Why the Butt-Naked Truth Pisses Us Off

Dear Friends,

According to a famous Buddhist quote, “Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth.”  Yet, at some point in our lives we’ve all been in possession of some morsel of truth that we’ve chosen not to divulge because we were uncertain how it would be received, interpreted or used against us by others.

History has produced abundant maxims regarding truth.  For example, in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Polonius’ advice to his son Laertes is, “This above all: to thine own self be true… thou canst not then be false to any man.”  Former English Prime Minister, Sir Winston Churchill remarked, Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing ever happened.” Celebrated author Maxim Gorky argued, To speak the truth is the most difficult of all arts, for in its ‘pure’ form, not connected with the interests of individuals, groups, classes, or nations….”  English writer and poet Walter Savage Landor mused, “Truth, like the juice of the poppy, in small quantities, calms men; in larger, heats and irritates them, and is attended by fatal consequences in its excess.” And feminist Gloria Steinem is well-known for her pithy quip, “The truth will set you free. But first it will piss you off” (which just so happens to be the inspiration for this article).  

What is Truth?

Scientifically, truth is based on evidence or reason. Nonetheless, one can argue that truth is a subjective term that is based on individual feelings, opinions and experiences.  Whether you view it from a scientific or subjective position, there is a fundamental truth that lies at the core of each human being that cannot be escaped or ignored in our attempt to reach higher ground.

While truth is considered by some a path to freedom, it is by no means a linear path. There are many confusing and conflicting hairpin turns along the way.  Because it can threaten our very sense of reality, it’s not surprising that many people would rather evade truth and cling to self-constructed illusions. 

Reasons We Bury the Truth

Telling the truth can produce tremendous discomfort, not to mention its inherent – real or perceived – consequences.  Here are three reasons why we prefer to bury the truth: 

1.  Inner Conflict.  Inner conflict is a psychological struggle.  When truth invites us to examine aspects of ourselves and challenge our beliefs, assumptions and ideologies, it creates an internal war that leaves us with difficult choices, wondering which path to take.  Oftentimes, we choose the path of least resistance.

2.  Escape.  Not having to face the truth means we can ignore – at least temporarily – our problems.  We can continue to operate within a false realm of reality to avoid dealing with unpleasant people, events and situations.

3.  Fear.  Facing the truth is a scary thing that has the potential of taking us places we’d rather not go.  Fundamentally, we all have insecurities about who we are, how we present to others, and what we are capable of achieving.  Yet, we have an idealized self and live our lives based on that idealization.  The revelations of truth can quickly deconstruct any false notions or appearances that we are trying to uphold.  To uncover the truth of our core being would unravel the defenses we have stitched together to protect our vulnerabilities.

Using Anger as a Mask

We have elaborate ways of hiding the truth.  Our reasons are varied and not always understood.  Yet, regardless of our chosen defenses, the emotion that we most openly and frequently express when confronted with truth is: anger.   This is because anger is considered a normal, human emotion that is easy to identify with.  It’s also a powerful emotion, ranging in intensity that keeps others at a distance when we’re feeling most vulnerable.

Evading the truth is emotionally, psychologically, and physically damaging.  While introspection can be a painful and uncomfortable process, there is no long-term escape from internal truth.  Facing your truth is the first step in self-accountability and self-improvement.  Whatever that truth is and once you own it, you will feel better about yourself, enjoy a more meaningful existence, and walk more confidently in your life’s purpose.

Until Next Time,

Mary

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Bouncing Back from Brokenness

Dear Friends,

In my profession as an Industrial and Organizational Psychologist, people generally don’t call on me unless they’re either headed for — or in — a full-blown crisis.  After receiving such a call from a potential client this week, it got me thinking about the deeper meaning of life’s challenges and how we can navigate them.

Are you experiencing a state of brokenness that has sent you into a downward spiral?

