Posts tagged with ‘personal growth’

30 may

Compassion at Work: Helping Grieving Colleagues Cope

Kerrigan2No one likes to talk about death. It makes people feel uncomfortable and awkward. It’s the ultimate change—the one thing that cannot be fixed or undone. Even the word “death” creates anxiety because it’s mysterious and emotional.

Death shakes our confidence. We are vulnerable in its presence. It’s the one thing we cannot control. We can only control how we think about it and react to it. There is no magic formula in the grieving process.

So, the suggestions I offer are from my own experiences in helping co-workers and clients cope. Hopefully, they provide some guidance and comfort.

Offer support to meet your colleague’s needs, not your own. Often, they need someone to listen. Sometimes, they need advice, or help with errands. Sometimes, they need the rest of the team to carry their load for a while. Sometimes, they need privacy. And, sometimes, they just need a place or a time to cry. If they haven’t expressed what they need, then ask. The best gift you can give is you: the comfort of your presence and the help from your attention.

Try not to judge or teach. Don’t feel as though you have to have the answer to death—no one does. Now is also not the time to pull out the “5 Stages of the Grieving Process” or to tell them what they “should” be doing. Your job is to be there for support.

Be genuine. Avoid sympathy-card sayings such as, “Your loved one is in a better place,” or “Everything happens for a reason.” It’s fake, forced and annoying. You can do better than that. Just be yourself. This is your teammate after all. Think: What would you want to hear?

Be patient. Mourning takes time. If a colleague needs to cry, let her. Don’t push her and think you can shortcut the process—you can’t. Know that each person grieves differently and at their own pace.

Assume nothing. You really don’t know how they feel. And, if you’re anxious about what to say or do, it’s easy to project your own anxiety onto the very person you wish to comfort. Never assume anyone feels the same way you do. This can be very dangerous if you’re wrong, so don’t go there.

Know that work is often a wonderful respite from grief. So, don’t be surprised if a grieving colleague returns to work sooner than expected. Activity is one of the greatest antidotes to depression. It grounds us, especially when we’re caught in a whirlwind of painful emotions. Work provides focus and meaning, and teamwork diminishes the sense of alone-ness.

In the end, grieving is about loss, change, acceptance, and moving forward. Your role is to support your colleague through their journey.

Copyright 2014 Michelle Kerrigan

Michelle Kerrigan is an expert in workplace confidence and performance who has been helping businesses and professionals grow stronger and more successful for over three decades. More at www.michellekerriganinc.com and www.workplaceconfidence.com

If you felt moved, inspired, touched, helped, annoyed, or anything after reading this, please let us know. Our wonderful bloggers really do appreciate your comments and feedback. It’s super easy and takes a minute. Click on comments below.

Posted by Michelle Kerrigan on May 30th, 2014 in Career, Family, General, Global/Social Change | No comments Read related posts in , , , , , , , , ,

05 mar

6 Ways You Torment Yourself at Work and How to Stop

Kerrigan2Let’s face it: At one time or another, you have tormented yourself at work. Often, the ritual is daily. Without a doubt, it’s more frequent than most people know. You have to catch yourself to even know what’s making you feel bad or sad. We are so conditioned to look on the dark side, that negativity becomes our automatic default. In fact, I ‘ll bet that the main reason you’re reading this right now is the word “torment” in the title. Yes?

So—why do you do it? What is the main reason for all that torment?

Here it is: Fear of failure, of not being good enough, as though you have to prove yourself–-often.

Here are 6 ways you suffer and how to stop:

#1: You’re afraid to ask questions

Of all the performance and productivity killers I’ve seen in the workplace, confusion, by far, is numero uno. It can hold you back and delay progress, and often goes undetected because most people hate to admit when they’re confused. Ipso facto: They hate to ask questions.

Whole processes can screech to a halt when someone somewhere along the line is too afraid to ask: “How does this work?,” “What am I supposed to be doing?,” “Why is this needed?” You get the idea.

