Quit Pushing My Buttons!

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How Well Do You Manage Your Emotional Reactions at Work?

Automatic, negative responses to people or events often indicate a hypersensitivity that’s referred to as “getting your buttons pushed.” At work, these emotional reactions can limit your career advancement and cap the level of success you might achieve. Sometimes these sensitivities have their origins in hurtful childhood experiences, such as repeatedly being criticized, rejected or controlled. Sometimes you’re simply at your wits end and unable to go with the flow of the day’s events.

To learn more about how well you manage your emotions at work, answer the following two sets of questions, TRUE or FALSE.

SET 1 

1. When anyone critiques my work—constructively or not—I tend to shut down and withdraw or feel ashamed.

2. When someone hurts me—for instance, if they fail to acknowledge my contribution—I lash out at them or blame myself.

3. I hate it when colleagues tell me I’m “too sensitive.”

4. When a colleague says or does something that makes me mad, it takes me a long time to let go of it. I often carry resentment.

5. Sometimes I have no idea why I respond to coworkers the way that I do—I just can’t control myself.


 1. If I feel inordinately upset or angered by something at work, I take a deep breath, and then take an honest look to see what I can learn from the situation.

2. When I feel “triggered,” I know it often has nothing to do with the person who pushed my buttons.

3. If after I have calmed down and returned to a professional state of mind, I find that a current situation needs to be addressed, I do so in a constructive manner.

4. I’m familiar with the situations to which I am most likely to overreact. I recognize when my buttons have been pushed, and I am less reactive.

5. When my buttons do get pushed now, I am able to see any unresolved personal issues needing my attention. I can then return my focus to my work.

If you answered true more often in Set 1 and false more often in Set 2, you may wish to learn how to deal more effectively with your emotional responses in the workplace. Your success depends on it!

Feel free to contact me for more on developing emotional resilience in the workplace.


Coaching Spotlight #2
By Ann Yaggie, Certified Coach & Executive Consultant

Carl had a large office and an equally formidable size desk. When I walked into his office on the morning of our first coaching session I was shocked at what I saw. Throughout the room were shelves and cabinets stuffed to the brim with all types of paper materials and books. His desk was buried beneath a white avalanche of paperwork. On the far end of the room, a small table stood enveloped in dusty piles.

Before entering his office that morning, I had begun to form a rough idea of the things that Carl and I might discuss and tackle together. After seeing where he worked, I realized that many of those topics would have to wait until we talked about just what his experience was like working in such an organizationally challenged office.

You might expect that helping my coaching clients with clutter reduction is some huge, Herculean struggle between my clients and me. Perhaps you picture me standing vigilantly over my client as they sweat under the pressure of my nagging voice and the harsh ring of my whistle. But this is actually not at all how it goes down. The reality is a lot less stressful and a lot more calm and welcomed.

Most of the people I’ve worked with to improve organization have been the first to admit that they have a messy or disorganized office, and they’re usually eager to change their habits with my help. When I broached the subject of organization with Carl, I was shocked by how easily he admitted, “Yeah, this is a distraction.” He understood the harm that disorganization did to his image and his timelines and was obviously ready to make a change.

While foraging through Carl’s piles, we discovered all sorts of important, overlooked items—even $500 in unclaimed expenses! I thought it was a perfect example of how being more organized not only improves your potential and your career, but it also saves you money.

Once we’d cleared the room of its unnecessary items, we couldn’t help but notice how different the space felt. It was so much more open, as if your mind could actually breathe better.

I’ve found that a lot of people, such as Carl, end up with a clutter problem for reasons that you wouldn’t typically associate with clutter, such as the need for perfection. Perhaps you’ve hesitated to start cleaning that room or office because you fear you couldn’t do it perfectly.

Others may avoid tackling the mess because they turn to their disorganization for distraction, or as an excuse for failure. Have you ever been guilty retreating behind your mess?

One easy way to defeat the pile of paper is to push yourself to be clearer about your goals. If you aren’t clear about what’s truly important, you may tend to keep it all stacked on top of your desk. You think, I might need this soon—better keep it out. If you fear that putting items away will cause you to forget about them, consider this: If the item is “out of sight, out of mind,” perhaps it should be out of mind. Is it really that important?

