The Happy Engineer Podcast

063: Why Pain Produces More Growth Than Happiness Ever Could with Lilly Rachels

How much pain are you experiencing at work? At home? Why does happiness often seem so elusive?

What do you do in your career when nothing is going your way?

In this episode, prepare to be inspired by the heart-tugging story of Lilly Rachels. A self-proclaimed optimist, Lilly believes that even in the darkest times, the light can be found.

Her own experience of divorce, loss of loved ones, and a physically damaging accident led Lilly to her own dark time… and ultimately to her true calling.

Lilly offers you and me hope, and a roadmap for growing through grief.

She holds a Masters of Social Work from the University of Tennessee, and worked as a therapist, personal trainer, and trauma sensitive yoga instructor before building her own coaching practice for leaders suffering from grief.

So press play and let’s chat… because one piece of the human experience we all have in common is pain.


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Previous Episode 062: Cybersecurity Attacks and Terrorism – How to Reduce Your Risk with Tom Kirkham




Did that conversation stir your heart a bit because it really did for mine? 

One thing Lily said that struck a chord with me:

Give your heart time to catch up with your head.

One personal example when I failed to give my heart time to catch up with my head was when I quit my job at Whirlpool corporation to launch into OACO full time.

I went from working at my job at Whirlpool on Friday to hustling on my business on the next Monday. I had a lot that I wanted to get done. I definitely didn’t want to go a day longer than necessary before I’d replaced my income with the income from my company. 

All good and well, but let me tell you… I did not give my heart time to catch up with my head when I made that transition.

I bet you experienced (or will experience) the same when leaving a company or leaving a job that you’ve held for a long time. 

It’s still a loss. Your mind is still going to process it as a loss and that loss triggers grief and the same kind of experiences that we talked about in this episode. 

In moments like these there’s a lot of emotion that we do not get to process properly because we are focused on the hustle and grind involved in getting back at it. 

So, in order to avoid this, I’d like to share with you a couple of little tips on how to practice feeling your feelings.

This will allow you to process through any negative emotion, grief, or loss that may be with you, and it can apply for any emotion, anything that might be negative or that might be holding you back. 

Get alone

Get away from every distraction. Give yourself time and space. Environment does matter. I would encourage you not to use an environment that is already familiar and associated with things like work, home, kids and family. Go somewhere else, somewhere that you can calm and clear your mind.

Start breathing

Once you find a place where you can be fully present, take a few deep breaths. 

To begin, I recommend breathing slowly through the nose and exhaling through the mouth like a sigh. Then after a few deep breaths, both inhale and exhale through the nose.

Equal counts on the inhale and exhale. Example, four count in, four count out. 

Breathe that way for a few minutes. 

Start Asking

And then I want you to ask yourself, “What am I feeling?”

Do a scan. 

Ask yourself the question, “What emotions am I noticing?”

We’ll start that question in our mind. What are the thoughts and words that pop in? 

Now, can you be more specific? Can you add more detail to the types of emotional vocabulary that you’re using. 

Now, connect it with your body. 

What do you actually notice in the sensations or energy of your physical body.

Where do you feel it? What does it feel like? 

For example, you might sit down, start doing some deep breathing, and then you ask yourself the question, what am I feeling? And the word anger pops into your mind?

Okay. I’m feeling angry. Where in my body do I notice? I

I’m scanning my body, head to toe, looking for the energy of anger. 

“Oh, I feel my throat really tense and tight as I think about that anger. That’s where I feel it.” 

What does it feel like? 

“Oh, it feels like there’s a, a chain around my throat and it’s tightening.” 

I want you to imagine it, describe the sensation, put some picture and color to it. As much as you’re able to get creative, there’s no right or wrong answer.

Stay with it

Once you’ve noticed it and you’ve been there for a little bit. Hang out there, as long as you’re able to allow that feeling of anger, that emotion of anger to stay with. 

Let it be intense. If it needs to grow, let it grow. If it dissipates, let it dissipate.

Don’t try to change it. Simply be with it. 

This whole concept may be foreign to you, or maybe it’s something that you already do daily as a part of your meditation practice. 

If that’s you fantastic. 

If it’s not no problem.

We all begin somewhere on the journey of emotional mastery, but practicing feeling your feelings is something that I highly encourage everyone to do, especially if you’ve been through or are going through something that’s really tough.

Let your heart catch up with your head. 

I promise you that when you get better at this, you’re gonna experience a shift in how that emotion is weighing you down. 

It’s going to change. 

Your state, your energy, your thinking will become more clear and you’re gonna have more energy to put into the things that you want and move forward faster towards your vision and goals than when you have this emotional baggage weighing you down.

Hey, if you have questions about that, I’d love to dig into it with you. 

Make sure you join our free Facebook group:

Shoot me an email: [email protected] or go out and check the show notes. 

We got our bonus content there from this episode. And as always all the links to everything that we talked about with Lily is going to be there.

However we can serve you let us know, but most of all, keep crushing comfort, creating courage, and let’s do this.



