The first 100 days in my new role – mommy to be

When you take over a managerial role, there is this magic rule: the first 100 are a crucial point for evaluating your performance so far and help make a prognosis for future success.

Well, in my case things are a bit different. A couple of months back, I realized that I had enough from that corporate world: The always-on, non-stop performing mentality. The seemingly impossible chance to take decisions within that machine that will not be overthrown by three or more hierarchical layers up. Although I loved the five years I worked for this company and learned so much that I am so grateful for, I realized that somehow this environment did not fit any longer.

It was time to take the first steps into a new chapter in my life. During Corona lock-down, I experimented with other forms of work, collaborating with people within my network. Together we created great products in leadership development and wrote a book. I felt energized and ready to start a new career.

Private blind spots

In my corporate managerial role, I learned to be rather quiet about personal topics especially when it comes to having a family. Over time, I got used to brush off questions into this direction with empty statements like “this is not for me”, “I have no plans in this direction”…

During lock-down, with some help of my coach, I slowly came to realize that I was not only lying to anyone who asked me this question, but I was also lying to myself. The truth was, that the future I envision for myself has kids in it. A family that lives together enjoying life to the fullest. There was this side in me that dreamed about having a family while the rest of me was still struggling to survive all expectations thrown at me in my corporate environment. My wish of being a mom, enjoying my life with kids, was buried under the fear of risking my career, the reputation I had built up, everything that I had worked for. I was afraid to lose my financial independence and derail from any future job perspectives.

It felt like a parallel-world: On one side, my newly career ambitions where I was ready to take the risk of not knowing how it would turn out in the end.  On the other side, my vision of a family that comprised similar fears. For the professional track, I was ready and prepared to overcome those fears and take the risk of starting something new. On my private track, I lagged behind, still worrying about the same things.

Life is faster than I can handle

Although I did not feel prepared or ready, reaching clarity about my wish to start a family did the trick. Just like the weeks before, life was faster than I could grasp in fulfilling me every wish I have. (Read all about it here) The law of attraction seemed to work for me again.

It was shortly after I had told my closest colleague that I was about to leave the company that the next change hit me. I felt it, when I went for a run. I was out of breath but so much slower than ever before. I felt pain in my stomach and my back. It was only after four negative pregnancy test followed by an extensive wine tasting, that the test finally turned out to be positive. This one moment of staring at the sign “positive” comprised so many elements of emotions for me. Disbelieve. Being overwhelmed. Pure Joy. Gratitude. Hope.

Adjusting to the new situation

Since I found out about my pregnancy, I have been rather silent on here. Mainly because I was struggling to keep up with this small but huge change in my life and all physical side-effects of growing a baby inside you. I dealt with nausea, exhaustion. Every day was different. Most days were challenging to say the least.

Besides typical symptoms of a pregnancy, I carried some thoughts with me that I had formerly only known in my business life:-

  • I don’t want to ask for help, I want don’t want to burden anyone. But how the hell do I get home when I am too exhausted to drive 240km and am too afraid to ask a colleague for a ride?
  • I don’t want to be complicated. How can I be as flexible and good at my job as before when I need to run for the bathroom in-between a meeting?
  • How can I avoid unnecessary attention? I don’t want to be the center of attention.
  • How can I keep my performance level? How can I remain the same (so nobody notices a difference) when I am so f’***ng tired?
  • Will I be good enough as a mom? Will I do a good job? What about all my flaws? About me failing at the easiest things like managing a calendar? Will that have a negative effect on my baby?
  • Am I really ready for this? What if I am not? What about my career? What about my job? What’s going to happen to my body?

Differently to my previous life, there was no way out. I really really really wanted to have this baby. I deeply loved it from the fist moment. Hence, I had to learn. The difference was that this tiny baby of the size of a raspberry was such huge motivator and driver to break my behavioral patterns. I knew that I had to change some behaviors so that this baby could grow and be healthy.

I started to understand that this was a phase in my life where I would not be a top performer. Neither in my professional life nor in any physical activity. So far, everything I wanted to do, I had been able to do. It was just a matter of discipline. Stay longer at the office. Push through. Get out with the result I was aiming for. Now, my body said “No”. When my body shut down and everything I felt was exhaustion, when I was painfully tired, no coffee or energy drink would get me through. My body did not need to be pushed. It needed to rest in order to let the baby grow. I had to accept my limits. Therefore, I started to decline or postpone a meeting, when I was just too tired to focus or felt sick. I shortened my working time, focusing only on topics of highest priority. I handed over smaller projects accepting the fear that I would not be a key player in the department any longer.

