Sharon was a dentist who appeared to have it all. She had developed a part-time practice, which allowed her to design her life around her two young children and was actively involved in her community. Yet she often appeared overwhelmed and didn’t project the self- assurance one would expect from an accomplished professional. She sought my assistance because she was feeling burned out, stressed out and unsure whether to close or continue her practice.


As we worked together, it became evident that Sharon was a classic example of “struggle and juggle syndrome”. This inner struggle arises from a lack of clarity about our priorities. When we’re fuzzy about what’s important to us, we show up as indecisive, hesitant and anxious, which translates into low self-confidence. Because research has established that self-confident individuals are more respected, admired and trusted by their peers, those with low self-confidence – like Sharon – don’t enjoy the same business success as their more self-assured colleagues.

I’ve been caught up in the struggle and juggle syndrome myself and in my twenty years of coaching business and professional women, I’ve seen this struggle slowly erode their self-confidence.   This often takes the form of agonizing over such questions as:

What if I accept that promotion and the longer working hours negatively impact my children?

How can I possibly join my team in working this weekend to complete this critical project by Monday’s deadline when I have plans to go camping with my family?

Should I volunteer for this career enhancing assignment that requires me to travel even though it might jeopardize this new relationship?

These are issues that every business person has to grapple with, but when we are fuzzy about our priorities, we can agonize for so long that we miss out on opportunities. When we finally make a decision, we may continually second guess ourselves and feel anxious about neglecting our professional obligations or guilty about not being with loved ones.  As a result, we’re often less present in our personal life and less engaged and focused at work.

Another pernicious side effect of a lack of clarity is the inability to set boundaries in our personal and professional lives. This means that we become part of someone else’s agenda.   Because we’re not living our own priorities but trying to juggle obligations to our boss, colleagues or family members, we wind up living in a chronic state of overwhelm, anxiety and stress, which can further undermine our confidence.


Think about every confident person you know. No matter what their vocation, they are clear about what matters to them. They’ve developed an inner compass that guides them in setting their priorities, making tough decisions and setting boundaries. As a result, they show up as grounded, decisive, and self-assured.

In guiding Sharon to develop her inner compass,   I challenged to revisit her core values, purpose and vision for her life and career.   Once she was clear about her values and vision, she restructured her practice to be more efficient, released several obligations that no longer served her, and began setting boundaries with her colleagues, patients and family. As she took a stand for what mattered to her, she projected more self-assurance in work and life. Even as she devoted more time to self-care and her family, her practice thrived and she had her best year ever in business.


Set aside some time to journal about these questions.

  1. What are your core values? What’s non-negotiable for you in how you live your life? What are you willing to sacrifice for? Family? Friends?  Spirituality? Good health? Financial security? Making a difference? List your five top values and then prioritize them.
  2. What’s your vision for how you want to live your life? What’s your lifestyle? Who do you live with? Where do you live? How do you spend your time?
  3. How is your career contributing to your life vision?
  4. Where do you want to be five years from now in your life and career?
  5. Is the life you’re living today aligned with your values and vision?


Creating an inner compass forces you to define your values and vision for your work and life. Once you’ re clear about what really matters to you, you’re able to make better decisions, set appropriate life/work boundaries, and evaluate and seize opportunities. Instead of showing up as conflicted, overwhelmed and anxious, you’ll begin to take a stand for what you value in life. As a result, you’ll show up as more grounded, focused and decisive – in other words – confident!

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