Look Closer, Friend


I toured an elementary school for work recently. The Principal guided me down long, locker-lined hallways, pointing out cracks in the walls, roof leaks, damaged floor tiles. At the end of the hallway were the kindergarten and Pre-K classrooms. We entered the first and the teacher eagerly showed us the problem: the north wall of her classroom, an exterior wall, was covered in mold. The maintenance crew had scraped the mold, covered the area with Kilz and re-painted at the beginning of the school year, but it was already coming back. A dehumidifier ran constantly, collecting so much moisture from the room it had to be piped to the outside because they couldn’t dump it fast enough. Her eyes were pleading. Did I have a better solution?

I explained to her that the mold was a result of moisture leaking in through the exterior brick and block wall, and simply treating the mold did not address the root cause. We needed to figure out exactly how and where the water was coming in. I stepped outside and looked at the wall. It looked like a normal brick wall, there was no obvious damage. No holes or missing bricks, no large cracks or missing pieces of flashing. I panicked. As the architect, I was expected to explain this problem and offer a solution and I did not know the answer. I stood still as my mind raced; then it occurred to me: look closer, Haley.

Of course. I stepped closer to the wall. I touched the brick as I slowly walked from one side to the other. I looked up and down, up and down. Suddenly, I could see. There were tiny hairline cracks at the top of the wall, weep holes the width of a pencil every 24 inches at the base of the wall, clogged with debris and mortar. Large dark spots mottled the wall, patches of white efflorescence seeped from the brick. I could not see behind the brick or on the roof to know for certain, but reading these clues helped me formulate a solution. The brick would have to be removed, the concrete block re-sealed and waterproofed, and new brick, grouted properly, with proper drainage and cap flashing, would have to be installed.

This was not the first time I have been called to look closer. In fact, those words have called to me many times over the past year. Every time panic sets in, every time I feel overwhelmed, every time I don’t know the answer or feel inadequately prepared to perform the task in front of me, every time I’m overcome with emotions and I feel helpless or furious or sad, I have learned to get very still. I breathe deeply, calm myself, and start studying my surroundings. I start looking for clues and asking questions if possible.

And this doesn’t pertain only to the physical world.

I’ve learned to look closer at every area of my life. My son’s needs; my own moods, emotions and actions; the moods, emotions and actions of others. I’ve come to realize that there is almost always more to see than what appears at first glance.

I would urge you to try it too.

Next time you feel panicked and lost, unsure of what to do, unable to find direction, or you find yourself overcome with rage, sadness, jealousy - stop and take a deep breath, be still, and look closer. Look past the obvious, look past your initial reaction, look beyond the strong emotions you’re experiencing. Try to get still and allow a deeper level of detail and clarity to slowly come into focus. Ask why. Ask what. Ask how. “Why do I feel this way?” “What is so-and-so going through that might make them behave this way?” “How can I look closer at this situation?” Then follow the clues back to the source.

Now that I have recognized the need to look closer, and I’ve learned to see things in greater detail, I cannot un-see them. And everywhere I look, I understand there is more to see - always.

Till next time,


© Haley McManigal 2019

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Haley McManigal and haleymcmanigal.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

How to Get Over Yourself and Do Your Best Work


Have y’all ever had periods of extreme increased self-awareness and growth? The kind that happens for no particular reason; no life-changing experience prompted it, it just sort of evolved because the timing was right…

That is how I feel as I look back and reflect over 2018. No single great thing happened, but everything added up equals a pretty amazing year.

This newfound insight has served me well in every area of my life, but it has had the biggest impact on my professional life and my work.

I’ve been working in a professional office environment as an architect for twelve years, and while I haven’t always loved every second of it (in fact I’ve been trying to escape it a good portion of that time) it is as deeply a part of who I am as any other aspect of my life. This year, I’ve finally learned to embrace this part of myself in a way I’ve never been able to do before. I’ve finally learned to see her not as a separate part of myself that goes through the motions every day to pay the bills and put food on the table while the real me waits till after hours to pursue her passions, but as an integral part of myself with access to all my mental, emotional, creative, and intellectual abilities.

This has been a subtle but very distinct mindset shift for me and over the past year, I have gradually come to realize a few very simple truths:

1. The reason I’m not yet where I want to be in my career is not a lack of talent or ability; it’s a lack of confidence and focused effort.

And also maybe an unwillingness to fully commit and give it my all (due to said lack of confidence).

For years, I would beat myself up for not knowing certain things at work. I would convince myself that I just wasn’t cut out for certain aspects of the job because I didn’t intuitively know how to do them. The sad fact is, if I’d put that same time and energy toward actually learning the skills I lacked rather than complaining and beating myself up, I would be much better off. I realized that I was expending all my effort by whining and complaining and I was giving all my power away, rather than simply buckling down and doing the hard work.

Of course, I truly had no idea I was doing this at the time. I wasn’t able to see beyond my fears and my insecurities and my limiting beliefs to recognize that I was in control all along. I didn’t realize that no one has to give me permission to take the next step, I just have to be willing and ready to assume the responsibilities as they arise and are available to me, and I have to trust in my ability to learn and figure things out as I go.

2. When I see someone else effortlessly doing something that I long to do, I need to recognize that they have probably intentionally and consistently developed those skills or habits over time. And I can do the same.

