Tag Archives: learning

How to Cope When You (Really) Screw Up

Photo Credit – greg westfall on Flickr

I never saw her again.

And although I no longer remember her name, I’ve never forgotten her.

I’d only been in private practice for a little while, though I’d worked in mental health for a long time. Back then, I did a lot of counseling around trauma, abuse and domestic violence.

I already had a ton of experience; (I thought) I knew what I was doing.

One evening, at the end of a long day, I did an initial consult with a woman who’d finally gathered her nerve to seek help. She was living with severe domestic violence, married to a man who sounded like he could kill her one day if she didn’t get out.

I was immensely proud of her for having the courage to come in, and I understood her situation immediately. After hearing her story, I felt crystal clear on the level of danger she was in. I knew what she needed to do to get out.

So I laid it all out for her.

With the kind of excitement that comes with clarity, I explained how to put a safety plan in place, what to say to him (and what not to), how to handle her employer, how to seek legal help, how to move out, all of it.

She listened politely as I gave her every idea I could think of. Then she thanked me, and left. I felt great — I knew I could help her!

But she never came back.

To this day, I don’t know what happened. It may be that she found a way out, that she went to another counselor, that she was just fine. I certainly hope so.

But I think I made a mistake that night – and it was a big one.
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Children Learn What They Live. (And you can too.)

SER CRIANÇA É...to be a child is...

Remember that poster that was so popular a few years back? It was a long, rectangle piece on cardboard usually sold as low-cost wall art, and it always showed a poem called: “Children Learn What They Live.

There’s a lot of truth in that little poem. So with that in mind, let me ask you something.

What lessons did you “live”with?

What were you told, growing up, about what you could do?

Did someone say that, by golly, you could grow up to be President some day? Or for that matter, a rock star? Or did someone tell you that you could do anything you wanted to “as long as you were willing to work hard and give it your best”?

If so, you were one of the lucky ones.

Because that kind of language helps us develop a simple, basic faith in ourselves. We grow up with a core belief that we may not be perfect, but we’ll be able to do pretty much anything, as long as we’re willing to work hard and put our mind to it.

And with that message, we have all we really need to find our way through. Sometimes we sail. Sometimes we stumble. But eventually, we’ll figure things out. We’ll find our way. We’ll reach our goal.

On the other hand, if we grow up hearing, for instance, that we’ll never amount to anything, or that we never do anything right – well, that’s another story entirely.

In fact, those of us raised with (or living with) constant criticism may have the exact opposite experience. You may have an exaggerated sense of your limitations, and no idea at all of what you really CAN do.

One of the core principles I want you to understand is that you are ALL quite capable of doing ANYTHING you want to do –

“if you’re willing to work hard and you really put your mind to it”, that is. :)

It really doesn’t matter whether you have any idea at all what to do, where to start, how to get where you want to go. In fact, it doesn’t matter whether you know a SINGLE THING about what it is that you want to figure out.

All you need is a willingness to ask questions,

and a belief in your ABILITY to learn.

So here’s a Core Principle to becoming a Courageous Woman.

You must see how CAPABLE you already are, because:


You can learn anything you need to learn,

to DO anything you want to do.


Read that again – but this time change the word “you” to  “I”.

Hold it in your mind…. Say it out loud.

I carry around a ton of “favorite quotes” in my head. I don’t remember who said it or where I picked it up, but one that I’ve said to my clients (and my kids) for years is this.

Whether you think you can – or think you can’t – you’re right.

Sounds simple, doesn’t it?

It’s not, really, but it IS quite do-able.

Another is: “Can’t never could. Can always will.”

And that’s what matters.

There is SO much power in the way we think. Once you get a handle on that, entirely new worlds can open up to you. That’s good news, because that’s something we can control, THAT’S something we can do something about. Hallelujah. 

So watch that word “can’t”. It’s a confidence killer.

In fact, I’m going to give you a secret little tip to turn that word on it’s ear.

If you get nothing else out of this post but this, that’s okay.

Because this ONE TIP can make all the difference in the world about how you feel as you face whatever it is that you’re ready to face. Or figure out.

It’s RIDICULOUSLY simple. But it works.

Ready? Here it is.

Just add the word “yet“.

As in:

“I can’t do ________ (fill in the blank with the obstacle of your choice) yet.”

Feel the difference?

THAT’S how you begin the subtle shift in mindset – and begin to know that You Are Capable.

Can you think of an example right now of how this has played out in your life? Think back. Was there a time when you wanted to do something really badly but had no idea how?

Maybe you wanted to learn how to knit or how to prepare a special dish. Maybe you wanted to learn how to use a new software or how to remodel a house. Maybe you wanted to learn an instrument, or to just find your way to a new restaurant.

Whatever it was, did you figure it out? How? Did you do some research? Read a book? Take a class? Ask an expert? Find a mentor? Do a little trial and error?

