This was me – utterly exhausted as a homeless welfare single mom of four children under seven-years-old, putting on that everything was ok. I felt judged, tired, and inadequate at almost everything. I was edgy, unhappy and anxious that I wasn’t doing enough or being good enough.
Did I make time to take care of myself or remind myself that I am awesome as is with all my imperfections? No way. No time. I just kept surviving and wearing myself down while pretending I was superwoman. I wore busyness like a badge of honor.
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As I look back now I see that this treadmill to nowhere left me not only stuck but exhausted. I already had everything I needed to go from food stamps to where I am today – CEO of a $24 million organization, a mom, employee, friend, leader and wife. I just needed to slow down enough to be gentle with myself. I needed to release my need to be perfect which had become a shield for shame. I began to accept that I deserved all that is good and quit expecting myself and others to be flawless. I stopped talking and began to listen. I became curious instead of judgmental because as I had judged others I had judged myself far worse. I acquired peace.
After having been an executive coach for more than a decade I find that my story mirrors the misconceptions my clients share.
I Just Have to Work Harder
When things aren’t going well achievers get stressed and think that if they just try harder things will get better. After all, that strategy helped them get to where they are. So, they buckle down in one size-fits-all strategies such as – work late, apply for more positions, network more, get another degree, put in for another promotion, change for the sake of change, read more self-help or business books, attend more professional development seminars. They think things will improve because of their dedication when in fact doing more of the same just brings more disappointment, let down from unmet expectations, more stress, less confidence and makes them not only ineffective but drained. They hold out for the perfect job, opportunity or waiting for their own perfection instead of taking risks that build self-assurance. Don’t get stuck by just working harder.
I Need All the Right Stuff
All the education, good grades, good schools, awards, experience, letters of reference, and measurable accomplishments in the world won’t matter if people don’t like, respect and want to connect with you because you’ve got something they either a) want more of, or b) want to put to work for them – your unique value and likeability. Getting another degree or certification is great if you have the time and money to do so, and it is required for the industry you seek. Don’t confuse these credentials as a substitute for heightening your “It-Factor.” Done is better than perfect.
We are so close to our own habits and familiar with our own perspectives that we can’t see what is obvious to others – we don’t know what we don’t know. We get stereotyped without even realizing it. “She’s not executive material.” “He’s too emotional.” “He can’t take us to the next level.” We don’t understand why we aren’t progressing because we don’t have the self-awareness to see around our blind spot. Then we lose confidence, become stressed and play it safe which makes the situation worse. It becomes virtually impossible to undo these stereotypes without a third party unbiased guide. Get a professional unbiased perspective on your performance and your mindset. Build your self-awareness.
My leadership, relationships and happiness changed when I stopped being a victim, owned my part in being stuck and chose to have mindful curiosity about myself and everything around me. This is power. I adopted mindful daily practices that keep me grounded in the moment so that doubt, judgment and cynicism have no place to root. Living in the moment allows for space between stimulus and response. Between thought and reaction. Between the trigger that trips the fear or frustration button and the deep breath that allows limiting thoughts to pass.
Mindful daily routines are a world class workout for the mind. They teach you to stay in the moment and not fast forward to negative assumptions. They instill confidence and executive presence for high performance and better connection with the people who matter. A great night’s sleep is a bonus.
Here is a link to the FREE Flow-on-the-Go Guide I give to my executive coaching clients to develop and sustain this evolution of awareness. Success is freedom. Not more hours.
Mary Lee Gannon, ACC, CAE is an executive coach and corporate CEO who helps busy leaders get off the treadmill to nowhere to be more effective, earn more, be more calm and enjoy connected relationships with the people who matter while it still matters. Watch her FREE Master Class training on Three Things to Transform Your Life and Career Right Now at www.MaryLeeGannon.com.