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“Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us.
Between the two stands Resistance.”
― Steven Pressfield
As leaders, while we may be getting better at recognizing when procrastination and Imposter Syndrome are inadvertently self-sabotaging our success, it is the sometimes invisible and multi-faceted specter of resistance that may be creating the most harm.
Every day I talk with extraordinary leaders actively curating lives and careers of impact and joy. People with careers and Next Chapter goals as varied as their ages and employment status and scenarios. Within this diversity, it is exhilarating (from a coach’s perspective!) to observe how many common barriers to success are self-created; thus providing an opportunity to create strategies to help.
A good reminder, too, that we are not alone in our challenges!
Resistance can show up in many forms. It can be an outcome of self-doubt, and an aspect of our limiting beliefs – what we believe (as fact) is and is not possible.
While you may be able to identify when you (or others) experience a lack of confidence, resistance can hide in plain sight.
If you are actively seeking to increase your impact as a leader, to learn, to advance, to create financial abundance in alignment with your true value, and you wonder if you may be inadvertently holding yourself back, here are 5 Steps to Reveal Your Resistance that may help:
- Have there been situations recently where you took yourself out of the “game”? Declined an invitation to do something? Removed yourself from an opportunity to grow, learn, stretch new leadership muscles, advance, be seen? Not participated fully in something? Said “no”? Given up on the promotion/happiness/achieving your dream scenario/success/etc.?
- Make a list of all the reasons why you made that choice (Ideally before reading the next Step).
- See if any of your practical-sounding reasons appear in some of the common forms of resistance below [note: you’ll notice it’s tricky: what is true in one situation, can be resistance in another. Coaching can help reveal the “truth” for you.):
- Best practices/norms “I need to stay in this job for another year.” “I need to get more training before I’m ready to…” “I’m not supposed to…” “No one else is doing that”
- Blame “That person doesn’t know what they’re doing.” “They don’t know what I need.” “They don’t value me.” “They should have been more prepared.”
- Separation “I’m not salesy.” “I’m not like that.” “I would never…” “This is just how I am.” “They don’t really believe I can do it.” “I don’t have the time.” “I don’t have the money.” “I’m an introvert.” “No one else…” “This is ridiculous.” “This is so amateur.”
- Disconnection “This isn’t going to change. It’s just how it is.” “I’m never going to be able to…”
- Flight “I’m not going to waste my time on this.” “I’m leaving.” “I’m quitting.”
4. Now, pause for a minute to think about your overall goals.
5. In looking back at the situations where you chose not to lean in fully, what might the benefit be (to you and to others) if you said “yes”? How can you reword your list of reasons to make it “make sense” for you to say yes? (This often means letting go of some big assumptions and beliefs – which of course then creates the possibility of Big Shifts!).
If this is resonating with you, here’s a little extra motivation: When we let our resistance prevent us from doing something… it is often an indication that we are thinking more of ourselves than those we aim to serve. Yikes! Learning this from one of my mentors literally stopped me in my tracks. And it’s guided me ever since.
I remember the first time I became aware of my resistance hiding as “being a good leader.” It was before a performance at the University of California San Diego where I was serving as Interim Executive Director of Artpower. I’d always sought to empower and celebrate my team, with a very behind the scenes approach to leadership, and had asked my staff to do the curtain speech. I told myself it was my production and operations background, that I didn’t want to be “that person who sounds like a salesman,” that I wanted others to shine – and I had many other “good” reasons to not go on stage to speak.
You can see the story I was creating in my head – and I believed it rather than being self-aware that I am an introvert, I used to get really nervous, I was afraid of making mistakes – I’m not good at memorizing words (music I can!), and getting up on stage was terrifying.
That night, a donor asked me if I was going to do the curtain speech. I said no, a staff member was. She said “Kathryn. You are boldly leading us forward, and I am grateful for that. But we need to see all 6 feet of you on stage, visibly embodying that we remain an organization that is thriving and moving forward during our leadership transition. The donors, the community members, we all NEED you to do and be this for us.”
Guess who went on stage?
From that moment on, I began asking myself “What do those around me need, in order for them to do and be their best. How can I show up fully to create that possibility?” Over time, while every organization is different, I’ve learned how to stay open to stretching new muscles. I am becoming quite fearless – or at least I feel that way until a new, sneaky form of resistance appears! My coaches say that I am very “coachable” which I believe reflects my commitment in curating a life of joy and impact, and my understanding that the way to do that is to (only) choose the thoughts, feelings, language and actions that create that possibility.
“Rise to the challenge of bringing your dreams to life! Do not be discouraged by resistance, be nourished by it. Success is the experience of rising to the level of your true greatness.”