Lilly is a Podcast Host and Growth Coach. A self-proclaimed optimist, Lilly believes that even in the darkest times, the light can be found. The experience of healing through divorce, loss of loved ones, and a physically damaging accident led Lilly to the backbone of her business “pain has the potential to produces more growth than happiness ever could”. These painful events gave way to what Lilly believes is her true calling, to illuminate the path to a joyful life while growing through grief. 

Lilly holds a Master of Social work degree and previously worked as a therapist, personal trainer, and trauma sensitive yoga instructor.

She currently lives in Nashville with her two pups. In her free time she loves exploring the outdoors, meeting new people, and enjoying a hot cup of tea.





Please note the full transcript is 90-95% accuracy. Reference the podcast audio to confirm exact quotations.

[00:00:00] Zach White: Lily. Hi, so glad you’re here and welcome to The Happy Engineer Podcast.

[00:00:05] Lilly Rachels: Thank you. I’m happy to be here. 

Expand to Read Full Transcript

[00:00:06] Zach White: So I read one sentence, that is the reason we are here chatting today. And I wanna read it to start our conversation because it was so impactful and it’s a foundational piece of who you are and the work that you do as a coach and as a podcast host and all the great work around, your life and mindfulness and meditation and coaching.

[00:00:33] And it’s, it’s such a powerful statement. Pain has the potential to produce more growth than happiness ever. Could. . And when I saw that on your bio, I was like, oh my goodness. You know, this is the happy engineer podcast. And I love to talk about positive things and happiness and confidence and courage. And the, and I saw that I was like, wow, pain has the potential to produce more growth than happiness ever could.

[00:01:01] what I’d love to do if you’re open to it, Lily is, yeah. Would you take us to the beginning of the story? Like where did that powerful tenant of who you are? 

[00:01:14] Lilly Rachels: I’ll say that first, I feel like, or I felt like in the past that my life had been marked by a lot of grief, there had been just a lot of things, whether it was childhood into young adulthood, that didn’t seem fair or right.

[00:01:30] But that particular point I was on top of a mountain in Colorado. I did my first and only fourteener with a friend. And at the time I was going through a separation that later led to a divorce and I was out of breath, hiking in Colorado, thin air. And I remember we made it to the top of this fourteener and she took a picture of me.

[00:01:54] And I remember looking around and I was like, this is amazing. Like, I just did this. I just climbed this mountain. I’m really proud of myself. And later I threw the picture on Instagram and with everything going on, I remember thinking I’m like, Pain has the potential to produce more growth than happiness ever could.

[00:02:10] And it’s like a download. It came to me and I put that as the caption. And from that moment on that moment of my life, like what I was going through, it totally changed my perspective. It was no longer this failure. It was this. Okay. How am I gonna grow through this? How am I going to, get on with my life and thrive, not just let this defeat me.

[00:02:34] Zach White: Hmm. A life marked by grief. when was the earliest point that you remember feeling conscious to that aware of that? Not sort of in the experience of it, but you actually would have said my life is full of grief. Was that something you were aware of as a child or it was later. in life. Like where did that actually become the way you would describe your story?

[00:03:00] it’s kind of interesting. I would say I was predominantly like a happy person. I’m a strong Enneagram, seven. I like defined the fun. but growing up, I had a parent that had a lot of addictions and the way that manifested in our family sometimes created a very unstable, and for a kid’s scary environment and it was dealing with that.

[00:03:23] Lilly Rachels: And then as I started to get older, it was deaths of people, very close to me. and then in that particular year, when I got divorced, it was losing both my grandparents within a month of each other. And so I, I would say it started as a child realizing. That security and nurturing. I was craving, from the parent wasn’t there and it just felt like an emptiness.

[00:03:48] And I would say it felt unfair at first 

[00:03:52] Zach White: mm-hmm what was the time difference? If you can disconnect the story a little bit of, so childhood, challenging situation with parents and addiction, and then you mentioned, separation, divorce and grandparents, tell us a little bit about the timeline of 

[00:04:10] Lilly Rachels: this played out.

[00:04:11] Um, so I would say the first time I became aware of kind of the reality of what I was growing up in was around the age of nine or 10. Okay. Um, and then when I went through a divorce was 2018, so I was 28 years old. 

[00:04:24] Zach White: how long were you married before the divorce? 

[00:04:26] Lilly Rachels: Five years. We got married 

[00:04:28] Zach White: young. So Lilly, you and I have a really common story around this.

[00:04:34] I was married right outta college. Mm-hmm also married five years before my divorce. And for those who know my story, that was a, a rock bottom moment for me as an adult. And I remember that vividly. So if we take that time of your life, divorce and lost, you said both your grandparents mm-hmm in the same timeframe.

[00:04:56] Yes. Like what was going on for you? What was that like? At first it just 

[00:05:01] Lilly Rachels: felt out of control. It felt. Empty. And I remember being with my dad at lunch and I told him, I was like, I feel like I’m like aggressing in life. Like I’m going backwards. And he looked at me, he was like, Lily, life’s not linear. it goes up and down it circles back.

[00:05:19] It’s not this just straight, upward curve until you die. And it that’s. Yeah. At that time, it just the amount of turmoil and emptiness I felt. And it was that feeling of, you go to bed at night, finally, fall asleep, and then you wake up in the morning and like for two seconds, you kind of forget about your life.

