Are you missing a step between awareness and action?

Are you missing a step between awareness and action?

A lot of folks want to spring into action the moment they learn that there is something they are doing wrong. Maybe it’s because they are a high-performer or maybe they are trying to avoid more criticism. Either way, they need to slow down, because there is an important step between awareness and action.

It’s called acceptance. It looks like this…

Let’s say you’ve noticed that you tend to worry about looking foolish in front of your colleagues, so you hold back with your ideas at work. Maybe you even got some feedback from your boss that you need to speak up and participate more in meetings.

If you move straight to action without thinking, you may blurt out any old thing at the next staff meeting. And “I like pickles!” probably won’t add much to the conversation. Nor will “that idea our CEO had was terrible” help your career move forward.

But what if you went into the staff meeting with the intention that it would be a good idea to try to share something relevant. As the meeting progresses, you are aware that you are feeling hesitant to speak. Here’s where acceptance comes in.

Acknowledge that hesitation, and accept it without judgment. Self talk might sound like, “I feel a little afraid to say something dumb. Although, this is a pretty safe group and safe topic.”

When you accept that this old behavior and feeling is where you are right now, your options for action open up. The self-talk might be: “Maybe I could offer an idea I am having that differs from what is being shared. Or I could support my colleague’s idea and say I was thinking something similar. Or maybe today I choose not to speak, and that’s ok. Or I could make that pickles announcement.” (Note: not all options are equally good or appropriate.)

The point is, after you have awareness, don’t rush into action. Pause in acceptance, and you will be better able to see what good options are open to you. Some days, you will try a new behavior, and that’s great – regardless of the outcome. Some days you might not feel like you can do it; give yourself some grace. Yes, we want to nudge you outside of your comfort zone, but we don’t want to push you off a cliff.

Where do you have some awareness about a new behavior you need to explore? Could pausing in acceptance assist you in moving into action?

Aim for progress!

p.s. As always, your comments are welcome on this post at

Read More

Are you contributing to overwhelm at work?

Are you contributing to overwhelm at work?

One of the questions I often ask my coaching clients who are experiencing overwhelm at work is: “Is this a level-of-difficulty issue or a volume issue?”

Level-of-difficulty means they may have been given tasks they don’t know how to do. Volume means that they know how to do the tasks – the tasks may even be easy – but there are just too dang many of those tasks.

It’s almost always a volume issue. And the client played a big role in creating the problem by:
1) being good at their job (i.e., “work flows to the competent’)
2) not saying “no”

Cleary, we don’t want a competent person to act like they are incompetent. So we have to address not saying “no.”

Most people have reasons they don’t want to say “no.” They don’t want to miss out on an opportunity (i.e., they might not get included next time). They don’t want others to think they are unhelpful or not a team-player. They don’t want to disappoint their boss. And being the hero feels good – and safe.

All of this contributes to people coming to them with EVERYTHING because they say “yes” and get it all done. If you are one of these folks, every time you say “yes” you are actually training people to bring all the requests to you. And that’s how you contributed to the problem. The trouble is, it isn’t sustainable for you or for your organization. (When you leave, the organization will have a hard time finding someone willing to work 80 hours a week!)

The truth is, people will still like you if you say “no” or have strong boundaries; boundaries make the other person feel safe because they create certainty and instruct the other person on how to act. Remember, the other person doesn’t know if you are overloaded, overwhelmed or burnt-out. It is up to you to respond to a request with a polite “No, I’m sorry I can’t help you with that because I have too much on my plate right now. I’m afraid I won’t be able to do a good job for you.” If you want, you can even add “I hope you’ll ask me again next time.”

I once had a boss who would give me too many things for me and my team to get done. If I asked what was most important, he’d give me a blank stare and say it was all important. So I took him a long list of to-do’s (and their deadlines) and sat down with him so he could help me prioritize. I’m sure he didn’t like that, but he needed to see the list to understand we had an unmanageable volume of work.

Think about how you are currently contributing to the overwhelm and the volume of work. Where do you need to stop saying “yes” and experiment with saying “no?” It may feel scary, but it can also be empowering. And it will make more space for all of the things you truly want to say “yes” to!

What do you want to say “yes” to?

p.s. It can be hard to go straight from “yes” to “no.” You may want to utilize a stall first: This will give you time to go create a very nice “no!”

p.p.s. As always, your comments are welcome on this post at

Read More

Who Are You Becoming?

