Breakdown Breakthrough

The Professional Woman's Guide to Claiming a a Life of Passion, Power, and Purpose

Kathy Caprino (Author)

Publication date: 10/01/2008

Breakdown Breakthrough

Kathy Caprino uses a comprehensive coaching, behavioral, and spiritual framework to explore how women can restore their power and reconnect with their life visions as they awake from the paralysis of professional dissatisfaction and personal diminishment.

Helps professional women experiencing feelings of disempowerment and dissatisfaction regain the confidence, courage, and energy to take control of their lives
Identifies 12 crises professional women face today and offers specific advice and tools for overcoming them
Draws on interviews with over one hundred women, offering inspiring stories and practical advice for addressing and resolving disempowerment

Thousands of professional women, though outwardly successful, find themselves in the midst of a crisis, believing that they’ve sacrificed meaning, fulfillment, and balance in their lives to achieve work-related success. Their lives feel unmanageable—and they are confused, blocked, overwhelmed and unable to move forward effectively. Kathy Caprino sheds light on this growing epidemic of disempowerment and shows women how to reinvigorate and reclaim their lives.

Breakdown, Breakthrough uses a comprehensive coaching, behavioral, and spiritual framework to explore how women can restore their power and reconnect with their life visions as they awake from the paralysis of professional dissatisfaction and personal diminishment. Caprino outlines a new model for understanding disempowerment, one that focuses on women’s relationships with themselves, with others, with the world, and with what she calls their higher selves. She identifies twelve specific challenges professional women face and offers concrete, practical advice for overcoming each one—helping readers “step back, let go of what is holding them back, and say yes” to creating a compelling and rewarding next chapter of life and work.

This is also a deeply personal book. Caprino candidly discusses her own struggles with crippling feelings of disempowerment, and shares moving stories and heartfelt advice gleaned from her interviews with over one hundred women who experienced and overcame the crises she describes. Breakdown, Breakthrough offers working women who are stressed, stuck, and dissatisfied access to new inspiration, hope, and a definite plan of action.

Read more and meet author below

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Overview

Kathy Caprino uses a comprehensive coaching, behavioral, and spiritual framework to explore how women can restore their power and reconnect with their life visions as they awake from the paralysis of professional dissatisfaction and personal diminishment.

Helps professional women experiencing feelings of disempowerment and dissatisfaction regain the confidence, courage, and energy to take control of their lives
Identifies 12 crises professional women face today and offers specific advice and tools for overcoming them
Draws on interviews with over one hundred women, offering inspiring stories and practical advice for addressing and resolving disempowerment

Thousands of professional women, though outwardly successful, find themselves in the midst of a crisis, believing that they’ve sacrificed meaning, fulfillment, and balance in their lives to achieve work-related success. Their lives feel unmanageable—and they are confused, blocked, overwhelmed and unable to move forward effectively. Kathy Caprino sheds light on this growing epidemic of disempowerment and shows women how to reinvigorate and reclaim their lives.

Breakdown, Breakthrough uses a comprehensive coaching, behavioral, and spiritual framework to explore how women can restore their power and reconnect with their life visions as they awake from the paralysis of professional dissatisfaction and personal diminishment. Caprino outlines a new model for understanding disempowerment, one that focuses on women’s relationships with themselves, with others, with the world, and with what she calls their higher selves. She identifies twelve specific challenges professional women face and offers concrete, practical advice for overcoming each one—helping readers “step back, let go of what is holding them back, and say yes” to creating a compelling and rewarding next chapter of life and work.

This is also a deeply personal book. Caprino candidly discusses her own struggles with crippling feelings of disempowerment, and shares moving stories and heartfelt advice gleaned from her interviews with over one hundred women who experienced and overcame the crises she describes. Breakdown, Breakthrough offers working women who are stressed, stuck, and dissatisfied access to new inspiration, hope, and a definite plan of action.