When you’re afraid to ask, you lack clarity, and torment yourself in many ways. Your job becomes a guessing game. You have no idea what you’re doing and you fear that, if you ask, you’ll look ridiculous. So, you put yourself and your team at risk.

Worst of all, your anxiety increases as you worry about things going wrong, and then it reaches an all-time high when they actually do.

Stop. Ask. The more confident you become, the stronger and less fearful you will be, and the better you will perform.

#2: You’re afraid of answering questions

This brings me to the flip side of that coin: fear of answering questions. Many executives are known for this. They think it’s the mark of strong leadership if they appear as though they have all the answers. So, instead of seeming weak, they avoid questions like the plague.

They become politicians, not leaders, sidestepping questions with vague and inane answers. Then, their insecurity and torment passes to their team, and everyone is confused and lost.

Is this what you really want?

Stop tormenting yourself and your team by trying so hard and making it up as you go along. Stop giving wrong or incomplete information. It is your job to problem solve, to get answers, and to know where to look. It’s not your job to know everything—nobody does.

If you don’t know, say so. And then ask.

#3: You second guess everything you do

When you can’t ask or answer questions, you have little confidence in yourself. Your anticipatory anxiety runs at an all-time high with “what if” thinking. “What if I do this, and that happens?” Initially, this can be great for planning, but you can’t get stuck there. You need to make a decision and move forward–to trust yourself and choose. Yes, sometimes you choose wrong, but that’s life.

First, know that most of the time, your anticipation is much worse than the actual situation. How many times have you worried yourself to the Nth degree and the outcome was far better than you imagined?

Anticipatory anxiety keeps you from taking chances that would improve your life.

Step through that wall of anticipatory anxiety! Get on the other side. Give yourself permission to feel anxious. Then, get in the present moment and ask yourself: what’s the next positive step I need to take to move myself forward? And do it!

Think of “what iffing” it this way, “What if I succeed?”–You won’t know until you try.

#4: You second guess what everyone else does

If you don’t trust yourself, it’s hard to trust others. This brings about huge control issues. People often think control freaks are strong—wrong. It’s a sign of weakness, of insecurity. So, stop it. Once again, you’re not only tormenting yourself, you’re tormenting your team. Stop hovering over them and not letting them do their thing.

We all bring something special to the table. No one is good in all areas of work—that’s why there are teams—to collaborate. Collaboration is the alloy that makes companies strong. It’s fine to ask and answer questions to monitor progress, but you must trust your team to do what they do best. That’s how you all grow and succeed.

#5: You have an excessive need for approval

If you feel victimized, manipulated or guilty often, then you are tormenting yourself by always needing approval from others. Anxiety runs high when you feel this way because you’re just too afraid of stepping on toes. You show people where your buttons are, with a big sign that says “Push!”

The most important approval you need is the approval you give yourself. I wrote about this in 10 Steps to Get Over the Impostor Syndrome. As a people pleaser, it’s easier to be compassionate to others, but not to yourself.

If you heard a close friend talk badly about him/herself, you would defend that person and say it’s not true. You would comfort the friend with kind and supportive words. You need to be able to do this for yourself. Speak to yourself as though you were speaking as if speaking to your own best friend. Be compassionate to yourself. Use those same convincing words and be supportive — to you.

#6: You suffer from the “terrible too’s”: too young, too old, too inexperienced, too forgetful, too tall, too short—you name it!

Often, when faced with change, we torment ourselves with the “terrible too’s.” We use self-criticism as an excuse to procrastinate and resist change. What we’re really saying is that we’re too afraid to leap because we’re too afraid to fail.

Your thoughts make up your reality. So, change the messaging in your mind. Get more positive in the way you think–especially about yourself.

Get confident: Ask and answer questions. Trust yourself and your team. Give yourself the support you need. Get out from under the “terrible too’s” and your excuses. One thing is for sure: It’s never too late to stop tormenting yourself and start enjoying your life!

