Outrage is a pathway to action. But it is not the only path.

Robb Hillman Coaching Life Coaching for Nurses Outrage

How do you feel?

No, this isn’t a geeky 80’s Star Trek IV reference. (Or at least it isn’t ONLY a geeky 80’s Star Trek IV reference.)

I don’t have to tell you the world is changing. I don’t have to tell you that opinions in our country are polarized, full of outrage and disdain. I don’t have to tell you that politicians and the media both encourage and feed that outrage in their efforts to manipulate us, either for votes and money or attention and money.

But how do you feel?

We’ve all seen the clickbait articles on social media. The ones that either gross us out or make us angry and self-righteous, so angry in fact that we don’t even resist clicking the link so we can feed our outrage. “You won’t believe what their candidate did to this puppy - and got away with it!” Nine times out of ten the article is either a total disappointment that doesn’t live up to the headline, or else we realize it is satire or even totally made up.

And yet we don’t stop clicking.

The pundits and politicians are trying VERY VERY hard to teach us that outrage feels good. They tell us that outrage is motivating. They tell us our outrage is proof of what a good person we are. They tell us that no decent and intelligent human could fail to feel outraged over how crazy the world has gotten.

And we want to be motivated. We want to be a good person. We want to be decent and intelligent. And after years and years of getting bombarded with these arguments, we start climbing on board the outrage train.

But, how do you feel?

You aren't a newly resurrected Spock, and yet many of us are just as confused as he was by this question. 

Where does the anger sit in your body? Does the outrage help you sleep better? Does the time you spend arguing with your high school friend’s wife’s uncle on Facebook feel like time well spent? When you see your anger-fueled snarky comments the next day, do you feel proud and inspired? Are the hurt feelings and damaged or lost relationships worth it when nothing changes? Who is the person you want to be when you don’t get your way?


I know some of you are hanging on to the idea that these feelings do help you. That they are a necessary evil because they motivate you to try to change the world for the better. That even though they make you crazy, at least you are being true to what you believe in and are advocating for your principles. 

But, and I’m going to jump into the 90's and do my best Morpheus imitation here, what if I told you that you did not have to feel outraged in order to accomplish any of those things? 

What if I told you that you could fight injustice and stand up for freedom and acknowledge problems and pick sides and still feel happy and motivated and invigorated the whole time? 

Outrage is a pathway to action. But it is not the only path. 

Outrage can be mentally and physically exhausting. It can trick you into making generalizations and to oversimplify reality and to assume the worst of those who may disagree with you. It can isolate and further distance you from the very people you most want to influence for change. 

Outrage wears you down and can literally make you sick. When we let ourselves get so angry and afraid that we can barely see straight, it is an activation of our sympathetic nervous system, otherwise known as the “fight or flight” response. I won’t nurse out on you too bad here, but this cascade releases hormones such as epinephrine and cortisol into our bodies. This is great news if you are calmly walking down the street and a bear or a clown jumps out of the bushes and you need to run the heck away before you get eaten. But the chronic activation of these hormones due to ongoing and never-ending stress results in an array of negative health outcomes, leading to poor sleep, weight gain, anxiety and depression, impaired immune function, and increased risk of heart disease and diabetes. 

The clickbait title here would be simple. “Warning: your outrage is making you fat!”


We tell ourselves that our outrage is punishing the thing/person/injustice we are mad about. But it isn't. They can't feel your outrage. They don't feel your anger and your tears. But you know who does? You do. You aren't punishing anyone but yourself.

The good news here is that you have a choice. All you have to do is ask yourself two questions.

1. What do you want to accomplish in the world?
2. How do you want to feel while you are accomplishing it?

You can change the world and feel happy and inspired. You can recognize the bad things that happen in our world and yet feel excited because you are so awesome you are going to do something about it. You can talk with people who are hypocrites and liars and feel invigorated because you are being challenged to improve your debating skills while practicing being able to stay calm and extending them an offer to maybe see things a little differently. 

If you feel lost and hopeless, it is just because you haven’t yet given yourself a goal. Once you decide what you want, you will start seeing lots of options on what you can do to get there. Next, make sure you are picking the path that is going to best allow you to feel the way you want to feel.

Your feelings are always your choice. No one comes along and injects you with a big syringe of emotion that you are obligated to feel. You get to decide on how you want to see the world and what you make it mean and how you want to experience it. 

They are not the boss of your feelings. You are. Choose wisely.


Robb Hillman Life Coach for Nurses light a candle

Decide who you want to be. Decide if you want to be beat down and afraid, or if you want to find a way to feel hope again.

Ben Franklin said it best: Instead of cursing the darkness, light a candle. 