I’ve always put a lot of value on my “natural” abilities, my “strengths”, my intuitive knowledge and what comes easy to me. For most of my professional career, I have been searching for a place and time where the stars align and I’m in my sweet spot - doing things that I love, that I’m good at, and that come easy to me. Of course, this place and time does not exist, especially if I want to continuously learn and grow in my career. And this year has taught me that life and work are not supposed to be easy. Even if you passionately love your work, it is still supposed to challenge and stretch you and continuously call you toward a better version of yourself.

I’ve also started to learn the incredible value of setting “forward thinking goals.” These are habits and behaviors that you intentionally cultivate because you know you will need them in a position or a role or a situation that you aspire to. You may not necessarily use them where you are in life now, but they are the skills you need to take you where you want to go.

I have always struggled with speaking in front of an audience. I am truly terrible at it. It would be so nice if I could just strike public speaking from my goals and accept the fact that I suck at it, and never do it again. But I can’t. I feel drawn to it. I feel like it is something that I need to conquer, something that I need to prove to myself and I cannot let it go. So I do things that require me to develop those skills. I teach classes. I speak up in meetings. I joined Toastmasters. And it takes an enormous amount of effort for me to make myself do these things, but it does get a little easier each time and that is the whole point.

We have to practice the things we struggle with until they become natural to us. Most people are not automatically good at most things. They do it over and over until they figure it out. So, instead of sitting on the sidelines, avoiding jumping into something we yearn for because we think we don’t have what it takes, we need to understand that we can learn what we don’t know. We can practice and improve our weaknesses. There is no excuse to wait one more second to jump in and get started.

3. If I want to be a certain type of person or do a certain type of work, I have to be willing to do what it takes to do that. I have to be willing to grow into that.

For years, I wanted to be a project manager. But I despised calling people up and asking them for things. I resented having to shoot the breeze and build relationships. I was timid and reluctant to take charge in meetings. And so for years I assumed that I was not cut out to be a project manager because I wasn’t good at those things. But over time I realized this: if I want to be a PM, I have to ACT LIKE ONE. I can’t avoid and deflect the very tasks that the position requires. HELLO. This was life-changing for me. The only decision I really had to make was whether or not I was willing to do what it takes. I finally realized that the types of skills that I lacked are not necessarily natural God-given abilities, meaning I CAN LEARN AND DEVELOP THEM. Which also means: I have been procrastinating and deflecting and avoiding the very work that I need to be doing. Which means: I have to suck it up and do it and understand that it is supposed to be uncomfortable and stop complaining about it. And if I’m not able or willing to do this, I need to move on to something else. Period.

Of course, sometimes, we’re not ready to move to the next level. And that’s OK. Maybe there is something we need to learn, a life experience we need to gain, some growth we need to experience, before we’re ready. Sometimes, when we long for something more, but we simply cannot bring ourselves to do what it takes to get there, it’s best to just let it go for a bit. Focus on something else for a while, let ourselves get lost in the process of learning other things, gaining different experiences. Then, if it still calls to us, we can come back to the thing later to see if we’re ready.

It’s incredibly uncomfortable to grow into a new role or a new version of ourselves. Oftentimes, I have felt like a fraud, worried that at any moment someone will call me out as the imposter that I am, or secretly mock me behind my back. But I realized that all this irrational fear really boils down to is worrying way too damn much what other people think of me. A fear of being rejected or of not being liked or some other nonsense like that. I actually let this hold me back for far too long until I finally realized that I was just going to have to get the hell over myself and do what I needed to do.

And that’s what 2018 was all about for me- honoring and embracing this transition in my heart and my work, and learning how to do what it takes to achieve my professional goals.

Honor the struggle. Stop being mad and bitter that you have to do the work.

Brendan Burchard

What about you? Have you had a similar mindset shift in some area of your life? Where did you experience your biggest growth in 2018?

Let me know in the comments, I’d love to hear from you!

Till next time,


© Haley McManigal 2019

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Haley McManigal and haleymcmanigal.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. 

Actions Speak Louder Than Words


Moments like this are the ones I want to remember forever... the one's I hope to God I'll never forget... It's a Sunday morning, Dan is gone fishing.  I'm sitting in the glider in my living room, laptop in my lap, steaming coffee mug on the table beside me, writing these words.  Engaged in the thing I love most.  Lukas is playing happily on his playmat beside me; kicking his arms and legs, cooing, chewing on his toys.  I'm so in love with this little boy.  I love being a mother more than I ever dreamed I would.  In this moment, right now, I am so happy.  Even with a head cold, menstrual cramps and a bad back, I am just... happy.

Part of me wants to keep life this simple and peaceful forever - to keep all of the other clutter and distractions out of my life so that I can just focus on being with Lukas.  But another part of me is getting restless - the part that has spent her entire life in achievement mode, the part that burns with desire to do important work in this world.

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I've been scolding myself for months for not being more ambitious - not writing more, not networking, not pursuing other interests that are important to me.  Do I not value all of those things?  I don't want to be one of those moms who abandons all of her personal interests the day her child is born.  But the fact is:  my life IS different now, and my values HAVE changed.  Dramatically.

I say I want to write more, put more energy into my side hustle... so why am I not doing those things?

Because:  what I truly want is to spend quality time with my family.  

