Untranslatable sentences: getting out of your own way

Today we´re talking about another one of those expressions in English that I love, and that I think lose their charm when translated into Spanish.

Se trata de “getting out of your own way”, que básicamente quiere decir dejar de estorbarte a ti mismo, en el sentido de dejar de ser un obstáculo en tu propio camino. Yo cuando lo oigo, me imagino un camino delante de mí, con un pedrusco enorme en todo el medio, bloqueándolo… Y me doy cuenta de que muchas veces ese pedrusco lo pongo yo.

OK, it´s not always a gigantic boulder, sometimes it´s a smaller rock... But the thing is that I do it, I sabotage myself, and that´s something that happens quite frequently to us as humans.

Hoy mi hija Eva, que se está leyendo los libros de Harry Potter, ha mencionado a Dobby, el elfo doméstico. Si os acordáis, Dobby, cuando se daba cuenta de que había hecho algo que iba contra las normas, aunque fuera con la mejor intención, se decía “¡Dobby malo!” y se hacía daño a sí mismo, pegándose de cabezazos contra la pared y cosas así.

Well, I get the feeling that we humans do something similar sometimes, unconsciously of course. Our rational side establishes a goal or objective and wants to make progress in that direction, but it finds itself hindered (and sometimes, sabotaged) by an ever deeper side of ourselves, which somehow believes that achieving that goal would be against how things should be.

Por eso, cuando vemos que nos cuesta avanzar hacia la meta, que damos un paso para adelante y dos para atrás, es hora de empezar a escarbar para ver qué se esconde por debajo de ese autosabotaje: puede que haya creencias, valores, o incluso aspectos de nuestra propia identidad que estén entrando en conflicto con eso que aparentemente queremos conseguir. Ahí es donde un proceso de coaching puede ayudar un montón, para sacar a la luz esas “fuerzas ocultas” que nos hacen interponernos a nuestro propio éxito.

What about you? How are you getting in your own way, blocking your own path? And what would it take to remove those blockers?

Untranslatable sentences: me da pereza

Today I´m bringing you one of those untranslatable phrases that I enjoy collecting, only this time it goes the other way round: it´s an expression in Spanish for which I can´t find a good English translation.

Example scenario: it´s Friday evening, and the company´s Christmas party is starting in a couple of hours. Outside it´s already dark, and quite cold; the snow from the previous night has started turning into ice. I´m feeling warm and cozy at home, and when I start thinking about dressing up and going out, into Dublin´s city centre, to attend the party...

Me da pereza.

Grey cat lying on its side a wooden shelf, looking at the camera

Eso es lo que diría yo en español, “me da pereza”, que viene a ser algo así como que “me sobreviene un sentimiento de vagancia al pensar en hacer X”. Es como que me canso sólo de pensarlo. Es una poderosa sensación que se me viene encima… y que me empuja hacia el sofá 😀

Buscando por ahí, he encontrado dos posibles traducciones: “I don´t feel like it”, que significa “no me apetece”, y “I can´t/couldn´t) be bothered”, que básicamente quiere decir que no lo voy a hacer, bien porque no lo considero necesario, o porque no me interesa, o porque soy demasiado vago como para hacer el esfuerzo.

Supongo que, de las dos, la que más se acerca es el “I don´t feel like it”, porque transmite la sensación de que en general creo que hacer X es una buena idea, pero que ahora mismo no me apetece o no tengo energía para hacerlo. El “couldn´t be bothered” no me acaba de encajar, no me parece que le dé valor ninguno a X (por pasotismo, indiferencia, o a saber qué), y además ya presupone que, sea lo que sea X, no lo voy a hacer.

Y esa es, en mi opinión, la gracia del “me da pereza”, o del “no me apetece”: que impone pero no impide, es una barrera que se puede superar. Nuestro cerebro muchas veces se quiere ir a lo fácil, a lo cómodo, a lo que nos ahorre más energía, y por muy buenas razones (véase instinto de conservación). Pero nosotros no tenemos por qué hacerle siempre caso, porque él no siempre sabe lo que más nos conviene…

I'm not saying that we shouldn't listen to our body when it really needs to rest, of course we should. But beyond that, it may be good for us to think about what it is that's holding us back, and why. What's hiding behind that laziness? What are we really trying to avoid? And what reward can we find if we go ahead regardless? That way, we will know if it's worth making that initial effort.

Did I finally go to the party? Yes, I did. Why? Because I knew that once I got there, I would have a great time, and that's exactly what happened. What was my strategy? The same one that's worked for me so many times in the past - going straight into getting ready without thinking too much about it, and most importantly, not sitting on the couch!

What about you? What is it that you don't usually feel like doing, and how do you motivate yourself to get over it?

