How to experience gratitude

Gratitude clears a path for life-sustaining habits, positive transformation, and wise action.

Gratitude wipes out limiting thoughts, regret and despair. It preserves time and energy that you would otherwise spend on complaining and criticizing.

Across the U.S. today, we celebrate Thanksgiving. It’s a special day for families and friends to get together for a feast and to give thanks for what they have.

But this morning I woke up feeling sullen and somber over losing some prized (digital) possessions.

Last night, I discovered my toddler deleted from my camera every single video and photo I took of her over the past 16 months from the day she was born. Three clicks on a single button are all it took.

Had I uploaded the files before they got deleted? No. Did I have backups? No.Could I recover the deleted files? No… or not likely (for reasons I won’t get into here).

This episode amounted to a refresher crash course on how to experience gratitude. Here are a few key points:

Acknowledge what sucks.

When crap happens, gratitude is not always the healthiest immediate response. Instead, you first need to acknowledge what sucks.

It doesn’t help to wallow in misery and self-pity. But you also don’t want to deny your pain by reframing the situation too quickly. It’s okay to be ticked off. Just face the loss or the less-than-ideal experience, as is, without trying to make it less troubling with affirmations of gratitude.

Mistakes are human and they teach us to do better next time. Losing the videos and photos taught me an important lesson. It reminded me that if you care about something, you need to take steps within your control to avoid outright loss.

For now though, I choose to feel disappointment over the loss. I’m not going to gloss over it with “everything happens for a reason” or “it is what it is” platitudes.

Realize that dissatisfaction can coexist with gratitude. 

Gratitude involves rejoicing in what you have, which is often more than enough. Gratitude doesn’t mean you won’t have unfulfilled desires, dreams and wishes that create dissatisfaction.

If you cover up the negatives with your positives, life might start to feel superficial and shallow. But if dissatisfaction greatly outweighs gratitude, life can be pretty depressing and heavy.

Aim for the right proportions and make conscious choices. If you’re getting too complacent, work toward building a new habit. If you’re complaining too much, focus on an existing thing that brings you joy.

Dissatisfaction and gratitude are non-dual experiences that can coexist well together. While I’m disappointed about losing the videos and photos that were on my camera, I’m grateful that I still have many that were stored elsewhere.

Appreciate what is before you.

While I was missing the videos and photos I lost, I was missing out on my daughter standing right in front of me – eager to play and have fun.  She’s no longer the helpless little baby who could barely lift her head. Rather, she now walks around like she owns the place.

Getting wrapped up in the past and worrying about not having certain mementos for the future made it hard to be present. The sweetest moments are right here, right now. The present is when life is most delicious, abundant, real, and full of possibilities.

Get specific about what you’re thankful for. 

Whatever you’re grateful for becomes more tangible and immediate when you know exactly why you appreciate it. Picking five things you appreciate is great. Listing five reasons why you’re thankful for one particular thing is even better.

And if you’re having trouble naming one thing, dig deep and search wide. Are you grateful for that faithful friend who will give you a ride when your car breaks down? Do you own a nice pair of boots to keep your feet warm in winter?  Do you have strengths that you get to use daily or regularly? Is there at least one person on earth who holds you accountable?

Why do you wake up in the morning? Be grateful for that. 


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Photo by: Jessica Lucia

6 tricks for anyone who wants to start a business and be self-employed

lemonade stand

I just completed my second week of running my own law firm, Dyan Williams Law PLLC. While I’ve coached individuals and groups on creating their ideal work-life mix since 2009, I kept my attorney job for many years. On October 17, I finished my last day as managing attorney at a prominent immigration law firm and joined the ranks of the truly self-employed.

Here are 6 tricks for starting a business so you can quit your day job:

1. Prepare for your transition. If you wait until you’re ready, you might never go for it. At some point, you just need to take the plunge. But have a solid plan — that covers the strategic and the tactical — for where you want to go. Use your strengths and capitalize on your interests to create a valuable product or service that others will buy.

Create a road map for how you will fill your pipeline with clients or customers, whether through direct contact, referral building, networking, online marketing, speaking, writing, generating publicity, or advertising.

Build enough savings so you’re not forced to take on crappy projects or less-than-ideal clients. You don’t, however, need a gazillion dollars to get started. In The $100 Startup, author Chris Guillebeau talks about entrepreneurs who built businesses earning $50,000 or more from a modest investment ($100 or less, in many cases).

Decide how you will keep overheads low, at least in the beginning. In law practice, salary and rent are among the biggest expenses. They are also perhaps the most controllable. I opted to go solo and maintain a virtual office. Employing a dedicated team or renting a full-time office space can come later.

2. Change your mindset.  Being a business owner requires a different outlook than being an employee. When you’re self employed, you’re ultimately in charge of bringing in revenue to pay the bills. When you’re employed by someone else, you just do your job and expect to get a paycheck in return.

Limiting beliefs about whether you have the skills and interest to market, oversee and manage a business can discourage you from starting one. While it’s healthy to consider the realities of owning a business, don’t sell yourself short.

I used to believe I would hate running a law firm because I love lawyering more. But visualization, affirmations, strategic thinking, tactical planning, positive feedback, shaping new habits, and deliberate actions led me to see that I have the strengths and interest to do both.

