positive mindset

CARYN GILLEN

Caryn and her husband Todd enjoying their little one Liv. 

Caryn and her husband Todd enjoying their little one Liv. 

CARYN GILLEN
on overcoming limiting thoughts and reaching goals

 

Caryn is a little different than the rest of the women that I have interviewed to date. I’m lucky to have had Caryn in my life as a friend for quite a few years now. I’ve been around to witness a bunch of milestones in her life and career. In the time I’ve known her, I have seen Caryn secure her dream job, excel in that role, start her own side gig, grow her side gig to the point that she could quit said dream job, and now she’s killing it running her own business. Oh, and she also bought and updated a house and had a little girl in this time. 

This is a woman that is 100% in the driving seat of her own life and relentlessly pursues what she wants. It has been an inspiration to watch her go after (and get) what she wants. 

Caryn trained as a psychologist and life coach, and was able to use her killer leadership skills and training in her most recent gig as a program manager for Oregon Social Learning Center (OSLC), a non-profit research center dedicated to increasing the scientific understand of psychological processes related to healthy development and family functioning. I remember when she got the job and how happy I was for her that she snagged her dream job. 

While she really enjoyed her work and made an amazing contribution at OSLC, her dream has always been to be an entrepreneur. So, she did the work of peeling back the layers of what really set her heart on fire and found that she is most passionate about helping powerhouse women reach their goals. She then dug even deeper to discover that her niche is helping high-achieving women end their struggle with their weight and food. 

As a powerhouse woman that works exclusively with powerhouse women, she has a lot of insights into living your best life and taking charge of your life and career. 

 

TAKEWAYS

1. DON'T BELIEVE EVERYTHING YOU THINK

We have a couple of strong biases in our lives that often keep us from achieving what we want – negativity bias and confirmation bias. 

Negativity bias is the concept that negative thoughts and emotions affect us more deeply than equally powerful positive thoughts and emotions. I’m sure you can think of examples of this in your own life. We ruminate on failures and upsetting interactions, turning them over in our minds (sometimes for decades!). But when was the last time that a memory of a positive experience kept you up at night? See?  

Confirmation bias is the tendency to cherry-pick evidence to confirm the beliefs and theories that we already hold, often overlooking compelling evidence that would be counter to our beliefs. This shows up everywhere — in politics, religions, workplaces, interpersonal relationships, and even in our relationship with ourselves. 

In Caryn’s work, she works with clients that have been very successful in many areas of their lives, but struggle in one area. Due to their negativity bias, their struggles eclipse their triumphs and they believe that they are deficient. Thanks to their confirmation bias, they focus on the experiences that are consistent with that belief. “See? I knew I couldn’t keep my word to myself,” or “I knew I wasn’t brave enough to reach for that stretch goal.”

Caryn has a simple solution to this line of thinking: curiosity.

She says we have to ask ourselves better questions. Curiosity staves out judgment, giving ourselves the space we need to make the positive changes in our lives and careers that we hope for. 

Here’s another opportunity to be kind to yourself and ask some probing questions, gently. “When are some times that I did show up for myself?,” “When was I brave, even in a small way?” 

Caryn says beliefs are just thoughts that you think over and over. They’re habitual thoughts, and...they’re changeable. I guarantee you that when you go looking for evidence that supports the life you want, you’ll find it. It may be slow at first, but with a little effort, you’ll start seeing it everywhere. 

 

2. GET THE RESULTS YOU WANT

I want to talk a little bit more about our thoughts because they’re our greatest change agent. Caryn uses a framework for coaching her clients that looks like this: 

Our thoughts create our feelings -> Our feelings drive our actions -> Our actions deliver results. 

If we don’t like the results that we’re seeing in any area of our lives, we need to change our thoughts. Thoughts are where it all begins. 

Take a moment to notice how empowering this concept is. I know a lot of people that feel beholden to their thoughts — that their thoughts happen to them. Well, good news folks: We absolutely have the power to control the thoughts that we think. Even deeply-held beliefs are changeable (remember they’re just habitual thoughts). 

To illustrate how powerful this framework is, I’ll give you a little personal example from a few weeks ago when Caryn helped me through a career obstacle.

As I was approaching the end of my MBA, I could feel my mind constrict around my desire to find my dream job. I wanted the job so bad! I’ve always been pretty good in interviews, but I could feel the limiting beliefs that I had allowed to accumulate to start undermining me. I wanted my interviewers to like me and choose me. I had fear about going for too long without an income. I had a belief that the jobs that I would really enjoy were a scarce resource. 

Those powerful negative thoughts are very damaging. I mean, what interviewer wants to offer a job to the lady that’s desperate? (The answer is none.) :(

Caryn guided  me through the framework starting at the end result: What result do you want? (To be seen as competent and valuable to the organization.) What action will that require? (To present myself as calm, competent, and confident.) What do you need to feel in order to act that way? (That I will get the job if it’s meant to be, and if not, it’ll all work out for the best. That I know that I have a lot to offer and I trust others to see it.) What do you need to think in order to feel that way? (I'm a catch! I will land well. People that I respect mirror that back to me all the time. I have been working toward this for a long time. I have what I need to be successful. In the past, when I didn’t get what I thought I wanted in the moment, I was glad with where I ended up.) 

