Episode #3 Transcript: The Three Things
From The Still Space Podcast
I used to think that being good at something and working hard was all it took to succeed. I taught myself a lot of skills, many at which I was a rock star. I rose quickly in the corporate world. By most measures I was a success. But it didn’t feel that way. No matter how many president or executive director roles I had I never really felt satisfied. I felt like I was practicing the lead role as an understudy and that any day the real star would show up and steal it away. Being divorced only made it worse. So, I put my head down and just kept working harder and gaining more for corporate America. The only thing I achieved for myself was exhaustion.
That’s when I started observing people who truly understood peace. I began reading their books and listening to their podcasts and TED talks. The research was there. The message was consistent and clear.
Life carries with it suffering that comes when we can’t be with the discomfort of reality. A resistance builds with the tug of war between fighting truth and accepting it. Suffering is greater when reality relates to negative perceptions we don’t want to feel that lie under the surface. When we are really uncomfortable with ourselves we externalize the uneasiness as judgment – continually comparing ourselves to others. When we judge them, we judge ourselves far worse. Still, the resistance persists because the tension needs to be reconciled not externally by projecting judgment, expectations, and perfectionism, but from acceptance within.
We need only remember one thing about being happy - Once the resistance between fighting against truth and accepting reality is gone so is the suffering. Imagine that. If you could get rid of the resistance to what really bothers you, all of your distress would disappear. The problem is we often don’t want to look at what is at the root of our discomfort. The self-judgment is at far too great a cost. So, we run from it. And it keeps chasing us down. What if you could look at your perceived limitations without the judgment or fear? Ah – that’s freedom. That is true success.
Facing our demons takes courage. What does it mean to be courageous in a high-stakes moment of doubt, criticism, frustration, judgment, sadness before we say or do something we regret? How do we hold still with discomfort to unpack it and accept what we can do about it and what we cannot? At work if we can’t master this we lose respect. Those who have the courage to manage themselves and stay calm no matter what happens have executive presence. Those who can’t do not.
You know when you feel confident and when you don’t. You know when someone is comfortable with themselves and when they aren’t. You notice when someone walks into the room and commands attention, has executive presence or conversely if they fade into the background or overcompensate to be heard. You can look at a person and immediately observe their confidence as well as their ability to draw interest and relate to others. Their finesse, conviction, and charisma are intriguing. They are self-assured and comfortable in their own skin. You can tell they value and take good care of themselves.
You may wish you had what they have yet aren’t sure how to build it. You may feel life is unfolding faster than you can keep up with. And you may fear you have already been labeled as not leadership material, too emotional, not strong, not likable, or someone to disregard. These stereotypes downgrade careers, relationships and happiness. They are also avoidable and reversible.
I have held chief executive roles for organizations worth up to $31 million within up to 95,0000 employees for more than two decades and been a certified executive coach for most of that time. What I can tell you with 100 percent certainty is that presence - be it executive presence, leadership presence, relationship presence, relational presence and life mastery - can indeed be developed, but with one caveat. You must want to grow in three areas.
The Three Things
1. Your Mindful Self-awareness – your ability to observe your thoughts, how they affect your behavior, how you are perceived by others and how you perceive others – all without judgment.
2. Your Self-regulation – your ability to notice your emotions, especially under fire, not turn away from them, but hold still to unpack how they are nothing more than your imagination before you do something you regret.
3. Your Self-acceptance – your ability to be kind to yourself – to know that no matter what the situation – you are ok with who you are. No judgment. You remember who values you. Your compassion for others grows. Compassion for self and others is the fulfilled human condition.
The Three Things take humility and vulnerability. These two human states can be impossible to develop when fear and the need to control are in the way – when ego is the barrier. And yes, we all have ego. Regulating it is a superpower.
When we master The Three Things we know what to do when we feel jealous, afraid, frustrated, dismissed, ignored, marginalized, brokenhearted, minimized, attacked, defensive, defenseless, in pain, alone and abandoned. We learn how to be with those uncomfortable feelings instead of running from them in fear.
We give ourselves compassion in those moments. Over time the intensity of the fight-flight-flee reaction melts with self-compassion. In this space we embrace the freedom of forgiveness. We can give even the most egregious perpetrators compassion because we open ourselves to understand what they must have gone through to get to such a dark place – what it must be like to be them – always in the dark.
