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 with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. 

It's Yours If You Want It


That's what this week is all about for me.

Sometimes it takes shaking things up a bit to make us realize how blessed we really are.



I've had a hell of a couple of weeks.

Some big things are going on at work, and at home, and I've been stressed to the max.

Sometimes we come to a crossroads in life.  Or in our relationships.  Or our career. 

Sometimes we have to make a choice.  Make a turn in one direction or another, or stay where we are. 

I had a choice this week.  A big one.  I was told "It's yours if you want it" regarding more than one opportunity.

I had put myself out there, asked for something that I believed impossible, and the response was:  "Of course.  It's yours if you want it."

Ummm.  This caught me off guard.  I had expected rejection or a flat out NO.  But instead I got the opposite. 

So now I had to answer the real question:  Did I really want it?

You know, I think that a lot of life is easier than we think.  When we put ourselves out there and actually ask for something, it's not always that hard to get. 

The had part is deciding what to ask for.  The hard part is figuring out WHAT WE WANT.

When faced with this question this week, I realized that I had no idea what I wanted. 

And that's ok too.

We're allowed to try different things, to feel our way around until we find our sweet spot.  No one is born knowing exactly who they are and what their purpose is.  Well, at least not most people.  So why do we think that we have to get it right the first time?  Why do I feel like I get one shot at life, then I'm stuck with whatever that is for eternity? 

But when I realized this week that I had no idea what I wanted, I panicked.  I thought that it was black or white, take it or leave it.  I felt ashamed and embarrassed that I didn't know.  News flash:  no one knows! 

I've been learning a lot at work lately.  And by a lot, I mean a mind-blowing amount of new information bombards my brain every second of every day.  I say something foolish at least once every 5 minutes and blatantly reveal my ignorance to everyone around me.  I struggle and curse architecture school and The stupid Fountainhead for ever making me interested in architecture in the first place.  I have a stack of books a mile high at my desk because I have to look up EVERY SINGLE THING I do.  ALL DAY.  EVERY DAY.  It's exhausting.  And overwhelming.  And painful.  These growing pains suck. 

And I'm tired.  I'm emotional.  I'm hormonal.  I want to sit and cry a lot.  I want to bawl my eyes out, gnash my teeth, howl and moan like a wild wildebeest.  I want to let it all out.  I am STRESSED.  I want to drink wine all day.  I want to complain to anyone who will listen.  I want to talk incessantly about myself and my hard times. 

BUT, when I put on my perspectacles, as Glennon Doyle Melton would say, I also realize that I am so lucky.  I am finally in the arena; I am facing my biggest fear in life, I'm struggling to develop into the architect that I know I'm capable of being... and I have an office full of people who support and encourage me every step of the way.  I have decades of cumulative knowledge within 10 feet of me.  My pals John, Randy, Jim & Donna are more than willing to help me and explain things to me and share their knowledge.  Sometimes I don't even have to ask... they sense me struggling and come to my rescue before I even know I'm in trouble.  What an amazing gift that I have been given!

So I try to control my howling and gnashing of teeth.  I don't let it all out...well, ok, maybe some of it.  But most of it I keep inside.  Why?  Well, because that wouldn't be very attractive now, would it?  And also because this is what I wanted!  This is what I've been waiting for.  This very opportunity to learn, to gain experience, to have my own project and be responsible for it's success or failure.  That is what I've been wishing and waiting and asking for for years, and I'm not gonna blow this opportunity now by complaining about every second of it. 

But now that it's here and I'm in the middle of it, I'm asking IS THIS STILL WHAT I WANT?  I'm allowed to change my mind, you know.  I'm allowed to try something and decide it's not for me, and move on to the next thing - guilt free. 

But do you know what I have decided?  Yes.  This is still what I want.  I thought I wanted the other thing, but maybe I was just trying to escape from the thing I already have because its hard.  And I wanted an out.  But I am happy where I am.  I'm learning.  I'm growing.  The stress and the struggle are worth it to me right now.  That might not always be the case, but right now, I'm exactly where I WANT to be.

