As children we adopt a belief system based on the belief system of our parents. Depending on the parenting style, we are likely rewarded and reinforced for doing what these teachers think is good. We are criticized and penalized for what is bad. It is how we learn to stay safe. It is how we fit in.
Negative feedback can be helpful in an urgent situation such as a hot stove. Not so much when it comes to development, leaving us feeling as if we don’t belong unless we are ‘good.’
As adults we live out this belief system and learned perspectives. When life sends us a difficult situation often we internalize this as having been “bad” and deserving of this hardship. “Must be something wrong with me.”
Beliefs translate to behaviors. If we grew up around anxiety we’ll likely address discord with it. If we grew up around positivity we’ll find the good. Often negative life messages are merely assumptions but we are...
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:
My client said that if she had asked...
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...
Recently I listened to a client who is struggling in her marriage discuss how difficult it is to watch other happily married couples. I understand the feeling. I spent a lot of time in my first marriage wishing I had what others had and comparing myself to them as well as enabling bad behavior by making excuses for him. Then my third child was born with a developmental disability and I used to sit at playgrounds comparing her to other children while somewhat insensitively pushing her and her therapists like machines because I became so outcome focused.
What I realized is that when we compare our lives to others and grasp at what isn’t ours we lose sight of all the good things we do have and this strips our fulfillment. This “less than” focus keeps us from letting go of what boundary maven Dr. Henry Cloud calls ‘necessary endings’ to allow for things to bloom in our lives. A healthy rose bush needs to be pruned for new buds to grow. If not,...
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...
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...
Below is a note I recently received from a client that although makes me sad, it carries great wisdom. This high performing executive leader was leaving an organization she loved and had relocated for with mixed feelings. As is often the case, she was leaving because of her boss.
Good morning Mary Lee,
I have one more week reporting to this woman that has made the last 14 months of my life incredibly difficult. The exit process has been even more difficult.
In 20 years in the workplace I have never experienced anything like this from someone at this woman's level.
Every leader has opportunity, but I do not believe there are many who behave as badly as what I have witnessed over the past year.
I am also amazed how her leaders look away, an ostrich to this woman's behavior. I am not personalizing this (thank you Mary Lee), I understand it is simply inconvenient to disrupt the status quo or face the difficult conversations or the admit that perhaps it was a mistake to...
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...
Most conflict in the world comes from the need to be right - even the conflict you have with yourself. Your ego tells you that you aren’t safe unless you’re right so you argue, defend, act out, withdraw or stand firm on something that most likely is out of your control.
When you find your opinion is a little too strong or there’s a feeling that makes you uncomfortable that’s the very time to pause and ask yourself, “What am I trying hard not to face? That I’ll be _________ if this doesn’t change?”
Draw closer to the nasty feeling that chases you down. Name it. That disarms it’s power. “This is what it feels like to feel ______.” Then give yourself a break. “May I be gentle with myself in this moment. I’ve got this one.”
You’re amazing. Don’t ever forget that.
Here is a free tool to help you navigate your career in a complicated corporate setting: 31 Success Practices for...
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.
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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