"Dad, how do you set a schedule to be productive when you work from home," my son called and asked me last night. I took a deep breath and did my best to suppress an eye roll at his question, as this is the same "theme" we have been bantering about since he was in the 7th grade. "Buddy, until you are ready to take action to free yourself from your story of procrastination, I'm afraid anything I have to say will waste my breath and your time," I responded.
Coincidentally, I had the same conversation with a client earlier in the day who started the discussion with the same repeating theme. "I am so worried about appearing competent at work that I freeze up in staff meetings to the point I can't find my words," she stated. Her resounding theme of wanting to be the "good girl" was paralyzing her ability just to let go and trust herself. With over 20 years in the workforce, she has countless accomplishments behind her, numerous significant wins, several major victories when it appeared as if victory was not possible. Yet, - there, she mentally stood - the "good girl," blocking all of her views towards success.
Fast forward a few days, and I heard the same resounding theme from an executive leader within law enforcement in a major US City. "I've got so much work piling up due to this virus, and the Chief keeps coming to me with time-sensitive special projects with deadlines of yesterday. I keep saying yes, and when I walk out of his office, I wonder what in the fuck I’ve just done," he stated. "Some nights, I stay up until midnight working, but for some reason, I just can't say no," he lamented. As we dug deeper, he uncovered the story he tells himself about always having to be the good boy and say yes. "My older brother was a shitshow. It was up to me to make my parents proud," he stated. For him, good boys don't say no. They say yes. They put their head down, and they get the job done. "If I say no, I will look weak., I will let the Chief down, and let's face it; nobody can get the job done as I can."
What I know from years of coaching is that whatever story develops to fuel a person's success can also be the mid-life story that causes their professional descent. Think about that for a minute. The “good girl” who rocketed her way to the top through overachieving and always doing the right thing, now in a leadership position unsure of what is “right.” The young man who flew up the career ladder by always saying “YES!” who now finds himself in a position of being overloaded and overburdened, yet fearful of saying no because his “YES!” answer is what propelled him upward. Then, there’s my son. Secure in his indecision because that is what has kept him safe all of these years. Now, on the precipe of adulthood, a step forward seems impossibly inevitable.
What has fueled you towards what you define as success? For some, it's your security. For others, you can say yes to everything and kick ass. For others, it's your talent to switch careers - of which you've had many. Now at mid-life, how has your security, over-achievement, or “yes sir!” hindering you? What do you want from yourself that you aren't quite sure how to access? What repeating feedback are you starting to hear from your internal voice that you want to change?
With my mid-life clients, they've heard their voices enough to realize that their might be some truth in their own words. It takes a few sessions for us to collectively listen to their internal tapes, but once it occurs, that’s when progress happens. Progress means quantifiable action. Insight, while important, is the booby prize of coaching. What do I mean by this?
Insight is power, but by itself, it cannot help anybody become successful. Insight is potential power. It must be organized and directed towards a defined end result, which requires a quantifiable plan of action. You do not need to know everything to take action, but you do need to take action every time you learn something new. What I’ve seen from coaching is that people with a desire for interpersonal growth take imperfect action, while people who remain stagnant keep busy by listening to their internal dialogue and tweaking their plans.
Where are you in your journey? Are you listening to your internal dialogue? Are you contemplating what it might mean to take action? Are you ready to get imperfect so progress can be yours?
The action starts with reaching out. When you’re ready to show up, I’m here.