If you aren’t ready yet to give up on what you are feeling today - and I can't emphasize this enough - that is totally fine! You will get no feeling-shaming from me. All of your emotions are natural and normal and you have every right to feel them fully for as long as you want. 

All I’m offering is a reminder that you are not a slave to them. You are not trapped. You are not stuck. You can honor the feelings you have, and you can also look for ways to feel better at the same time. 

Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it.

OK, that was totally a geeky 80’s Ferris Bueller reference. And I stand by it. 

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Pollyanna isn't naive, she is a badass.

Our current society seems to view robust and irrepressible optimism as a weakness, and dismisses it as coming from someone who is too silly, inexperienced or gullible to understand the “real truths”. 

But I think this is a fundamental misunderstanding of what optimism is. Optimism isn't about ignoring reality and living in a fantasy of rainbows and unicorns. In fact it requires great strength of will and of character. It isn’t always easy, and it certainly isn’t passive. Optimism is a fierce battle of consciously choosing the perspective that is going to best serve you in your life. 

I don’t think Pollyanna was simple and naive to reality. I think she was a badass who bent reality to her will. And here’s why:

Read More

You are enough.

You are enough. you are so enough it is unbelievable how enough you are..jpg

However you are celebrating the holidays this year, I hope you will take a moment to remember how truly spectacular you are. 

There is no one in the world like you.

Your combination of genes and choices and circumstances are totally unique in the history of humankind. 

There is no one who sees the world exactly the way you do.

There is no one who feels the world exactly the way you do. 

Which means you are special. And rare. And valuable.

As we Americans get set to give thanks for the things we have, don’t forget to give thanks for who you are. 

You are worthy.

You are perfect.

You are enough.

You are you.

And that, my friends, is something worth celebrating. 

Happy Holidays!



Boundaries Webinar Q&A: Part 3

During my recent webinar on boundaries I was asked a very good question.

As a care taker for a loved one, it is difficult to watch them make choices that cause more problems (pain, symptoms that cause problems, etc). But I will always be the care taker no matter what - even though poor choices makes my job harder. I can't figure out how to set a boundary about this. How can I not feel frustrated at the consequences of poor choices?

Many of us have probably faced similar scenarios, so though I'm using this question as a prompt, my suggestions are directed at all of us, not just the lovely person who submitted the question. :-)

Previously we have talked about giving up trying to control things which we cannot control, and how to powerfully control the things we can – ourselves – to help give us the results we want to have.

I've been trying to get across the idea that since we can't actually control the choices other people make, that basing our feelings on what other people decide to do is not the strongest strategy to ensure our own self care.

But, and this is a big but, this doesn't mean that we have to stop caring about other people and what they do.

It doesn't mean we can't have an opinion on which choice we would like them to make.

And it doesn't mean we have to just let everyone around us do whatever they want without there being any consequences when they are around us.

The good news about this is that no matter what others decide to do, we can always protect ourselves with a judicious use of boundaries.

Remember, boundaries are something we create for ourselves to protect ourselves from the actions of others. They are not something we create to control the behavior of others for our own gain. If you do X, then I will do Y.

If our patient wants to engage in behavior that is detrimental to his health, that is not a boundary violation for us. If he wants to ignore everything we say, that is not a boundary violation for us.

But if they want to make you endorse or ignore or approve of their behavior, that could be.

    - If you ask me to bring you a beer with your Xanax, then I am going to decline to do that.

    - If you stay in bed all day and refuse to do your physical therapy (which is your right to do), then I am going to tell you all about pressure ulcers and drop foot (which as your caretaker is my right to do).

    - If you start eating a box of Oreos while I am giving you an insulin shot, then I am going to speak to you about the importance of proper diet and blood sugar control.

This doesn't mean you are going to grab the cookies out of his hand and yell and scream and try to force him to comply with the recommended diet. It doesn't mean you have to be mad, or resentful, or in fact feel anything that you don't want to feel because you are not going to delegate your feelings to his behavior and choices.

But while he is an adult and gets to do what he wants to do, you are also an adult and can do what you want to do. You can make requests, you can tell him what you think, and you can ask him to see things your way.

You don't want to expect or demand that he change his behavior, because that immediately puts him in charge of you as you wait to see if he will acquiesce or not.

But as a nurse you can educate self-destructive behavior when you see it, calmly and rationally and with compassion, rather than feeling like you have to do it in anger or judgement or frustration.

The strategy of taking responsibility for ourselves, while allowing others to be fully responsible for themselves isn't always the easy way, but it is powerful because it keeps everyone focused on outcomes they can actually control.

So this is the time to ask yourself a lot of questions. When it comes to your patient, what really is important to you? Is your goal to drag him into health by any means necessary? Or is it to enjoy the time you spend with him, regardless of his health status?

These newsletters have been a little longer than usual, but I hope you've found them helpful.