[00:05:40] And then, you know, reality comes back in. And I just remember it was like pulling the covers back over my head. Like I just don’t wanna get up yet. Like, I just want a few more seconds of peace before I have to face what I feel like my life is becoming. 

[00:05:54] Zach White: Mm. What were you actually doing for your vocation at that time?

[00:06:00] Lilly Rachels: Yeah. So at that time I had just finished my master’s degree in social work and I was looking for jobs, in the therapy world. And so as I was going through the divorce, I actually took a part-time job as a nanny. just to kind of get through the transition before I stepped into my role as a therapist.

[00:06:20] Zach White: Wow. Okay. So I hope this question is well received is well intended, but mm-hmm, , I’ve always wondered. of course I’ve had a therapist and worked with therapists and I have huge respect for the work that, social workers and therapists and psychotherapy that hold domain so important.

[00:06:38] But it’s often people wonder what happens when the therapist has challenge and needs therapy. Mm-hmm you’re like, so could you describe that dynamic a little bit of you’re going through tremendous grief yourself mm-hmm and showing up at work, seeking to, counsel and provide therapy to others.

[00:06:55] Is that as hard as it sounds? What’s that . Can you just describe that? 

[00:07:01] Lilly Rachels: No, that, that is hard, which is why I took, like I said, kind of a nanny job in between, as a buffer there, because it was too much at the time. but I will say. It’s difficult when you’re, you’re like in the, you’re used to being the one on the other side of the room, right.

[00:07:19] In the other chair, because it’s hard to not try to psychoanalyze yourself. I remember when I was in therapy, the words coming outta my mouth, I’m like in my head like, well, I know it’s probably this, or I know that this has to do with this part of my childhood. And it was hard just to like, let go of the need to be the expert in the room and let someone else help you.

[00:07:40] Instead of being the helper, 

[00:07:44] Zach White: I can relate to that so much. And not just in the context of coaching and therapy mm-hmm , but in engineering as well. Sometimes my, my own intelligence and what I know. And for those listening, you can’t see I’m doing the air quotes. Like what I know already really blocked me in my career at times, from being able to see a situation.

[00:08:07] with a fresh set of eyes or, or really move through it. It helps to have that third party or that, person to ask you questions mm-hmm and point out things that you can’t see. And so when in the journey Lily did this, mountain climbing expedition happen was this, after those events you just described and the kind of awareness of this idea that pain has so much potential for growth, I 

[00:08:31] Lilly Rachels: would say it was kind of smack dab in the middle of it.

[00:08:34] Um, the whole, the process of separation divorce for me took about a year and it was right in the middle. And it was at that point that I really, had kind of that I would say download realization for myself, I dove into my growth and like, I quit watching TV for a period of time. And I only read books.

[00:08:55] Like that’s what I did at night. And I focused on how I wanted to feel and what I wanted. And. I just started cutting out the noise. Like I decided I was like, you know what, I’m not going out. I’m not drinking alcohol. Like, I’m just really gonna dive into me as a person and just, not just upleveling, but like becoming a better person and like areas of my life that, you know, it’s with any relationship ending, it’s like, there’s two people, so there’s two problems.

[00:09:22] Right. And it was like, what can I do so that I don’t repeat this again in life. 

[00:09:28] Zach White: Wow. So then let’s unpack what it means. I mean, I’m, I’m so engaged in this sentence because I think it’s really powerful, but I wanna hear your heart behind it and how this comes to life. So pain has the potential to produce more growth than happiness ever.

[00:09:44] Could we are all. At least, the engineering leader listening to this and you and I like, we want growth. We want to grow. And I believe personally that that’s an intrinsic desire inside of healthy humans. Like we, we desire growth. That’s innate inside of us. I don’t know if you would agree with that statement or not, but that’s something I believe.

[00:10:03] And so it’s easy for me to take this and conclude if I’m being very logical. If the engineering comes out, that if I, what I want is growth, therefore I would rather have pain than happiness because pain produces more growth, but I don’t like that idea. that doesn’t feel good. I don’t like that idea either.

[00:10:24] And so like help us understand what does it mean? How does this come to life and how do we apply this principle into. Our day to day, just sort of unpack it for us. 

[00:10:35] Lilly Rachels: Well, first I would say that, no, I don’t think we should go out just looking for pain. That’s not my philosophy at all. I actually, my natural tendency is to avoid the pain so that I can feel the, the good feelings, 

[00:10:49] but the part about like, when I say like pain produces growth it’s because when we’re happy, like when you’re happy you’re content and when you’re content, you’re not typically trying to change anything when everything is just going well or good. That’s normally when we fall off the wagon with like, are we still reading those books?

[00:11:10] Are we still leaning into our, maybe our spiritual side are we going to the gym and working out, or are we getting a little bit complacent and that just happiness and the kind of the flat line of life, so to speak. And then when something happens, like maybe it’s a death or a loss of some kind, it could be a job loss.

[00:11:32] Requires us to change in some way. there’s a lot of times in life where we don’t really have a choice. It’s like, I can’t really go on the way I was because this thing has ended. So that’s why I say pain us the potential to produce growth because once a painful point happens, we we’re kind of forced to take action in one way or another.

