identity breakthroughs, how to be a better lawyer, be a better lawyer podcast, Dina Cataldo, lawyer coaching, best coach for lawyers, best life coach for lawyers

#252: Identity Breakthroughs

What do you think about yourself?

How you think about yourself is crucial because your thoughts about yourself forms your identity.

Identity informs whether you can or can't create the outcomes you want in your life.

Think you're bad with time? You will be.

Think you make bad money decisions? You'll make more of them.

Think you're bad at relationships? You definitely won't get better at them.

In this episode of Be a Better Lawyer Podcast, you'll learn:

  • what an Identity Thought is and how it's formed
  • how you can create a new identity
  • my personal identity breakthroughs to inspire you to make your own

Listen in to uplevel your identity, so you can create the life you want intentionally.


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Identity Breakthroughs

Hello, how are you today? So today we're gonna talk about identity breakthroughs. I wanna talk to you about my own personal identity breakthroughs, what an identity breakthrough is, and how you can start making breakthroughs of your own. And in the past 10 years, I have had a lot of areas of my life, key areas of my life where I have made these breakthroughs.

And what I mean by a breakthrough is really making substantial change in the direction that I wanted, that maybe in something, some area that I didn't even know was possible. So my relationships with money, with time, with people and myself are the big ones that I have noticed. And of course, these are all still works in progress just like we all are as humans, we're works in progress.

There is no Perfection

There is no perfection because there's no perfection, right? Like we're human. Of course we're gonna make mistakes, we're not going to be a hundred percent all of the time. But it's important to have compassion for ourselves when we are not in alignment with the identity we wanna create for ourselves. And an identity is something we create for ourselves with our thoughts. I'm gonna talk more about that in a moment. It's so important to know this because when we realize we have control over how we are in the world, it makes a huge difference.

We get to show up how we want. We get to do bigger things, we get to feel better in our practices, with our finances, with the people in our lives. And it's so important that we create identity breakthroughs for ourselves, that we're not just waiting and hoping that something is gonna change. And this is something that I truly believe that we have to go out and seek change. Sometimes it'll happen to, to us, right? Like we'll have a a big event in our life and it'll knock some sense into our heads, but we don't need that in order to make these breakthroughs.

An identity is a belief that we have about ourselves.

Sometimes we use the term deep-seated belief, and all that means is that we had a thought and we thought it a bunch of times, and then we just started believing it.

And how do you believe a thought? Well, it's repetition, but even more than repetition, what we do is we find evidence, evidence to support that belief about ourselves. So imagine being in trial and you're trying to convince the jury that a man burglarized a home. You'd wanna collect as much evidence as you can to show the jury your perspective, what you believe you want them to think like you are thinking.

So you collect the evidence and you present it to show them why your thought is true. And so at first, you might have small bits of evidence that might not be convincing on their own. Like there's a muddy shoe print inside the house that matches a shoe that officers found in the defendant's closet that also had mud on it. There's video surveillance that shows a shadow that kind of looks like it might be the defendant's body shape.

The defendant has ties to the owner's home. But then you put these small pieces of evidence together with some more substantial ones. The defendant's fingerprint is on the windowsill where the glass was broken to gain entry to the home. There's an eyewitness who sees a car that matches the defendant's in front of the house at the same time of the break-in. Now of course, there's evidence that he didn't do it too.

If you're the defense, you wanna convince the jury to think that way. You show them the evidence that aligns with the way that you think. So the evidence might look like no one sees the defendant at the scene. The surveillance is fuzzy, and it could be of anybody. The defendant did home repair at the house and could have left the fingerprint while painting the house. The shoe is common and could belong to anybody.

It was nighttime and the eyewitness was tired and there wasn't a lot of light outside to see the car. So the description of the car could be wrong. So you notice here, there is evidence for both sides. A juror could choose to believe either side, just like we can choose to believe, either thought about ourselves, either identity about ourselves.

So when we're talking about building the identity that we want, being good with time, good with money, good in our relationships, we need to be able to see that we can choose to build evidence for both sides. And there will be evidence. You can find evidence of both sides. We have to look for it. And as I go through this episode, I'm gonna ask you to find evidence to bolster the identity you want to have. And you might be tempted to say to yourself, I have zero evidence.

