Creating your coaching agenda (podcast)

If you have hired an ICF-Certified coach for career, leadership, executive, or personal development, you may have noticed that they ask you for your “agenda items.” (This can also sound like versions of “What do you want to talk about?” and “You’re in charge, where do you want to go?”)

This can be a baffling challenge for new coaching clients. What does it mean to create the agenda for your coaching session? In this podcast I walk you through five steps.

 

 

When you’re through, send me an email (Amy@CareerLeadershipAlignment.com) and ask for the “coaching agenda worksheet.”

Find the want-to beyond “should.”

June has already been a watershed month for me. Within the space of three days in the first week of the month, I finally shifted beyond “I know I should be exercising. I need to. But …”

Have you been here, too? Maybe it’s been exercise for you, too, or some other form of self care.

Maybe you “should”:

  • be more focused on your job search.
  • be networking.
  • quit smoking.
  • ask somebody out.
  • be reading a book.

Can I just say this? Life is hard. Current events are pretty much always depressing. We don’t have enough help at work. We aren’t getting paid enough. And everything costs too much. And we aren’t appreciated for what we DO. And onto all this discouragement we layer on all this stuff we “should” do.

Is it any wonder Netflix has been so successful? It’s one thing that’s easy.

But when you click the TV off, the list of “shoulds” are all still there, and right along with them are the list of helpful apps and advice sites ready to help you get your life together and finally do something for a change.

You really should look at one of them, right?

That’s exactly where I was on June 1. I knew I had lost my fitness “ground,” and I was afraid of starting up again.

“I’ll only quit again,” I thought. “I never stick with it.”

I heard my husband offer up one of these “shoulds” for himself around that time–“I really should do that core workout plan again…”

On Saturday, June 4, I spent a couple of hours in the garden. That sounds relaxing, doesn’t it? But it wasn’t. It was hard work. By the time I was done with those two hours, I could barely stand. I spent the rest of the day in bed. I thought, “Ut oh. This isn’t good.”

On Monday, June 6, I presented on the subject of personal energy management to a group of 30 professionals in Dublin, Ohio. Leading up to that presentation I was becoming extremely aware of what I wasn’t doing for my physical energy management, and between the presentation itself and the hours afterwards I felt such a crisis of integrity — I thought, “This really isn’t good.”

On Tuesday, June 7, I spent the day volunteering. By noon I was brain-dead and saying things that later made me do a “facepalm” — how could I think that was the right thing to say?  And I knew (because I’d just presented on the subject) that physical energy, strength, resilience, and endurance are foundational to mental focus.

I thought, “This is just bad. This has to change.”

I gave myself Wednesday to recover, but I talked to hubby. “Thursday morning, can we start the core workout together?” He groaned and said “yes.” We talked about what exactly this would look like — how we would make it work.

And we did it.

Friday I got on the treadmill and tried to see what I could do in 20 minutes. It was sad, but it was a start. I decided the following Monday I would start using the Couch to 5K program. And, I did.

I am now starting to feel the effects of getting going. It’s like the laces that tie my skeleton together are being pulled, and things are finally coming together after being too loose for too long.

And I do like the feeling.

I’m also noticing more ideas, more creativity, and (generally speaking) more active thought processes. It’s good to have my brain back, too.

Rock Bottom is a Beautiful Start
Image stolen outright from Evolutions Treatment Centers — see http://www.evolutionstreatment.com/about/news-articles/rock-bottom-beautiful-start

What this reminds me of is that idea of ‘hitting bottom.’ In the recovery world, there’s an idea that someone will only seek help when they’ve hit rock bottom. I guess that’s what happened with me. I finally got to a point where I could FEEL how much I needed a change.

In the pilot Think in Ink guided-journaling program that started May 16 and will be finishing June 27, we have been exploring our lives — past, present, and future. We spent a week diving into our immunity to change. I discovered that I had a big assumption that doing exercise on a regular basis was going to eat up all my free time. I assumed that I could give myself the gift of spaciousness in my schedule by skipping exercise.

