Is Your Hero Hiding?

I grew up in a culture that revered humility. Doing good anonymously. Anyone who called attention to themselves with pride in their work was spoken of with scorn. The message was clear. Don’t draw attention to yourself. Do good, but keep a low profile.

But the paradox is, you can’t do your good work in the world unless people know. So I have worked on my discomfort around sharing my own accomplishments. And I encourage others to get comfortable there too. Which leads me to this…. Three stories. Of women who weren’t afraid of change. Who instinctively knew that change — upsetting the status quo, was exactly the thing to do. They were not afraid of hard work. Or the disappointment that might come with venturing out there into new territory. In our work together we had moments though, when it was hard for each of them to acknowledge their strengths, to feel good about their special skills, to confidently talk about their value in a job interview —  and to ask for more money. They grew into being confident in those areas.

Three Hero Stories

Kate was running a successful local business. Although it paid the bills, she knew it wasn’t a career. But because it paid the bills, she put up with it, for a while. There came a point when she knew the clock was ticking, and it was time to do a 360. After we worked together for a while, she uncovered her true passion, her life’s work, and with guidance began taking actions toward her dream. Today she is working in a job she loves, in a vibrant city that ‘feeds her’ and she is even taking on leadership roles. She answered the call to leave comfort behind for awhile, and seek adventure (because that’s what heroes do).

Megan had mad skills, but was working in a job that was not challenging. When she talked with me she described her role as ‘being a piece of the machinery’. After we dove in, she saw the shape of her desire, and it was not doing the work she thought she was supposed to do. We coupled that with her strengths, and she began designing her next career move. Megan is ambitious, and has already landed the first job up her career ladder. For her, the hero’s journey is just beginning, and she knows what will sustain her along the way.

Emily might call herself a ‘failure to launch’ statistic. After she graduated from college, she moved back to her hometown when no dream job offer came calling. She began working in the first job that came her way back home, and before she knew it she was very good at her job — AND miserable. Her dreams were being submerged, they looked farther and farther away. She was afraid they just might disappear. Within six weeks of our work together, Emily had connected her dreams to real actions, then actions into opportunities. After wrapping up her life here in the midwest, she’s enjoying success and happiness in Seattle.

All three of these women worked very hard. They were willing to say yes, and to be coached. They invested in themselves. I asked them tough questions, gave them assignments to explore deeper. I asked them to do things outside their comfort zones like asking for more money when job offers came in. They continued to show up and follow through. They kept going. Answering the call to adventure and going forward with perseverance is what hero’s all have in common.

Empowering people and connecting you to your dreams and desires is what coaching is all about. Helping you become the hero of your own story.

Can you be your own hero?

What are you waiting for?

Expectations have unexpected consequences

Behind every story of disappointment, lurks a failed expectation. Expectations are outcomes that arise out of assumptions, a way of exerting control over life – people mostly but also experiences. And as we all know, life rarely agrees to meet our expectations.

There is another way though.

Janet had a fledgling commercial photography business. She got a new client, a referral from a good friend. Since the referral (we’ll call her Irene) was a friend of a friend, Janet decided to sidestep her usual written agreement (that felt too formal). Janet also decided to give her new client a significant discount on her services, as this new client was ‘a friend of a friend’.

Irene turned out to be a demanding and difficult client. She cancelled their first meeting at the last minute, then, after re-scheduling, she showed up at the planning meeting unprepared and unprofessional. Janet had to work within these limiting conditions to do her job. When Janet delivered her photos, Irene was critical of the results, and asked Janet to reshoot the photos.

Janet was resentful of Irene’s demands, and angry that she was being paid far short of her usual fee for a lot of aggravation and extra work. She only had herself to blame, so she was silent and took the criticism without comment. She ended up feeling both used and discouraged. Since Janet had given Irene a discount, she had expected her to be easy to work with, and abide by the ‘rules’. Except that Irene had different expectations for this business transaction.

 

Dashed expectations have consequences. They don’t feel very good.