This is true.

Don't let your brain tell you that there is only one side to the story.

It's biased towards what it is believed for a long time. So if you've created an identity that you're bad with time or you're a procrastinator, or you're bad with money or you're a bad friend, your brain will default to find evidence that it is true. Just like if you are a defense attorney or a prosecutor, your brain is going to default to finding evidence in one direction or another.

Now, just because your brain defaults to finding evidence on one side or the other, doesn't mean that you can't find evidence of the opposite being true. You know this, you're a lawyer. You can see both sides of things. But because we're in our head all day, we just believe the thoughts that come to mind and we don't question them.

So I want you to start questioning your thoughts, questioning the beliefs that your brain says are true. So if you want to change the identity that you have in any area of your life, your job is to build a case that the opposite is true, right?

So if you want to change your identity from, I'm bad with time, your job is to build the case that you are good with time.

Notice where you are good with time.

Notice when you are on time for appointments, when you follow through with your plans, when you show up, when you say you're going to show up, when you do something right that you said you were going to do when you go to the gym on time, right?

You just start noticing things. These things, when you start making dinner on time, when you remember things for your calendar, like you just start noticing and you just tell yourself, oh, wow, I really am good at time.

Look at that. I do have that evidence. But you have to find it. And the more you find it, the more you start creating it. Because your brain, right? Our thoughts are going to generate feelings, and those feelings are going to fuel our actions. So it's natural that when we start building the identity, right, those thoughts that we think a lot of times and they become beliefs, they're gonna generate the feelings that we need, like confidence, commitment, trust, that are going to lead us to take better actions and those actions are going to lead us to better outcomes.

And here's something I want you to know about identity thoughts. I'm talking specifically about those thoughts that we think over and over again, that build the foundation for our, our identity is oftentimes you're gonna notice that whenever you say I am followed by some characteristic, that's gonna be an identity thought.

I am a procrastinator. I am good with money. I am bad with money. I am intelligent, I am a good friend. Those thoughts are going to feel different depending on what you believe. So I wanna do a quick exercise with you. You can do this if you're in a car, doesn't matter where you are.

I want you to focus in, if you've kind of zoomed out, if you've kind of like gotten distracted, I want you to come back to me because this is probably the hardest skill to teach somebody, especially when we've never done this before.

This was the hardest thing for me, is to really tune into myself and understand how I felt every time I thought something. So for instance, if you have the belief that you, you are irresponsible with money, I want you to think that thought. I am irresponsible with money.

How does that feel in your body? Just tap in and there's gonna be one word that is gonna describe that feeling. It might feel like shame or sadness, disappointment. There is a feeling in your body, and if you can't describe it, it might feel like your body closes down or you might notice that your breath becomes shallow, you feel a little more closed off, kind of like that sinking feeling, right? I am irresponsible with money. How about these sentences? Ask yourself how you feel when you really think and believe these thoughts.

“I'm bad at time management.”

“I'm not capable.”

“I can't do it.”

Those feelings are not going to feel good in your body, right? So every time we have a thought, you're gonna have a feeling in your body. And those feelings are what are going to determine what your actions are gonna be.

And they are never the ones that are going to be the ones that are gonna drive us towards showing ourselves that we're capable of proving to ourselves that we're good with time. They're always going to be ones that prove our thoughts, right? So if you doubt your abilities, for instance, you are gonna take the kind of action that is gonna numb that doubt. And here's what I mean by that. A lot of times I will work with clients who are overworking. In fact, they feel obsessed with work. They're working nonstop on the weekends.

They feel like they constantly have to keep moving. They tell themselves that they're just not the kind of person who can slow down, right? Like that's their identity. And the reason they are working so hard, they are killing themselves is because they have self-doubt. And what they're doing is they are overworking in order to compensate.

They're trying to numb the self-doubt. They're trying to outwork the self-doubt. They're trying to outwork the lack of belief in themselves, whether it's is as a lawyer, as a mom, as a dad, as somebody who can, you know, really build their law practice. So when we have that self-doubt, right, that's characterized by feeling closed off by feeling maybe that you'll feel like your shoulders slump, your breaths start to be shallow. When we do that, we cannot think strategically. We cannot slow down our brain.

