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Global Leadership Speaker and Premier Work-Life Balance Speaker
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Archive for September 2015

The Mustang Woman

Mustangs were the original wild horses of the West. They’re tough, strong, agile, sound, and quick to learn. Like the horse, the mustang woman experiences great rewards because her life is filled with surprise, drama, and adventure. She’s got guts, because she doesn’t run with the herd just because it is easier or more convenient. Convenience is unfulfilling and can be boring.

Mustang living is exciting, but can be hard. It can get mighty lonely out there on the trail because there are so many barriers and obstacles to overcome. It can hurt, being viewed as the one on the fringe, especially when some people are so willing to sacrifice heart and soul trying to blend in. Sometimes, our greatest obstacle is the self-doubt that can come when faced with pressure to back down or conform. But it’s the trailblazing mustangs who dare to be first, stand up, attack a problem, try a new approach, and keep charging forward despite the inertia or backward movement of the pack.

Sometimes, when it seems like the whole world wants me to slow my mustang down, all I want to do is hit the gas. I’ve come to realize that chocolate scares the heck out of a world that loves vanilla. I don’t know why, but it does. If everyone else is wearing plaid, they are going to hate your polka dots. Some polka-dot lovers will switch to plaid just to fit in, but I’d rather not. I’d much rather be me, perfectly imperfect. I’m the most valuable asset I’ve got, and if I am going to succeed, I’ve got to bank on who I really am and charge ahead, flaws and all.

A Balancing Act

Change places with your child and imagine this: Your mother is a world-class, trailblazing executive who has hundreds or thousands of people who work for her. People cling to her words and jockey for her favor, desperate to impress her… And, there she is, nagging at you to pick up your shoes. To the world, she is a title. To you, she is mom. She performs a daily balancing act.

What the child of the senior executive probably doesn’t know is, women executives wrestle with their job performance as mothers more than anything else they do. When I speak at women’s leadership events, I am constantly asked about balance issues. The reality is that there is no issue of balance. It’s all about imbalance. It’s about making it work so you succeed professionally, raising children who are not juvenile delinquents, and not losing your mind in the process.

So many of the young mothers I meet describe a frenetic cadence they have to sustain as parents and professionals. They always are running to keep up with the demands. Despite their efforts to do it all, they are tortured by guilt because, let’s face it, they can never do enough.

Is it selfish to want a career? Is it selfish to want to be with your children? Is it selfish to want ten minutes to yourself?

Nearly half of the women I spoke with, who are mothers have husbands who are stay-at-home dads. Nationally, just one in twenty fathers are stay-at-home dads, reports the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

What does it mean when these senior-level women choose this option? Does it prove that the old model was right? That the senior executive needs someone at home running the household and taking care of the kids in order to make everything work?

I think that it suggests that running a household and raising a family are such demanding challenges that every parent needs all the help she or he can get. And that those who make it to senior leadership are in a better position economically to choose that option.

What would happen to those national statistics if every family could afford financially to choose that option? Senior leadership is a demanding world, but is it any more demanding than a world where a woman works two back-breaking jobs to pay her family’s bills? I think there are a lot of women who would just love to have that kind of support at home.

Control What Stresses You

There will be times when unpleasant and painful things will happen to you. There will be losses, rejections, illnesses, hardships, and huge difficulties that put obstacles in your reality that you would love to ignore — but you can’t. There will be people you have to deal with who will hurt or harm you. There will be times when you lose when you expect to win. Moments that you are in danger when you assume you are safe. You cannot run from fate. But you can control what stresses you by taking charge over the realities you prioritize.

That means you ask the question, “Do you live to work or work to live?” If you want to be in the “work to live” category, you dial down the volume on work-related stress because work no longer owns you. It is a part of your life — not your life.

When you face other stresses in your life, ask whether they matter to your heart and soul — or not. If they don’t, you can consciously minimize your emotional attach­ment to the situation. You still have to deal with the chal­lenging situation, but you don’t have to let it possess you.

Instead of passively reacting to what is on the plate in front of you, take time to really look at what you’re facing. Closely examine what you are dealing with. How deeply do you have to dive into the situation? Can you control the degree of stress you experience? Is this something that has to be a part of your reality? If so, all the time?

Making the decision to choose your peace is a huge reset moment.

Frame of Reference

It’s not surprising that you might lose perspective when it comes to work because you likely spend at least forty hours a week there. You can’t spend that much time immersed in anything without it influencing your frame of reference. There is a hierarchy that tells you in no un­certain terms who is more important and who is less im­portant. You are told what you need to know, do, and, often, think. You are told when you need to show up and where you need to be. The culture governs your ward­robe and your tone. You deliver a work product that someone else dictates — even if you are working in a col­laborative team environment. You are assigned tasks. Given priorities.

You work, then you get paid. And the more you fit into their culture — their reality — the greater your rewards.

When everybody is frantic over a huge deadline, you sense its immediacy and importance. It takes precedence over everything else.

You have to navigate the politics in order to move ahead, or you must come up with a survival plan when you’ve messed up. There are people you have to listen to, whether you like them or not. And you have to bow to their authority. Maybe even stomach their morals. Things often get a little muddy.

There is endless intrigue at work. What is going to happen to the company? How is new technology going to change things? Who is going to survive the layoffs? Why didn’t you get that raise? How come they promoted that idiot? Doesn’t anyone appreciate you?

There’s sabotage. There’s gossip.

The politics unfolds around you all day, every day.

So it all must be very important, right?

This environment, with all of its intrigue and activity, shapes your world because you are there in the middle of it. For hours and hours and hours. So we operate on the level of human experience and are distracted by this illusion of reality that we invite into our perspective.

Achieving Your Purpose

Are you achieving your purpose? Someone else may tell you that you need to do this or that in order to achieve your “potential,” but you are the only one who can — and should — define your potential and how you want to spend your energy.

The larger question is always, “Am I achieving my human potential for the time I am here on earth?” If you are spending your time doing that, you are spending your time wisely. If you are focusing on things that are ultimately meaningless once it is time for you to leave this earth, then you are wasting your efforts.

Recalibrate. Reset. Go deep.

There is a peace that can exist inside of you, a real peace, a liberating peace that frees you. Life’s distractions don’t have to affect you on a soul level. You can choose this peace. But it will not come to you without you making this choice.

You can choose a path filled with personal mission and depth rather than expectation and inevitability. The second path is well-worn. Will you notice anything miss­ing if you don’t travel it?

What you allow into your head greatly impacts the way you experience your life, and you have control over that.

When you remind yourself that everything that happens is educating you and developing your soul, it is easier to disengage from many of your worries.

On a soul level, our daily dramas are simply meaningless.

That is a very hard awakening to embrace, but if you believe that you were brought here to live and grow and learn, and you have a spiritual component in that, you’ve got to realize that you probably obsess about a lot of things that aren’t important to your larger self.