When Everything Feels Impossible…

Sometimes executive jobs just feel ugly and impossible.

I can remember at various points in my career feeling blocked and frustrated, like I was failing..like I was out on a limb owning all of the risk for something, and without enough support or resources to succeed.

Or I felt like the corporate bureaucracy, or a particular adversary, was blocking me (or sabotaging me) from doing the right things that I knew desperately needed to be done.

Welcome to being a leader

As an executive, this sort of thing is just part of the job. There are always big, ugly, seemingly impossible problems, annoying people, and exhausting obstacles in the way of getting your job done.

Once you embrace the fact that:

YOUR JOB = Your job description” … PLUS, all the crap that gets in the way of delivering on your job description…

You will feel (and BE) in a lot more in control.

Once you accept dealing with the impossible as part of your job description you can treat it like a project that needs a plan and resources, instead of taking it so personally and letting it damage your confidence.

In a parallel universe…

When I find myself in this situation, and I need a way to feel better and get un-stuck, I do what I refer to as my “parallel universe” thought exercise.

I imagine that a parallel universe exists which replicates the same situation exactly…

In that universe, all the same problems and pressures are there. All the same people are there. Everything about the situation is exactly the same — except …

There is a version of me in that parallel universe who is better and more capable than me in every conceivable way.

The parallel universe Patty is smarter. She is a faster thinker, better problem solver, better negotiator, better communicator, better networker. She is more experienced, kinder, braver, and with better hair.

I then ask myself, What would that person do?

New and better thinking

The parallel universe Patty has never failed to help me come up with an idea to get un-stuck, feel less victimized, and start moving forward.

The Patty with the better hair always instructs me to step up an be better in some specific way that will help. She encourages me to try stuff. She shames me into being braver.

Consult your better self

The parallel universe Patty always had more energy than I did to keep fighting, and offered a to new angle to try.

So next time you feel thoroughly discouraged and stuck, ask yourself, In a parallel universe, that is exactly the same as this, but has a better version of me: What would that better version of me do?

You’ll always get a new idea.

This is the approach I always use to restore my confidence and focus on a forward project plan instead of feeling stuck.

And of course, make sure you also have mentors you can look to for guidance and confidence in these situations too.

And if I can help, think about joining my Executive Mentoring Group.

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Patty Azzarello

Patty is available to speak at your company, annual meeting, or customer event. She can also deliver a custom workshop on Leadership or Strategy Execution for your leadership team. Contact Patty.

Or if you would like some personal help on your own professional development, check out her Executive Mentoring Group. It’s filled with insights, resources and support to build your executive confidence, advance your career, and includes direct mentoring from Patty.


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Patty Azzarello is an executive, best-selling author, speaker and CEO/Business Advisor. She became the youngest general manager at HP at the age of 33, ran a billion dollar software business at 35 and became a CEO for the first time at 38 (all without turning into a self-centered, miserable jerk)

You can find Patty at www.AzzarelloGroup.com, follow her on twitter or Facebook, or read her books RISE and MOVE.

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