 

A clear agreement in the beginning of the relationship, laying out the framework of expectation, would have helped Janet begin this business relationship. If (when) problems arose Janet could refer to this agreement, and get buy in from her client. This is an assertive policy and could have salvaged Janet’s self esteem, and her bottom line. Mutual agreements are so important to any relationship, whether they are business or personal. Knowing that everyone has a unique perspective on expectations is important. Being aware of your own expectations are vital, to avoid disappointment and broken relationships.

 

 

I like to share stories. Most of the articles I share here are taken from my own life. Those are true. I also write about other people, and their learning experiences. All the people I write about here are fictionalized, to protect confidentiality. 

 

The Power of Small Acts of Courage

I never know what might happen.

Tall, short haired and serious, Jean is a very inspirational woman. A Vice President in her company, she works very hard and is well respected. She came in January to a business retreat I led. The work that day concentrated on changing or letting go of things that were not serving life and work. My job was to help the participants to expand and transform in ways they wanted more of. Sometimes surprising things come out of these retreats.

As Jean worked through the exercises, she compiled a list of ideas, both personal and work related. Jean was on firm ground when it came to work goals. But when it came to personal relationships, she was less confident. On her “I want more of this” list, she had written in the personal column, “To be closer to my daughter”. Her adult daughter lived with her in the lower level of her house. They had an okay relationship, but not as close as Jean wished it was. It was a source of sadness to her that they lived in the same house. but never enjoyed each other’s company or had any fun together. They actually had very little interaction. 

 

When Jean and I had coffee later, her eyes were shining. Now that a closeness with her daughter was on her wish list she was feeling hopeful. Jean decided to test the waters and see if there was anything she could do to reinvigorate their family dynamic. She decided to write a note, but give it to her daughter in person. The note said, “Our lives are so hectic and busy, I know. But one of my goals for this year is to have more fun with you. Would you help me with this goal? What do you think?”

 

After her daughter read the letter, she looked up in surprise. She wasn’t 100% enthusiastic, but she didn’t say no.  Jean’s daughter could have said no, but Jean’s desire for closeness over rode the risk. This took great courage. Jean was used to showing strength at work, but in personal matters, she sometimes floundered.

Next day, Jean drew up a list of potential activities to choose from, and asked her daughter to choose something. When the weekend rolled around, they were going to a concert together.

Is this big goal work?

Yes, if the goal is deeper, more loving relationships. Relationships are built, one step at a time.

Does this fulfill the “I want more of this” goal?  Jean was one move closer to a goal that can expand outward. This kind of transformation begins with the quiet power of courageous acts.

What is your “I want more of this” goal for 2017? Work and career? Deeper relationships? Building pathways to greater purpose? Can you do something today that’s a first step?

It all begins here.

The Dark Side of Nice


Do you spend time thinking and worrying about the problems of others, and how you can fix them?

  • Do people know they can call on you at work to take care of the extra last minute projects because you’re ’nice’ and ’so helpful’?
  • Are you the one that always goes along with whatever the group wants? Never expressing your opinion or finding your voice?
  • Maybe you have an adult child who is always calling you for help?
  • A friend who is always embroiled in some drama, and you’re the only person who understands?
  • Do you drop everything to handle things for your family? And you see this as your job?
  • Do you end up feeling unheard? Taken advantage of. Or wonder when it’s your turn to shine?atlas

First. Congratulations on your big heart. You are NICE. You’ve knocked that one out of the park. But because you’ve hung in here reading with me, you recognize that nice could be hurting you, and there are other strengths you could be utilizing.

There comes a time to understand this impulse of yours to jump to the rescue. Not necessarily to become less ‘nice’ but so you feel less fragmented, less taken advantage of, less like you are at the bottom of your own ’to do’ list. When you start to get excited about your own plans, when you quit trying to fix others problems and empower them instead.

