The 4 steps to get over something hard and move forward

Listen on:

Life is full of difficult situations from terrible leaders to feeling like you can’t get it all done. But there’s a way to manage your brain in difficult situations and be an emotionally intelligent leader.

List and learn what to do when:

  • You’re stuck in another reorg
  • You’re not getting a promotion
  • You get vague feedback like you need to be more strategic
  • You have to manage out an employee

Additional resources:

Hey, I’m Lindsay Lyman. I worked almost 12 years at Amazon and saw so many brilliant and successful overachievers burn themselves out and leave their jobs because they’re so stressed and anxious. But guess what? Having a successful career does not have to be at the expense of your mental sanity and personal time. There’s an easier way, and I can show you how. Let’s do this!

Hey y’all, today I want to talk to you about the five core elements of knowing how to manage your brain, especially when you’re stuck in a really hard spot. Let’s look at a couple of examples of what you might be stuck in. These are things I’m seeing all over the place with a lot of my clients and a lot of you I’m talking to.

The first example: Let’s say you’re going through a reorg again. You guys, companies reorg all the time. Amazon was like six months, almost like clockwork. But let’s say you’re just spinning and freaking out with frustration and stress because maybe your boss told you you’re going to be reorged against in 30 days, but you don’t know the details. You don’t know who your new manager is going to be. You don’t know what the new leadership’s going to be like. You’re not sure the impact it’s going to have on your team or the projects. You’re freaking out because you’ve had some bad bosses in the past. You don’t know who your new boss is going to be, and you’re wondering if this is going to change your promo process. Makes sense, okay? These are things we get stressed and stuck in.

Another example: Let’s say your promotion didn’t get approved and didn’t go through. Maybe you’re stuck because you’re just mad. You don’t agree with it. You’re frustrated that they don’t understand the complexity of your job so they didn’t promote you. You’re not sure if you want to keep working and stay with this place, or if you just want to get a new job. You’re confused. You don’t trust people. You’re sitting in meetings with these people that rejected your promotion, and all you can think about is how they don’t think you’re good enough. Okay, that’s being stuck.

Here’s another example: Maybe you got some feedback in your yearly review that is confusing to you, something like you need to be more strategic. You can be mad at your manager because they can’t explain it more. They’re not able to give you very specific examples or guidelines on how to be more strategic. You’re asking other people what it means, and you’re feeling more and more confused. Or you’re trying to take a small, simple, straightforward project and make it big and complicated to show how you can be strategic. It feels like you’re doing everything you can, but it’s not working, and you start to really doubt yourself and wonder if something’s wrong. That is being stuck.

Here’s my last example: Let’s say you’re a manager and you have to manage out an employee on your team. A lot of companies do this where they have certain thresholds of every so often you have to be managing out bottom performers. As a manager, I’ve been in this spot, and it’s really hard when your team is all performing but you have to cut someone. So maybe you’re stuck in the spot and you’re freaking out because you know no one on your team deserves this, and you know it’s going to crush them, and the process is not going to be fun for anyone. You want them to be successful through this promotion/improvement plan, but you also know you have to manage someone out. It just feels like you’re being set up to fail and that you have to be the bad guy. Being stuck in this place can really impact your entire mood in and out of work.

So here’s just a couple of examples of things we get stuck in at work. I talk a lot about the think-do-feel cycle, essentially how you think about things, the story you’re telling yourself about this hard thing existing outside of you. What you’re making it mean ultimately impacts how you’re feeling, and based on what you’re feeling, you do and don’t do certain things, and you show up in a certain way. Okay, so this is the think-feel-do cycle. If you’ve done any cognitive behavioral therapy, this is very much “what it’s based on. Or this is where people are like, ‘You try to manifest it. You think about it. You secrete it.’ Because what you think ultimately impacts what you do because of how it makes you feel. You can’t just sit there and think, ‘I’m a millionaire, I’m a millionaire, I’m a millionaire,’ and a million dollars are going to show up on your doorstep. When you actually believe that, it makes you feel compelled to be driven and do things. You go out and do things to make that belief a reality. This is why it’s so important to pay attention to what you’re thinking.

