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Melissa Shanahan

#223: 8 Strategies for Intentionality When You’re in a Funk

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This episode is for those days when you’re frustrated and the whole world seems stacked against you. Even if these types of days are rare, it can throw a wrench in the game when they creep up on you. One thing after another gets under your skin, and it becomes near impossible to stay clear-headed when things are going wrong.

Maybe you’re facing obstacles left and right, nothing on your calendar is getting accomplished, and you’ve got a pit in your stomach all day long. As a business owner, you’re going to be dealing with things flying in your face, and it’s your job to stay on course… because if you don’t take the time to pivot your perspective, you’re going to be sorry.

Listen in this week to hear 8 strategies you can try when you’re in a funk. Melissa is showing you why shifting from reactive to intentional in these moments is vital, an exercise that will help you identify what’s really bothering you, and why intentionality is key for staying on track when it feels like the world wants to push you off course. 

If you’re a law firm owner, Mastery Group is the way for you to work with Melissa. This program consists of quarterly strategic planning facilitated with guidance and community every step of the way. Enrollment will be opening soon, so join the waitlist right now to grab one of the limited seats!

Show Notes:

What You’ll Discover:

• The power of taking a pause when you’re feeling frustrated.

• Where passive aggressive behavior comes from and the byproducts of leading in this way.

• The go-to tool Melissa uses when things feel stacked against her.

• How to have a “cut the shit” conversation with yourself.

• Why your perspective will shift when you get it out of your head and onto paper.

• 8 strategies to try when you’re feeling frustrated.

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Bill Murray “It Just Doesn’t Matter!” scene - Meatballs movie

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Full Episode Transcript:

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I’m Melissa Shanahan, and this is The Law Firm Owner Podcast Episode #223.

Welcome to The Law Firm Owner Podcast powered by Velocity Work for owners who want to grow a firm that gives them the life they want. Get crystal clear on where you're going. Take planning seriously and honor your plan like a pro. This is the work that creates Velocity.

Hi, everyone, welcome to this week's episode. I have got one for you all today. For those days when you are frustrated, defeated, deflated, when something's under your skin, or when just the world is under your skin. This is the episode for you.

We all have those days to varying degrees, but I wanted to give you a way to think about those times. We're all going to have them, and sometimes, depending on your personality, you may just muscle through them and be a grump, but just do your best. Or maybe, you're the kind of person that retreats and sort of hides in a hole.

Whatever your default mode of operation is, when you hit those stages or when you experience those frustrating points, I'm doing this episode to offer up some options that you may not realize you have available to you because it's just not where your head is. But I'm hoping that there is something in here that strikes you as, “Oh, that could become my new normal. If I just did this, it could be my new normal.”

The reason I'm doing this episode is really for all of you who have those frustrating days, even if they don't come very often, where it just throws a wrench in the game. You get up, you start to have a normal morning, and then one thing happens and it just gets under your skin. It’s sort of underlying, it's there, and then something else happens.

You're like, “Why is that happening? Why are they asking me these questions? Why is this client poking me?” All of a sudden, it feels like all these little things are happening, and it's increasing the frustration that you felt a bit of at some point earlier. The reason I'm doing this is because if you listen to this podcast, you work really hard. There's no one that listens to this podcast that doesn't work hard, that doesn't have their heart in the game, that doesn't have their head in the game, that doesn't try their best.

What I'm covering today will allow you to be intentional, even in these times. It's the hardest to be intentional when things feel like they're going wrong. When you feel mad or frustrated or annoyed, anything on that end of the spectrum in terms of feeling states. When you feel that, you aren’t operating at your best, and you typically aren't being intentional.

So, it's okay that you would experience those times. You're not going to get away from them. I don't care how positive of a person you are; you're going to have these days. For most people, they're going to happen, though maybe not frequently, they're going to happen consistently.

Because that's a part of being a business owner. You're going to be dealing with things that fly in your face, that really get under your skin, and you can get back on track. But you're human, that is how this goes. Please don't make the mistake that when you get to a certain level, or when you get to a certain point, you just won't experience frustration anymore. That's not true.

It doesn't matter what level you are with your business you will have these days, these moments, these feelings. They just change over time. You have different reasons for experiencing them, but you're going to experience them because you're human. So, on today's episode, we're going to talk about what to do when you're really frustrated.

Now, the first thing that I'm going to mention here, because all of the items, the bullets, so to speak, that I'm going to give you, all of them should happen in a pause. So, the first and most important thing that I can say here, is that you must pause.

