Letting yourself remain in a feeling of stuck for a long time will not only kill your productivity but also your source of motivation. Sometimes, it only takes a little bit of courage to take some risks and overcome this challenging phase. Productivity coach Susan Stutzel joins Jen Du Plessis to share her pursuit of a more sustainable life. She explains how realizing her shortcomings, getting the right coaching, and shifting to a more growth-focused mindset led to where she is today. Susan talks about the power of incremental changes in finding a better version of herself, giving you enough time to discover where her goals actually lie.
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Susan Stutzel On Overcoming The Feeling Of Stuck
I am so delighted and happy to introduce you to our guest, Susan Stutzel. She is a person that we want to share her story about. When we talk about cracking through ceilings, she is someone who has broken through some ceilings. She is passionate about freeing professional women who are self-sabotaging their goals and helping them build a life of purpose and balance. As a leadership coach, she helps her clients to ditch overwhelm by finding the voice through the process of rebuilding habits and expectations so that they can feel successful both professionally and at home. This resonates with me because this is exactly what I do as well. We are going to have a great conversation. Welcome to the show, Susan. I’m so happy to have you here.
Thank you. It is wonderful to be here.
I’m so excited to hear about your story because we have similar stories in the sense that we hit a breaking point where we said, “I can’t do it all. I don’t want to do it all.” I don’t believe in balance. I believe in something else. I know that you do and that is certainly fine. You came to that realization and said, “I can’t do it anymore. Enough is enough. There has got to be a better way.” You came up with some better ways. Take us back to what was happening in your life when you finally had this so that we can explore what you have, life after breaking through the glass ceiling. What was that glass ceiling for you? It doesn’t have to be financial but it could be emotional.
I was working toward all the things I had learned in my life to work hard. I can do it if I can work hard enough and the hustle. I’ve got caught up in that hustle of doing all the things. The number one perfectionist in me was trying to do them all perfectly. I found myself at a moment that I had two toddlers at home. I was still trying to kill it in the world, have this amazing career that I loved, raise these perfect children, keep the perfect marriage and the perfectly clean home. I think you are sensing all of the perfect that I’m working through here. I vividly remember a moment that I just closed myself off in my bedroom and cried. I was like, “I am tired. I can’t do this anymore.”
[bctt tweet=”Define what success is for yourself first before working towards it.” username=””]
It was that moment of realization, “What am I doing? Am I working hard and spending all of this time on all of the right things? When I’m home, I’m thinking about the work that needs to be done. When I’m at work, I’m thinking all the things that I’m missing with these beautiful, precious children that I was blessed with. What am I missing out on? What is happening in my marriage?” I had that moment like I’m failing at all of it because when I’m in one place, I’m thinking about the other and never feeling present where I was at. That was the moment that I realized, “Something has to change. This is not a sustainable life. This is not the life that I had imagined or the life that I wanted. Why am I doing it? Why am I spending my time each and every day doing the same thing over and over again? It’s exhausting. It’s not working. It wasn’t life-giving.”
How did you feel after you made that decision? Were you someone who said, “I don’t know what to do?” Did you cave in for a while? Did you immediately say, “That’s it, I’m going to move forward?” Tell us about your feelings how you increased your awareness of the situation you were in, but then you had to make a shift to an emotional state that made a difference for you moving forward. Walk us through that process of you coming out of it.
It was a moment of brokenness and realization that this isn’t sustainable but I’m also not somebody that gets sucked into that. At the same time, it was broken, but then after a good cry, it was this freeing moment of, “Now you know. Now that you know, what are you going to do with that?” This weight was lifted like, “I don’t have to do it all.” That was when I started working with my first coach and walking through like, “What is possible? What is it that I want? What am I going for?” Where I was at wasn’t working but I knew that I had choices to decide what’s next for me. I always have been a bit of an optimist so looking ahead going, “I can change, learn and pivot. I am resilient. I have been through lots of changes in my life. This is just one more.” That’s where I dove in to define for myself what success was and what I wanted out of life so that I could work toward that instead of working toward what I thought success was or what I was going for before.