So here I am, at the end of this stressful, emotional, exhausting week, in the exact same place that I started out on Monday.  But the difference is that I'm changed.  I have a renewed sense of purpose and commitment to my life just as it is, and I'm filled with gratitude for what I already have.  I don't need a change.  I just need to appreciate how blessed I already am.

Are you where you want to be in life?  If you had an opportunity to make a change in your life, would you take it, or would you decide that you're actually good right where you are?

Let me know in the comments, 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 with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

What's The Point?

Do you ever find yourself at work or in life wondering: What is the point of all of this?

I certainly do.  And I've spent countless hours, read hundreds of books, and poured my heart out in the pages of my journal trying to answer that question.  What's the Point?

I had a conversation with a guy at a bar years ago about our career aspirations and life in general, and he said something that I'll never forget.  "I always knew that I was meant to work on something special."

Although I had never put it into those words, I realized that I had always felt the same way - like a yearning and a knowing deep in my soul.

I want to work on something special.

I think we all long to do something special.  We all long to do meaningful work that makes us happy and makes the world a better place.  We all long to do something special in our private lives, to BE someone else's someone special.  We all want to feel love and acceptance and value.

The bar guy told me all about his job at a national security complex, and how he was finally doing his something special; he was living his dream.  Despite the trials and the difficulties of his work, he made a point to keep the idea that he was doing something special at the front of his mind.  I'm sure that was great motivation for him when the job got hard, or boring, or mundane... he just checked in with himself and remembered that THIS IS MY SOMETHING SPECIAL.

Sometimes I struggle with finding this kind of meaning in my day-to-day life.  I wonder WHAT'S THE POINT?  I want to help others, and have a purposeful existence.  I enjoy my work enough, but I don't always see an immediate connection between what I'm doing and how it is making the world a better place.  I have trouble sometimes stepping back and looking at the big picture of not just what I'm doing, but why I'm doing it. 

Last week, I was able to make that connection in a real and immediate way at work, and it felt amazing.

I met with one of my company's school clients to select interior finishes for their project.  The project manager and I sat with the school principal for hours, pouring over tiny squares of fabric and color, making sure we found just the right shade of gray.  As we got to each different classroom, the principal called in additional opinions.  The band director had input on what she wanted in her room - nothing to busy but something that hides dirt well; a splash of color on the walls.  Then the art teacher got to select colors for her new art room - she wanted black counter tops and tack boards to set the background for the student artwork.  She hadn't seen the design for her new space yet, so we walked her through it on the drawings.  She practically cried with happiness when she saw the new space that she was receiving.  This new school, this classroom, it was HER space.  She would spend eight hours every day for years to come existing in this space that WE created.  

At some point during this encounter, it dawned on me that something I had helped to create affects her happiness so directly,  and THAT is something special indeed!

I was talking with a very wise man this week, and he said to me:  "Haley, the Point is LOVE."  Our purpose in life and in work is to grow in love and acceptance of ourselves and one another.  It's that simple.  And the good news is that we can do that WHEREVER we are.  It doesn't matter if I'm designing skyscrapers in New York City, or picking out colors for someone's bathroom, or raising small children at home.  In any of these situations, I have the opportunity to love the people around me; to love myself; to accept myself as I am; to accept others as they are; to be compassionate.  No matter what situation I find myself in, the point remains the same:  LOVE.

What's your something special?  How do you find meaning in your day to day life?  Let me know in the comments below how you express LOVE in your work or in your life?  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 with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Flex Both Muscles

I feel like I lead two separate lives.

In my day job as an architect, I deal with the details.  I have to pay attention to the physical world around me.  I have to know how things go together and why they work.  Sometimes this is not easy for me.  It's not my natural mindset.

My natural inclination is to ignore the world around me and get lost in the inner world of my own mind.  

So that is what I do in my second life.  I get lost in my own little world of reading and writing and decorating cakes and sketching and painting and whatever else suits my fancy in the moment.  This is where I feel most like ME.  

