In the last 15 years of my career as a clinical psychologist and leadership coach I have been increasingly working in the corporate sphere, coaching leaders to find their own voice, to show up with confidence and sustain resilience through adversity. When I began this work I spent time wondered how safe it was to show up as truly myself in the traditional work world environment. Psychologists, after all, can appear threatening to folks who think we can read their minds. We can dress in casual clothes and generally be funkier than our corporate clients. I used to worry that I would appear less professional when I approached clients with my patient interest in their stories, empathy for their struggles and passionate curiosity about their life’s dreams.
It’s back to school and back to work and that usually means lots of prep, lots to organize and lots of attention to stress and anxiety. Why is it that we rev up our worrying as we shift into the fall season? One answer lies in the nature of our brains.
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Each of us knows that negative inner voice – the one that tells us we can’t do something new, we can’t get that promotion at work-that we’re just not good enough. So who is this inner critic, how did it get there, and how do we confront it? The answer lies in self-compassion. On this Voices in the Family, we’ll talk to self-compassion expert Dr. Kristin Neff, as well as resilience coach Dr. Beth Weinstock about to to put these inner demand in their place.
When was the last time you listened to the sweet sound of silence? When was the last time you decided to close the door and just let yourself be, with nowhere to go and nothing to do?
Arianna Huffington gave a talk last week in Philadelphia promoting her 14th book, Thrive, in which she implores us to slow down and make the time to renew ourselves. After years of international productivity, over drive, sleep deprivation and now at the height of her success, Huffington is convinced that too many of us have shrunk ourselves down to to-do lists and are overly focused on power and money as the markers of success rather than internal aliveness.
As an executive coach and psychotherapist, I work with the burnout and disillusionment that Arianna talks about. Too many people in our culture are wearing their long hours at work as badges of honor, believing that climbing the corporate ladder will lead to fulfillment and that what they produce is the measure of who they are. I, too, have been guilty of feeling like the barometer of my goodness is how much time I put into my work. When I was in college, I took pride in how many hours a day I read, as if the hours spent were a reflection of my moral superiority over my classmates who were playing frisbee on the quad. Only years later did I identify my learning differences that make my reading slower than other people, and that my time with my head in the books was more about my slow brain rather than my greater intellectual prowess. That was too bad; I lost out on a lot of fun.
At Thanksgiving I got a card from my very first student — someone I taught eons ago, back in my professional ice age. He told me how I’d opened his eyes to possibilities he hadn’t seen before and how important I’d been to him. While I remember him well (and can still see him, frozen in time, when he was 19 years old), I would have had no idea that I lived in his memory.
I was deeply touched by this man’s gratitude, and began to think about all the people in my life who live in my heart and have…