3. Focus on your action plan.  Commit to one or two big goals a week and stick to them. Avoid setting too many goals that leave you feeling scattered and overwhelmed. Take actual steps to make your dream tangible and real. They don’t need to be giant leaps – just tiny hops, in the right direction, built on one another.

During my last weeks at my attorney job, I broke down my goals into actionable steps with dates to complete them. I wrapped up my cases and projects or worked toward a smooth transfer. I set a time limit for myself and did not waver from it.

At nights and on weekends, I worked on launching my own firm (e.g., applying for a PLLC, choosing a malpractice insurance company, selecting a bank, buying a scanner, creating my website, and developing a marketing plan). I got tons done because I applied laser-sharp focus and dropped the non-essentials to meet the time limit.

4. Have your big vision. It’s not enough to hate your job so much that you have to escape from it. I loved my job, but yearned for more freedom to create a venture (or adventure) around my own vision, work style, priorities and interests.

Think strategically so you don’t get tied up with minutiae. Grow your business by design, not by chance. Think about the core purpose of your business and develop your systems, tools, teams and approach around it. Take stock of where you are and where you want to go.

Key questions to ask include: What will you do to create a remarkable product or service? Who are your ideal clients? What do you want your business to stand for? How will you stand out from other businesses in your industry? What are your core values and how will they shape your business? What is your business culture?

5. Define success on your own terms. You are free to make your business into whatever you want it to be. You can build a business to suit your preferred lifestyle, create a legacy and empire, or invest in a valuable commodity.

Your business has to make money to make self-employment possible. But you decide how much money you need. Stop comparing yourself to the other guy – he’s not you. Hone in on earning just enough to meet your definition of success. Anything over that is gravy.

John Warrillow’s Built to Sell is a terrific book, but you don’t have to build a business to sell or take public. You can keep it just for you, run it for a certain time, and then shut it down. You can also run more than one business as long as you don’t stretch yourself too thin. Define what success personally means to you and create and work on your chosen terms.

6. Develop a strong network for support and accountability. Having my husband’s buy-in from the start made it much easier for me to give notice to my employer, quit my day job, and become fully self-employed. I got insightful feedback from my sister and “you can do it” cheers from my mom. I told some of my closest friends and everyone who would be affected by my decision about what I planned to do and when I would do it.

No one ever told me that I was nuts and that I should keep my day job. I parted on good terms with my employer and I didn’t burn bridges. Having support made the change less disruptive and the transition more natural.

Building a community around your goals enriches the creative process, leads to new ideas, and helps you stay accountable.

These are the 6 tricks I used to start my law firm and run it alongside my coaching business. They can help you launch your own business so you can quit your day job (or supplement your income if self-employment isn’t for you). The freedom to chart your own course is a real treat.


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Photo by: Steven Depolo

When to Take Advice, and When to Ignore It

Good advice can get you out of a jam and get you where you need to be. Bad advice can keep you stuck and spinning your wheels.

So when do you take advice and when
do you ignore it?

Here are key questions to ask yourself:

Is the advice requested or unsolicited?

If you asked for the advice, listen up. Get specific about your dilemma and let the person describe what they would do if they were you. Take notes (mentally and literally – on your writing pad or electronic device).

If you didn’t ask for the advice, you’re probably dealing with an overbearing know-it-all. Set boundaries. Tell the person you don’t really need the advice. Or just politely say thank you, then walk away and make yourself scarce.

If you need to talk through the problem without being advised on what to do, find a good friend, a trusted confidante or a skillful therapist who will simply listen (and maybe ask you insightful questions to move you out of the rut).

Who is the source of the advice?

Determine if the person who’s giving you advice is truly an expert or too much of an expert. The person needs to be smarter or have more experience for their advice to be worth much. But a smart person with lots of experience might give you advice that is based on situations that are different from yours.

Know whether the person has a biased perspective, ulterior motives, or a vested interest. If you’re looking to hand in your resignation and start a business, getting advice from a risk-averse, overly cautious colleague won’t be very helpful. This person might scare you into hanging on to your day job. They will tell you to play it safe and keep the status quo, when what you really need to do is take a risk and make a change.

What is your history with the person? Do they normally give you sage and sound advice, or wrong-headed and misguided advice? If the person is someone you can count on, stay open to what they say. Otherwise, be skeptical.

Are their values and priorities similar to yours? Getting another person’s perspective helps. But don’t take their advice if it conflicts strongly with your values and priorities.

Get advice from someone who walks the talk and leads by example. If they talk about how much they care about friends or family members, but do and say things to alienate them (like lie, criticize and blame), don’t take their advice on how to resolve an interpersonal conflict. Go to someone who has deep, strong and healthy relationships.

What does your instinct tell you?

What’s right for one person might not be right for the other. What works in some situations might not work in others. What led to failure or success in the past could result in a different outcome in the future.

At the end of the day, you need to trust your own instincts. The advice has to resonate with you in order for you to truly internalize it and act on it. Solicit feedback and use others as a sounding board, but pay attention to your own gut.

You will usually feel discomfort or get defensive when there is something critical to learn. Getting revved up doesn’t mean the advice is right or wrong. But if it hits a nerve, take a step back to see what’s really going on.

There could be tremendous truth in what seems to be wrong advice. There could be misleading information in what appears to be right advice. Give yourself time to process the feedback. And trust that you know what’s best for you.


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Photo by: Laughlin Elkind