lundi 18 décembre 2006

Are you heading north-east?

Later that night
Steve stood in the shower for 20 minutes, cleansing away the
excesses of his early-evening sorrow-drowning visit to the Jug
and Claret.
He played over in his mind the image of the factory wall – and his
thoughts of driving into it. But he couldn’t contemplate telling
He felt such a failure.
‘I was at yoga tonight,’ volunteered Lynn when Steve re-emerged,
hair wet, in his dressing gown.
‘Yeah?’ replied Steve, making an effort to sound interested.
‘It was great,’ she continued. ‘I dropped Nicky off with mum and
had an hour of “me” time. We did all sorts of stretching exercises
and deep breathing, followed by a relaxation period at the end
when we had to visualize tranquil images.’
Steve was visualizing little else than the pictures running through
his mind of brick walls and unfamiliar industrial estates.
‘At the end,’ persisted Lynn, ‘I almost fell asleep. But I could hear
the instructor’s voice in the background. It was fantastic. Felt as if
I’d had a great night’s sleep.’
‘Great,’ said Steve, a little more encouragingly. ‘Sounds like you’re
really enjoying it.’
‘So when are you starting five-a-side football?’ asked Lynn.
‘I can’t even think of that right now,’ he replied. ‘I’ve got too
much on my mind.’
‘All the more reason to go and get some exercise,’ Lynn replied.
Over supper, the conversation turned to Lynn’s earlier description
of her husband’s attitude to life.
‘Lynn, what did you mean when you said I was “driven”?’ Steve
‘I just meant that you’re a man with a mission – always in a hurry
– living life at 100 miles an hour – chasing success – but never
really enjoying the highs along the way,’ came a fuller answer
than he had expected.
‘But you have to work hard to achieve anything,’ replied Steve.
‘How can I afford to slow down with the Bulldog chasing me
down the garden path?’
‘Steve, you’ve been like that from the moment we met – and
probably long before that,’ retorted Lynn. ‘And when you were
flying high last year, you still seemed unable to relax.’
‘Well, I always said it would come to an end. I felt I’d be found
out,’ replied Steve. ‘And I was right.’
Steve paused to think before asking, ‘So what’s the alternative?’
‘The alternative is to believe in yourself more,’ said Lynn, ‘trust
your judgement, be aware of your talent, understand that you’re
good at what you do and focus on success – rather than be ter-
rified of failure.’
‘Yeah, but with an overbearing boss …’ started Steve.
‘It’s nothing to do with your boss,’ interrupted Lynn. ‘You were
like that before Dave arrived. It’s about you, Steve. Your attitude,
your outlook, your self-belief. Just look at this Confidence Com-
pass on my laptop,’ she insisted, drawing in a second chair beside
the computer.
Lynn brought up the diagram on her screen and started to explain
how it worked. Steve’s initial resistance became quiet intrigue. He
listened to her explanations and began to ask himself deep and
searching questions about the way he went about his life.
The Confidence Compass
Steve and Lynn are at a turning point in their lives.
Their awareness of each other’s behaviour is about to take a leap
forward as they discuss together what makes them tick. This is the
first meaningful conversation they’ve had for some time, since
communication between them has recently been strained.
Along with this increased awareness, Lynn and Steve have the
wonderful opportunity to change things for the better – to improve
the quality of their individual lives as well as their relationship.
There is a genuine opportunity here for them to feel happier about
There are two axes to the Confidence Compass that Lynn and
Steve need to understand if they are to work out their position on
it and move in the right direction.
The north–south self-worth axis
Self-worth is to do with having a sense of inner value, significance
and goodness – just for being alive rather than for what we do.
It’s our own evaluation of ourselves. The further north Steve and
Lynn are on the line, the healthier and stronger is their sense of

The east–west self-competence axis
Self-competence is about possessing a good set of life skills that are
adequate and appropriate to each person’s life.
It can vary depending on the situation we are in and upon our
circumstances. Clearly, it’s possible to possess a good sense of self-
competence in one area of our lives, like work for example. But
it’s also possible to feel like a fish out of water in a different setting,
perhaps a social situation such as a party.
It’s best summed up as a sense of feeling able to cope with life and
its challenges.
The further east Lynn and Steve are on the line, the better their
sense of self-competence.
When combined together, healthy self-competence and self-worth
bring a sense of being ‘good enough’ for life.