The problem isn’t that you don’t know what to do. It’s really not. You could think of anything you’re feeling stuck in if you really got pressed, you could probably think of three or four things to do. I’m not saying they’re great or things you want to do or should do, but the problem isn’t that you don’t know what to do. It’s that you don’t feel compelled to do the things or not do the things because of what you’re making it mean, how you’re thinking about it. Now, hear me out. I’m not just saying, ‘Let’s just go lie to ourselves and be totally delusional.’ Though, if I’m being honest, we’re all a little delusional. I’m okay with that to an extent. But we’re not going to go from freaking out about a reorg and go all the way to the other end of the spectrum to like, ‘This is wonderful! I love this! Everything’s great and wonderful!’ In fact, I don’t recommend even trying to do that because here’s what happens: Your nervous system does not believe it is safe. It believes not knowing who your boss is going to be, what the impact this reorg is going to have on your promotion, that feels very dangerous to your nervous system. So, if you ignore that and try to use your brain to tell your body, ‘No, you’re wrong,’ your body’s going to get louder, and it’s going to feel more anxious and more intense and more stressed. So, I don’t suggest trying to just completely go to the opposite end.

So, what do you do? This is where these four key steps of managing your brain and having emotional intelligence come in. I learned this concept from one of my coaches, Karen Crabtree, who I love. She is amazing, she’s so so entertaining, I just love everything about this woman. But she talks about the four ends, and I’ve been thinking on this and applying it as I’ve been doing my own coaching and working with my clients, and it’s so good I wanted to share it with you today. So, these are the four ends that can help you move out of this anxiety, freak-out, just staying stuck, and get you to a place where you’re closer to calm and okay. Remember, we’re not trying to get to, ‘I’m amazing and wonderful and everything’s fabulous.’ We’re not making big, huge leaps. We just want to slowly guide ourselves to a little bit more calm place.

The first end to manage your brain is to notice. You’ve got to notice what you’re telling yourself. What’s the story you’re believing and playing over and over again and looking for evidence for and telling everyone about? What are you making it mean? So, in that reorg example, maybe you notice you keep telling yourself some flavor of the story, ‘I’m so worried this could be terrible.’ Awesome. Okay, we just want to notice it. It’s not good, it’s not bad. We’re not trying to change it at this stage. We just want to know what we’re thinking. You have 60,000 thoughts a day, you guys. Think about it. That means 98% of what you’re thinking you are not cognitively aware of. We just got to know, notice it. In the example of your promotion not going through, notice what you’re telling yourself. Maybe it’s some version of, ‘It’s never good enough, and I’m not even sure it’s worth it.’ Okay, we just want to notice what are you making it mean, what are you telling yourself? In that example of getting some feedback you need to be more strategic, what are you telling yourself? It could be, ‘If I don’t have specific examples and a clear direction, I can’t change this.’ Okay?

In that example of needing to manage out an employee, maybe you notice you keep thinking a version of, ‘This is going to be terrible “I hate this.’ Okay, step one, you just want to notice.

The second step in these four steps to manage your brain is you want to normalize it. Why does it make total sense that this is what you’re thinking? Normalizing what we just noticed helps us drop all the judgment. We don’t want to tell ourselves, ‘I know it’s going to be fine. I know I shouldn’t be thinking this.’ I’m like, ‘No, this is what your brain and your body are telling you is true for you.’ So, we just want to notice it now, we want to normalize it. Why does it make sense that that’s what you’re thinking logically?

Let’s look at the example of the reorg. Of course, you’re worried that this could be terrible because you’ve been through a lot of reorgs, and about half the time it’s hard, you don’t like who your manager is. Of course, it makes sense that you’re freaking out. Let’s look at the example of your promotion not going through. Of course, you’re frustrated. You wanted this, you worked really hard, you thought it was going to happen. Of course, you’re going to feel the opposite if it doesn’t. Makes total sense, it’s totally normal.

In the example of the feedback to be more strategic, of course, it’s going to feel confusing. Your leader doesn’t know how to help you get there, and it’s not fun to not know. Makes sense, very normal response. Or in the example of needing to manage out an employee, of course you don’t feel good about this. It sucks even when it’s the right thing to do. Having to let someone go, even if they deserve it, is not fun. It’s totally normal.

The first step in managing your brain is you just want to notice it. The second is you want to normalize it. Why does it make sense that’s what you’re thinking and feeling? The third step is we want to neutralize it. So, we’ve acknowledged what we’re telling ourselves, we understand why it’s logical that we’re thinking about it now. We just want to kind of neutralize it. I think of this like how do you just look at the reality of this situation? How do you stop resisting what is? It’s not good, it’s not bad. How do you just look at the truth of it? We just want to neutralize it.

So, on the example of the reorg, neutralizing it might look like, ‘In 30 days, the team structure will be different, and today we don’t know what that looks like.’ That’s just the reality, that’s just the truth, that’s just where you are right now. We’re just trying to neutralize it. In the example of your promotion not going through, neutralizing it is acknowledging, ‘My promotion did not get approved.’ There’s so much resistance and anger and frustration, but I’m like, ‘No, of course there is. It’s totally normal.’ But if we just neutralize it and look at the data, ‘The promotion did not get approved.’ Notice we’re still not excited about it, it’s still not fun, we’re still not happy, and on we go. It’s okay, we just want to neutralize it. The promotion did not happen, that’s the reality, that is what is true.