I dared to ask my colleague to drive me to work (without mentioning the pregnancy) which meant extra effort for him. In that moment I was ashamed to ask him for help, I felt powerless and dependent. In hindsight, I think we enjoyed the drive together having a great discussion and getting to know each other better.

I struggled with accepting my physical limitations also when I did sports. For the most time in my first trimester, I was basically lying flat, not able to get out of bed for weeks.

Whenever there was a better day, when I felt able to do some sports, I was disappointed with myself. Nothing worked as before. Everything was twice as hard and took me double the time. After 20min or so, my body would give up. It was new for me not to push myself, but to stop when my body gave me the signal to do so and just give it a rest.

The physical changes were another thing that was hard for me. I had always taken care of my body, my physique and my appearance. Not being able to work out and in addition gaining weight and finally showing a small baby-bump, did make me feel like it was not my body any longer. My yoga teacher started giving me special instructions that were different from the rest of the class in order to be pregnancy safe. I struggled with the extra attention and being “the weak” one of the class.

To be honest: I still struggle with all of this. Therefore, I am happy that I have six more months to prepare and get ready. To catch up to reality and gain confidence in my new role.

My “performance” review

After 100 days of pregnancy, I am still learning. I am still struggling. Physically and mentally. At the same time I am a 100% determined to do everything within my power to give this baby the best life possible. From day one, this small human became priority ┬░1. This makes it so much easier to continue learning and going through that change.

Part of this learning is to understand that this new chapter of my life is not about performance. It is not about pushing limits, going the extra mile, putting in more energy. It is about being, resting, and nursing your body and the baby. Listening to what your body needs. Giving up the need to be the best in order to be fully there. Finding power in not doing more but resting and regaining energy for that little human being growing inside you. It is about letting go former KPIs and success criteria. Shifting the paradigm from performance to being. It is about enjoying that beautiful miraculous thing that is happening in that very moment. Being present, experiencing and creating life.

This is worth any temporary struggle. Or, looking at it from a different perspective: isnÔÇÖt this a wonderful opportunity to grow as a person? And isn’t going out of your comfort zone to reach a new level what change is all about?

Let me know your thoughts in the comments below ­čÖé

How to use 4 dimensions of knowing as a navigation system for personal growth

Some people choose for themselves to change something others are forced to do so by outside circumstances – such as the pandemic that we are experiencing right now. Every deep-level change throws us into unknown territory. The level of uncertainty rises and it can be hard to navigate through times were solid prognosis are just not possible.

We are educated to use our intellectual mind, logical thinking and rational deductions to make decisions. We make lists of Pros and Cons and analyse possible risks before trying out something different or take a decision.

This is definitely helpful to some extent. Let me introduce you to three more dimensions of knowing, which have helped me to smoothly navigate through uncertainty: Emotion, Intuition and Embodiment.

In addition to the intellectual mind, emotion, intuition and embodiment, used as data source, help you to follow your path and take decisions that are right for you.

DonÔÇÖt let the noise of othersÔÇÖ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.ÔÇŁ

Steve Jobs

Emotion

In our professional lives we are often trained to store away our emotions. Especially for women emotions at the work place are not received positively. Often they are labeled as “too emotional” or “too sensitive”.

Also in our private lives we are often expected to be happy and well. How are you? as a welcoming question is not expected to result in an emotional drain.

Research shows that tapping into our emotions – even the messy, difficult ones – and accepting them, leads us to thrive and be truly happy.

As Susan David says in her TEDtalk:

Our emotions contain flashing lights of things that we care about. When we are open to the difficult emotions, we are able to generate responses that are values-aligned.

Susan David

If we take a look at our emotions with curiosity, compassion and some courage, we can take values-connected steps in our lives.

Intuition

Sometimes all facts and logical thinking clearly favor one option – but then you instinctively go for the alternative. Like turning down a job offer from a great company just because it did not “feel right”.

In times on uncertainty – like we are today – we often even lack the rational information part. Everything is really hard to estimate, surprises happen and things evolve dynamically and often with unexpected domino effects.

According to Gary Klein, ex-Marine, psychologist, and author of the book ÔÇťThe Power of Intuition: How to Use Your Gut Feelings to Make Better Decisions at Work,ÔÇŁ 90% of the critical decisions that we make are made by intuition in any case. Intuition can actually be a far more accurate and certainly faster way to make an important decision.”

