When was the last time you sat by a lake in a chair that was hard to get out of and you were happy and felt relaxed, like you had no place else you had to be, no obligations pressing on your brain? I live in Minnesota, in the northern United States, and I feel the pull of my closest lake far more often than I yield to her.
Are you working too hard? Too many hours as well? Have you gotten your vaccine(s)? Do you sleep enough? Do you remember your significant other's name?!
Women's Loyalty to Employers Astounds Me
As I work with my executive career coaching clients and talk to former coworkers, family members, and neighbors, I am struck by how many people are working harder than ever. There is a level of loyalty-to-employer among professional women that I see as not being in their best interests. I even see it in women who hate their jobs and/or their bosses. What is up with that?
A good friend of mine once complimented me on something that many resume writing experts try to get us to avoid -- I have always changed jobs when I became unhappy with the work, the bosses, the culture, or all three. This may have made me look like a job-hopper in my first years as a new mother, but I have no regrets.
Along the way, I learned a lot about myself and the world of work. I developed new areas of knowledge, new skills, and new colleagues and friends as well. Shout-out to my dear friend Marianne for calling me brave for quitting jobs! I love you!
Some of my all-time favorite people are the women and men with whom I worked in previous organizations. After taking time to recover from the place, I made sure to reconnect with the former coworkers I most adore. You know who you are. Thank you for being my friend all these years.
Are there former coworkers you miss? Contact them and say so!
Self-Care Matters Too
We need to take better care of ourselves and our planet. If we cannot do it for ourselves, then maybe we can trick ourselves into saying we need to 'do' self-care so we can take care of our loved ones -- whatever works. You run the risks of feeling depleted and resentful, getting sick and burned out, if you wait to do any relaxing until after you finish up this one last big project, this one client pitch... fill in the blank here. Please be good to you. And stop working so hard!
As an Executive, Leadership, and Career Coach to women, I encourage my clients to own their strengths and to stop focusing so much on their weaknesses. However, as I write this, I am very aware of my weaknesses, including my tendency to be inconsistent with any work endeavor that does not involve direct client contact. I do better when I am meeting in real time with women, serving you based on your current challenges and aspirations.
Consistency is a good thing, particularly in terms of managing one's "brand". I would be a better steward of my brand if I cranked out something in writing every week, month, or even every quarter, like clockwork. Unfortunately, consistency is not my strong suit. Alas, heavy sigh. I find it difficult to figure out which weaknesses to work on versus letting go.
To what extent is this true for you? Which weaknesses are you OK with just owning and ignoring, and which ones do you wish you could magically erase?
Imperfect, Inconsistent Coping is still Coping!
Please continue to take good care of yourself, remember to breathe, and reach out to people whenever it helps you to do so. Know that I am thinking about each person in my professional and personal spheres, including you. Paraphrasing what Stuart Smalley used to say on Saturday Night Live, "You're good enough, you're smart enough, and doggone it, people LIKE you!"
I have been listening to a lot of music this year, mostly to keep me company while I do mundane tasks around the house. One of my favorite songs lately is Mary Chapin Carpenter's, A Place in the World.
Here are the lyrics:
What I'm looking for after all this time
Keeps me moving forward, trying to find it
Since I learned to walk, all I've done is run
Ready, on my mark, doesn't everyone
Need a place in the world?
Could be right before your very eyes
Just beyond a door that's open wide
Could be far away or in your own backyard
There are those who say you can look too hard
For your place in the world
Takes some of us a little longer
A few false starts gonna make you stronger
When I'm sure I've finally found it
Gonna wrap these arms all around it
Could be one more mile or just one step back
In a lover's smile, down a darkened path
Friends will take our side, enemies will curse us
But to be alive is to know your purpose
It's your place in the world
Your place in the world
Your place in the world
Songwriters: Mary Carpenter
A Place in the World lyrics: Mary Chapin Carpenter, DBA Why Walk Music.
I hope you are doing OK or even better, in whatever place in the world you currently occupy. I hope you and your loved ones are well, staying safe, and finding ways to stay centered or grounded.
Please know that no matter how you are feeling and responding these days to the challenges you face, you are responding normally to abnormal situations. I took the above header phrase from the second last sentence of this short Greater Good article (Q & A) with a psychiatrist:
Tips for Calming Your Pandemic Stress
I found this article by searching for information on how much we humans need social support. When I am feeling my worst and/or my busiest, that is when I most need time with friends. However, that is also the time when I am less likely to call people or to ask them to get together. This was true before the pandemic, and now there are new complexities and layers of weirdness attached to socializing!
How about you? Has your need for time with friends and/or family changed from before the pandemic? What changes have you made in your social life during the pandemic, and are those changes working for you? If not, what tweaks could you make to be more intentional about getting your (social and other) needs met during this time?
You are not alone, even when you feel alone. There are so many people all over the world who are going through the same or similar thoughts and feelings as you. I hope you are getting your social support needs met. If not, I hope you make time to reach out to people you care about, for some mutually rewarding discussions about these abnormal times.
At the beginning of the month, a teacher friend of mine was allowed back into school to retrieve the rest of her belongings from her classroom. She had not been there since mid-March of 2020. An administrator checked her into the building per their protocol, and she started walking down the hall. While walking, she just started to cry. "My body was crying, and my brain was so surprised, wondering what was happening!" She gave herself permission to keep crying and then sobbing once she was inside her classroom. She later told me, "I realized what I had taken for granted, in that school, with the students I love. My body was grieving the loss of all of that time in person with them."
In my back yard yesterday morning, my friend told me this story. After she left, I went in the house and asked Google to play, "It's Alright to Cry" by Rosie Greer, part of the 1972 Marlo Thomas album, Free to Be You and Me. One daughter liked it, the other one not so much.
With the pandemic and ongoing racial injustices and racist systems, I am more aware than ever of my white privilege. I am not usually able to 'allow' myself to be sad or to feel loss for very long. But Rosie Greer is right -- It's alright to cry. Part of having self-compassion is being able to acknowledge the things we are sad about or have lost, even if we know that we have it easier than so many other people. When is the last time you cried?
Caring for Yourself and Others
In searching for good resources to share with you, I found a website that includes many standard activities, as well as unique and quirky ideas you can try if you want to take care of yourself, entertain your kids, connect with others, do things for other people, etc. Scroll down the page and click on the boxes of interest under, What Do You Want to Do:
Self-Care and Fun Activities at Home
I hope you find some fun and/or helpful ideas to implement, to help you keep going in these trying times. Best wishes with your work, relationships, responsibilities, challenges, and joys.
When you are feeling overwhelmed, please consider the value of doing "Bare Minimum" as a way of coping, saving energy, staying sane, etc. This is something I feel compelled to bring up with certain clients, especially women who self-identify as perfectionistic and/or workaholic! Bare Minimum involves doing considerably less than what you would typically do for a work project, task, favor, etc.
How often do you go above and beyond what your boss, team, family, or other people in your work-life expect? What toll does keeping up that level of performance take on you -- physically, mentally, and socially? Might there be certain projects or tasks for which you can do less work? How would that feel? In what ways might that free you up? What impact would that have on your body, mind, and spirit? What would you do instead with the time you free up for yourself?
Independent of how long this pandemic lasts, we are (or can be) in control of how we approach our work and other life roles. What can you do to improve your overall well-being, in ways that only you will likely notice and that won't get you anywhere near fired?! Practice "Bare Minimum", tell a friend about it, and see how it goes!
Kim Bartels is an Executive Coach and Career Counselor for women and other diverse leaders.