[00:11:52] And that’s where I really see it as this catalyst to our growth, because when something happens, it’s again, when we’re happy, it’s kind of harder to get us going sometimes to be like, oh yeah, like I should, um, go by that book and read that and take that course or do that thing. You’re like, oh no, I’m happy.

[00:12:09] I’m good right now in life. But when pain happens, it’s like, oh no, what am I gonna do? I’ve gotta find something. And so I find that pain pushes us. 

[00:12:18] Zach White: Yeah. Would you say, from the coaching and the work that you do now and, having the therapy background, is this an automatic response to pain?

[00:12:28] Or is there something that has to be true inside of us to get the growth response from pain rather than, spiraling into a depression or a negative state that we don’t come out of? 

[00:12:40] I would say this is not, the natural response now, maybe someone that, has more of a growth mindset and like you said, they’re already like on that growth journey might see it that way.

[00:12:51] Lilly Rachels: But I know for myself it is something I have to choose. so in 20 end of 2020, my mom died very unexpectedly. And last year I found myself back, to my natural tendency, which is to, oh, I wanna avoid the pain. I don’t wanna think about it. I just wanna be okay. And it took me several months to get to the point where I was.

[00:13:15] Oh, no, I need to lean into this. I need to feel this and I need to see what I can learn from this. So it’s not a natural tendency that we’re just, you know, innately, born with most of the time when something happens again, we’re forced to take action, but a lot of times that action could be like negative coping mechanisms or avoiding what we’re having to go through and running away or running towards something that appears to be, better.

[00:13:40] Zach White: So I was writing a note and right in the middle of it, you said something extremely important. you said in 2020, your mom suddenly passed away. Mm-hmm she had a brain aneurysm and totally unexpected, like not very unexpected. Oh, wow. I mean, Lilly I’m so sorry, just to acknowledge the, the pain. I feel pain in that moment.

[00:14:00] Thank you. Just hearing that. It’s interesting to me then here you’re, you’re an expert in this kind of work and helping other people through grief and pain. and even then you said months passed before it triggered in you like mm-hmm I need to make that new choice. Was there something that, happened that pulled you from that place of being in the grief and avoiding pain to the choice that you just mentioned?

[00:14:29] Is there anything you can think of that led to that? Or just time? What would you say? 

[00:14:35] Lilly Rachels: for me it was, I think I decided, and I I’ve done this prior in life when I’ve gone through a loss. I decide that I’m okay before I actually am. It’s like I don’t give my heart time to catch up with my head.

[00:14:51] And so I remember shortly after she passed, I was like, you know what, I understand that this happened, I know the grieving process, which is never a good thing to say. You’re like, I know the process. So I think I can think my way out of it. And so for me, I felt. In that moment. I remember it’s almost like I felt I could outsmart my grief.

[00:15:11] You know, I was like, I, I know what’s gonna happen. I’m gonna feel sad and denial and anger and depress. It’s like all these things, right. I like, I know what I’m gonna feel. So I’ll just fast track my way through it. and what that ended up looking like was over the last summer, I loved to travel. So I traveled a lot and I thought I was fine because I was away from everything.

[00:15:31] And even friends of mine would be like, oh, you seem like you’re doing so great. And on the inside, I think I knew like I’m not okay. Like I still, I’m really sad. And for me, that point of realization was when I got home at the end of the summer. And I was still for the first time and I wasn’t distracting myself with fun or anything activities, but I was actually just home and I was working and it was just like, All the weight came back that I’d been running away from.

[00:16:01] It was like the grief had been there the whole time. I’d just been kind of holding it back a little bit with enough distraction that as soon as I found stillness, I realized I was like, oh, okay. I have work to do 

[00:16:15] Zach White: Lily. You’re speaking my language as an engineer, this being in your head. And I know the process, I know the five stages of grief.

[00:16:25] I know how this plays out and I can intellectualize anything. Yeah. Even today as a coach and having done all the work that I’ve done to, build emotional mastery and get into my heart and soul more now than ever before, I still have that default setting of being in my head. And mm-hmm . So can you speak to that a little bit?

[00:16:49] how can we improve in. becoming aware that that that’s what’s happening, you know, mm-hmm, here. I am stuck in my head and dropping into that heart and soul part of us. What’s what’s the way, how do we start to actually be in a different mode? 

[00:17:08] our minds like to take over, we like to, and not everyone, but I would say engineers probably fall more into this bucket where it’s like that logical thinking process where we’re like, okay, I’m gonna reason with this.

[00:17:21] I think of it as getting pulled out of our body. Like our brain is just on, like, I’m in charge. We’re gonna, we’re gonna think through our process, we’re gonna deal with this. As we would X, Y, Z, and we get disconnected from our body. So I think one of the best things to do is to get grounded.

[00:17:38] Lilly Rachels: And I mean, like physically back into your body, I’m a big proponent of yoga or. Even earthing. It’s where you like, go outside, take your shoes off, put your, feet on the planet and breathing and getting back to breath. I don’t know if you meditate or anything, but it’s finding that stillness so that we can get back into our body and give our heart an opportunity to catch up with our head.

