What words go with you on your journey through work/life?

Whether it’s the Hollies singing a popular ballad like He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother written by Bob Scott and Bob Russell, a TED talk, a reading, or conversation with a mentor, coach or teacher, connection happens and you get the inspiration needed to journey-on.

There’s always a personal story which makes these words come alive.

Love that, don’t you?

In this article…

You’ll get 5 things my mentors told me which have helped me during my journey personally and professionally. They’ve provided hope and direction, sometimes the assurance it’s okay… and that I’m okay!

I’ve shared them with others on their journey along the winding turns.

Got your shades and water bottle?

Let’s journey-on together.

1— Know your I-position.

When relationships at home or in my professional/business life get messy I settle into a basic review of my I-position. It always adds clarity. It’s grounding.

Here’ the story…

Don Shoulberg PhD (professor/therapist/mentor) taught Bowen Family Systems Theory. I learned the concept of “differentiation”– the ability to think as an individual while staying meaningfully connected to others. “Differentiating” is an ongoing personal process of balancing emotions and intellect as well as the need for separation and togetherness.

Know your I-position is a practical differentiation exercise which provides clarity regarding your values, beliefs, feelings and preferences—super handy when relationships at home or in your professional/work life get messy.

Here it is…

Know Your I-Position-

Describe the issue or incident facing you.

Then, complete each sentence stem as many times as you can.-

I think…

I feel…

I value…

I want…

I need…

Taking time to sort through your truth will enable you to be present and listen fully to another. The purpose of knowing your truth, your I-position, is not to attempt to convince others, but to be able to relax in your self-awareness.

Honestly responding from thoughtfulness rather than reacting from an emotional place is powerful.

Knowing your I-position is the foundation of genuine, authentic communication. It’s helped me in many serious, confrontational and emotionally-laden conversations with upper management and decision-makers keep my cool and stay focused.

2— There’s the ideal and then there’s the real… we live in-between.

Place your right hand horizontally at head level as you say, There’s the ideal. Then place your left hand horizontally at chest level and say, and then there’s the real. Finally say, we live in-between.

Now you have the words and a visual demonstration.

Yes, the ideal is worth striving towards, yet we’re human and in the real world we don’t always have control nor do we always choose to use the control we have wisely.

We all live and work in-between the ideal and real. Penalties, rewards, positive and negative consequences are a part of this life and it’s okay to talk about the challenges because we all experience them.

How many times are judgments made about the good/bad, right/wrong and conversation is stopped or never started because It feels unsafe?

It doesn’t need to be that way if you realize we’re all in that space with you… and it’s a darn good place to be.

3— This isn’t a rehearsal.

Already a few months into the post graduate clinical fellowship at Baylor College of Medicine—Department of Psychiatry in Houston, Texas  I met Marsha Malev, LCSW (1938-2012) who became my therapist/mentor during an exciting and tumultuous time in my life.

I think I was talking about my recent trip to see mom and dad when she asked about mom’s cancer prognosis. It was evident I didn’t realize the significance of the medicine mom was taking now.

Among her helpful response the words, this isn’t a rehearsal captured my attention. Actually, it hit me like a sledge-hammer. And while I’m being candid, I would have liked to slug Marsha. (In the language of the phases of grief, I was hanging out in denial, anger and bargaining).

With those words, I faced another layer of the grim reality of the breast cancer treatments and my mother’s inevitable shortened life span.

Devastating reality I kept postponing—Mom was dying— the show has started— rehearsal over.

Marsha had the professional guts to wake me up out of a functional denial/disbelief.

Why is this significant to a professional, executive or business owner?

Basically it’s about seizing the day. Say what needs to be said, do what can be done rather than postponing because you may not get a chance later.

It’s also about being open to feedback from someone who will push you to step outside your comfort zone. You’re fortunate if you have someone in your life who holds you to a higher standard than you hold yourself. Keep that person around!

4— Ask for what you want. Notice what you get. Be grateful for the “No”.

Pia Melody is a writer, speaker on codependency and love addiction. I listened to her on audiotape many years ago driving to and from my office.

The encouragement I took then and I offer clients now is to celebrate speaking up regardless of the response. It’s a detachment-to-the-outcome kind of mantra. Be brave and put it out there. Say thank-you regardless of the agreement received.

Celebrate speaking up and out. Celebrate the “no”. (Enjoy the “yes”!)

5— Learn to forgive yourself.

Norm Forer, a community organizer and champion of the “little guy,” is a professor/mentor who continued to share his wisdom and perspective with me years after I graduated.

We actually wrote to each other (before email was in vogue or telephoning was so easy).

Here’s a part of Norm’s letter to me February 11, 1981:

Whatever pain you’ve been going through I feel is inevitable for people of conscience and is ultimately strengthening. Betrayal is par for the course…self-betrayal is the deepest pain of all.

We should learn to forgive ourselves, knowing that what we did was that of which we were capable at any time. Hindsight is futile and self-punishment keeps us from developing.

Have the faith in yourself that I and others have in you. You deserve your own kindness and if you can accept that, the hurt will in time turn into courage and a renewed passion for life.


I continue to learn from Norm’s influence although he left this earth February 12, 2010. I agree with those who say if living today, Norm would tell us to get busy with the work of repairing the world.

Are you forgiving others and yourself? How are you at giving your own kindness to yourself?

The takeaway is…

You and I have access to phenomenal encouragement in the words of many.

These are 5 of many times I’ve been the fortunate recipient of someone else’s thoughtful experience… and while I may not heed the wisdom at every opportunity, I return to them often and find comfort. A special bonus is the added layer of learning each provides as I age personally and professionally.

Take note of knowing your I-position, the ideal and real continuum, this isn’t a rehearsal, asking for what you want, noticing what you get and being grateful for the “no”. Finally, learn to forgive yourself.

I’d love to learn… What words have helped you along your journey?

Let’s get together so you can share your current journey along the winding road of personal and professional/business development.

I know you’re doing some fantastic things which are ready to come together!

Contact me today! Let’s explore what’s possible.