mindset essentials, Be a Better Lawyer Podcast, Dina Cataldo, what is mindset?, what is thought work?, how do I change my mindset?, life coach for lawyers, what is life coaching

#275: Mindset Essentials, Part Two

This is Part Two of a Masterclass on Mindset essential for anyone who’s a student of thought work.

Today, you’ll learn the two key principles of thought work most lawyers miss whether you’ve been doing this work for a while or are brand new to it.

These two principles were what I was missing for the longest time.

Knowing the mindset basics we talked about in last week's episode helped me feel better, and I could see changes, but…

Bigger changes were waiting for me after I learned and implemented what I’m sharing here.

In this episode you'll learn:

why 99% of people aren't doing what I talk about in this episode

the two key principles of mindset people skip

two mistakes you may be making that are holding you back from the progress you want to see in your practice

Listen in to get the mindset essentials you need to live a more conscious life.


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Mindset Essentials, Part Two


In the last episode we talked about the difference between mindset and thought work. I also shared how mindset determines your identity and the two common mistakes I see when people try doing thought work on their own. Those mistakes hold them back from making progress faster.

If you haven’t listened to the last episode, I highly encourage you to do so. This one won’t make sense otherwise.

Today, you’re going to learn the two key aspects of thought work most lawyers miss whether you’ve been doing this work for a while or are new to it.

These two aspects were what I was missing for the longest time. And while I felt better and could see changes, they bigger changes were waiting for me after I learned and implemented what I’m sharing here.

You know how when you order shelves and they come in the mail you have to put them together? Do you ever try to put it together without the instructions? Is that just me?

So I’ll lay all the pieces out and think through where everything goes, and I’ll even glance at the instructions to make sure I have all the pieces, but sometimes — if I’m not paying attention — I’ll end up with extra pieces.

That’s kind of what happened when I first started learning about mindset work. There were a couple extra pieces laying around that I didn’t know what to do with them, so I just ignored them.

It made sense that I’d ignore them because I wasn’t used to dealing with these pieces.

To be fair, I tried them on and did what I could, but they weren’t part of my identity or my every day way of being in the world.

They weren’t second-nature to me.

In fact if you’d told me I’d had to do these things, I probably would have looked at you funny and thought you were a little off your rocker.

But after seeing what I became capable of — starting a coaching practice, reducing overwhelm, leaving my 16 year legal career, going my business year after year and watching my clients reduce overwhelm and grow their practices — I have lots of evidence these principles work.

Another reason it makes sense if you’re missing the two key pieces I’m talking about today is because we’re a society that ignores these two essential pieces of being human generally.

Law firms are notorious for ignoring them too.

So don’t worry, there’s nothing wrong with you. You haven’t missed the memo.

I was missing these two essentials for a very long time, and when I finally “got” them, everything shifted for me. I started making progress faster.

When I introduce these concepts into my clients, I see an instant shift for them with too.

Even if they don’t become 100% habit yet, just having these two principles in their awareness helps them change.

At first you’ll get these two concepts on a logical level.

But the more you work with these concepts on a daily basis, the more it’ll begin to click. At least that was my experience and what I see with my clients.

My hope is that this episode helps you skip all the hard work I did trying to figure this out knowing that this is a practice. It’s not a one and done.

All learning requires repetition and consistency and those help make these a habit.

When we make it a habit, it becomes part of our identity.

Here’s the first key aspect — and it’s one none of us want to look at. I get it because I was that way too.

The first one is paying attention to your feelings.

Let me ask you this:

How do you feel right now?

Seriously. Name the one work feeling you’re having right now.

Did you answer, “Fine?” Or “Good?” Or “busy?”

If you did, you answered that question like most people on the planet would answer.

But those are surface level feelings.

Those are responses we’re trained from birth to give to people.

Especially if you were raised in a household where you had an authoritarian parent.

That’s because any other answer could feel unsafe.

In that environment, if we share what we’re feeling we’re told to stop crying or we’ll have something to cry about.

The safest thing to do was to hide all emotion and only be okay, happy, good.

It becomes a habit.

To be clear, not just people with an authoritarian parent do this. It’s a cultural thing you probably see every day. We say these to be police and not expose ourselves to others.

When my clients tell me that they feel fine or good or busy, that tells me they’re just disconnected from their body because they’ve created a habit at some point in their life to disconnect.

I was that way a long time, so I get it.

If we aren’t given tools to feel our feelings and manage them in a healthy way, then we disconnect and fear them.

I’ll talk to some lawyers afraid of their feelings because they think they may feel them forever. That they’ll take over.

If that describes you, that fear isn’t there because it’s true your feelings will take over. That fear is there because you probably haven’t been given tools to make it safe to feel anything other than fine and okay.

I use this podcast to try and help connect lawyers to their feelings because this is essential for change.

If we can’t connect to what we feel it becomes impossible to change habits.

Because changing habits requires understanding why we do what we do.