[00:18:02] Zach White: Yeah, this is powerful. And I, I do have those practices in my life now, but I definitely did not before I became a coach. And when I was an engineering leader, so back up five years ago, if you had said all the things you just said, I would’ve thought to myself, what is this flower child talking about? Yeah.

[00:18:21] You’re like, this sounds crazy. Yeah. Your name is Lily for a reason. yeah. Okay. So, so let’s go ahead and unpack it a bit, cuz I can imagine the engineering leader, listening to this may be curious, but may not have the level of connection to these ideas that mm-hmm that you and I have. So let’s get specific, 

[00:18:37] Take my situation, I’m going through X, Y, Z really challenging thing. And I’m, I’m in my head and I can tell, and I, become aware of that. And I wanna take an action to shift. what’s a specific example, maybe the earthing thing you described, like walk us through it. What would you do? Or how would you coach me to, to work through that?

[00:18:58] Yeah. 

[00:18:58] Lilly Rachels: So if, if none of those things were in your practice, I would see how that might feel a little woo, woo. To some people. So the first thing that I would actually start with is just finding some time alone, getting out a piece of paper and starting to write down, start with like the facts what’s going on in your life, but then asking yourself, what am I feeling?

[00:19:22] And just starting there, like just a simple question, like, well, what am I feeling? And if it’s like, I feel sad. It’s like, why do I feel sad in the next span? I feel sad because this happened. well, why? And like, to keep digging deeper in the whys and what you’re doing is you’re just making yourself kind of explore deeper into your feeling and your emotion, instead of just thinking through it.

[00:19:44] And also getting things on paper can be very cathartic. So I, I would start there, but the stillness and taking some deep breaths before you do this practice, because it helps us get into our parasympathetic nervous system and helps us drop back down into our body and get out of that fight or flight.

[00:20:02] Zach White: I like the simplicity of that. Any engineer can grab a piece of paper and just start writing about what’s going on in our head. First, if you need to clear that piece and then ask the questions, get curious about what’s going on in your heart, what are the emotions and the feelings you’re experiencing and, digging below the surface.

[00:20:21] So yeah, there you go. If anybody listening needs a place to begin, there’s a simple exercise and. There’s something about what you described. I wanna highlight, because I think it’s really controversial, especially the way that emotional intelligence is taught. Mm-hmm you mentioned about the choice that you’re making a choice and I’ve heard you say before, you know, that you choose the way you feel mm-hmm would you unpack that?

[00:20:49] what makes you say that we have a choice over the way that we feel and experience life versus this is happening to me by these external circumstances. in therapy. We’ll talk a lot about an internal or an external locus of control. So I like to think of it as if there’s a circle and a marble on the inside.

[00:21:11] Lilly Rachels: You’re the marble and the circle is everything around you. And an external locus of control would be, if everything in that circle got to decide how you felt. So your boss, your wife, your kids are all pushing and pulling your emotions. So if you live with an external locus of control, then it’s gonna be very true for you, that other people have a lot of effect in the world and everything around you has a lot of effect over how you feel.

[00:21:43] with an internal locus of control. That’s where we take responsibility and ownership of how we feel and decide that it’s like, I actually don’t have to feel that way. Like my, my child can throw a tantrum in the grocery store and it doesn’t make me angry. Like anger is the emotion I go with, but I’m the one that has control over that.

[00:22:07] So it’s starting there to be like, okay, so which am I am? Am I living in an external locus of control or an internal locus of control? And then once you identify that if you’re living externally, there are things you can do to start to take that power back. And then that’s where I would say you get to a point where you can choose your emotion.

[00:22:30] Zach White: I’m gonna be the mean devil’s advocate for a moment, do it. I agree with what you just said personally, but I also know for myself and I’m gonna. You know, the situation that you just described it with your mom. And I think my mom’s still living, but when I even imagine if my mom passed away today unexpectedly that external situation’s gonna make me really sad.

[00:22:56] Mm-hmm like, so even though I agree with what you just said, I can, like, I can think of an example at those extremes where like, I don’t think I would be able to make any other choice than to be extremely sad. So can you maybe tell us about what does that mean? Obviously we’re picking something really extreme and maybe that’s an fair question.

[00:23:16] No, I don’t think it’s, but how would you kind of describe how those two things can both be true or just maybe rationalize a bit of what’s going on there? 

[00:23:24] when you think about like, we’ll, we’ll go with that like thing, cuz that hits close to home, right? Yeah. Like, yes, absolutely. And I would say because it’s.

[00:23:34] Lilly Rachels: You are in control of you, right? you get to decide what Zach does today, tomorrow. those are your choices, but we give and power might not be the right word, but we give influence and love to other people. And so in terms of your relationship with your mom, you have a lot of stock in that. that’s a special relationship to you.

[00:23:55] And so you’re allowing that person to have influence over your life so that if, if you lose your mom, absolutely. You’re, it’s gonna be heart wrenching. Mm-hmm and that’s healthy. so when it comes to those things, That’s more of a choice though, still where it’s like, I’ve allowed this person to stay in my life, have a part of my life and have an effect over me where someone could also argue that if they don’t have a great relationship with their mom, they might have decided that I don’t talk to my mom anymore.