Psychologist Gerd Gigerenzer argues in his interview with Harvard Business Review that

gut feelings are good tools for an uncertain world. TheyÔÇÖre not caprice. They are not a sixth sense or GodÔÇÖs voice. They are based on lots of experience, an unconscious form of intelligence.

Gerd Gigerenzer

Even tough most high level managers don’t admit it in public, research shows that about 50% of all their decisions are at the end gut decisions.

Gigerenzer continues saying that instinctive decisions are often rationalized afterwards. People look for evidence that backs up their intuitive decision in order to present it as fact-based.

Embodiment

Another dimension of knowing is your body. Researchers conclude that psychological processes are closely linked to the body.

When you are dealing with change take a look at your body’s responses. Observe yourself to find out, what is working for you: When are you tensing up? When can you breathe easily? Where do you feel pain in your body? What outside events or context is it linked to?

I myself found out, that my belly makes noises as if a was hungry, when I feel trapped in a meeting and cannot express my position on the matter of discussion.

When do you feel the urge to eat chocolate, smoke a cigarette or drink a glass of whine? This is mostly a sign that you are about to numb an emotion.

Being tired every morning, forcing yourself to get our of bet, can be as sign that something is off.

Or the other way round: How can you practice self-care and do yourself something good? Be it a looooong nap, a walk, healthy food,… Even if it feels strange or esoteric, try out some yoga practice to become more aware of your body. Calm your mind with some meditation exercise to also sense what’s happening in your body.

Observing ourselves how our bodies react to certain situations can be a helpful data source to find out what is right for us. Taking care of ourselves including our body, we make sure that we respect and worship this part of us.

To grow as a person and advance in your transformation make use of all four dimensions of knowing: intellectual mind, intuition, emotion and embodiment.

By using multiple sources of data, we get a clearer picture of where we are heading to. Not everything seems logic at the first sight. Some signs that we receive from other dimensions of knowing are contrasting to what we is “the norm”, what is accepted” or “expected”.

If we observe these signs with curiosity and appreciate them as valuable source of information we might surprise ourselves. Then we only need the courage to follow up.

I am happy to share how these four dimensions of knowing have helped me navigate through my personal and professional adventures in an upcoming blog post.

Thank you to  Daniel Gonzalez for providing the picture on top!

Heart Attacked

Yesterday LinkedIn notified me that my close friend from university got promoted. The simple act of congratulating him resulted in not being able to sleep for half of the night.

It was not the first time this happened. Over the past 10 years my mind has decided to go back to those times more frequently than I wished.

Every time I lie in bed, remembering how close we were. He was the perfect friend, supportive, a great sense of humor, down to earth – and handsome. We studied Economics together, both feeling a bit like we didn’t belong to those rich kids striving for great careers, already driving their BMWs to university. Being different than the other students and struggling with the overwhelming drop-out exams didn’t matter too much, as we had each other laughing about every challenge we faced.

Did I mention that he was handsome?

Okay let’s not beat around the bushes, I completely fell for him.

So it might be understandable that from time to time “friends” turned into “friends with benefits”. But when we met again the next time everything was back to “friends”. I don’t remember exactly how things developed. What I remember though is, that even my best friend got annoyed by my hopes for a romantic relationship with him.

Than one day, out of the blue, I met my prince (as my father calls him) who is my partner ever since. Maybe as a result, my friend and I grew apart soon and he moved to another country to start his career.

Now when my heart attacks my mind at night, when I am up thinking about him, I can’t help but wonder what could have been, would have been, should have been. It haunts me. The more time passes, the more I fill the gaps in my memories with imagination, probably with the most romantic scenario that I am able to construct.

What haunts me is not the wish for a different partner or a different life. I am so blessed to have my future husband as a partner in crime and couldn’t wish for anything else. What keeps me sticking to these what-if-thoughts is the feeling that I didn’t go for it. I did not try. I was too embarrassed to talk openly. I never found the courage to say what’s on my heart. I was too afraid to be rejected, to be humiliated, to be weak or sad.

Did I thereby fulfill my own prophecy?

I recently heard a tedtalk about the power of vulnerability. Brene Brown – the speaker – talked about the original meaning of courage which is “to tell the story of who you are with all your heart”. How you need to make yourself vulnerable in order to be fully seen and deeply connect to other people.

You need to make yourself vulnerable in order to be fully seen and deeply connect to other people.

It seems I was not ready for this back then. Which makes me think: now that I want to change my life and this thing still keeps me up at night – am I ready now? Do I have the courage to tell him how I felt when we were together, with the risk of embarrassing myself? Maybe he has fully forgotten about it. Maybe he doesn’t give a shit.