And the why for everything we do is because of how we think we’ll feel if do or don’t do something.

Think about it: why do you set goals? There may be two reasons. One is the desire to do more with your life. Another part is that part that says that goal will make us feel better. We’ll finally feel successful, accomplished. And if we don’t, we’re think we’re a failure. So if we’re not paying attention, we can either be chasing a feeling or trying to avoid a feeling.

Hitting a goal or not hitting a goal doesn’t mean anything about you. When I finally understood this, I took off so much pressure and started doing the work that built my business faster.

If you’ve ever wondered why you get to the end of your workday, and you didn’t get to anything you intended to, you have habits that are getting you that result.

When we recognize our behaviors are cause by feelings — like pressure, overwhelm, gratitude, accomplishment — we can start becoming aware of our behaviors.

Habits are unconscious behaviors.

We need to make our behaviors conscious.

When we do, feelings are going to come up because feelings drive our behaviors.

When those feelings come up, we need tools to manage them, which is what I teach my clients.

I promised you in the last episode I’d tell you my Trader Joe’s story, and it ties in with making our behaviors conscious and not reacting to them unconsciously.

As you probably remember, when the pandemic happened in 2020 there was a run on toilet paper. I remember being in Trader Joe’s and there was someone on the loudspeaker saying something about toilet paper being limited to two per customer or something.

I could feel my whole body tense up, and I noticed that it wanted to run to the toilet paper and grab some.

It was such an odd feeling for my body to have that I immediately noticed it and paused.

One of the things I teach my clients is to notice different sensations in their body and pause before reacting to them. Because the more we practice noticing them, the more time we start creating between feeling an emotion and reacting to it.

That time is the difference between automatically snapping off an email to opposing counsel while being angry (never a good idea), or taking a breath and knowing you won’t write the best email if you do it in the moment.

Similarly, when I paused in Trader Joe’s, I could give myself a moment to remember that was a fear response I was noticing. A habit built into my brain’s programming. I was actually 100% safe.

I gave myself time to remind myself that I had toilet paper at home, that I don’t even like Trader Joe’s toilet paper, and that even if I ran out of toilet paper I had alternatives. I could tell myself it’s okay, I don’t have to get toilet paper.

When I did that, I could make a conscious decision instead of acting unconsciously.

Most people are completely unconscious.

They don’t know how their brains and bodies work together, so they’re always in reactivity mode and easily pushed around emotionally by the news, by an email someone sends, by the way a client talks to you.

You’ll know this is you if you notice your emotions take big swings throughout the day — you feel up then you feel down then you go back up and then down.

That’s why you might notice that you snap at people, and you can’t figure out why you’re behaving that way.

Or maybe you might notice that you’re procrastinating on a project, but you can’t figure out why you’re putting it off.

When we find thought work, most of us still want to action and willpower our way out of problems. I definitely did.

We say to ourselves, “If I’m not hitting my goals then that means I’m not working hard enough and I should stay late at the office.”

Or, “If I’m procrastinating that means I need to have more discipline and bring work home.”

Or, “if I don’t like my client I should fire them.”

We immediately want to act our way out of feeling like we’ve failed or we’re doing a bad job.

The other thing we tend to do — especially if you’ve been doing thought work a while — is try to force ourselves to believe thoughts our brain doesn’t believe.

That could work for a few days, but then you’re right back where you started.

We do this because we think we’re going to feel better if we just think happy thoughts.

For example, when lawyers come to me telling me that their practice, “Isn’t working,” they can’t just repeat the mantra, “It’s working” and change their practice.


Because the thought, “It’s working” doesn’t connecting with their brain. It can’t generate the chemical response needed to truly believe it and behave like they believed it.

You still with me? If you got distracted, come back to me.

Remember, thoughts create our feelings. The thoughts we have can generate a chemical response but ONLY if we believe it.

That’s why I teach tools to unravel old beliefs, and then they’re open to believing the new thought.

If you’re doing either of these things, it’s not your fault. Again, you didn’t miss the “How to Be a Human Handbook” that was passed out when you missed class that one day.

We’re just not trained to do any inquiry to find out how we feel and why we feel the way we do.

That’s what coaching is for.

And feeling certain emotions can feel horrible — especially negative ones like fear, shame, guilt, or anxiety..

Here’s a secret you may not know though.

Are you ready for it?

You’re already feeling horrible. You’re just not acknowledging you’re feeling that way.

So then you can’t deal with it.

You’re already feeling shame or disappointment or anxiety. It’s there all the time under the surface, but you think that if you don’t look at it then you’re not really feeling it.

If you just keep working hard through it, then it’s not there.

What’s actually happening is you’re trying to avoid it. You’re hiding the feeling under the bed hoping it doesn’t come out like the boogeyman. You can’t avoid it forever though.

Eventually it’ll catch up with you in a health problem or relationship problem or in burnout.