[00:24:26] She’s not in my life and has nothing to do with it. Therefore, if that event happened, I’m shut off from that. Does that make 

[00:24:32] Zach White: sense? Yeah. So that’s actually an interesting distinction. What’s the difference between an external locus of control mm-hmm versus a choice that I have made consciously or subconsciously by investing my heart, my energy, my time, my love, my values into a relationship in this case, my mom, and by doing that, that continual choice to maintain that connection and give her that special place of my heart leads to the fact that yeah, if I lose her.

[00:25:06] I will feel incredibly sad and heart wrenching, but that was still a choice that I made by giving her that special place. And in a way it’s like, it’s a risk. We all take to love people is that then mm-hmm if we lose them, it’s gonna hurt, but it’s worth it because loving them is, is worth it. How do you distinguish between the choice of giving that love and knowing that there’s a risk of pain?

[00:25:30] If something happens from an external locus of control, how are those different? Yeah, 

[00:25:35] Lilly Rachels: one thing I would say is it’s the self-awareness it’s not only knowing you have a choice, but being more. Deliberate it’s um, like when we fall in love with someone like, you know, some people might just jump into love, fall in love and be like, oh, I don’t know what I’m feeling.

[00:25:53] It feels good. It feels bad. And then other people have a realization that, you know, what I’m investing in this person and trusting them. And I know that they could hurt me because I’m being vulnerable with them, but I’m, choosing it. I’m not just like, willy-nilly just kind of letting myself go. So it really, I think it comes back to a level of self-awareness about you and your life.

[00:26:17] Zach White: Hmm. This is really interesting. I did not expect our conversation. I didn’t either this place and I’m really intrigued by it. And it, it unlocks a lot of the different things in terms of what types of choices am I making. And again, I, I do think some of them are subconscious. Like we’re not aware. That we’re making that, choice.

[00:26:37] Mm-hmm, , uh, it’s just a habit. It’s a pattern or it’s the way we were taught. And I’m, I’m already thinking of different places like, wow, I wonder where else I’ve given away that authority or that power, you know, I think you mentioned earlier where maybe I didn’t want to, and now it’s affecting me and I’m blaming them or the situation instead of realizing, well, that was my choice to give that person or situation authority and control in my life.

[00:27:03] Interesting Lilly. I like this . 

[00:27:05] Lilly Rachels: Yeah. And I think it comes back to that. It’s like that argument, you know, and someone’s like, you made me mad and they’re like, well, I can’t make you mad. there are two sides of it where it’s like, true. You can’t make me mad. You’re not physically threatened. Need me harm if I.

[00:27:21] Choose to be angry at you, but I have given you a certain level of, importance in my life. And with that, comes like a physiological connection to you in a way where it’s like, yeah, like your actions, like, for instance, like if you say something mean to your wife, and she gets upset, that’s not on her for like, well, why’d you get upset.

[00:27:41] It’s like, you guys have a deep, like, both have very important roles in each other’s life. And with that is power. Like it, you’re giving away power over it. And with the external locus of control, it’s where we’re giving away all of our power and we’re taking no responsibility for our feelings.

[00:27:57] We’re just like, all of our power is dished out. We’re not really taking any responsibility for our life. And so we’re being pulled around by everything. 

[00:28:07] Zach White: Yeah. Got it. So then. Let’s talk about how grief becomes growth. Mm-hmm what is that transformation? if anybody listening to this, maybe they’re going through something that’s very grieving or painful right now, or they’ve been there in the past, and maybe they’re still an opportunity to grow from it.

[00:28:27] But as you coach people through this now and what you’ve experienced in your own life, what is that roadmap or that process, and catch. If I’m getting too, like, into my head with it, please, you know, take us another direction, but what does that look like? Lilly? How do we turn grief into growth?

[00:28:44] the 

[00:28:45] Lilly Rachels: first step is to actually let ourselves feel it and not try to avoid it or kind of step it down. I know a lot of people that we like to suppress our grief and just pretend it didn’t happen. But in order to grow from something that’s happened in your life, you’ve gotta let those emotions come up and feel them like it’s okay.

[00:29:07] That you’re feeling angry. That you’re feeling sad, that you’re confused and when I coach people, it’s through a process of like, let that emotion come and don’t try to change it. Just notice it, be aware of it. if you’re angry, like, okay, you’re angry. let yourself be angry. Don’t try to just be like, I shouldn’t be angry.

[00:29:27] I’m not angry. I love that person. I’m not angry at them. that’s a bad feeling. It’s like, no, like first let all of that stuff come up for you. Mm. So I would say that’s. The first journey. I like to think of it as going through grief is it’s like climbing a mountain we could do it where we hold onto everything.

[00:29:47] So like, I’m feeling angry, that’s a rock I’m gonna pick up. I’m feeling sad. That’s a rock I’m gonna pick up. And we keep like, trying to hold onto all these things and not feel them. We’re gonna just put ’em in our backpack, forget about ’em, but I still feel it. And as you’re walking up the hill, that’s gonna get really heavy and really tiring.

[00:30:04] when I say like, feel your emotions. It’s almost like, oh, there’s that rock of anger. I’m gonna sit down here for a second and I’m just, I’m gonna feel it until it goes away and then I’m gonna get up and I’m gonna keep moving forward. 

