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Melissa Shanahan

#180: Fly Further Faster When You Drop Judgment

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If you’re like most law firm owners, you’re probably very hard on yourself. It’s easy to focus on the obstacles in front of you or the frustrations that still haven’t gone away. You might be afraid that by not being hard on yourself, you’ll become complacent. But this week, Melissa is showing you why layering judgment on yourself in this way is the lazy, default approach most people take.

We all have recurrent themes in our world we wish weren’t that way, but what you’re missing is how perfect your path has been to get you to this point right now. The problems you’re facing today are only possible because of how far you’ve come, and if you want to fly further faster, dropping your judgment is crucial.

Join Melissa this week to learn the secret to long-lasting results that line up with what you really want. You’ll hear why your future results become unrealistic and unsustainable when judgment is part of your plan, and how to create a plan that involves deliberate, incremental, and iterative progress.

If you’re a law firm owner, Mastery Group is the way for you to work with me. This program consists of quarterly strategic planning facilitated with guidance and community every step of the way. Enrollment will be opening soon, so click here to learn more!

Show Notes:

What You’ll Discover:

• Why people are afraid to not be hard on themselves.

• What happens when you layer judgment on top of whatever you’re struggling with right now.

• The real solution to making sustainable progress in the direction you want to go.

• Why you have to drop your narrative and judgments on the changes you want to make.

• How to fall in love with the problems you’re facing to get lasting results.

Featured on the Show:

Create space, mindset, and concrete plans for growth. Start here: Velocity Work Monday Map.

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Full Episode Transcript:

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I’m Melissa Shanahan, and this is The Law Firm Owner Podcast, Episode #180.

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.

Hey, everyone, welcome to this week's episode. So glad you're here. We are hitting the holidays, man, as you're listening to this; this airs just before Thanksgiving in the United States. And it's a busy time of year; we are rounding out 2022.

All of my clients and members are taking part in the facilitation that we're doing to help them make plans for 2023. This has been a really cool process. We've refined it over the last couple years. I just lead a workshop today; I'm recording this about a week before Thanksgiving. We lead a workshop today, to help Mastery Group members reflect and get clear on 2022. So, that they know what they want more of, and what they need to incorporate in their plans, their strategic plans, for 2023.

It's not really something I give space for. I don't have the space to give it during a strategic planning retreat day, for Mastery Group, which is virtual, but still, I have a lot to pack in. As I was thinking about, and we've done this for the last couple years, as I think about what they need to come up with, in terms of nuts and bolts and strategy planning, in 2023, they have to be clear about what they're closing the chapters on.

And what they're closing up, in terms of work and clarity and lessons learned and realizations; all the things that they're going to carry forward, having gone through now, 2022. We don't give ourselves the space for that. And even when you do give yourself the space for it, it's kind of tough to know what to ask. What results am I supposed to create with this space right here? And, how do I get those answers? What do I need to come up with? And, how do I get those answers?

Which is why, every year I host this call for everyone to get extremely clear, for themselves, about 2022; where they feel like they can close that file. I know we're still in 2022, but there's so much to reflect on and extract from the year; what you're proud of, the lessons learned, the realizations, taking stock, the gratitude; like, there's so many things to think through.

I think specific questions and exercises to help one do that, sets you up nicely to get what you need, in order to make plans that are in alignment with where you want to go. If we don't take stock of this stuff, then what people do, is create strategic plans that run themselves into the ground.

They don't take themselves into consideration. They didn't reflect on lessons. They didn't reflect on realizations. They didn't take stock of certain things. And, that becomes a problem.

So, I'm just in it right now, and loving it. This is the work that I love the most. Is getting to work with law firm owners on making sure that they are planning well, their strategic plans. And then, of course, in between it's all about accountability to honor that plan, and making progress, not perfection, on honoring your plans.