I want to be stress free in other areas of my life so I can devote all of my energy and attention to them.  I want to spend every possible second with my precious baby.  I still look at him sometimes and have to pinch myself to see if its real.  I can't believe he's mine.  I can't believe how incredibly lucky I am to be Lukas' mommy.  Sometimes, when I go to daycare to visit him, or pick him up at the end of the day, I do a double-take when I first see him - remembering anew how incredibly blessed I am to have him in my life.  And when he looks at me and smiles and giggles, or when he strains his neck just so he can see me - I feel like I'm floating on a cloud.  I can't think of anything else that makes me happier.

I've waited my entire life to be a Mommy.  I always knew I wanted children, but I never knew how much it would fulfill me.  It makes everything else pale in comparison. 

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So there you have it.  My real priority right now - what I truly want - is time with my son.  I say I want more from my career, from my writing, from my art.  But my actions just aren't supporting that right now.  Eventually I'll be ready and I'll be in a place where I am willing to give what it takes of myself to pursue those things.  But for now, I have a little baby boy to snuggle.  

What about you?  Do you constantly talk about doing All The Things, but never find any time to actually do them?  Maybe the time is just not right.  Maybe doing All The Things is not what you really, truly want.  Maybe it's time to stop talking and let the focus be on whatever is in front of you for a minute.  Because I truly believe that if we really wanted to do something, we'd get up and we'd do it.

So allow yourself to do what you really want to do and stop talking about doing something else.  When it's time to do the other stuff, you won't talk about it, you'll just get it done.

So will I.

Till next time,


© Haley McManigal 2018

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Haley McManigal and haleymcmanigal.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. 

Doin' It Well


I have a friend who is a little less than thrilled with his job, and he constantly talks about that one sweet day when he can bust up outta there and move onto bigger and better things.  He can't wait to blow everyone's mind with his skills and talent.  He can't wait to make a ton of money and maybe oneday rule the world.  

And all that is fine and good, I'm glad he has goals.

But when he tells me of these plans, I can't help but look at his performance at his current job.  He is certainly not knocking anyone's socks off in that role.  He's bored and disinterested.  He's cranky and distracted.  He doesn't give it his all.  He is most definitely not living up to his potential.

So my question is:  why does he think things will be different at a new job?

I have learned that the best indication of your performance at a new job is... wait for it... your performance at your current or former job!  

Every job, in fact everything in life, is going to suck at times, that's just part of it.  And it's how we deal with the hard parts that count.  If we're constantly shunning responsibility, deflecting blame, half-assing the task in front of us while we complain that no one takes us seriously, well then why on earth would we expect to be given more?

I've learned the hard way how important  it is to do the job that's in front of you to the best of your ability - even if it bores your brains out; even if you'd rather run screaming from your desk than draw one. more. single. line. in AutoCAD.  

Because:  guess what prepares you for the big stuff?  THE LITTLE STUFF.   

And if you haven't been applying yourself to the little things that allow you to learn and work through concepts and ideas, and lay the groundwork for bigger and better things, then chances are you will crash and burn when your time comes to do something big.  You will not have the background to support your Big Thing.  You won't have the work ethic to see it through.  You won't have built up your muscles by doing millions of tiny reps in preparation for that something big, and you will be more likely to fail.

It is so easy to get caught up in the habit of looking outside of ourselves and what we are doing and reaching for things that aren't ours, rather than looking inward and owning what we already have.  But if you really pay attention, the people that have the big things almost always started out with little things, and cared for and nurtured them to the best of their ability.

You have to be willing to treat it all the same.  You have to be willing to roll up your sleeves and give as much effort to the crappy busy work that no on wants to do as you would to the big stuff that gets all the attention and glory.  In my opinion and my observations, that is how you become successful.  

If you treat everything you do with great care and attention, and you DO IT WELL, you'll eventually find yourself with more than you ever dreamed possible.  

What little thing are you doing today that could eventually lead to something BIG?  Are you doing it to the best of your ability and giving it all you've got?

"Great things are done by a series of small things brought together."  Vincent Van Gogh

Till next time,


© Haley McManigal 2017

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Haley McManigal and haleymcmanigal.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. 


Hairs the Deal.

My boss and I were discussing our hair troubles the other day.  We both have wavy, somewhat unruly hair, and we shared our constant struggles to tame the frizz.  We bitched about the need to blow-dry, opting instead for a simpler more natural look.  But I'm not gonna lie, when I let my hair do it's "natural" thing, it ain't pretty.  About as natural as I can get and still be willing to show my face in public involves either lots of smoothing serum or a big barreled curling iron.  We decided the ideal styling was to wash and then use a heat protectant and a bit of smoothing serum.  She opts to blow dry a bit, I prefer to air dry and then use a curling iron to smooth it out.

I was telling her how I have a constant internal struggle, not only with my hair, but with my style in general - part of me wants to be a polished and professional business woman in a short skirt and a long jacket and the other part wants to be an all natural outdoors girl with wavy hair blowing in the breeze... and so what I wear and how I fix my hair depends upon which mood I happen to be in that day.

But I've given this a lot of thought over the years, and I had to ask myself again after our conversation; does what I wear and how I fix my hair have anything whatsoever to do with what kind of person I am?  Or do I just use those things to construct an image of who I want to be?  Does my hairstyle really define me?  Can you actually tell how good someone is at their job by the clothes they wear or the way they comb their hair?  What about their loyalty?  Their compassion for others?  Their drive?

