We're all busy. That's why this works.

The past year and a half has held a lot of transitions in my life. My father passed away. I moved my mother into a nursing home. I had to sell my childhood home, become power of attorney for my mom which then made me executor for her brother’s estate when he passed away. I am now trying to sell his home and handle both of their financial affairs in addition to my job as a CEO, executive coaching practice, and a family with six children.  

I felt as if I was living a peaceful life and one thing after another compounded more responsibility on me than I never expected. Yet during all of this is when I started to knit and paint with watercolors. Yesterday my husband said that I’m ‘calmer’ than he’s ever known me to be. I attribute that to my mindful daily practices and simple goal setting that give me confidence, connection and calm.  

I’m busy just like everyone else. I don’t have time for long journaling. Neither do my...

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6 Tips When You are Taken for Granted

Often, we go about our lives thinking our relationships at work and in life are ok while under the surface a subtle ember of discord is burning. Then one day it bursts into full blaze and we do or say something that rips at our presence. At work this is particularly difficult when it strips your executive presence. One of the subtle feelings that shreds our peace is the feeling that we have been taken for granted. 

  1. Name what you’re feeling.

You might think you hate your boss or that a colleague is self-absorbed but that is focusing on their behavior and not your feelings. What does their behavior make you feel? Small? Disregarded? Disrespected? Undervalued? Naming the feeling disarms its power. 

  1. Draw healthy boundaries.

You know you want to draw healthier boundaries when you feel taken advantage of, taken for granted, responsible for someone else’s happiness or blatantly disrespected. To understand the power of health boundaries first imagine that you are...

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When You Are Overwhelmed and Pointing Fingers

I work with clients a lot on how mindful daily practices impact your effectiveness and happiness. Recently, I bought some water color supplies on Amazon, watched a video on watercolor painting and experimented one evening. I had fun then tucked the supplies away for another day.  

Last week, after the overwhelming and emotional experience of having to clean out my parent’s house to sell, I got out the box of supplies, threw inhibition to the wind and on the first page of my new watercolor journal painted an image from a peaceful photograph I had taken in the low country of South Carolina. It won’t be in any art contests but the experience of doing this with a shuffle of Michael Buble playing in the background calmed me.

In that space I could get curious about my emotions instead of running from them. I felt frustrated that my brother was not there to help me. I was sad going through the papers and memories of my father. I was worried about my mother who we had...

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When They Threaten to Make You Look Bad

Last evening a client told me a story of how a customer was being condescending and threatened to report her to her boss in a truly snotty way over something that didn’t make sense. My client felt under siege and desperately asked her not to do that. The customer is doing it anyway. I suggested three things:

  1. Never act desperate. Never. You have no power after that. 
  1. Write down the script of the conversation between both parties word for word (don’t just tell him), put it in front of your boss and ask one thing, “Do you have my back?” Trust must occur between manager and direct report or your culture is crap. 
  1. The next time anyone threatens you, confuses you, accuses you or makes you feel undone ask one question, “So that we are clear, what is it that you really want?” Most unhappy people don’t know and will try to deflect. Just keep asking the same question. This is your home base. 

My client said that if she had asked...

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Eight Questions to Set a New Start in Motion

New Year’s Eve has come and gone. It’s a funny night. You are left with a twinge of remorse and a twinge of hope. People migrate to parties and streets with champagne in their hands surrounded by 150 of their closest friends to watch a ball drop anywhere from 10 to 141 feet, while they try to forget that they didn’t accomplish last year’s resolutions and set lower bar resolutions for the coming year. Truly the happiest people of the evening are the cabbies who are out in scores to drive all the partiers home where they welcome the next day with a headache, little recall of their pared back resolve which sounds something like “I will not drink caffeine when the Penguins have a full healthy roster” and a pork shank that needs to be roasted.

 

Most resolutions don’t come to fruition because they are merely notions. “I will lose weight” and “I will get a new job” are notions. “I will go to the gym for an...