Collecting quotes

Thanksgiving celebrations took place this past week across the United States, and if you have been taking a look at social media, you will probably have seen (in between Black Friday sale ads), a whole heap of inspirational quotes about gratitude.

(If you feel like reading a post about gratitude, here´s one from about a year ago)

Wooden scrabble letters forming the phrase "Say thank you"

My usual readers will have noticed that every now and then I like writing quotes in this blog, but not all the time, because even though I looooooove quotes (we could say I´m a quote collector), I get the impression that sometimes we get bombarded with so many of them that we end up overwhelmed, and then they no longer get our attention. That´s why I prefer to use them in small doses.

Today I do want to show you two quotes that are basically telling us the same thing, and they´re not the only ones by any means. It´s a message that´s been said a thousand times in a thousand different ways, precisely because it´s as true and as relevant nowadays as it was back in the ancient times of Greek philosophers:

He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.


Be thankful for what you have; you'll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don't have, you will never, ever have enough.

Oprah Winfrey

Banda sonora

If your life was a movie, what would its soundtrack be?

Vynil record playing in a record player

Today I remembered again a movie scene I watched a long time ago, which gave me a lot to think about back at the time. The story takes place at a university, and the camera alternatively takes the place of one of the two main characters, a boy and a girl, who are walking along the corridors, about to meet each other for the first time. They´re both wearing earphones, and listening to completely different things: the girl is listening to classical music, and the boy is listening to heavy metal or something similar. The moment arrives when they meet, they look at each other, and each of them perceives the other from their own point of view, with their own soundtrack in the background.

To me, this is a scene of incredible storytelling powers. Without needing to use words, it perfectly conveys how different the world is for each of the two main characters, and how differently they experience that exact same moment, with the same external surroundings...

Creo que todos hemos experimentado momentos en que una canción o una música en concreto nos ha hecho ver la vida de otra manera: tal vez nos ha alegrado el día, nos ha dado un chute extra de energía o nos ha traído buenos recuerdos. Otras veces, a lo mejor hemos aprovechado una música más triste o melancólica para permitirnos experimentar un ratito esas emociones. Lo mejor de todo es que podemos elegir en cada momento nuestra “banda sonora”, y no me refiero solamente a la música que escuchamos (que también, y qué suerte tan inmensa tenemos de que exista Spotify).

Nuestra “banda sonora” también son esos pensamientos que repetimos constantemente en nuestra cabeza sin darnos cuenta, esas historias que nos contamos a nosotros mismos, y que según cómo sean, puede que nos ayuden o que nos perjudiquen, que nos den energía o que nos la quiten. Por supuesto, no podemos controlar del todo los pensamientos que aparecen por nuestra mente, al igual que no podemos controlar qué canción suena en la radio. Pero sí que podemos estar atentos y cambiar de emisora cuando haga falta, saltando a otra cosa que nos guste más y nos resulte más util. Y también viene muy bien de vez en cuando editar nuestras “playlists”, y así aprovechar para quitar canciones viejas que ya no resuenan con nosotros, y añadir canciones nuevas que nos apetezca probar.

What do you think of this idea? What is your life's soundtrack at this very moment? And do you feel like keeping it, or is it maybe time for a change?

Untranslatable sentences: walking down memory lane

Hoy os traigo otra expresión de esas “intraducibles” que me encanta en inglés, porque me parece una metáfora muy chula: walking down memory lane, que en español sería algo así como “darse un paseo por la calle de los recuerdos”.

And that´s precisely what I´ve been doing this weekend: accompanying my friends in their own walk down memory lane, returning to places they hadn´t visited in many many years. It turned out to be a wonderful walk, both in the literal and figurative sense, and inevitably, we created new memories (thanks a million ladies!)

Stack of old black and white photos

In Spanish, the closest thing to memory lane that I can think of is something called the trunk of memories, from a famous song by Karina:

Searching through the trunk of memories
Any time in the past seems better than now.
Taking a look back is good sometimes,
Looking ahead is living without fear.

Another interesting metaphor, I think. And also during this weekend, I found myself searching inside that trunk, rescuing special moments with someone very close to my heart who passed away recently, and to whom I would have liked to be able to say goodbye.

Estoy de acuerdo en que de vez en cuando viene bien mirar un poquito hacia atrás y recordar con cariño las cosas que fueron, ya que al fin y al cabo, como decía my abuela, “aquellos tiempos trajeron éstos”. Aunque eso sí, tengamos cuidado de no regodearnos demasiado, que no nos impida aprovechar el presente…

Enjoy the little things in life, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.

Robert Brault


Today I'm writing this post from Dublin airport, I'm about to cross the pond to spend a couple of days with my American work colleagues.

Crossing the pond, interesting expression. It's one of the many metaphors we use every day.

