Courtney’s Blog

How to Say Goodbye to a Loved One

How do you say goodbye, grieve, and honor the memory of a loved one who passed away? I recently lost a loved one, and I got some great advice on two things you can do to help you heal. I’m doing these same things right now, too.

Is Your Best Friend Bad For You?

I just got back from a business trip where I tacked on an extra day and a half to see a dear friend from childhood and her growing family. My friend and I have one of those relationships where it always seems easy. We just slide right back into hangout mode no matter how long we’ve been apart.


It’s common knowledge that friendship is good for you: people with friends live longer and are healthier. In fact, close friendships may make you more likely to live longer than exercise! (That’s news that calls for an extra slice of chocolate cake at girls’ night out, right?)


But not all friendship is healthy or helpful. For your social connections to really be good for you, pay close attention to who you’re spending time with.


Do You Like Your Averages?


Jim Rohn, a business expert, said “You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.” This idea is sort of like the firnedship version of “you are what you eat.” The more time we spend with the people closest to us, the more our ideas and behaviors influence one another. Whatever outcome we’re desiring  – happiness, success, peace, you name it – we’re more likely to get it if we’re spending time with people who have what we seek.


In more tangible terms, one study showed that weight gain was practically “contagious” among friends. People often gain weight when their closest friends do. This is because behaviors become normalized in groups, so make sure the behavior that gets normalized and repeated in your groups is behavior you want to make your habit.


Cancel That B%#&@ Session


There’s one common behavior among that makes you miserable: Venting.


It’s natural to use friends as a sounding board and support system. But venting, which is complaining with no plan to take action or get an issue resolved, is actually unhealthy. Experts say venting allows you to release just enough frustration that you stay stuck in place and never make any headway against your problem.


Hanging out with negative people can also make you feel more negative. Humans are naturally empathetic, so when we hear other people talk about being miserable, our brains start to mimic those emotions, even if we don’t have a concrete reason to feel badly. Chronic complainers and people who vent can leave you feeling frustrated, anxious, and blue. And you might not even know why!



Connections with people are critical. But WHO those people are and how they behave may be more important to your mental health than you knew. Visiting my friend this week left me feeling loved and content! But if you have a friendship that drags you down, it’s okay to cut the cord for your own well being.



How To Raise a Child Who’s Kind

How do I raise a child who is kind and giving to others? Lots of parents ask me that, because I used to help get young adults volunteering and donating. There’s one strategy most of us forget. We don’t know how to teach our children to ask compassionate questions! Here’s how to do that, and raise a more kind and loving child.

3 Signs Your Family Fighting is Out of Control

Family conflict is normal. It can even be healthy! But if you and your family are fighting all the time, it might be out of control. These three warning signs will help you recognize family conflict that’s become an unhealthy pattern, so you and your loved ones can get back on track.


Why Is My Family So Lazy?


I get it – your family just drives you crazy sometimes. They’re lazy. Or they’re too loud. Or they’re forgetful. Whatever issue is annoying you, it’s tempting to take that complaint and turn it into a character flaw.


The trouble with calling out our loved ones’ character flaws is that we personalize the conflict. When we tell someone that we’re frustrated because they’re ALWAYS lazy, or ALWAYS whatever-it-is, we make the conflict worse. Research from my book, The Successful Struggle, shows that when we make a conflict personal, we escalate the conflict to higher level, making both sides dig in their heels and feel less inclined to meet in the middle and find resolution.


Additionally, parents may want to be especially careful about labeling behaviors as character flaws, because children can easily internalize those statements and come to believe that they’re “bad” people, or that they’ll never overcome those traits.


Everyone Is Lying To Me!


Lying can become a way for children and adults to deflect conflict.  Now, lying can also be a developmentally appropriate (if totally infuriating) thing for a child to do. But if your children don’t outgrow the typical lying phase, or lying seems to become a multi-generational habit in your house, look deeper for an underlying cause.


If everyone in your family lies to avoid a fight, one reason could be that the adults are handling conflict in a volatile and scary way. When that happens, everyone else tip-toes around in order to keep from making Mom, Dad, or whoever else angry. If lying seems to be a big problem in your house, make sure you aren’t overreacting to issues, causing your family members to lie to avoid your anger.


Apologize… or Else


Children should always be respectful of their parents. But when it comes to family conflict, it’s important to find the right balance between respect and resolution.


It’s not always appropriate for children to shoulder all the blame for a conflict. But in many families, the idea of “respecting your elders,” can mean that children are required to apologize, yet never receive an apology in return. If you lost your cool, it’s important to own your part of the fight and apologize. Watching you gracefully acknowledge your frustration and ask forgiveness is role modeling for your children, and will make them better at handling conflict in their future.


