Maybe It's You

Cut the Crap. Face Your Fears. Love Your Life.


By Lauren Handel Zander

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Maybe It’s You picks up where You Are a Badass leaves off — this no-nonsense, practical manual to help readers figure out not just what they want out of life, but how to actually get there.

In Maybe It’s You, life coach Lauren Handel Zander walks readers through the innovative step-by-step process that has transformed the lives of tens of thousands of her clients, and explains how anyone can achieve amazing things when we stop lying and finally start keeping the promises we make to ourselves. Whether readers want to find love, succeed at work, fix a fractured relationship, or lose weight, Zander’s method will offer a road map to finally get there. Filled with practical exercises, inspiring client stories, and Lauren’s own hard-won lessons, this book enables readers to identify, articulate, and account for their own setbacks so they can transform them into strengths.


Warning Label

Okay. So, not only do I curse, I've been known, on occasion (often), to speak my own Yoda-like language, a combination of wise gibberish, Yiddish, and English. Let's call it Giddish. And though I wish I could tell you many heart-wrenching stories of my own triumph over adversity, I don't really have any. Sure, I dealt with shit. (The likes of which you'll hear more than you possibly bargained for in the pages that follow.) But it's not the deep, dark, and ruthless shit that many of you have. I did not rise from the ashes. I rose from Long Island. My stories are not yours. I know that. What I can tell you, though, is that ever since I was little, I have been on a crusade to heal this world.

As far back as I can remember, I have been up in everybody's faces, a pain in people's asses about their lives and their dreams. I've held my parents to account, inspired my siblings to grow up, and cleaned up every last lie I ever told. I've done every step of this method on myself and have handheld the addicted, the abused, the mean, and the meek—and dared them to do the same. I have helped the lost find their way, and the great to grow.

So, although there is no phoenix here, there is, nonetheless, a fierce, stubborn, wildly insightful, arrogantly honest, crazily committed, and caring human, who will take the heat, the brunt of whatever silver spoon joke you may have, so I can help you have everything you want in your life.

And I mean everything.

(Don't Skip This) Introduction

The Concession Stand


Look. Let's be honest here. If you're looking for niceties, tissues, and sympathy, you've come to the wrong place. I'm not that girl. This is not that book.

But maybe you're fed up. You're hoping this is the last self-help book your self will ever need. You're more than ready, willing, (a mite masochistic) and able.

You've come to the right place.

Truth is, we're not happy campers, but we so want to be. We're buying all the books. We're watching all the shows. We're on all the diets. But still, lasting change is not happening.

What's up with that?

What I've found is that no one is really asking the right questions. No one is really teaching us how to live a life worth living. We are all so busy just reacting to life, so inundated with learning about Christopher Columbus, reading seven hundred books we're going to forget, getting into college, paying off college, and achieving all of our goals that we're not really designing our dream life at all. We're so much greater and more capable than this, except we're not breaking into our own life and discovering our real voice, our real truth, and our real ability to live a life we care so much more about than the one we're seemingly stuck in.

This book is the beginning of f*ck that (a technical term).

There truly is a before and an after to reading this book. Thank you (ridiculously, in advance) for being the type of human who wants a life you believe in, but aren't necessarily in, yet. I promise you, if you really dig into this book, read the stories, and do all of the work, your life will never be the same. I will have bitten you.

How'd I get bit?

Please take a moment and reread the warning label at the beginning of this book. In particular, see: no hellfires here.

The summer before my second sophomore year of college,* I went to Israel. The big deal of this summer adventure was not so much that I, a Jew, was going to the promised land (we do that), but that I was going there on my own dime, and was, for the first time in my life, going somewhere alone, with zero plans.

I landed in the most gorgeous, most unhip, un-happening kibbutz ever, where there were very few (about two) people who spoke English. The English speaker I befriended was this deep, smart, but overwhelmingly sad man. He was in a relationship with an older woman from the kibbutz who was separated from her city-dwelling husband but was neither planning on divorcing him nor telling him (or many other people in her life) about her new relationship.

See: reason for sad.

He and I were close. I knew every last thing about him and he, me. He was so miserable in his own love story, but had so much compassion for his girlfriend's plight and bought every last one of her excuses that I spent a lot of time arguing with him and fighting harder for his happiness than he. He looked at me like I was a criminal for wanting to change the world, let alone him.

He believed, in no uncertain terms, that you don't get in the world's way.

Meanwhile, I was deeply happy on the kibbutz. I had my routine down and I loved it. I woke up early. Cooked for the entire place. Napped. Read Carlos Castaneda. Listened to my four cassettes: Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Rickie Lee Jones, Cat Stevens, and The The. Ran. And pressed repeat.