Many people have lived with clutter for 30+ years and are just waiting for the extra push to change. If you’re interested in learning how executive coaching can help you or others in your organization to create organization, develop potential, facilitate a transition, act as a sounding board, address derailing behavior, or take control of the pace and quality of life and work, don’t hesitate to contact me today.



Stop Playing Clutter Catch-Up

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By Ann Yaggie, Certified Coach & Executive Consultant

You wouldn’t believe how many of my coaching clients who are all impressive, professional, and often overachieving have struggled with clutter at work and home. The fact of the matter is, the world around us is full of mail, contracts, bills, receipts, statements, emails, free handouts, advertisements, post-its, and a million other types of electronic and physical items that constantly enter into our lives.

Although these things seem initially benign, the way we deal with these items can mean the difference between successfully achieving the project of your dreams and failing to get the memo about an action point that could cost you your career.

Perhaps the word “organization” conjures the image of drawer organizers and an alarmingly clean and sterile desk. But organization is more than just a keyboard cleaner—it’s about using routines and structure to help you fulfill your own potential.

Therefore, organization is not necessarily about placing restrictions on your life. A well-organized office and work life actually results in freedom—the freedom to live, work, and relax exactly as you want. Your environment should encourage the way you live, who you are, and what you want to achieve—not hamper it.

The Biggest Organizational Obstacles

  • Clutter
  • Planning
  • Follow-Through

Clutter concerns your physical environment, while planning and follow-through are about time management. Today we’ll tackle your space and stuff.

The process of conquering the stacks of stuff involves asking five situation-assessing questions:

  1. What’s working? It’s helpful to know what’s not “broken” so that you don’t spend time fixing it. Also, a little “good news” is nice to hear.
  2. What’s not working? Take a big picture approach here. It takes forever to get things done, because I can’t easily find what I need, so I work a lot of overtime.
  3. What items are most essential to you? What do you need to have at hand? What papers represent the crux of your business?
  4. Why do you want to get organized? These are the benefits you will derive from an organized office/desk. Less anxiety, more energy for work, more room for work.
  5. What’s causing the problems? Some of the most common sources of office clutter: inconvenient or insufficient storage, no designated “home” for things, perception of not enough time to get or stay organized.

Once you’ve identified what isn’t working, come up with a strategy for developing a better way of storing and organizing. When dealing with paperwork, which is often the #1 source of clutter in the office: use these four guidelines for refining your approach to processing paperwork—and even electronic communication—so that it doesn’t build up. To take control of your piles, always take one of the four actions below:

  • Toss it (Delete, if electronic)
  • Refer it (Forward)
  • Act on it personally
  • File it (Archive)

If you always take one of the four actions above when faced with a new piece of paper, you’ll soon be enjoying the bliss of a paper pile-free life (and long live the TOSS!).

By Ann Yaggie, Certified Coach & Executive Consultant

Have you ever missed out on a fantastic opportunity because of disorganization? Perhaps you misplaced a phone number or document, allowed an important email to get lost in the inbox pileup, or overlooked a crucial action point because of your desk’s chaos?

Nothing feels worse than being aware of missing an opportunity due to your own disorganization—your own mistake. This kind of disorganization wastes time and energy, causes stress and embarrassment, and generally results in some pretty guilty feelings.

If any of the trademark indications of disorganization above sound familiar to you, then it’s time to face the reality that you may be sabotaging your own success.

This is because there is a direct correlation between organization and success.

Before you begin the journey toward a more organized life, it’s important to acknowledge that no big change happens overnight—adding organization to your life requires effort—but, in the end, the payoff will greatly surpass any growing pains you encounter.

