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. 

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 with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. 

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 with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Here's What To Do When You Have No Idea What Will Make You Happy

I think about happiness a lot.  I wonder what it really is.  I wonder if I'm actually very happy and I just don't know it.  I wonder if any thing "out there" will make me any happier than I already am.  I wonder if making changes in my life will result in more or less happiness.  One of the strangest things that I've noticed about happiness is that I'm usually happiest when I'm not thinking about being happy.  I'm happy when I'm in the moment, when I'm living my life to the fullest, and not analyzing or brooding over whether I am happy or not.  

I read something about happiness yesterday that really struck me.

It was an article by Brianna Wiest at Soul Anatomy about emotionally intelligent people and things that they DON'T do.  

"They don't assume to know what it is that will make them truly happy.  Being that our only frame of reference at any given time is what's happened in the past, we actually have no means to determine what would make us truly happy, as opposed to just feeling "saved" from whatever we disliked about our past experiences.  In understanding this, they open themselves up to any experience that their life evolves toward, knowing there are equal parts good and bad in anything"

Just think about that for a minute...  How many of us are out there, frantically searching for what will finally, once and for all make us TRULY happy.  I know I've been guilty of that in my life.  But looking at it this way opens up a new way of thinking:  if we have absolutely no way of knowing what will truly make us happy, then the only sane option is to just embrace where we are and see where that takes us.  Wow, this takes the pressure off, doesn't it?

This week has been a roller-coaster of a ride for me.  I've been doubting and questioning lots of things, wondering what direction to go, what to focus on.  I've set sky-high expectations for myself and others that can only lead to disappointment.  But I'm realizing that all of the analyzing and planning I've been doing is totally and completely pointless and ridiculous, and all I really need to do is embrace where I am, and fully engaging with what I am doing.  Just DO and stop THINKING about the doing.    

How enlightening to think  "there are equal parts good and bad in anything".  To me, this means that one of the most important things that we can do in this life is cultivate our ability to find and focus on the good in any situation.  The negatives will always be there, no matter what changes we make or different things we try.  We just have to learn to Re-Frame a situation or circumstance to be able to see the positive.

What about you?  How do you define happiness?  Are you able to find and focus on the positive in any situation?  Let me know in the comments, 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.


Not All Who Wander Are Lost

Sometimes, I have no idea what I'm doing in life.

I wander aimlessly.  I struggle with procrastination, depression, self-doubt, anxiety, and fear.

Some days, the last thing I want to do is engage with my true self and work toward fulfilling my potential and living my best life.

Some days I want to escape.  I want to lounge on the couch all day eating Cheetos and watching The Real Housewives.  I want to forget that I'm on a mission.  I want to dampen the fire burning inside of me.  I want to ignore the incessant feeling that I have important work to do.

Because that important work is also HARD work.

It's challenging, and exhausting, and uncomfortable, and emotional.  It's full of sacrifice, sweat, tears, and fear.  But it's also full of joy, happiness, honor, and peace.

Sometimes I feel like I'm not qualified to do that kind of work; like I can never live up to whatever the heck this thing is that I'm compelled to do.  

I fear that I'll never be able to define it.  I worry that this burning fire inside of me will fuel a lifetime of striving with no relief - or worse - no results.

I wonder if it will ever become clear to me exactly what my purpose here on earth is; what I'm called to do; how I can help others, make a lasting impact, and somehow make this world a better place from having been here and having done my work.

But despite the confusion and the doubt that I feel, I know that eventually, I'll pull myself up off the couch, put the Cheetos away, and turn off the Housewives drama, and I'll get back to work.

Because quitting is not an option.

Ignoring the call of my soul to become who I'm meant to be is not a risk that I'm willing to take.

So I get back out there.  I think, I dream, I read, I meditate, I write, I create, I apply myself at work, I take care of myself, my relationships, and my belongings.

I show up and I participate.

I don't do all of these things perfectly.  I struggle and sometimes I fail.  Sometimes my weaknesses get the best of me.

But I do them anyway.

I have to believe that some sweet day it will all come together; things will fall into place, and I'll know what to do next.  And even if it doesn't, even if I never understand - if things never become clear to me - at least I'll know that I showed up.  I did all I could do and I gave it my best shot.

So for now, I'll just keep looking - keep experimenting, keep putting myself out there, keep trying new things and pushing myself to the boundaries of my limits.  I'll keep doing things I love to do and finding pleasure in the process.  I'll keep looking for ways to help others, keep an open heart and a willingness to learn.  I'll keep going all-in with everything that I do and giving my life 100% so that, at the end of the day, I'm empty and I can say that I'm happy.  I'm satisfied.  I'm at peace with the life I have lived.

Success and failure be what they may because I have done my part.

I showed up and I gave it my all.

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:   © Stockfotoart |