What does that look like, week to week? What does it look like to be able to honor the bigger plans that you had set for yourself? That's really what we're in the middle of, the beginning-ness, of knowing what you're aiming for. And that way, when it comes time for strategic planning, they can make a really well thought-out plan that lines up with what they are aiming for.

And then, after the plan, it's all about execution, and implementation, and accountability for that. It's just an exciting time. I'm watching people blow their own damn minds. I am watching people having hit goals and dreams that they never thought was really going to happen. It was just wishes that they had, and now they're making all that stuff come true.

With the time they're taking off, and what they're able to do with their families, and the teams they're creating, and the revenues that they're hitting. It's really cool to see, and to help foster more of that for themselves in the future, that lines up with what they want to create with their firm. It's just a really beautiful time; this time of year, man, really special.

I'm looking out the window, right now. There's snow on the ground, the sun is shining. I'm in Colorado. Christmas lights up on the house, which some say it's a little early; don't care. I like the lights. It's a really beautiful time of year because of the holiday season, but also because of the kind of work I get to dig into with clients. So, really good stuff.

Now, today, what we're going to talk about, is something so important, it's going to be relevant to everyone here, that I'm talking to. Because most people who are listening to this, are achievers; they are always reaching for the next rung in the ladder; some more intentionally than others. But like the quote that we always reference here, at Velocity Work, is, “The smartest people on the planet are always reaching for that next rung on the ladder. But they know it's not about the next rung; it's about the stretch.”

Today's podcast talks, from a certain angle, about that stretch. But I think, we all need reminding of. I get to see, behind the scenes, how hard law firm owners are on themselves, typically. How hard, as humans, you are on your results, and what you are doing, and your judgement of it all. And the truth, what gets lost in that, is how perfect your path has actually been to get you to this point, right now.

At this moment, the problems that you're experiencing, the issues that are coming up, the frustrations that you have, it is all possible because of where you've gotten yourself, right now. I had someone post in a Mastery Group call today, they were grateful… Something about be grateful for the journey, because behind the mountains you’re climbing, there's more mountains.

And there's something to that. I'm probably not saying that perfectly. But the whole idea, is that you're going to reach that next rung on the ladder, right? And then, you're gonna see there's just another rung, there's just more; there's more of the journey that I'm on. And what's important to remember, is that the only reason, right now, that you can have the problems that you can have right now, is because of all the decisions you've made; it's because of your journey up until this point.

Sometimes it's so easy for us to focus on the problems, focus on the frustration and the negativity, and the stuff that we just wish was better. Now, we can make those things better. It's okay to take measures to make that stuff better. I'm not saying we just leave it alone and be grateful for the problems, and swim around in them.

But what I am saying, is that you’ve got to keep perspective. The more perspective you keep about where you are on this journey, it helps the frustrations and the problems. It helps you realize and put them in their proper place. And it helps you be less emotional, and less caught up in those problems in a way that doesn't serve you.

It doesn't serve anyone; it doesn't serve anything. So, being grateful as you look at your whole path, before where you are right now. Being grateful for the decisions that you have made, the work that you've done, that got you here; that makes it so that now, these are your problems. Do you remember what your problems were 10 years ago? They weren't these.

And you would have cut off your pinky to have some of the problems you're having right now, to have the opportunity that you have right now; which presents different issues when you're there. You're always going to have those issues. No matter how far along you get, they will change, they will morph, but they will always be there.

And so, the reason I'm doing this podcast, is because… Listen, we all have our shit. We all have stuff in the back of our mind that we struggle with. The recurring themes, in our own world, that we wish weren't that way; we wish we didn't struggle with them. And everybody's got their stuff, right?

So, the reason I wanted to do this podcast, is because… You know what doesn't help change that? Is beating yourself up about it. Is having a bunch of judgment on the fact that it's still a theme for you; it's still a thing that's here, that needs to be dealt with, that needs your attention if you want a different result.