When you realize that you are off track internally, no tactic under the sun is going to get underneath that, is going to pivot you, is going to change your experience, your feeling state, unless you pause. Taking a pause, as with so many things in life, is very powerful. It allows you to take stock. It allows you to not be so in it. It allows you to take some space. It is mindful. It is the right way to go.

Now, all of us, when we're in those moments, we don't naturally think without some training, “Oh, I should take a pause.” It does take some training. Especially when you're dealing with a lot of busy things, a lot of things flying at you, and you're feeling this way, it can be even harder to remind yourself that you need to pause.

But if you don't take a second, and the pause doesn't have to be that long; it can be, but it doesn't need to be. If you don't take a minute to just collect yourself and use some of the things I'm talking about here to pivot your perspective, then you're going to be sorry. Because you're going to say something that you regret saying, that wasn't intentional.

You're going to do something that wasn't intentional. It's just reacting to the feeling state, it's acting out of the feeling state that you're in. No, that's not what we're doing here. The only way to really get underneath any of this is to pause. So, that's the first thing I'm going to say, is that you have to do that. You have to recognize, when you're feeling that way, no one is going to take care of it. No one is going to take care of you, except for you. You have to take a bit of space.

Now, the bullets that I'm going to outline for you here, there's seven of them. Some of them don't take as long as others. You get to decide what's appropriate for the space that you're in, and for the time that you have, or the time that you're willing to take. Because sometimes we don't “have it,” but you can take it. You can rearrange some things and take it.

So, you get to decide this. What level are you going to take this? What level do you need of space for a pause? Then, you can plug in some of the things I'm getting ready to share with you here.

Okay, once you take a pause, use that pause to remind yourself that you will not engage while you are feeling this way. For instance, if you have a team member, that something that they have done or been a part of has gotten under your skin, and you are not in the space to be intentional enough yet with having a conversation about that.

But the workday must go on, so they're asking you other things. You can have this tone about you, or this coldness about you, in your interaction with them. The energy that you bring to your interactions is felt.

And so, if they feel something from you but they don't understand or know why, and there hasn't been a conversation about it, that is passive aggressive. Passive aggressive behavior comes out of people who don't do the work to clean up what is going on inside of them, in order to have a conversation.

So, when you are doing that, and your team feels that, there's all kinds of byproducts from leading in that way. Remind yourself, when you first take a pause, that this is not the time to engage or interact with people if they're going to be feeling that energy from you. I don't care if that means that you have to reschedule a meeting with them. I don't care what it means, don't do it. You will regret it.

It will create tension. It will create a lack of respect for the person on the other side, even though that's not what you want. There are no good outcomes from interacting from a frustrated place with someone around you. I'm using a team member as an example. But you can plug in anything here. You could plug in a client. You could plug in someone you're in a relationship with.

Wait until you've gotten some space and your perspective has shifted a bit. It doesn't mean that you're going to be Positive Polly about it. But it does mean you're going to be calm and intentional with the interaction. When you are doing it for frustrated place, that is not what is happening. So, at the top of the pause, you're going to remind yourself that you're going to do what it takes to shift and get intentional before interacting.

Sometimes, when I practice these things that I'm going to share with you today, sometimes I feel under the gun. Meaning, I don't have time. I do have things I have to show up for, and it is something that I'm choosing not to cancel, and I'm choosing to not show up with an energy that's going to be disruptive. In those moments, I usually go for the more aggressive tactics that I'm going to share with you.

We'll talk about that, because it kind of just cuts through the noise much faster if I don't have a lot of space, and I don't take a lot of space, but I will shift my perspective. That is my responsibility and I own that. So, some of the things I'm going to share with you today, you can decide to use in moments where you feel like you don't have space to go a little slower.

All right, but the first one, make that decision. Remind yourself, that right off the bat, in the pause, you're not going to engage while you are experiencing this level of emotion inside, in terms of frustration. And you're not going to unintentionally bring energy into a space. You will be intentional, and you will stay intentional.

Okay, the second thing you can do while you pause, is to take deep breaths; full, deep breaths. You can't not relax with enough breaths in you, that's what I've learned. I used to not have patience to slow down enough in the middle of a busy day, or when I felt like the pressure was on.

But truthfully, when I take deep breaths, what I have noticed is it changes your physiology. Of course, right? We all read that, we all know that. But you can feel the change. Even if it's just slight, you can feel the change and it's because of the deep breaths. So, breath work can be really powerful in these moments.