― Steve Maraboli, Unapologetically You: Reflections on Life and the Human Experience
To your success,
“Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen.” “Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.” ― Brené Brown
Okay folks. I’ve just uncovered one of the top reasons leaders (people!) don’t have the meaningful success, relationships, income, and impact they want. And it’s crazy frustrating.
Here’s what it’s NOT:
It’s not because you may not have the same level of education as others have, or aren’t as skilled or experienced as others in your field are, or don’t have the job title you feel you “should” have by now, or are older/younger/something other than you see as being valued by your industry.
Don’t get me wrong – of course education, skills and experience are important. And ageism and glass ceilings DO exist. However, after talking with and coaching hundreds of leaders at crossroad moments, these “factual” barriers are not what holds people back.
For many, it’s what happens as a result of thinking they are somehow different, separate or “less than” those who are “successful.” It’s the voices in your head, your Imposter Syndrome, your limiting beliefs and your assumptions about what is and is not possible for you that take up a lot of space, and literally prevent opportunities from being seen let alone seized.
Don’t think this applies to you? Great!
And… are you really sure? I’ve watched respected leaders be confident and able to excel and advance in many areas, and simultaneously have blind spots in certain situations or with certain people/positions; somehow believing they don’t belong. It’s Imposter Syndrome, it’s not understanding one’s true value (the impact we have on others when we’re showing up fully), sometimes its cultural, and it’s sneaky.
I’ve had some recent experiences where I was again reminded how a lack of belonging can make leaders inadvertently self-sabotage their progress and success – their impact:
Every time I hold the first convening of my group coaching and leadership cohorts- either in the group or afterwards privately – my clients will express some version of “thank you for accepting me – even though I KNOW that I’m not as _(fill in the blank)_ compared to all the other leaders.” Or, “Everyone else has similar backgrounds. I’m the only one who is facing _(fill in the blank)_ .” Or, “I’m not like that, I don’t/can’t/won’t do that.”
This happens 100% of the time.
Once, every single group participant let me know privately after the first meeting that they felt like an outlier. Think about that – every extraordinary leader was looking around the room thinking they weren’t as “good” as all the other participants! It was a great teaching moment, because it was so obvious that they couldn’t all be right.
Sometimes the separation is done with self-depreciating humor, beautiful complements to others, or subtle, quiet, even kind, self-editing, and sometimes it is revealed in dramatic fight or flight resistance.
I was recently facilitating a meeting of diverse leaders; all contributing to the conversation with depth, breadth and artistry. Because the group had been working together for some months, there was reflection that it was now easier to feel comfortable bringing more of themselves to the table.
Instead of wasting time choosing words carefully to not inadvertently offend, or spending brain power holding back trying to put their non-conforming ideas into what they thought others in the group might view as more “acceptable-sounding” frameworks, creative ideas flowed, tears flowed, connections occurred and a new outcome appeared that would not have been possible with people holding back out of fear of judgement and being seen.
Luckily in coaching we can reveal and breakthrough these limiting beliefs, but its easy to imagine how feeling separate can shut us down, create a sense of victimhood or hopelessness, and stop us from contributing, participating, impacting, growing, expanding, even loving.
And, it takes up A LOT of time and space to think this negative way about ourselves!
So! What can we do to make a shift into connectedness and belonging? Here’s some Guiding Questions that may help:
- What situations do you feel Imposter Syndrome kicking in? Why do you feel less than, compared to others?
- When do you find yourself self-editing? Why?
- What do you believe about yourself and/or others that is informing your thoughts, feelings and actions? How do you (really) know this is true?
- How are these limiting beliefs and decisions holding you back?
- What situations are you avoiding? Or not pursuing? Why?
- What would it look like if your limiting beliefs and assumptions were not true or relevant? How would it feel? What would it make possible?
MAKE A CHOICE
- “Just DO it!” Starting today, assume that you DO belong, “even if” you’re not as _(fill in the blank)_ as others. Lean in and say “yes!”
- Commit to being fully present, listening, observing, BE-ing you – with curiosity in seeing what occurs.
- Respect that whoever invited you, sees a reason for that decision.
- Know that likely there are others in the room who may be battling their own feelings of lack.
SET AN INTENTION – FOR BEING
- You get to decide how to BE, and to value what that will make possible. Of course, be prepared, but don’t hide behind data or powerpoints, don’t set about to prove your worth, expertise, belonging. Set an intention for BEing that helps you show up fully, and thus creates the possibility for helping others. [for more on intention-setting in meetings, check out this BLOG]
OBSERVE & REFLECT
- What were the tangible and non-tangible ways your presence elevated, supported, guided, helped? How do you know?
- What was the hardest part for you? Why?
