoughts out loud, that you can really start to pick them apart and make sense of them. We get into your head and look at how you’re thinking. And then as your coach, I ask you questions, so you can decide your own answers.

Here is just one of the many reasons why this is so awesome. I do not have your answers, you do. I do not know what the best pathway to change is for you. I don’t know if you need to cut out carbs, or give up Diet Coke®, or find a new job, or end a relationship; I have no idea. But here is what I can do, and frankly, this is what my job is.

My job is to show you your mind, by asking really great questions, so that you can leverage the power of your thoughts and feelings, in order to take massive action to create whatever result you want. And if that sounds like a lot of buzz, fuzzy words, let me pare it down very simply. In fact, I learned this in my coach training. It’s like you and me sitting on a couch together, looking at your brain. And as we look at your brain, I ask you good questions and show you your thought processes, so you find your own answer.

Because, unlike when I was a practicing physician where I often had to find the answer, meaning I had to interview the patients, and then order labs, and studies, and ultimately arrive at a diagnosis, this is different; it’s very different. Instead, we use tools and good questions to examine your mind and help you make decisions for yourself.

I love this because it’s the whole ‘teach a man to fish’ versus handing over the fish, right, big difference. So, I want to share this. I once had a client stop working with me after only a few sessions. She wanted me to be much more directive with her. One of the things that she shared, was that she simply was not on a path to self-discovery; I will never forget it. And I share this, for this reason, I do not fault my client at all for any of this. In fact, I fault myself entirely.

This was such a great learning experience for me, because it helped me shape how I coach and how I present myself going forward from the outset. You do not need me to tell you how many grams of protein to eat, how many squats to do, how to do a job search or write a CV, or how to have a difficult conversation, you can Google® all that. That’s all available at your fingertips.

While I certainly can do those things for you, what I do in a coaching relationship is so much more. I hope you see how your thought patterns and long held beliefs do or do not serve you. You make decisions, and then we coach around the drama that ensues. And that is, instead of the reverse.

I want to get you out of the drama and help you make a decision, stick with it, and we deal with the drama that comes up along the way. That is what makes coaching so amazing. And, that is what moves you forward. So, I am absolutely about finding a path to self-discovery, because I believe that’s what allows us to bring our best gifts and our awesomeness to this world.

I mean, my own path to finding my calling as a coach, and I truly believe that it’s a calling, was a path of self-discovery. And honestly, I want that for every client that I work with. But this client experience made me realize that not everyone wants that, and that is totally okay.

So, all of this is to say, I don’t have your answers. I cannot tell you what to do. I offer suggestions. And ultimately, you make the decisions, try some things, fail, and repeat the process with me alongside you every step and failure along the way, to coach you through it.

This is what lights me up. For the clients who do want that, it also lights them up; I’ve seen it. That is why I think that I have the absolute best job in the world. It was really awesome to share that this weekend. So, running with that, and as I am totally on an adrenaline high talking about coaching, I want to share some of the thoughts that my clients commonly say during our coaching calls.

I encourage you to see if you use any of these phrases for yourself. The reason I chose these phrases is because it will most definitely keep you from moving forward. These phrases are often presented to me as the absolute truth. But then, when we start to really pick them apart, you’ll see they don’t help you. So, if I can help you remove some of these thoughts and phrases from your vocabulary, I think that we’re onto something.

All right, so let’s go. So first, “I don’t know.” This is one of, if not the most, common response I get from my clients. Anyone who has coached with me knows that I will stop you right there, because I will not accept ‘I don’t know’ as your answer. Okay? But let me clarify, because there are two types of ‘I don’t know.’ There is the ‘I don’t know,’ of, “I don’t know how many calories I need. I don’t know how to cook tofu. I don’t know how to revamp my resume.”

Those are things that you can easily find the answer to; you can Google, you can check it out, you can find a book. So, when there are truly things you don’t know the answer to, especially process oriented questions like these, you can most definitely go and find those answers. You can learn how to do the things. And, it’s important that you do the work to find those answers. That is not the kind of ‘I don’t know’ I’m talking about.

The kind of ‘I don’t know’ I’m referring to is when I ask questions like: Why aren’t you following through on the plans you’re making for yourself? Or, why do you think you’re struggling to make a decision? Or, why do you feel stuck? It’s those questions. I get it, those last three questions, those are not easy ones to answer.

But when you say, ‘I don’t know,’ and it’s often a knee-jerk reflex. When you say, ‘I don’t know,’ what you’re doing is blocking yourself from your own brain. You’re blocking your own wisdom. Saying, ‘I don’t know,’ stops the conversation in its tracks. It is a very surface level response.