Our brain's going a million miles a minute. And it is just going to keep going because we have this belief that we have to keep working in order to prove ourselves, in order to create what we want, in order to avoid failure versus thinking strategically to create success. Very different. I talk about this in episode two 50, thinking versus worrying.

I will link to it in the show notes. When we are in self-doubt and we are overworking, that is our identity, the identity of being someone who right needs to keep working, right? That's what I hear my clients say. They say, okay, I just have to keep working. That's just the kind of person I am. I'm just like a workaholic, right? I get it because I love work too. But we have to recognize what we are doing and why we're working.

Are we at a point where we are thinking strategically and calmly and clearly around the actions we are taking in our practice? Or are we working just like grinding through the work and we're not prioritizing and we're just doing work for work's sake. We're just staying busy with discovery and doing all the little things that don't need to get done, that aren't moving the needle in our practice and we're just like trying to, to stay afloat?

Or are we pausing, stepping back and recognizing, okay, let me focus on today's work. Let me think strategically through what needs to get done. And then I'm gonna call it at five, six o'clock at night, I'm done. I'm not gonna skip the gym so that I can work more when I know that that work will be here tomorrow. It's not due right now.

We really can't do that when we're stuck in the identity of somebody who needs to work to prove ourselves and our value. So know that our thoughts are fueling our actions. So your thoughts about your identity fuel your actions. So the better our identity is right, the more elevated our identity is, the better we're gonna perform. We're gonna think strategically. We're not gonna judge ourselves for mistakes. So we're gonna be more willing to put ourselves out there. We're gonna trust ourselves.

We're not gonna ruminate about our task lists. We're gonna be making good decisions with our money instead of overspending on things that we don't need. We're going to care less about what other people think because we know that we are capable, capable and we can figure things out. You notice those thoughts that I brought in there?

I am capable.

I can figure anything out.

These are go-to thoughts that you can find lots of evidence for. You have evidence. I guarantee you that you can figure anything out. You went to law school, you figured out the bar, you figured out how to apply to law school. I don't care how small the evidence is, you've gotta bring it in. Just like in that case, you've gotta have all the pieces. You just have to keep training your brain to look for that evidence. And the more you do it, the more your brain is going to repeat that new identity thought.

And the more it's going to become ingrained in you. Because remember, our thought repeated over and over again becomes a belief, but we have to really believe it before we can internalize it. That's why it's so important to find evidence. So here's a word of caution with this work.

I used to think that I needed to get out of quote, bad thoughts about myself and get into quote unquote good thoughts about myself to feel better. That's not how it works. Okay? You might feel better temporarily, but the primary belief, the identity thought that you have about yourself is still there running in the background, just like a computer has programs running in the background. So we need to embrace all of the emotions and not judge them or ourselves for having them. And when we do, we will feel better, especially the ones that don't feel good.

We really wanna embrace those because those are the ones that we instinctually want to avoid. And when we want to avoid them, that's when we take action to numb those emotions, right? When I notice my clients overworking, I know they're trying to outwork a feeling. They're trying to numb a feeling, usually self-doubt. And then they grind out the work and they start burning out. And once they find themselves stretched thin, then they beat themselves up and think that they should be working harder.

And it becomes a vicious cycle because they are fueling that identity, they're creating more and more evidence for that identity. So we uncover the self-doubt and we start to notice it. We bring it into our awareness. And sometimes just noticing, being aware of that feeling of self-doubt is enough to feel better because you're like, oh, I'm feeling self-doubt. Why am I feeling self-doubt?

We get to look at it and question it and get curious about it. And that's the work that I needed to do in order to have my breakthroughs. So in the last 10 years, I created so many breakthroughs for myself, and I'm gonna walk you through some of them. They took me these, these breakthroughs took me doing the process.

I just talked to you about getting coaching on my thoughts and practicing finding that evidence over and over again to support my new identity. And these breakthroughs helped me build my coaching business so I could leave my law job. They helped me gain the courage and confidence to leave the DA's office. And they've kept me showing up in my business and becoming more and more visible on social media and video. They've helped me do new things even when it felt scary. They've helped me invest in my business.

