Dear Friend,

I am hard at work on my next book for you. You know my mission is inspiring you to live a more fulfilling life, and giving you tools and coaching to do just that (check out my new Momentum Coaching Club for my latest tool!). In the process, I often find that my own life is a living laboratory.

Just yesterday, I realized that my attempts to write this book and simultaneously run the business are leaving me scattered and less productive than I need to be. Have you ever been there? It’s not the first time I’ve seen a deadline coming and felt like I couldn’t quite get the task at hand under control. While talking about that very thing on the phone with my mom yesterday, she laughed as I proclaimed, “I’m too old to be stressed out about work!”

In other words, I’ve learned my lessons before. I need some quiet focused time, and I can get the job done – joyfully. But if I don’t take control and eliminate the distractions and FOCUS, I will end up stressed and trying to catch up on a missed deadline when I’m supposed to be moving on to other projects. So, I carved out time for a writing retreat. I’m excited. I’m going into hiding and immersing myself in the joy of writing and research and aha moments. I had to move some things around. I’ll have to be disciplined. And when I’m done, I’ll feel satisfied, not stressed or anxious.

That thought, “feeling satisfied, not stressed,” is what many women are seeking. There is a low-level anxiety for many women, spurred on by the feeling that they are somehow not where they are supposed to be in life. I’m curious though, why do you think women are less happy today that in 1970?, according to research. Men, on the other hand, are seeing their happiness levels rise. I mean, we have more opportunities, higher incomes, less manual housework, and more education.

And certainly, our mothers told us after the women’s movement that we could “have it all” – something they couldn’t necessarily do. As I talked to women across this country, the two collective words that come up over and over are “expectations” and “guilt” – the expectation that you should “have it all” and the guilt that you are somehow not doing enough. There’s the 40-something mom raising five kids and married nearly 20 years who said she “felt behind” professionally. And there’s the 35-year old single advertising agency director who says she feels judged for not being married or having kids. “Nobody judges men for being single, but as a woman, I feel like there’s this looming expectation and this assumption that I don’t want a family. It’s like no matter what I accomplish, it’s not enough.”

How about you? What are the factors – cultural or personal – that you think are causing women’s happiness to decline, especially in late 30s and early 40s? What expectations cause you stress? What do you feel guilty about as you attempt to “have it all”? I’d love to hear your insights and thoughts as I work on my book!

My challenge to you: Notice the way(s) in which unrealistic or cultural expectations impact your happiness. Share your insights below!

Journaling assignment: In what way(s) do you feel like you are not doing enough? Is it true or is it time to change your expectations?


Until next time,

Valorie's Signature

Valorie Burton is an author of eight books, including her   latest,  Your 5 Minute Personal Coach. She is founder of the Coaching  and  Positive Psychology (CaPP) Institute. Subscribe to her free e-newsletter    at

More from Beliefnet and our partners