When Drama Overwhelms You

You’ve seen it at work and at home. Someone is anxious about something and suddenly you are feeling anxious too. You know this isn’t healthy and that you shouldn’t feel this way which only makes it worse. Now you’re self-judging for not distancing yourself from the drama and begin to doubt your own effectiveness. You start losing sleep and wake up in the middle of the night, running the day’s conversations over in your mind.  

Lately, I’ve been feeling overwhelmed and sucked in by another person’s angst. Drama is created when a person can’t accept the way they feel so they try to externalize it or put that feeling off on others, usually in a highly demonstrative or desperate way. This behavior provides them a temporary yet unsustainable relief from their discomfort. Thus, they continue the drama dance to try to unload their despair. 

I notice I have been feeling anxious and assuming the anxiety of this person. I’ve...

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What Beliefs Affect Your Career

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...

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'Older Workers' Are Getting Phased Out

Older workers face a brave new world: 56% of employees over 50 have been pushed out of their longtime jobs, according to recent analysis from ProPublica. And of those workers who find employment at all, only 10% end up making as much as they did before. How can workers protect themselves? First off, know your rights. Also, everyone — no matter their age — ought to focus on keeping their skills fresh, LinkedIn’s Dan Roth tells “CBS This Morning.” And in the meantime, Roth adds, line up a side hustle. “If you have a high likelihood of being pushed out, then you want to make sure there’s something you can fall back on.” 

Be prepared. Make sure you are working on things that are 1) measurable, 2) not easily transferable and 3) new and different and 4) hold a high learning curve. Up your savings or the amount withdrawn from your pay for retirement. Start the side hustle. Stay in shape. Work for a comapny that LIVES its...

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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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Undoing the Wicked Toll of Comparing Yourself to Others

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,...

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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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Do This One Thing to Minimize Conflict

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...

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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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The Best Tip for Career Advancement

People ask me all the time for my best tip for career advancement. It isn't who you know or what company you work for. It isn't what title you have or what social group you belong to. It is unequivocally the ability to self-regulate your emotions in real time so that you exude the executive presence that draws a loyal following. Period. There are plenty of smart people who don't advance and it isn’t because they aren't capable.

At any moment you may be called on to have confidence to risk, to have candor to create connections or calmness to cool fury. They don't teach this in business school because it's personal to you.

This graphic illustrates one process my clients work on to build executive presence. Become good at untangling life messages that are really only assumptions. You assume you will be judged when in all truth people want you to succeed. You assume you'll be overwhelmed when forging ahead has served you before. You assume your idea isn't important yet when...

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