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BossWoman eNews – December 2005
Combining prosperous work lives and balanced personal lives

Welcome to the December 2005 edition of Susan Robison's free e-mail newsletter for women business owners, executives, and professionals.

Our goal is to bring you news, insights, and information about leading a balanced and prosperous life while making a difference. If you are on this list you have been a client, an advocate, or attended a workshop. Pass this newsletter on to others who might be interested. This e-mail list is not sold or exchanged. Details on subscribing (and unsubscribing) are at the end.

In this issue, you'll find:

  1. Necessary Suffering
  2. BossWoman coaching
  3. Up and coming workshops
1. Necessary Suffering
As the calendar year draws to a close, it is natural to ask ourselves, “How did the year go?” This year my readers and I have been working on having our “best year ever.” (To review the January newsletter, go to http://www.bosswoman.org/link, click on "Newsletters," then on "January 2005").

Most of the time, an annual review yields a mixed review of some of the best and some of worse experiences. Many times the best and worse go together in tandem. Many of my clients have been having a great year. A sample:

  • Finishing degrees;
  • Finding ideal jobs;
  • Getting raises (one client quintupled her income);
  • Got closer to a cure for cancer;
  • Expanding businesses;
  • Having babies.
At the same time, they have reported these experiences:
  • Gave up some fun to sit still and study- way past the joy of new learning to the drudgery of mastering the material;
  • Got misunderstood by colleagues;
  • Put in long hours;
  • Gave up personal time;
  • Prioritized family time and sacrificed some career opportunities;
  • Took on more responsibilities;
  • Gave up some responsibilities.
In other words, in amongst accomplishing their goals, these courageous, achievement oriented men and women have had to take on “necessary suffering,” the kind that goes with the job, role, or goal. It is part of the package deal, a life planning blue plate special – you get the green beans with the beef, no substitutions allowed.

Necessary versus Unnecessary Suffering
This has certainly been true for me with my theme for the year being “the year of the house.” On the plus side, I am happy to report that we are on the way towards a much improved version of our house.

It has not been without cost, however. I am not just speaking about the financial costs but the human ones. My husband blew out a knee while overusing it getting up and down off the floor during one of side projects. I missed a step while carrying down some household stuff and crashed into the basement cement wall, split open my head and spent the day before Thanksgiving Day in the emergency room. We have lived without a functional kitchen for 3 ½ months, at times without plumbing for a day here and there. We still have no furniture in the living areas of our home, so no place to sit and talk or read or watch TV. We had no electricity in the temporary kitchen and had to run orange outdoor electrical lines to other parts of the house to operate the microwave on a makeshift counter. I won’t even dwell on the plaster and sawdust everywhere and workmen tramping around. One day we even discovered two extra men rummaging around in the garage. They didn’t work for our contractor but were there doing who-knows-what.

What I am aware of is that we signed up for this pain and aggravation and that it was a choice-filled “necessary suffering” to achieve the end result of increased functionality and beauty in our home. We knew what we were getting into and made a choice to sign up for it knowing that we could not say, “Fix up our house but don’t make a mess.” It all goes together – necessary suffering we made a choice to endure.

There is another kind of necessary suffering that people don’t choice but is the inevitable result of the laws of physics or human behavior. This suffering include that of the victims and loved ones dealing with the leftovers of the tsunami, hurricanes, earthquakes, wars, terrorism attacks, genocide, accidents, crime, and personal violence. Their suffering was not choice-filled like that in service of a larger purpose but still necessary in the sense of the results of the laws of physics and human behavior.

There is a third kind of suffering, the “unnecessary suffering” you create for yourself and for those around you by fussing and fuming about the trivia of your life. Unnecessary suffering is unnecessary because it is not needed to reach the goal. It is not the inevitable result of weather patterns or evil choices. It is caused by missing the big picture and focusing on the silly stuff. Here are some examples:

  • She didn’t invite me to her party.
  • I wonder what he meant by that.
  • This project will fall apart if I don’t do it all myself.
  • If I worry about this project it will go better.
These types of unnecessary suffering are the self-created kind because the suffering is not necessary for the completion of the goal. You can choose to work without worrying; you can relate to people without looking for the next slight coming your way. One of the ways to tell if you have this kind of suffering in your life is to ask whether everyone with the same goal suffers. For example, everyone who remodels their home has expense, noise, dust, and disruption. However, everyone who writes a report for work does not need to stay up all night to do it.

You could experience stress from necessary and unnecessary suffering at the same time. We achievement oriented professionals like to have control over our life circumstances. While we often a great deal of control over the necessary suffering related to our own goals, we don’t have control over the necessary suffering that comes about as the result of natural disasters and other people’s bad choices. Even in those situations, you still do have control over how you choose to handle the stress that results.

For example, if you were doing a home improvement project you could have expectations to be done by Christmas and then stress yourself when details happen. When you let go of the artificial and unreachable deadline, poof, half the stress is gone. You are still left with the noise and the dirt but you aren’t stressed about the missed deadlines.

For those of you who experienced necessary suffering this year, here are some end-of-year questions to ask yourself about whether you had a great year, where your suffering was located, and how to improve in the coming year.

