what to do when you think you've moving backwards, what to do when you think you're moving backwards in your career, Dina Cataldo, Be a Better Lawyer Podcast,

#216: What to do When You Think You’re Moving Backwards

There's no handbook on what to do when you think you're moving backwards from all the progress you've made.

It's a thought a lot of us have from time to time though, and it can sabotage us if we don't notice it.

Maybe you felt really good about the progress you were making and then you got thrown a curve ball.


  • have an emergency pop up and your well-laid calendar for the week goes out the window.
  • got a review from a partner that wasn’t as glowing as you expected.
  • missed your revenue goal this month even though you’d hit it month after month before.

If so, you might be thinking you’re moving backwards.

This is normal and is not a problem.

The problem comes when you make it mean that you'll never figure it out.

In this episode you'll learn:

  • What happens to your outcomes when you believe you're moving backwards
  • How to recover from believing this thought
  • Two superficial emotions that come up with this thought that aren't giving you the real problem to solve in your thought work

Focusing on moving backwards isn't going to get you the result you want.

Listen in to unravel this thought, so you can achieve your goals without self-sabotaging.


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Thanks for listening, and I'll talk to you next week.

Have you ever felt really good about the progress you’re making and then get thrown a curve ball?

You have an emergency pop up and your well-laid plans for the week go out the window.

You got a review from a partner that wasn’t as glowing as you expected.

You missed your revenue goal this month even though you’d hit it month after month before.

If so, you might have the thought that you’re moving backwards.

This is a normal thought to have.

I’ve experienced this many times, and my clients experience it even when they’re killing it month after month with their goals.

We’re going to dig into this belief in this episode and how to recover from it.

Before we do, if you’ve been thinking about working with me, I have something special I want to share with you.

I had a great session with one of my clients that shows how the brain lies to us and how we can often just believe it hook line and sinker. We’re going to be talking about that a bit in this episode too.

She was kind enough to let me record our session and share it with you.

You can watch the video by going to https://dinacataldo.com/coaching session.

That’s https://dinacataldo.com/coaching

This is a great way to see what mindset work is like when you’re working with me one-on-one.

Once you watch the video, I invite you to book a call with me to answer any questions you might have.

Alright, so let’s dig into this week’s episode.

The brain skews negative, and it’s our job to see what is happening and remind ourselves it lies.

If we don’t, then we can spiral and do things like drop using our calendar completely even if we know that it’s helpful, think we should leave the office or leave the law or that it’s impossible to promote and give up trying, or think we’re doing something wrong and start changing things in our practice like our niche or how we’re marketing.

None of these will give us the result we want because we’re focused on the wrong problem.

YOu’re not moving backwards.

You’re peeling a layer.

Remember Tootsie Pops. In the commercial there was an owl who would crunch into the Tootsie Pop to get to the bubble gum center. For us humans, we needed to suck on the Tootsie Pop for a while to get the prize in the middle. Think about your goal as being the gum ball center of that Tootsie Pop.

If you abandon licking the Tootsie Pop, you’re not going to get the gum ball.

If you abandon your calendar because your brain tells you it’s not working, you won’t achieve your goal to learn how to manage your mind around time.

If you abandon your dream of making partner because your brain tells you that you’ve been working hard and should have gotten a better review, you won’t problem-solve to get what you want.

If you abandon the work you’ve done so far on growing your practice, you won’t recognize the small tweaks that can help and you’ll make your life harder than it needs to be.

I’ve experienced this many times.

Now when it happens, I’ve trained my brain to recognize that this is the moment when I’m going to experience the most growth. It’s going to suck for a little bit because I’m going to have feelings about it. But that’s okay.

When we think about what growth looks like, we have the misconception that it’s all supposed to be a straight up trajectory.

In reality, picture a graph where the line zig zags up and down to indicate your program. The general trajectory is up, but your brain only sees the moments when the line shifts downwards. If your brain doesn’t get out of that trajectory, you won’t achieve the outcomes you want.

The lawyers who work with me get out of that downward mental trajectory faster than if they weren’t being coached because they have a second pair of eyes seeing what’s happening objectively. 

I was thinking about how the media uses our brain’s tendency to skew negative to grab our attention.

Every commercial we see is that if we get this new car, then you’re going to look so cool.

If you get this new outfit, then you’re going to finally look like you belong in that fancy hotel. 

If you get this new drug, then you won’t have to feel bad.

Each ad plays on an insecurity that we have. That who we are and what we’re doing isn’t enough. That we need to do more and have more to be who we want to be.

It’s important to remember a couple things:

  1. Life is 50/50 no matter where you are. We’re human. You having the perfectly managed calendar, the partner position, the consistent income doesn’t mean anything about who you are.

It doesn’t make you better than other people. It doesn’t mean that you belong. It doesn’t mean that you will be more happy.

Why not?

Because we don’t get to opt out of the human experience. 

You could have everything you want and still be unhappy.

That’s because what we believe about ourselves doesn’t change when we have the thing that we want.