I've spent the past 11 years working in a professional office setting and there has been a lot of focus on the way we all look.  And while it's not as formal as it used to be (I've been scolded multiple times for my reluctance to wear panty hoes, or even worse, for the x-rated sin of baring my toes by wearing flip flops.  Oh!  the horror!)  I still have to show up to work each day in business casual clothes, sometimes a dress or blazer.  And some days I embrace this.  

But for some reason at other times, something about this doesn't feel quite right; it doesn't feel quite like me.  

I've gone through lots of phases in my life.  In high school, I dressed like a total weirdo, just because I thought it was cool.  My high school boyfriend and I would go to Goodwill, and each pick out the wackiest outfit we could find, then wear our new attire to youth group on Wednesday night.  I once converted a pair of my friend's Dad's work pants into the coolest jeans you've ever seen by sewing denim cut-outs of flowers onto them,  and slitting the legs up the sides to make them look like bell bottoms.  

Later on, I went through the outdoorsy phase.  I used to go white-water rafting a lot, and I would just gaze longingly at the care-free rafting guides, with their cool river clothes and grungy hair.  They were so rad.  I resolved myself to be that badass someday.  I did the same thing when I went to the rock-climbing center and hung out around all of those lean sinewy  types.  I so wanted to fit in with them.  

Unfortunately I spent quite a lot of time and effort in my younger years trying to design the person I thought I should be.  I collected images and clothes and hairstyles and make-up in an effort to fill myself up and paste together a collage of the "perfect" me, just like I tacked up artwork all over my bedroom walls and saved clippings from the Teen magazines I regularly devoured.  I was building an image.  I was constructing a facade.

But here's what I finally learned:  while there is nothing at all wrong with fixing your hair and wearing stylish clothes, or being inspired by certain types of people and the way they make you feel, those things do not a person make.  Those are shallow and superficial aspects of life, and if you never get beyond that stuff, you'll never get to the real you, and that's where the good stuff is.  All we really need to do is BE who we are.  I can't try to BE an outdoorsy, granola eating hippie, or a hard-core business woman.  What I can do is participate in those activities that make me happy, such as hiking and camping and white-water rafting and designing buildings and doing my best at work.  But those activities don't define who I am. They are a part of me, yes.  But not all of  me.  And besides, those things are constantly changing as I get older and wiser in this world.  Identifying my SELF with those things is a shallow and pointless endeavor.  It misses the point entirely.

Over time, I've learned not to put so much effort toward my image.  I've tried to focus instead on improving the actual content of who I am.  You know, stuff like how I love and treat others, how I love and treat myself, compassion, empathy, service.  

Because images will come and go.  I may be in the mood to dress like a biker chic today, and maybe next week, a gypsy.  But either way, I'm still me, and now I'm happy to say that I know exactly who that is. :)

And as for my hair?  Well, these days with a 5 month old, despite how I style it, it usually has spit-up and/or pee in it... not sure what that does for my image, but it's a good thing I no longer care.

Till next time,


© Haley McManigal 2017

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Haley McManigal and haleymcmanigal.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. 

Decide What To Be And Go Be It

The Avett Brothers get it.  They say "decide what to be and go be it."

Maybe it's really that simple.

I've wasted more of my life than I care to admit floundering around, trying to decide what I was meant to do... what my purpose is... what my one true calling is.  

I'm starting to realize that that's all bullshit.

Maybe life's not really about discovering who we are and what our purpose is, but more about creating something of our lives and our selves.  

Maybe our passion, our talent, our genius could manifest themselves in a million different ways, but it's up to us to commit to something so that we can excavate the fullness of our potential.

Maybe it's more about committing to something, and having the patience and perseverance to see it through, rather than searching endlessly for that one thing that will finally fulfill us.

Maybe our calling is something that we sometimes struggle through, get bored with, and really aren't inspired by at times.  But we have made a commitment, and we keep our eye on the bigger picture so that we can make it through.  

Maybe world changing, meaningful work is not done in flashes of inspiration by those who will fizzle out before sundown, but rather by the slow and steady efforts of those who have committed to their craft or their business or their charity and who show up day in and day out regardless of their level of inspiration.  

Maybe we should understand that we must grow into what we want to be.  Maybe we're not capable of doing that thing now, but we believe in our potential to get there eventually.

Maybe we have to find the confidence in ourselves and our ability to grow into our purpose and our calling, before we can ever begin to achieve it.

Maybe we have to get a little pissed off by the fact that others don't see what we're capable of.  Maybe we have to make up our minds to show them.  Or maybe we have to say to hell with what anyone else thinks of us, and decide for ourselves what we want to be in this world. 

Glennon wrote last week about her daughter and her friends and how they looked around to each other when asked what they wanted to eat for lunch.  They sought outside validation instead of saying what they really wanted.  Glennon said she pulled them aside to have a little chat and told them that girls "need to figure out what they want, believe it on the inside, and speak it on the outside."

That's just about the best damn thing I've ever heard.  Decide what to be and go be it.

In Jeff Goins' new book Real Artists Don't Starve, he argues that artists aren't born, they're made.  This means we get to decide who we are and what we are going to do in this life.  First we believe it, then we become it.  Therefore, we face the task of constantly creating ourselves in this life, so that we can do the creative work that we aspire to.