But often, when my clients say this, they’re taking it as truth, and they’re taking it at face value. Here’s where I come in. So, what if you did know the answer? What if you took just a few minutes to blow the dust off ‘I don’t know,’ kick that answer to the curb, and really get into your brain to figure out your thoughts.

And if you’re cringing, that’s okay. Go ahead and cringe, and then answer the question. But do it from a place of kindness. Do not beat yourself up when I ask or when you ask yourself: Why are you struggling to follow through? If you’re making a plan for how you want to eat, or how you want to exercise and you’re not following it, get really honest with yourself.

I’ve done this before, and a number of things will come up. It’s; I don’t think I can change. I’ve never been able to lose the weight before. This isn’t going to make a difference. Those are just a few of the answers that I’ve gotten. But remember, those are all thoughts. They are your sentences and opinions about yourself, but they are not hard fact.

Once you actually answer your ‘I don’t know’ question, you can start to pick it apart; we can question it together. I can ask you: How does it feel when you think this isn’t going to make a difference? How does that feel? And when my client answers the question, often she’ll say, “Hopeless.” But then, what kind of action comes from hopeless? It’s usually not making a food plan for yourself, or preparing your meals, or getting your exercise done.

It makes perfect sense. Of course, you’re not going to eat in a way that supports you when you think to yourself; this isn’t going to make a difference. Do you see how this works? So, here’s the thing, we would never get to that, if we simply stopped at ‘I don’t know.’

It’s not until you push yourself, and of course, in a tough love kind of way, okay? To dig in and really get into your brain, look at your thoughts, and connect them to your feelings, that we can determine why you’re not taking the actions you said you’re going to take. Stopping at ‘I don’t know’ does not get you there.

I get it, it is not fun to dig up our insecurities, and our greatest fears, and our deepest personal self-criticisms. But here’s the thing, on the other side of that, there is serious growth. Once we bring in the things that we don’t like about ourselves out into the light, we’re creating awareness.

Remember, you have to know where you’re starting from, in order to know where you’re going. And, this is exactly why I encourage you to not accept ‘I don’t know’ from yourself. So, instead of saying ‘I don’t know,’ encourage yourself to dig deeper. What if you did know the answer, then what would you do? How would you move forward? What are you learning that will get you the answer? Do not stop at ‘I don’t know’.

Okay, next, “I am too busy.” So, I think that we’ve reached a point in our world and our culture, where ‘I’m too busy’ just does not mean anything anymore. Because honestly, I challenge you to find someone who does not describe themselves as busy; everyone’s busy.

Here is the problem with busy, we start to use it as a badge of honor. We use it as a reason to stop trying. We use it is a reason to not even entertain the idea of making time to exercise, grocery shop, eat better, look for a new job, and we simply accept it as fact.

Often, you don’t even question it, because you’ve been saying it for so long, that being busy is simply your truth. But again, that doesn’t get us anywhere. And on top of that, let me offer you this, so we’re going back to your thoughts here.

When you tell yourself, I’m too busy, how does it feel? How does it feel to identify as too busy? Overwhelmed, exhausted, sad, frustrated. Because when you say it to yourself, or you tell everyone else that you’re too busy over and over again, you’re taking that on as your identity.

Is that really how you want to identify yourself? Busy is not who you are. But we say it like we’re reporting the news. And, I don’t know if that’s really what you want. I know this is subtle, but I want to offer you an alternative way to think about it.

So, instead of declaring that you are too busy, what would happen if you started saying to yourself, I feel busy. Here’s why this matters; when you say, I feel, instead of I am, you’re creating some space. You’re putting some distance between you and the feeling. And that, is what allows you to claim authority over it and change it.

When you tell yourself, I feel busy, you can work it backwards, and then ask yourself; why do I feel too busy? And then there you go, you can answer the question. And again, don’t accept, I don’t know, right? Challenge yourself to actually answer the question, and describe why you feel too busy.

I’m gonna guess that all kinds of thoughts are going to come up. Like, I have too many things on my plate, or my work is sucking the life out of me, or too many people have too many demands of me. But then, you can start to pick apart those thoughts, and question them, and look for answers.

So, I’ve talked through this before, but I often find that when clients tell me they are too busy, it’s generally the result of not being really clear on her priorities. When you’re really clear on what matters most to you, and where you choose to invest your energy and talents, you’ve got your litmus test.

When you really know what matters to you, you can pick and choose the commitments you make based on those priorities, and then you manage your time. And second, when you tell yourself and everyone around you that you’re busy, what are you busy doing?

How do you actually spend your time? So, when you’re not at work, what are you doing? Are you reading, working on a creative project, amping up your CV, volunteering, networking, playing with your kids? How are you spending your time? And especially, how much time do you spend in front of a TV, or screen, or scrolling social media?