It's so easy to beat yourself up. It's so easy to be hard on yourself. I mean, we're all really good at that. But honestly, it's lazy. That's the lazy way of taking an approach. That's the typical default way of taking an approach. That is an example of your brain using you instead of you using it.

Okay, so you've got this thing that you wish you did differently. You have this thing, this bad habit, or this unideal result that you keep creating for yourself. You know that it's you behind it, that's creating the result that you are getting, that you don't want.

But can we just stop for a second, and have a look at all of the great decisions you've made? Of all of the good actions that you've taken that have gotten you here, right now? And so maybe there still is a theme that you want to work on, and you have an opportunity to work on it. But having a bunch of judgment on yourself for that thing still being a theme, for that thing to still be something that's the forefront of your mind, isn’t helpful to resolving it.

I think people are afraid that if they don't beat themselves up, and if they aren't hard on themselves, then that means they're just complacent, and so it's never gonna go away. But that's not the way it works. Judgment and this whole layer of crap that you put on top of the actual facts… And by facts, I mean, I try to get to numbers.

But basically, anything that's indisputable; so, if I don't get enough sleep, and I'm tired of myself just sabotaging myself in that way. Well, instead of having this narrative, I just get to the facts: On average, I get six and a half hours of sleep a night. Or, on average my bedtime is 11:30pm. Whatever it is, try to get to the actual fact.

Because what you miss, is you think your judgment on all of it, like I don't get enough sleep, I always sabotage myself with a lack of sleep. I'm just using this as an example. All of that, is just a big judgment. That's just an opinion.

You may feel like it's a fact, but the problem with this, is you are not forcing your brain to separate out facts from feelings. And so, you're just vomiting feelings, your feelings, your judgments, about all of this all over the place. And, that makes it very difficult to create sustainable progress towards something different.

Instead, what you can work on, is saying, okay, okay, to your brain. I get it. So that you can quiet that part of your brain down that has this like, dramatic narrative around everything. And then, just say, “Okay, what are the facts here? The facts are, I go to bed at 11.30 on average, every single night.” Or, I get an average hours of sleep per night. Okay.

Now, with that, now, I get to decide if I'm going to have feelings about this. But feelings aren't really helpful with creating an ideal result. What I really want for myself; is to be fully rested and productive during the day, feeling like I'm on my A game for the workday, and/or whatever else in my life I care about. So, that's the result I want to create. And, that would feel amazing.

So, I'm gonna go through the discomfort. I'm gonna go through the prissiness. I'm gonna go through the frustration or the anger that I'm experiencing, to do the right things, to line me up with what I really deserve, with what I really want. And then, what's left, is figuring out, okay, if I want to feel well rested, I need X amount of hours a night. How am I going to make that happen?

Then, you make a plan that is not crazy, like not a huge swing in the direction; it's just a move. You're making a move, in the right direction, that's sustainable and it's doable; that's not difficult for you to overcome. And so, then, when you start honoring that, then you're going to deal with discomfort that comes up.

Because you're going to want to stay up later, or you're going to want to do X, you're going to want to do Y. But how can you forego what you want in the moment, which is fleeting, powerful yet fleeting, for what you really want; the deeper, richer desire? Then, you can make moves in that direction.

When judgment is a part of all of this, when judgment is a part of you making plans for your future and for something different, you make it so that it's unrealistic and unsustainable. And it's kind of whipping yourself into line. Whipping yourself into shape, so to speak.

So, we take these drastic measures to just shove ourselves back into line with the ideal result; and it doesn't work. Now, if you didn't have that layer of judgment, you wouldn't be in such a hurry. If you didn't have that layer of judgment, you wouldn't be making these drastic calls for yourself.

If you were just looking at the facts and you cared about progress, not perfection, then you would look at the facts and say, “Okay, on average, I'm getting X amount of sleep per night. So, if I want to increase that, ultimately, to get two more hours of sleep, for now, I'm going to inch that direction. I'm gonna make progress. I'm going to say, lights out at 11pm,” or lights out at 10:30pm, whatever feels doable. I think it's going to be a shift.