To achieve sustainable change, it’s important to understand and work with or around psychological obstacles to a clutter-free environment. The first step is to acknowledge that your life and career would benefit from improved organization. The second step is to understand what’s caused the clutter in the first place. Causes may include:

  • Unclear Goals and Priorities: Organizing is about defining what’s important and setting up a system to reflects these priorities. Perhaps you struggle to prioritize tasks, and this causes you to give all of your files, emails, or paperwork “top priority” on your desk or laptop.
  • Fear of Success/Fear of Failure: Disorganization may be a convenient way to hold back. It’s only normal to have that stomach-jumping feeling when we actually achieve the promotion, job offer, project, etc. we’ve been hoping for. Don’t let your fear of performance cause you to sabotage yourself through your clutter.
  • Need to Retreat: Clutter can be a protective shield that makes you feel as though you’re keeping others at a safe distance. Realize this is just a mirage and ask yourself why you feel the need for distance.
  • Fear of Losing Creativity: A common myth is that creative, “right-brained” people need to work in chaos to produce high-quality work. Balderdash!
  • Need for Distraction: Clutter can provide a convenient excuse to avoid uncomfortable issues or unwanted tasks. Start to acknowledge instances when you allow your inability to locate something, or need to do a flash-cleaning, to distract you from the real task at hand.
  • Need for Perfection: Often, people won’t deal with clutter until it can be done perfectly. Translation: It will never get done.

Identifying the obstacles to an organized office and work life can go a long way toward creating an effective, lasting solution to clutter and disorganization. Along the way, you might just find yourself fulfilling your potential, too!

Interested in learning more about how to tackle the task of de-cluttering, so that you can finally move on with your life and realize your own potential? Stay tuned for my next blog article on how to stop the cycle of clutter catch-up once and for all.

Feel free to contact me for more on changes that can help transform your career and your life.


Are You a Goal Abandoner?

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By Ann Yaggie, Certified Coach & Executive Consultant
Coaching Spotlight #2

For this month’s coaching spotlight, I’d like to talk about a certain client whose challenges will probably sound familiar to many of us. For the sake of anonymity, we’ll call this coaching client JB.

In the end, JB was able to see fantastic results from the time we spent together. However, this change did not come without some important realizations concerning his goal-setting habits.

From the beginning, JB was determined to improve. But, despite this determination, he was practicing certain self-sabotaging habits that were setting his progress back. Each time we met to discuss his progress, JB would eschew the last session’s goals without a moment’s hesitation and replace these old goals with new ones.

JB’s new goals addressed important issues and were made in honesty, but they were also completely unrelated to his previous goals, which were now going ignored and unmet. Instead of seeing a goal through, JB would toss it out and replace it. I began to notice that this habit was preventing him from making any real progress.

Some of these new goals are probably familiar to a lot of you. Have you ever begun to think about a goal of your own, and suddenly branched off into the long laundry list of your worries or aspirations such as:

  • “I want to figure out what’s next for my career.”
  • “I want to lose weight, start eating and exercising right.”
  • “I want to get my finances in order.”
  • “I’d like to be more involved in my community.”

In addition to surprising me with these new goals during our sessions, JB would change goals in between our meetings. This habit left me, as his coach, completely in the dark and without the ability to help or guide him.

Have you ever caught yourself falling prey to the temptation of getting lost in your own possibilities? I’ve certainly witnessed this detrimental tendency in myself! I used to think that if I address one goal or problem, that I will have to address them all. The problem with this habitual thought process is that it distracts you from acting.

In the end, JB was able to move past this stage of transient goals and ensuing stagnation. He did this by asking himself some revealing and essential questions:

  • What is behind all of this goal changing?
  • Is there something regarding these goals/changes that I fear?
  • Are my goals the right goals? Perhaps they’re not resonant or thrilling?

As a coach, I’ve found that the majority of unmet goals are the result of two things: A fear of change or a failure to establish an appropriate goal. Once you’ve identified and overcome your fear, strengthened your conviction, and set off on your path forward, there’s only real, positive change to come!

If you’re interested in a helping hand as you see your goals through to the big, fantastic, end, contact me today!


Giving Way to Passion

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By Ann Yaggie, Certified Coach & Executive Consultant

Sometimes even a fantastic opportunity can feel like a chore or be a source of stress. Why is this? Often, this is because we tend to think about things in terms of their many details, and with a special attention to the way they should be done. We often place a great pressure on ourselves to do things the right way.