I've seen this at play many times and it is always beautiful to watch.  When I get the opportunity to see someone who knows so deeply what they want that they will do whatever it takes to make it happen, I take notice because these are the people who will do great things in this world.  They're committed to a purpose greater than themselves; their vision transcends the everyday details of what they're doing, and that makes all the difference.

When we finally commit to something, we are willing to change, to grow, to stretch.  And even though we aren't what we want to become yet, that is a tiny insignificant detail.  No one is already what they want to be when they are starting out.  But they have a vision for themselves that they believe in.  They have an internal knowing that is far more powerful than anyone else's opinion of them, and that vision is what molds and shapes their reality.  That vision is what gets them through the tough times.  

Sometimes this may seem like we're trying to be something or someone that we're not.  But maybe, it's just us, learning to become what we are.

What about you?  Have you ever had the nagging feeling that the truth of who you are is buried deep within you, but your current circumstances just don't reflect what you know in your heart to be true?  Have you ever believed so intently in a vision for yourself that you were willing to do whatever it took to make it a reality?

Decide it.  Believe it.  Do it.  What are you waiting for?!

Till next time,


© Haley McManigal 2017

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Haley McManigal and haleymcmanigal.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Photo by Aleksandr Ledogorov on Unsplash


Best Laid Plans

I'm a planner.  

I make lists and spreadsheets and fill Day-Minders and calendars with the tiniest of handwriting so that I can fit it all in.  I'm like a fiend, scribbling down the minutia of my life like a mad woman.  It gives me a weird sort of high.  Sometimes, I write down the smallest details of my day, just to have an excuse to make a list.  It calms me; makes me feel like I'm in control.  

6:30 am - wake up and get out of bed.  

6:32 am - brush teeth, use bathroom.    

6:40 am - turn on coffee pot, walk to refrigerator.

You get the picture.  

I have lists for my weight loss program with all of the milestone dates marked on my calendar and the exercises that I will do each day penciled neatly into their time slot.  I have lists of my period, my ovulation, my basal body temperature.  Lists of the foods that I consume each day and their caloric values.  Then there are the lists for my writing projects.  And the lists for my future art work.  Lists for my son's meds and doctor's appointments.  Lists for business ideas, what I want to do with my life, and, of course, the usual grocery and to-do lists.

One day, as I was in a mad frenzy to add a few things to my list, it dawned on me that I could just go ahead and DO the actual task in about as much time as it took me to write it down.  This struck me as hilarious.  I started to pay more attention to my list making habit.  It turns out that a majority of the things on my lists were no-brainer actions that I would get done whether I wrote the down or not. Like eat lunch, sleep, oh, and don't forget to breathe!  But even more interesting, a lot of the big, long range items on my lists were not getting accomplished.  I would just transfer them from list to list, never crossing them off, never actually getting them done.  Hmmm...  

It turns out that I was using my planning as procrastination.  By endlessly planning to do the big important things that I wanted to do in life, I was fooling myself into believing that I was actually taking action when in fact, I was doing NOTHING.  

I was spending time all caught up in my head, believing that all that thinking I was doing was actually going get me where I wanted to go.  But years later, my head was still spinning with thoughts of what I wanted to do with nothing real to show for all that mental effort.

I realized that Planning does NOT yield actual results. 

And Making lists does NOT equal action.  

Sitting around thinking about chasing our dreams does not get us one single step closer to achieving them.  At some point we have to stop planning and start doing.  

I have an amazing group of friends that I've known since high school.  These girls are my soul sisters, the kind of friends that you only find a handful of in a lifetime.  Back in high school, we were the good girls... straight A's, on the honor roll, didn't drink or party or cause our parents any trouble.  When we would get together to hang out after school or on weekends, the conversation usually centered around what we would do after high school.  How would we bust up out of LaFollette and make something of ourselves.  Where would we go to college and what would we major in??  This topic never got old, and the closer we approached graduation, the more urgent our discussions became.  I'll never forget when one of the girl's boyfriend at the time overheard one of our future planning sessions and said "you girls are so busy planning for the future that you're not going to have a past to remember!".

That comment struck me and has stuck with me to this day.  He was right: my friends and I were neglecting the great things that we had right in front of us because we were so anxious about the future and caught up in what might happen tomorrow.  We were trading today for the anticipation of tomorrow.  

I remember one year back in college, it was the first day of the new semester.  My anxiety had been mounting and I'd been in preparation mode for weeks... start going to bed earlier, and getting up earlier to get into the new schedule, buy school supplies, download all of the course syllabi... every dorky thing you could do, I was on it!  When the first day of classes rolled around, I was sitting in the classroom (10-15 minutes early, mind you), anxiously awaiting the professor's arrival.  Just as he got up to introduce himself and get class started, a group of girls that I knew casually came running in and grabbed seats at the back of the room.  I later found out that they had just returned from a back country camping trip.  Literally, just in time to drive to campus from the mountains, find a parking spot, and run into class.  They had no books, no syllabus, no Trapper Keeper.  They were not well rested and ready to take on the new semester.  They hadn't even showered!  I remember sitting there watching them with a mixture of envy and rage.  How dare they not even take the time to prepare for class!  But oh how I longed to be that carefree... to live in the moment and suck the last few drops of fun out of a summer vacation.