Even when my brain's second guessed myself and told me, Hey, I'm crazy. What am what am I doing? I have this perfectly great six figure law career. Why do I need to change anything? Shouldn't I be happy? Like my brain wanted to convince me not to do the things that ultimately felt fulfilling because they felt safe. So you don't have to 100% believe in yourself to get the breakthrough.

You just need to believe in yourself 51%. So that 1% nudges you into action. So I didn't have to fully believe that I could leave my the, the DA's office in order for me to do that. I just had to believe enough for me to keep taking action in my business so that I could grow it and build evidence that I could grow it right? Because the more we take action, the more evidence that we can create that we're good at something that we can have success in.

Something just like law school, just like undergrad, okay? Once you start working, you start building evidence like, okay, yes, I can do this. I do understand this, I can figure this out. So you just keep going and you keep going. And then sure enough, you made it through law school, you passed the bar, and now you're here. And the great thing about taking action from the belief, coming from an identity breakthrough is that you keep creating more evidence that this new belief is true and it really starts solidifying.

One example I have is that when I invested in coaching, my brain wanted to tell me that I shouldn't because I should be saving my money. I should be able to figure this out on my own, right? Like I kept, I had all this evidence like, look, I'm smart, I can figure this out.

But when I nudged myself into investing, like just having that 1% belief, 51% belief, then I could see where the money I invested actually yielded dividends for myself. Because I could see, okay, look, if I invest in coaching, I'm gonna make more money in my business. I'm gonna make more time to work on my business while I'm working full-time. I could just keep creating evidence for myself.

Or when I used to think I was a bad friend, hey, on when I was a kid, I like, I can see where this came from when I was a kid, I was told I was inconsiderate and it just got internalized in my brain. It had this misfire, right? And so every time I entered a new relationship, I felt I had this thought that I was a bad friend. It was just a belief that I had.

So when I started noticing, well, I actually have a lot of friends and my friends seem to like hanging out with me, so that must actually mean I'm a good friend. Then I could start building evidence for, wait a minute, I am a good friend and I could show up more confidently in my relationships and not overcompensate for the thought that I'm a bad friend, right?

So these things show up in our lives all of the time if you're paying attention. So here are some of the identity breakthroughs that I have had over the last decade or so that have really helped me move my business forward. My life forward, helped me discover what really fulfilled me and take action on it. So first one, I am capable. I think every time we do something new, we have to relearn this about ourselves in a new area.

And I didn't ever build a business myself until I started eight years ago and I started building a a different business. And it wasn't a business that I enjoyed. I didn't like it at all. And so I had a lot of thoughts that I wasn't good at it, that I, that I wasn't capable, it had nothing to do with my abilities, it had to do with the area that I had chosen. I didn't enjoy it. And then I found coaching and I started pursuing that as my business.

And so I had to build the belief I was capable. And it took me, me getting coached on it and really seeing, yes, I can build a business and then continuing to tape act, take action forward, having that 51% belief in myself and keep taking step after step. And then I kept creating more evidence like, oh yes, I keep making more clients, I keep putting myself out there, and then I create more clients and I put myself out there and I help more people and it just keeps going and going and going.

So then I could support the belief a hundred percent that I am capable. And that takes time in taking action in order for you to really build evidence to support that belief, okay? It's not as if we're just, we just believe these things automatically. We have to train ourselves to believe them. And when we truly believe them, then we can take even bigger action.

We can take even more risks on ourselves because we trust ourselves more. We know that we're capable. We have lots of evidence to show ourselves that. Another belief that I had was and I didn't even know this until I had this really bad backache. I'd never had back a back pain before. And I was in excruciating pain. And I kept putting off going to see this somatic therapist that one of my yoga teachers recommended to me. And he somatic therapist is kind of like a chiropractor.

But I just kept putting it off. I kept thinking like, no, it'll go away. I'll be fine. I don't need to go. It's okay. I kept telling myself this, oh no, it'll be, you get, it'll get better. It'll get better. A month goes by. I am miserable. I am just in this excruciating pain when I'm sitting in court. I'm grumpy. I can tell like I'm snapping at people more like I was in so much pain and I wasn't addressing it. And one of the breakthroughs that I had is that I am important. My decisions are important, how I feel matters.