There are all kinds of big assumptions that hold us back. Maybe you assume:

  • you’ll be more financially secure in the long run if you don’t spend money on _____ (pursuing your goal).
  • you’ll never actually meet someone who can help you.
  • failure (or rejection) is so painful that it means trying isn’t worth it.
  • the effort is only a cost — you won’t get enough of a reward.

When you discover your “big assumption,” the next task is to design an experiment: What’s a safe, modest, actionable experiment that you could try to test whether or not this assumption is really accurate?

My experiment was to try out exercise for a couple of weeks, fitting it in at a time when hubby was willing to join or otherwise support me, and see if it really ate up my schedule as much as I assumed it would.

Long story short, I’m not watching quite as much Stephen Colbert on YouTube as I had been. And I guess that’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make so I can have this feeling that I’m not so loosely connected. So I can have my brain back.

And sharing this commitment with you is part of my accountability. Please ask me how it’s going if you see me.

What is holding you back from what you know you “should” do?  Is it a fear of failure or something even bigger? What’s one thing you can do for yourself — one step you can take — today?

Learn more about immunity to change from the experts.
Request a copy of the article by Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey

Bottom Line: Most of us walk around with a sense of something we would be doing if we were living our lives right. And, most of us won’t make the change because we are wired to keep doing the same old thing, living the status quo.

However, we can get ourselves past the “should” and into working for ourselves instead of against ourselves. Maybe it means hitting rock bottom. Maybe it means identifying our big assumptions and challenging those. It definitely means being willing to try even when it’s possible to fail.

What about you? What has it taken for you to get back in the game? Leave me a comment below!

How to help a friend get a job with your employer

Your friend is looking for a job, and you find out that your employer is hiring. Of course, you want to support your friend, and you would be delighted if she got a job at your workplace. If it happened, you could have lunch together, dish about co-workers, and help each other problem-solve.

Once you’ve sent your friend the job description, you might feel like you’ve done everything you can do. After all, you connected them with a job you believe they can do. Isn’t it up to them now to come through?

I have been on all sides of this scenario. I’ve been the working friend as well as the job-seeker, and I’ve been the hiring manager. Now, as a coach, I work with people who are in job transition situations who are encountering the realities of today’s job search. I am happy to share with you the wisdom I have collected about how to most effectively support a friend who is seeking a job.

Three things you should know before you start this process:

First, if you have a friend who is looking for work, it’s likely they need your help. The job-transition process is usually stressful, hard work, and frequently there’s no feedback at all. Computers often make the first selection based on keyword usage and specific yes/no criteria, and a human being never even sees the application. This is discouraging for the applicant, and it only gets worse the longer the job-hunt goes on.

Second, you have the power to make a difference. Simply by offering a word of recommendation and a sense of connection between your employer and your friend, both can feel like the other is less of a mystery. Hiring managers can be grateful for your help, too. The current process can be as dissatisfying for the employer as it is for the applicant.

Finally, respectful vulnerability is the name of the game. Have courage and do what you can (outlined below), but let go of outcomes. This is challenging but important. You can’t control the hiring manager’s decision, and forcefulness will backfire. However, persistence can pay off if it is combined with respect for the hiring manager’s process and the incredible workload they are managing during the hiring process.

Before you know about a job posting

The best time to start supporting your friend is before either of you know anything about a job opening with your employer. During this time you can support your friend in these ways:

  • Share honestly about your company’s culture, products, and job functions. Don’t betray any trade secrets or your employer’s confidentiality expectations, but be as straightforward as you can without sugarcoating or exaggerating. Provide facts and resources.
  • Introduce your friend to people in your company who are doing the kind(s) of work your friend wants to do. This means understanding your friend’s professional interests and strengths as well as how those might fit into your company’s strategic needs. 

When you identify the right person, do an email introduction by sending your colleague a note and copying your friend. It’s a good idea to agree first with your friend on the content of this note, which might say something along the lines of, “Dear Arianna–I wanted to introduce you to my friend Lisa. She is interested in the work you do and would like to learn more. If you’d be willing to meet for coffee, I think you’d really enjoy hearing about her background in advertising. She always tells me the most fascinating stories about those days!”

