For me, everything usually circles back to cookies.

Maybe it’s because they’re delicious, make the day brighter, and ease a worried mind. Or maybe it’s because there are so many different kinds—like a smile buffet (without the sneeze guard).

For me, cookies also represent a beautiful metaphor for limiting thoughts.


Imagine that you’ve baked a batch of cookies. You remove them from the oven, their buttery sweet aroma wafting through the air, and it’s all you can do to wait for them to set before digging in.

But when you do, they taste…wrong.

Not delicious. A disappointment.

Now imagine the bad-tasting cookie is a fear-based, negative, limiting thought. Full of good intentions (“I’m not trying to have negative thoughts, they just happen”) and good ingredients (“I’m doing my best not to think this way”) but it just doesn’t feel right, taste right, or satisfy. Still, it’s the cookie we have, so we nibble away (“I’m thinking it, so it must be true.”).

In other words, we believe the thoughts.

But we also imagine and long for a better cookie, one that has a better texture, taste, and is way more satisfying.

The choice we face is to either:

  • Toss the entire batch and pretend we never baked them
  • Avoid cookies entirely
  • Give up on baking…

…OR figure out how to bake a better cookie.

How do we do that?

By circling back to the recipe, checking the ingredients and measurements, and trying again.

And again.

And maybe again. 

Until the cookie feels and tastes better.

In other words…by unpacking what led to the thoughts so we can reframe them.

WHAT ON EARTH does cookie baking have to do with changing thoughts, you ask?

They are both firmly rooted in SCIENCE.

Let me explain:

Early life experiences inform our sense of self and create the road map by which we navigate our world–both personally and professionally.

They are the ingredients to our cookie.

In neuroscience speak, those experiences trigger thoughts that, in turn, form neural pathways. As those thought patterns are repeated, the related neural pathways become stronger such that the same thought patterns are more likely to be repeated (like what lifting dumbbells does to biceps). As much as we may want to believe that as we age that early imprinting simply evaporates–think again. It absolutely does not. The experiences and related thought patterns become firmly rooted in our brains and bodies and become the filter through which we experience our world. The more we think a certain way, as influenced by our unique “recipe,” the stronger those thought patterns become.

But here’s the good news: We have the power to change our thoughts–to create new neural pathways–and effectively flip the limiting beliefs and harsh inner dialogue to thought patterns that serve and nurture us.

Which can profoundly improve how we feel in our skin. And how we show up.

When I start working with an organization, leader or team, I rarely kick things off with the cookie analogy, nor do I explain how negative inner dialogue comes from early life experiences and socialization. I have found that the “everything starts at home” mantra is a sure-fire way to draw eye rolls and questions like, “What on earth does this have to do with communication and culture?” or, “Who hired her, anyway?”

But with most clients, we eventually end up there. In fact, some of the best work I do with teams and leaders emerges when members take my FEAR Formula course to better understand how they are showing up for themselves and for each other.

In fact, I have heard clients say things like, “I never thought of this that way,” and “Now I understand why I freeze up during team meetings.”

The process of unpacking and reframing thought patterns takes practice, discipline, and resolve. It requires deconstructing the recipe, as it were, then trying again and again until we can revert to thought patterns that serve instead of deplete us.

If you’re curious about your own recipe, click here to read more about the course.


Concrete, actionable, and effective strategies for shifting fear-based thought patterns using the following steps:

  • FIND: Identify deeply rooted fears and explore how you have cultivated your unique Fear Journey.
  • ENLIGHTEN: Gain clarity around narratives you are creating and discern the extent to which they are based on reality.
  • ACCEPT: Take agency of your fears and create new narratives regarding self-perception, thought and behavior.
  • REFRAME: Apply the strategies learned in the first three steps so that you can develop empowered, confident thought patterns and build a path forward of courageous living and choosing.

Here’s what two students had to say:

“This course was packed with hands-on activities that allowed me to see the hurdles in my life in a whole new light. One of my favorite activities came in Module 2, when Nancy invites the participant to name difficult moments from their past. Confronting these challenges seemed daunting at first, but Nancy’s vulnerability in sharing her own past struggles made the exercise a lot easier. Now I’m able to see these challenges as stepping stones toward understanding what I want in life, and thanks to this course, these wants feel attainable.”

“I often can’t see my own fears because I don’t want to see them or I don’t know how to look. Nancy Burger’s F.E.A.R. Formula course guided me not simply to see my fears but also to investigate and learn from them. Nancy’s evidence-based grounded approach and compassionate touch let me examine my fear of providing for my daughters’ education in an uncertain future with curiosity, compassion, and action. Indeed, I found my fear and found my way forward. As an effective fear strategist for individuals and teams, Nancy has no competition.”

If you feel stuck in low self esteem, imposter syndrome, limiting beliefs, thinking “small”, or any other “ick” thought patterns that are holding you back, know that you can feel better in your skin.

Bake a better cookie. And I’d love to help.

Speaking of reframing thoughts…check out the blooper reel from my recent video shoot. I enjoyed some cookies afterward 🙂

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