While it may not be in my nature to shun all responsibility for fun and games, I can learn a thing or two from those college girls and that high school boy... it is so important to take time NOW to be happy.  To just be where you are, and enjoy the things that have been placed in your life.  Slow down.  Engage with the present moment.  Have some FUN.  Over the years I've gotten better at this.  I've realized that tomorrow is going to come, and I'm going to be ok, whether I plan and anxiously anticipate it or not.  Tomorrow is going to happen just like it's supposed to and that is mostly completely out of my control.  And now, with my son, it is even more important to savor each and every moment that I have with him because they will all be gone so fast.  And where does all that planning get us anyway?  It usually gets me stuck in thoughts and inaction.  

So I've started to live my life in a different way.  I no longer keep a DayMinder.  I have a calendar for REALLY important events only. I have a single notepad on the refrigerator for groceries and sometimes a honey-do list.  Otherwise, I just do what I need to do and skip the writing it down part.  And guess what?  It all gets done!  And as for the big, scary items that i used to transfer from list to list... well, with commitment, a willingness to face my fear, and consistent small steps, I'm finding that those are getting done too!       

So lets throw our planners to the wind, shall we?

Burn our to-do lists.  Ditch our Day-minders.  Say sayonara to our spreadsheets.

Lets stop planning and start LIVING.  Let's make the most of this one wild and precious life while it's still ours for the taking.  Let's not reach the end of our lives and look back with regret at the moments we missed while looking ahead for a better tomorrow.  

"our weary eyes looking still, looking always, looking anxiously for something out of life, that while it is expected is already gone – has passed unseen, in a sigh, in a flash – together with the youth, with the strength, with the romance of illusions.” Joseph Conrad

Till next time,


© Haley McManigal 2017

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Haley McManigal and haleymcmanigal.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Back to Work

I've been dreading this moment for decades.  Since back when I was young and carefree and single, when marriage was a distant dream and my son Lukas was just a tiny seed of longing in my heart.  Even then I knew that this would be hard.  Even then, I could sense how important this decision would be and how it would be next to impossible to make it.  Even as I was building my career, mostly blissfully oblivious to my fertility or any of the requirements of motherhood, I sensed this looming on the horizon.  I would sometimes wake up in the night, over the course of my 20's and early 30's, stricken by grief that I would one day have to make the impossible choice between my career and my unborn children.  Back then, I panicked at the thought of either choice.  Now the choice is a reality, and it's time to make it.

I've enjoyed 12 blissful weeks of maternity leave, but on Monday I must return to work.  Part of me is ready and eager to get back into a regular schedule, and start using my brain for more than counting poopy diapers and ounces of breast milk.  The other part of me gets nauseous at the mere thought of leaving my precious angel at daycare with a bunch of strangers.

But now that this has become a reality for me and not some distant daydream, I'm starting to realize that its not so much a choice to make, but rather a delicate balancing act that we pursue as we try to do everything.  And I'm left to wonder: can we really have it all?  Is it actually possible to have a fulfilling and challenging career while still providing our children the care that they need?  Can we hold onto the career that we've been building since college?  Can we dedicate as much of ourselves to our work as we did before the kids came along?  Or do we lose a piece of that the day that we decide to have children?

In the short three months of my maternity leave, I have been forever changed.  I walked out of my office on my last day of work before my son was born, thinking that I would return 12 weeks later and everything would be the same.  But in those weeks, everything changed.  Not on the surface, but deep within me.  My perspective and my priorities fundamentally shifted, without my even realizing it.  This tiny human that depends on Dan and I for every single thing in his little life now holds my heart.  I will do anything and everything for him, and I love him so fiercely that it sometimes takes my breath away.  My purpose is now first and foremost to be a mother.  Everything else, including my career, is just gravy.  

I guess only time will tell how much or little we're able to juggle the demands of both.  I'm guessing it's one of those things where you just do what has to be done in each moment.  Sometimes things are great, sometimes not, but you do the best you can each step of the way.  And I am very fortunate to have a husband who is 100% involved in Lukas's life.  With his support and encouragement, I know that we will make it work, whatever we choose to do.  We are both committed to doing whatever is best for him.  

But what exactly is best for him?

 My mom was a stay at home mom.  Dan's mom worked full time.  And we both turned out ok.  So how do you know what is best?  

I want to stay home with him 24/7 and take care of his every need.  I want him to grow up with the stability and the consistency of a stay-at-home parent.  I want to make certain that he is getting everything that he needs and that he is being cared for in the best possible way, and the best way to ensure that is to do it myself.  I want to be there day in and day out to see every single little change and development; his first step, first word, every single smile and laugh and tear.  

But.  I also want to continue pursuing my own career and personal goals.  I want my son to see a real live example of professional women in the workforce and to know that boys AND girls can grow up to be whatever they want to be.  I want him to have the kind of love that only a mother who loves herself and takes care of her own needs can give.  I want him to see his mother fulfill her dreams while she helps him achieve his.  I want him to see both his Mommy and his Daddy doing what sets their souls on fire, and I want him to know that he should settle for nothing less than the same as he grows and discovers himself in this world.

