Seeing The Possibilities

July 2002

Look! Up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! Hey, it’s you – or is it? Are you chicken about bounding outward? Is daring inherited or can you learn it? Robert Kolker investigates the how, why, when, and wow of opening up your life.

“The next step toward a more adventurous life is getting unstuck, says Maggie Craddock, a former award-winning Wall Street money manager who now uses her degree in counseling psychology to coach employees of Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, and Credit Suisse First Boston. Craddock says that people who are feeling as if life is closing in on them have one thing in common: They’re having trouble separating what they think they should want (a promotion, a big fat raise, the return of casual Fridays) from what they really want (recognition, a sense of purpose or balance in their lives). Clients often walk through the door thinking they’re going to be focusing on how to get rid of the guy in the corner office, but they quickly find themselves entering a deeper discussion of what’s really holding them back.

Craddock starts by talking with them about their home lives, their childhoods, and their support systems. She’ll ask, “What definitions of success did you get from your family?” and “How do they influence the decisions you’re making today?” In answering the questions, clients some times see that when they’re under pres sure, they repeat behavior patterns from their childhoodĂ‘patterns that trip them up now. They begin to realize that they might have made choices based on some one else’s idea of success or happiness, which could be rethought. “People have to ask themselves, How is my sense of who I am being shaped by the people I’m around?” says Craddock. “Is that keeping me in my rut or helping me out of it?”

If the feedback you’re getting isn’t encouraging and you can’t get rid of the disparagers, then Craddock suggests a technique called standing sideways. It means managing your reactions so you don’t consider every challenge to be a direct blow to your self-esteem. Then you can begin to let a lot of stuff go by (Think about it: Turn sideways and you’re offering a narrower target for hits.)”