The end goal of family arguments should be true resolution, not just a child’s forced apology. Putting the burden on your child to apologize to end an argument can be a sign that you’re unclear on how to resolve a fight in a healthy way that hopefully ensures the same issue doesn’t crop up again.



It’s time to end the homework battle and dinner table fighting for good. Recognize these three signs and get your family conflict under control so everyone can be happy and healthy (and you stop pulling your hair out!)




The Success Factor You’re Forgetting

What does it take to be successful? You’re probably forgetting this one critical thing – down time. Here’s what successful people know about how to take a break and still achieve a great life.


It’s time to fix the culture of busy-ness and no time for breaks!

Set Your Goals NOW, Not January 1st

Why do we still set New Year’s resolutions when we know they don’t really work?


We do it because it feels good. The end of one year and the beginning of another is a time of reflection on the past and hopefulness for the future. It’s common to want to make goals and fantasize about plans for the future. But for years now, we’ve been hearing that New Year’s resolutions don’t work. Studies show most of us can only keep our resolutions going for a few weeks into the new year!


The reason for that is that on January 1st you have rose colored glasses. You’ve spent several weeks filled with the bliss of the holiday season. Now you’re looking ahead to the new year and all the possibilities it offers. Don’t’ get me wrong – I love the hopefulness, motivation, and clean-slate feeling that comes with a new year. But that “anything is possible” feeling, while it helps you in some ways, can hinder you in others.


Who’s better at setting goals? Optimists or pessimists?


When you set your goals for the year on January 1st, you may not be very realistic. The happiness and hopefulness of the holidays and new year could “trick” you into goals that don’t serve you. Research shows that pessimists, those who believe negative outcomes are likely, may be more accurate in their predictions of the world. That sounds like a good case for being pessimistic. But follow-up research revealed that even though pessimists were more realistic, optimists were still more successful in life, despite their inaccurate guesses about how well circumstances were going to turn out. This suggests that we’d all be better off if we had a nice balance of optimism and pessimism in our lives when we plan ahead and think about the future.


To maximize this optimism-pessimism balance, don’t do your annual goal setting or planning on January 1st. Instead, do your planning for the year now. We’re halfway through the year. You have a pretty good idea of how things are going and what direction they’re heading. You have a realistic opinion of how much time you have on a weekly basis to achieve your big goals. You have an accurate assessment of how much money you have in the bank and how much you need to accomplish your plans.


We’re now officially halfway through the year. The rose-colored glasses you were wearing on January 1st are off, and you can take a realistic assessment of your year so far. In fact, a little bit of pessimism can make you more motivated and successful, because you want to avoid the worst-case scenario. I’m all for optimism, but it has to be based in reality. For the best, most realistic shot at setting and achieving goals, do it now, not six months from now.


Being Busy Doesn’t Cause Burnout. But THIS Does.

Why do some people get burned out? It DOESN’T happen just because you are stressed out, overwhelmed, or too busy. Learn the secret ingredients (besides just being busy) that lead to burnout, before you put yourself at risk.

Want to Live Better? Write a Bucket List

When we think about bucket lists, we think about dying: fitting in those major goals or last few accomplishments before we, well… kick the bucket. But a bucket list doesn’t belong in such a narrow bucket (tee hee!), because creating and carrying out a bucket list is actually a great way to live.


Long-Term Goals Mean Long-Term Happiness


We all know that goal-setting is a great strategy for making us more successful. But the act of setting goals can actually make us feel happier and more fulfilled, as well. Research shows that individuals who feel meaning and purpose in life report much higher levels of contentment. Plus, when we set and reach a goal (even a small one) our brains release feel-good chemicals like dopamine as a celebration.


When you create a bucket list, you combine vision and purpose to make a personal statement about your life. It’s like goal-setting on steroids. Your bucket list is a list of long-term goals meant to reflect your values and your purpose in life. As you fulfill that list, your sense of contentment grows, and your happiness right along with it. If you need a little help setting goals that will actually lead to happiness, I like the advice in this Fast Company article.


The Science of Savoring


Getting something you want is terrific. Setting a goal and reaching it is terrific. But research suggests that WAITING to get what you want – a process called “savoring” – can lead to even greater enjoyment. When we wait for our desire to be fulfilled, and we anticipate how great it’s going to be when it arrives, we appreciate it even more when we finally get it. (Check out this research if you want to know more about how savoring works.)


A bucket list is the ultimate opportunity for savoring. We imagine the most epic experiences of our lives, write them down, and then make a plan to bring them to life someday. We may have months or years to dream about the activity, and all those days of imagining actually make the experience even richer when it arrives. Savoring gives us enjoyment in the present, while we imagine the event, plus maximizes our enjoyment in the future, when we finally jump out of the plane, record an album, or make pastries in Italy.


