Episode #36: Getting Back into Integrity with Clear Agreements – Why I Almost Gave up on my Business
This week, I kind of just got to a new breaking point and I had a meeting with my husband. I kind of realized I just can’t achieve what I want to achieve right now. My heart breaks when my kids really need me and I’m not there for them. I don’t want to beat myself up while I’m in the shower, out of presence. And a big thing is I don’t want to be out of integrity with my own team. I am a leader. I have agreements with the people that work with me. And I was breaking them, not on purpose, but I also wasn’t purposefully organizing myself in such a way that every single one of my agreements I was keeping. And I kept thinking, “Oh, well, it’ll be different next time.” Like, “Okay, I wasn’t able to get that thing done, but I need you guys to do all that stuff differently, so that I can maybe make it more manageable.”
But when I wasn’t willing to do, which was causing all of this stress is I wasn’t willing to just ratchet it down, and do a lot less because I had these like agreements with myself like I’m going to make a podcast every single week, original content, I’m going to make a deliverable every single week, and all this stuff. And it wasn’t feasible. And I went into my husband’s office, he had a rare break in between calls, and I just collapsed on the floor. And I got in child’s pose and I’m like, “I can’t do it. I just can’t do this anymore. I think I need to pull the plug on everything.” And I literally was thinking to myself, “I think I might just need to shut down my whole entire business.”
Welcome to Allowed. This is your host, Caneel Joyce. And today, this is going to be a really personal episode for me personally. And I wanted to do this episode to really lead by example and demonstrate to you … well, first, just tell you a story of what’s been going on in my own kind of mental model, and my context, my mindset. And share some of the things I’ve learned from it and kind of what I’ve done about it. And show you a different way to model, I think, integrity and conscious leadership when you feel and find that you are below the line. And this is important, I think, for … my own personal story, I think is a little mini example of something that a lot of us might be going through.
And we are facing many, many challenges right now. This is a super intense time, and there’s so many opportunities to grow and learn. And yet, the struggle is real. We are confronted with our own collective integrity, I think, as a human race and, certainly, as a nation right now. And I want to just share the impact of whatever’s going on here. Black lives matter, and seeing horrible things happen on the news, and in our communities, and in our lives. And dealing with COVID, and dealing with pandemic, and dealing with potentially illness, and death and major changes in our lives. This is all super challenging.
And so, it’s easy to kind of get Pollyanna and I think it’d be easy to listen to a leadership podcast, and to judge herself. And to feel like, “Hey, why am I not doing [blab-ity 00:00:04:26], blabity, blah? I should be getting better. And I should be learning how to speak Italian. Or I should be at least accomplishing my work and finishing the things on my to do list. Or I should be parenting in a different way. I should be a better lover. Or I should be exercise,” … whatever, whatever the shoulds are. I just want to say it’s totally okay, and allowed for this to be hard. It’s totally allowed.
The question of leadership always comes in, what do we do when it gets hard? How do we handle it? So, I want you to think about the last time somebody, maybe at work, asked you, “How are you doing?” And it’s the first two minutes of a 30 minute video conference call, and what’s your answer? “Fine, doing fine.” I’ve also heard, “Getting by,” getting by is a popular one right now. Or, “Let’s just dive in. Let’s get into the topic of the meeting. Let’s not actually share how we’re doing.” It’s a norm of corporate culture, but it may actually not reflect your truth. And it’s okay. We don’t always need to be sharing everything if we don’t want to, but when we aren’t really checking in with ourselves, we can get led astray.
So, I want to share kind of how that happened with me. I’m a mom, I’ve got two kids, I run a business, I have this podcast, I have a coaching practice. I have an online group coaching program. I’ve got a little studio here that I run. And so, I guess you could say that’s a lot. We used to have a nanny, who would also help us out around the house, and help us with cooking, and stuff. And what a privilege, right? I feel very fortunate, I’m really aware of that. And we don’t have her anymore. And a lot of big changes in life. I used to have a studio, a production assistant who was here physically, and she actually moved to Europe right before COVID. I miss you so much, Eva. So, I don’t have her anymore.