Volumes of research show us that the leading reason people feel happy and fulfilled is because they believe they are worthy of happiness and success. They have a sense of belonging in positions of power, influence, in love, in happiness. They deserve to be there. They accept it. Conversely, people who aren’t happy, who are less liked or are less effective feel they don’t fit in or belong.
We work on mastering The Three Things because they challenge limiting beliefs – especially the unfounded perception of unworthiness. Unworthiness is not an emotion. It is a flawed belief. It is not a momentary feeling but a distorted core conviction that makes the ego guard against risk so as not to get hurt. When we unravel our assumptions and stand them up against the truth, a clearing opens. Power and self-acceptance emerge.
These Three Things are not developed with conferences, self-help books, certifications, degrees, or any other external activity. They are internal. They challenge you to look inside yourself with all your imperfections and like what you see. You might think, ‘How can I like myself when I am doing poorly at something I really value?’ That is precisely when you want to like yourself for your effort, your curiosity, your determination your thirst for growth. Perfection is never the goal. Self-acceptance and life mastery are.
Perfectionism kills careers and relationships. Mastery of self is where freedom and efficacy lie. There will be no more searching for clarity when the goal is mastery of self. Clarity shows up right in front of you. No more doubt. Only curiosity. No more expectations. Only awareness. You begin to see things differently – things that have been there all along but your perspective has shifted and now you discover them.
If we are grasping at desires or averting fears, we are controlled by them. If you want something you don’t have or are avoiding something because it makes you uncomfortable you are controlled by that very thing. These afflictions are the ego’s way of needing to be affirmed of safety. Something is not at rest. Your confidence and self-esteem are at risk in this state of despair. You’re afraid that you aren’t good enough and are not safe.
Have you ever felt like you were being tossed around by racing thoughts and turbulent emotions? Who hasn’t?
Developing mindful self-awareness, self-regulation, and self-acceptance assures the ego that you ARE safe. That you belong. That you are worthy. In this state you conduct yourself differently – with poise, candor, and confidence. You’re fun, funny, friendly, interesting, interested, open and content. You feel no threats or aspersions. You are love. You are loved. You draw love. You give love. Are you ready to step into that space? It’s a whirlwind of fulfillment. It might seem scary at first. That’s ok.
The Three Things build on each other. Once you know how to be aware of your own thoughts and actions from a mindful nonjudgmental perspective, you can regulate your behavior in a calm moment or in a crisis. You can indeed move beyond self-sabotage, imposter syndrome and former wounds by honoring the feelings you’ve avoided. Recognizing the feelings is vital. We can release what we own, not what we avoid. You can be with the discomfort. You learn to allow it to flow by, not get stuck inside you, paralyzing your ability to move forward. No more lashing out, looking down, expecting joy not to last, shying away, blaming, complaining, being loud, shying away, or any other defeatist behavior that doesn’t serve you. In this space you lean on your signature strengths to guide you. Here you don’t have to be perfect – just real. Just human. Just yourself. (What a relief!)
You don’t have to be right. You want to get it right – which might take compromise. Throughout this time where you’ve felt out of alignment compromise may have felt too defeating – that you might lose part of yourself. Compromise feels good when you don’t you in the process.
You need not win personally to feel good. It is far more rewarding to be aligned with your values and enjoy connection with others. You are happy for others who succeed. You realize it was not at your cost. You’re not an imposter. You’re a revered leader. You’re grounded, capable and amazing. You are instinctive and action oriented. You are capable, worthy and belong.
Executive, career and relational presence is not just knowing how to do the job, but feeling you belong in the role. It’s first knowing yourself – your motivations, fears, values, strengths – in a way you haven’t in the past. You mindfully observe who you are, what you’re doing and how you’re doing it without any judgment - only acceptance of the truth. No assumptions. This is a linear path to your peace and fulfillment. It’s not luck. It’s intentional.
As an executive leader, executive coach, and former metropolitan newspaper reporter I have interviewed hundreds of people over the years. I’ve stated in my other books that people who thrive have two things in common: 1) They are fearless, not recklessness and 2) They figure things out or ask or help. Underpinning both of these action-oriented qualities is a high degree of The Three Things. If you aren’t aware of specifically what you fear or what is in the way, you can’t regulate its intensity, set it aside and move forward.
