Emma’s Story


Emma’s prob­lem is that for the next six weeks, she per­ceives that she will be extremely pres­sured at work. Two major pro­jects have been delayed, caus­ing all her dead­lines to slip. Her cli­ents are ask­ing for extra sup­port, she has a young fam­ily, budgets are tight; there seem to be no extra resources avail­able. Whenever she thinks about what’s ahead, she feels it’s all too much. She wakes at 4am won­der­ing how she’s going to cope. How can she love that?

What do you believe about your problem?

Emma believes that she has more work to do than there are days in the week with no extra resources to call on. Let’s sum­mar­ise this as the belief ‘I can’t do all this work well’.

Can you abso­lutely know for sure that you can’t do all this work well?

Emma is pretty wed­ded to her belief. Yet when con­fron­ted, she can’t abso­lutely know that she can’t do the work, because the future hasn’t happened yet.

In what way do you know it isn’t true now?

Emma is already meet­ing some dead­lines. Her cli­ents are ask­ing her to do more work, so she must be doing it well.

When you believe that thought, what happens?

When she thinks ‘I won’t be able to do all this work well’, Emma feels anxious, dis­em­powered, gloomy. She gets impa­tient with her fam­ily; she doesn’t sleep prop­erly. She drinks alco­hol to relieve the pres­sure. The effect is that she doesn’t do any­thing all that well.

What would life be like if you didn’t have that thought?

Emma recog­nises she would be more ener­gised, with more sleep, more patient in her inter­ac­tions with her fam­ily, con­fid­ent about her work and her suc­cess. She’d also be more hon­est about her needs from her fam­ily at this uniquely busy time.

What do you want to believe instead?

Emma has the work she has and the fam­ily she has (real­ity), and up until now has been believ­ing ‘I can’t do all this well’. What else could she believe about real­ity that could also be true and val­id? Well, Emma would love to believe that ‘I can do all this well’ (you can brain­storm a few until one feels right — usu­ally it will be some­thing like the oppos­ite state­ment).

In how many ways do you know this is already true?

I asked Emma to think about three times in her life when she wor­ried wheth­er she would achieve some­thing at which she ulti­mately suc­ceeded. She cited an award-win­ning pro­ject, the birth of her daugh­ter, and her climb up Mt. Kilimanjaro. (In fact she real­ised she had many more examples.) I also asked her to con­sider how those exper­i­ences would have been if she had believed in her suc­cess up front. She recog­nised that she would have suc­ceeded and enjoyed the jour­ney along the way.

Finally, I asked Emma, Choose the belief that will empower you.

She can believe ‘I can do all this work well’, OR she can believe ‘I can’t do all this work well’. Both are beliefs. If she chooses the first, she feels more at peace with her fam­ily and more ener­gised. If she chooses the lat­ter, she feels tired, impa­tient, guilty and gloomy.

Emma authen­tic­ally chose the belief that will most empower her life. You can too.

How can Emma lead it?

Emma saw that what she needs from her fam­ily is sup­port, acknow­ledge­ment and space, and that the dra­mas she cre­ates around work are a sig­nal to her fam­ily to acknow­ledge her. Emma’s going to act by shar­ing with her fam­ily her belief that she will do her work well over the next six weeks, and explain from them she needs time, sup­port and acknow­ledge­ment for that.

And there were oth­er actions Emma could now see to take on her pro­jects that moved her into the inner circle of con­trol. Negotiate on cer­tain dead­lines, man­age spe­cif­ic expect­a­tions with cli­ents and set some clear pri­or­it­ies. (Now this may seem obvi­ous to us read­ing now, but when Emma was wear­ing the dark glasses of the belief ‘I can’t do all this well” and feel­ing dis­em­powered these actions were shaded from her view.)

What can Emma leave?

Having found ways to LOVE and LEAD the situ­ation, Emma real­ised she could find new ways of accept­ing it – of let­ting go of her res­ist­ance to real­ity and LEAVING it be. Emma can let go of her resent­ment to her cli­ents for the pro­ject delays, and her regret at again find­ing her­self under pres­sure.

Emma looked vis­ibly less troubled by the end of the ses­sion. She will now anchor her new belief into her life, by remind­ing her­self each day of her new belief and tak­ing actions con­sist­ent with it.

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