Since my second life is so easy and comfortable for me, I've considered on many occasions giving up on  my first life altogether so that I can be in isolated bliss and devote 100% of my energy and effort to my creativity.

But something keeps me coming back for more.  I'm not sure exactly what, maybe its the challenge.  Maybe the mystery.  It's certainly not the money, although a steady income is nice. 

The truth is, although I complain a lot about my "real" job, I'm not happy without it.  I need that challenge to be happy.  It's not easy, in fact its downright difficult for me sometimes to force myself into that mindset.  But that challenge is what makes me feel alive.  That challenge is what makes my other life so fulfilling.  That challenge is often what enables the other, easier life; it provides ideas for my writing, it allows me to so thoroughly enjoy retreating into my own inner world and getting lost in my creativity.  It's my laboratory for life and learning.  It is my inspiration.

Also, If it weren't for my studies and my efforts and my hard work in my career in architecture, I would be DRASTICALLY UN-rounded. (That's the opposite of WELL-rounded, in case you were wondering).  I would be freakishly oblong.  I would be grossly deficient in common sense and spatial reasoning.  I would not know anything about the simple beauty of math and physics or the natural order of the universe, the beauty of the earth and seasons and how the world works.  

I had to fight for that knowledge.  I had to FIGHT for every minute of time that I devoted to learning this stuff.  I had to step outside of my head, my safe place, my comfort zone, my imagination, and I had to work really hard.  I still have to work really hard.  Every single day.  

But that is what makes it worthwhile.  That is why my career is so valuable to me, because it wasn't just handed to me, I didn't stumble upon it.  I worked for it.

So my point in sharing all of this with you is this:  maybe you are facing something in your life that is downright hard work.  Maybe you're struggling with how heavy it all is, maybe you're wishing and dreaming of a life where everything is easy and flows so you can ride the waves of good fortune and luck and EASE.  Maybe you want to not have to work so hard for JUST ONE DAY.  

I get it.

But ask yourself what it truly is that makes you happy.  Would you still have the same motivation, the same drive, if everything in your life was easy?  Would you still possess the qualities that you love most about yourself if everything in your life had been handed to you on a silver platter?  Probably not.  It's one of mine and Dan's favorite soap boxes to discuss how hard we have had to work.  We both worked our way through college and grad school.  We both drove crappy cars and ate ramen noodles and easy mac to save money.  We both scrounged by, with little help from our parents, not because they didn't want to help and support us, but because they didn't have the extra to give.  And we both survived.  We both learned the value of a dollar and the meaning of a good work ethic.  And while we both may have wished that hard work away while we were in the middle of it, we both take great pride in it now.  I bet you will too.

Because I know that the most treasured things in life are the things that we have to work the hardest for.  The easy stuff is great, but it's also easier to take it for granted.  The hard stuff won't let you forget the work.  The hard stuff sticks with you.  

What about you?  What have you had to work the hardest for in you life?  Would you trade all of that hard work for the easy road if you could?  

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 with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Livin' the Dream

At work, we always joke that we're livin' the dream.  Fighting with the copy machine again... livin' the dream.  Arguing with a contractor... livin' the dream.  Losing an hours worth of work when the computer crashes... livin' the dream.  But especially when I'm trimming drawings, or binding documents or compiling pdf's.... that's when it really hits me that I have finally ARRIVED.  That paperwork, it gets me all emotional every time.

But honestly, I really do love my job.  I have great colleagues and bosses, I have challenging and meaningful work and appropriate levels of responsibility, good location, good hours, etc.   

But, there is this one recurring theme at work that I cannot seem to overcome:  anxiety.  It is a constant companion at work.  I am a total perfectionist, and the thought that I am doing something less than stellar terrifies me.  This is ridiculous and completely unsustainable, I know, and I'm working on it.  Read more about that here.  But those unattainable standards that I set for myself are always there, lurking in the back of my mind, nagging at me and making me CRAZY.