One day, as I was walking to the volunteer quarters for my nap, I heard something that sounded like, "Look in the bushes, Lauren, right now." And though I certainly heard it—whatever it was (a thought? an internal voice? God/Morgan Freeman?), I, in no uncertain terms, ignored it.

But then I heard "it" again.

And I remember thinking, what the f*ck, Lauren, just listen to yourself. So I did. And in the bushes were two baby birds, without their mother.

I proceeded to wig out.

Not just because of the birding bush moment (and/or the stroke I may have just had), but because I had no idea what to do with the birds. There was no nest. So, I did the only thing I could think of doing—I ran back to the kitchen for help. And whom do I run into? Who else?

The sad, complacent man.

Yes. I asked a fatalist what I should do.

He looked at me like I was the same naive, wide-eyed idealist I always was. "Leave them alone, Lauren. It's fine," he said. Argh. Except, maybe this time he was right. I mean, I knew if I took the birds and they died, I'd feel more responsible for their death than had I left them where I found them.

I went back to my room. I couldn't rest; I was too busy debating with myself. Forty-five minutes passed before I growled, grumbled, and got the eff up to go save the birds. When I got there (and I knew exactly where there was), one of the birds was gone, perhaps it had flown away, while the other was gone too (only, in the dead sense).

In that moment, I had my own revelation.

I knew that I would never ever call that shot again. I would never let my own fear or worry over an outcome or another person's point of view get in the way of my doing the right thing. I had the capacity in that instance that many other creatures don't—to save another, and I blew it. I chickened out. I made a vow right then and there to live to cause change and never leave anyone behind. If I could do something about it, I should.

The only problem was that I was now in an even bigger quandary.

I was faced with the fact that at home my life was a secret-keeping shit show of examples of things I didn't respect or do anything about, myself included. I went home to New York and blew up everything that needed blowing up: friendships, boyfriends, and, yes, a future divorce. When a dear friend asked me if he should marry my best friend, who I knew was cheating on him, I told him only if he found out what she wasn't telling him.

It went as well as you can imagine.

Reckless of me? Sure. Hey, I was new at this vow. There were bound to be some ruffled feathers, roadkill, and many apologies I would owe in my near future. This was the beginning of the end of all the lies in my life, the end of my being fake, and of holding back.

I became me.

I used my transferring to George Washington University as the opportunity it was to abandon ship, start over, and hunt for a whole new community of friends. I was free, happy, and proud in every area of my life, save one.

I couldn't find love (or even get laid) for the life of me.

I was inexplicably benched for the year. Even when it looked like my luck had changed on Halloween, when I was dressed in my best who-gives-a-crap catsuit and hat and got picked up by one of GW's hottest soccer superstars, I got dumped the very next day by him for being Jewish. It was all so odd. Clearly, I was getting dinged for something. I just couldn't figure out for what.

Then I got the memo—my own (and soon, yours).

Unless I designed what I truly and deeply wanted in every area of my life—in this case, my dream when it came to love—I was stuck in a purgatory of sorts; stuck in default, in a reaction to my past, instead of a new and true to my own ideal's design.

The only way out of my purgatory was by breaking into my own life.

I spent the next twenty-five years rewiring myself and creating, evolving, testing, and proving The Handel Method, a step-by-step coaching process that addresses one's entire life and is the basis for this book. The method has changed the lives of tens of thousands of private and corporate clients. It teaches people how to dream, how to realize every last one of their dreams, and how to clean out their closets (literal and figurative), so they can have lives that they're wildly proud of.

In 2005, I met and coached David Mindell, who was not only an esteemed professor at MIT, but was also on the task force assigned to rethink MIT's core curriculum. David was so blown away by his coaching experience that he walked the methodology right into MIT.

A year later, David and I were teaching a three-day pilot course to fifteen students based on The Handel Method. The course, now called "Design Your Life," proved such a success that by 2006, we taught sixty more undergrads, grads, postdocs, alumni, and faculty. Students described the course as "life changing" and "one of the most valuable classes they had ever taken." A full 93.2 percent of them stated that they would recommend the course to others, with many others noting that they wished their family or coworkers could take it as well.

As you can imagine, these MIT students weren't the easiest of "clients," but, without a doubt, were some of the smartest. This is what one chemical engineering student said about the course:

Before taking "Design Your Life," I always considered myself to be someone who told the truth. I hated lying to people, and prided myself in my ability to be honest. What this class did for me was show me that it is just as important to be honest with *yourself* as it is to other people… I now feel like I am steering the ship, instead of just being along for the ride. The feeling is incredibly empowering, and makes me know that I truly can be active in planning out my life.