Who Are You Becoming?

This is the third blog in a series of three. The first blog was about “who are you?” The second blog asked “who do you think you should be?”

In January I mentioned that I had cleaned out my closet. As I sorted through clothing, I asked the usual questions:
– Does this fit?
– Does it make me feel good?
– Have I worn it in the past few years?
Based on just those questions, I would’ve had one bag of stuff to get rid of.

But this year I added a question that I had recently read: “Does this fit who you are becoming?” Whoa. Now I had three bags.

And it wasn’t because I could succinctly answer the question “who am I becoming?” I know what my values and strengths are, but I am evolving as a person. A lot to this feels like smoke – not something I can grab on to. Instead I thought about “What do I want more of?” “What do I want less of?” And, “How does who I am becoming want to feel?”

What I found for my work self (and wardrobe) is that I am becoming more unapologetically myself. That person wants to dress comfortably. She wants to be professional in work situations, but there’s no need to be overdressed or the best dressed; I don’t need a costume to prop me up or to convince others of my worth. I know what I bring to the table, and I just want to be a person and let other people be themselves, too. (Goodbye suits that I haven’t worn in a decade!)

So you don’t have to be able to answer “who you are becoming” in 25 words or less in order to determine if a sweater, situation, person, or belief fits who you’re becoming. Just take this question into different areas of your life: work, community, friendships. Ask “does this fit who I am becoming?” Notice the feelings. What are you drawn to? What are you ready to let go of?

It’s ok to not have everything figured out. Do be aware though, that a lack of a plan, is a plan in itself. Even when we think we don’t have a plan, we are working a subconscious plan. And the plan’s results are the life you’re currently living. Whether you want to or not, you are evolving.

So think about who you are and who you want to become. Get a picture in your head of him or her or them. What do you need to do – or let go of – to move towards that person?

Maybe it’s to let go of some old clothes; maybe it’s releasing a job or relationship that isn’t good for you. Maybe it’s time to create a bucket list or start your own company or move to Alaska. Maybe it’s a more subtle, internal shift as you learn to take care of, accept, or love yourself.

Who are you becoming?

Enjoy the journey.

p.s. As always, your comments are welcome on this post at

Read More

Ditching the Should’s

Ditching the Should’s

This is part 2 in a three part series. Part 1, about “who are you?,” is here.

In my late 30s, I worked with a therapist who helped me untangle who-I-was from who-I-should-be. It took a while, since I’d spent a long time trying to be who I thought I should.

During the process, I offered to share a vision board I’d made with my therapist, since I thought it described who I was. At our next meeting I toted in the board and proudly presenteded my work of art. She took a quick look at it and largely dismissed it. She could tell immediately that this painstakingly curated visual was what I wanted other people to think of me. (Side note: this is not how you create a vision board. The correct process is more fun and a lot quicker!)

I could tell that I had failed the assignment. So at the next meeting, I shyly shared a brightly colored polka dot piece of fabric, and said that this is who I was on the inside. Her eyes lit up. Now we were getting somewhere!

The linen fabric was about a yard square; fuchsia and lime green; wildly patterned with plenty of polka dots. It was colorful, cheerful and bold. Some might say it was obnoxious or even ugly.

And there it was. I was so afraid to be found unlikable by some, that I was willing to put away the best parts of myself. I was trying to be who I thought other people wanted me to be (based, no doubt, on my wrong assumptions). The truth was, when I let more of my colorful, inner polka-dotted self shine, my relationships with others deepened – especially the important ones.

Will I be everyone’s cup of tea? No way! And that’s all right. Because the great thing is, being the real me takes a lot less energy. And that piece of fabric that I loved? I love it still. And I still have it. But I ditched the vision board.

If you are stuck in the should’s you might notice you do a lot of stuff you don’t want to or that you are controlling your behavior tightly. You may spend a lot of energy pleasing others or trying to make others see you in a certain way. We do this to keep ourselves safe and to ensure others won’t leave us; of course, that safety is an illusion and we can’t control what other people do. Scary? Yes. Liberating? Yes!!

Think about who you think you should be (and who you are trying to please). What does that carefully controlled version of you look like? Now think about who you are. The whole glorious, messy masterpiece. I hope you choose to keep that version front-and-center and let more of it show.

And ditch the should’s!

p.s. As always, your comments are welcome on this post at

Read More