I confided in a work friend recently about my anxiety, and she assured me that I am not alone.  She said that in fact, she would bet that most everyone that we work with feels the same way from time to time.  "Even the guys?" I asked doubtfully.  I thought maybe this was a woman thing, expecially in a male dominated field like architecture.  Yes, she assured me, the men suffer from anxiety too.  So we decided to have a little pow wow at lunch one day to discuss this topic and come to find out, ALL of us feel this way at times.  We all care deeply about our work, and truly want to do our best.  We all struggle with not knowing things from time to time, with failing to ask enough questions, with worrying if we're doing what is expected of us, with keeping our perfectionism in check.  This is NORMAL!  Geez, who knew.  

Just talking about this with others has really helped me to put things in perspective.  Connection and communication are the quickest ways that I have found to ease my anxious mind.  I feel so blessed to be in a group of people who are open and willing to be honest about their struggles.  We're all human after all, and at the end of the day, no matter what project we're working on, or what deadlines we have, our connections with one another and our willingness to help each other are what really matter most.  

So, keep on livin' the dream!


© Haley McManigal 2015

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 with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Photo Credit:  © Antonioguillem | - Woman Resting At Work With The Feet Over The Office Table Photo

Perfectionism at Work

I'm tackling a new fear lately:  PERFECTIONISM.  

Yep, its a big one.  

It may not look like a fear at first glance, but when you break it down, all that perfectionism really is is fear of failure, fear of being vulnerable, fear of not being enough.  That's some pretty intense stuff, so you can see why it has taken me so long to tackle it.  

I face perfectionism in several areas of my life, but it is the most pronounced in  my work.  I know that I am not perfect.  I have so much to learn, and I feel like most of the time I am pretty humble about my weaknesses and areas where I lack experience.  However, lately I have been doing some things at work that involve completely new territory, but they are things that I feel like I should know at this point in my career.  So I tried at first to navigate this new terrain by myself, teaching myself as best I could and asking questions only when all other options had been exhausted.  Even when others offered their help to me, I was reluctant to accept it, because I felt that I needed to learn these things on my own in order to really understand and assimilate the information.  But after a few days of this exhausting whirlwind of ignorance, feeling utterly defeated, I finally admitted that I needed help and could not do this on my own.  Much to my surprise, I was not fired on the spot or mocked and ridiculed (at least not to my face).  Instead, I was given the help that I needed.  Those who were experienced in my areas of lack were more than willing to share their knowledge with me.  In fact, no one else even seemed to care that I didn't know this stuff.  I was the only one who was worried about it!  I will say that it was a little bit of a blow to  my ego to have someone sit down and break things down into baby steps for me... but that is exactly what I needed.  And, much stronger than my twinge of pride, was the surge of relief and gratitude that I felt from finally opening myself up to the help that I needed.

That's the sneaky little mind game that perfectionism plays on you... it  leads you to believe that you are better off suffering in silence, not allowing for mistakes rather than just asking for help and admitting that you have no idea what you are doing.  But the truth is that you're not even in the game until you start making mistakes.  If you're not failing at anything, then you are not really trying.  If you're not screwing a few things up now and then, chances are that you are playing it safe, not venturing out of your cozy little comfort zone, because you are too terrified of a less than perfect performance.  Trust me, I know the feeling.  But I also know that I want to continue to learn and grow and improve as an architect and a human being. And that's gonna be a lot harder if I keep demanding perfection from myself.  I've been battling with this for a long time, and I'm so relieved to have finally made a tiny crack in my armor.  This wall of perfectionism has been between me and my ambitions for years, and I'm finally ready to tear it down so that the real work can begin.

Do you battle with perfectionism in your work?  What about other areas of your life?  How have you gotten past your fear of failure?  If you have techniques or ideas please share, I'd love to hear from you.

Till next time,


© Haley McManigal 2015

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 with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Photo Credit:  © Kiosea39 | - Stressed Nervous Businesswoman In Her Office Photo