07/23/2009 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Don't Should on Me!

I have to admit that I am particularly susceptible to people giving me advice or telling me what to do; it can rankle and rattle me and is a part of my 'story' (see What"s Your Story). One key to knowing your story as a story is to identify and name what you're susceptible to, what pushes your buttons or sets you off and step outside of it as often as possible. As I say to all those I coach, 'Awareness is key'.

Once you've found out what pushes your buttons, like finding the source of a river, you can begin to manage it. You can also find out how it serves you and take advantage of the energy you get from it. Let me explain by putting myself in the 'witness box'.

I'm the 13th born in an Irish Catholic family of fourteen and I have 3 brothers and 10 sisters. Those are 'facts' in my story; but what I've made up, caused and created from that is where we're going today.

As the second to youngest, just about everyone in my family told me what to do. Everyone seemed to know better and constantly give me advice, comment on what I was doing (wrong) and always know better. As I grew older it went from irritating to maddening and I became resentful and solitary where my family was concerned.

I even geographically moved 'away from' where my family lived and even from what they believed. Thanks to some really great mentors, coaches and seminars I had a breakthrough moment in which I was able to see this 'negative' goal setting as a trend I was victim to. I realized that moving 'from' was a faulted model and that moving 'toward' was positive and would create me as 'me', not as a result or reaction to outside circumstances.

After that realization, rather late in life (but never too late), I was able to drop a lot of the weight of the past and move forward and create a really wonderful, fun and passionate story that really serves me now. I re-wrote my story and created the life I love in all aspects and still have a lot of room to grow in the future.

I realized that my resistance to being told what to do or to people making suggestions, offering advice, etc. was shutting me off from ideas that could be helpful. I was bristling at the offer of a "You know what you could do", "Here's what I think you should do", or "If I were you I would . . ." Once I got it that people were genuinely trying to help me I was able to accept input, create collaboration and invite partnership.

That shift in 'getting it' that I was still being a victim of the 13th child syndrome allowed me to step outside of it and see each offered suggestion or contribution as a 'working/not working' idea and weigh them on their merits, not solely through my personal prejudice.

At the time of this breakthrough I was also moving up fast in the corporate world and I was able to use this new sense of openness to take direction, take risks and accept mentoring when it was offered in the business milieu. I was also able to see that not wanting to be told what to do had a positive effect on me for years in that it always drove me to become the boss or manager (so I wouldn't have to be told what to do). I was able to see the positive, energy producing value out of this 'don't tell me what to do' childish attitude and, once I 'had it' versus it 'having me', I was free.

Hold on a minute: I'm not totally free. I'm working on it. That's why I'm writing it here and offering it to you. As another aspect of the 'story' model I am sharing this as a dialogue for all of you reading this. What are the circumstances that trigger you, that anger, shame or sadden you? Can you re-write them as a source of energy and drive and minimize (I don't know if you can ever get free of them completely) their automatic triggering effect enough to get them at least somewhat under control?

Can you trace back to any energy that is 'away from' and get in touch with your 'moving toward'? I hope you can and know that there are some pretty wonderful resources out there to help you. Please see my suggested resources and links.

By the way, I am celebrating my coaching materials around 'could/would/should' with a collection of paraphernalia that has a bit of irreverent fun with this: "Don't Should on Me" t-shirts, mugs, clothing and 'stuff'. I think you should visit the site.

Good luck to all of you in continuing to create the story of you as powerful, passionate contributors to your family, friends, co-workers and the world. This is a story we can create a happy ending for -- but why wait till the end? Let's start with now!