Lauren Handel Zander coaches you to pinpoint obstacles and blow past them.
Those extra 30 pounds. The marriage that has proven elusive. A stalled career.
Most people come to Lauren Handel Zander’s life-coaching firm, the Handel Group when they’ve hit a wall in one of these areas.
They may have tried to bust through that wall by joining a gym, starting a diet or trying a dating service, but they’re just not making progress.
That’s because it’s not the plan that’s the problem, Zander says, it’s the lack of honesty and accountability holding them back.
“People are always cheating on themselves,” says Zander, author of the forthcoming book “Maybe It’s You: Cut the Crap. Face Your Fears. Love Your Life.”
Most will hold themselves accountable to others, turning in work assignments on time, picking up their kids from school and taking them to soccer practice; but when it comes to their own dreams, many people get flaky. “I teach people to keep promises to themselves.”
Honesty and follow-through are what Zander refers to as personal integrity, and she says learning these traits holds the power to transform every area of your life—even the areas you didn’t know were suffering.
Build integrity by working on your health
One of the first things Zander starts working on with her clients is getting them to eat right and exercise.
“It’s a place where you can find out how much you lie and pretend you have no power,” Zander states, with most people blaming outside circumstances for their overeating and bad food habits.
If you can’t take over your own ability to put down the cookie and pick up an apple, she says, you will have a hard time exercising the mindfulness and accountability needed to pursue other dreams.
Define your dream
While most people claim to need help in just a couple of areas, Zander examines their lives across the board, looking at 12 different areas, from body to family, career, money, sex and community.
She asks her clients to write down their dreams for each of the 12 areas and then to rate their current life against each dream from one to 10, explaining the obstacles to reaching their happy place.
It’s this “you can run, but you can’t hide” section of her homework that catches the language of fear, personal tantrums and poor excuses like these:
- I’m big-boned, so a diet is a waste of time.
- The market is too bad to start a business.
- I’m not a morning person, so I can’t get to the gym early.
- I’m exhausted, so I can’t have sex.
“Yet they still have plenty of time to watch Orange Is the New Black,” Zander notes.
Use consequences to hold yourself accountable
To get someone out of a Netflix binge and into his or her dream life, Zander teaches consequences. When one of her clients was trying to get a television script written and sold, she needed consequences to keep her writing and networking on track.
“I had to take away her glass of wine and Swedish Fish [candy] at night,” Zander says, if she didn’t do her two hours of writing and LinkedIn networking.
Likewise, Zander has her own commitment to having sex with her husband twice a week or it’s buh-bye to the episode of the television show she’s currently hooked on. It’s gone for good, she says, and she can’t go back and watch it later.
“Use your vice for good,” Zander suggests, and lose your wine, chocolate, or time spent on Facebook or Instagram if you don’t accomplish what you said you would. “You have no idea what I will do for Game of Thrones,” she jokes.
Get honest about what’s holding you back
Part of the reason people don’t fulfill their dreams, Zander says, is not because they don’t have the resources. It’s because they’re holding themselves back with self-defeating attitudes and actions.
Many times people aren’t aware of the baggage they are carrying from their past and how that affects their traits, patterns and relationships.
She has clients look at their parents’ positive and negative traits and how they manifest in personality and reactions. If your father was a screamer, how did that affect you? Did you become a screamer too, or did you react to that by retreating in conflict? How can you dial that in or out to have a better experience with your significant other?
Likewise, if you are still carrying around a big fear of rejection from that time years ago when you were shot down for that big promotion, it could be stopping you from committing to things today.
Once you figure out what you are doing wrong and how you lie to yourself and your family and friends, Zander advises going back and apologizing to those affected, a move which is often so painful, it dissuades people from doing that bad thing again.
“One of the best ways to quit repeating patterns,” Zander says, “is to go have to deal with the consequences.”
And if you are blaming your busy career for the 15 pounds you gained, you need to gain a bigger perspective on what’s going on in your life, Zander claims. Accountability in just one area, such as how you treat and talk about your body, can be a real game changer across the board.
Four Tips to Bring You Closer to Your Dreams
Here are a few tips Zander recommends for getting more in touch with your actions and designing your life around your dreams.
1. Stop all forms of lying and see what happens. (This even goes for white lies and other forms of dishonest people-pleasing.) Most people lie five to 10 times a day, and nipping it in the bud will make you feel more present and put you in better touch with your true feelings and the source of your actions.
2. Put in a consequence. Take away your cookies, wine or screen time if you don’t do what you say you’re going to do, such as hitting the gym four times a week or turning off electronics by 9 p.m.
3. Make a noise every time your inner voice gets negative. When you hear a negative thought pop up about yourself or someone else, make a vocal noise to counteract the thought, such as the spitting it out “tut, tut, tut” sound, or simply knocking on wood. The same thing goes if you find yourself looping on a reoccurring thought about a past hurt or something else that’s been resolved but is still making you crazy. Zander recommends employing a sort of mental swear jar, and obsessing on these thoughts will cost you $1 a pop.
4. Find someone to hold you accountable. Lastly, find someone to hold you accountable for taking the steps necessary to achieve your goals and dreams. It could be a life coach. (Zander’s firm offers private coaching as well as a digital course and support system called Inner.U.) Or if you’re not ready for coaching, find someone else—a supportive friend or spouse, your kids or even an online community—to check in and hold you accountable for following through on the consequences you have set up. Just as a personal trainer makes people more likely to show up to the gym and push themselves harder, a life coach ensures that you keep putting in the work on your dreams and reaching for more.
Photo credit: Adobe Stock, astrosystem