All of us have experienced “relationship” problems. You might have a problem with your girlfriend or boyfriend, life partner, parent, sibling, business partner, best friend, roommate, boss, coworker or even a neighbor. Really, given the number of people in your life, especially when you add your FB fame or any other cyber group you’re in: it’s amazing you have any ability to focus on anything in your career or business.
Focus is the greatest predictor of progress. Relationship problems get in the way of your ability to focus.
The worst relationship problem you have is with yourself.
It seems odd to think of yourself being in a relationship with yourself. But, you are. You reject yourself. Criticize yourself. Feel guilty about abusing your body. Feel out-of-control about your impulsive behavior. And, occasionally you feel good about yourself, even great – often because you’ve kept a resolution or promise you made to yourself.
Did you make resolutions this year? Like:
1. I will go to bed before midnight because experts say it’s good for my liver. FYI, depression experts say that staying up all night is an immediate and wildly effective intervention if you are suffering. Keep in mind, all-nighters are not part of a long term strategy because sleep deprivation is used for torture, as we found out in the last peek into CIA documents. But being depressed might be more important than your liver on any given day. And one night does not approach the torture threshold.
2. I will drop or add 10 pounds so I can look a lot more like Bradley Cooper, or like Bradley Cooper’s girlfriend. BGF: Thank you for posting those selfie bikini photos because apparently Bradley is incapable of giving you enough attention, so why not get more from random strangers? It’s clear your being photographed by the paparazzi when you’re with Bradley really isn’t as fulfilling as being photographed by yourself, by yourself.
3. I will stop smoking, biting my nails, yelling at my kids, drinking Diet Coke, texting while driving, using my finger nails as tools to scrape stuff off my desk, eating gluten, being a glutton or doing anything that in any way reduces my anxiety in ways that work in the moment, but make me feel bad later in the day, week, year or any period of time that I feel anxious. That time period would be called my life.
In other words: you make promises to yourself and break them all the time. Then you feel remorse, guilt, misery, and out-of-control.
Given that you probably don’t give yourself a time-out and sit in the corner, you probably push the self-recrimination under the proverbial rug and keep living your life. In other words: you don’t actually figure out the root of the problem or goal. You declare tomorrow is the day when you will really make progress on this goal.
That promise is a trance you put yourself in. It’s what I call a “stalling trance.” You delay your progress by a) making the promise and breaking it, and then b) making the promise again.
Because you don’t figure out what’s wrong with the promise or how to set up your environment so you will succeed: you are actually giving yourself the “silent treatment.”
Now, most people in relationships with others use the “silent treatment” to punish the offender. If you tell your romantic partner to bring home some milk, be nice to your parents, stop telling jokes in public or never again sing Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head at karaoke: and that demand is denied: what is the number one most common response?
The silent treatment. You simply stop talking to the offender, maybe for a day. More if it’s not the first offense, or whatever you decide as prosecutor, judge, jury and probation officer.
In psychology the silent treatment is called: the Demand/Withdraw dance. Actually, they don’t call it a dance, I do. It’s an awkward dance because you’re with this person, often sharing the same space, and you have to weirdly move around them, not talking. You withdraw from engaging in the relationship, by withholding communication. At least about the gross violation of your direct order.
You do the same thing with yourself. You demand certain behaviors of yourself that are not natural – at least not at first. You demanded that you stop over-eating. Or my favorite: stop procrastinating.
When you fail to follow your demands, a bunch of feelings roll in like a thick pea soup fog. No words. Just a sickening stomach churning, cheek burning embarrassment that you failed yourself. Again.
Disappointment and a sense of powerlessness over not just this failure, but all your past failures leave you speechless at how little self-control you have. Hence, the silent treatment. After all, what could you say?
How about speaking up with the best new resolutions you could have. “I will stop ordering myself around. I will catch myself doing things right. I will make a huge deal about anything that could be considered even the tiniest triumph.”
Or more simply: “I will like myself today.”
Repeat each day until it sticks.
Be relentless. Be resilient. Be able to repair.