Here’s the thing. Getting wrapped up in other people’s problems keeps the attention off yourself and away from your own growth. You may not be aware of it, but taking care of others without caring for yourself, leads to a deep simmering anger that can disguise itself as health problems, stress, sadness, and other secondary issues.

Being constantly pulled away, ’needed’, looks nice, might even feel good, but by doing so, you are closing off growth in those who quote ‘need’ you. Really. 

And, by saying yes to others neediness, you’re utilizing a subtle coping mechanism to avoid your own feelings and resistance to growth and change for yourself.

What does a healthy alternative to the dark side of nice look like?
When you’re whole and complete, you

  1. Set boundaries with people chronically with ‘drama’
  2. You provide a listening ear to your loved ones, but do not attempt to solve their problems for them. You trust them to come up with their own solutions.
  3. At work, you show up as ‘empowered’ doing your job with integrity and capability. You do not take on others problems or last minute projects. Instead, you help coworkers problem solve.
  4. You feel confident and in charge of your own life.

Like many of my clients you may have grown up conditioned to be ’nice’,  to sacrifice your own desires for the good of others. But this only works for so long before the cost of submerging yourself feels wrong.red-shoes-2

You can change the equation from:
You x Other Peoples Problems = You as Atlas
TO
You x Other Peoples Problems = You as Dorothy at the end of the Wizard of Oz

 

Cultivating Optimism When You’re Two Quarts Low

Screen Shot 2014-04-02 at 6.00.48 PM

You just got a phone call from someone you used to have a great relationship with. But since they had a switch in leadership, they have dealt with you in a less than respectful way. Today, the voice on the other end of the line nailed you to the wall. You get off the phone feeling shaken and wondering what you had been thinking when you decided to ……. a) start this business, b) go into this field, c) serve in this capacity …….  take your pick.

Developing optimism when your energy is low, is a skill. Discouragement hits when you’re tired or sick or when you’ve had too many difficult challenges in a row. Your normal optimism is weakening, and you feel yourself looking into a bleak closet. There are a few tricks you can use to turn your boat back around, chugging along in the right direction. Here are a few tips — they may at first seem simple, but there is solid positive evidence behind these  techniques. Simple is good, right?

1. First, step back a moment. Take a long deep breath, let it out slowly. Remove yourself from the scenario. Imagine yourself separate from what is happening. This technique cultivates space between you and whatever nasty pessimistic bug is developing.

2. Remember what it is you have to offer. Write these down. List your past wins. Your clients who love you and why. The research you’ve done recently that you are very proud of. The evaluation that  made you swell with pride.

3. Set down in words, how this moment can help you improve what you do. For example: Clarify agreements with the people you do business with. Create more choice in your work. Pull the plug on a relationship or job. Is there some change that you can make that would take the pressure off?

4. Spend 5 minutes with your Mission/Purpose statement outlining why you’re here doing what you do.

5. Take a 5 minute walk outside your office. Down the hall, around the block, to the coffee shop, wherever you can clear your head.

You were put here with spectacular gifts, meant to be shared with the world. 

“Deborah challenges me

to identify barriers and confront obstacles so I am more productive and aligned with my deepest goals. Her insights along my journey are invaluable.”

Rosemary Collins, Business Owner

“Deborah is an energetic, engaging and skillful listener.

“Deborah is an energetic, engaging and skillful listener who is always fully present when we meet. She challenges me to confront obstacles and identify barriers in my practice so that I am more productive and aligned with my deepest goals. Her insights along my journey are invaluable.” ”

Amy | Project Manager at the University of Michigan and Professional Artist

“Deborah listens carefully to my short-term and long-term goals

and sets a course of strategy including time-tables to carry out my plans and keep it within a structure and focus.”

Nancy Wolfe | Educator, Professional Artist

“She challenges me to recognize my worth

I love Debbie! She is kind, insightful and honest. She challenges me to recognize my worth, identify obstacles and pursue my goals. She treats me as if I am already the person I hope to be. She is a rare find and a joy!”

Heather Suffron, Business Owner and aspiring ESL Specialist