The next thing you could do is to get some fresh air. Get outside, get the sun on your face, go for a walk, take your deep breaths while you're outside in the fresh air. But getting fresh air is helpful. Get out of the space that you are in. Change your environment so that it's easier to change what's going on with your perspective.

The next thing is to have a “cut the shit” conversation with yourself. Now, if you have listened to the podcast for any length of time, I've mentioned these before, it's what I call what I do with myself. There are times where I am in a funk and I'm having a hard time. What I need to do is to go look at myself in the mirror, have a conversation, and just say, “What is really going on?”

Basically, I call it a “cut the shit” conversation, because it's like I'm not dealing with it. I'm irritated, I don't know why I'm in a funk, I'm distracted, I'm unfocused. I'm struggling for some reason. I will go straight into the bathroom, look at myself in the mirror and just say, “What? What? What is going on? What is it? What is the truth of what is really going on?”

I don't know, I don't have a script, but I just have a “cut the shit” conversation with myself, and it cuts through the noise. In those moments, you don't lie to yourself. I know that sounds insane to some of you, I'm being honest. It is the technique that is more powerful for me than anything else. It’s not allowing me to hide from myself in those moments. I face it, and I try to get underneath it.

Because honestly, we don't always know in those moments what is really bothering us. We're just allowing some undercurrent to push us off course, and to allow us just to be off track and unintentional with our time and our words. What is that? We would never actively, intentionally, do that. It's just happening. And so, when I feel like something is just happening to me, nope, I nip that as fast as I can. I will go have a “cut the shit” conversation with myself.

In that conversation with myself, I can find out what is really going on here. There have been times where I am not even sure why I feel the way I feel. I can't pinpoint why I feel frustrated. Sure, lots of little things maybe happened that day didn't go the way I planned, or whatever. But when I ask myself, “Hey, what is up? What is really going on?” When I take a minute to reflect and answer that honestly, it surprises me.

Oftentimes, it surprises me that the real thing that's kind of underneath all of it, that's creating the original tension or frustration, it's surprising to me. When I talk to clients about this and I really push to see what is going on here? The answer is never the surface answer. It's always something deeper than that. Doing yourself a favor and getting to that sooner just makes everything more efficient, and you can do what you need to do, in order to calm that down and feel differently as you move forward.

This, for me, has been a tool that I have used on days where things just seem to be stacking up and I'm just pissy, and also on days where it's deep and maybe I know why, maybe I think I know why. But when I have this kind of conversation myself, different answers emerge than the first answer I would give.

When I talk to clients in situations like this, like when they're feeling this way about certain things, when they know they need to fire someone and they are hanging on… There are so many situations, as business owners, you're going to bump up against. We are not Buddha. This is not how this works. We are real people, with real feelings, and we deal with a lot, and a lot of risk.

And so, when things like this come up with clients, I also do the work to have a conversation with them like I try to have with myself in those moments, to get very honest about what is going on. The more honest that you can get, the faster you will feel better.

Because everything speeds up. You can see the issues for what they are. You are taking a pause which, in and of itself, gives space. You are asking the right questions to get deeper answers out, that you can actually do something with, and then take action intentionally from there. That may mean wait to take any action because you need more space before you just move.

But this kind of conversation is important whether you have it with yourself, or whether someone else can have it with you. The whole point of this “cut the shit” conversation is to get to the truth of any given situation. To get to the truth of any given moment where you are feeling not so great. And the sooner you can do that, the better for everyone.

Okay, so far, we have covered how important it is to take a pause when you feel frustrated; anywhere on the spectrum of frustration, anger, agitated. Whatever it is, take a pause. In that pause, you can do a few different things. I will use these tools and tactics depending on the severity of how I'm feeling.

The first, is to remind yourself that you will wait to respond until you have the ability to act intentionally. That's usually never in the moment. We don't want to be reactive; we want to be intentional with our actions.

The second, is to take some deep breaths; minimum of three, max 10, probably is the most I've ever done. Deep breaths, deep down into your body kind of breaths.

The third, is to get fresh air, get outside, take a walk, even if it's five minutes. But take a walk, get fresh air, sunshine on your face, whatever it might be.

The fourth, is to have a “cut the shit” conversation with yourself. Find out what's really going on and see what emerges, what answers surface.

The fifth I have written down, is to reorganize your day. There are times where your schedule is a bit ambitious compared to your energy, and your energy isn't able to match what is being asked to do that day. Now, I am definitely in the camp that you rise to the occasion. You can just do what you said you were going to do; honor your plan.