When I was a little girl, and my parents told me to clean up my room, I’d stuff everything under the bed. I mean everything. Etch a Sketches, stuffed animals,  books, legos, you name it. I thought cleaning would be hard work. That it’d be painful. So I did that to avoid having to clean. They’d think my room was clean because on the surface, it was.

I thought I was doing a good job at it too.

Then one day I came home from school and found that my parents took everything out from under my bed, spread it all over the kitchen floor, and told me to get rid of 20 toys.

I cried and cried and cried. I really thought it was the end of the world.

I thought by avoiding the pain of cleaning that I wouldn’t have so much pain.

But guess what, that pain smacked me in the face because I wasn’t dealing with the problem up front, and the consequences were worse than if I’d just cleaned my room.

Feeling your feelings is like cleaning your room.

You may not want to do it, but when you do, you feel so much better and you avoid negative consequences. Those negative consequences come from you acting unconsciously to your negative emotions. If you’re not present with your negative emotions, you can’t be conscious. You’re sleepwalking through life.

In a coaching context it may look like this:

A lawyer may tell me something like, “Last week I felt like everyone was against me. I didn’t get anything done. I felt totally out of control. I had every intention of following through on my calendar, but I didn’t. Everything just went wrong.”

I know from hearing something like that that they weren’t paying attention to how they were feeling.

So then my job as a coach is to help them see what happened, so they can become more conscious of the habits that created that experience. They can become more conscious of what was going on in their brain and body.

When they get that awareness, they get better and better at catching their unconscious habits and changing them.

This brings me to the second key aspect lawyers miss when doing thought work, and that’s compassion for themselves.

We can’t even access feelings if we’re not creating safety to access them.

We create safety by being compassionate towards ourselves.

Compassion is accepting ourselves flaws and all.

Here’s some questions you can answer right now to see if you’re showing yourself compassion on a regular basis:

How do you treat yourself?

Do you check in to see how you’re doing?

Do you talk to yourself like you’re your best friend?

Or do you ignore yourself?

Do you tell yourself you should have done better?

Do you put your needs last?

One of the big things we need to learn as humans is how to treat ourselves in a way that allows us to be human and not shame ourselves when we make a mistake.

What I learned is shame blocks us from change.

We have to allow ourselves human emotions. To behave sometimes in ways we didn’t intend and not beat ourselves up for it.

That’s the only way to create sustainable change.

Lawyers will sometimes tell me, “But if I shame myself, I get the work done.”

Yeah, you can do that.

You can whip a horse to run faster until the beatings kill the horse.

If you notice you get things done by shaming yourself, just notice that’s been your habit up until now.

If you notice you procrastinate or don’t have systems for getting work done, and you’re using the whip of dread and deadlines to get it done, how does that feel?

Does it feel good?

100% it doesn’t.

You may feel a sense of accomplishment when it’s over, but what’s the point of designing a life like that?

Where you feel horrible?

Now I’m driven, and I work consistently and strategically in my business to grow it.

What I’ve decided is a non-negotiable for me though is I will no longer beat myself up if I don’t do something on my calendar, and I will check in with myself to see why I didn’t do it.

What am I feeling about that project? Is there a good reason I didn’t do it today?

I’m going to show compassion for myself no matter what, and then I’m going to solve for why I’m not doing what I want to do instead of beat myself up over it.

We spend the most time with one person: ourselves.

I want that relationship to be strong.

Imagine being in a relationship where you could never ask for help and you’d always expect the other person in that relationship to tell you that what you’re doing wrong and never acknowledging what’s going right.

You’d feel isolated and disconnected.

Most humans are in that relationship with themselves.

And it’s leading to feeling stressed, anxious and confused about why we feel so horrible all the time.

I never want that relationship for myself.

I’m done with that.

I want a relationship with myself where I’m always comfortable being myself and I will always be understanding of who I am even if I’m not the picture perfect version I might have for myself sometimes.

It doesn’t mean I won’t also say, “My friend, it’s time to get to work making change because it will give you the result you want in your life. Let’s go.”

You want someone who’s encouraging and inspiring you to take action.

You want a partner in your life who’s there for you.

That’s what’s so amazing about coaching because I get to help lawyers create that relationship with themselves using all the master coach mindset tools and all the modalities I’ve learned over the years from different coaches, teachers and mentors.

I get to help them create a relationship with themselves where they lift themselves up and serve their clients at an even higher level.

If you’re ready to create that kind of relationship with yourself, let’s work together.

Book a Strategy Session with me at dinacataldo.com/strategysession

I didn’t start working with a coach to create a relationship with myself.

I started working with a coach to stop feeling stuck, feel like I was doing something meaningful and make money doing something other than being a lawyer.

I wanted a life where I didn’t feel overwhelmed all the time and I had more time to do what I wanted to do.

Yes, I got that.

And while I was doing that, I created this beautiful relationship with myself.

It’s been the best relationship I’ve ever had.

It’ll be your best relationship too.

I’ll talk to you next week, my friend.