Be ready to play hurt. Play tired. Play even with despair.
Everything can change in one moment.
Every thing passes. Every thing that is good and every thing that is bad does not last.
What have we learned from the latest terror campaign acted out on Paris and Nigeria? What have we learned from Boko Haram and other followers of religious or political texts that preach the elimination of anyone who does not follow those “teachings?” What have we learned from Iraq, Afghanistan, Cuba, Russia, the US and every other territory on the planet?
What have we learned that is so valuable that it should inform the way you live and work, and the way you express your personal brand?
We have learned not to be afraid. Being afraid makes you a resident of a permanent state of instability and some would say its neighbor: insanity. Afraid is not a place where you can reside if you believe that your freedom to make decisions for yourself is the best way to live. If you are among my tribe of intentional personal branders, you believe that freedom opens all doors and all possibilities. Of course that includes the best and the worst of times.
Although you may be in a heightened state of grief right now, in fact no place is absolutely safe nor has it been at any time. We have learned there is no safety if you shelter in place. If you try to remain quiet with the door shut.
We have learned if you are armed with a pencil, with the talent of a cartoonist and the intellectual capacity of a pundit, you are not safe. That if you shop in a market, you are not safe. We have even learned that a young girl may come into a town square, probably unknowingly carrying a bomb that kills and injures as many people as possible.
The actions of states or individuals can result in such tragedy. You cannot actually hold all the possibilities in your brain and stay calm.
That does not mean you should look away from the truth, or act in spite of, or in any way fail to acknowledge it.
You should just take in what you can, when you can. Then do your best to live the best life you can. Remember to kiss the ones you love good-bye or tell them that you love them before you get off the phone or text. Support strangers in times of grief and in times of celebration, and do not be surprised that those occur quite close to each other.
We are mourning and celebrating. We are in despair and yet our faith in humanity has deepened.
Je vous suis. Nous sommes une.
What is it so hard to believe you should be the best you can be, and work for someone else? Why do so few people genuinely want to be employees? Why is it impossible to believe you can be a person with great self-worth who also respects the opportunity to work?
Apparently, most Millennials believe that going to the office looks like The Office, the television show that makes working for someone else look ridiculous. I thought The Office was a really good comedy, with high quality writing and amazing actors. The show used an office setting much like I Love Lucy used marriage. The relationship problems made us laugh, primarily because marriage seemed like a bunch of pranks that husbands and wives played on each other.
In New York magazine, Richard Greenwald, a labor scholar at Brooklyn College, “says he’ s struck by how many of his students chafe at the notion of traditional office jobs.”
How could that be? How could a generation of educated people come to think that working for an organization is ridiculous? How could earning a living cause “chafing?”
As an educator, I wonder what curriculum we are teaching that would make working for Unilever, Zara, Nestle, Coke, Apple, Google, and so on, look ridiculous. Have we somehow run down the reputation of organizations? Have we diminished the idea that you are lucky when you are chosen for an opportunity in a business that someone else has built?
I am most concerned that abject disrespect that has become a meme. I’m also concerned that watching a comedy show would actually convince anyone that it’s depicting real life.
My daughter has a cat. We never mistake him for Grumpy Cat on YouTube. We don’t think that Esther the Wonder Pig is the average pig.
Where is the genesis of the respect problem? As an employer and a career coach, I see exactly what Greenwald is purporting. There are a lot of people who treat working like it’s a joke. Bosses have to prod, push, demand, become vexed and bent out of shape in order for work to get done. They have to have a cruise ship mentality – making sure there are plenty of snacks, fun activities and a morale officer, formerly known as a human resources director. In between all that, some small amount of work needs to be accomplished.
I’m sorry to seem like the Grinch right now. I know you are just kicking off your year. You hopefully have grand plans for your personal brand as well as your career. I want you to have all that – and more.
So here’s a hot tip. If you want to be a real stand out, it’s pretty easy. Bring your respect for the organization, proof that you take work seriously, and have your high jinx on your own time.
This has been a public service announcement on behalf of employers everywhere.