This is SO important to me.  And all of these ideals sound great, I'm sure every parent probably wants the same for their children.  But in order to achieve these results long-term, that means that I have to start doing the hard work today.  What that means for me, right now, is that I have to suck it up and go to work on Monday.  I can't have the reward without the sacrifice.  I can't teach my son ideals and values that I don't embody and exhibit in my own actions.  

For me and my family, this is what's right and true.  For now at least... circumstances may change, priorities can shift, but for now, this is the right thing to do.

So pray for us on Monday, friends.  I'm gonna need every ounce of positive energy that you can send my way! 

© Haley McManigal 2017

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Haley McManigal and haleymcmanigal.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Get Going

I get really freakin' pissed off sometimes.  At the world.  At myself. When others don't recognize or acknowledge what I'm capable of.  When I don't have the confidence in myself to tell them.

When someone blows me off or puts me down or belittles my dreams, I think to myself:  Just you wait and see... I'll show you!  Then I promptly brood for hours about how rude that person was and how I'll take the world by storm until I'm so exhausted that all I can muster is a nap or a Netflix binge. 

I feel like I have this great potential inside, but I have no idea how to excavate it, and even less idea how to nurture it so that it can become something valuable.  I believe we all have a special something, and it's our job here on earth to find and express it.  Elizabeth Gilbert says "The universe buries strange jewels deep within us all, and then stands back to see if we can find them."  I worry that I'll never find the jewels, that they'll remain hidden and my potential will go completely untapped my entire life.

But what if, during these times of doubt and uncertainty, I could use this energy and anger as fuel to propel myself forward?

Every time I find myself in this situation with these thoughts and this desperate need to succeed - if I can get still long enough - I always come to the same realization: 

I just have to keep going. 

It's actually not about anyone else and what they think of me.  It's about my own dreams for myself.  I have to keep being true to myself.  I have to keep doing what I feel led to do, keep practicing, keep being humble and kind, keep honoring my truest dreams for myself, keep pushing myself, keep facing my fears, keep asking for help.  And I have to believe that eventually I will get "there", wherever there is.  I have to believe that it will all become clear as I move forward.  You know what they say: the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.  And faith is taking that first step even when you can't see the whole staircase.  And of course, if the path before you is clear, you're probably on someone else's.  I could go on and on.  

So.  When the going gets tough, and I lack motivation or inspiration and I just want to give up; when I'm lost and confused and lacking direction - I try to remember how pissed I was!  And I try to use that to push myself forward.  Use that as motivation to do just a little bit more.  Use that as an excuse to keep working while everyone else is partying or sleeping or goofing off.

Don't get upset, depressed or unmotivated - GET GOING.

Till next time,


© Haley McManigal 2016

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Haley McManigal and haleymcmanigal.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Anxiety or Regret: Choose One

I've realized that I have a choice in life:

I can let my fears call the shots and play it safe in my life.  I can stay in my cozy little comfort zone forever.  If I choose this path, I drown in sorrow and regret.  I know I can do better, but I'm afraid.  I hate myself for being afraid, but I am not willing to face the fear.


I can face my fears, and live life based on what thrills and excites and terrifies me.  If I choose this path, I'm riddled with stress and anxiety.  My eye starts twitching, I have trouble sleeping, I'm constantly "on alert" and rarely ever able to truly relax.  Peace and tranquility are distant memories. 

Neither is easy.

I listened to a podcast by Michael Hyatt recently, in which he urges us to set up camp in the Discomfort Zone, and to learn to live there.  I agree with him on many levels, but this is not an easy thing for an introvert like me.  I am easily overstimulated.  I need time to pull back from the overstimulation to process things or I become completely overwhelmed and unproductive.  I don't mind being in the Discomfort Zone, as long as I have a place to retreat to every now and then to catch my breath.

I admire and envy those who can run full force into their discomfort zones, and just chill out there while they figure things out.  Oh how I wish I could do this.  But this approach is not in my nature.  I am introspective and careful and I need to be alone to process, analyze, and reach conclusions.  I used to get upset with others for not instinctively recognizing this about me and helping me to put myself in the best and most productive environments.  Now I know that is my job, and mine alone.  Part of my job as a human being is to understand and accept my nature, learn to care for myself, and make sure that I communicate my needs with others.  Sure, I'd like to be different than the way I am sometimes, but we all have limitations, and it is my job to know mine and honor them.  Of course, it's still important to consistently expand the limits of our comfort zones, otherwise life becomes stale and depressing.  It's up to each of us to determine how much and how quickly we can expand.

This dynamic fueled a recent job change for me.  I went from being a project manager at my firm to the marketing coordinator.  My decision was based on several factors, some personal and some professional, but in the end, it was the best thing for me at this time in my life.  The decision was not easy.  I lost sleep over it.  I shed tears.  I questioned my motivation.  I questioned whether I really even wanted to make the change.  Finally, after weeks of careful deliberation, I went for it.  Then I questioned if I had made the right decision.  Was I throwing my career away?  What did others think?  It was one of the most difficult things that I have ever done.  But in the end, I had to be honest with myself, and the truth was that I was not happy being a project manager.  I was not working within my talents and strengths and passions.  Yes, I was in my discomfort zone and I was learning and stretching and growing every day, but I was also terrified every day.  I was lacking a sense of an underlying strength and overarching purpose to what I was doing.  I was stretching in the wrong direction.  And my body didn't like it.  I was stressed out, I couldn't sleep, and my eye was twitching constantly.  There was no relief in sight. 