P.S. If you have other questions/issues/situations you'd like me to respond to, just reply to this email and let me know.

Boundaries Webinar Q&A: Part 2

Happy Thursday nurses!

During my recent webinar on boundaries I was asked a very good question.

As a care taker for a loved one, it is difficult to watch them make choices that cause more problems (pain, symptoms that cause problems, etc). But I will always be the care taker no matter what - even though poor choices makes my job harder. I can't figure out how to set a boundary about this. How can I not feel frustrated at the consequences of poor choices?

Many of us have probably faced similar scenarios, so though I'm using this question as a prompt, my suggestions are directed at all of us, not just the lovely person who submitted the question. :-)

Since there is much to discuss with this question, this is the second part of my response, you can see part one HERE.

Last week we talked about how trying to control something we don't have control over (such as another persons behavior) is an easy way to get ourselves feeling frustrated.

This week we are going to talk about what you can control – your own thoughts and feelings.

If you are thinking that the only way not to feel frustrated is for your patient to behave a certain way, then you are creating a relationship where you are the victim and you are just waiting to see what your patient does which will determine your feelings.

If he does X then you will be happy. If he does Y then you will be frustrated.

You are a strong and capable nurse, why would you want to sit around waiting for someone else dictate your feelings to you?

The stronger strategy is to take full responsibility for our own actions (i.e. how we are going to treat and feel about people who make “bad” choices), and to NOT take responsibility for the fact that they are making those choices, or to attempt to demand a particular outcome from them.

Our feelings in this situation are the direct results of the thoughts we are having about our patient. If our thought is “He is being so foolish and difficult! Doesn't he care about what I am trying to do here?” we are going to have a different set of feelings than if we think “He is so lovably stubborn, the old poop!”

Which thought is going to give you the feeling you want to have when you are caring for him?

All you have to do (don't you love how I make it sound easy?) is to think the thoughts that are going to make you feel the way you want.

  • “The rascal is sure lucky to have me.”

  • “This is not easy but I'm so glad I'm able to be here for him.”

  • “I feel good about the care I give him no matter what he does.”

  • “It's a good thing I am such a strong and capable nurse that I can put up with all of this nonsense and yet still enjoy myself.”

Even something like “It is a shame he doesn't take better care of himself” is probably going to feel better than “Why is he doing this to me?”.

Remember, his actions are not a reflection of your success or failure as a nurse, they are a reflection of his priorities and desires as a patient.

In the end, he is going to do what he wants. Relaxing our need to control him and giving him permission to do what he is going to do anyway just might end up giving you a lot of relief.

Giving permission doesn't mean you have to like what he does however, and next week we will talk about the choices you still get to make for yourself, even as you stop trying to make choices for him.


P.S. Did you know you can follow me on Facebook? CLICK HERE for the official Facebook coaching page, and be sure to like and follow!

You know this patient, don't you?

You know the patient. 

The frequent flier who comes in again and again. Nothing ever changes, except for the worse. They never follow directions. They don't want to do anything for themselves, they just want you to give them pain meds. Preferably given IV Q2 and in tandem with phenergan. And how could your forget the benadryl, you know they always take everything together! What kind of moron nurse are you??

What is your day like when this happens to you? How do you feel? 

You no doubt have lots of evidence of why that person is terrible, awful, and no-good. 

You no doubt can easily justify self-righteous anger, judgement and dismissal. 

But how do you want to feel?

I know, they are rude and arrogant and disrespectful, and don't deserve your kindness and humility and respect.

They deserve the punishment of your judgement, right?

But, how do you want to feel?

I'm not suggesting you have to be an angel, or a Pollyanna. (Not that there is anything wrong with that.)

But I am suggesting that you can decide to feel however we want. All the time. Regardless of how other people behave. This is a superpower you can learn.

Sounds crazy, right? But it isn't. 

“This patient is the worst, I can't believe how lazy and selfish and arrogant they are, how dare they talk to me like that, I am just trying to help and they are blatantly abusing the system and they just need to stop! I wish the doc would just discharge them already.”


“This patient is so lucky to have me, because I am freaking awesome at my job and I can take care of anyone no matter how much crap they throw at me. Since I am so good at taking care of myself I know my worth is non-negotiable, and that anything they say has nothing to do with me and everything to do with them. I know they won't realize or appreciate it, but I'm going to give them such thoughtful care that Florence herself would be proud of because that is just how I roll.”

Which thought is going to make for a very long shift? Which is going to give you the day you want to have?

And the best part is that you aren't choosing the thought for the benefit of an undeserving jerk. You are choosing it for yours. 

Watch yourself today. Take notice of what you are thinking when you feel bad. Notice what you are thinking when you feel great. That awareness is something powerful we can build on. 

Yours in self care,