This kind of introduction not only asks your colleague to tell your friend about the job, but also offers your colleague an idea for interesting conversation that your friend can contribute.

  • Help your friend identify their best possible ‘fit’ and path. If there is one department or team in your company where it seems like your friend would fit best, make that team your number one target. Create opportunities for your friend to connect informally with the people in that team. (Does the company host an annual picnic or weekly after-work visit to the pub? Bring your friend along if guests are allowed.)

Find out from people who work in that team what their path was like into it. Were they hired via a business-school job fair? Promoted from a lower paid role within the company? Snagged from a contracting or temp company? What would it take for your friend to follow a similar path?

These activities will arm your friend with information about the company that will make it much easier for her to market herself well, and those introductions will help your colleagues feel like they already know her. A job candidate who is known and liked on an informal basis has an advantage when the formal job opportunities come around.

When a job is posted

  • Communicate clearly and respectfully within your company’s structure. Do forward the job posting to your friend, but also mention to your own manager that you are doing so, and if the hiring manager is someone different (and someone you can reach out to directly in your company’s culture), give them a heads up as well. Send a simple note that says something like, “I wanted to let you know about a friend of mine who I think would be a great fit for that role. I’m sending her the job description. Her name is Lisa Adams.”
  • Continue communicating respectfully–stay in the game. Ask your friend to let you know when she has submitted her application, and then ask her to send you a copy of her resume and cover letter. Forward these directly to the hiring manager (or at least your own manager, if your company is sensitive to hierarchy and politics).

Your email with these two documents attached might read, “Hi! As I mentioned, I sent my friend Lisa the description for your ______ job. She submitted the application via the website last night but I am forwarding her resume and cover letter to you directly. I’ve heard horror stories about how resumes look sometimes when they go through those web systems.” (This is true–back when I was a hiring manager, I couldn’t believe how mangled the resumes often looked. I often wondered if this was a reflection on a clueless applicant or if the computer somehow had ruined it. I’ve since learned that the computers don’t read resumes well, and PDFs do not always retain their formatting.)

  • Follow up with the hiring manager. If your company culture allows for you to communicate directly with the hiring manager, allow a week to pass first (that’s important!) and then send a note to offer a recommendation and ask if the hiring manager has everything she needs to make a decision.

This follow-up note might read: “Hi! I sent you a note last week about my friend Lisa’s application for the ______ role. Did you receive that and her application okay? Do you have what you need to make a decision? I wanted to let you know how wonderful I think Lisa would be for The Company. I have worked with her before and found her so supportive and tireless! We’ve been eager to work together again, and I know you would be grateful if you got to know her.” Keep your comments enthusiastic, honest, relevant, and brief.

  • If you don’t hear anything back, keep in mind that the hiring process is hard work, frequently lengthy, and is something the hiring manager is having to do now in addition to their own job and making up for the absence of someone in the role being hired for. They are busy. Do not hound them. Keep breathing. It’s good to follow up, but never reach out more than once a week.

If you want to ask them to respond to you, your messages to them could say, “I would love if you could drop me a note to let me know where things stand, but I know how busy you must be. If I haven’t heard from you by this time next week, I’ll send you another note.” (Adapt this same message for voicemail or even in-person connections.)

This gives them the option of knowing you will follow up so they don’t have to remember to do this, and yet also tells them you won’t go away until they have responded. (They might not understand this last part until you’ve left a similar message a few times–never less than a full week apart.)

If you don’t know your friend that well…

Suppose someone you’ve met a few times asks you to help by “putting in a good word.” If you don’t know them very well, you might feel awkward about acting on this request. However, you can still offer the best word you can. I have written notes for colleagues like this:

“Hi, Paul! I hope you’re doing well and not too swamped by the hiring process. Listen, I know one of your applicants, a guy named Bill McDavies. We’ve gotten to know each other volunteering through a local nonprofit. I can’t say I know him very well, but we’ve bagged groceries together and I always thought he was courteous and hard-working. Could you make sure you get hold of his application even if it wasn’t selected for you by the computer? I have the impression he would do well in an interview. Thanks. I hope we can get together soon!”