It’s what society thinks it is and there’s a definition there. There’s no question about it. As you started understanding and saying, “I’m resilient. I’ve got this. I can do this for myself,” what did your business look like then when you made that shift? This is way before you’ve got into coaching and in sharing this back to other people. How did your business change and your life?
It changed a lot. I start by saying like, “I knew I could change it. I have the power of choice here.” It was also a lot of leaning on others like leaning into my husband where I needed support, help and a coach to help me figure out what’s next in this career. What I think is surprising enough is that I made a career shift to start my own CPA practice. You are thinking, “You are overwhelmed. You are not sure what to do. Let’s start a business because that sounds easier.” It was a great move for me because part of the overwhelm I was in a place that the culture wasn’t a good fit for me. Some of it was that state of uncomfort knowing that, “This is not for me so what is?”
I started my own business, took a leap of faith and stepped out on my own with no clients and no known future but yet, not a huge fear of the unknown because it felt like the right step. It was like, “This is what I’m supposed to do.” It was honing in on, “What are you good at? Where do you want to develop? Where do you want to build that?” It felt like a much more authentic place for me because I was building a culture and brand that I was proud of. I could set my own schedule then, being able to be home when I wanted to be home and shut off in the evenings. That was part of that building the life that I love.
If someone is reading this and saying, “Is this where I want to be? Do I want to be there?” What are some of the symptoms that they should be looking at? It’s not even symptoms because some of the symptoms are, “I’m overwhelmed. I’m tired. I’m running around like a chicken with my head cut off.” I get that. What are some of the other signs that they should be looking at that says, “Maybe it’s time for a shift here and some type of transformation from what I’m doing now and how I’m doing it to what I want to do and how I want to do that?”
[bctt tweet=”More often than not, people want to be perfect at the expense of themselves.” username=””]
Overwhelm is a keyword for me because that’s where I felt that I was. It also shows up in, “What does your Monday morning look like? Are you excited and ready to go? Is it you feel ready for your week? What is it that you are looking forward to?” Is it that, “It’s Monday again or even the Sunday night like, ‘The weekend is over?’” It’s that state of uncomfort and lack of joy. For me, when you are doing what you love and what you are made to do, it’s joyful. Are there still hard days? Yes, but there’s joy in it and a sense of pride knowing you are doing what you were created for.
You mentioned that you had a coach and you leaned on your husband. What did you read? What did you consume at that time, as well as you were going through that process? If you can recall, did you have any consumption of podcasts or books that were helpful for you? Did you go to retreats? What did you do to change your state and be surrounded by the resources to pull you forward?
I can’t say that I remember what I was reading at that time, though I am a total junkie of self-help books and leadership development. Anything John Maxwell makes my day. Years later, I read Mindset by Carol Dweck. That was a book that was life-shifting for me and recognizing that fixed versus growth mindset. Thinking back to that time, I don’t know that I was into podcasts as much as I am now. That has grown more. I love the opportunities that we have now but I have always been a reader. Leadership development and self-awareness, I’m a big advocate for.
Michael Hyatt said, “In every situation, we either learn or grow.” It’s not failure. We are winning or learning. Learning from decisions I have made and things that I have done along my journey, I can look back and it’s like, “Every moment, position that I had and career shift that I made, I know what I learned from that. There are people that I met that I may not have met otherwise.” Looking at that journey and recognizing along the process, “Here’s what I take from that, pull from that and learned about myself,” helps me to make the next step.
Let’s move forward. You had your CPA firm that’s going fine or still is going fine. You had this poll that said, “I’ve got to share this with other people because I figured it out and now it’s something I want to share with people.” Talking about how your goals might be sabotaging your sanity, I want to talk about that. Are the goals too zealous? Why would a goal be sabotaging your sanity?