We need to change the beliefs we have about ourselves now, so that no matter whether we have the thing we want or not, we’re still proud of ourselves and how we’re living our lives.

2. If we think the thought that we’re moving backwards, we may have emotions like frustration and anger, but those feelings don’t tell the whole story.

Those emotions tend to be the surface emotions that mask feelings of inadequacy, disappointment, despair, and shame.

If we don’t see them, then we can’t address them.

We can’t see them until we start questioning all the thoughts that our brain gives us.

That’s one of the things I work with on with my clients is we get nuanced about what they’re feeling. The nuance helps us understand the mindset that’s creating their results.

I don’t know if you’ve noticed this, but our brain isn’t us. Our brain may be inside our skull, but it feeds us all kinds of garbage when we don’t manage it.

If you’ve been listening for a while, you might notice that. Our brain comes up with a bunch of nonsense, and we usually believe it.

The nonsense can sabotage what we want if we’re not looking for the garbage thoughts.

If we’re thinking that we’re moving backwards, then we let the garbage thoughts take over.

Thoughts start popping up like

“It’s not working.”

“I can’t do this.”

“This is impossible.”

These thoughts bring up those feelings of disappointment, hopelessness and shame that we talked about.

We are where our attention is.

If we’re focused on how it’ll never work, we’ll block ourselves from finding the answers to make it work.

If we’re focused on how we can’t do something, we’ll ensure that we never do it.

Here’s a common thought model that I see lawyers get into when it comes to their calendar. I’ll do it with the other examples I gave too, so you see how believing you’re moving backwards can sabotage your progress.

They want to feel less overwhelm and stress at the office, so they decide they’re going to try a calendar system. They try one system, then after a couple weeks they think that system doesn’t work, so they try another one, then that doesn’t work after 2 weeks, then they stop trying to make a calendar system work for them because they think it’s the calendar that’s the problem instead of looking at how they think about their calendar and their time.

Maybe they find a system that they like for a week, but they skip a week and tell themselves they can’t do it.

They feel like it’s hopeless, so they give up and figure that being a lawyers is just overwhelming and stressful and there’s nothing they can do about it.

Their brain goes into the past to dig up all the reasons they’re right. It tells them things like, “You’ve never done it before.” “You tried, and it just didn’t work.” “I just haven’t found the right system.”

It’s not their fault. No one teaches us how to examine our thoughts for lies and to ignore thoughts that are past focused.

If we didn’t do it in the past, the evidence that we didn’t do it in the past isn’t going to help us do it in the future.

We need a new perspective and new thoughts to help us move the needle.

One of the things I do with my clients that works well is not having them upend their whole life with the calendar. They make small tweaks and start building their self-trust and self-confidence when it comes to managing their time.

For instance, we might look at one particular day that’s consistently rough for them and we deconstruct what’s happening. I ask them questions that help them problem-solve to make that day easier. It always comes down to how they’re thinking about that day or one or more of the tasks that day.

Or I have them pick one part of the day that feels stressful to them and we reimagine what that part of the day could look like and how they want it to look. I did this with my mornings. My mornings were hectic and I hated how I felt getting ready for the office. I focused my attention just on my mornings and how I could play with what I did to make my morning better. I didn’t look to my past to see what was possible. I just keep t asking myself what I wanted to feel and asked myself how I could create that. It was before I was introduced to mindset work, but I was probably thinking something like, “I can figure this out.” 

That’s a great go-to thought for anyone who wants to change something in their life.

When it comes to making partner and you get a less-than-stellar review or even not making your revenue or hourly goal in your practice, it’s easy to let your brain go to the thought that you’re moving backwards or you can’t figure it out.

This is a thought model I’ll see.

They think they can’t figure it out or that they can’t make any progress.

They feel frustrated or angry, but really underneath that frustration and anger is disappointment or despair or shame. 

Then they don’t problem-solve in a way that assumes they can have what they want, they ignore all the ways that what they’re doing is working, they stop doing the things that are working for them like asking for critique on their writing or asking for mentorship, and instead they think about changing their practice area or upending their lives in some way.

The result is that they block themselves from figuring out how to get what they want.

You can see some of the pitfalls of believing that you’re moving backwards when I 100% know that if you’re thinking that thought your brain is lying to you.

Here’s what I’ll offer for you if you’re having this thought.

  1. Look at all the ways where you’re not moving backwards. Look at all the places where you’re getting your work done, where you’re showing up as the attorney you want to be, and where you know you’ve improved as an attorney.
  2. Remind yourself that you can figure anything out. I’m going to link to a problem-solving episode I did in the show notes if you want to help your mind get super specific, so it can help you problem-solve.
  3. Ask for help. If you truly believe you’re moving backwards, ask someone with an objective perspective to evaluate your work. Ask someone you feel comfortable with asking of course.

I can help you with this work.

You’ll get fresh eyes on what’s happening in your life by a lawyer who’s been where you are and who’s a certified coach who can help you probem-solve the answers you need to get the outcomes you want.

You can book a call with be at https://dinacataldo.com/strategysession

Thank you for listening, and I’ll talk to you soon.


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