There are times though, that it feels like betrayal to yourself to do that. It feels like you are leaving yourself in the dust, and my advice is to reorganize your day. How can you reset expectations with certain meetings that you have or deadlines that are supposed to be hit? It is not the end of the world if you need a little space that day. No one needs to know the details, but if you need some space, you take some space.

Now, if this is happening all the time, if this is happening every week, or even every month… If this is happening, you need to evaluate what is going on. Because this is not something that should feel really normal to you. If it is, there's no reason to judge it, but you don't want to just let this live on. Where you feel this way enough that it causes problems. Enough, meaning you have to move and rearrange consistently. I would say to have a look, a deeper look, at maybe why that's happening and get underneath it more deeply than what you've been getting.

But sporadically, infrequently, you will definitely have days that you feel like you are not up to it. Like, it would take so much out of you to rise to the occasion that is slated for that day. And in those cases, it is best to create some space.

Not that you can't do anything, but create some space, get done what you need to get done, and then get out earlier than normal from work. Or if you can't get out earlier, just create some space between now and the end of the work day.

When you're in this frame of mind, it's not your best work, and it's not going to produce, ultimately, the results that you are looking to produce. There's no reason to drag yourself through the mud to produce, most of the time, what you have on your plate that day.

So, in your pause, one of the things you can do is to look at your day and see what you can reorganize. How you can reorganize your day to give you some space, the space that you need depending on what you're dealing with.

Alright, the next one I have written down, is to write down all of your thoughts about what is happening, in this pause. If you take time to do this, what it does, is helps you process the frustration and it creates some movement in your perspective about it all.

It doesn't mean you're going to feel Positive Polly at the end of all of it, that's not the point. But the alternative is being stuck in it, in your current perspective, in your current frustration. And so, this is a chance… Putting pen to paper is an amazing way to create some wiggle room in your mind about what is happening.

Oftentimes, when I have clients do this in a frustrated period, they start writing stuff down, and immediately just getting it out of their head and in front of them, creates some space between them and the thing that they're dealing with that is causing the frustration. And so, just getting out of your head is a big move.

But I would say on top of that, we have to articulate and actually write what's going on inside, this is sort of the silent way to have a “cut the shit” conversation with yourself, then some movement can happen. You create some space between you and this frustration you're stuck and wrapped up in.

When you can do that, when you can get it out of your head and onto paper, you will shift. Your perspective will shift. You will feel space from it in a way that is relieving, and will allow you to be more intentional with the moments in front of you.

Alright, the next bullet I have written down, is to reach out to people, your support, that productively support you. So, not just any friend. I write this down as one thing, I don't do this very often, because it is tough to get in touch in the moment with people. It may not really feel worthy of interrupting someone's workday for this, right? But there have been times I have called on people.

You want to do it with the productive kind of support. What I mean by that is, I don't just want a friend to complain to. That is not what is going to help me in the moment. Because complaining to a friend doesn't help me get to the truth any faster.

But I do have a couple of people in my world, that if I reach out, and I'm like, “This is what's going on. This is how I am thinking about it. This is how I feel. I can't get out of my funk. I want to get out of my funk...” Just reaching out.

There's only a couple of people in my world that I know I can rely on to come back at me with questions that will help me get closer and closer to the truth of my situation. I'm in the coaching world, so I have access to a couple of really great coaches that, they aren't my coach, but they're friends, and they have their own world and businesses that they work in.

They are the ones I call on because they know how to be objective, and they know how to help me get to the truth. They're not interested, just like I'm not interested in hearing or having them be a friend in those moments, they're not interested either. They want to be helpful. They want to be supportive in a productive way. So, who are those people in your world?

I know clients, private clients specifically, they do feel like this with me. we have channels that we talk to one another in, and if they are struggling, they drop a line and I respond. So, yeah, I have calls with them throughout the quarter. But I really think the real value is the in the moment, as needed, conversation around what is going on, and productively supporting them.

So, who is that in your world? Do you have people like that in your world? Do you have a community of people that think the way you think about these things? Then plug into that, if and when it feels necessary. Okay.

Finally, the last thing I have written down here that I rely on consistently, is to remind myself to not take things too seriously. When I feel deflated or defeated, things aren't going the way that I had planned, I have a mantra or reminder for myself that works. Which is, it just doesn't matter. That may seem ridiculous to some of you listening, but it works for me.