Copyright 2014 Michelle Kerrigan

Michelle Kerrigan is an expert in workplace confidence and performance who has been helping businesses and professionals grow stronger and more successful for over three decades. More at www.michellekerriganinc.com and www.workplaceconfidence.com

If you felt moved, inspired, touched, helped, annoyed, or anything after reading this, please let us know. Our wonderful bloggers really do appreciate your comments and feedback. It’s super easy and takes a minute. Click on comments below.

Posted by Michelle Kerrigan on March 5th, 2014 in Career, Global/Social Change, Personal Stories | No comments Read related posts in , , , , , , , , , , ,

21 sep

Technology vs. Instinct and Common Sense: Are Smart Phones Making Us Stupid?

Kerrigan2I live in New York–one of the most fast-paced and exciting places in the world. It can also be one of the most dangerous places too. You need to be on your toes here, and aware of your surroundings. Otherwise, the consequences could be severe, even fatal.

However, one thing I’m noticing more and more lately is the rising addiction to smart phones, and people looking down, when they should be looking up. Smart phones are called that because of their technical capabilities. But are they harming our human capabilities? Our instinct and common sense?

I realized that, in the last month alone, I’ve seen 5 people almost get hit by bikes, cars, or taxis as they cross the streets in midtown, oblivious to the world around them.  And, recently, I read that the number of teens who are dying or being injured as a result of texting while driving is skyrocketing. In fact, texting is now surpassing drinking and driving as the prime hazard among that age group. And from what I see on the road, I can imagine the numbers are rising in adult accidents and fatalities too.

Then there’s another, less life-threatening , more career-threatening habit: Employees texting and tweeting while their bosses or company CEOs are speaking.  Or commenting on facebook when they should be working.

There are also the people dining out and gathering at bars everywhere, glued to their tiny screens and unaware of the life-sized action around them.  And, how many of us are so busy focusing on capturing a photo for facebook instead of actually experiencing and enjoying the moment? Just think of the last concert or public event you attended—did your smart phone make a guest appearance?

All this has led me to wonder:

Is all this reliance on technology endangering our lives?

Are we losing our ability to read a room and read the street? To hold a face-to-face conversation?  To listen and comprehend? Are our natural instincts, common sense and early warning devices being jeopardized by our handheld devices? Are we letting social media replace social grace, and distraction replace engagement, costing us our jobs, our friends, our experiences and our lives?

In other words: are our smart phones making us stupid?

Maybe it’s time to put the phones down, look up, and find out.

Copyright 2013 Michelle Kerrigan

Michelle Kerrigan is an expert in workplace success who helps clients develop the practical skills and confidence they need for high performance and productivity.

Based on her 25 years’ leadership experience, Michelle provides an invaluable road map for conquering fear and doubt, navigating change and solving day-to-day challenges, resulting in higher efficiency, improved leadership and teamwork, and stronger professional and revenue growth. Michelle also writes and speaks on the impact self esteem has on success, and produces a series for public TV, entitled Workplace Confidence. More at www.workplaceconfidence.com and www.michellekerriganinc.com

If you felt moved, inspired, touched, helped, annoyed, or anything after reading this, please let us know. Our wonderful bloggers really do appreciate your comments and feedback. It’s super easy and takes a minute. Click on comments below.

Posted by Michelle Kerrigan on September 21st, 2013 in Career, Global/Social Change, Health, Personal Stories, Technology | No comments Read related posts in , , , , , , , ,

12 sep

How to Heal Relationships – Part One

WEJMDTruly loving, nurturing and sustainable relationships are not happening for a great many of us. The reasons for this have to do with our ego getting in the way, with our unwillingness to be more thoughtful, tolerant and considerate, with our unwillingness to rise above the battlefield, to release our anger and resentments from the past, to effectively communicate, to negotiate differences and to establish, maintain and respect boundaries.

I say unwillingness because although it may be difficult to do these things, we choose not to. Loving, sustainable relationships are not the result of accidents or luck, they are the result of healthy choices.