[00:30:21] Zach White: Hmm. I like that picture, climbing the mountain and you, you trip over the rock of anger instead of picking it up and carrying it in your backpack, the rest of the journey, let’s just stop and hold it here until it dissipates and then keep going.

[00:30:37] that’s really good. I’m tempted to pause on this and say like, well, how do we do that? Like, what does that, but I, I mean, that’s the engineer and me of wanting to get into it. And I think that’s a great reason for someone to reach out to you for coaching. If it doesn’t make sense how to do that, then, then contact Lily and get some help.

[00:30:55] Zach White: But, okay. So if that step one is allow yourself to feel, it don’t feel like you need to force it or change it, just be with it. Then where do we go from there? Is that a long process we’re talking years? Is this a one, like a single session of coaching? Like where does it. Go from there. 

[00:31:12] Lilly Rachels: So to give you another visual, I think of grief as I like envision my heart, like not my, anatomical heart, like the shape of a heart and it’s like water.

[00:31:25] when something has happened, maybe you’ve lost someone. It can feel like a raging river coming through you. Those are all the feelings and all the emotions. And when we suppress them and decide not to feel them, it’s like, we’re just, we’re damning up the stream. And then we start to drown and become overwhelmed by what we’re dealing with.

[00:31:45] Lilly Rachels: But when we break that down and we let it flow over time, the water recedes and it gets lower. But the thing about loss and sadness especially when someone dies. I don’t believe it ever truly goes away. there’s not a point where it’s like, okay, one year from now, Zach, you’re gonna feel fine about this.

[00:32:03] Like it’s not like that. Yeah. No more grief you’re done. You’ve done your time. You’re at a grief jail. No, it’s, it’s more like a Creek and maybe it’s just a trickle of water and you don’t notice it cuz you’re not drowning in it. You’re not even really stepping it every single day of your life, but there’s still an underlying sadness.

[00:32:22] That’s there because there was a great amount of love that’s now lost. And so the sadness is just proof of that love that was there. And that little stream is there. So when people are like, okay, so what’s next? Like how do I get through it? It’s like you get through the white caps of the ocean like that water, but we’re never going to reach this pinnacle of like, I am fine.

[00:32:45] I feel nothing towards what happened, you know? Does 

[00:32:48] Zach White: that make sense? 100%. I know in my life story that that is true. And I imagine that engineering leader out there hearing you say it probably is nodding along with us as well. Like yeah. Like I get it. So feel it step one. Where else do you go in terms of coaching people, how to turn grief into growth then?

[00:33:09] Lilly Rachels: So after we get started with, feeling it, which when I work with people, we do a lot also, unpacking your past to kind of see why say that particular event is causing you the pain that it’s causing you. Because I think a lot of the time it has to do with our childhood and how we grew up in those things.

[00:33:29] So if I’m working with someone, we do a large piece on unpacking the past to understand our present. So once we do that, I have a lot more information on you. I give them practices to do. Um, one is welcoming prayer, which is, it’s essentially a meditation. And if you guys Google that it’ll come up to where it’s kind of what to do when the feelings and emotions arise within us.

[00:33:56] how to sit with that, how to breathe through it and just let it be. And then we really shift to working on mindset. And again, it’s back to that choosing the way I wanna feel like I’ll have people write down, like, what is it you want? Like, we know where you are. We’ve identified that, but what do you wanna feel?

[00:34:14] Lilly Rachels: And then let’s work towards that every day in the form of a gratitude practice is a big thing for me and writing down small micro goals or little wins. So if someone’s very, and I’m giving you a lot, , if someone’s really deep, that’s awesome. In, in grief, maybe they’ve had a loss, we’ll start off making like one micro goal to do each day.

[00:34:37] And honestly it might be like, you’re gonna get up and wash your face. Like you’re gonna take care of yourself in some way. And then once you make that a habit, it’s like, all right, our next step is to add something else in and then something else in. And it’s just slowly building why you have time to let that river like go down inside of you.

[00:34:56] Does that make 

[00:34:56] Zach White: sense? It does. It does. So feel it don’t dam up the river, let it flow and then begin some disciplines, some practices mm-hmm around. How we show up to this, when it shows up to us mindset, et cetera, I love it. What, what else are there any other, stages or things to consider in really when it becomes something that takes us to the next level in life?

[00:35:22] Is, is it just when you do these practices? You know, one day you you’d notice the difference and you’re sort of like, wow, I can’t believe it. Or what else, Lily, what do we need to be thinking about in the practice? 

[00:35:33] Lilly Rachels: Yeah, so absolutely like it’s, there’s no set amount of time, which makes this work kind of hard, cuz it’s not like six weeks will be grief free.

[00:35:41] I wish it worked that way, but it, it doesn’t like it’s, it’s good marketing at least. Yeah. I know. Right. Six weeks and no more pain. You won’t miss them anymore. Yeah, I, that would be awesome. That’s so, um, yeah, but it doesn’t work that way. Right. And so, because it takes time, I like to build a lot of different, like I said, daily practices into your life.

[00:36:04] Lilly Rachels: And then also I call it kind of a looking for the good time, which is where we’re really gonna start calling out when things are like something good does happen because what happens to a lot of people and I dealt with this too, is it’s almost this guilt of like, when am I allowed to smile again? When am I allowed to laugh at something again?

