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My client, Laura¹, was late for her own wedding. Not traditionally late. Really late. The minister almost called it off. And she’s been late for almost everything for decades since.  Lateness has been her life-long pattern.

She wants it to stop yet feels powerless.

We jumped in by exploring the costs of her lateness habit. For her, there were no serious outward consequences. She is such a hard worker that her boss doesn’t care. But she cares. She feels out of integrity leading others to be on time when she is always late. And she berates herself every day. That is a serious cost.

I started to understand why this issue was a big one.

We explored the pay-off for being late. A pay-off for being late? Sure. Turns out, her older sibling excelled at everything and got a lot of attention. My client did the opposite and became “bad”. When asked if she could have compassion for the girl who cleverly figured out how to get noticed (and loved) by being bad, she teared up. She could have compassion for that girl, she said, and also for the woman who has kept this pattern going ever since, however subtly.

A decade ago, I would have excitedly helped Laura set a goal for being on time and figured out superficial strategies to support her goal.

And it would have worked for a few days at best. Now I know better.

Life-long patterns come from deep beliefs and assumptions. We don’t break them with a bulleted list of strategies like getting up earlier to be on time.

Harvard faculty Robert Kegan and Lisa Lahey pioneered a process called The Immunity to Change X-ray to uncover the big assumptions that drive our behaviours.

Let’s look at Laura’s x-ray to find her immunity to change²:

Her goal: Be at work 5 minutes early every day.

  1. What she’s doing instead: Distracting herself with silly things in the morning before work. Berating herself daily for the “stupidity”.
  2. What she’s worried about: Worried that if she keeps being late she will lose credibility not being able to keep the job she loves not being able to share her special gift becoming a just a cog in the wheel…
  3. Her hidden competing commitments: Committed to holding back (her gifts) and not being too successful / playing small.
  4. Her assumptions: She believes that the way to get attention is to act out (even if very subtly). She believes that if she succeeds that others will get hurt or left behind.

Now let’s read it from the bottom up:

She believes that if she is very successful others will get hurt or left behind. She commits (unconsciously) to always holding back a little and playing small so she doesn’t hurt anyone. She worries that if she keeps being late she might lose what she already has (but keeps being late so she doesn’t become more successful). She distracts herself with trivial things to run late day after day and berates herself every time. And she never achieves her goal to be to work at least 5 minutes early.

I received this lovely note from her yesterday morning.

I’m really in the space of owning how I’ve been living small and holding back and it’s not negative. It’s being in a different perspective and it feels quite good.  With very little extra effort, I was three minutes early today.  I didn’t feel like holding myself back and there was no internal drama.  Of course, it is only day one but I truly feel different. 

I am willing to wager that if Laura truly unleashed her gifts, no one would give a damn what time she showed up. And she wouldn’t either.

When she’s ready, of course.   

 

 


¹ Name changed.
² Failure to meet our goals may be the result of an emotional immune system that helps protect us from the fall out that can come from change, namely disappointment and shame.

…that I think A LOT. That I hold myself to impossible standards.

…that I often feel scared. Angry. Jealous. Wronged.  Blaming. Overwhelmed—there’s not enough time, money, love, whatever.  Sometimes I feel powerless to change things.

I am below the line often.

And it is all fine.  It’s perfect in fact. I am starting to truly understand this and believe it.

And so, if you really knew me, you’d also know…

…that I drain myself. I go to bed at night feeling fully used up. Sometimes it is a delicious feeling of having given all my gifts. Other times I put the weight of the world on my shoulders. Most of my dreams are struggles to solve real and imagined problems. Oh, and I worry in my awake time too. I slip into hero mode to avert disaster, to prove my worth. I control as much as I can so that I don’t fail and you won’t either. I am scared you won’t think I am smart. I am scared you won’t think I am experienced enough. I am scared you won’t think “I am enough”.

And you’d know…

…that I am so emotionally porous at times, I cause myself suffering. I am especially prone to absorbing the moods and dramas of my six-year-old daughter…and my clients! This can be a rollercoaster of highs and lows.

…that I do all kinds of things to function well. I work-out. I dance swing. I do yoga stretches most mornings. I dabble in meditation. I go to bed early. I eat well, mostly. I have a coach myself. I’m in a new conscious leadership group with my coach colleagues. There are a lot of interlocking elements that keep me going.

You’d also know…

…that I still second guess myself and look to others for confirmation and validation. I grew up taking things home “on approval”.  In our small city, this meant we could take items home from local stores without paying so we could try them on at home. For us, this allowed us to seek approval from others before committing to a purchase. We wanted to make the perfect choice.  It turns out that “on approval” became my way of living.  Now I am learning (slowly) to have compassion for myself (and my mother). We were/ are both scared to make the wrong choices. We are so human.

I have learned more this past year than I ever have. And it's been a gift. | Chandler CoachesAnd you’d know…

…that I sometimes worry that all this focus on consciousness will drive a distance between me and the people I love. Maybe they will push me away?  Or worse, maybe I will push them away because they aren’t as conscious (as if it were a competition!). I even worry that as a single woman that I will never find a conscious man, one who accepts me for who I am and the path I am on. And then I remember that for me to do anything other than allow this path to unfold would stifle me to my core and squash my purpose.

And finally, if you really knew me, you’d know

I have learned more this past year than I ever have. My life is offering up experiences every day that challenge me to stay present, to figure out what is mine to own, to make clear agreements, to practice patience, compassion and love for myself and others.

If you read what I share above as bleak, I see it as just the opposite. I feel very alive.  I feel courageous. I feel powerful. I feel expansive. I feel incredibly grateful. So much is possible. I feel more connected to people and the flow of life than I ever have.  

And while I feel a little scared to put this blog post into the world, I mostly feel excited. Revealing some of me brings a freedom and lightness. 