It’s profound the degree to which most of us treat strangers, acquaintances, co-workers and friends much better than we treat our loved ones. With our loved ones, we forget about being compassionate, generous, selfless, considerate, empathetic and loving. We take them for granted. We ridicule them. We shame them. We ignore their needs and invalidate their feelings. And then we complain that we don’t have the relationship that we want.

This isn’t tricky stuff. If we want to have a loving relationship, we need to be loving. If we want to be understood, we need to understand. If we want to be appreciated, we need to appreciate. If we want to be respected, we need to respect. If we want consideration, we need to be considerate. If we don’t want to be judged and shamed, we need to not judge and shame. If we want to be forgiven, we need to forgive.

We reap what we sow. It’s the Golden Rule and it works: When we treat others as we wish to be treated we tend to receive what we give. Our world gets better. Our relationships become more loving, more nurturing, more satisfying and more enduring.

So that’s the ticket: We choose to be generous. We choose to be grateful. We choose to be gracious. We don’t assume the worst. We give our partner the benefit of the doubt. When our partner says or does something that we feel is inconsiderate or unloving we don’t immediately assume they wanted to attack us and hurt us. We don’t immediately go into an aggressive attack mode.

We remind ourselves that in the past we have said and done things that were thoughtless, inconsiderate and unloving, and at those times we wanted our partner to understand, to tolerate our mistakes, to not hold it against us and to forgive us. And so this is what we choose to do with our partner. We accept, we tolerate, we overlook, we forgive.

We don’t need to turn every thoughtless word or action from our partner into a battlefield. We can choose to not sweat the small stuff. We can choose to remind ourselves that they love us, they care about us, they’re not trying to hurt us. We can let it go. We don’t have to make a big stink about it.

This ties into the idea of “Would you rather be right or happy?” Oftentimes, when we feel wronged, we become insistent about confronting our partner, getting in their face, demanding that they feel guilty and shamed, demanding that they own their transgression, demanding an apology. And it’s oftentimes over minor stuff. And it’s oftentimes over stuff that could be open to interpretation. For example, when we’re feeling insecure we are more likely to perceive an innocuous comment from our partner as an attack. And this prompts us to go into our attack mode.

When we go into our attack mode and insist that we are right and they are wrong, we are loving and they are not, we are cool and they are cruel, and that they need to capitulate and apologize for their horrible acts, this oftentimes causes greater polarization in the relationship, greater antagonism and resentment.

If we don’t get their capitulation, everyone is upset. If we do get their capitulation, oftentimes everyone is still upset because of all the fighting that preceded it. Point being: If we insist on getting an acknowledgment that we are right, we usually end up not being happy. If we decide to stop needing to prove that we are right and instead choose our battles and choose to not make mountains out of molehills, we end up being happy. Isn’t that the whole point of having a relationship in the first place?

If you felt moved, inspired, touched, helped, annoyed, or anything after reading this, please let us know. Our wonderful bloggers really do appreciate your comments and feedback. It’s super easy and takes a minute. Click on comments below.

Posted by Walter E Jacobson, MD on September 12th, 2013 in Relationships, Spirituality | No comments Read related posts in , , , , ,

04 sep

Problem Generating vs. Problem Solving: Choosing the Right Path to Confidence and Success

Kerrigan2Life is filled with change. It is also filled with choice. Success is largely based on the choices we make when facing change.

Many of the changes we face are not welcome and quite challenging, such as getting laid off; going through a restructuring; and doing more with less at work. And, many of us believe that if we worry enough, we can control the outcome.

Well, we can’t. No one can. The only thing we control is ourselves, and how we react to change: Our thoughts and actions. Confidence is all about self control.

When we face change, we come to a fork in the road, and choose from 2 paths: The problem generating path and the problem solving path.

The problem generating path is where we create problems by being too negative. We lose confidence on this path, and we lose our way. It’s where we:

  1. Dwell on the past
  2. Worry about the future
  3. Doubt ourselves
  4. Shut down
  5. Get stuck

“Dwell” is the operative word here. It’s natural to feel anxious and fearful at first. In fact, discomfort often drives change. But, when we dwell on the negative, we mentally go around and around and come out at the same place—nowhere.

