How to Cure a Case of the “Shoulds”

shutterstock_218313466Over the past few weeks, I’ve been challenged to up my game on just about every level in just about every area of my life. I’m managing a series of personal and professional transitions that are unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before, and it’s been an unbelievably stressful time.

It’s brought to the fore a number of old resentments, fears, and anger that I thought I’d mastered, or at least of which I thought I was aware enough that I didn’t need to worry about them much any more.

It’s also brought forward a painful case of the shoulds.

Perhaps the shoulds are familiar to you. They sound like this:

“I should be at this point in my career by now, just like so-and-so.”

“I should be past this degree of family-of-origin drama by this age.”

“I should be able to handle this circumstance without medication/therapy/my coach/crying all the time.”

“I should have married someone more like x person, or with x qualities.”

“I should be more financially stable by now.”

“My team shouldn’t hate me so much. I don’t know what I’m doing wrong.”

I’ve heard all of these from clients, and some of them from myself, over the past few weeks.

The shoulds are closely related to the “supposed tos.” Those go something like this.

“I’m supposed to be x kind of leader.”

“I’m supposed to make x amount of money, or I won’t be good enough for my dad.”

“I’m supposed to not be in debt, but I made stupid mistakes when I was younger and now I feel bad about myself every damn day.”

Any and all of these may be familiar to you.

My up close and personal interactions with the shoulds, the supposed-tos, and their friends fear, resentment and anger over the past few weeks have led me to a place of considering a novel mindset in recent days– one that I’ve avoided for a long time, but that has proven to be a powerful cure.

What is it?

It’s something called radical acceptance.

I’ve never been particularly good at radical acceptance. I’m more the type of person who has acted to beat her head against a wall in every effort to change circumstances that have made me unhappy in every single way, for as long as I can remember.

Sometimes (well, rarely), that strategy has worked. More often than not, however, it has led me instead to being more miserable than before, and to wondering what’s wrong with me that I can’t change other people/a workplace/a familial relationship into exactly what I think it “should” be.

Which leads to this interesting observation: most of the time, fighting so hard to change other people or environments actually leads to you only being harder on yourself.

Radical acceptance of what is, however, leads to another path.

Radical acceptance says “I can’t change this person or circumstance. I can only take them for who or what they are, and make my decisions from there.”

Radical acceptance says “I accept that I am responsible for my own emotions, not anyone else. If I stop blaming the other party, maybe I can investigate how my reactions are contributing to this relationship drama.”

Radical acceptance says “I can’t change that I’m under mountains of debt thanks to past decisions. What I can change is how fast I get out of it.”

Radical acceptance says “I am where I am in my career, and these are the demands of it right now. How do I negotiate with those, instead of wishing it was different?”

Radical acceptance gets you on the path to tackling what’s in front of you, instead of beating yourself up for the past, offloading your part in your present circumstances, or wishing that the present was something other than what it is.

And an added side benefit? It’s awfully hard to be angry, fearful or resentful if you radically accept your present circumstances.

In other words, “this is how it is” forces you to confront reality, and ACT.

This week, I invite you to consider how radical acceptance might play out in your life.

If you radically accept that your current job isn’t working for you and never will, what will you do next?

If you radically accept your spouse for who they are, faults and all, what choices will you be led to?

If you radically accept that your family members will not change no matter how much you want them to, what will that mean for how you interact with them?

Will you choose “shoulds” and “supposed-tos”? Or will you choose to take responsibility for your own life, to own your values and your choices and the kind of person you want to be, and act from that place?

Wishing you a great week of experimenting with radically accepting what is.

Best,
Elizabeth

What I Learned From My Digital Detox

shutterstock_220489903For years, I’ve been recommending that my clients take daily breaks from online activities– often for as long as three hours a day if they can swing it.

And indeed, daily breaks from the phone have been a practice of mine for as long as I can remember. I know and understand the benefits.

Until last week, however, I’d never done a full-on digital detox– meaning no social media whatsoever– of any serious and/or challenging length.

(And trust me, when you run a digital business (or two), it’s awfully hard to imagine unplugging from what often feels like your professional and financial lifeline by doing this. Fear is often a good justifier/excuse for not doing what you know needs to be done.)

Last week, however, I hit a breaking point.

A coach I’ve been working with– because even the best coaches need coaches themselves; this is the first one I’ve worked with for my own betterment in a while– saw that I was near a breaking point in terms of how hard I’d been pushing myself, the stress I was under, and the almost unbearable effects it was having on my physical and mental well-being.

(Not that my health care and personal wellness professionals hadn’t been pointing to the same thing for months. They had. I just didn’t listen).

By mid-last week, I was feeling truly awful in a number of very significant ways.

And so my coach ordered me, in no uncertain terms, on to a 48 hour digital detox.

“But what about x deadline, y newsletter, all this usual stuff I do¬†all by myself, every week, with no help? Those things have to fire to social media, and if I don’t do them, I’ll be letting everyone down.”

“Nothing that you are doing,” she said to me, “can’t wait a few days.”

And so, at the instruction of my coach, in addition to 48 hours of digital detox, I also offloaded anything work-related, digital or not, that didn’t feel easeful or like an invitation, for the next three plus days.

Perhaps if I hadn’t been feeling so terrible, I would have ignored these instructions, as I had ignored others so many times before. But this time, I did not.

And let me tell you, after 48 full-on hours off digital, and three-plus full days not working, the things I learned were profound.

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The Number One Question You Need to Ask Yourself, No Matter Where You Are in Your Career

shutterstock_248690821This week, I’ve spent a lot of time working at the absolute top of my game, and it’s felt great.

I’m in the middle of a major new endeavor that’s eaten up almost all of my attention.

As a result, I’ve spent a lot of time this week working in the zone– you know, that place where you lose all track of time because you’re so engrossed in, and loving, your work.

In the middle of this stint, I also took some time out to talk to two really amazing coaches: Jen Turrell, who is a personal finance coach, and Laura Gates, a Transformational Leadership Coach. Each of them offered me plenty of superb and tremendously insightgful advice and support as I move through this new phase.

In other words, things have been going pretty darn well.

And one of the things that happens when things are going pretty darn well generally, as you may know, is that is easy to get complacent.

And complacency is the death of creativity. (tweet this!)

What hit me this week, as I looked back at all the work I was really proud of over the last little while, was that there was still one question I needed to be asking myself despite how well things were going.

It’s a critical question designed to keep propelling you forward even when you think you’re already at the top of your game.

What is it?

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Ivanka Trump, Perez Hilton and Me– Or, Why Basic Networking is Not Enough

IMG_3751Those of you who are regular readers of my blog know how adamant I am about the importance of networking.

I’ve written quite a bit before about my Spiderweb Approach to networking, how I teach it to my clients, and how you can apply it to your work and life.

Basic networking, however, is only part of the story of your success.

Why? Because it’s what you do once you’re connected to folks who take an interest in your success that matters most.

Which brings me to the story of how I ended up PMing with Perez Hilton on Twitter about technology management, my speaking engagement tonight at the 92nd Street Y, and being bicoastal with a family.

But first, a little backstory.

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