I know what you did. You LEARNED.

And once you know you can do that, nothing can stop you.

You are Capable, dear Courageous Women.

Know that. Feel that. Breathe that. Believe that.

And remember that.

Now, what was it that you were wanting to do – but just weren’t quite sure where to start? You’re quite Capable of figuring it out.

So go do it. :))




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Photo Credits: Jônatas Cunha



The OTHER Most Important Thing You Can Give Your Child

The kids and I on Mt. Washington, 2001.

My first-born will be 21 tomorrow, and my second is only a few years behind her brother. And in a way that I know will shock no one, I am wondering how in the world we’ve made it to this point.


I am not one of those parents who cried on the first day of kindergarten, or one who mourns her kids’ approaching adulthood. Instead, I’ve loved and looked forward to each new stage of my children’s growth.

I couldn’t wait for them to discover all there was to learn in school. I couldn’t wait for them to learn to read, join the band, learn to drive. Of course there have been challenges all along the way, but I have loved every stage of their development, from toddlers to teens.

Okay, so maybe I haven’t exactly loved every single moment, but we haven’t killed each other yet. :)

What I’ve loved is watching their growing confidence as they take on new challenges, stumble through new experiences, learn new skills. And work to find their own internal strengths.

As I watch them begin the transition to young adulthood, I can’t help but compare where they are to other kids their age, and – of course – to where I was at that point in my own life. And like any parent, I wonder and worry about whether we’ve equipped them with the skills they’ll need to make it on their own.

Like any parent, I pray. A lot. :)

I’ve worked with thousands of teens over the years, professionally and as a volunteer. Because of that, I sometimes feel like I have a bigger window into what their world is like, including their hopes – and their fears. I also talk with other adults about their own observations of today’s young people. And I think there’s a pattern we’re all beginning to see.

At the risk of sounding like one of my elders: kids today aren’t like they used to be.

Maybe I’m imagining it, but it seems to me that today’s kids need more pushing to grow up. I was surprised the first time I had a teen in my office who had no interest in learning to drive. Zip. Nada. Zilch. Today, I almost expect that. I see it everywhere.

I used to be surprised when kids I knew who were perfectly capable of handling university work, would take a vocational route instead – or skip college altogether. Not any more.

So why is that? What’s happened across our broader culture that’s creating little birds who’d just as soon stay in the nest as long as they can?

I don’t know for sure, but I think a lot of it comes down to confidence.

They don’t have it. Not like we did.

Of course, maybe we just didn’t feel like we had any choice. :)

But think about this. Remember when your toddler would stand up, wobbly, holding on to your knees? She’d waddle across the den, pick up some little something on a table and bring it back to your lap. He’d stumble over to the sliding glass door, plop both hands on the glass to look out, then turn around to grin up at you.

They were exploring their world, which at that time just meant getting across the room. Pretty exciting stuff.

But they made it across the room on unsteady legs because, first of all, they knew you were there if they really needed you….

And secondly, because they weren’t afraid of falling down.

It would never occur to them to worry about that. Fall down? No problem. They’ll just find a table corner somewhere to grab hold of and pull themselves back up again.

They might sit there and cry for a second. But if you just leave them alone, they’ll soon roll over onto their tummy, prop their little hands on the carpet, push their bottom up into the air and stand back up again. Ta-daa!

Somehow, as they get older, I think a lot of them are losing that self-determination. Venturing out into the world is not so appealing, because they might make a mistake, stumble, fall. It’s a little scary out there, and what if they don’t know what to do?

Confidence doesn’t grow from a life of ease.

Confidence grows from facing something that’s difficult and getting through it anyway.

Difficult” could be large or small. It may be figuring out how to make those little legs carry you from your mom’s side to that shiny object across the room. It may be figuring out how to handle a job interview at McDonald’s.

So do your kids a favor.

Give them opportunities to build up their confidence. Let them struggle a bit before you step in for the rescue. Let them find their internal strength. It’s in there. Give them a huge hug when they make it through whatever is before them, and tell them you knew all along they could do it.

And do this for yourself, too. If you need a little help finding your own internal strength, there may be a way I can help. Just give me a call or drop me a note.

But whatever it is that’s facing you right now, that you wonder how you’re going to find your way through, you will figure it out. I know this. Because I’ve known all along that you could do it, too.

Cheers to you, brave one.

Caleb, Spring 2010


And Happy Birthday, Caleb.

Love you, sweet boy.







Want to get in the loop to know about our next Secret Adventure?

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Here’s the fall calendar, and here’s a post about the new level designations, to help you out.



It’s a tiny box graphic at the top right corner of this post.

Until I can get some design help with this page,

You’ll have to REALLY want to Speak Up to find it.

Please do, because I love to hear from you!

Photo Credits: Wendy Pitts Reeves