Or

“Hi, David. I noticed you are hiring for a new IT specialist to support the HR function in the library system. I’ve been getting to know a woman named Hannah through a community project, and she seems like a really bright, kind person. From what I know about your department’s culture I think she would be a great fit. I’ve suggested she apply. Would you look out for her application? I know you’ll make the decision you need to make but I would love if you could just read her stuff in a bit more detail than you might otherwise do. Thanks so much, and let me know if I can be of any support to you.”

Bottom Line:

The job-transition process is stressful. Computers often make the first selection, and then a human being never even sees the application. But you can make a difference by making a connection and taking mystery out of the process. Have courage and do what you can, but let go of defensiveness and don’t be pushy.

Facilitate communication between your friend and the hiring manager. Try to figure out what each really needs to know. Keep your communications honest, enthusiastic, relevant, and brief.

Which role have you been in–hiring manager, job-seeker, or employed friend? Have you experienced any of this? What have you learned through the process? What if you have mixed feelings about your friend’s job performance? What would you do?


Amy Kay Watson coaches talented, brilliant, tender-hearted professionals (like you!) to discover their destiny, own their power, and live their purpose with courage, humor, and compassion–even in a corporate environment. To learn more, go to CareerLeadershipAlignment.com.

To stay in the loop, sign up for the bimonthly newsletter with content from the blog, videos, and podcasts here. Connect with Amy on Facebook and Twitter, too!

Build a Unique Value Profile to Land a Job

One of the real advantages I gained when I decided to start my own business is that I started to develop a skillset that had been previously unknown to me. I now know some of these skills would have been a tremendous advantage in job-seeking. The most important is the process for building a Unique Value Profile.

A Unique Value Profile states what you offer as a unique and desirable solution to your prospective employer’s problems and opportunities.

You can build a Unique Value Profile by defining and researching your target, understanding your competitors and your own strengths, and matching your uniqueness to your target employer’s needs. Let’s look at what that means for each of those tasks:

Define your target. While some job hunters will aimlessly apply for jobs with any employer who is recruiting for new employees, that leads to wasted energy and a great deal of discouragement.

Let’s look at how the film The 40-Year-Old Virgin offers a metaphor for job-hunting experience. In the movie, Steve Carrell’s character (Andy) was advised by his friends to try for anyone and everyone they thought would be a “sure thing,” but their advice was terrible. Whenever Andy followed their advice, he had humiliating and off-putting experiences. We also got to see how his friends were reaping the consequences of their own terrible choices.

(“Humiliating and off-putting experiences” describes a few careers I’ve heard of!)

The shotgun approach is just as bad for job hunting. Job-seekers tend to assume that a job posting means there’s a real chance at a job with that employer, but it only means the employer has some clarity about what they want. Most likely it isn’t you. Better for you to get clarity about what you want.

Research your target employers. The specific information you want to gain through this research phase will be related to the work you believe you want to do. Within that broader category do some additional digging to find out what that company’s challenges are. What do they need?

Using our dating metaphor, this is similar to the process Bill Murray’s character Phil went through in the film Groundhog Day. From the beginning of the movie he wanted to get closer to Andie MccDowell’s character, Rita, but it wasn’t until he learned about the deepest longings of her heart that he was able to meet her there. It took him most of the movie to get to know her (and women, and life) well enough to connect with Rita’s human needs.

Understand who your competitors are. Many of us, when we are looking for a job, hate the idea that we are competing with others. When we think about our competitors, we imagine a survival-of-the-fittest scenario in which there’s one winner and lots of losers.

Unique Value Profile

One of the great lessons I have learned in the transition to self-employment is that there really is enough work to go around, but the only way for all of us to be gainfully employed is for each of us to know ourselves and our ‘competition’ well enough to be able to differentiate ourselves from each other.

The benefit of knowing the competition, therefore, is not to try to match them and prove ourselves as good as them, but rather to show ourselves as different from them. Perhaps they have sets of skills that help them meet employers needs in a certain ways, but you have a different set of skills that will help employers in a different way. That difference is an important part of your Unique Value Profile.