This is one of the secrets of happiness.
Driven Steve
Steve’s learning just how ‘driven’ he is and how much this has
gradually increased over the years without him realizing it.
Lynn is only too quick to point this out and gives him invaluable
feedback into the extent of his ‘driven-ness’ and the effect it has
had on those around him, particularly Nicky and her.
Being so focused on achievement in this way is a characteristic of
‘south-easterners’ – those who are in the south-east quadrant of
the Confidence Compass.
South-easterners are frequently very talented and can often be-
come workaholics.
But their levels of competence and self-worth are unbalanced.
Steve rates himself as a south-easterner. His self-competence is
high but his self-worth is low.
He recognizes that he drives himself on to greater and greater
achievements in an attempt to discover a better sense of self-worth
– to feel good about himself and his success, deep down inside.
Until now, Steve has had little insight into this aspect of his over-
achieving behaviour and has often found himself being excessive-
ly self-critical.
Whenever a project is successfully completed, he moves on quick-
ly to the next one, unconsciously hoping that its completion will
bring a more lasting sense of self-worth with it.
But somehow it never ever does.
‘So where are you on this compass?’ Steve asked.
‘Me?’ replied Lynn. ‘Well, I’d never really thought …’
‘Yes you have,’ he shot back. ‘Where are you?’
Lynn giggled. She had thought about it for some time, but found
it difficult to evaluate her life the way she seemed so comfortable
evaluating others’.
‘Well, let me look at these sectors one by one,’ teased Steve, ‘and
we’ll soon find out where you’re hiding. North-west,’ he began.
‘If I understand what you’re saying, this would be someone who’s
arrogant, through a self-belief that outstrips their ability.’
Lynn looked at him, daring him to attach that label.
‘Definitely not!’ he concluded. ‘No – that would apply to the
Bulldog, though. A bully and an arrogant sod.’
‘And it would apply to Helena,’ volunteered Lynn. ‘She’s good at
spreading tittle-tattle and dwelling on herself, rather than me.
Domineering in her behaviour too. Definitely a north-western-
‘OK,’ began Steve, ‘if you’re not inhabiting the north-west, are
you in the south-east with me? Good at what you do, but unable
to believe it – and so driven to success?’
‘Certainly not,’ asserted Lynn. ‘You may feel you have to win
everything, but I take a far more pragmatic view.’
‘That’s just because you hate competition, Lynn,’ replied Steve.
‘No, I like competition,’ explained Lynn. ‘So when I play tennis, I
play to win. But I don’t feel unworthy if I lose.’
‘You’ve lost me,’ said Steve, without a hint of irony.
‘There’s a big difference between wanting to win and feeling you
have to beat the opposition to feel better about yourself,’ clari-
fied Lynn. ‘That’s the difference between you and me.’
‘Or maybe you’re just not all that good at what you do – so you
lack competence,’ prodded Steve. ‘That’s perhaps why you’re not
beside me in the south-east sector.’
‘Well, I feel I have a lot to learn at work yet,’ began Lynn. ‘But it’s
not just about work. It’s about your ability to foster relationships,
for a start. And there I think I’m better than you!’
‘Oh, so you are competitive,’ teased Steve. ‘But not in the south-
east! What, then, about the north-east? Are you the rounded,
confident person this compass says you’d be if you were up in
that quadrant? In fact, does this person exist?’
‘Yes, well, what about your old boss Craig?’ suggested Lynn.
‘He seemed so comfortable with himself, yet good at motivating
‘Correct,’ continued Steve. ‘And do you know – I once told him
that I’d never heard him criticize anybody. He told me that he
only ever told people one-to-one what he thought they could do
to improve.’
‘And yet he’s also competitive,’ offered Lynn, ‘but in a positive
way. He got promotion last year, didn’t he?’
‘Sure, he’s the Group Chief Executive now,’ finished Steve. ‘And,
interestingly, he’s got there without standing on anybody’s neck
to climb to the top.’
‘You always said you can be too confident, didn’t you, Steve?’
asked Lynn. ‘But Craig’s an example of someone who seems
genuinely confident, yet a delight to be around.’
A short silence was broken by Steve concluding, ‘So, anyway,
Craig is a north-easterner – but you’re not!’