So, life all of a sudden changed in a really big way. And I kept really trying to deal with it. And I would let myself be sad, I would let myself complain. I probably let myself do that too much, if I’m honest. And I really went below the line and I was quite authentically below the line. If that has happened with you as a leader, and you’re trying to just kind of struggle through and pretend like everything is okay, and you’re below the line, I think, what’s really, really important is to recognize that you are. And if you haven’t learned about what below the line means there are lots of episodes of this podcast you can listen to, we’ll post some of them here in the show notes, to learn more about that concept. But it basically means that you’re in drama, so life feels like it’s happening to you.
I mean, raise your proverbial hand if you feel like life has happened to you in this last year. What a whammy. So, when we feel like life is happening to us, and it’s not something that’s happening by us, we’re not the creators, we’re not the choosers, we don’t have choices, we forget about our personal agency. We’re going to go into drama. And in drama, we might be in victim mode big time, like, “Oh, this is so hard. It’s happening to me. I don’t have any help.” Or we might go into villain. For me that was, “I’m not being a good enough parent. I’m not being good enough wife. I’m not exercising enough. I’m not treating my body well enough.” At first, I was cooking my butt off, and then I just got tired, and we were all sitting, doing dishes and I’m like, “I’m going to just not, and we’re going to eat hot dogs, and I’m sorry.” Last night I was like, “Here’s your dinner, bag of cashew nuts and some dried mangoes. And here’s a little piece of turkey or whatever.” It was just like, “And that’s great, that’s a healthy dinner.”
But I judge myself for these things. And when I do that I go into villain mode and that’s the second way to be in drama. I should on myself, or I should on others like the kids should be being different than they are. They should be staying away from me. When I’m coaching a client, they should stay out of my office. And I’d get angry. I’m just to put it in the present tense, I get angry sometimes, I get angry, I get really angry. And I get angry not from above the line of a place of there’s something important here that can change, and I want it to change, and I’m going to stand for it. Instead, it was below the line anger like, “You should be being different. Things need to be different. This is wrong.”
And that drama of the victim and the villain is so painful because I’m creating my own suffering with all these stories that are not true. That things should be different but, in fact, they are not. They just aren’t different. And it’s not true that they should be different. The kids should interrupting me when they need me. They should have social interaction with me during the day. They should get their cuddles, they shouldn’t be alone. I can easily argue the opposite. And so, all of that suffering was too much for me to take. And so, I’ve been just numbing out. And that’s the third position on the drama triangle. I’ve been heroing myself.
And here’s how I do it. I pretend things are going to stay on track. I have all these great big dreams of how things are going to be really, really different tomorrow or next week. And I keep organizing myself as if those things are all going to happen, but then things weren’t happening that way. And I would actually fall out of integrity. I’d have agreements and I wouldn’t keep them. I can even speak to this week, so I’ll get more into in a second. But this week I kind of just got to a new breaking point. And I had a meeting with Heather, actually, first I had a meeting with my husband. I kind of realized I can’t, I just can’t achieve what I want to achieve right now.
My heart breaks when my kids really need me and I’m not there for them. I don’t want to beat myself up while I’m in the shower, whenever I finally take a shower, every couple days, every third day. I don’t want it to be thinking about all the things I need to be doing that I’m not doing at that very moment, out of presence. And a big thing is I don’t want to be out of integrity with my own team. I am a leader, I have agreements with the people that work with me. And I was breaking them, not on purpose, but I also wasn’t purposefully organizing myself in such a way that every single one of my agreements I was keeping. And I kept thinking, “Oh, well, it’ll be different next time.” Like, “Okay, I wasn’t able to get that thing done, but I need you guys to do all that stuff differently so that I can maybe make it more manageable.”
But what I wasn’t willing to do, which was causing all of this stress, is I wasn’t willing to just ratchet it down and do a lot less because I had these agreements with myself. Like I’m going to make a podcast every single week, original content, I’m going to make a deliverable every single, week and all this stuff. And it wasn’t feasible because, ultimately, at the end of the day, I wasn’t willing to do what I would need to do in order to complete those agreements. And wasn’t willing to get any less sleep. I was tired and I just was like, “I’m really not willing to stay up until midnight working on this.” And that’s what would need to happen. I’m not willing to not be with my kids in the evening during dinner time, and come to the studio instead, I’m not.
