|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
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
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In this issue, you'll find:
- Necessary Suffering
- BossWoman coaching
- 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:
At the same time, they have reported these experiences:
- Finishing degrees;
- Finding ideal jobs;
- Getting raises (one client quintupled her income);
- Got closer to a cure for cancer;
- Expanding businesses;
- Having babies.
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.
- 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
- Took on more responsibilities;
- Gave up some responsibilities.
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
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:
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.
- 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.
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
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
- 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
Renew yourself by having a relaxed, stress-free holiday
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
If you are feeling stuck on the way to your ideal
life, give Susan a call for a complementary
half-hour coaching session.
- work-life balance,
- career transitions,
- building your business or practice,
- time management,
- increasing productivity.
She provides keynotes and seminars to business
and organizations on the topics of:
She offers her audiences a follow-up coaching
session because she knows that workshops don’t
- leadership strategies for women,
- work-life balance,
Contact Susan for your coaching, speaking, or
seminar needs at Susan@BossWoman.org or at
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
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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© Copyright 2005 Susan Robison. All rights reserved.
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