I don’t ask this to be snarky, but I simply encourage you to get really honest with yourself so that you can look for solutions. So yes, I know there’s a little bit of tough love here. But when I have people tell me, they don’t have time to exercise, or take care of themselves, or take the next step, but they’re spending loads of time doing things like social media and screens, that tells me that something’s out of whack.

So, instead of saying, I’m too busy, get really honest with yourself and ask first, if it’s, you’re just not clear on your priorities. And second, where are you spending your time. It may be that you find both areas are opportunities for improvement. You may realize you need to prioritize, while you spend less time on things that really don’t matter to you. Then you can strategize exactly how you’re going to do that, and what you’re going to do instead.

But when you stop the conversation at ‘I’m too busy’, you’re closing yourself off from any opportunities to improve. And what’s worse, and I say this, because I see it all the time, you’re doing things that you don’t even want to be doing. So, not only are you low on time, you’re spending what little time you do have on things that don’t matter.

If you think that you are too busy to take care of yourself, you are right. If you think you are able to take good care of yourself, regardless of the demands on your time, you’re also right. Remember, you get to choose how you think about yourself.

All right, third, “I’m working on it.” So again, this is not to say that you cannot or should not ever say that you’re working on something, okay? However, if you know me at all by now, I really like specific, I thrive on detail. And quite honestly, I often equate ‘I’m working on it’ with something to the effect of, I’ll just eat less.

That really does not tell me anything. It’s nebulous, and it does not move the needle forward. So, similar to ‘I don’t know’, there are a few ways that you might use ‘I’m working on it’. The most common way I see it is when a client is intellectualizing what we’re talking about in coaching sessions, but then not really applying it or doing the work outside of calls.

Meaning, you might be considering your next steps, but maybe just not ready to make a decision, not moving forward. But here it is, that swimming in indecision, blanketed by the catchphrase ‘I’m working on’, it really does not get you anywhere. This may apply to you if you’re really wanting to make a change, and the ideas, and processes, and wishes, are just swirling around in your head, but nothing is really happening.

There’s no action being taken, meaning you’re not practicing processing your feelings. You’re not making a food plan for yourself, or you’re not sending out resumes, or networking emails. And the way I often see this play out is this, the client will say, “I need to read more. I need to gather some more information. Listen to another book or podcast. Maybe think some more.” No.

You can think and think and think, and consume until your brain is going to explode. But in the meantime, nothing changes. So, don’t get me wrong, there is most definitely a place for thinking, consuming information, researching, and brainstorming. And then, there’s putting the rubber to the road and taking action.

So, often, when someone tells me ‘I’m working on it’, it manifests as indecision. And I see it this way, you can swim in the indecision of ‘should I or shouldn’t I’, or maybe I’ll join a gym, or maybe I’ll just walk outside, or maybe I’ll stop buying Oreos™ every week, or maybe I’ll go keto, or I don’t know; and, no decision is made.

So, what happens is that you end up swimming in the drama of indecision. But instead, let me offer you this: What if instead, you made a decision? You took a dive, committed and you went all in? I’m going to stop yo-yo dieting. I am going to run a 5k. I am giving up over drinking. I’m starting a business.

And then, when you do that, you make the decision, then you can manage and deal with all the drama that comes afterwards. There is a huge difference between swimming in the drama of indecision, associated with ‘I’m working on it’, versus making a decision and then having the drama of ‘what if I fail’, ‘what if this goes wrong’, etc., huge difference. One will move you forward, and one will spin you in circles.

So, one tool I want to give you that will help move you away from using’ I’m working on it’ is this; try a result goal. I’ll use myself as an example. So, I wanted to start a group for female physicians, where I could share information and ideas about my three favorite things: eating, moving, thinking. And in my head, I knew I wanted to do this, but I was afraid.

Maybe I should. Should I do it on Facebook? I’m not really sure. What if no one wants to be there? What if they thought it was silly? You know, all of my excuses for not moving forward. And then one day, I think my husband just got tired of hearing about it, and he just asked, “What results are you going to produce by Friday?”

I just told him, “Okay, I’m going to start the group.” So, I did; I started a group. And you know what? That was in January of this year, and we just got past our 2,000th member this past weekend. Right?

So, here’s my point; instead of saying, I’m working on it, try setting a result goal. A result goal is tangible and specific. You either did or you did not do the thing. As an example, by this Friday, I will create a list of the proteins, greens, and veggies I am committed to eating. And then, the next week; by Friday, I will take that list and put together a meal plan for myself. And by next Friday; I will have logged my meals in a food journal.