Really, this is all a choice. I get to choose if this has meaning or if it doesn't, if this has the weight or if it doesn't. There's a documentary that I watched a few years ago about Bill Murray. It's called The Bill Murray Stories: Life Lessons Learned From a Mythical Man. I think I watched it on Netflix. I think it's on Netflix, at least it used to be. It is fantastic!

One of the scenes in there, they showed a scene from the Meatballs movie that he starred a long time ago. In that scene, he is repeatedly saying… and we'll link to this in the show notes, too. There's a clip of it somewhere. He is saying, “It just doesn't matter.”

They're talking about the disadvantages they have around beating another team, and he's like, “It just doesn't matter.” He says it probably 50 times in this scene. Then, towards the end, the way that he's saying it, it's like, oh my God, I wish I could just live that way. It just doesn't matter. It's like the opposite of the way that I live.

So, I call on that sometimes. I remember that. It really impacted me for some reason. That's a go-to for me: This just doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things, in the long game. This thing, this way I feel, whatever I think the reason is for feeling this way, it just doesn't matter.

Gaining this perspective, really rising above it and looking down on it, and repeating to myself the thought, “This just doesn't matter,” has gone a long way in moments that feel really sticky for some reason for me. So, I'm going to link to that too, because it's funny.

The last thing I'll say, this wasn't one of the bullets that I wrote, but man it makes a difference, is find a way to laugh. Laughing will change everything. It changes your energy. How can you find a way to laugh? And if you don't have people that you can do that with in that moment, then maybe it's a clip of something that you just really enjoy and makes you laugh.

Maybe it's a video of something that you have on your phone from before, that just makes you laugh? How can you put something in front of yourself that you know is going to start to shift your energy because it's going to make you laugh? So, that's the other thing I would say.

I have a pretty good sense of humor and I use that with clients. I think that does help in some of these moments, as well. It's important to me to meet them where they are, to honor their frustration, and to address it and offer guidance and questions, high-quality questions, that they can ask themselves to be really helpful in those situations. And make sure that they understand that they need to have a lot of grace for themselves in these situations. They aren't robots, they do need to move through emotions, that's part of the deal.

Then, when appropriate, I might try to add a little funny in there. Because it does help loosen things up and connect on a level that sort of shifts the energy a bit, but still honors what you're going through. So, find a way to laugh. I think it makes a big difference.

Recently, I was, this is almost six months ago, I was having a really tough, tough day. Nothing was going my way, so to speak. I felt like I was hitting barriers left and right. I couldn't get anything accomplished form my calendar, for varying reasons, and got some news that day that put a pit in my stomach.

Then I had a call with clients that are really funny; a really good sense of humor set of clients. And found myself 15, 20 minutes into the call realizing that all of it had melted away. That I had totally forgotten. That feeling was gone, that I had. I was just really enjoying the moment, and having a good time listening to these two funny clients go back and forth about stuff.

I thought, “Wow, it is amazing how much influence humor can have, humor and personal connection can have, on your internal state.” I knew that before, but I had a moment where I really realized it and I've thought about it a lot since then.

Alright, everyone, I hope you enjoyed this episode. I hope it comes in handy for you at some point. Maybe this is just a resource that you refer back to when you're having a day like this: Episode 223. But the opportunity that you have to stay intentional, no matter what, is there for you.

Some of the things that I've covered today, hopefully will help you stay intentional. So, that even when you're feeling crappy about stuff, you have something to lean on that helps you stay open. Helps you think more clearly and helps you stay intentional. So, that the actions that you take lineup with the results you really want. And that they aren't just reactive. Because that's so easy to have happen from a really crappy place.

Take your pause. Use some of the things here. Use other things that you know work for you. But take that pause, realign, get intentional. That may mean difficult conversations. That may mean letting someone go. That may mean letting someone down.

The reason I'm saying this is, just because you get intentional doesn't mean it's going to feel good, but it will feel clean and on purpose, not reactive. You will feel so much better about the way that you handled it. About the decisions you're making, and about the path you're putting yourself on that lines you up with where it is that you really want to go.

See you next week, everyone. Bye-bye.

Hey, you may not know this, but there's a free guide for a process I teach called Monday Map/ Friday Wrap. If you go to, it's all yours. It's about how to plan your time and honor your plans. So, that week over week, more work that moves the needle is getting done in less time. Go to to get your free copy.

Thank you for listening to The Law Firm Owner Podcast. If you're ready to get clearer on your vision, data, and mindset, then head over to where you can plug in to Quarterly Strategic Planning, with accountability and coaching in between. This is the work that creates Velocity.

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