But it's not some drastic movement, that you're supposed to keep up with from here until the end of time. That is crazy. Really, think about how often we do that to ourselves. We do it with our health, whether it's exercise or the way that we eat. We do it with productivity, or we just think we should get more done in a day. So, then we just calendar the crap out of our schedule. It makes it unrealistic.

And then, we go in and try to hit the ground running. Then, what ends up happening? We didn't plan it well enough; we didn't give enough thought to some of the things, the barriers, that are going to naturally exist, that we haven't yet dealt with. So, that we do have the space to be that kind of productive.

Like, there's all kinds of things that we do that just don't take into consideration, real freaking life. And that, is all because of the judgment that you have on yourself or on the situation, when you were making plans to make a different scenario.

If you drop that, you approach this more realistically. If you drop your narrative and your opinion about all of it, then you can approach it from a much cleaner place and make a plan that is progress, not perfection. So, when I sit down to make plans for myself, when I want to shift something; whether that's around my health, whether that's around how I structure my days because I'm not getting the kind of work done that I really want to get done.

One thing right now I'm really focused on, is I want to be a better leader within my company. That hasn't really been a need until where my company is now; it's clearly a need. So, I'm working really hard on that. But I'm not coming from the place when I'm working on it that hard, that is the typical default what my brain serves up.

And what I mean by that, is beating myself up, and trying to get away from being a certain way. Instead of just moving towards what I want. And that maybe, is a good way to sum up the difference. What are you running from? When you are making these huge swings of effort in an attempt to get yourself back in line, it's like you're running away from the struggle, you're running away from deliberate progress.

And instead, you're just trying to get the result; you're in such a hurry. And it's like, you think that if you could just get yourself in line, that everything is going to be better, because you finally got there. But the problem is, that is like reaching for the next rung on the ladder, and jumping to where you get the next rung. But you don't have the next rung.

I've talked about this on a podcast before; the difference between getting a result and having a result. Where you get it but it's really slippery, because you didn't focus on the stretch. You didn't deliberately do the work to line yourself up to where that next rung on the ladder is literally inevitable.

It's like, of course, that thing unfolds, because you've done the work. And doing the work takes time, it's iterative, it's incremental, it's about progress. It's not about slapping yourself into line with the ideal result, right away.

So, the reason, again, I'm trying to tie the loop on this, the reason I'm doing this podcast, is because I see this so much in my clients and in the members that I work with. I have this bone in my body, for sure. And what I have learned over time, is that you have to be willing to move slowly and deliberately towards the result that you want.

Things may speed up, you may feel a sense of momentum, but you need to not be in a hurry. That does not give you, ultimately, sustainably, the thing that you want. You need to be focused on the stretch. What stretching do you need to do? What is that stuff between you and the result that you need to get right? That you need to make part of how things are.

That is the work. And when you have a bunch of judgment layered on top of what you want to create for yourself, then inevitably, it means that you're gonna be in a huge hurry in order to get the right thing. And to get yourself back in line with what you want. Instead of just looking at the facts and where you are, looking at where you want to be, and knowing that closing that gap is going to take work.

It's going to take incremental progress. It's going to take tracking and measuring your progress. And it's going to take consistent, deliberate intention. It really is about being intentional with your next level, and then your next level, and then your next level, and then your next level. No one wants to do that. I don't want to do that. But that's what you do, if you want lasting results.

So, for all of you out there who tend to beat yourself up for where you are, one, which I did mention at the top of the hour of the podcast, is don't forget where you came from. Don't forget to give yourself credit for where you are right now. And all the decisions that you did make that give you, right now, the issues and the problems. Even if they're recurring, you know what?

You're dealing with the thing you're dealing with right now, with a different set of circumstances that you've created. You've created a firm that's around you. Maybe you are dealing with some recurring issue that you always have to deal with. But you know what? All right, here, we have an opportunity right here.