There’s a lot of stuff that, ultimately, I wasn’t willing to do it. And I actually trust that unwillingness, and I trust the intelligence of my resistance there. But what I really to do was to renegotiate agreements. So, long story short, I went into my husband’s office, he had a rare break in between calls. My husband’s office, by the way, is my son’s bedroom right now. And I just collapsed on the floor, and I got in child’s pose, and I’m like, “I can’t do it. I just can’t do this anymore. I think I need to pull the plug on everything.” And I literally was thinking to myself, “I think I might just need to shut down my whole entire business.” And he was like, “What does this mean?” And I’m like, “I just don’t think I can do it, I can’t do this. And what can I cut?”
And then, when I thought about it I, actually, still wasn’t willing to cut very much. I wasn’t willing to stop seeing clients. I wasn’t willing to stop making the podcast. I wasn’t willing to stop running the Forward Fearless Program. I actually am not willing to stop doing any of the things that are on that big list. I want to treat myself differently internally, and that’s the above the line piece. I want to stop being below the line about it, but to be above the line I’ve got to be impeccable in my agreements and I’ve got to get into integrity.
So, I left the office and I said, “Okay, thank you for listening.” I was in there for just maybe five minutes. “Please don’t follow up with me about this. I really needed to just talk that out. And I’ll update you if I want to talk about it again.” And I don’t know if anything’s going to change coming out of this, I felt better instantly just kind of acknowledging the impossibility of what I was trying to achieve in the way that I was treating myself as well. So, then I had a call scheduled already with Heather, my assistant, who many of you know about. She’s actually our head of operations, she used to be my executive assistant. And instead of talking about the agenda items, I was like, “We need to talk about the big picture here. Something’s got to change. I’m falling through on things, so where can we lower the bar?” And I got out my little bullet journal here, and I made a list, where can we lower the bar? If you’re watching the video, I just held up my notebook. That’s what I was doing.
So, she and I made a list. And Heather is so amazing, and she’s a mom of four, and she gets it. And she also knows how my brain operates, and the kind of way that I need to kind of organize myself internally, and organize my environment in order to be really effective. And she knows that a lot of that has been challenged now because I really do need kind of quiet to be able to think straight. And it’s definitely not quiet at my house. So, we went through, piece by piece, all of the big components of our business, and where can we lower the bar? And so, we decided we’re going to create shorter podcast episodes this summer, we’re going to repurpose some content. I still really have a whole body yes for making a weekly episode. And this podcast, I love it so much. I love making this for you guys, and I definitely want to keep doing it.
And so, we got creative and we actually came up with a plan that I think you’re going to like even more for what the summer’s episodes are going to be about, and how we’re going to get the content, and get it out to you. And this is the coolest thing about getting back into integrity, guys, is the creative solution that comes when you actually access the whole body yes is almost always better than the way you were trying to do it. Plus you’re actually going to complete it because you had a whole body yes to it. I’m going to talk about whole body yes more in another episode coming up soon.
But, in short, it means my whole entire being, is a yes. I don’t have any twinge of gut feeling of like, “No, that’s not really going to happen, or it’s going to be really hard. It’s not going to work for me.” I don’t have to trick myself, [inaudible 00:15:18] myself to convince myself that it’s all going to work when, really, I know it’s not in my head. And I just am like, “Yeah, that’s going to work. And this solution is better. And this is actually what listeners are going to love.” So, that was a great one.
I realized I need to lower the bar on the production quality of some of the material that I was making. And I need to stop thinking to myself that you guys can hear the street noise outside, if I’m two rooms away. And so, I’m going to leave that door open, and I’m going to let it not be so hot in this office, and just be gentle with myself. And so, now, I have a little bit of breeze, and that is so much better. So, little things and big things. But, then, Heather also challenged me and she’s like, “The way that I get stuff done, given that all the kids are home, is I wake up really early and I start work at six.” I’m like, “Oh,” dun, dun, dun. “I don’t want to do that because I’m not a morning person.”
