By every available external measurement, she's a big success. A PhD in a hard science. An enviable position as a scientist in a boutique consultancy. Frequent access to her firm's CEO - she's his go-to person when he needs to provide expert testimony.

So why is she so miserable? And stuck?

This was the scenario my client Claudia (not her real name, of course) laid out for me when she joined an executive women's coaching group I formed.

Why, she asked, when she had done everything right, her life felt so wrong?

Pretty soon, it became clear.  It was as if she was a left-handed person who's lived her life writing with her right hand.

Let me explain.

Claudia was born into a driven family who value academic, intellectual achievement. It's expected that every member will have at least one PhD. Analytical thinking is key. Systems are vital. Process is potent. Not only in her family but culturally, too, these are close-held values which Claudia learned were "right" from birth.

When I asked Claudia to take the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator©, her preferences were fascinating - ISFP, Introverted, Sensing, Feeling, Perceiving. Being a scientist, she dug into the MBTI methodology, and then emailed me with her big "Aha!" moment.

She's everything her family devalues, she said. They are people people, and she needs alone time. They go with their gut, and she needs more concrete information. She is emotional, and they are logical. She like to keep her options wide open and wants to be as flexible as possible. They like closure, order and plans. She thinks her father, the dominant figure in her family dynamic, and her brother, are Extroverted, Intuitive, Thinking, Judging. Her complete opposites. No wonder she struggled to meet their expectations of what's "right".

In effect, she was told at an early age that she needed to write with her right hand, when all the time, she's really a lefty.

And isn't it interesting that Claudia was able to have so much professional success while not even playing to her innate strengths and preferences?  Imagine how successful she could be if she used her strengths.  What untapped potential.

To be truly happy in her work and her life, she realized, she needs to be fully herself.

She needs to relearn how to write left-handed.

She needs to be more spontaneous. She needs to seek those activities that bring her joy - creativity, connection. She needs to engage all of her senses, all of the time.

And she's doing it. Slowly but surely, she's making the changes she needs to be happier. She's doing fitness training, and small dinner parties. She's painting again. She varies her route to work. All small steps, most certainly. But steps, indeed, toward getting unstuck. Toward writing with her preferred hand.  Toward being herself.

About the Author

Michele Woodward
Michele Woodward is the author of I Am Not Superwoman: Further Essays on Happier Living and Lose Weight, Find Love, De-Clutter & Save Money: Essays on Happier Living.

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