[00:36:22] When is it okay for me to be like, oh, I’m happy without being like, oh wait, no, I shouldn’t be happy yet. And I know there’s a lot of people that struggle with that dichotomy if it’s okay to thrive and grieve at the same time. Right. Because that, can feel messy.

[00:36:37] Zach White: I believe it takes tremendous courage to be happy, truly authentically happy because mm-hmm, , it’s rare in life. I’ve found where there’s nothing driving grief or sadness or pain into your journey. Mm-hmm and I think what you just described is so spot on, we are always intentioned between how I’m supposed to feel because of what’s going on in a particular area.

[00:37:02] And. Being willing to allow good feelings to come in and choosing them to your point. I think that’s really powerful. 

[00:37:09] one other thing I’ll add that if people are looking for markers, I would say, I believe we are pack animals and we’re meant for service. And when we’re able to support someone else that has gone through something similar or has having an experience kind of like ours, that is when you will experience 

[00:37:30] Lilly Rachels: that growth too, because it’s like, you’re able to give out of your pain. And I know in my life, It was easier to hold that the grief that I had because I was able to be like, okay, I can, help someone else with this now, cuz I know how bad this hurts. And I do believe that one of the biggest things that can come from growing through your grief is compassion and learning to have more compassion for other people and cultivating that in your life.

[00:37:59] Because when we know how Rocky life can get, it’s a lot easier to like show other people, grace, around 

[00:38:07] Zach White: us. Brilliant. I love the upward spiral that When you grow, it gives you more. To be able to contribute, we can’t give what we don’t have and growth allows us to contribute and give back.

[00:38:21] And the act of service and giving, I believe feeds right back into growing. I always find myself to your point, you know, being in service of someone, amplifies my own growth through the journey. So it’s like, that’s really good virtuous loop there. I love that. so Lilly what’s making you happy these days.

[00:38:43] Mm 

[00:38:44] Lilly Rachels: what’s making me happy these days. Well, the world opening back up more has made me pretty happy. And um, work has made me really happy lately and conversations, just connection with new people. Like it’s, it’s my favorite thing. So I would say. The connection with new people has made me really happy 

[00:39:05] Zach White: lately.

[00:39:06] That’s really cool. And, you know, I caught myself, it was a poorly worded question in the context of what we just talked about. I was just gonna say, I choose to be happy. 

[00:39:15] Lilly Rachels: All the connection people are gonna catch it. Like this is a bunch 

[00:39:17] Zach White: what, wait, what? She doesn’t even know. I thought she just said, um, she was just made happy.

[00:39:22] What a, you know, kind of an important moment there though. I mean, how that question culturally is phrased, you know, that’s a pretty normal way to think about it, but I, I love that. so Lily, thank you for making those choices to pursue happiness in your life right now.

[00:39:35] That’s awesome. Mm-hmm let’s land where I always land the land. I’m excited to hear your perspective, cuz there’s so much power in this conversation, I believe great engineering, just like great coaching has in common that questions lead and the answers follow. So. For the engineering leader who does want to choose happiness and pursue that growth and achievement and success in their life.

[00:40:02] What question would you lead them with today? Hmm, 

[00:40:06] Lilly Rachels: the first question I would have them ask themselves is what is happy for you? Because it’s really hard to achieve something and hit the bullseye. If we can’t see the target. what is happy? What’s your definition of happy? What does that look like?

[00:40:25] And get pretty granular, like again, get that piece of paper and write it down. Like, what does happy look like in your life and in your relationships and, and ask yourself that start there. 

[00:40:36] Zach White: I really like, and it’s a good thing. We just talked about this. what is happy for you? Not what makes you happy? I think that’s a really powerful distinction Lilly.

[00:40:50] And for the engineering leader, I know engineers, we really get into the specifics and definitions and nuance. That’s a really common thing for engineering leaders. So just highlighting that for anybody who’s pursuing this question, notice that distinction and, and really get curious.

[00:41:07] What is happy? Not what makes you happy. Wow. Mm-hmm, , that’s awesome. Lily. I know people are gonna want more from you and, and maybe they feel like they need some support and in an area of grief that they wanna transform into growth. So where can that engineering leader listening? Get in touch with Lily Rachel’s in the amazing work and coaching.

[00:41:27] Lilly Rachels: Well, thank you. the best place would be just my website. It’s my name, Lily 

[00:41:32] Zach White: Brilliant Lily So we’ll make sure there are links to all of the amazing places you can find, Lily, including, you know, her social handles and everything on, the show notes. You can find those where you always do, link there in the show notes and the happy engineer

[00:41:47] And I really can’t speak highly enough about Lily and the work she does. And just in our conversations before we recorded today and watching and seeing the work she’s doing in the world, uh, she’s a real deal. So if you need help in this area, please reach out to her and, get, get that support and turning grief into growth.

[00:42:04] And we all go through grief. So we might as well use it as an opportunity to translate that pain into something that makes progress in our lives. Lily, thank you again so much for making time to be with us today. This has been awesome. 

[00:42:16] Lilly Rachels: Thank you. I appreciate it.