Close up of a red flower floating on the surface of a pond

Según el diccionario de la Real Academia de la Lengua, una de las definiciones de metáfora es la “aplicación de una palabra o de una expresión a un objeto o a un concepto, al cual no denota literalmente, con el fin de sugerir una comparación (con otro objeto o concepto) y facilitar su comprensión”. Dicho así puede parecer un poco complicado, pero lo cierto es que nos pasamos el día utilizando metáforas, muchas veces sin darnos cuenta de que lo son, por ejemplo…

  • Me encontraba entre la espada y la pared
  • He was kicked out of there
  • I'm starving

And so many others.

Las metáforas nos ayudan a explicar situaciones de la vida de una manera fácil de entender, y no sólo funcionan hacia afuera, cuando hablamos con los demás, sino también hacia adentro, en nuestro diálogo interno. A veces nos resulta más fácil conectar con una emoción cuando “le damos forma” a través de una metáfora, e incluso podemos hasta dibujarla, si eso ayuda 🙂

And when we're facing a problem or a difficult situation, playing with metaphors can help us a lot in terms of changing perspective and looking for alternatives. For example, if a person is feeling that every time they try a particular thing they bang their head against a wall, they may even visualize that wall in their mind when they think in whatever it is they want to try, and get blocked. Following along with the metaphor, we could ask, where is that wall? What is it made of? How high is it? And what's behind it? In which other way could you get there? And then maybe this way, exploring ways to jump over the wall, or go around it, or even break it, this person may come to a realization and find solutions that they wouldn't have thought of otherwise.

También es muy interesante plantearnos metáforas al reflexionar sobre algún aspecto de nuestra vida, o de nuestro trabajo. Esto es algo que se hace a menudo en las metodologías Agile, en las retrospectivas de equipo: “si nuestras dos últimas semanas hubieran sido una película, ¿qué película sería, y por qué?” Una vez que añadimos ese toque de creatividad y humor a la conversación, es soprendente todo lo que puede sair de ahí.

So this week I'm proposing two things for you to do this week, if you feel like it: one is to listen with extra attention to see how many metaphors you find around you, and the other one is to find your own metaphor: if today you were a colour, which colour would you be?

Nihil volitum…

…Nisi praecognitum. This is one of the few phrases I know in Latin, and it roughly means that you cannot desire what you do not know.

Monkey with a mirror in their hands, looking at their reflection

It came to my mind today, along with this other phrase I read in a book by Laura Chica: Accept yourself. Love yourself. Improve yourself. In this order.

Muchas veces, en el mundo del desarrollo personal, queremos empezar por el final: nos empeñamos en intentar ser mejores, en superar nuestros defectos, y en “solucionar” las partes de nuestra vida que creemos que no funcionan bien. Intentamos cambiar nuestros “malos hábitos” a base de fuerza de voluntad, con el tremendo esfuerzo que ello supone, a menudo para conseguir resultados escasos y poco sostenibles. Es como como si estuviéramos nadando a contracorriente.

Wanting to change, to evolve, to improve, is a very positive thing. But if we approach it from a place of judgment and self-criticism, then all we´re really doing is beating ourselves up. Loving and accepting ourselves as we are is the necessary previous step for any long-lasting and successful life change.

But of course, this is much easier said than done; how can we get to the point of accepting and loving ourselves? The answer also comes to us from old wisdom, this time in Greek, through the famous inscription that used to decorate the front of Apollo´s temple in Delfos: γνωθι σεαυτόν. Know thyself.

It makes sense, doesn´t it? How are we going to love ourselves if we don´t even know ourselves? The better we know ourselves, the more we will understand ourselves, it´s that simple. As we dive deeper into the adventure of self-discovery, we will start becoming aware of what motivates us and what scares us, what our deepest desire is, why we do what we do (and what for), and it will become easier for us to forgive, accept, and finally love ourselves. And once we love ourselves, change happens from the inside out, without the need to force anything.

So, instead of starting at the end as so many times before, I encourage you to start at the beginning, by looking at yourself in the mirror and setting out on your inward journey:

Know yourself, accept yourself, love yourself, improve yourself. In this order.

Untranslatable sentences: back to basics

Aquí va otra frase en inglés de esas que me gusta llamar “intraducibles” – no es que no se puedan traducir al español, pero en inglés suenan muchísimo mejor, para mi gusto, y la traducción digamos que hay que explicarla para que se entienda bien (otras frases y expresiones here, here and here).

Y la frase de hoy es “back to basics“, que significa más o menos “volver a lo básico”.

¿Y qué es lo básico? Pues depende del tema del que estemos hablando. Si estamos hablando de decoración, por ejemplo, o de moda, puede ser apostar por líneas y colores más sencillos, en vez de estilos más rebuscados. Si hablamos de educación primaria, puede ser volver a poner más énfasis en las asignaturas esenciales, como son la lengua y las matemáticas. La idea que a mí me transmite el “back to basics”, en general, es que nos hemos vuelto tan sofisticados (en el área que sea) que we have forgotten what is truly important, the basis of it all, and we must return to it.