Let’s take getting laid off and having to job hunt as an example. Dwelling on the negative may sound like this: “Eh—it’s still the summer—not a great time to look for a job. I really don’t feel like doing this. I really miss my old team. I hate interviewing. I hate networking. I’m not good at either. I’m still upset that they let me go. Is there something wrong with me? Can I really do this? What if I can’t find anything? What if I fail?”

Sound familiar? Doesn’t get us very far, does it?

Now, let’s look at the problem solving path. When we problem solve, we gain confidence. We move forward and succeed. It’s on this path that we:

  1. Acknowledge and accept our fears
  2. Take control—talk ourselves through it
  3. Begin to think positively
  4. Ask “What are our next steps?”
  5. Take action
  6. Turn fear and doubt into planning and action

This path helps us deal instead of dwell. We take control, think empowering thoughts, ask better questions and take action.

It may sound like this: “OK—I might not be thrilled with job hunting, but I’m not going to let that stop me. First, I’m going to educate myself about the companies that I like. Then, I’m going to brush up on my interview skills and reach out to my connections and ask ‘Who can help me?’”

See how it changes? Which path holds us back and which one takes us forward and closer to our goals?

Change is coming at all of us at breakneck speed, and the velocity is increasing. Who knows what the future will bring?

So, our ability to deal with change –by making better choices, and problem solving, not problem generating —will have a big impact on our confidence and success.

It’s time to take control–we are in for the ride of our lives!

Copyright 2013 Michelle Kerrigan

Michelle Kerrigan is an expert consultant and coach in workplace success who helps corporate and private clients develop the practical skills and confidence they need to improve their performance and productivity.

Based on her 25 years’ leadership experience, Michelle provides an invaluable road map for conquering fear and doubt, navigating change and solving day-to-day challenges. Michelle writes and speaks on the impact self esteem has on success, and produces a series for public TV, entitled Workplace Confidence. More at www.workplaceconfidence.com and www.michellekerriganinc.com

If you felt moved, inspired, touched, helped, annoyed, or anything after reading this, please let us know. Our wonderful bloggers really do appreciate your comments and feedback. It’s super easy and takes a minute. Click on comments below.

Posted by Michelle Kerrigan on September 4th, 2013 in Career, Global/Social Change, New Directions | No comments Read related posts in , , , , , , ,

16 may

For Women Who Want to Be Leaders: Change Begins and Ends with You

Kerrigan2Recently, I attended a symposium focused on women entrepreneurs. The big questions were: Why aren’t there more women entrepreneurs? More women CEOs? More women at the top?

Of course, the first target of discussion was men. They are the problem.

Ladies—this is wrong and you know it.

As I listened to cries of “men don’t treat us as equals in the board room”, and “they don’t take us seriously,” the first reason came to mind: it’s how we perceive ourselves that matters. Trust me, I’ve chaired enough high powered meetings where I’ve been the only woman, and, anyone who knows me knows I can hold my own. That’s because I don’t look around the room and say—“wow, these are all high-powered men.” I just see them as colleagues, teammates, equals.

We are never a minority, unless we think like one.

So, change #1: Think of yourself as an equal. Stop walking into the board room with preconceived ideas, a chip on your shoulder, or looking for differences. We are all created equal.

Now—back to the meeting….. While there was a loud cry of inequality, a female law partner, who headed the panel, told a different story.

This woman spoke of her experience as an associate moving up the ranks, always being backstabbed by other women associates. She vowed that when she made it big, she would help other women, because she knew what it felt like to be hurt. I’ve seen her in action. She kept her promise.

Moral of the story: once you storm the citadel, don’t shut the gates behind you.

Which brings me to change #2: Women need to be better team players. Maybe the guys have an advantage because they’ve played more team sports as kids. I’m not sure. I am sure that leaders need to be exemplary team players. In some of the talks I’ve given, we’ve discussed great attributes of team players, and how to assess ourselves. The top descriptions are: reliable, supportive, positive, adaptable and accessible. Does this describe you? If it doesn’t, then remember: the only person you control is you. Your thoughts. Your behavior. That’s how you become a better you, a better teammate, a better leader.