‘Not yet,’ began Lynn. ‘But that’s where I want to be. I think I’m
just into the south-west sector and no more, because I’m learn-
ing new skills all the time but I really don’t believe enough in
‘You spend too much time pleasing other people and not enough
time on yourself,’ said Steve.
‘But that’s changing,’ began Lynn, a little impatiently. ‘I mean, if
you look at what I’ve done recently – my visits to mum’s I’ve re-
stricted to weekends, where possible – unless I’m dropping Nicky
off to let me get to yoga. Also, I’ve put Helena and Clare off from
dropping round recently and instead got the three of us to go
out for a meal. And we actually … wait for it … talked about me
for a change!’
‘Quite right,’ continued Steve. ‘And you’ve done all that by being
more assertive with your mum and your friends. I reckon that
comes from having a bit more belief in your right to make ar-
rangements that suit you instead of everybody else.’
‘And I’ve stopped answering the phone when I’m having dinner,’
beamed Lynn.
‘It’s a request …’ began Steve ‘… not a demand,’ finished Lynn.
People pleaser Lynn
Lynn is uncomfortable just thinking about herself, and even more
so talking about herself, because she is so used to considering
others first. It makes her feel embarrassed, even a little guilty.
Steve provokes her with irritating suggestions about where she
is on the self-esteem compass in order to help her overcome her
discomfort at talking about herself.
And it works.
Lynn recognizes that she is in the south-west quadrant – a ‘south-
westerner.’ Both her sense of self-competence and her self-worth
are a little on the low side.
But Lynn also realizes that possessing a good set of life skills is more
than just being competent in a work situation. It’s also about hav-
ing good relationship, parenting and friendship skills.
Lynn senses that ‘coping’ means so much more than just managing
well at work.
Coping is about having a range of life skills of a breadth and depth
sufficient for life itself.
And Lynn clearly wants to change – to improve her coping abilities
and to build on her self-worth.
Lynn is planning a quadrant move into the north-east sector. She
wants to become a north-easterner.
Dave the Bulldog
Some people have very limited abilities in many areas of their lives
but think that they’re wonderful.
Their self-competence is poor but their sense of self-worth is un-
realistically high. They are arrogant, conceited, egocentric and full
of grandiose self-beliefs. In other words, they are ‘bigheads’.
And everyone around them knows – but them.
Dave the Bulldog is one of these – a bighead and a bully, too. He
thinks inappropriately highly of himself, but others only too clear-
ly see his limitations.
In a sense, he’s out of touch with reality about himself while others
can see through him only too well.
All bluff and bluster, he most certainly fails to ‘walk the talk’.
Dave’s speeches sound convincing but his promises are shallow
– and seldom translate into appropriate action.
He’s an ‘emperor with no clothes’ who elects to give himself pompous
job titles. Dave exudes a sense of false confidence.
This is the type of confidence that is often confused for genuine
confidence – masquerading as the real thing.
We often mistake the antics of showmanship for confidence. But
authentic confidence produces statesman-like leadership, with in-
Confident Craig
Steve’s old boss, Craig, is set on the right Confidence Compass
Both Lynn and Steve recognize that Craig possesses a healthy
sense of self-worth, which is balanced by a good sense of self-com-
petence that is reality based.
He is confident without being arrogant and successful without
being ruthlessly ambitious.
Craig helps others to grow along with him because he has nothing
invested in walking over them in order to get to the top.
Steve and Lynn realize for the first time just what it is that makes
Craig such an attractive person, a good colleague and great com-
Craig has good self-esteem and possesses genuine self-confidence.
‘What about you, Steve?’ Lynn asked. ‘How are you going to
head north-east?’
‘Well,’ Steve began tentatively, ‘I suppose I’ll have to start believ-
ing more in myself. But it’s not easy when you hear your dad’s
voice criticizing you at every turn.’
‘He’s been dead for years, Steve. And you know his criticism was
unfair,’ said Lynn. ‘Listen instead to what Craig told you – and
what I tell you all the time. Surely we know the grown-up Steve
much better than your dad ever did!’
‘You’re right, Lynn. It’s just hard,’ reflected Steve.
‘Well, I’ll help you if you help me,’ offered Lynn.
‘Absolutely,’ confirmed Steve. ‘Now come to bed and we’ll con-
tinue this conversation in the morning.’
‘Is that a request or a demand?’ asked Lynn.
‘Both,’ laughed Steve.

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