I am a complicated human and so are you.

And now, if I really knew you, what I would I know?

 

 

 

___________________

If you are craving a more traditional year-end wrap-up, check out these recycled posts from years past:

Blame or Shift?

Recently a friend texted for advice about a “hard client he was working with” (his words). He indicated he thought she needed some tough love. He asked me to tell him how to do that. I agreed to have a conversation to explore his situation.  

He told me that he had spent three hours the night before crafting an email with his proposed solutions to the client’s business issues.

He wanted me to read it but didn’t feel hopeful she would heed his advice. I asked if we could talk about the bigger picture instead of the content of his email.

He’s familiar with the above/ below the line framework from the Conscious Leadership Group (worth 3 min if you have not watched it). I asked him a few times where he felt he was vis-à-vis the line. Each time he said he was above the line because he was trying to help the client.

I asked if I could offer my feedback. He was game.  I offered that I was experiencing him as being very below the line in that moment. I drew the drama triangle and described the various drama roles of hero, victim and villain (Another worthwhile 3 min).  

I asked again if he could recognize himself in any of those roles. This was the TSN Turning Point.

He could recognize himself in all three roles: hero, victim and villain.

He had arrived feeling that everything was her fault.  She had become a “hard client who needed tough love”. When he broke it down he could see he was being a hero by working outside the scope of their agreement to “save her” (and resenting every minute of it). He was feeling like a victim because she was “irrational and undermining the process”. And he was making her a villain for not doing what she needed to do to grow her business.”

Here’s the thing: The client may not have had a clue my friend was experiencing her this way. Since he was concealing his feelings and working hard to overcome the “problem”, the drama was on his side (She may have been feeling some drama too but I did not speak to her ☺).

When my friend could shift to owning his contribution to what was going on between them, he was able to see he had some choices.  

I challenged him to have a clearing conversation with her.¹ To own his feelings. To tell her the facts (that she had taken 2 weeks reply to his emails and a few other unarguable facts) and the stories he was making up about her. And to make it clear that he wanted a more honest relationship with her if they were to continue working together as consultant and client.

My friend is a brave soul and a life-long learner. He willingly agreed to have the conversation.

Two days later he sent me this note:

“What happened was unbelievable. We agreed on all kinds of things.  No one was defensive. I thought I was going to have to resign from this client. Instead, we have more trust than we had before and we have a path forward”.

We all have drama in our lives.  Becoming more aware of when we are in drama and realizing we have choices is a huge victory.  

Having courageous conversations to shift out of drama is icing on the cake. I am proud of my friend.  He shifted. You can too.

 


¹ If you’d like a one-page step-by-step script on how to have a clearing conversation, please email me.

Plunging Into Feelings

  Don’t drink at the water’s edge, throw yourself in. Become the water. Only then will your thirst be quenched. - Jeanette Berson Sometimes we throw ourselves into the metaphorical water and get in over our heads, drowning in failure or loss. Sometimes, even from the water’s edge, circumstances beyond our control wreak havoc in… Read the full post here

A Crack in Everything

Ring the bells (ring the bells) that still can ring Forget your perfect offering There is a crack in everything (there is a crack in everything) That's how the light gets in¹ ~ Leonard Cohen Our imagined March Break plans cracked at the last minute. Forget our perfect offering… And I found some moments of provocation… Read the full post here

The Dance Between Purpose and Safety

If you are an average leader (Who wants to be average? I know!), you are likely subject to your thoughts and feelings much of the time.  You don’t have your feelings. They HAVE you. You aren’t conscious that you’re often afraid, you just ARE scared. You likely won’t easily see it or admit it though… Read the full post here

Introducing Heroine Helen

Her most important thing is to be helpful, sweet, caring and loving. She rescues by easing pain and suffering, at least temporarily. She prides herself on making homemade treats for those she loves, who are in “need”; she makes homemade cards too.   She’s proud of her listening ear, how her thoughtful deeds will have you… Read the full post here

Lead From Love

For three mornings in a row last week, my little girl Lali woke up as angry as a hornet. On the third morning of fury, exhausted from her highly charged storm clouds, I wept openly in front of her. It happened spontaneously as I allowed her to bring me to my breaking point. About 30… Read the full post here

You Cannot Change Until You Overcome Your Own Immunity

My client, Laura¹, was late for her own wedding. Not traditionally late. Really late. The minister almost called it off. And she’s been late for almost everything for decades since.  Lateness has been her life-long pattern. We jumped in by exploring the costs of her lateness habit. For her, there were no serious outward consequences… Read the full post here

If You Really Knew Me…

…that I think A LOT. That I hold myself to impossible standards. …that I often feel scared. Angry. Jealous. Wronged.  Blaming. Overwhelmed—there’s not enough time, money, love, whatever.  Sometimes I feel powerless to change things. I am below the line often. And it is all fine.  It’s perfect in fact. I am starting to truly… Read the full post here

Blame or Shift?

Recently a friend texted for advice about a “hard client he was working with” (his words). He indicated he thought she needed some tough love. He asked me to tell him how to do that. I agreed to have a conversation to explore his situation.   He wanted me to read it but didn’t feel… Read the full post here

Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast…¹

You’ve just hired Selma as your new controller. She has lunch in the staff room on Day 1 to quickly to get to know her new colleagues. She tells one of them that she’s excited to have found a company that develops and promotes their people. After all, she’s been told that by every leader… Read the full post here

Lead Like a Montessori Teacher

Imagine a workplace where all leaders respect their people, provide clear and consistent expectations, and encourage employees to be independent, intrinsically motivated critical thinkers. Such a workplace would look a lot like a Montessori school in fact. I read this post on the 7 phrases Montessori teachers use because my daughter goes to a Montessori… Read the full post here