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When Relationship Issues Tear Your Heart Out

I have a client who is struggling hard in her marriage right now and it reminds me about the stake we take in dreams. Pain and suffering are real and raw when they hit our emotions yet we justify that the situation might not be that bad because we care about someone and the thought of losing them threatens our ability to be strong and rips at our dreams - in this case the dream of happily ever after.  

Make no mistake - there is no ‘strength’ in putting up with something that doesn’t feel right and isn't showing any sign of gettng better. That is denial. As much as you love someone if they have it in them to tear out your heart that is a choice and they are not a victim of circumstance. Communication is key. If there is none, you have a problem. If the other person doesn't choose to improve the communication and passive agressively makes you the issue that is a serious red flag. 

Separate the person from the dream. The dream can still be...

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When Someone Makes You Look Bad at Work

If you work anywhere you likely have had a colleague try to make you look bad. Most of my clients have had to struggle with this. It is disempowering and injects a fear of losing your job which ultimately leads to a fear of losing people who you love. This is where executive presence is crucial. This is where you don’t react at all. This is where you just pause, stare at them for a count of five and then ask, “Are you trying to make me look bad?” That will stop them dead.

Call them out with curiosity for exactly what they are doing. Don’t characterize them, get angry or defensive. Simply ask them if what it looks like they are doing is in fact what they are doing. If they deflect back to you say, “Ok, I wanted to get clarity on that because for a minute it felt like you were trying to make me look bad.” No one can argue with how you feel.

This scenario gives you a few moments to recenter yourself, for people on the periphery to validate in their...

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One Thing for Your Well-being, Career Efficacy & Executive Presence

Two years ago on a cold December day I felt stressed and overwhelmed so I made a commitment to do something about it, not unlike what many people do as the New Year approaches. I ordered a very expensive and really pretty planner. (Since when did planners start costing $85?) About a week into it I found myself writing mindful daily practices in the margins to hold myself accountable. Three weeks later I was writing my daily goals in the margins too. Four weeks later I was recreating the entire page, ignoring what was on it.

Five weeks into it I tried another planner. Two weeks into using that one I was now writing in the margins again – my gratitude thoughts, how I was feeling – daily practices that help release the negativity we often don’t spend time processing and then can’t let go of. (Dreadful feeling.) I already had a calendar for my to-do list and appointments. I needed a planner for my well-being and big goals. 

Over two months I ordered six...

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The Two Things That Kill Careers and Happiness

We continually strategize on the things we need to do to advance our careers, close the sale, be happier, have better relationships and get what we want. More often than not it is what we need to cease doing that gives us the most power.

  1. Don’t discount your dreams.

I used to live life from a “but at least it’s not ______” perspective. I thought this was being positive because I could always think of something worse. This was an OK way of remaining optimistic in the face of adversity until it became habit for all of life and halted my ability to envision the openness of wonder. 

It wasn’t until I was aware of this that I began to risk shifting to the vulnerable choice of exploring joy without expecting it to be short lived. To ushering in opportunity that I knew was meant for me without holding onto fear. To seeing all that was there with the curiosity of a child. This ability to stay in the moment without fast forwarding to an anticipated ending...

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I'm Feeling Anxious

I’m feeling anxious today. I have committed to take two journeys simultaneously that will

1) I’m taking a six-week Dreamwork Coaching Program with master Will Sharon to help my executive coaching clients further build their conscious awareness, peace and effectiveness. It’s not for the faint of heart. It requires online training, hours of classes, work with a partner and more. 

2) I’m taking a Podcast Fellowship Program with a colleague of Seth Godin’s to learn how to launch my first Podcast series around ‘New SMART Leadership.’ 

I asked myself, “Ok Mary Lee, what would you ask a client in this position?” The answer is that I’d ask her to execute the PAUSE Cafe strategy...

I PAUSE and take a deep breath. 

I ASK myself, “What’s going on with me?” I’m feeling scared that I won’t be able to manage my time and will feel stressed. I feel vulnerable because I am not good with...

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