  • What made this a great year? It could be income, opportunities, happy customers, or the arrival of a new baby.
  • Which ones did you choose?
  • What did those choices cost you? Time? Energy? Money?
  • What other suffering did you experience? Did you cause it by worrying instead of working? Did others cause it by their neglect, maliciousness, or procrastination?
  • How can you decrease the suffering you created? Do you need to cut down on what you are taking on so as to have more time to deliver quality to your clients, students, or patients? Do you need to review your own work-life balance and increase your management of your stress?
  • Did you cause any unnecessary suffering to others by your neglect, maliciousness, or procrastination? Where do you need to make amends, to move beyond your mistakes?
What Have I Signed Up For?
Now, apply these insights to your next set of goals. If you expect to produce your next play in the coming year, you know the joys and aggravations that will go with the process. Funding problems, long hours, working with difficult people go with the process. Hopefully, so do enjoying the creative process, using the success to launch the next project, and celebrating success when it all comes together make it all worth it. When you sign up for the glory you sign up for that aggravation as well.
  • What opportunities are up and coming for you in the New Year? What are the upsides and what are the downsides? How can you reduce the stress of the downsides?
  • What are some stressors you are likely to create for yourself, one not related to the inevitable results of the goals? How can you minimize or eliminate those aggravations by coping strategies such as being more organized or being a better communicator with your colleagues and family about expectations?
  • What sacrifice of short-term balance might you need to trade off in order to achieve better long-term balance? For example, finishing that degree might increase your life income sizably.
Too Much Tolerance?
Sometimes people tolerate suffering without realizing that the suffering is needless. Small changes could make a big difference in quality of life. Judy, one of my clients, blamed old age for her sore back. On my encouragement, she consulted with medical people who showed her that feet problems were causing the back problem. Better shoes and orthotics corrected the problem.

Here’s a key question to ask yourself is: do all people my age have this problem? If not, maybe there is a correctable cause. Anne complained that her husband didn’t talk to her “like all husbands.” I pointed out that some husbands do talk to their wives and that maybe we could alter her conversational technique with him to draw him out. He admitted he didn’t want to share information with her because she was so critical and he experienced enough criticism at work. At home he wanted somebody on his side. When Anne learned to be less critical, her husband opened up to her.

If there is any confusion, ask a professional (doctor, marriage counselor, etc.) if there is anything you can do about the problem. You might be tolerating an unnecessary suffering that can be changed.

Educating Your “Public”
Perhaps you deal with people in your work and personal life that don’t understand the role that necessary suffering plays in your success. They think you are just “lucky.” They think that success stalks you and that you just fall into opportunities. They say things like, “well, it must be nice to (fill in the blank here with any nice thing they perceive that you came by easily).” Unless you are a Hilton who inherited money you didn’t work for, you have worked hard and endured necessary suffering to accomplish what you have accomplished. Sometimes you probably just let those comments pass, but sometimes you might choose to educate others about how to make the tough decision to take on necessary suffering.

During a book signing for one of my leadership books, a woman told me that she wanted to be an author and asked, “How did you write this book?” I don’t know what kind of answer she expected but I told her the truth, how I spent every available minute for six months when I wasn’t meeting with clients or handling my family responsibilities researching, outlining, writing, and editing. I submitted a proposal which was then purchased. I had to haggle with the publisher about the conditions of the contract and meet deadlines that seemed to come up way too fast. I had to push for the book to be marketed and endure mistakes and missteps by the publisher. She said, “Well, that’s a lot of work.” Maybe she thought you could fast forward to the glamour of people calling with speaking engagements or media interviews. She took off before I could explain about the blue plate special. That is the work of becoming an author. One thing for sure, she knows what necessary suffering it takes to write a book.

As you welcome the New Year, imagine what it would take for you to have another “best year ever” and what you are willing to suffer to accomplish what needs to be accomplished. Only you can decide if the pain is worth the gain.

Renew yourself by having a relaxed, stress-free holiday season.

Susan Robison

2. BossWoman coaching
About the publisher: Susan Robison, Ph.D. is a professional coach, speaker, author and seminar leader. She loves to coach women who want improvement in:

  • work-life balance,
  • career transitions,
  • building your business or practice,
  • time management,
  • increasing productivity.
If you are feeling stuck on the way to your ideal life, give Susan a call for a complementary half-hour coaching session.

She provides keynotes and seminars to business and organizations on the topics of:

  • leadership strategies for women,
  • relationships,
  • work-life balance,
  • change.
She offers her audiences a follow-up coaching session because she knows that workshops don’t work.

Contact Susan for your coaching, speaking, or seminar needs at Susan@BossWoman.org or at 410-465-5892.

3. Up and coming workshops
I have booked a number of work/life balance workshops for the winter that are not open to the public.
Contact me if your group needs a speaker on any of the topics listed above.

I will be back with Johns Hopkins medical women faculty working with then on “Having the Best Year Yet: Managing Your Mission, Yourself, and Your Time.”
Date: January 13, 2006
Place: Johns Hopkins
Registration, fee, and directions: Linda Dillon Jones, Ph.D., Director, Center for Training and Education: 443-997-6800

I will also be working with Johns Hopkins medical women faculty on “Playing Well With Others: An Introduction to Communication Skills in the Workplace.”
Date: February 17, 2006
Place: Johns Hopkins
Registration, fee, and directions: Linda Dillon Jones, Ph.D., Director, Center for Training and Education: 443-997-6800

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BossWoman e-Newsletter is intended for informational and educational purposes only. Coaching should not be construed as a form of, or substitute for, counseling, psychotherapy, legal, or financial services.

© Copyright 2005 Susan Robison. All rights reserved. The above material is copyrighted but you may retransmit or distribute it to whomever you wish as long as not a single word is changed, added or deleted, including the contact information. However, you may not copy it to a web site without the publisher’s permission.

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