And you would think that these are self-explanatory thoughts as if we should believe these about ourselves just without any thought about it. But seriously, this is something that so many of us do not realize. And I was having a conversation on the podcast, a few episodes back with one of my clients, Shannon Clark, and this was one of her breakthrough thoughts.

One of her identity breakthroughs is that I am important. And this is, I'm a link to that in the show notes too. That conversation really shows us that this is so common. I experienced it, she experienced it, and I know every single one of my clients experiences it at some point where they recognize what they want is important and that they are important. It just wasn't a thought. They were consciously thinking they were putting everybody else first. And so they kept putting off what was necessary for them. Okay? So another identity breakthrough that I've had is that I love myself and I love all of myself. That means all of the ugly parts, the parts where I snap at people, the parts where I'm not as nice as I wanna be, right? And the parts where I make mistakes. I am the first person to be to tell you that I make mistakes and I have to forgive myself.

And when I do it doesn't mean I'm letting myself off the hook, right? Doesn't mean that I don't change. It doesn't mean that I don't address that behavior, but I don't guilt trip myself and I don't judge myself. I just recognize, oh, so you're a human, okay, yeah. How do you wanna approach that next time? Instead of beating myself up, ruminating about it, feeling guilty, like now I just recognize, oh yeah, I'm human and I love myself. I love that. I try, I love that I notice my behavior and I love that I am willing to address it in the way that I think is most beneficial, not just for me, but how I show up in the world. So ask yourself, what are your thoughts around that, right? Because so many of us beat ourselves up when we're not behaving, quote unquote perfectly. So we're not meant to be perfect.

That is not why we are here on this planet. I don't know if you've noticed, but people on this planet do not behave perfectly. Whatever perfect is right? So I want you, I'll offer to you, is to show yourself some more compassion. Forgive yourself. The fact that you are noticing your behavior is already above and beyond what so many other people notice, right? So many other people do not notice. They're not doing this work, they're not listening to this podcast. They're not doing mindset or thought work. So I want you to just acknowledge yourself for even listening to this kind of a podcast and doing this kind of work for yourself and growing this kind of awareness around yourself. Another identity breakthrough I had is that work does not define me. So this started when I was a lawyer and I noticed that, you know, being able to tell people I was a deputy district attorney, you get treated so differently when you talk to people on the phone.

People are so nice to you, it's really weird. And <laugh>, like they wouldn't necessarily talk to you that way if you didn't have a title like that for some of the agencies that I would call. So it's just so fascinating that I remember feeling very locked into this identity, this self importance of being a lawyer and specifically having that title. And I had a lot of self-doubt when I considered leaving the law because I wouldn't be able to call myself that anymore. Like, how would people see me? Oh, now I'm a life coach. Like, is that even a thing? Like now I actually have to describe what I do, right? Like I, I'm sure I had to describe what I did when I said I was a lawyer, but when you tell people you're a da, they're like, oh, you're a da, right? Or, but when you tell people that you're a life coach, they're like, oh, what is that exactly?

What do you do? And it was so fascinating because I had this thought that I would be less than if I left the law and I had to really release that thought of self importance based on a title. And it was very difficult for me. But I did it. And that was an identity breakthrough for me because it allowed me to release the thoughts that I had that other people would have of me. And I actually created more and more evidence as I started telling people I was a life coach, that this was really kind of cool and that people were really interested in what I did and that this was something that was totally legit and that people needed. It was very interesting to watch my brain start to separate from that initial identity of being a lawyer and that self importance and then stepping into a new identity of being a coach.

It was really fascinating to watch my brain and that was really important for me to make that leap so that I could leave the law and start coaching full-time. And then if you have this going on with you, like you ha you wanna leave the law and you're kind of afraid of what other people will think, you know, this is the same work, the work of separating yourself from the identity of being a lawyer. Because really it's just a title. It doesn't even matter. It's like when we start defining ourselves by our ethnicities or our gender, I mean it's all very arbitrary. We just call ourselves these things and it's a separation of identity, it's a shift in identity. And that all starts with that 51% belief that you can step out of that identity and step into a new one. Another thought that I have that's an identity breakthrough and it is a work in progress for me, is that I make good money decisions.