Do you see the difference between these result goals and ‘I’m working on it’? Big difference. Okay, here’s, again, where I will ask you to show yourself just a smidge of tough love and be onto yourself, that’s all. If, when you tell yourself or someone else that you’re working on it, ask yourself; what does that really mean?

Get really specific and ask what results you are producing, that reflect that you’re really working on it? And if you’re not taking action, ask yourself my very favorite question; why? And then, answer the question, okay? This is not to be beating yourself up for not moving forward. Instead, it’s to get really clear on what’s holding you back, so you can bust through it. Okay?

Don’t let ‘I’m working on it’ be your m.o. (modus operandi) or your placeholder. Ask more of yourself, and set a result goal instead, and then hold yourself to it. This one is truly a game changer, really.

Alright, next, “I hope.” So, again, I want to be very clear, there are most definitely times to call on hope. Okay, please do not misunderstand me. But where hope applies, is when things are entirely out of your control. You hope to win the lottery. You hope that the Cubs may win the World Series, again. You hope that Destiny’s Child reunites. Okay? Do you see where I’ve on here?

In all seriousness, hope does not always equate with change. And I bring this statement up, because I’ve had clients say it to me. When in fact, change was entirely in her control, but she was relegating everything to hope. So, as an example; I was recently working with someone who was trying to give up sugar.

She made a plan. She decided on some guidelines that she was setting for herself. And then, when she gave herself a timeline, and we were talking through it, her final assessment was, “I really hope I don’t go back to what I was doing before.”

I just stopped her right there, and simply asked her to take note of what she said, because it really stuck out to me. And it was not to be finger waggy or all snarky, but instead just to create awareness of what she was saying. When you say, ‘I hope’, in relation to choices that are in your control, you are giving up your authority. You are turning control over to external forces. And then, you’re putting decisions outside yourself that are meant to be made by you, and you alone.

You are in control of whether or not you eat sugar. You are in control of whether or not you exercise today. You are in control of whether or not you choose to think what you have always thought. Or, choose to think new thoughts that serve you better.

So, instead of hoping, do everything in your power to make what you want to happen, happen. Okay? So, instead, try this; take massive action and keep rolling. Seriously. Decide what your goal is. Okay, going all Stephen R. Covey here, right? Start with the end in mind, work the process backwards to determine the steps that you need to achieve it. And then, you go give it your all. Do not leave anything to chance.

This is why I talk about having a plan. When you have a plan and make decisions about the actions you are going to take, and then you take them, that is when you’re in control. When I think of hope, I think of chance. And I really don’t love leaving important things to chance. So, if you notice yourself saying, I hope, simply be aware of it, and then check yourself. Are you doing everything in your power, and taking all the action necessary, for you to get your results? Are you taking ownership and responsibility for your actions? And if not, here we are again, why? And then, answer the question.

This is so, so powerful. It will give you loads of ideas to explore, so that you find your answers.

So, there it is. These are four phrases that I want you to consider eliminating from your vocabulary: I don’t know. I’m too busy. I’m working on it. I hope. Yes, I know I’m being a little cheeky here. Because, of course, there are going to be times where these statements are true and applicable.

However, I want to encourage you to examine how often, and how you use, these phrases on yourself, especially when you’re talking about making change. Each one of these can stop your progress in its tracks, if you let it. But what would happen if you did know the answer? Or, if you decided to stop being too busy, get clear on your priorities, and manage your time differently?

Or, what would happen if you set a result goal ‘by this Friday’, and you held yourself to it, even when you didn’t want to? There’s that discipline stuff again. Or, what if instead of hoping for something really great to happen, you took massive action to make something great happen for yourself? Do you see the difference here?

This is why, this is so awesome. All of these changes are available to you, right now. It starts by paying attention, and coming off autopilot, and choosing to practice believing different thoughts. It always comes back to your thoughts. I love being able to show them to you, because this is your path to self-discovery, right here.

All right, have an awesome week. I’ll catch you next Wednesday.

If you like what you’ve been hearing, please review the show. I would love to get your feedback and ideas. Your suggestions have inspired episodes and will help me make the show better for you. And, share this podcast with a friend, text a show link, share a screenshot, or post a link to the show on your social media. And, be sure to tag me @CarrieHollandMD on either Instagram® or Facebook®, so I can follow along and engage with you.

This is how we get the word out to other working moms who want to feel strong, inside and out. If you know someone who wants to feel better, or eat and move differently, but she is too tired or too busy, it is time to change things up. And you know, making that change starts with how you think. And that, is what we do here on the Strong as a Working Mom podcast. I’ll see you next week.

Thanks for listening to Strong as a Working Mom. If you want more information on how to eat, move, and think, so you can live in the body you want, with the mind to match, visit me at CarrieHollandMD.com.

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