Ten years (and more than five hundred MIT students) later, the course is a beloved tradition among the university's students. And we didn't stop with the kids at that one campus—the "Design Your Life" course has been integrated into thirty-five other educational programs, universities, and institutes of learning across the country, including Stanford Graduate School of Business, Stanford University School of Medicine, NYU, Columbia University, Yale School of Drama, Wesleyan University, and the New York City public school system. We are teaching "Design Your Life" in middle schools, high schools, residence halls, and postdoctoral programs, as well as to teachers, faculty members, and administrators all around North America.

How many life coaches can tout that? Not to mention potty-mouthed ones who wear ripped jeans and feathers in their hair?!

I remember thinking forever ago, if I had the gumption to head straight into the schools and teach kids real-life education—how to dream, how to tell the truth, how to be in a relationship, how to forgive their parents and love their siblings, no matter what—wouldn't that make the greatest difference in the world?

Answer: yes.

So here I am. Staying steadfast and true to the promise I made back in the promised land—my, uh, bird calling. I've had maybe one other moment in my life where something came to me and spoke to me that was me. It's a voice I hardly ever get to hear.

But trust me, I now trust me—and listen.

Although I wish I could say that the coaching in this book has never before been spewed, it's not so. However, what I can claim with certainty is that what sets The Handel Method apart is how I, with honesty, balls, and a profound understanding of humanity's predicament, will dig deep to your very core.

The Handel Method works because it's not an idea or a philosophy or a concept or a "way of thinking," like other programs. Instead, The Handel Method is just what it sounds like—a method. It has clear, organized steps to follow. The structure and format of Maybe It's You is broken down into ten coaching sessions, and at the end of each chapter you will be given written assignments designed to address the areas in your life that matter most to you. Throughout the book, I'll also share four of my clients' inspiring stories of change and assignments they did with me to help you with yours.

Some of the assignments in here are indeed doozies (a military term).

Keep breathing, roll up your sleeves, and yes, feel free to figure out what to secretly name the computer file where you'll stash them. Hell, call it something no one would ever consider opening, like "Dental Records: 1998–2010." Or maybe, you're the old-school type and prefer to handwrite your assignments and would rather buy a bound journal (in the lock-and-key sense) in which to secretly write out your responses, indecipherably. Either way, do what works for you. Just remind yourself, if you're the type that needs an honest but swift kick—your old way of doing things is what got you here.

I'm not going to lie. Maybe It's You isn't easy. You and I are going on a ride, a road trip, of sorts. You're going to drive, because who else should, while I call shotgun, bark, and point. Yes, I'm that kind of GPS lady. But where I'm taking you, if you're willing to go, is where your happiness resides.

Are you coming?

I dare you. But think about it. I'm not prescribing ten years of therapy to get you there. I'm offering you ten sessions based on twenty years of work I've already done and 22,000 guinea pigs before you.

Hey, it could be worse. You could have been my very first client…*


You Must Be Dreaming

Designing the Life You Want


Inside each of us is our ideal life: our true north.

But what happens as we get further along in our journey? We lose sight of where we're going and how we want to get there. We get distracted—by a crazy job, or a health crisis, or a new kid, or a divorce, or a Netflix series, or one of countless other bumps in the road. And slowly, bit by bit, we find ourselves veering off course or never even calling our course.

In Maybe It's You, you and I are going to course correct—we're going to ride full throttle toward those ideals. And we're not just racing toward one or two of your deepest desires—we're gunning for all of them. Buckle up. I call shotgun. You drive, while I bark* directions at you so doggedly, so much more invested in your dreams than you are, that you can't help but release the autopilot button you didn't even know you pressed long ago.

If we're not the one driving our dreams forward, who is? If we don't figure out how to change jobs, eat healthily, date, fall and stay in love, who will come and save us? No one. But, then again, no one should, right? They are, after all, our dreams. There's an incredible amount of pride that comes from taking hold of the steering wheel, confronting what's between you and what you deeply wish your life looked like.


Before I begin, let's meet some of the clients I've worked with over the years who will be joining us on the ride. Each of them came to me with very different issues, and each has generously agreed to contribute their stories and assignments out of gratitude. Their names and certain specificities have been changed—except for Katie, who, in honor of giving up ever hiding in her life again, asked me to use her real name and details.

Donna (age forty-five)—is a loving, stay-at-home Chicago mother of three, disgruntled wife of one, but no one would have known that Donna was actually upset, except her stomach. Donna has irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a chronic inflammatory bowel disorder. So, although Donna pretended to be completely happy to the outside world, her stomach didn't. With IBS, Donna was full of shit, literally, on the inside too.