Still it fells important to me. Firstly, to close this chapter and come to peace with it. Secondly, to prove to myself that I a am strong enough today to be weak. And Thirdly, because I want to tell my friend that I miss him as my friend. Even if he is doing great without me, I would love to know that he knows he is valued, missed and important to another person out there.

So I am going to call him. I am going to talk to him. Break the circle of hiding behind nonsense-jokes and distance. Given my journey into the unknown I think it is a suitable challenge for me to do something I avoided to do for so long.

Wish me luck. Or better than that: Push me. because I am already f***ing scared.

What’s Love got to do with it?

In meiner Auseinandersetzung mit mir selbst, habe ich intensiv dar├╝ber nachgedacht und hineingesp├╝rt, welche Werte ich leben will und welche Bed├╝rfnisse ich habe.

Es stellt sich also heraus, dass mir Liebe und Geborgenheit am wichtigsten sind. Als gelernte Zynikerin war mir diese Erkenntnis eher abschreckend als hilfreich. Ein liebloses Achselzucken, ├Ąhnlich als w├╝rde ich mein Horoskop in einer Frauenzeitschrift lesen, konnte dieses Ergebnis als Reaktion hervorrufen.

So what?

Bei n├Ąherer Betrachtung allerdings muss zugeben, dass es wohl stimmt. Nicht nur f├╝r mich, sondern auch f├╝r viele andere Menschen. So hat es Abraham Maslow zumindest in seiner Bed├╝rfnispyramide schon in den 60er Jahren dargestellt.

Oft w├╝nschte ich, ich w├Ąre anders, erhabener ├╝ber andere Menschen und deren Bed├╝rfnisse. ├ťberspitzt gesagt: Ich w├Ąre gene weniger Affe und mehr Gott.

Nach l├Ąngerer Auseinandersetzung mit meinem leicht gr├Â├čenwahnsinnigen Anspruch, komme ich auf den Boden der Tatsachen zur├╝ck. Umso mehr ich dar├╝ber nachdenke, umso mehr wehre ich mich gegen die Zuschreibung der Banalit├Ąt. Im Gegenteil: das Erleben von N├Ąhe, Vertrauen und Liebe, sind jene, aus denen ich Kraft sch├Âpfe, mich vollst├Ąndig f├╝hle und angenommen. Intimit├Ąt, Liebe und Geborgenheit sind Empfindungen, die mir wertvoll sind. Das Vertrauen, die liebevolle Sicherheit, die ich in meiner Partnerschaft pflege, sind so delikat f├╝r mich und so essentiell, dass ich es h├╝te wie einen kostbaren Schatz.

Ich merke auch, dass es nichts Selbstverst├Ąndliches ist, solche Erfahrungen machen zu k├Ânnen. Lieben zu k├Ânnen, Loslassen zu k├Ânnen. Sich auf einen anderen Menschen einlassen zu k├Ânnen. Zu vertrauen, eine w├╝rdevolle Sexualit├Ąt zu leben, bedingungslos zu lieben und geliebt zu werden. Viele Menschen erleben das nur br├╝chst├╝ckhaft oder werden in ihrer Verletzlichkeit missbraucht.

Was nun?

Ich erkenne also, oder sagen wir besser – anerkenne, wie essentiell Liebe und Geborgenheit ist. Nicht nur f├╝r mich, sondern auch f├╝r die meisten anderen Menschen.

Dann bleibt nur noch die Frage: Wenn wir N├Ąhle, Liebe und Geborgenheit als ein wesentliches Bed├╝rfnis und N├Ąhrboden f├╝r Wachstum von Menschen akzeptieren, warum ist das dann ein Bed├╝rfnis, das auf das Privatleben beschr├Ąnkt ist?

Ein Gedankenspiel: Wie w├╝rde ein Unternehmen agieren, in dem Vertrauen und Sicherheit ein wertvolles Gut w├Ąren? Wie w├╝rden sie Entscheidungen treffen? Wie mit Krisen umgehen? Wie mit der “Ressource” Mensch? Wie w├╝rden Arbeitspl├Ątze und Arbeitszeiten sich ver├Ąndern? Welche Art der F├╝hrung w├╝rde gelebt? Wie w├╝rden sich Menschen im Arbeitskontext verhalten, die sich angenommen und akzeptiert f├╝hlten? Welche Produkte und Dienstleistungen w├╝rden entstehen?

Lasst mich wissen, was ihr dazu denkt.

Yours,

Florence