If you trust that your past is perfect for where you are right now, that you have all the knowledge, and skill set, and history, and experience underneath you, to be able to give you a different opportunity to face; whatever you want to face, right here, right now.

And that is true no matter who you are, no matter what you're dealing with, and no matter what set of circumstances you have. You are more equipped right now, to deal with the things you want to deal with, than you ever have been in the past. Use that.

Also, don't use the fact that, against yourself, that you haven't squashed this issue yet. Or, the it's just not a thing yet. You know, what if this recurring thing that you're dealing with, what if you didn't look at it as a problem? What if you looked at it as a gateway to a different future, to a different way of being? This is all opportunity.

And sometimes, in moments, I can't get there. Like, it's too positive Polly for me. But it really is the truth. You do have an option to look at it as like, “Hmm, I'm dealing with this thing that's in front of me. I've dealt with this before. I'm tired of dealing with it. My approach needs to be different. And I'm willing to move slower towards the approach and towards progress.

Because moving slower, but being very intentional and consistent, is the thing that will deliver me to a real result. And so, I'm not going to have a bunch of judgment. Because when I have a bunch of judgment on myself, I want to hurry, because I would just want to change it. And, that's not what this is about.”

This is about focusing on who do I need to become, slowly, over time, in order to just have, inevitably have, that result I want to create? Instead of trying to chase a result, it's more about doing the work day to day, and staying focused day to day, and being intentional day to day. To become the kind of person who overcomes the resistance to just falling back to the norm.

Focusing day to day is the difference maker. But what's really hard about focusing on the day to day, is when you have a pile of judgment with you, then it's impossible to do that. Because all you keep looking at is what you don't have. All you keep looking at is forward, and the thing that you need, the thing that you want, the thing that you don't have yet. I mean, that's what judgment makes you do.

You just want to be there, you want to be there, you want to be there. Instead of just saying, “I'm all right here, and I'm going to make some shifts.” I had someone once tell me, and I knew it was true for me because it brought tears to my eyes, that I was in such a hurry to get there. Like always the next thing, the next thing. And I was like, “No, I'm not, I'm not in a hurry.” And they're like, “Yes, you are. Just because you don't think you are, doesn't mean you aren't.”

And so then, they said, “I can tell that you are, because all you're talking about is the end result, and how you can't figure out why you're not there yet. Like, there's a focus, a fixation, on the end result, instead of right here.” And what she said was, “You are winning, and you're missing it.”

That struck me. All of the things I have created up to this point, I am missing it when I'm focused on what I don't have. The thing that isn't right yet. The thing that I haven't lined myself up perfectly with; whatever that is. That was true for me in the moment. And, I know it's true for so many of you listening right now. You are winning, and you're missing it.

How can you not miss it? How can you, instead of saying… When you think that there is better than here, which is what I was doing. I didn't think it, I would not have owned up to that; I didn't really believe that. That's what I thought. But my actions, were saying something very different.

If you are fixated on the thing that you don't have yet, the constant problem that you can't seem to get your head around; why are you always dealing with X, Y and Z? Get it together, Melissa. I have clients say that, like, “Why can't you just fix this?”

That means that you think there is better than here; and it isn't. Because when you do the work to create that there, whatever it is, when you do the work to really have that as an inevitable result, a byproduct of the work you've put in, is that reality that you do want to create for yourself.

When you get there, you will just have the next things. And the truth, is you are left with yourself. When you achieve that next thing, when you achieve that next level, you are left with you, and how you operate, and how you think, and how you approach progress, and how you look at, and the perspective that you have about the success you've created.

All of that; you're left with all of that. No matter if you achieve that ideal result or not. Don't be mistaken, you're still left with you. And so, all of this, this whole podcast is for those of you who tend to be really hard on yourself. It doesn't help anything.