Understand your own strengths very well. In order to be able to describe how you are uniquely capable of meeting your prospect’s needs, you need to know your strengths. Take a look at movies like Oceans 11, where every member of the team has a unique skillset that others on the team can’t match. When one of those team members is taken out of the action, the team suffers. Get to know the unique skillset you bring to the team so you can talk about how you will prevent their suffering.

Get support. In the coming weeks I will be announcing an opportunity for job seekers to get the support they need for building their Unique Value Profiles. Through worksheets, video training, and group coaching, you can define and research your prospective employers, understand your competitors and your own strengths, and match your uniqueness to your target employer’s needs. If you are interested in such an opportunity, send me a note and say, “Tell me more about that course!” via Amy@CareerLeadershipAlignment.com.

*Looking for a “knew” job? My goodness, what a typo. And of course when I send out a newsletter with a typo in it, there is nothing I can do but acknowledge that I see it and I know it isn’t right. Here’s what I’ve learned about making mistakes.

 

Amy Kay Watson coaches talented, brilliant, tender-hearted professionals (like you!) to discover their destiny, own their power, and live their purpose with courage, humor, and compassion–even in a corporate environment. To learn more, go to CareerLeadershipAlignment.com.

To stay in the loop, sign up for the bimonthly newsletter with content from the blog, videos, and podcasts here. Connect with Amy on Facebook and Twitter, too!

A Simple Way to Calm Yourself When Feeling Strong Emotions

This post originally appeared at TinyBuddha.com.

“This is the root of Self. You are not your thoughts; you are aware of your thoughts. You are not your emotions; you feel your emotions…. You are the conscious being who is aware that you are aware of all these inner and outer things.” ~Michael Singer

I sat across from my colleague with a growing sense of discomfort. I had accepted an assignment from the boss, but I heard from my colleague an undercurrent of questioning and uncertainty—or so it seemed. It was so subtle that I couldn’t quite tell what was going on.

Did she not believe I could do it? Nobody else was stepping forward to meet the need. Was she saying it’s better to go with nobody than with me?

All I knew for sure was that I wasn’t hearing this outright. I decided to let it go, head on home, think about it tomorrow, and be fully present with my family instead. But the next morning as I pulled into my parking spot in front of the office, a subtle agitation rumbled in my stomach.

I walked into the quiet building and set my things down in the office, distracted by my disquiet and wishing I could focus on my task list. The thoughts prickling at me wouldn’t let go.

I laid my pen down and asked myself, “Okay, what’s going on?”

grokIn my top drawer I keep a deck of “GROK” cards that I bought from the folks at the Center for Nonviolent Communication. Each one has the name of a need or value—things like “hope,” “trust,” and “balance” show up in this deck. I frequently use these when I can’t quite put a finger on what’s bothering me.

I flipped through the cards and sorted them as I went. In the “not now” pile went cards like “freedom,” “competence,” and “creativity.” In the next pile, the “Maybe?” pile, went cards like “security,” “meaning/purpose,” and “friendship.”

I went on sorting between just these two piles until I hit one that resonated: “Acknowledgement.” That went into a new pile: “Yes.”

A couple of cards after it I found “Appreciation.” That went into the “Yes” pile too, and then I noticed something really interesting happen: I got angry.

Usually when I sort through these cards, the experience of finding the right word to put on my current needs or values results in feeling more settled, more clear. Frequently my agitation will be replaced by a sense of gratitude, or courage to act in a way that helps me meet my needs.

Typically, that is the value for me in identifying my needs. It helps me find a more straightforward and effective path toward getting those needs met. But it didn’t happen this time.

Instead, the voice in my head just became louder and more insistent.

My coworker should be grateful for my willingness to take on this new project! She wasn’t going to step in and do anything. Why wasn’t she acknowledging that I was making a sacrifice on behalf of the team?

This narrative swept me up. It threatened to pull me under.

Slowly, I started to notice another, quieter voice saying, “Why am I getting so upset? That doesn’t usually happen after I go through the GROK cards. What can I do for myself that won’t be so negative?”