And most importantly, there was no passion.

My new job brings challenges and Discomfort Zones of its own.  But it also brings what I call the BUZZ zone.  The BUZZ Zone is when you start to talk about something, and you become so excited that your head starts buzzing.  Literally.  Buzzing.  This happens to me during conversations about WHY we as architects do what we do, or how to best structure a project team, or how to best display our firm's strengths on the website and printed materials, or how to highlight our strengths in an emotionally compelling way in interviews.  I was explaining this to my friend Kate and she said, "of course. you enjoy telling the story of your company."  Yes I do.  This is my BUZZ Zone.  And I'm starting to spend more and more time here.  Of course there were some BUZZ-worthy moments in my time as a project manager, but they were few and far between. 

So while it's crucial to push beyond our comfort zones, we need to make sure that we're stretching in the right direction, that we're caring for ourselves in the process, and that we're spending plenty of time in our BUZZ Zone. 

Maybe it's not so black and white after all, maybe there is a middle ground somewhere in the shadows between anxiety and regret... I sure hope so.  If you find it let me know!

What about you?  Do you push the limits of your comfort zone on a regular basis?  Do you spend enough time in your BUZZ Zone?  In the comments below, let me know the last thing that you did that took you out of your comfort zone, and the last thing that you did that put you in your BUZZ Zone.  I'd love to hear from you!

Till next time,


© Haley McManigal 2016

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Haley McManigal and haleymcmanigal.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Spring Flowers

I have the most amazing ground cover in my front flower bed.  It's called phlox, and it blooms in these beautiful tiny flowers that look like fluffy lavender clouds.  It blooms in early spring, and this year, the flowers stayed intact for over a month.  It was breathtaking.   But now, mid May, most of the velvety purple cloud is gone, and what's left is a dingy green carpet.

So this morning, I was looking at the dingy green phlox and wondering if it was a good idea to have so much of it in my flower bed.  It bloomed so early, and now it's not so great to look at for the rest of the year.  I weighed the pros (gorgeous purple flowers in early spring) with the cons (dingy green ground cover the rest of the year).  And I decided that the beauty of it - though short-lived - was worth it to me.

I also rationalized that there were numerous other plants in my flower bed that would balance out the dying phlox, and would take the attention for themselves.  I'm definitely no expert gardener (in fact I'm surprised I haven't already killed all of my flowers) but I'm learning a bit here and there, and apparently the first rule of designing a flower bed is to include a variety of species that bloom at different times, as well as some evergreen shrubs to anchor everything year round.  Luckily whoever planted my front flower bed before Dan and I bought our house knew what they were doing.

As I was contemplating my phlox this morning, I realized that people are a lot like flowers.

I spend a lot of time thinking about people.  I like to analyze their personality types, their strengths and weaknesses, their contributions, their craziness level, what they give to a situation or an organization or a cause vs. what they take.  In these observations, I also note how people are accepted, embraced, tolerated, or shunned by others. 

It seems to me that, in most situations you have your evergreens, your phlox and your peonies. (I realize that there are probably more appropriate plant types to use here, but these are the ones that I have at my house, so just go with it). 

Evergreens are consistent all year round.  They never lose their leaves, and they are steadily productive and utterly dependable.  They are the bedrock of any organization and they set the stage for the other flowers to do their thing. 

Then there are the phlox.  These guys come in and immediately show their brilliance - covering the landscape with their beautiful pillowy purple blooms and wowing everyone.  But their brilliance can't last past spring, so they fade pretty quickly into the background and begin preparing for next year's show.

Finally you have your peonies.  These folks start out as a billowy green bush, which is nice enough on its own, and respectable like an evergreen, until late spring when we start to see the beginnings of blossoms emerging all over the bush.  But the blooms are achingly slow to mature... they still hold tight long after the other spring flowers have shown their colors.  Then finally, one day, when they are good and ready and given they have been in the proper conditions with plenty of sun and water, the most amazing and breathtaking blossoms emerge and the entire bush glows with beauty.

Sometimes it's easy to get caught up with thinking that one kind of plant is better than the other.  When we're mesmerized by the brilliance of the phlox, it's hard to see the worth of the slow-poke peony.  But when the phlox starts to lose steam, and the peony starts to put on her show, it's easy to change our mind and favor the peony.  And in the dead of winter when all of the other plants are dormant, we may start to think that the evergreens are the only ones we can ever really count on.  But the fact is, we need all three.  We need the variety and the strengths of each person (er... plant) to have a successful and healthy team that will flourish year round.  And we need to be sure to put each one in the proper conditions to ensure that they become the best that they can be.

And just as I decided this morning that I was willing to accept the unsightly view of the phlox, because I so appreciated the beauty that I know it is capable of, we must also accept the less appealing aspects of others (and ourselves), because we recognize the beauty that they have within that will emerge when the time is right.

Which spring flower are you?  The brilliant early go-getter, the slow timid late-bloomer, or the strong, dependable evergreen?  Are you putting yourself in the optimum conditions so that when it's your turn to shine, you'll be the best that you can be?

Till next time,


© Haley McManigal 2016

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Haley McManigal and haleymcmanigal.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.