Stephanie (age forty)—is a hip, smart, successful businesswoman who had it all—a great career, a good salary, a solid retirement plan, an awesome apartment in Manhattan, a ton of friends and yet, for some reason, she was still sad. But what else could Stephanie possibly want or need? How about love, the ovaries of a thirty-year-old, colleagues she didn't loathe, and a different mother.

Ethan (age thirty-five)—is an all-around good guy from Connecticut. You know the kind: kind. He's a great dad, a loyal husband, and a hard worker. Sure, he watches a little porn (but feels really guilty about it) and is a tad self-deprecating. You would be too, if you had a bipolar mom, a biological dad you've never met, a boss from hell, and a hot wife who is cold.

Katie (age thirty-eight)—is a screenwriter from Los Angeles, whose first film, The Perfect Man, starred Heather Locklear and Hilary Duff and premiered in the summer of 2005. Sadly, the film never got as big as Katie. At the premiere, Katie weighed 265 pounds. Her husband said he didn't mind. But that wasn't his only lie. He was gay. Katie was now in the middle of a bitter divorce, hiding out in her sister's guesthouse in Palo Alto, drinking Jägermeister.

Barking direction #1: Find yourself in these great people. They are you. As you read their stories, it might not be easy to fully relate or see your exact self in them. Word to the wise: Search out how your life mimics theirs, even if it has a slightly different flavor. The following, for example, may be truer for you:

You're in a marriage you completely adore, with great kids, but you haven't been in the body you want since your baby was born.

Or maybe,

You, like Stephanie, are single. And, though you don't live in New York City like she does, you think even the Big Apple sounds like a better dating pool than the dried piece of fruit that represents your state.

Or maybe,

Like Ethan, you're in a job you don't wholly love, but the salary is good, and you've, oh, I don't know, become kind of dependent on food, your 401(k), and health insurance.

Or maybe,

Though your spouse is more than likely not gay like Katie's, you cannot remember the last time (six weeks, four days, seven hours) you got any action.

You get the idea. I implore, beg, bark, or whatever works for you to find yourself in one of them or, what the heck, all of them. Barking direction #2: Trust me. Over the course of the next several pages, I'm going to walk you through the beginning of this process, showing you how each of these people started to identify what they wanted to change about themselves—and how they began to put that change into action.

Then, at a certain point, I'm going to turn the tables and make you actually tackle some of this same work yourself. Hang in there with me. I'll be there with you, every step of the way.


The first assignment I give each and every client is to dream.

Are you rolling your eyes already? Perhaps this would be a good time to make use of the Lamaze breathing technique none of us ever did and exhale, repeatedly—because this assignment gets worse before it gets better.

I'm going to not only ask you to write down your deepest desires, which most of us are already resistant to doing in the first place, but I will also have you write dreams in twelve different areas of your life—from your body to your love life to your career to areas you possibly haven't thought about in years, like fun, adventure, and spirituality.

Believe me, I get it.

Most of us don't allow ourselves to dream much anymore. Okay. Maybe for a few minutes, after we buy a lottery ticket. But dream and be specific about what we want in twelve different areas? On paper? I mean, how often are we asked this? Answer: never.

We didn't always suck at dreaming, right?

If I asked you (and I will) what your dream body looks and feels like, or what your dream community is like, you'd be mystified. More than likely, you'd only be able to tell me what you don't want versus what would actually make you giddy. And that's because, at some point, we all stopped dreaming. Either someone told us it was time to get realistic and grow up, or we got hurt or disappointed, put our marbles away, and quit playing. Then, as we got older, we decided it was way smarter to want what we can get rather than what we deeply desire.

In other words, we sold out.

But, question for you: What's the order of it? Do you think we stop dreaming and then sell out? Or did we stop dreaming because we sold out? Or did we sell out so we didn't have to keep dreaming?

The ease at which we're all tolerating what isn't working in our lives is fairly impressive. But here's the thing: If we stay stuck in the premise that we made our beds and now have to lie in them, do we ever have to be fully responsible for causing the change we deeply desire?

What if admitting we have a dream forces us to deal head-on with the gap between what we want and what we currently have?

Dreaming wakes us up to ourselves. It gets us in the right fight. It acts as our own internal GPS, allowing us to see where we want to go, all the while showing us the "traffic" that's in our way. Real happiness comes from knowing that you are giving all of yourself and being great in your whole life—not just one or two areas in your life where most of us prefer to play, but twelve (see chart here).

Are there areas in this chart where you're feeling great about yourself? Are there areas where you are particularly heartbroken?

