I’m Not a TOTAL Wreck, But…

I’ve been writing a lot about head traffic lately. As a result, I’ve been getting emails from women with head traffic.

Go figure.

Most of them have the exact same punchline, i.e. some form of this:

I’m trying to get ahead in my career, but I feel like I’m holding myself back.

Take Sharon’s email for example – and no – that’s not her real name. Here’s an excerpt:

I’d like to get some advice from you on a few things. This is what’s going on.

1. I cry…frequently…especially when things are not going well.
2. I always play by the rules, and as a result, I lose all the time.
3. I’m not a quick thinker, so after I have walked away from a conversation, I run it over in my head and I have all sorts of things I wish I had said.
4. I’m not street smart.

I’m not a total wreck, but I really dislike these things about me. Any advice?

Seems like a tall order right?

It wasn’t.

Sharon doesn’t have four issues, she has ONE issue – and that’s getting stuck in the traffic jam between her ears. Every time she thinks, “I’m not” or “I lose”, she is engaging with those thoughts. Period.

Whatever you feed grows, people.

It’s true in nature and it’s certainly true in our head. So with every crying jag…with every “missed” opportunity to say something different…Sharon was simply fertilizing her mad ideas.

No, she’s not watering them. She is FERTILIZING them because I can smell that shit from here. And what’s so insidious about this process is that it happens so friggin’ slowly that one day we wake up only to find that we can no longer distinguish between our internal voice of love and logic from our internal voice of lunacy. And because we ACT based on how we FEEL, next thing we know we’re stunting our growth at work and reaching out to career authors for help.

I was happy to oblige of course, so I gave Sharon a bit of homework.

1. First, I advised her to listen to Monday’s Awake Exec call (found here under DEETS) on “the space” between stimulus and response.

2. Second, I advised her to ditch the notion that she needed to “change” her behavior. Following the lessons of the call, Sharon was told how to become a witness to her thoughts, how to “catch” herself being critical and – whenever she had a thought morph into any version of “I SUCK” – how to squash it like a bug.

Here’s what she wrote back a few days later:

So I tried out the 3 steps and turns out, this actually works! I tend to feel terrible when I make a mistake or if things aren’t going as planned, and over the last 2 days I’ve been catching myself. After asking a few questions about how I feel and why I feel that way, I realize that it’s not even that big a deal! I’m on a mission now to not let the fear of failure cripple me and to understand that mistakes are okay, and take a lesson out of my mistakes. That’s way better than beating myself up for no reason. And here I was, thinking I was crazy!

I know what you’re thinking.

C’mon Emily. If it was THAT easy, we’d all be doing it, right?

Well it is.

So why aren’t we?

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