It´s a sentence that can be applied to many situations, at home, at school, and at work. Today, I´d like to propose that we use it as a reminder to look after ourselves.

woman doing hand heart sign while looking at the sunset

Looking after ourselves first, so that then we´re able to look after others, or take care of our own tasks. Because, how often are our days so busy, and so full, that they go by without us dedicating any time or attention to ourselves? And by the time we realize it, we´re already out of energy, already exhausted.

It may be due to us believing that other things are more important, that other people must come first… But that´s not sustainable in the long run. I love the way Katie Reed expresses it:

“El autocuidado es darle al mundo lo mejor de ti, en lugar de lo que queda de ti.”

Katie Reed

Would you like to have the energy required to give the world the best of you? Then I suggest that you return to focus on these four basic pillars, if at any point you have stopped paying attention to them:

  • Rest – getting enough sleep every night (enough hours of deep, restoring sleep), as well as taking short breaks during the day.
  • Diet – keeping to healthy, balanced, and if possible, natural foods. Also, drinking lots of water in order to stay hydrated, and practicing conscious breathing every now and then, to help oxygenate each and every cell.
  • Exercise – dedicating some time to move, even better if it´s outdoors, and often. If you choose something that you like and find motivating, you´ll be more likely to keep at it: your favourite sport, swimming, running, dancing, yoga…
  • Connection – encontrar el equilibrio entre dedicar tiempo a conectar con los demás, pues somos seres sociales, y conectar también con nosotros mismos, para poder mantener “las pilas cargadas”.

What do you think about these four basic pillars of self-care? Would you add any others? Which one do you think would be good for you to give more time and attention to, at this moment in your life?

Untranslatable sentences: food for thought

As I´ve already said a couple of times in this same blog, there are a few phrases and sentences in English that I love and for which I can´t find a good Spanish translation, and vice versa.

La frase que me ha venido hoy a la cabeza es “food for thought”, que básicamente viene a ser algo que te hace pensar cuando lo lees o lo oyes. Literalmente sería algo así como “comida para pensar”, o “comida para tu mente”.

Which is what I aim to make available to you through these weekly articles: a few ideas and quotes that can spark reflection… and if we´re lucky, even a bit of action.

Here´s today´s food for thought:

The steps that you don´t dare take also leave a mark.

Grela Bravo

In what direction do you want your steps to take you? And what´s preventing you from taking that step that you haven´t attempted yet?


I´ve always loved reading. And I guess it´s no surprise, having grown up in a house full of books, with role models like my dad, a die-hard reader, and my sister Cristina, another one, who was also my roommate… Let´s just say I had examples to imitate 🙂

Thankfully (and also thanks partly to Fredi and I being so pigheaded), the fondness for reading has made its way to the next generation, and our three daughters also enjoy reading, which makes us really proud. Because even though they´re also growing up surrounded by books, and we would like to think we´re a good example to them, as you know, it´s not that easy nowadays, with so many screens demanding attention through endless videogames, movies, series, social media…

The truth is, we´ve become an accelerated society, which finds it very hard to slow down. But the thing that can help us to counteract that tendency is precisely a good book: it allows us to take a break from our busy lives, and gift ourselves a little period of calm. It enables quality time with ourselves, and on top of that, it stimulates our brain in a very beneficial way, either because we´re learning something new, or because we let our imagination fly as we dive into a story.

Today my friend Inés was telling me how hooked she is on the book she´s currently reading… Is there anything more exciting than that feeling of wanting to read just one more chapter? Or the feeling of staying up reading until really late at night during the holidays, knowing you don´t have to get up early the following morning? That was the best thing in the world when I was a child, I truly miss it.

There are loads of quotes on the topic of reading; today I´d like to share two of them with you, and the second one, to be honest, is not even about books! You´ll see.

Once you have read a book you care about, some part of it is always with you.

Louis L’Amour

This first one is clear, right? When a book has an impact on us, there´s always something new, a new perspective, some new learning, that expands our vision of the world, and somehow changes us a little. And it doesn´t happen only with books, it happens with every experience we have in life, as if our life itself was a book, and we kept making progress with each chapter.

But beware, for the book of life contains a hidden danger...

  You can't start the next chapter of your life if you keep re-reading the last one.

Michael McMillian

… Y es el peligro de quedarnos atascados en un “capítulo” determinado, en una historia que nos seguimos contando a nosotros mismos, una y otra vez, y que no nos deja avanzar. Un bucle infinito… Hasta que decidamos romperlo y seguir adelante.

And what about you, what story are you telling yourself? Are you making progress through the chapters? Or are you stuck?