Showing up fully, knowing we belong, is a practice. As you experience your true value, and start seeing your impact on others, clarity and confidence increases. You’ll have more time to think about important things! You’ll be doing things that will help you create the success you envision, rather than inadvertently avoiding the very things and people that will help make it possible.
To your success,
Kathryn R Martin
“Next Chapter” Coach
Creator of The Career (Life!) Breakthrough Academy
Leadership Transition Strategist & Professional Interim CEO
****NEWS – 1. The February 2020 Leadership Cohort is being formed NOW. 2. If you or someone you know is ready to take a leap into a Next Chapter, JOIN me LIVE on <<Thursday, January 30th at 6:00pm PST>> for a FREE Online Training: Monetize Your Superpower!
This is often a time of year for reflection, followed by goal-setting and resolutions. If your annual process works for you, great! However, if you find yourself disappointed, disillusioned or even depressed about what did not occur for you this past year, it’s a great time to try something new with my Six Questions to Clarity exercise.
These past three weeks I’ve been talking with leaders who are exploring the two coaching programs launching in January* – all are at a self-described “crossroad moments” and wanting to curate their dream scenarios in 2020. They are from different industries, backgrounds, ages, positions, and income levels.
Two themes have appeared. Frustrating, heart-wrenching
1. Inadvertent Self-Sabotage
Believe it or not, what you may consider as realistic,
practical, best practices, or even facts, may not be relevant to you, and be the determining factor in preventing you from reaching your goals. Similarly, what you consider to be the mark of success, may be getting in the way of you seeing the success you are having right now.
I had the honor of speaking with a visual artist and a musician last week. The conversations were one day apart, and while these leader’s lives are completely different, each shared how they were happy, having impact on the lives of friends, family, community and organizations. During one of the conversations, a couple even walked by and said how much they had enjoyed their performance the night before!
The leaders each spoke of people seeing and acknowledging them for things that really mattered. And then, the musician said, “But I know I should be performing in Carnegie Hall or Paris. I guess I’m just never going to be successful.” The artist said, “I gave up on having shows in galleries in New York.” I was struck by the jarring “should-ing” they both were inadvertently doing!
Early in our careers having ambition and being able to visualize our success was often a very important tool. For some, that definition of success remains true, but for many, the definition of success needs to deepen as we grow into ourselves, connect with our impact (our purpose), and see how many “vehicles” we have available to have that impact. In the case of these two leaders, they said they are happy! They said they are living full lives of meaning and joy! And yet… the voices in their heads are whispering “you’re not good enough.” Can you imagine how exhilarating it will be, and what will be possible for them, when they see themselves as the successful, purposeful leaders they are? They will attract those who want to help them, and who they are meant to help.
2. Expert Advice Causing Harm
Limiting beliefs don’t always come from within they can be in plain sight as experts give us advice. In the realm of executive search, every day leaders are told in order to reach their goals they “must first do x, y or z to be considered. It’s just the way it is.” These “gate-keepers” wield a lot of influence. It’s one of the reasons I would get so frustrated when I was working in Search and everyone sounded the same, as they all followed expert advice. Recently I was on the phone with a senior level non-profit marketing professional who knows she wants to be an Executive Director. For three years, every recruiter has told her she’s “not ready” yet – she must “first” get a development director job, or start out as an Executive Director of a very small budget organization, or get more credentials, training, and certificates. For the past three years, she’s followed all that advice, invested time and money in training, and was told recently it is still not “enough.” Guess how she’s feeling right now?!
When looking at her materials and doing our Strategy Call, it was clear (to me) that the unique kind of deep impact, experience in supervision, budgeting, relationship marketing and partnerships and collaborations make her an excellent candidate for the right kind of ED or CEO role, and that her unique story of impact and trajectory needs to be conveyed differently to both the recruiters and search committees. If she continues to convey her value in the traditional ways, in terms of skills and experience “boxes” to be checked (or not checked), she will never be enough in the decision-maker’s eyes.
Instead, with a new approach she can take charge, tell her story, enroll and engage others in her trajectory, and find the leadership role where she can thrive, with joy and a salary in line with her true value, and make a difference in the lives of those around her!
As you think about what you accomplished in 2019 (and didn’t), and as you think about what you want to make possible in 2020, try my Six Questions to Clarity exercise:
- How have I defined success in the past?
- As I think about 2020, what does success mean to
me… now? Describe success in detail. NOTE: Check and triple-check your answer: where is that definition coming from (parents? industry? Other “shoulds?” Are you smiling or frowning?)
- How will I feel when I achieve that
- What will my success make possible… for
others? (what is my impact?)