And this brings me to change #3: We need to stop trying to change, correct—or should I say, “fix”—other people. C’mon—if you have a husband, boyfriend, or significant other, you know what I’m talking about.

I was just in a creative seminar where we were broken out into groups. My group contained four men, one other woman, and me. Our task was to come up with our own book titles, and then help each other develop chapters. We were to get our creative juices flowing by collaboration and free thinking—no editing our thoughts. The guys shared ideas without any judgment. Then the other woman chimed in. Many of her ideas were great, but, she spoiled it by constantly criticizing the way I spoke. She told me not to start any of my sentences with the word “but”, and constantly interrupted my creative flow by trying to correct me. But, I wasn’t looking for her to change me. I was looking for her to help me.

You see, no matter how much we might try, the only people we can control and change are ourselves. We can’t control men, the world, injustice and bad things that happen to us. The only things we have power over are our own thoughts and actions.

Taking control of ourselves in a more supportive and less critical way gives us more confidence and self esteem. That’s what it’s really all about.

When we change ourselves for the better, and feel good about who we are, there are no barriers. Positive change begins and ends with us. And there are no ifs, ands, or buts about it!

Copyright 2013 Michelle Kerrigan. All Rights Reserved.

Michelle Kerrigan is an expert consultant and coach who specializes in helping clients achieve workplace success by developing the practical skills they need to improve their confidence, performance and productivity. More at www.michellekerriganinc.com and www.workplaceconfidence.com.

If you felt moved, inspired, touched, helped, annoyed, or anything after reading this, please let us know. Our wonderful bloggers really do appreciate your comments and feedback. It’s super easy and takes a minute. Click on comments below.

Posted by Michelle Kerrigan on May 16th, 2013 in Career, Global/Social Change | No comments Read related posts in , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

15 apr

Social Media vs. Social Reality: How to “Like” Your Life

Kerrigan2“I just cancelled my Facebook account—it was making me feel too depressed reading everyone else’s posts. In comparison to them, I feel like such a failure.”

I’m hearing this type of complaint more often these days. The above quote came from a young college student. She is kind, fun, top of her class, passionate about her subject—filmmaking—and has a paid internship doing what she loves. And yet, social media is making her feel inadequate. Why?

I’m not a big advocate for Facebook, but I enjoy connecting and keeping up with people I like and respect. Like most, I don’t have thousands of friends, and this should tell you something.

Actually, no one really does. Social media and social reality are two very different animals. Never forget that.

So, here are a few things I’d like to share:

Social media is the one place where you actually edit your life. Your audience gets to see what you want them to see. No one has the perfect life, and thank God for that! It keeps life interesting. Each of us has successes and failures.

Think: If all the updates you saw on Facebook were about failure—would you really want that? Now, that would be depressing! (I’m picturing all the prozac and xanax ads and continuous photos of Woody Allen running alongside my feed. Oy!)

Success is different for everyone. You define it—not some arbitrary group. For some, it’s living a healthy, long life. For others, it’s having a family or career they love, or owning beautiful (and expensive) things.

If people on Facebook are really your friends, then be happy for them. If not, then delete them. Period, amen. Remember—you get to edit your life here too.

Use social media as motivation to get what you really want. Stop wasting time browsing on Facebook with your nose pressed up against the glass. Ask your friends how they got where they are and how they can help you. Focus less on what others are doing and more on what you want.

Keep a list of what you have in your life and review it and add to it often. Be grateful. I bet there’s more on that list than you give yourself credit for.

Perhaps some friends whose lives you want may really want what you have. What’s that saying?….the grass is always greener…

Focus your efforts on defining success and pursuing it. That’s the only way you’ll get there. And, don’t stop to edit yourself. That’s the beauty of reality—it’s a roller coaster ride of twists and turns and successes and failures. So, quit stalling and get on board! That’s what life is really all about.

