One of the most formative moments in my childhood came when my dad told me to saddle up my horse Sugar and ride with him to help Uncle Bob move several hundred of cattle to Bear Creek.
We lived on a cattle ranch in Wyoming and I felt certain that, since I was a girl, my brother would be the one chosen to trail cattle and I’d be left behind peeling potatoes with mom. Smug with joy, I rode out of the corral, tossed the potato peeler at my brother as I passed by, and sat tall in the saddle.
It was a day that changed my life because I had stolen a glimpse into a future where I didn’t have to listen to bulls#*t excuses that could hold me, and other women leaders, back.
Here are four:
1. Caving In To Stereotypes
Somewhere on that ride to Uncle Bob’s ranch, I understood that I didn’t have to be held prisoner to a stereotype—no staying behind with the women and swapping double-crust pies recipes for me. I was a cowboy—I mean, a cowgirl. A few years later, I became an FBI agent. If I thought the world of cowboys was full of stereotypes, I came across a few more in the masculine-dominated world of law enforcement.
My philosophy was this: someone stupid enough to rely on stereotypes is stupid enough to make really stupid mistakes.
Wait long enough and they’ll step in something fresh and sticky—coming from a cattle ranch, I could smell it a mile away.
Stereotypes are one of those ugly phrases that are freighted with negative connotations. But unconsciously, we make excuses for ourselves that are based on nothing more than stereotypes we’ve cultivated about ourselves.
For example, whenever we adopt a self-limiting belief, we’ve placed ourselves into a “category” and often refuse to move beyond it.
2. Get The Real Scoop On Women’s Intuition
As a female, I’ve always wondered whether such a thing as “women’s intuition” really exists. More than once I’ve been told that I have this particular feminine gift but I never knew how to respond—because although it was meant as a compliment, it always rang a little false.
A few years back, Professor of Psychology at the University of Texas, William Ickes, began a series of mind reading studies. He expected to find that women leaders would be more intuitive in understanding other people’s thoughts and feelings. Ickes and his team were surprised, however, to find no difference between the men and women they tested.
Just as they were thinking of throwing “women’s intuition” into the myth pile, they did three studies in a row where women leaders scored significantly higher than the men. This left Ickes scratching his head so they went back and took a closer look at what had changed.
As it turns out, in the last three studies the research team had started the study by stating that women, according to the women’s intuition stereotype, would excel.
Once the women leaders understood they would be rated on their intuition, they tried harder to live up to that stereotype, and this is the thing—they did perform higher than the men.
Studies like those conducted by Ickes and his team suggest that it’s not that men are poor mind readers, they’re just unmotivated ones. Women, on the other hand, are motivated by the positive stereotype of women’s intuition. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy!
3. Let Go Of What Happened In The Past
The only time you need to look back is to see how far you’ve come.
Recognize that your recollection of the past is not always accurate; our memories are fallible.
Our memory does not store information exactly as it’s presented to us. Instead, we extract the gist of the experience and store it in ways that makes the most sense to us. That’s why different people witnessing the same event often have different versions.
Learn from past mistakes—turn your ghosts into ancestors that make you who you are today!
4. There Is No Such Thing As “Too Late”
It is never too late to become the person you were meant to be, and live the life you were meant to live.
If you’re not on the right course, change course—the sooner, the better. There is no age limit on starting anew, and settling for a life that is mediocre is a tragic end to the only story your life will ever tell.
Successful women leaders reinvent themselves regularly as new opportunities pop up and they set new goals for themselves. They have the initiative to try new things, even scary ones, rather than remain in a rut that looks more and more like a coffin everyday.
Live a life you are proud of by finding the courage to make the changes you need to make.
I have always believed that people—both women and men—can achieve what they desire if they are motivated. There is a new generation of women leaders in the workplace who are more confident than the women who came before them. They’ve been told they can accomplish anything they put their mind to.
That’s a stereotype I can live with.
Men and women leaders—what stereotypes have you busted through to get where you are?
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