Once I figured out which thoughts would help me get the results I wanted, I repeated them a bunch of times, especially whenever doubt encroached on me. And, guess what… It really works. I was able to loosen my grip on these jobs and bring my best self to the interviews. #winning #thanksCaryn #results

 

BONUS

Caryn generously made this offer to Doyenne Project readers: 

If you are interested in ending the struggle with food and your weight click here to get your FREE copy of Caryn's book, "I Wanted It."

#thanksagainCaryn

JANE MILLER

Jane signing copies of her book  Sleep Your Way to the Top (and Other Myths About Business Success) . 

Jane signing copies of her book Sleep Your Way to the Top (and Other Myths About Business Success)

JANE MILLER
on resilience, risk-taking, and growing from setbacks

 

Jane has had a tremendously successful career. Her resume is practically littered with the words “President”, “Director”, and “CEO”. She has contributed to the success of big and small businesses throughout her career. Her career started at Frito-Lay, and she went on to hold influential roles at Bimbo Bakeries, the Kraft Heinz Co., and Hostess. A number of years ago, Jane switched to use her business super powers to support smaller brands including Rudi’s Organic Bakery and ProYo. If that’s not enough, she also wrote a book (Sleep Your Way to the Top (and Other Myths about Business Success) and built an online career resource center (www.JaneKnows.com). This lady gets things done! 

It would be really easy for someone like Jane to become affected by her success, but she is strikingly humble, open, and generous. I’ve had the privilege to hear her address groups and I’ve sat across the table from her a number of times. Every time, I have been floored by what a good listener she is and how willing she is to share from her own experiences to provide helpful insights. 

Given the bio I just laid out, it may be surprising that most of the topics that Jane and I discussed during this particular conversation centered around failure. But, I can’t think of anyone better to learn from about resilience, risk-taking, and growing from setbacks than someone who has learned how to manage the difficult parts of career development to achieve great success. 

Get ready folks. Below are a couple of powerful takeaways.

 

TAKEWAYS

1. FOSTER A RESILIENT MINDSET

For someone that has had so many powerful positions and so much responsibility, I was surprised when she told me that she has no regrets about her career. How is that possible? I have regrets about what I ate for breakfast this morning! 

She told me, “I made the best decisions I could based on the info I had at the time. I know more now.”

I want to take a moment and just acknowledge how powerful that statement is. 

Jane’s antidote to feeling regret comes from her practical and constructive mindset. The way that she looks at her career and accomplishments has two powerful characteristics: 1) she is generous with herself, and 2) she is learning-oriented. 

Let’s break that statement down: 

“I made the best decision I could based on the info I had at the time…” 

Notice how she gives herself the benefit of the doubt. She is kind to herself. Of course, those moments when things don’t turn out the way you want are painful for anybody, but she didn’t add to her own suffering by jumping to punishing herself. She retained her confidence in herself, her judgment, and her abilities. 

So many of us high-achieving women try and perfect everything we do, even those things that have already happened. We replay what went down and fantasize about what we should have done and how much better that alternate fictional outcome would have been. 

Hopefully, reading that last paragraph points out for all of us how futile those efforts are. I have learned that being hard on ourselves after a misstep or failure has the opposite outcome that we hope for. We hope that being hard on ourselves will ensure that we learn our lesson so we never make the same mistake again, but really, it just makes us more fearful of taking risks in the future. 

In these moments, a helpful strategy is to treat ourselves like our own best friends. We would never talk to our best friends the way we talk to ourselves. We would comfort them, providing support and understanding. We can extend that same support to ourselves. 

Jane models this concept really well when she gives herself credit for doing the best she could in the moment. The generosity she shows herself opens the door for the next characteristic of her mindset. 

“…I know more now.”    

Jane is oriented to learn from her experiences. 

If you just stop at the first part – giving yourself a break –  then you don’t grow from the experience and the pain of that failure was in vain. 

Personal responsibility is critical — in the right measureToo much and you make yourself miserable and allow your world to constrict around you to match the size of what you know you can accomplish perfectly. Too little personal responsibility and you can build a poor reputation for yourself since you fail to be accountable for your actions, and you miss out on opportunities to grow. 

The immediate next step after comforting yourself from the pain of setbacks and failures is getting to work on understanding what you can do differently in the future, and then integrating those learnings. 

 

2. GETTING COMFORTABLE WITH RISKS

I was recently privy to the info that came out of some focus groups that the Leeds School of Business at CU Boulder did with executives at high growth companies. The focus of the study was to learn what companies are looking for in candidates so that the MBA program can turn out highly effective graduates. 

One of the surprising insights that came from this study is that these coveted employers want candidates that have experience with failureSo many of us put an incredible amount of energy into racking up accomplishments and avoiding failure, but failure is an excellent teacher. 

Jane’s powerful and positive mindset shows up here as well. She says, “The anticipated consequence is often far worse than the actual consequence you find with failure.” 

Living in the headspace of anticipated failure keeps us from taking the types of leaps that are necessary for achieving the sort of success that Jane has had. 

She does also recognize that this gets easier as you advance in your career. With more successes and failures to learn from, you just have more data points to gauge and mitigate risks.

If you don’t have decades of work experience under your belt, don’t worry. This is an opportunity for vicarious learning:

  • Lean on mentors and sponsors that have seen more in their careers and are invested in your success. Trust Jane that the fear of the consequence is generally worse than the actual outcome, because people like her have learned that lesson first-hard. 
  • Practice. A couple of posts ago, Katica Roy told us that courage is a muscle – it gets stronger when exercised. I think the same can be said for resilience. The more we face risk and endure setbacks, the more likely we are to bounce back faster and easier.