  • Being fired from a job
  • Long-term unemployment
  • A severed relationship
  • A debilitating illness
  • A life-changing accident
  • The death of a loved one
  • A business start-up that never took off
  • An opportunity that fell flat
  • A broken promise
  • Incarceration
  • A failing grade
  • Fill in the _______

Sometimes, we may feel that life has thrown us into the deepest end of the ocean, expecting us to swim back to the shores of safety without a life preserver.  This may result in feelings of bitterness, resentment, anxiety, frustration, depression, and/or isolation.  However, life’s challenges are inevitable and create opportunities for learning and growth… if we are willing to focus on the value, rather than the venom.

If you are in need of a little (or a lot of) inspiration, here are some ways to help shake off despair and climb out of your well-worn rut.

Break the cycle of negativity. Reacting to adversity in a dysfunctional manner such as denial, addiction, distortion, repression, or other numbing behavior only magnifies the situation, which can make matters worse. Negativity feeds a continuous cycle of destruction that keeps you stuck, so find ways to enhance your quality of life. Whether it’s meditating, changing your daily routine, learning something new, spending time with family or friends, or getting outside to enjoy nature, do something that will create a shift in your thoughts and actions.

Find the lesson. With every challenge comes a lesson to be learned.  The sooner you accept the lesson and learn from it, the sooner you can graduate to the next phase of your life.  To find the lesson, ask yourself “What is this situation here to teach me? Then listen for the answer.

Surround yourself with support.  During challenging times, we all need the comfort and wisdom of a strong social support system. This is anyone that you can trust for sound advice, counsel and emotional support.  Having a confidant who understands what you’re going through without sitting in judgment can help alleviate raw emotion, so that you’re better able to deal with the situation.

Give thanks. While life may not be the way you want it at this moment, you are still here. Know that the Universe has a larger plan for you, and what you’re going through is a part of that plan to help you reach higher ground.

Be realistic. There’s an old song entitled, Trouble Don’t Last Always. Just as the seasons change, so do the cycles of life.  Use the wisdom of nature to persevere and grow through life’s inevitable highs and lows.

Brokenness is the starting point for rebuilding. For many, it’s the only way to experience healing, restoration and the deeper meaning of life.  Without brokenness, we’re likely to remain in a state of self-sufficiency, living on the periphery of life never acknowledging a power greater than ourselves.

In closing, I echo the words of M. Scott Peck, M.D., author of the timeless classic The Road Less Traveled: “The truth is that our finest moments are likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers.”

Until Next Time,

Mary

The Anatomy of Leadership

Dear Friends,

As I adjourn an emerging leaders forum for high potential employees, I’m reminded that the traditional notion of leadership as top-down is no longer valid.  The 21st century is calling for a new brand of leadership, one that is holistic in nature and summons from within.  The call is for a deeper level of self-awareness and self-discovery than traditional leadership concepts enabled.  This type of leadership is a bottom-up shared approach that emphasizes internal qualities rather than external status.  It’s what I refer to as inner leadership.

Inner leadership is a learned set of capabilities born out of strong commitment and passion to an idea or cause.  It capitalizes on the whole person by integrating authentic leadership qualities into all aspects of life.  The assumption of inner leadership is that we all have talents and contributions that are needed to foster organizational success.  Since we all share in the responsibility of creating a better society, leading others begins with leading oneself.  While you may not be able to influence change from the top of your organization, you do have the innate ability to identify creative ways to drive change from behind or from the middle, which can be especially effective during times of transition and transformation.

Be-Attitudes of Inner Leadership

Regardless of your current professional status, you can become a strong and impactful leader and initiate powerful change in your organization and community by creating an environment where you are fully utilized.  The following be-attitudes can help you take the initiative to lead from within.

Be passionate. Passion provides an internal spark to get you moving and an internal flame to keep you going. It engages mind, body and spirit in pursuing possibilities by having the innate belief that people want to work together to create the best future imaginable.

Be authentic. Grounding yourself in truth means knowing who and why you are. You understand and can articulate your purpose, gifts, talents, vision, values and beliefs. You also recognize your strengths and shortcomings, and are not afraid to admit either.

Be adaptable. Our natural preferences are to maintain the status quo, but today’s complex issues require the ability to readily adapt to changing conditions.  Sharpen your adaptability skills by: (1) engaging curiosity; (2) inviting and accepting diverse perspectives; (3) anticipating change; and (4) creating value-added solutions.

