Archive for August, 2016

In order to do good, we must first do well.

I used to work for the Sisters of Charity, an order who ran successful health care systems.  They promoted efficiency and success in their charitable mission, by saying, “in order to do good, we must first do well.”

This is just as true for individuals with an important mission.

Women who want to make the world a better place, tell me they get worn down by the resistance in their organizations.  Those who have an important mission seem to be targeted disproportionately; getting upstaged, being excluded, dealing with power plays.

Mean girls and bullies can turn the work you love into the job you hate.

This leaves otherwise strong, capable women doubting their abilities and efforts, feeling drained, eclipsed, and wondering if there is something wrong with spiegelthem which subjects them to these tiresome experiences.

This all-too-common scenario may not mean what you think it does.  Consider that those who don’t shine brightly are not targeted.

This sort of experience is certainly not your fault.  However, there is an inner game here and you can change it when you recognize it.

Consider this.  Articulate your important mission in a single sentence.  It might be, “I help girls become leaders,” or “I help people find exhilarating careers,” or “I promote products which protect the environment.”  Whatever it is, create a sentence about it.

Now, imagine saying this statement to your parents, your boss, the board of directors, your children, your husband, your siblings, your employees, your coworkers….

How do they react?  Some of them probably applaud and cheer, but notice who does not.

Whose reaction ties your stomach in knots?  What is the source of that anxiety?  Who is skeptical of your power?  Who is opposed to your power?  What early lessons cautioned you not to stand out and not to shine too brightly?

It is this inner resistance which slows your progress.  It also can help attract bullies who want to put a stick in the spokes of your wheels.  You don’t appreciate these people at all, but a part of you suspects they could be justified.  This inner conflict makes you doubt your entitlement to respect and success.

Now that you see this resistance for what it is, can you get a sense of the drag it exerts on your progress?  Can you see how it keeps you from moving decisively forward?  It’s hard to succeed and achieve when you lose your power to inner and outer saboteurs.  These problems can subtly drain energy away so you are not doing well and are ready to give up the good you do.

Now that you see this inner resistance for what it is, you can dismiss it whenever it comes up.    When detractors mirror your resistance back to you, you can ignore those images.

Bit by bit, this will restore your energy.

A Parable about the Power of the Collective

Handsome tuxedo cat with striking eyes surveying world from his treeIndoors, Ted was an affectionate, loving house cat; a fastidious in his black and white tuxedo, with a sweet disposition.

An avid outdoorsman, Ted was also a mighty hunter.  Frequently, within 5 minutes of being let outside, he would have caught a mouse or bird.  He was the scourge of the small animal kingdom.  When he ventured outdoors, all the creatures who could fly or climb would ascend to high branches and hurl curses and insults at him.

One evening, during nesting season, I stepped out to enjoy the evening, and heard a chorus of scolding robins, and their “chirp! chirp! chirp!” alarm calls.   On the lawn, a semicircle of 10 robins faced the bushes, where they had a cat cornered.

Of course it was Ted who was surrounded and being given what for.  When he ventured onto the lawn, the robins hopped toward him aggressively, squawking, and he slunk back into the shrubbery.  He tried to sneak out of a gap at the side of the shrubbery, but the robins met him there, backing him into the bushes.  He tried a different escape, but the robins had him surrounded there too!

I walked closer to where Ted was cornered.  When he saw me, he meowed the most pathetic cry I had ever heard from him outside of the vet’s office. “Aowwww!” he cried, “Helllp meeee!”

I rescued the mighty hunter, picking him up and carrying him away into the house.  The band of robins broke up and went about their business, now that the threat to their families was gone.

These robins taught me something about collective action.  Normally easy prey of a big tom cat, they banded together, and were aggressive rather than reactive.  These birds easily got the hunter to back down and even cower!

Even though each of these birds was less than a tenth the size of my cat, they were able to immobilize and control him.

Pay attention, humans.  Do you fear a threat which is bigger and more powerful than you?  Can you collect a like minded flock to keep this threat at bay?