Well, readers, I’m here to tell you that there’s no need for this kind of thought. Thoughts based in fear of doing less than perfect only dissuade us from following our dreams and expressing our passion. Authors Benjamin Zander, the conductor of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra, and his wife Rosamund Stone Zander, a teacher and communicator, explore the skill of harnessing passion in their nationally bestselling book, The Art of Possibility.

According to The Art of Possibility, the act of giving way to passion has two steps:

  1. Notice where you’re holding back, and let go: “Release those barriers of self that keep you separate and in control, and let the vital energy of passion surge through you, connecting you to all beyond.
  2. Participate wholly: “Allow yourself to be a channel to shape the stream of passion into a new expression for the world.”

According to Step #1, we must first identify a realm in our own lives where we’re limiting ourselves, and let go of restraint. Only then will we be able to take our passion and (Step #2) run with it.

Think of yourself as offering your own unique energy to the world, and don’t let a focus on the perfection of details stifle that flow. This concept can easily be applied to the things we allow to monopolize our thoughts and lives.

Take a moment to consider the larger areas of your life where you make your contribution. We have a tendency to focus on the minor shortcomings of our life without considering the larger energy and uniqueness we donate to the world around us.

Rosamund encourages us to focus on the way we express passion in a larger sense. “Life takes on shape and meaning when a person is able to transcend the barriers of personal survival and become a unique conduit for its vital energy.” So how do we transcend the barriers of personal survival? Sometimes all that is lacking is the willingness to get up, to flow, to move around, to pick up and go somewhere in the name of realizing and expressing your passion.

Benjamin elaborates on the power of expressing passion: “The access to passion gives momentum to efforts to build a business plan , it gives reason to set up working teams, it gives power to settling individual demands, and it gives urgency to communicating across sections of a company.”

What Benjamin reminds us of is that our own passion fuels our goals and our everyday lives. Remember why you’re here. Remember what it is you are passionate about. Get excited, get going, and be willing to move beyond your reservations and immerse yourself in your passions.

Where are you holding back?

By Ann Yaggie, Certified Coach & Executive Consultant

Although it may at first seem difficult to believe, many of us occasionally do things to thwart our own efforts. Do you suffer from:

»    Habitual lateness
»    Extreme disorganization
»    Not following up on sales leads
»    Perpetual apologizing

Self-sabotage takes on a variety of guises and affects people of all ages, professions, and economic levels. This nasty habit is actually a silent killer because it often prevents us from living the life we truly want for ourselves.

Are you interested in finding out if you’re stunting your own potential? Take this Self-Sabotage Quiz to see whether you might be working against yourself and preventing your own aspirations from being realized. Answer “yes” or “no” to each of the following questions:

The Self-Sabotage Quiz

1. It takes me at least half an hour to locate a document I need to send to someone.
2. I can be indecisive and fearful. As a result, chances often pass me by.
3. I tend to start projects with great gusto, but have great difficulty finishing them.
4. My financial situation is chronically chaotic.
5. My actions often jeopardize my relationships, my job, and/or my financial stability.
6. I worry a lot about what others think of me.
7. I practice compulsive behaviors (excessive eating, unhealthy substances or activities).
8. I always seem to be struggling.
9. I’ve been told I have a problem expressing anger appropriately.
10. I put off things I want or need; Procrastination and reliability are problems for me.
11. I’m still not living the life I truly want, and I’m starting to lose hope that I ever will.
12. I frequently have the thought that I can’t or shouldn’t do what I really want.
13. My relationships tend to eventually fall apart, or I stay in unhealthy relationships.
14. When I consider working out, I think about all the things I “should” be doing instead.
15. I’m often late to work and late with assignments; this has hurt my career.
16. I avoid confrontation and/or fawn over others in order to be liked/win their favor.
17. I repeatedly make self-deprecating, belittling comments about myself.
18. I know I could do more with my life if I could just get out of my own way.