I’m going to admit this was an odd experience for me. I don’t typically have this second, quieter voice. Or, if I’ve had it, I haven’t been able to hear it.

But I did hear it this time, and it called to mind Michael Singer’s book, The Untethered Soul. I read it just about a month before.

“You are not the voice of the mind,” he wrote. “You are the one that hears it.”

He suggests that when we’re bothered by something, we can change what we identify with. Rather than identifying with all of those thoughts and feelings, we can instead identify ourselves as “the observer” or witness of what is being experienced.

As I felt myself getting swept up in defensiveness against my coworker, I decided to try it. What would happen, I wondered? I started up a new voice in my head that said, “I am not all of these thoughts and feelings. I am the observer who is noticing that Amy is having a powerful experience.”

It was almost meditation, but not quite the same as my usual practice. Michael Singer might say I was doing it wrong. A psychiatrist might have a lot of questions for me—I don’t know.

What I do know is what happened inside myself. As I identified myself as “the observer who is noticing that Amy is having a powerful experience,” I relaxed. I let go of the waves of negative thinking.

I realized that I could talk to myself the way I would talk to a dear friend who is feeling unacknowledged and underappreciated. I realized I could give myself compassion.

I imagined telling myself, “I’m sorry you haven’t been appreciated. That’s hard. You are still okay.”

I admit I feel extra vulnerable as I type that out. Part of me doesn’t want to admit that I talk to myself in this way. On the other hand, this was such an amazing experience!

I was able to walk myself through processing my own needs and emotions in ways I’ve never done before. As soon as it happened, I wanted to shout it out to the rest of the world, “Hey, I’ve found a path that looks like it leads somewhere good! Come check it out!”

Do you ever feel the emotional undertow of unpleasant, uncomfortable feelings? Have you tried to resist them without success? Perhaps it would help to identify yourself as the observer.

Accept that the feelings and thoughts are there, but instead of identifying with them, try identifying yourself as the observer or witness who is noticing that this experience is flowing through.

Perhaps you already know this part of the path. Have you tried a practice like this? What works for you?

Send me an email (via Amy@CareerLeadershipAlignment.com) and say “Hey, send me that roadmap!” if you’d like to receive a copy of the Roadmap to Calm, Confident Work.


Amy Kay WatsonAmy Kay Watson coaches talented, brilliant, tender-hearted professionals like you to discover their destiny, own their power, and live their purpose with humor, courage, and compassion. You can reach her via Amy@CareerLeadershipAlignment.com.

Can a person of faith have a midlife crisis?

A friend asked me this question recently, along with the question of whether or not this idea of a midlife crisis is even a “thing” any more.  It’s a good question. American culture has changed so much in the last few decades, the idea of a midlife crisis that used to be understood as normal doesn’t seem to show up–at least in the same way–so much.

I do believe that the midlife crisis is a cultural construct. What we saw in the movie American Beauty, for instance, is a pretty standard depiction of what we have come to recognize as a “normal” midlife crisis: A middle-aged man recognizes that he has been sacrificing his own desires in order to serve others: his family, boss, and neighbors. When he realizes this, he starts to recognize that he has (and wants to reclaim) the power to choose to be who he wants to be instead of what everyone else wants him to be. He trades in the family minivan for a sports car. He quits his job and starts flipping burgers. He loses weight and gets in shape. He doesn’t just start cheating on his wife, he starts flirting with teenagers.

Given this scenario, it is not surprising that many people of faith would consider themselves unlikely or unwilling to follow this kind of path. It is also not surprising that psychologists are now saying that this midlife-crisis cultural construct is a myth.

What does resonate in this scenario is that many of us, during or after midlife, start to recognize that there is a divide between how we show up on a daily basis and who we believe ourselves to truly be. (We don’t always know who we really are, only that we recognize we’re showing up inauthentically.)

In my experience, most North Americans reaching midlife (or later) would rather pursue a scenario in which they own their choices more than they’ve been doing. That doesn’t mean reverting to the impulses and desires of a 17 year old. By contrast, the adults I have worked with far prefer to get clear on their personal values and start making sure those are present in their lives.