Now—can I get a thumbs up here, huh??


Copyright 2013 Michelle Kerrigan. All rights reserved.

For over 25 years, Michelle Kerrigan has been helping businesses and private clients achieve workplace success by developing the practical skills they need to improve their confidence. Based on her own leadership experiences, Michelle provides an invaluable road map for conquering fear and doubt, navigating change, and solving day-to-day challenges. Michelle also writes and speaks about the impact self esteem has on success, and is currently working on a series for public TV about workplace confidence. More at www.workplaceconfidence.com and www.michellekerriganinc.com.

If you felt moved, inspired, touched, helped, annoyed, or anything after reading this, please let us know. Our wonderful bloggers really do appreciate your comments and feedback. It’s super easy and takes a minute. Click on comments below.

Posted by Michelle Kerrigan on April 15th, 2013 in Career, Global/Social Change, Health | No comments Read related posts in , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

25 mar

Workplace Confidence: Does Age Matter?

MichelleKerrigan“Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.” – Mark Twain

Mark Twain was a very wise man. And yet, age often causes such a chasm in the workplace, affecting teamwork, performance and innovation. Why?

A lot of it comes from perceptions driven by the media: seniors are slow and technology challenged; gen y is self absorbed with a sense of entitlement; and baby boomers are stuck in the past and glory days. Sound about right?

While many of these thoughts don’t originate with us, once we adopt them, they turn inwards, and we run the risk of putting ourselves in age boxes (18-24, 25-33, 34-45, 46-55). Like most things in life, it’s the stories we tell ourselves that get in our way.

Case in point: When asked to speak at Hunter College about navigating change, I was nervous about addressing a room full of students in their early 20s. In my 50s, I found myself thinking not like Mark Twain, but like Will McAvoy, the anchorman character in the hit show The Newsroom, who has that awful fear known as ”Am I still relevant?”

As I help people address issues with confidence, it’s odd that I even think of this, but that’s exactly why I think of it. If you let it, negative perceptions can shake your confidence to its very core.

So, as I arrived in the classroom, I kept trying to talk myself through it: “It will be alright…just 20-30 minutes, and I’m done and out of here, before they start yawning…..loudly.” See? We can really get fluent in ‘crazy’ when facing fear and doubt.

90 minutes later—yes, 90 minutes–I was in a deep Q and A with the students. I kept looking over to the professor, wondering when to sit down, and she mouthed—“as long as their hands are up, keep going.”

I found that the students were just as nervous as I, if not more so. They were concerned about all the changes they were facing—definitely at a much faster pace than I’ve ever experienced.

They were also frightened of entering the workforce, and being considered too young, too inexperienced, too inferior. In essence, give or take 30 years, they felt just like me.

They were so relieved when I told them that everyone has fears—no one’s immune. It’s what you do with your fear that matters. You can let it stop you by worrying about the future or getting stuck in the past. Or you can get in the here-and-now, and ask “What’s the next positive step I can take to move myself forward and who can help me?”

It was then that I realized the most relevant lesson of all: No one succeeds alone—no one. The success we felt in that Hunter classroom was a team effort—timeless and transcending all barriers. We can all learn from each other, and we should.

In the workplace, embrace this practice of working together, and there’s nowhere you can’t go. Performance, productivity, and innovation are driven by collaboration and must be unencumbered by preconceptions because they limit us and everyone we touch.

We all have something of value to bring to the table—our different strengths and experiences.

Age, like fear, doesn’t matter. It’s the confidence to move forward together that does.

Copyright 2013 Michelle Kerrigan. All rights reserved.

For over 25 years, Michelle Kerrigan has been helping businesses and private clients achieve workplace success by developing the practical skills they need to improve their confidence. Based on her own leadership experiences, Michelle provides an invaluable road map for conquering fear and doubt, navigating change, and solving day-to-day challenges, resulting in more effective management and leadership, increased productivity and growth. Michelle also writes and speaks about achieving success, and is currently working on a series for public TV about self esteem and workplace confidence. More at www.workplaceconfidence.com and www.michellekerriganinc.com.