Be credible. Credibility is the cornerstone of effective leadership. When you are credible you demonstrate personal integrity by being honest and consistent in thought, speech and action and following through on your commitments.

Be ethical.  Selfish ambition disconnects us from others. Ethical behavior enhances the well-being of everyone because it stems from positive motives and emotions such as love, compassion, and generosity.  Setting the standard as an effective leader means keeping your actions above reproach.

Be an expert. Knowledge is a leader’s greatest resource. Become an expert in your field by immersing yourself in the chosen subject matter through reading, thought-provoking dialogue and conference/workshop attendance.

Be open. Actively listen to and understand others’ point of view, even if it conflicts with your own.  While you may have great ideas, other perspectives do exist; so don’t hesitate to leverage diverse points of view to achieve more extraordinary results.

Be facilitative. The art of leadership hinges on the ability to enable others to succeed.  In helping others we help ourselves. Rather than hoarding your knowledge and skills, seek ways to create win/win situations by turning competition into collaboration.

Be big-picture focused. Focus on the overall job to be done, rather than your individual role in completing tasks. Create a vision for yourself and think strategically about concepts and ideas that you can use to enhance your job and performance. This way, you’re better prepared to anticipate and capitalize on change.

Be a prudent risk-taker. Risk taking involves a willingness to advocate unconventional positions, take a new approach, or tackle challenging problems without obvious solutions. Taking calculated risks is a great way to stimulate creativity and innovation.  It also obligates you to take full responsibility for failures and successes.

Be positive. Harness the power of optimism by making a positive commitment to yourself to: (1) stay focused on what really matters; (2) view change as an opportunity for personal and professional growth; (3) assume that others have the best intentions; (4) look for the value in every situation; and (5) modify your self-talk, because you are what you think.

Inner leadership is a critical skill to be developed, but it allows you to tap into your internal sources of freedom and power to move boulders, create change and enjoy long-term success.  In the words of John Quincy Adams, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”

Until Next Time,

Mary

5 Aspects of Self-Discovery

Dear Friends,

Who are you?  What are you most passionate about?  What are your unique characteristics?  What is the biggest risk you’ve ever taken and what did you learn from it?  What do you most want to be remembered for?  In what ways are you sometimes misunderstood? What childhood beliefs still impact you today? What is unfinished in your life?  Answering these and other thought-provoking questions require you to engage in a process called self-discovery.

The Journey of Self-Discovery

Self-discovery is a journey or pilgrimage in which we seek to heighten our awareness of self.  It takes courage to examine the innermost parts of our being; but we must be willing to work through any pain and discomfort to create change and experience life more fully.

If you want to manifest the best of who you are destined to be, self-discovery is key.  The following aspects of self-discovery can help you to explore, understand and navigate your values, beliefs, attitudes, emotions, assumptions and overall worldview.

Aspects of Self-Discovery

1. Self-reflection.  This involves our capacity to engage in introspection to learn more about our fundamental nature and purpose. Use the following questions to promote self-reflection:

  • Who am I?
  • Who am I listening to and why?
  • What am I tolerating?
  • How and where am I committing my time and energy?
  • If I could change one thing about myself, what would it be?
  • What am I doing today to help improve my life tomorrow?

2.  Self-trust.  This refers to the confidence we have in ourselves.  Our personal integrity depends upon our ability to trust ourselves.  To develop self-trust, stay connected and maintain a good relationship with yourself by:  (1) clarifying your values; (2) identifying and embracing your unique qualities; (3) listening with your heart; (4) seeing yourself from others’ point of view; (5) setting realistic goals and achieving them; (6) learning from your mistakes; and (7) making time for regular self-renewal.

3.  Self-sacrifice.  This is the ability to forego personal interests for the greater good and is one of the most important traits of influential leadership.  Excessive giving can create internal resentment, so self-sacrifice does not mean scrapping all of your interests.  It means balancing your interests in ways that will positively impact humankind (e.g., volunteerism, charitable giving, random acts of kindness or any other altruistic behaviors).