The idea of starting this kind of work super early in the morning was really hard for me. So, we creatively worked out what would that look like with my husband, the kids, the dog. How can we arrange all the pieces of my actual personal life which, as a leader, that is where the rubber meets the road. So, if there’s areas of your personal life that are not supporting you in keeping your agreements, whether it’s hitting your OKRs, or reaching your goals, or whatever, you can change the goals, and you can also change how you’re operating. So, we made a whole entire plan and it’s better, and the kids are happier with it. And yeah, it means they get more time on their iPad, and I’ve decided that I’m okay with that, and that’s actually great. And they’re having the best time out there. And they’re learning, and they’re playing with each other, and they’re working through their struggles, and that’s awesome.
And I’m also going to let myself wear my big construction worker headphones that are the ones that just block out noise. And I’m not going to think to myself that I’m offending people in my house because I just need it quiet, so I’m just going to do that. Lots of little things. Some of these sound like really small changes. And actually, when I look at it, they are, but it’s the totality of them that is better. And the agreements that I’m making with my team, now, I do feel really confident that I can keep them. And I have a whole body yes to keeping them. And it doesn’t destroy kind of the balance of my life that is most important to me. So, it did require me getting really clear, again, on my actual commitments.
But I’m telling you, I bounced out of that meeting. The freedom, the energy that was freed up just by talking with … and Heather she’s a person she reports to me. You guys can find support where you need it. But, as a leader, it’s really, really important that you do clean it up, and get honest with yourself, but you can’t do that from below the line very effectively. So, if you’re going to be blaming yourself the whole time, shaming yourself, feeling guilty, kind of trying to avoid, skirt around certain areas the exercise is not complete because the access to the creative energy that is needed for you to set it up differently, so that you can get back into integrity, this is how it was for me, that energy is available when you are in presence. So, when you are in a state of non-judgment, curiosity. Your commitment is to learning, it’s not to being right. You’re not judging yourself.
And from that place of just gentleness, like my good friend, Luke [En-pret 00:18:44] , who you heard his episode number two on Shadow, he sent me a message maybe last week. And he said, “At this point, it seems wise to be gentle with yourself.” And that’s where it’s at. That’s where it’s at. So, you’re allowed to struggle here. You’re also allowed to rearrange things. And you’re allowed to acknowledge when the way you’re operating isn’t working, even if you so, so much want it to. And if it’s not working for you, something’s not working. And it could be that you really need the change to happen internally, as well as externally.
And I think, some of us, we tend to only focus on one or the other but, really, they go together. So, if I only made changes in my life, but I was still beating myself up on the inside, which is so hard for me to even admit that I was doing that, honestly, because I don’t want to be operating that way, but I was. So, if I still was beating myself up, but yet I made all these changes in my schedule and we changed our plan for content I would still be the same. I would still go to villain mode. I would still like blow up at people. I would still numb out at the end of the day. I would still stay up too late researching something stupid on the internet, or drink too much wine.
And these are all habits that I’m working on and, yet, where it comes from is I’m heroing myself to numb out because I can’t stand how things are. And so, the how things are piece that’s in your life, that’s in your work, that’s in your house, that’s all the tactical it stuff. And clean up those agreements, but you’ve got to really also clean up that relationship with self. And really the relationship with self is relationship with life. It’s all of that. Who are you? Do you deserve to just be a human? We’re all bouncing around in this sea of global chaos right now. And to think that any of us can control the tide of the ups and downs of what’s going on, honestly, it’s ridiculous. But we can have personal impact when we harness our freewill and our power, and we actually start taking responsibility for that, which we can control. And we let go of what we can’t.
So, thank you so much for listening to my story today. I hope it touched you in some way. I would love to hear from you, been racking my brain to see if there’s anything that I’m going to be embarrassed about this episode. [inaudible 00:21:23] not. I’m just wondering, is there anything else I could be more vulnerable and share with you? And if I think of it, I’ll let you know, okay? I’m going to get back to you guys. Thank you for listening and I wish you well. Be gentle with yourself, dear soul. You’re amazing. Bye-bye.