Wouldn’t You Like More Power Over Your Life?


Did you know that success is transferrable? When you experience a “win” in some area of your life, your personal power receives a boost that carries over into all the different environments in your life. In my second book, The Successful Struggle, I researched how having a successful moment in your home life helps you increase your sense of personal power if you’re struggling at work. Achievements in any area of your life carry over into all the areas of your life, making you feel more powerful and in control.


As you tick items off your bucket list, your personal power grows, giving you fuel to accomplish more at home, at work, in your hobbies, and everywhere. By nurturing your sense of accomplishment, your bucket list will generate returns far beyond just experiencing the activities you’ve written down.



So what’s on your bucket list?


I started thinking about bucket lists at last week’s board meeting for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. The LLS Team in Training program is climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, which I know is a bucket list item for several people. I haven’t decided if that’s really on my list yet, but if it’s on yours, you could travel to Africa, climb Kili, AND raise money to fight cancer, all in one fell swoop. If you go, write me and let me know so I can donate to your climb!


As for me, my first book was a major bucket list item, as was starting both of my businesses, moving to New York at 17, and getting certified to SCUBA dive. I’ve still never been to Paris (I know! Can you believe it?!?!) or many other places I’d like to visit. I know it’s cliché, but I’d really like to sky dive (bungee jumping, on the other hand, holds no appeal to me).


Grab a journal and a nice pen, and crank out a first draft of a bucket list. A bucket list isn’t about dying, it’s about living. So get to it.


Why is Growth So Uncomfortable?

The process of change and growth is usually necessary, but it often feels uncomfortable. Learn from one huge commercial brand what they do to push through the pain in order to make progress, and why a little discomfort is good for you, too.

Are You About to be Burned Out at Work? This 3-Question Burnout Test Will Tell You

Work burnout is a scary thing – it takes dedicated, passionate employees and turns them into frustrated, detached time bombs. Burnout is a key component of employee turnover, and turnover has high costs both fiscally and for morale.


So it should go without saying that burnout is to be avoided at all costs. But do you always know when you’re at risk of burning out at work? Here’s a short test to help you find out…


1. How do you feel at the beginning of the workday?

a. tired

b. frazzled

c. raring to go


You probably guessed that “c” is a great answer to give. But if you think that option “b” is the prime indicator of burnout, you’re wrong. Feeling frazzled at work, especially at the beginning of the day, isn’t great news, but actual burnout results in a feeling of exhaustion before you even start. The reality is that you can be busy without being burned out. So just because you have a lot on your plate doesn’t automatically mean you’re at risk of burnout. It can lead to future burnout, so be careful. But don’t assume burnout just because you’re busy. It’s when you feel tired even when there’s a stack of work to be done that you’re at greatest risk. This element of burnout is called emotional exhaustion, and it’s one of the first indicators of burnout we might notice.


2. If you have to talk to your boss about something critical, what do you do to prepare?

a. I don’t bother preparing, because my boss trusts my judgement and will do what I recommend

b. I don’t bother preparing, because my boss isn’t likely to listen to my ideas anyway

c. I over-prepared, because my boss can be critical of my work

d. I bring a few supporting documents to back up my recommendation


This question is testing your depersonalization, another element of burnout. It might seem like “c” is the answer most common in burnout. But (like the question above) while “c” might be an indicator of a poor workplace culture, it’s actually not a burnout indicator. The burnout indicator is “b,” because it suggests that you don’t even need to try because whatever you say to your boss will be ignored. When a conflict or struggle goes on for so long that you have depersonalized the other person (see this prior blog post for more examples of risky workplace conflict), you’re at risk of burnout.


3. If you were invited to go to an Elementary School for career day, what would you say is the most worthwhile part of your job?

a. The paycheck

b. Helping people

c. Using my skills/smarts/strengths


No big surprise, here: the burnout indicator is “a.” Answer “a” suggests reduced personal accomplishment, the final burnout indicator. We can stand long hours, poor pay, silly uniforms, even rude customers, as long as we feel that the work we’re doing is worthwhile. For many years I worked in the nonprofit sector, where I often faced aaaaaallllll of the above indignities, but my job had purpose and that fueled my fire even when the days were long and the pay was piddling. If you lose the feeling of pride in your work, then the slightest struggle will cause you to lose your motivation and be at risk of burning out.


Want to know more about the burnout indicators? Check out this article in Workplace Psychology.


Burnout doesn’t just come from being too busy. You can absolutely be busy without burning out, so don’t fret just because you have a long to-do list. Pay attention to your emotional exhaustion, your feelings of engagement with your colleagues, and your sense of accomplishment and pride in your work. Those are the three factors that will let you know if you’re at risk of flaming out. Catch them fast, and don’t let burnout get to you!