I'm not saying that this podcast is going to be a light switch, where it's like, oh, okay, thanks, Melissa. I'll just turn that voice off in my head. It's not that you make the voice go away. But you do quiet it when you let it know you've got it; you're going to line yourself up with it. And you're going to do it in a way that's really intentional and deliberate. Which probably means, a little slower than your brain wants to go.

But it's going to be sustainable; it's going to be the right thing. And when you start to see progress, the incremental progress, it becomes a fire that is just lit within you to keep going, and keep going, and keep going, and keep going. Instead of flaming up and flaming out. Going whole-hog and then just dropping it like it's hot. So, that is the difference.

Really, the reason that people don't approach us, is because of the hurry that they are in to get out of the struggle that they're in. How can you learn to fall in love with the problem and really learn it; go step by step. Be intentional with your progress that you do make, instead of trying to whip yourself into shape.

Another way to think about this, is when you push up really hard against reality, against the current set of circumstances, it doesn't create the results that you want. That's when you flame up and flame out. Now, when you can look at your current set of circumstances without resistance, and just look at them for what they are, very objectively, you come up with a better plan.

When you look at it when it's just loaded, the way that you're looking at it, then that is when you apply way too much heat. You think that the solutions you put in place are the solutions that are going to work. That's not the way it's going to unfold. So, the more objective you can be, the less judgment you can have about the current set of circumstances, it lets you make more progress with consistency. Which allows for progress to happen more quickly.

So, that's another way to look at it. All right, I really wanted to do this for those of you who are anything like me, who definitely deal with judgment of yourself, and that you're really hard on yourself. Listen, sometimes that's in our DNA. And I think that we can all make improvements and strides towards being less hard on ourselves, and having more grace on ourselves for our journey.

But sometimes, really, I think I tried just to not fix that about myself. I don't need to fix the fact that I'm hard on myself. What I do need, is to focus on making sure that I'm not bringing a bunch of emotional baggage to what I'm looking at in my current set of circumstances. And how much faster and further I fly, when I don't bring all the judgment.

Now, I still have the voice that pops up, and so will you. But it doesn't drive the train anymore; at least most of the time, it doesn't. I mean, let's be real; we're all human. But the strides I've made have really made a difference in my life and in my world. And it boils down to looking at things very objectively, and deciding to set to the side, the judgment.

When I can do that, then I make a more holistic plan; one that includes me,  doesn't leave me in the dust. One that allows for incremental progress. And that leads to the results that I'm really looking for. It is a practice. And, you know what? Some days and some weeks, I'm a lot harder on myself than others. But this is a practice. And again, this is progress, not perfection.

Many of you listening, if not all of you listening, I will always be reaching for the next rung on the ladder. It's not about sitting still, and just being hunky-dory with where I am. I love where I am. And, I want to go for more. But I don't have to go for more in a hurry to get there because here just isn't good enough. I don't do that anymore. And, you don't have to do that either.

It is a choice. It takes a lot of awareness to be really deliberate about how you move forward, about focusing on the stretch. Of course, you're aiming for something, but you're not whipping yourself into line with it. You are being very deliberate, very intentional, and not bringing judgment to any of this, because it clouds it and it F's it up.

So, drop the judgment. Your life will be better. You'll be able to breathe easier, and you'll make progress. It'll blow your own mind, especially if you are in a culture of people that are focused on progress from a really healthy place; that is a game changer.

All right, everybody. I hope this gives good food for thought. I hope this gives you some space to release the judgment that you tend to have on yourselves. You're doing a good job. Look around; look what you're creating. It's pretty freakin’ remarkable what you've created, so far.

So, can you just own that? And yeah, you do want to go other places. But can you just own that you've done a really good job. And, here you are. You're going to make a plan to get to the next rung on the ladder, but you're not going to do it in a hurry. And, you're not going to do it slathered in judgment. All right, everybody, drop the judgment.

See you here next week. 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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