If you’ve answered “yes” to three or more of these questions, it’s time to start the journey toward giving yourself a fair shot at making your life what you want it to be.

Self-defeating behaviors often mask a fear of change and growing. When we deliberately hamper our own efforts, we avoid the knowledge that our life is up to us, and that we do indeed get to choose. Just imagine your life if you put as much energy and creativity into manifesting goals as you do avoiding them. It’s not easy to change self-sabotaging patterns, but with time and practice—and a good dose of self-love—it is possible to end a self-defeating cycle and live the life we truly want for ourselves.

Are you interested in a helping hand as you tackle your own self-sabotaging habits? Contact Ann today to learn how coaching can help you to realize your own fantastic potential.

Author’s content used under license, © 2008 Claire Communications

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By Ann Yaggie, Certified Coach & Executive Consultant

Role models are supposed to help us become the person we want to be and inspire us. More than likely you can recall some of your most important childhood role models, and maybe even name a few adults ones too. But have you ever considered whether you yourself are taking the steps to be a good role model for others – at home? At work? On the playground?

Let’s push the typical concept of the role model beyond grade school and into the workplace, because working with people you admire and who inspire you can uplift your career and your 9 – 5.

The Good Work Role Model Checklist

(If you aren’t already tackling these things in your career, now’s as good a time as any to start setting an example!

  1. Have Confidence: This boils down to understanding who you are, what you aim to achieve, and having faith in your skills. Remain true to your values and personality. No one wants to stand behind a wishy-washy character, let alone look to them for guidance.
  2. Think Uniquely and Accept Exceptions: Who better to look to for leadership than an out-of-the-box thinker? This idea applies to expectations for personalities and social styles in people, as well as an ability to see the gray area in everyday situations. Recognize that each situation and person is different.
  3. Be Kind to Others: When the pressure is high and the competition is turned way up, it’s too easy to lose sight of the human aspect at work. Never sacrifice another person for work. Make these person-to-person interactions and the support of others your number one priority.
  4. Shake the Self-Interest: We all want to succeed—this is a given. But what is the point of “success” when it leaves everyone else in the dust? When you notice yourself getting heated about something and really pushing for it, ask yourself what’s really motivating you. If the motivation is self-interest, rethink your goal. If your motivation is group-interest, rethink your approach.
  5. Be a Doer: People are always afraid to try new things—a new experience can be a little scary and risks failure. But seeing someone you know try something new gives you the confidence to take similar steps. Whether this is a new approach to a common project or an attempt to create a new community engagement initiative, stop talking about it and go for it (and rally the troops to help)!

Making an effort to be a better role model not only helps others to achieve their best, but also helps you to live a more centered and fulfilling life in and outside of work. Think about it as a chance to change playground etiquette for the better!


Lighten Up!

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By Ann Yaggie, Certified Coach & Executive Consultant

Two prime ministers are sitting in a room discussing affairs of state. Suddenly a man bursts in, apoplectic with fury, shouting and stamping and banging his fist on the desk. The resident prime minister admonishes him: “Peter” he says, “kindly remember Rule Number 6,” whereupon Peter is instantly restored to complete calm, apologizes, and withdraws. The politicians return to their conversation, only to be interrupted yet again twenty minutes later by an hysterical woman gesticulating wildly, her hair flying. Again the intruder is greeted with the words: “Marie, please remember Rule Number 6.” Complete calm descends once more, and she too withdraws with a bow and an apology. When the scene is repeated for a third time, the visiting prime minister addresses his colleague: “My dear friend, I’ve seen many things in my life, but never anything as remarkable as this. Would you be willing to share with me the secret of Rule Number 6?” “Very simple,” replies the resident prime minister. “Rule Number 6 is ‘Don’t take yourself so g—damn seriously.’” “Ah,” says his visitor, “that is a fine rule.” After a moment of pondering, he inquires, “And what, may I ask, are the other rules?”

                “There aren’t any.”