This is one I know a lot of people struggle with. They don't believe that they are good with money. But if you really think about any of these identity shifts that I'm talking to you about, all of these thoughts, we can find evidence for either one. It's just a matter of deciding which one we want to look at more. I know that when I remind myself that I make good money decisions, a I feel really confident, I feel very grounded when I make a decision.

And I think clearly I don't overthink things. I ask myself questions like, what is this investment going to further in my business? What is this investment going to further in my future for my future self? Will I thank myself a year out, two years out, three years out if I make this investment now? Versus if I am in the identity of I make bad money decisions, which I was for a very long time, and then I don't think those things through and I'm more likely to overspend.

So I want just for you to notice if this is your work too, that you get to decide. And I guarantee that you have evidence on either side of the coin. If you make, if your belief is that you make bad money decisions, you can find evidence of that all day long. But if you want to have an identity breakthrough, you are starting to recognize, oh yes, I actually make good decisions too and here are the good decisions that I make. Notice that I'm not asking you to ignore any decisions that you might be defining as bad, okay? As ones that may not have been helpful. I'm asking you just to see the other side of the coin, which is, I make good decisions in this area. Because when you start to just notice that you do make good decisions in some of these areas, then you can start to see things more objectively and you can see where your brain is being biased towards one thought that you've just had for a long time.

I would really rather you just see both sides of the coin so that you can become more objective and start thinking strategically around money. Or maybe your issue is time, but you, when you see things more objectively, you can think better about them and make better decisions. A few more I'm just gonna share with you one I have is that others people's behavior around me doesn't mean anything about me. I used to take so many things personally as if they meant something about me, like if they were late or if they cut me off or if they didn't show up or they change times or whatever. I used to make so many things mean something about what they thought about me. They didn't respect me, they didn't care about me, blah, blah, blah. But when I started recognizing that, oh, these people have different thoughts, like they're not even thinking about me.

They have their own things going on in the world, I was very easily able to shift my identity to just be like, oh yeah, I am the kind of person who just shows up non-judgmental. None of that affects me. Like it does, it doesn't mean anything about me. I can do things even when I don't feel like it. That was a big identity breakthrough for me cuz I used to just think that I was the victim of my feelings and now it's, I can see, oh wait, I don't feel like it and I can still decide to do it. I'm allowed to rest. I remove the judgment when I need to take a nap. I just recognize, am I tapping into myself and asking myself, do I really need to rest or am I avoiding something? I get to decide. Another identity shift for me is, is just because it's hard doesn't mean that it's not for me or that I can't do it.

I can figure anything out. I'm really good at managing my time. I can prioritize well and I'm never rushed, right? That's another big identity breakthrough for me. I am never rushed. Other people can stress over these things and I'm good. People might show up late for a coaching call. Not a problem. Like I have no judgment over that. Like, I literally am fine. I'm not rushed, you know? And the same thing goes with whenever I'm going somewhere. Now, if I, you know, notice that maybe I'm a little tense, I just take a breath and I remind myself, oh yeah, I'm not rushed. I'm not the kind of person who's rushed. I have plenty of time. But it takes this reminding, right? This identity breakthrough doesn't just happen. It takes us working at it. It takes us reminding ourselves how to manage our brain, finding the evidence for what we wanna believe about ourselves and practicing it over and over and over again.

If you want coaching, helping you around this, really helping you put your brain's thoughts about yourself and perspective so that you can start living the life that you want so that you can really start living from that higher identity that you want to have so that you can build your practice so that you can calm your practice down, so that you can spend more time with your family and really enjoy it and not be thinking about work. I suggest you book a strategy session with me. You can book at dina session. And in our strategy session, we're gonna be taking a look at what your current identity is, what are your identity thoughts, how do you make decisions? And we're gonna start talking about what is the plan for you to start making the shifts that you need to come out of the identity that you currently have so you can create the life you want from that higher identity that you see yourself stepping into. So you can book a call with me at dina session. All right my friend, I hope you have a wonderful week and I will talk to you soon. Bye.