The feedback around being more strategic, neutralizing it may be looking at the fact of, ‘I’m not going to get more examples or specific help.’ That’s the reality. Neutralizing needing to manage out an employee may be, ‘This person is going to be put on a coaching improvement plan.’ It’s just the truth, it’s just what is. It’s like acknowledging, ‘Today is Wednesday.’ You can think whatever you want about Wednesday. You can love it, you can hate it, you can be excited because maybe you’re thinking it’s my birthday, or maybe you’re hating it because you think, ‘Oh no, I don’t want to have to do this thing tomorrow.’ Whatever it is, we just want to neutralize it.

So, step one in managing your brain is notice it. Step two is normalize it, why does it make sense that you’re thinking and feeling that way? And step three is neutralize it, look at the reality, what is true. Then step four is, ‘How do you find a new thought that you already believe? What’s a new way of looking at this? What’s a new story you could tell yourself that isn’t, ‘It’s going to be amazing and wonderful,’ but a step towards that that you already “believe in? In the reorg situation, the new thought you may want to direct your mind to is, ‘Today, right now, I’m okay. And when I know more, I’ll figure it out then.’ Right? It just feels calmer. You can keep doing your job and you keep asking questions and you keep trying to find out more data. And when you know more data, you’ll go and solve whatever problem that might be. But we’re not spinning in it, we’re not freaking out, we’re not worried about all these hypotheticals. We’re just like, ‘No, today I know who my manager is. I’m not sure who it’s going to be, but I will figure it out when I get there. Right now, I’m okay.’ That’s the new thought we want to just shift your brain to because when emotion is high, intelligence is low. We want to try to keep your emotion low. We don’t want to get caught up in the highs and lows of the emotions, we just want these little ripples up and down. Okay, ‘Right now, I’m okay,’ a new thought.

And that example where your promotion didn’t happen might be, ‘I’m allowed to be sad as long as I need to, and I’m going to do this again for me. I don’t give up on me.’ Hey, you’re just giving yourself permission to not be okay, and you’re choosing what you want to do for you, not to prove anyone else wrong, not to stick it to them, but you like your reasons why. It just feels a little more calm. Remember, these need to be things you already believe. If you don’t believe them, it’s not the right one, keep searching.

A new thought in that example where you got feedback you need to be more strategic might be, ‘All I need to focus on is the one next thing I could try.’ Or the new thought of figuring this out is how I show that I am strategic. The irony in that is not lost on me, you guys. Someone telling you you need to be more strategic and obsessing over needing someone to tell you how shows that you’re not strategic. Okay? ‘All I need to focus on is the one next thing I could try,’ a new thought you may already believe in.

That situation where you need to manage out an employee is, ‘You know what? I don’t actually want to feel good about this, and I like that about me.’ I’ve done a few episodes on this in the past. If you have to manage someone out, go listen to those. But I don’t think we want to feel good when this is the scenario we’re in. This means we’re human and we care and we’re good at our job. But just redirecting your brain away from like, ‘This is terrible, I hate this,’ to ‘I don’t want to feel good about this, and actually like that about me,’ feels better. And when you feel better, remember think-do-feel, you’re going to show up in a completely different way. You’re going to show up with more empathy, with more compassion. You’re going to let that employee respond however they need to respond and not be in a hurry to drag them and get them to feel better so you can feel better. You want to redirect yourself to a new thought.

So, the four ends of managing your brain to be the emo [emotionally] intelligent leader in the room, especially when you find yourself in these scenarios where you’re stuck and spinning out, the four ends are: first, notice. Second, normalize. Third, neutralize. And four, a new thought. All right, y’all, you are amazing. You got this. We’ll talk soon.

If what you’re learning from this podcast is helping you, this is just the beginning. Each week I offer a limited number of coffee chats so that you and I can connect one-on-one and talk specifically about what’s going on for you. You’ll leave this call feeling more hopeful and motivated, but I’m also going to teach you a few things to try right away to get unstuck. Space is very limited, and these are free, so grab your spot before they’re gone. Click the link in the show notes or go to and sign up today. You got this.





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Hey, I’m Lindsay Lyman

I spent the last ~12 years growing my career at Amazon. I’ve built teams, launched new products, and created my own jobs. As a certified coach, I teach people how to manage the noise in their head to feel motivated and valued at work again.

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