Archive | November, 2013

What’s Your Laundry?

18 Nov

A complex project for a very sophisticated client looms large for me right now. The deadline is too close to procrastinate any longer. I need to put blinders on, do my best work and, in so doing, meet my client’s needs and impress her beyond measure.

The organization I’m working with is on the precipice of collapse, and its fate, from my perspective, lies entirely in my hands. The CEO has hired me to help her regain the leadership team’s confidence in her management abilities, and to help her right her organizational ship. It’s up to me to come up with a plan that will set this organization on a new course, one that first leads to its stabilization, then to well-paced growth and eventually to a leadership role in a highly competitive industry.

But, there’s a major issue at hand. I am totally blocked. I am paralyzed. My creative, strategic juices refuse to flow. My confidence is plummeting, and my anxiety is rising. I am desperately trying to tap into that reinforcing voice nestled deep within my brain that serves as my internal pep-rally when the self-doubt rears its head. That mental tape (CD?) that I can usually draw on to remind myself:

You can do anything you put your mind to, Dara! Don’t let that other, negative, ‘you-can’t-do-anything’ voice takeover. Not now, not ever. No, you haven’t sold your client a fake bill of goods! You really are very smart. You really are very wise and strategic when it comes to advising organizations and corporate and nonprofit leaders. You really have helped countless organizations and individuals find their confidence, define their niche, brand themselves as leaders and thrive.’

Unfortunately, today is one of those days when I simply can’t jump-start my inner pep-engine. It’s on vacation or, I shudder to think, resigned from its job altogether, and I’m in trouble. My brain is stuck in an ugly, infinite loop that looks something like this:

ugly infinite loop

Do you ever have those moments when you have effectively convinced yourself that you are devoid of all of the knowledge and skills you need to fulfill your work obligations, and/or perhaps your personal responsibilities? Times when you feel like the only recourse is to call your client and tell her that it was all a big lie; you really know nothing about pretty much anything?

I am not going to bore you now with an analysis of why I am in ‘the grip’ today, nor am I going to offer up reasons for why it happens to you. Helping executives identify, understand and address confidence, communication, management and other issues that impact their quality of life and career growth is a hallmark part of my consulting business, but it’s not my focus here.

Rather, I am writing to share with you the ‘quick recovery strategy’ that works for me 99.9% of the time when I’m in ‘the grip’, and to credit you for having, or to encourage you to develop a simple strategy of your own.


Yes, you read that right. I walk away from my home office desk. I take off my hypothetical senior executive hat. I press the save button on my computer, leave the papers askew, and I go fold my laundry. Writer’s block? I fold laundry. Frustrated with a client? Fold laundry. Doubting my management techniques? Fold laundry.

Folding laundry is simple. It can happen relatively quickly. It has a concrete end point. I don’t let anyone else serve as my judge, nor do I judge myself when I’m doing it.

I look at the neat piles of folded laundry I’ve created and, however silly as it may sound to you, I regain a feeling of competence and derive a genuine sense of accomplishment. I put the clothes away, and I feel a sense of productivity and completion. I hear my kids say how much they like the funky way I fold their shirts, and it gets the positive, ‘you-can-do-anything and people think you’re great!’ tape in my head going again.

It’s not that I am only good at laundry. It’s not even about laundry. It’s that I’ve found something that shifts my thought patterns and overall perspective, from negative to positive, from incompetence to competence. It turns off my self-doubt, my negative ‘you’re a failure’ voice and restarts the positive, ‘you can do anything’ voice. It’s as simple as that.

So, what’s your laundry? 

What very simple recovery strategy works for you when your confidence is dangerously low, your frustration and anxiety levels are too high, and you truly feel unqualified to complete your project, or have that difficult conversation with your colleague, or facilitate the meeting that will close the major business deal you’ve been working for the past 6 months? A walk is nice. Getting a fresh cup of coffee can certainly give your energy a jolt. But what effort can you undertake that has a concrete end-point and will shift your thought patterns from negative to positive and restore your confidence and embolden you to tackle your work (or home) challenge?