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Maybe it’s you: take responsibility for your life and reach your goals

Lauren Handel Zander offers no-nonsense, practical advice to help you figure out not just what you want out of life, but how to actually get there as well. In Maybe It’s You, Zander asks whether you are the one standing in the way of your best life.


Lauren Handel Zander is a life coach, university lecturer and public speaker. As Chairman of Handel Group, she has coached countless private clients: from professors and politicians, to award-winning artists and Fortune 500 CEOs. The Handel Method has been taught at prestigious universities such as MIT, Stanford University and NYU. The following is an extract from her new book, Maybe It’s You.



Have a seat. I’ve got good news and bad news for you. Truth is, most of us have already had an inkling about this, but, if not, here goes: The “maybe” in this chapter’s title is an  out- and- out lie. The only thing in common with every last thing that isn’t working in your life is you. There’s no maybe about it. So, how is the fact that your fingerprints are on everything that isn’t working in your life even remotely good news? You see, if it’s the economy’s fault, your mother’s fault, your age’s fault or anyone or anything else’s fault but your own, then you’re just stuck where you’re stuck, and there’s nothing you can do about any of it. But, if you are the common denominator in all that isn’t working in your life, you can actually do something about it.


I mean, come on, who else is in charge? Who is putting you in every precarious position and every scenario you’re in? Who is the one telling the story of, uh, your life? There is no story in your collection without you in it, right? You are the key principal. You said everything and did everything that got you where you are. Sure, it’s not always the prettiest or proudest of tales but, either way, it’s the tale we penned, the tale we tell and retell. And most of us don’t own that reality. As a matter of fact, we’re utterly convinced that nothing is really our fault, especially the bad. After all, we would never do this— marry the wrong man, be forty and single, put on one hundred pounds, etc. —  to ourselves! Right?




Worse than wrong, here’s what that premise gets you: So long as you don’t think you got yourself into the mess you’re in, you lose the power to get yourself out of the mess.


Barking direction #6: Read that last line again and take a deep breath. Though it’s not the easiest pill to swallow, it’s a critical one.


When someone actually is the author of their own life, they are accountable for every single component of it — from how their life got to where it got, to whom they let into it. Unfortunately, most of us never think that we put ourselves in a bad situation without being the victim of it. But, truth is, when we’re the author of our own life, there is no victim except the victim we allowed ourselves to be.


But what do you mean, Lauren? It can’t be me. My dad is a lousy com-municator, my boss is a narcissist, my mother is a downer, my metabolism is definitely not what it used to be, my kid are total ingrates, my exes are both liars . . .


Listen. I am not saying the list of crimes you have on a person isn’t true for you. Of course it is. You have years of evidence to substantiate it. Years. But, given you are the common denominator of all those liars, tyrants, and beasts in your life, as well as the judge and jury in their case, isn’t there something suspect about all that?


Meanwhile, I think it only fair that if I’m coming after you, I rat out myself.




This shouldn’t come as a huge surprise to you, but, back in the dark ages (my teens), I didn’t particularly like my dad that much. In fact, I would get all beady- eyed just thinking about him, especially when it came to his love of professional sports. He’s one of “those” guys. You know the type. The kind that shows very little passion in his own life, but when it comes to watching sports on TV, he becomes another human altogether. He screams at the umpires, shouts at the players, and rants like a mad-man. I mean, who screams at a TV? A passionate passionless man, how pathetic! Right? What a hypocrite! And, every time I’d walk past him while he was watching a game, he’d look up and say, “Hey, kiddo” and, in my head, I would be like, Yeah right, Dad.


But, one time, I must have humphed by him a little too loud. So much so, he turned off the TV, followed me to my room, and asked me if I was upset about something. In that moment, I decided, what the heck, I’m going to tell him what I really think.


It came out something like this: “You pick sports over everything, you never do anything but watch sports. Your whole goddamn life is based on sports! You’ve never been a good dad. You could care less about what is really going on with me.”


A bit bewildered, my dad looked at me and said, “Wait a minute. You care? You want to hang out with me? All you had to do was tell me to turn off the TV and I’d turn it off. What do you want to do?”


Now, what do you think my response was? Surprise? Relief? Glee?




My real and ever so endearing answer went something like this:


“Blech. Just kidding! Why would I want to hang out with you? You’re boring, you like sports.”


See, the thing that didn’t work about my relationship with my father was . . .  me. The only difference between the two of us was that I humphed at the TV and he shouted at it.


Ultimately, the sport I was playing (the one so many of us are playing all the time) was assigning blame. We opt to stay sad, mad, and righteous instead of seeing our own fingerprints all over the crime scene. We get to exile people over small infractions and never do anything but grumble.


Sound remotely familiar?



Maybe It’s You by Lauren Handel Zander is published 6th July by Piatkus.