Rosamund Stone Zander & Benjamin Zander, The Art of Possibility

When I first read the short story above, my initial reaction was delight in the possibility that life could be as easy as simply deciding not to take myself so seriously. Can I actually overcome my troubles and challenges by getting over myself?  How wonderful to realize that by remaining calm and cool about the problems that I would have previously lost composure over, I’m actually taking control of my life. If I take myself less seriously, I get to choose the things that get to me, so to speak.

Easy Ways to Lighten Up Your Day – Starting Now

  • Accept that you don’t know everything, and begin living your life in a way that reflects this. Too often I watch myself and others run around with minor “master of the world” complexes that get in the way of actually learning and listening.
  • Let go of the unnecessary things that weigh you down or cause you too much stress. So you made a mistake on your most recent newsletter or forgot your sister’s birthday. Make amends and let it go.
  • Choose how you feel, instead of allowing your emotions to take over. Things (as I mentioned on my most recent Newsletter on Finding Your Center) go crazy. Life is unpredictable. Don’t let life control your mental wellbeing.
  • Keep your ego in check. When faced with a stressful interaction, project, or decision, ask yourself “Why do I care about this so much? Is my concern founded on something worthwhile, or something selfish in nature?”
  • Make time to reflect on all of the events going on in your life, and stay focused on the major objectives of your work and activities. It’s easy to get bogged down in the day-to-day demands of life when you lose sight of the reason you signed up in the first place. Is something you signed up for no longer providing your with the experience or result that originally motivated you? Perhaps the payoff isn’t balanced by the emotional or energy cost?

If you start to practice just one of the processes for refining your way of looking at life, I believe you’ll find it just a little easier to deal with the next unexpected challenge with a little more levity and composure.


Can You Say “No”?

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By Ann Yaggie, Certified Coach & Executive Consultant

I admire people who seem to have a natural ability to guiltlessly decline requests or offers. As my appreciation for the skill of saying “no” has grown, I’ve also noticed that the people who are comfortable saying “no” are also often better at regulating their own stress and staying calm.

At this point it’s probably obvious that signing up for too many things is the cause of many an overwhelmed schedule. Whether at home, with friends, in the community, or at work many of us suffer from an inability to say “no.” Luckily, this life-balancing skill can be developed with the help of some deceptively simple steps.

Why Do We Resist Saying “No”?

The truth is, many people often avoid saying “no” because they feel that to do so would make them selfish, lazy, or vulnerable. More often than not, these fears are unfounded and unhealthy. Despite these fears, saying “no” can actually be a good thing. It allows us to honor our existing obligations. Instead of cramming more items onto your task list, saying “no” allows you to devote quality time to your preexisting commitments and avoids the stress of an overworked schedule.

Don’t allow a fear of the reaction or opinion of others to prevent you from doing what is best for you—focus on what is necessary to establish your own healthy balance. If saying “yes” might prevent you from feeling happy and balanced, then it’s time to make a change.

When to Say “No”

Here are a few ways to decide what to toss and what to keep:

The Post-It Note Test
I often suggest this exercise to my clients who struggle with schedule overload.

  1. Write down each task you’re concerned with completing in the next few weeks on a separate post-it note.
  2. After you have compiled your post-it note tasks, organize these tasks into major categories such as “home” and “work”. Use categories that make sense for what you need to focus on in order to feel successful in the next few weeks.
  3. Weigh the importance of every task that’s on your to-do list (whether this list is in your mind or on paper).
  4. Eliminate the post-its that don’t fit into your main categories, or which stand out as obviously unnecessary.

The Stress-to-Yes Ratio
Another easy way to decide if something is yes-worthy is to weigh the stress-to-yes ratio. Is the task worthy of the stress it will cause you? I often find that my initial impulse is to put a lot more effort into basic and unimportant tasks than is necessary.

Give Up the Guilt
Never say “yes” because of guilt or obligation. Living your life like this will only lead to added stress and dissatisfaction.

Step Away and Reflect
If faced with a particularly difficult request that has you on the fence, it’s always wise to allot extra time for reflection as a last precaution. Avoid impulsive responses by taking a step away from the situation to weigh preexisting obligations and feelings. You can “step away” simply by asking if you can respond at a later date.