There are so many amazing conferences and seminars on setting goals. Many times, they relate to the business and how you can meet new revenue goals, marketing strategies and all your goals there. For me, it’s important to take a step back and look at the holistic perspective and goals with not only the business that you are in or that you want to grow but also all of the hats that you wear. As a mom, parent, volunteer in organizations, mentor and friend, what is that holistic life perspective? What is that vision that you want for your absolute best life? Set goals with all of those things in mind. I have seen women do amazing things in business, but then at the same time, they are telling me their marriage is struggling or their kids don’t even want to be around them. They are missing that. To me, it’s keeping all of that in perspective so that you are taking all of your life with you every step of the way.
It’s the whole wheel of life that we have seen numerous times there. It’s shining a light on the wrong goals or just on one goal and not the other. I know that you also help women with purpose, passion and defining that. This is something I find with everyone because I coach men and women. They don’t have a strong why. We can all watch Simon Sinek 1,000 times with his why. We get it because it’s an iPhone but we don’t get it when it’s our personal life. Share with us how you walk people down that path of defining and figuring out what their why is.
It’s a process of that self-discovery, digging in for yourself and what lights you up. When you set aside everyone’s opinions and ideas, dig in for yourself and figure out what it is that gets you excited, makes you angry and want to change something like that fire in your stomach or that joy that you get when you are doing something. Digging in for that for yourself, and then asking yourself why 1,000 times, “Why this?” go deeper. There’s so much value in coaching around that digging deep, thinking for yourself, and then giving yourself the space to go there and challenge that.
I know you can’t answer that question in one question because there is so much work that has to be done there, some self-awareness, deepening rights, going deeper into our sage brain, the logical brain and get away from some of the motions as well. Another thing that you talked about is people’s top priorities and trying to get it all done. I’m a lot older but it reminds me of the Calgon Take Me Away commercial. “Calgon, take me away because I can’t get it all done.” Why are we so compelled to feel that we have to have it all done? Where does that stem from?
It comes from a little bit of the perfectionist syndrome and wanting to please people. It feels good to tell someone, “I will do that for you,” and to do it. Often, we do that at the expense of ourselves. “We say yes to many things without stopping to recognize that every time we say yes to something, we are saying no to something else.” That was a quote that I heard at a conference at that breaking point time. It was like, “I wasn’t being intentional about what I was saying no to.” It was just like, “I can fit in one more thing. That’s not a problem,” but it was affecting my sleep and relationships. It’s saying no to almost everything. When you think about all of the different hats that we wear, especially as women and if we have children, there are many things that we say yes to, but yet that no is a hard word. When we can grasp that and unapologetically say no to things that are not our top priorities, that’s where the true joy and fulfillment come.
It’s called the glorification of busyness. “Watch me roar. I’m willing to roar for the men. I’m the lion. Watch me go.” It’s the glorification of busyness that we have stepped into in our society. Thankfully, for the pandemic, it slowed us all down so that we could recognize, “That wasn’t so great after all,” but I still see it in people, the glorification of busyness. “Look at me. I’m busy. I’m traveling. I’m there.” I look at people like that and say, “You poor thing. I hope that’s what you want to do.” It’s funny because every year, I have a word of the year. Years ago, I had a few words there. That was, “Don’t be a yes woman.” In that entire year, I talked about not being a yes woman.
[bctt tweet=”Every time you say yes to one thing is saying no to something else.” username=””]
That was part of my transformation. I was still figuring out my path to pull myself out of that overwhelm, sabotage and daily chaos. It was life-changing. I would encourage anyone who is reading to make that your adage or mantra for the next year. Don’t be a yes person. Think about why you want to be saying yes and about defining your holistic life goals rather than just your monetary goals. That’s powerful that you said that. What does your client look like? Tell us about your client. Who’s your perfect type of client that you want to help aside from the fact that it’s a woman? I know you’ve got women.