4.  Self-fulfillment.  Becoming self-actualized can be a lengthy process in terms of unlocking your greatest potential.  If you feel stagnant, overworked and under-appreciated, you can employ techniques to overcome challenges and put yourself on the path to self-fulfillment by:  (1) becoming more self-aware; (2) creating a mantra to foster inner motivation; (3) identifying an aspect of yourself that you would like to enhance; (4) visualizing yourself reaching your fullest potential; and (5) building a strong community of support.

5.  Self-transformation.  This evolution of consciousness is achieved when we question our very existence and quality of life.  It involves getting clear about and setting intentions around how we choose to think, feel and behave.  In doing so, we create change by manifesting our lives according to what feels most authentic to ourselves.

The process of self-discovery is a powerful continuous improvement exercise.  Use it as an opportunity to understand your past, appreciate your present, and create your future.

Until Next Time,

Mary

Are You Hanging with Chickens or Soaring with Eagles?

Dear Friends,

When clients ask me how they can differentiate themselves from the competition and add increased value, I like to use the “birds of a feather” axiom.  If you want to make a fresh start and revolutionize your future, read on.

As you consider ways to differentiate yourself, consider the differences between the chicken and the eagle. Chickens cluster in flocks at ground level, and among their population a pecking order exists. This pecking order seldom changes because weaker chickens lack the courage to confront stronger ones. While chickens have sophisticated social skills, they’re fearful of the unfamiliar, so play it safe and stick with what they know. Chickens produce for a few years, then they either become unproductive, or die.

Eagles, on the other hand, are spectacular birds that represent power and success. Their eyes are keen and always alert for opportunities. Unlike chickens, eagles build their nests on high. They continue to build year after year until their nests are as much as nine feet high. From this vantage point, they’re able to see the big picture. Eagles soar on the currents of the wind, reaching great heights above the earth in peaceful solitude.

The chicken and the eagle are both birds, but they approach life differently. Like the majestic eagle, you must rise above ground level to sharpen your vision, so you’re not influenced by negativity and impossibility. So what are you going to do… hang with the chickens, or soar with the eagles?

Until Next Time,

Mary

5 Ways to Increase Your Market Value

Dear Friends,

In the midst of difficult times, it’s easy to become disenchanted or overcome by fear to the point of stagnation. Maybe you’re wondering if you will have a job tomorrow. Maybe you’re feeling uninspired and unmotivated after being in the same rut for a long time. Maybe you’re standing at a crossroads pondering what to do with the rest of your life. Whatever your circumstances, it’s important to understand that during uncertain economic times you are compensated for the value that you bring to the organization. To deliver that value, you must create the conditions that will evoke greater possibilities.

Repositioning for Greater Success

If you do not have a measurable response to the question, “Why should we hire you, or keep you employed?” perhaps it’s time to distinguish yourself from the rest of the pack by increasing your market value. Here are five ways to strategically position yourself for greater success:

1. Reassess your value proposition. Your value proposition describes what you produce in terms of tangible business results. A value proposition grows out of need. So think of yourself as a provider of solutions that satisfy or address unmet needs, key inefficiencies or significant performance gaps. Make the competition irrelevant by identifying innovative ways to cut costs, enhance revenue, improve performance and efficiency or increase quality. This establishes a clear distinction between you and others in a way that draws interest and support and expands opportunities.

2. Take action over the things which you can control. Dwelling on things you cannot control breeds anger, resentment, anxiety, frustration and depression. These feelings, in turn, lead to manipulative behaviors. Stop squandering your health, integrity and productivity and shift your attention to those things that are within your control. You can control your thoughts, attitudes, choices, actions and contributions. Train your mind to self-correct by asking yourself, “What aspect(s) of this situation can I control?” Then develop a viable plan of action.

3. Rebuild your capabilities. Rather than defining yourself by your title or job, emphasize your capabilities and transferable skills. If you’re unemployed, your job is under siege or you’re preparing for your next job, turn crisis into opportunity by rebuilding your capabilities for long-term growth: disassemble your sphere of comfort; design a strategy to propel you to the next level; apply enough pressure to stretch the outer limits of your thinking; align your strengths to address critical and challenging needs; cut yourself some slack because progress takes time; install an entrepreneurial mindset to create continuous opportunity; calibrate your internal compass to keep you on track; grind any distractions, unreasonable goals and expectations; prime your passion to withstand any doubts; supply sufficient effort to exceed specifications; and test your complete system. Now you’re ready to launch yourself towards new endeavors!