If you felt moved, inspired, touched, helped, annoyed, or anything after reading this, please let us know. Our wonderful bloggers really do appreciate your comments and feedback. It’s super easy and takes a minute. Click on comments below.

Posted by Michelle Kerrigan on March 25th, 2013 in Career, Global/Social Change, Personal Stories | No comments Read related posts in , , , , , , , , ,

19 jan

See Beings Not Bodies

RickHansonWhat happens when you look at someone?
The Practice:
See beings, not bodies.
Why?

When we encounter someone, usually the mind automatically slots the person into a category: man, woman, your friend Tom, the kid next door, etc. Watch this happen in your own mind as you meet or talk with a co-worker, salesclerk, or family member.

In effect, the mind summarizes and simplifies tons of details into a single thing – a human thing to be sure, but one with an umbrella label that makes it easy to know how to act. For example: “Oh, that’s my boss (or mother-in-law, or boyfriend, or traffic cop, or waiter) . . . and now I know what to do. Good.”

This labeling process is fast, efficient, and gets to the essentials. As our ancestors evolved, rapid sorting of friend or foe was very useful. For example, if you’re a mouse, as soon as you smell something in the “cat” category, that’s all you need to know: freeze or run like crazy!

On the other hand, categorizing has lots of problems. It fixes attention on surface features of the person’s body, such as age, gender, attractiveness, or role. It leads to objectifying others (e.g., “pretty woman,” “authority figure”) rather than respecting their humanity. It tricks us into thinking that a person comprised of changing complexities is a static unified entity. It’s easier to feel threatened by someone you’ve labeled as this or that. And categorizing is the start of the slippery slope toward “us” and “them,” prejudice, and discrimination.

Flip it around, too: what’s it like for you when you can tell that another person has slotted you into some category? Read more »

Posted by Dr. Rick Hanson on January 19th, 2012 in General, Relationships, Things We Love | No comments Read related posts in , , , , , , , ,

16 jan

Step Into the Clouds

RickHansonJuggling bricks?
The Practice:
Step into the cloud.
Why?

I had a lightbulb moment recently: I was feeling stressed about all the stuff I had to do (you probably know the feeling). After this went on for a while, I stepped back and kind of watched my mind, and could see that I was thinking of these various tasks as things, like big rocks that were rolling down a hill toward me and which needed to be handled, lifted, moved, fended off, or broken into pebbles. As soon as I dealt with one thing-y boulder, another one was rolling toward me. Shades of Sisyphus.

Seen as brick-like entities, no wonder these tasks felt heavy, oppressive, burdensome. Yuch!

But then I realized that in fact the tasks I needed to do were more like clouds than things. Clouds are made up of lots of vaporous little bits, those bits come together for a time due to many swirling causes, and then they swirl away again. Meanwhile, the edge or boundary of a cloud blurs into other clouds or the sky itself. There is a kind of insubstantiality to clouds, and a softness, a yielding.

For example, take writing an email message: It has lots of little parts to it (the points you need to take into account, and the words and sentences), it is nested in a larger context – your relationship to the receiver, the needs that prompted the email – that (in a sense) calls it forth, and it emerges and passes away. This email, this task, links to other tasks, sort of blurs into them. Fundamentally, the email is a kind of process, an event, rather than a thing. It’s like you could put your hand through it.

When I considered my tasks in this way, I immediately felt better: relieved, relaxed. Tasks felt fluid, like streams or eddies I was stepping into and influencing or contributing to as best I could before they swirled on and became something else. Not so weighty or full of inertia; not so resistant, so controlling of me; not bearing down on me, but instead, something I was flowing into. Then I didn’t feel weary dealing with them. They became fun, lighter; there was more freedom in moving through them.

And it’s not just tasks that are clouds. Read more »

Posted by Dr. Rick Hanson on January 16th, 2012 in General, Relationships, Things We Love | No comments Read related posts in , , , , , , ,