- How many of the responses in #3 and #4 are already
- Therefore, I am slightly revising my definition
of success for 2020 to be…
100% of the extraordinary leaders I speak with have everything they need to be successful, within themselves. You have everything you need. However, there is often missing “foundational” information that needs to be unlocked, revealed, used as a compass, and communicated.
Begin today by taking some time to connect with what you are (really) looking for in 2020. Only then can a plan be reverse-engineered to help you get there.
To your success, and wishing you a very Happy New Year!
Kathryn R Martin,
“Next Chapter” Coach
Leadership Transition Strategist & Professional Interim CEO
*P.S. – 2020 is fast approaching, and our Leadership Coaching Cohorts begin in January – with special pricing and bonuses. IF you are ready to take a leap into your Next Chapter, CLICK HERE and we’ll get on the phone to see if I can be of help.
Use positive thinking to move an organization forward – strategically. With evidence and vision.Continue reading
It’s the day after Thanksgiving and my heart is singing. When we observe and express gratitude, extraordinary things are made possible.
I am grateful for YOU!
Thank you for reading and sharing my emails and social media posts. Thank you for reaching out to me when you are struggling, and entrusting me with your feelings as you consider the first steps in making a change. Thank you for your vulnerability as we work through these shifts, and thank you for letting me know when my words have made a difference in your life.
When I look back at my life prior to starting my coaching business, I remember gathering around the Thanksgiving Table with my family. We would take turns giving thanks for our blessings. It was the singular time of year I would take the time stop to reflect and express my gratitude – and it always felt wonderful.
Yesterday, we came together and again expressed our love and gratitude, and I realized that now I’ve curated a life where I do this Every. Single. Day
This past year I’ve watched in awe as the practice of noticing and focusing on what I am grateful for, has become one of the foundations of the multi-faceted abundance, momentum, ease, clarity, curiosity about what is unfolding, confidence and joy I am blessed to experience.
These past nine months I was entrusted to lead the Tucson Symphony Orchestra forward as their Interim President & CEO. I remember letting the Board President know “I only work with people I like and who want to join me in creating impact.” (!) Just as I do with my individual coaching clients, I’ve found joy in helping them reveal their organization’s unique strengths and purpose, and support the professional staff and volunteers create new-found momentum by focusing on their impact. Not only has a lot been “accomplished” but I am now blessed to have created new life-long friendships. I will miss my team when the permanent CEO arrives!
I’ve also come to observe how the more we focus on what we’re grateful for, the more frequently extraordinary things happen and momentum builds. This one practice (noticing and expressing gratitude) literally creates the possibility for creating the lives we may have not even known was possible.
Last year, after receiving the IAOTP’s “Top Leadership Coach” award, new things began happening “out of the blue.” (This is a known phenomenon that many of my clients also report experiencing when we work together.) I was invited to join an international group of women launching a video conversation series on compassionate leadership, I was invited to co-author a book with Oprah Winfrey, Melinda Gates and 47 other extraordinary women, I was contacted with the news I’ll be receiving the “Empowered Woman of the Year” award in Las Vegas next month, and last week I was invited to coach and facilitate a convening of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences’ Commission on the Arts. “Out of the blue” three extraordinary professionals reached out offering me their expertise and support in the exact areas I had been thinking about, but had not yet taken action on. And, have had a graduating class on the on-line self-paced “Career (Life!) Breakthrough Academy.
Every single day, I have deep, meaningful conversations with people around the globe. Friends, clients, members of the on-line self-paced “Career (Life!) Breakthrough Academy, leaders signing up for Strategy Calls – people just like you – all successful leaders who want to have impact and be of service. People who are often feeling a pulling to a Next Chapter and have a curiosity about what may be possible. I am so grateful when amazing people have willingness to ask for help and their trust in me with their story.
I teach, I learn, I support. I laugh, I cry. I love my life!
None of this would have been possible if I had not taken a step into possibility 4 years ago.
Shifts don’t just happen, and trying to decide what to do next, or how to differentiate yourself can be quite frustrating or confusing. I’ve developed a unique process to help you look inward, take stock, gather evidence of impact, and develop the elevated language needed to reveal and speak your uniqueness.
If you would like to take a concrete step that is likely to create new possibilities for you, I invite you to build upon the North American tradition of Thanksgiving, and every day between now and December 31stcomplete the following simple prompt:
· Today, I am so grateful for (start with a list of at least 3 things):
Then, record and reflect on what you list. What do you observe? What are you choosing to notice and capture? Over time, does your list shift? Over time, what do you observe is occurring in your life? And please let me know!
Thank you for all you do, thank you for who you BE.
To your success!
P.S. – You may also be interested in this BLOG: “Gratitude is a Verb”
Kathryn R Martin,
“Next Chapter” Coach
Leadership Transition Strategist & Professional Interim CEO