You have everything you need already in inside of you to serve, lead, have executive presence, have good relationships and be effective. Building the trifecta of self-mastery with The Three Things will not only serve your career but your personal relationships as well.
I don’t have a lot of ability to predict the future, but I realized at a very young age that I have an astute ability to assess the present as well as anticipate opportunities and impending threats down the road. I can also read people well, gauge their behavior and what motivates or demotivates them so that I may better relate to, align with and serve them. I also have a distinct ability to anticipate trends, have vision and execute strategies necessary to move an initiative forward. I’ve developed my awareness of these signature strengths - intuition and discernment - throughout my career, and it’s paid off in surpassing goals, negotiating, career advancement, team engagement, relationship building, career and personal success. I was, however, not an ace at The Three Things at first. And it cost me. Mostly in relationships and relatability. I had to figure things out along the way. I realized, after years of self-development, after having coached hundreds of people and seeing the same issues over and over, that the career-growth process starts first with a self-growth process and falls into to three main buckets – The Three Things. It took a lot of work on myself to find the clearing. This book is my way of paying it forward so others have the roadmap I wish I had years ago. The reward of fulfillment is beyond compare.
Kind, compassionate and likable people are mindful. Mindfulness is simply paying attention to what you pay attention to without judgment. It’s noticing from a third-party perspective without reaction for the purpose of learning. Mindful people have self-awareness, self-regulation and self-acceptance. Admired leaders and cherished people are mindful.
When we are mindful we have no preconceived ideas, no expectation, no judgment, no need to be right, no need to be recognized, no assumptions and no perfectionism. We invite love, compassion and friendliness in and we give it back freely. We rediscover who we are authentically when all of the armor of protecting ourselves is stripped away. Being mindful is a respite from chaotic emotions. If we feel off course we can concentrate on our in and out breath to center us. This is a form of meditation. It helps us stay in the moment and not follow stray thinking. No focus on the past or propelling ourselves into the future.
If we are met with negativity, we observe our suffering and that of the other person, name the feeling, get curious about what is behind it and can be with the demon feeling instead of reacting or turning away. We lean in to vulnerability and contact it. We unpack the unrest and realize that the perceived threat is only our imagination – not a real threat. In this mindful state the power of suffering is diffused and eventually flows through us, leaving no regret, guilt, frustration, anger or resentment.
Mindfulness is a superpower that builds resilience. It takes practice. Everything else you read from here on will show you how to have this superpower. Highlighter points that resonate with you for a quick read when you feel stuck. A notebook or dedicated document for your work here will also be beneficial for future refence.
Mindful Leadership Impact Coach Mary Lee Gannon, ACC, CAE is an award-winning speaker, author and president of Mary Lee Gannon.com – a coaching and consulting firm that helps busy executives take their career and life to the next level. Mary Lee has a unique perspective with 19+ years as a CEO and currently leads a $31 million organization within a 95,000 employee organization as well as coaches executives on how mindful practice and a mindset shift lead to playing big in the corner office and life. Swap overwhelmed for freedom.
Mary Lee’s personal turnaround came as a stay-at-home mother with four children under seven-years-old whose divorce that took her and her children from the country club life to public assistance and homelessness from where she re-invented her life to support her family.
Mary Lee is a Certified Coach by the International Coach Federation (ACC) - the most respected coaching association in the world, a Certified Professional Coach by Duquesne University, a Certified Association Executive (CAE), an alumnus of the UCLA Mindful Awareness Practices Program and the Harvard Medical School and McLean Hospital Coaching in Medicine & Leadership Conference, and author or two books: Reinvent You and Starting Over. Mary Lee was awarded the Honorary Woman of Courage Award by PA Women Work, Lifetime Achievement Award by Pittsburgh Society of Association Executives and the Women of Integrity Award by Pittsburgh Professional Women and Leading Lady by Oakland Catholic. Mary Lee is the "Mindful Leadership" columnist for Smart Business Magazine. She’s been featured in Money Magazine, ABC, CBS, NBC, NPR, Yahoo.com, U.S. News and World Report, msn.com, Forbes.com, CareerBuilder.com and Monster.com