Category self awareness

Imagine the ladder’s gone

For years, we’ve read about the struggles of women in climbing the corporate ladder and reaching the top.  Much has been written about why it occurs and what we can do about it.  I offer a different view, namely that the whole notion of a career ladder is an assumption – a mythology – that can limit who and how we are in organizations.

When we assume that a ladder exists and that it’s the path to success – when we treat these assumptions as “truths” about “the way it is” — we can easily mistake ladder-climbing as our journey and a top rung

Bejeweled brain

My son Michael is in town for a visit, so gaming’s back in the conversation. When he’s riding the train in New York, he occasionally plays a game called Jewels. It starts with a screen full of colored shapes, like the one at left. When you match 3 or more, they disappear and new shapes drop down on the screen. He was consistently scoring 3000 to 4000 per game, and wanted to get better. Practice is the usual road to mastery, but Michael tried something else, with remarkable results.


The brilliant wisdom of my clients never ceases to delight me. The other day a client told me of an image a friend gave her long ago. When you’re feeling overwhelmed and like you’re drowning, the prayer is to help me breathe underwater. Rather than resist, be present to whatever you’re surrounded by.

Symptoms of inner peace

This week I was listening to an old CD by Dr. Wayne Dyer. He offered a list of “symptoms of inner peace” from Peace Pilgrim, a pacifist and peace activist who walked across the U.S. 28 times. It’s an interesting turn of phrase: symptoms of inner peace. When I heard it, I discovered that I have a lot of “inner peace.”  What about you? Here they are.


A tendency to think and act spontaneously

Mad bad sad

We live in the “Just do it!” society. Emotions aren’t something we’ve been taught to attend to and talk about. When I was in grad school, emotions were categorized in simple terms, as primary [anger, fear, anxiety] or secondary [guilt, shame]. In the late 20th C, positive psychologists ushered in a broader lexicon: wonder, awe, serenity, amusement, gratitude.

Today I came across something I wish I’d considered years ago. It’s from novelist Jeffrey Eugenides’ novel Middlesex. It sure works for me. What about for you?

The critical leadership skill

Self awareness.  Most people think they’re aware. They are not. [What they’re aware of are their stories about themselves.] In 2007, a Harvard Business Review article reported that the 75-person advisory council for Stanford’s business school was asked about the most important skill for a leader to develop. Their responses were nearly unanimous: self awareness.

I was surfing other blogs today and came across this entry, from another female entrepreneur. Her language is a little more down to earth than HBR’s. Check it out at her blog.

Here’s a distinction I often make for my coaching clients. Self awareness comes in many forms. The one we’re most familiar with is awareness of our strengths,

The dropped appointment

Several days ago, I awoke about 4 a.m. with a gnawing feeling that I’d missed a client appointment. I got up, went to my electronic calendar, and discovered I HAD missed an appointment. The client  requested a schedule change, I said okay, and then didn’t make the change on the calendar. I felt terrible about it, and sent a note of apology to the client.

That evening, I told my partner Duff about it. “That’s why I always use a good, old-fashioned paper-and-pencil calendar,” he said. “Nothing drops through the cracks.” I was quick with a comeback.

Keeping score

Every week, I join several dozen people for a 90-minute tennis workout. We have five players per court, five courts, and a pro on each court. Rather than play regular games, we do drills: baseline shots on one court, overheads on the next, then one-up-one-back or volleys, through all five courts. The pros typically run the drills as fast-paced games: the first team to 5 or 7 points wins.

This week, a pro named Shelly was running us through a drill. After a long point, she called out, “Three-two.”

I said, “I thought it was four-one.”

“No,” another player said, “The score’s three-two.”

Shelly jumped into the air and yelled, “Yes! Yes! I’m right! I can’t believe it! I

Control your attention redux …

Last Friday, one of my clients had a meeting with several of her direct reports that left her feeling “absolutely giddy” afterwards. Her words were music to my ears. She’d been feeling overwhelmed and out of control for months. And here she was, excited and confident and energized.

What made the difference?

I have lots of stories about that. Here’s the one I like best: she got control by giving up control.

Participate in the unfolding

There’s a whole field of attention studies illustrating that what we see and what we perceive are different things. Sight is governed by one set of structures in the brain, and perception by another. So we actually see far more than we perceive or are cognitively aware of. [For an example, check out the YouTube observation test .]

What happens is that part of the brain is only responsible for processing what enters our visual cortex; that’s all it does. And another part of the brain is busy