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Doing the inner work can help you become a more fulfilled project manager

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Think of a time when you felt a bit off. Perhaps you felt overwhelmed with the amount of work on your plate. You overreacted because a team member didn’t do what they said they would. Or you felt sad because of a lack of recognition from your manager.

In those situations, you may have felt that the answer to your problems lay outside of you.

If only my workload would diminish, then I’d be happy. If only my team members would change, then my stresses would melt away. If only I’d get promoted, then I’d feel recognised.

Unfortunately, the majority of our problems can’t be solved by fixing something or someone outside of us. External circumstances do matter, but we can’t control circumstances. The only thing we have any real control over is our inner world – how we work with our thoughts, beliefs, emotions­, body and breath and the actions we decide to take.

As a leadership coach, I’ve witnessed many project managers suffer with doubt, stress and insecurities because they didn’t have an inner toolbox that could help them. Many find it hard to express their feelings, set expectations and give feedback. Others overwork themselves, have difficulties saying no and on the inside their emotions are nagging them.

The good news is that when you learn to strengthen your inner resources and boost your self-inquiry and self-compassion skills, you can move beyond low self-esteem, emotional turmoil and feelings of frustration and overwhelm.

I’ll give you an example

Imagine you’re constantly overworked. You find it hard to delegate due to your high standards and not wanting to overburden your team. Perhaps you’re also dependent on praise from your managers, which makes it hard to say no to extra work.

Shifting your problem once and for all requires you to investigate which part of your programming is getting in your way. Do you believe that your self-worth is linked to how much you achieve at work? Do you believe that other people’s needs are more important than your own?

Until you uncover your beliefs and learn to choose some more empowering ones, you may continue to overwork yourself.

In another example you’re feeling frustrated that you’re not getting the recognition you long for, even though you’ve successfully delivered several major projects. It’s painful to witness other people get promoted when you feel you’ve worked harder than they have.

Doing the inner work will help you feel compassion for yourself and shift your perspective so that you’re better able to take inspired action. Spending time with your painful thoughts and emotions can help you let go of blame and better understand the reasons you’ve allowed yourself to play small and feel victimised.

Get a taste of what it looks like to do the inner work

Spend a few minutes on this exercise. It will help you relax your body and become aware of the thoughts that cause you to feel anxious, stuck or emotionally off centre. With that awareness, you can question your thoughts and choose a more empowering way to move forward.

First, think about a situation that nags you or where you are holding yourself back.

How does the situation make you feel in your body? Notice the tension and relax your face, shoulders and abdomen. Slow down your breathing and make your outbreaths twice as long as your inbreaths.

Notice how you talk to yourself about this situation in your head. Are you telling yourself that you are flawed in some way, that there isn’t enough time or that something needs to happen for you to make progress and feel at ease now?

Who inside of you is telling the story? Is it your wise higher self or is it the small victim you who likes to place blame or justify the situation?

Now, imagine floating out of your body and looking down on yourself from above. What do you notice when you look at yourself from the outside? Perhaps you notice that your story is one-sided and not the full truth. Or perhaps you notice that you’ve been suppressing your needs and that it’s time to speak up.

Let’s rewrite your story and make it more empowering. How can you do that? Which new beliefs do you need to incorporate into your thinking to empower yourself and take inspired action?

Susanne’s new book How to do the Inner Work (TCK Publishing) is available now.


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  1. Ashok Singha
    Ashok Singha 30 May 2024, 05:25 PM

    Cultivating Resilience: The big question is how do we cultivate resilience and maintain hope and optimism in difficult times? What inner resources help you bounce back from setbacks Susanne?. Can you share insights into the scenes or chapters in your book that generated the most discussion in our book club? How do you feel about the various interpretations of your book that have been discussed? It would be good to get an idea on how we can handle any potential backlash or controversy that arises?