The list often does include family, stability, and genuine relationship connections.

I have not experienced my clients in midlife seeking material possessions for their own sake. That opportunistic approach to grabbing all you can grab is widely considered among developmental psychologists to be a very early stage in adult development. We may pass through this kind of approach in our early adulthood, but a majority of adults move beyond that.

Later developmental stages are characterized by support and effectiveness, if not leadership, acceptance, and vision.  We transcend the petty concerns of materialistic or daily worries.

Many of my clients in midlife also want to see more resonance between their strengths/ interests and their daily work.

Most of us start our adult lives getting the jobs we can get, doing as well as we can, and trying to make more money as we develop experience in our field. We wind up spending the bulk of our career in jobs that don’t take us out of our comfort zone, consequently believing that we are only capable of doing what we have already been doing.

The reality is that many of the skills and strengths we’ve been developing could be applied in a different situation. Sometimes we’ve already developed some expertise through our personal interests. In that event, it might also be possible to make a lucrative job change.

Not everyone could make money with their personal passions, but most of us could spend more time flexing our skills in the service of our passions. We can also try to connect personal strengths and values with the needs of our employer or market.

In addition to re-examining values and vocation, it’s important for a person of faith to recognize any tendencies towards perfectionism.

Take a look at social researcher Dr. Brene Brown’s definition of perfectionism: “Perfectionism is a self-destructive and addictive belief system that fuels this primary thought: “If I look perfect, live perfectly, and do everything perfectly, I can avoid or minimize the painful feelings of shame, judgment, and blame.”

This can be a minefield for people of faith. Some of us have lived our lives believing that to be acceptable in the world, even in our communities of faith, we have to be perfect. Making mistakes, sinning, being human–all of these can lead us into places where we become terrified of shame, judgment, and blame.

Despite the rhetoric about “loving the sinner and hating the sin,” or “We are not perfect, just forgiven,” we act as if what we truly believe is that we have to be perfect in order to be faithful.

When we believe that “perfect behavior” is the goal, we are in danger of a terrific lack of authenticity. And, if that is a belief that we have held onto for decades, midlife becomes an opportunity to stop the insanity. We then have the challenge of learning to accept our imperfections.

It is a great task–to accept our own humanness, to believe in our value despite (and with) those imperfections, and then to accept the humanness of others around us.

So, you may not have a midlife crisis in the colloquial sense. However, there are plenty of reasons for you to sense a disconnect between who you want to be, who you really are, and how you have been showing up on a daily basis. If these three are not brought into alignment in some way, you may feel that your life has been artificial in some ways.

If you haven’t traded perfectionism for integrity by midlife, the time has come to do it. You may not go out and buy a sports car, but you can look at yourself, do an honest assessment, and figure out who you really want to be going forward. That is work worth doing.

If you’d like an easy way to get started thinking through the questions raised in this article, contact me via Amy@CareerLeadershipAlignment.com and say,“Hey, send me the free midlife self-assessment!” Get started today with aligning who you want to be with who you really are on a daily basis.


Amy Kay Watson coaches professionals to discover their destiny, own their power, and live their purpose with humor, courage, and compassion–even in the corporate environment. To learn more, sign up for updates and visitCareerLeadershipAlignment.com.

How to decide if you should get a job or start a business

On December 9, 2014, I learned that my steady, salaried job with Hertz was coming to an end. Our entire team was being laid off at the same time, and December 31 would be our last day. Right away I was faced with the question of whether to get a job or start a business.

Amy Kay WatsonThe knowledge that I would soon have to move forward without this job came to me first as welcome news. I’d been in the role for nearly four years. While I loved the work and my team, I had been feeling the need for a change for several months.

My new coaching certification offered a possible way forward, but after a week or so, the first sheen of optimism started to fade. What if I didn’t get another job before my severance and unemployment ran out?

I wasn’t too worried about money. I was grateful for my severance package from Hertz, and the clarity of the layoff guaranteed that I would receive unemployment. Surely I would have landed before those six to nine months had played out.