Unfortunately, those parts of your life where you feel "less than" will find a way to infiltrate every part of your existence, undermining even the areas of your world that seem to be going just great. If you're not fully proud of your body, doesn't that somehow allow you to date underqualified men or women, who are not in the league you wish you were? Does it ever stop you from trying new things or meeting new people? After all, the areas of our lives are all intertwined with one another.

You don't have to be great at math to see that if you sell out in even one area of your life, the average of your entire level of happiness diminishes.

But, never fear, I have some good news for you. Each of us has made a dream happen at some point in our life, either consciously or unconsciously. We quit smoking. We stopped dating unavailable men or women and found the love of our life. We left that horrible job and got a new one. We ran a marathon. We moved to an exciting new city. We've accomplished amazing things in our lives.


How You Feel About Yourself, Personality Traits & Habits

Health, Weight & Appearance

Dating, Marriage, Sex & Romance


Business, Work & School Life

Earnings, Savings & Money Management

Relationship to Time, To-Do's & Time Management

Where You Live, Your Space

Immediate & Extended Family & Parenting

Old & New Friends

Indulgent Time, Vacations & Extracurricular Learning

Participation in Your Community

Think about it.

What dream did you make happen? Do you have that dream in your head right now? Well, that particular achievement is proof that you are able to make a dream happen when you want to. The steps you took to realize that dream make up your blueprint for success now. If you can do it in one area, you can in another, and I'm going to show you how.

How to Dream

The reason we don't know how to even write a dream is because, up until now, we've been living our life not inside of any dreams.


I know. Look, if you decided that, let's say, your dream in the area of BODY was to run (and finish) the New York City Marathon next year, there would be immediate and obvious actions you'd need to start taking right now. They would include researching training steps, buying the right shoes, eating well, hitting the gym and, uh, running. From here on out, any morning that you'd push the snooze button and make excuses as to why not to run, you couldn't help but feel the breach.

You see, you'd be either living inside of your dream and true to it (with the right actions, e.g., running) or not. And because none of us want to acknowledge the gap between our desires and our actions, we wisely and cowardly avoid admitting our dreams altogether.

Until now…

The following are specific tips for writing all twelve of your dreams. Barking direction #3: Don't worry. I will give you enough examples of well-written dreams and not-so-well-written dreams that, I promise, you'll be able to do this yourself.

Be specific. Make sure to be specific and thorough when you paint the picture of your dream. Capture what your dream looks and feels like so that, once you've written it, you can fully visualize it. Your dream should inspire you, give you goose bumps, and even scare you a little. It should be a stretch for you, but not a pipe dream.

Write your dream in the present tense.


  • "Lauren Zander has taught me important lessons required to live a life with the most integrity, the most success, and most importantly--the most fun. My business is killing it, my personal life is the best it's ever been, and my social life is fully loving. Lauren has forced me to face myself over and over again until I am happy."—Miki Agrawal, CEO and cofounder of THINX, and author of Do Cool Sh*t
  • "Lauren and her method have helped me rewrite my inner dialogue, connect deeply to my family, and evolve my excuses so I can be the partner, the mother, the daughter, the sister, and the teacher I've always dreamed I could be."—Elena Brower, author of Art of Attention
  • "Lauren Zander is a unique talent with unique insight into the human condition. I have seen her method transform dozens of students over more than a decade of teaching at my university. Now this important work can reach the mass audience it deserves--transforming readers across the world."—David Mindell, professor, MIT
  • "Profound and enlightening. Will also make you smile and laugh. And, most importantly, if taken seriously, it can be transformative. You'll be recommending it to your family and friends who you care about."—Marc Wais, senior vice president for student affairs, New York University
  • "Change takes work! I'm so glad that there is a book that doesn't sugarcoat anything.... This book is only for people who are ready for change and to face everything holding them back. You're not alone; I'm on the journey too!"—Michelle Williams, Destiny's Child
  • "Practical and inspiring, Zander's [Maybe It's You] shows how owning up to setbacks and shortcomings can turn them into strengths."—Success magazine

On Sale
Apr 3, 2018
Page Count
256 pages
Hachette Books

Lauren Handel Zander

About the Author

Lauren Handel Zander is a life coach, university lecturer, and public speaker. As Co-Founder and Chairman of Handel Group, an international corporate consulting and private coaching company, she has coached countless private clients: professors, politicians, award-winning artists, and Fortune 500 CEOs. The Handel Method has been taught at MIT, Stanford University, NYU, and in the New York City Public School System. Lauren has also led seminars and conferences all over the world and has contributed to the New York Times, Forbes, Self, Women’s Health, Vogue, Marie Claire, Elle, and the Huffington Post.

Learn more about this author