4. Manage your expectations. While it’s important to maintain a vision of the future, managing your expectations is a key part of framing your success. This does not mean lowering your expectations, having realistic guidelines. Our expectations are usually based on what we want to happen, which may not be the best course of action. Expectations can alter your sense of reality, so take an honest look at your situation before exploring options. Be open to new ways of thinking and learning and take proactive steps to achieve your desired outcomes.

5. Maintain an attitude of gratitude. Energy flows where attention goes and whatever you consistently think about expands. Focusing on what you don’t want or have creates a downward spiral of negativity and despair. Gratitude keeps you centered, turns chaos into clarity and unlocks the fullness of life. Acknowledge the people and things in your life that bring about joy and empowerment. Reflect on the ways that you’ve achieved success (by your own definition). Stay focused on what really matters and view change as an opportunity for personal and professional transformation. Seek the hidden value in every situation… and stop sweating the small stuff!

Onward and Upward

Life is full of choices and opportunities, if we have the courage to seek them. Starting today, consider yourself a brand. Seize each moment by expanding your focus and taking responsibility for your challenges and successes, one building block at a time.

Until Next Time,

Mary

Self-Limiting Beliefs: Opponents of Progress

Dear Friends,

From our earliest years, we are socialized to adopt certain beliefs. If we’re raised in a nurturing and supportive environment, our beliefs will be quite different than if we grew up in an abusive and shameful environment. The meaning we attach to our experiences can limit or enable the possibilities in our lives and minimize or maximize our potential for success.

A belief is an assumed truth that we hold without necessarily being able to adequately defend it. We create beliefs to use as a framework to understand and make sense of the world; but our beliefs can become so deep-seated that we confuse them with facts and limit our fullest potential.

Self-limiting beliefs are often defense mechanisms — conscious or unconscious — that we use to mask fear and anxiety. Examples of self-limiting beliefs are: There’s only one way to solve this problem; or My viewpoint is the only right one, so it’s needless to consider other perspectives; or I cannot succeed no matter how hard I try, so there’s no need in trying; or I was born with certain characteristics and abilities, and they cannot be changed.

Disempowering beliefs create a downward spiral that paralyzes our actions. However, identifying, dissecting and challenging our counterproductive beliefs and expecting favorable things to happen set events in motion to support our expectations.

Identifying Self-Limiting Beliefs

All change requires self-examination. Before you can break any non-productive cycle, you must raise your consciousness through honest self-assessment. To develop awareness of your self-limiting beliefs, consider how the following conditions are manifested in your life:

1. Recurring Problems – You repeatedly face the same problems.

2. Behavioral Patterns – You have conditioned responses to the same situations.

3. Verbal Expression – Your verbal communications emphasize your perceived shortcomings and inability to overcome obstacles.

4. Thoughts – Your thoughts and mental images are focused on negative experiences, expectations and outcomes.

Transforming Self-Limiting Beliefs

Our thoughts drive our feelings; our feelings determine our behaviors; and our behaviors produce results. When self-limiting beliefs emerge, it’s an opportunity for you to get still and focus your attention on some reflective questions: (1) What am I feeling? (2) What situation is driving this feeling? (3) What negative self-talk am I engaging in to reinforce this feeling? (4) What assumptions are embedded in my self talk? (5) If these assumptions are true, what supporting evidence do I have? (6) If these assumptions are false, what new beliefs could I adopt to cancel the self-limiting beliefs? (7) How can I begin to model my newly adopted beliefs?

Successful people have an absolute belief that they can succeed, persisting in the face of obstacles. They understand that there is always a sunrise (beginnings) and a sunset (endings), so continuously seek ways to improve their circumstances and lives.

Regardless of your experiences, you possess the power of this moment to create change in your life. Remember that your effectiveness and ability to produce extraordinary results are limited only by your beliefs.

Until Next Time,

Mary