By the time December 31 rolled around, my optimism had faded, and panic set in. I wasn’t just losing my income, but my sense of identity. Who would I be now?

For at least the previous four years I had been “a facilitator.” The material I facilitated belonged to someone else, but I’d internalized it so much that it felt like part of me. As of January 1, I would no longer be allowed to facilitate the material in the same way.

For the next several months I straddled the fence very intentionally. I devoted half of my “work time” each week to job-search activities and half to entrepreneurial activities. I spent networking and social media time developing connections that might help with either.

When people asked me what I was up to, I shared openly everything I had figured out up to that point. I was blasting people with information, talking too much, and coming across as divided as I felt.

I didn’t know what I wanted or where I was going. I wanted to have a clear message to the world: “I’m open!” Unfortunately the message people actually got was “I’m confused!”

In May 2015 I registered my business, an action that felt like a line in the sand. However, I kept dividing my time: filling out applications online, attending job fairs, and volunteering with the Career Transition Institute as well as coaching, learning about marketing, and trying to build a business.

Old friends started to reach out to me to ask for meetings to discuss whether or not they, too, could make the leap from their salaried jobs and start a business. I was still living on unemployment and dividing my time. I did my best with these conversations but felt just as lost as they were.

reading-pixabay

Things changed for me dramatically after I read The Dip by Seth Godin. Godin writes books about marketing, but The Dip is about commitment: choosing a path, weathering the trials, and sticking with it until you come out on top.

He talks about how much energy is sapped away when you play around with paths and challenges that aren’t right for you–energy you NEED in order to get through the challenges in the one path that is right for you. In short, when we don’t commit to a single path, we sabotage our efforts.

That was when I knew I needed to make a decision and stop spreading myself out between these possibilities of working as a corporate employee and building a business. I needed to choose, but how?

1931To answer that question, I had to tune into the still, small voice at my core, what I’ve come to call my inner voice of wisdom. This voice is different from the messages of shame and fear that we internalize after our traumatic childhood experiences at home or at school.

Your inner voice of wisdom is also different from the messages of wisdom you may have internalized from your mentors, teachers, and elders. To get to it, you have to first ask yourself what you’ve come to believe and where those beliefs came from. Are they true? How do you know? What if they aren’t?

I came to a point where I could accept that either path is good. I gave myself permission to believe that I could thrive as a business owner or I could thrive as an employee. It wasn’t easy, but I realized that my experiences of indecision between these options meant that I was suited just as well for either.

ThinkingDespite my indecision, I could also tell that my pursuit of starting a business was fueled by an inner drive that wasn’t engaged by job-hunting activities. When I would talk to anyone about an “employment opportunity,” I felt flat, disheartened. I could enforce the discipline required to do the work, but those activities held no inherent attraction for me.

As I paid attention to where my energy naturally flowed, my answer became clear. But having insight and taking action are two very different realities. I had my answer, but without committing to it and putting my energy behind it fully, that insight was worthless.

On the first of September, 2015, I committed myself wholeheartedly to building the business. I dismantled the safety net of job-hunting by refusing to engage any more in job-search activities. From that point forward, building the business became my only option, so it had to work.

My natural attraction to the tasks of coaching and marketing became turbocharged by the sense of urgency that my safety net was gone. I had to make this work, or the money would run out!

Right away I sought coaching. I started with a marketing coach. He helped me create an SEO website and encouraged me to start thinking about group coaching. Another coach helped me inquire into my inner voice of wisdom for even greater clarity about the value I deliver, which she called my “Unique genius.” Doing the work with her led to breakthroughs and much greater possibilities.

It is a journey that continues, and I do not know what will happen next.

If you are asking yourself the question, “Do I really want to look for a job or start a business?” I have a worksheet to help you think it through and discover where your energy is leading. Just send an email to Amy@CareerLeadershipAlignment.com and say “Send me the entrepreneur or employee worksheet!” and I’ll be happy to send it to you.

There is no one right answer except the answer that is right for you. You will need support for your journey, but the first and most important voice you must listen to is your own.