She is a woman in business or an entrepreneur who has 1 to 3 children, trying to kill it at work, wants to be an amazing mom at home, wants to do all of the things perfectly and feeling like she’s failing at everything. That’s the best way that I can describe because that’s where I was at. It felt like I couldn’t do anything the way that I wanted to in that place of overwhelm. She’s ready to invest in herself, take that step forward and create the change that she’s looking for. It’s going to take going deep, investing in her time and herself, and ready to make some real change in habits and structures. The big one is learning to say no.
Are your programs group programs? Are they 6, 8 or 12 weeks? Is it private coaching only? Give us a little flavor about some of the programs and how they are structured.
Primarily one-on-one coaching. I believe there’s so much value in having that one-on-one time to invest in yourself and dig in. I typically like to start with a three-month package as an introductory. It gives every other week a one-hour session to dig in. That gives the client the time in between sessions to start making some changes, digging in and do that self-awareness in between. Three months is a good time to invest in yourself and dabble a little bit. Most of the time, it extends into longer periods because then that’s where value is starting to break through and changes can happen.
What does the future look like for you? What are you looking forward to in your success personally with your family, how that continue to grow and what it looks like for you professionally?
I’m excited for this next phase for me because I’m still working in my CPA practice and growing in the coaching arena, which has been fulfilling to see women truly overcome and step into a life that they truly love. At the same time, I have two teenagers at home and so watching them grow also recognizing like, “I don’t have a lot of time left with them.” It would be investing in them. One of the things we have been talking about at home is, “In these last few years before they graduate from high school, what trips do you want to take? What are the things that we want to do as a family to make sure that we are intentional, not only about how we spend our every day but in the bigger trips, the bigger things that we do together?”
We are fortunate to have a family that loves to be together. While COVID hit and was such a huge impact for many of us in stepping back and all of a sudden, not having all of the things to do, for us, we already valued that time. It was almost a blessing amidst that to go, “My kids aren’t going to go off every single night of the week during the summer.” Having that time at home was precious, even for us to be an eye-opener to recognize.
There were a lot of personal growth as a result of that for everybody. Even those of us that are in this space, there were a lot of personal growth that happened too because we were quieted down long enough to recognize some additional things that we could be doing as well. What quote would you like to leave us with? I already know that you gave one quote. Do you have a quote that you live by that helps people understand exactly what you are about?
I have two. “Every time you say yes to something, you are saying no to something else.” Another one of my very favorites is, “Incremental improvement is unstoppable.” That’s by Jordan Peterson. I love that one because I truly believe that making small and incremental changes give us the momentum to keep going and keep making changes. When we looked back at ourselves a week ago, a month ago or a year ago, the improvement we have made is phenomenal and can be life-changing. That’s another one of my absolute go-to.
[bctt tweet=”Incremental changes give everyone the momentum to keep going.” username=””]
I love that because this show is called Life After Breaking Through Glass Ceilings. What you are saying is, “Let’s tap at it. We will break through it, too.” If you don’t have the power, wherewithal, resources or all the things to crack that code and breakthrough, you can tap your way through, chisel at it and still breakthrough by creating these beautiful habits incrementally day in, day out. Thank you so much, Susan, for joining us. It has been an absolute pleasure. I hope that everyone is taking one little nugget away that they can change in their business to help them move from success to significance and breakthrough their glass ceilings as well. What is the best way for us to contact you?
Check out my website. It is SStutzelCoaching.com. On there, you can find a way to help define success for yourself. I also have another handout, Time Management Strategies for the Busy Working Woman. Check me out there. I would love to connect. I’m also on LinkedIn, @SStutzelCoaching.
Thank you again for joining us. I wish you all of the success in the coming years as you continue to both growing your practices and moving to where your passion is pulling you. I appreciate your time.
Thanks so much for having me. This was fun.
About Susan Stutzel
Susan is passionate about freeing professional women from self-sabotaging goals and helping them build a life of purpose and balance.
As a Leadership Coach, she helps her clients ditch overwhelm by finding their voice through the process of rebuilding habits and expectations, so they can feel successful – both professionally and at home.
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