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Meet the Author


Visit Author Page - Kathy Caprino

Kathy Caprino, M.A. is a nationally-recognized women’s work-life expert, executive and career coach, author, and speaker specializing in helping women gain empowerment and self-mastery to navigate successfully through major challenges. She is the author of the book Breakdown, Breakthrough: The Professional Woman’s Guide to Claiming a Life of Passion, Power, and Purpose, which reveals the key findings from her yearlong national research study – identifying the 12 ‘hidden’ crises of professional women, including chronic health problems, failure to find work-life balance, and painful losses of the ‘real me.’ It also shares 14 deeply personal stories – her own included – and shows how women are overcoming crises of personal and professional identity.

Founder/President of Ellia Communications, Inc. and former partner and co-founder of Living in Haromy – The Center for Emotional Health in Connecticut, Ms. Caprino is a sought-after writer and speaker on professional women’s issues. She draws on her training in coaching and psychotherapy with families and systems, original research, high-level business experience, and work with hundreds of professionals each year to provide effective, targeted programs that help individuals and groups achieve growth in key areas of life and work.

For more information, please write to Kathy.

Visit Kathy’s Breakdown, Breakthrough Website and Breakdown, Breakthrough Blog.

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Table of Contents



Preface

Introduction: The Power of Yes!

The Disempowerment Dilemma
1. Breakdown in Professional Women—Why Now?
2. Recognizing When You’re in Professional Crisis
3. A New Model for Empowered Living

Empowerment with Self

4. Resolving Chronic Health Problems
5. Overcoming Loss
6. Achieving Self-Love

Empowerment with Others

7. Speaking Up with Power
8. Breaking Cycles of Mistreatment
9. Shifting from Competition to Collaboration

Empowerment with the World
10. Escaping Financial Traps
11. Using Real Talents in Life and Work
12. Helping Others and the World

Empowerment with Higher Self
13. Falling Together After Falling Apart
14. Balancing Life and Work
15. Doing Work and Play You Love

Conclusion:
Claiming Your Passion, Power, and Purpose

Resources
Empowerment Guide
Recommended Reading, Websites, and Groups
Notes
Acknowledgments
Index
About the Author

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Excerpt

Breakdown, Breakthrough

1

Breakdown in
Professional Women—
Why Now?

* * *

We shall not escape our dangers
by recoiling from them
.

WINSTON CHURCHILL

“Everything I’ve worked for has just lost its importance to me. I really have no idea what to do or where to go next. I desperately want to do something different, something more meaningful to me, but I can’t figure out what that is.”

“I feel so mistreated and unappreciated at work. What I really want to do is tell them all off, but I end up coming back each day, and stuffing down my anger and resentment.”

“I can’t keep up this pace. I want some time off, and I need more flexibility and space to be with my daughter. But how can I ask for that when I’ve just been promoted?”

“I feel sick and exhausted all the time, and I just can’t beat this illness. I can barely function, at work or at home. I need a break!”

“If I really get honest with myself, I realize I’m just not performing at my peak anymore at this job. I’m not at my best anymore and it’s scary to me.”

“A friend of mine has her own small business, loves it, and makes great money without killing herself each day. I wish I could figure out how to do that, but I don’t think I have what it takes to make it on my own.”

I hear these and similar comments continually from professional women who have reached a critical turning point in their lives. After devoting years to building solid careers, they’ve discovered, sometimes in a flash and sometimes over the course of months or years, that their professional lives and identities simply no longer work. This experience—what I call a breakdown—is occurring with greater frequency and impact than ever before to professional women in the United States.

Professional Crises

Women today face many forms of professional crisis. Each revolves around powerless-ness—perceived or real—to act positively and effectively on their own behalf. Whether it’s being afraid to speak up; allowing themselves to be mistreated; doubting their capabilities or longings; resisting the truth; or acting in ways that are contrary to their values, disempowerment is at the heart of the problem.

When women feel powerless, they perceive themselves to be unable to affect positive change. They experience a persistent longing for acceptance and validation from others. They view themselves as small, ineffective, and unworthy—as hapless victims of circumstance incapable of charting their own course with a commanding hand or voice.

Empowered women, on the other hand, have conscious and direct access to their own vast capabilities, strengths, and gifts. They are aware of—and continually draw on—the deep wellspring of internal and external resources available to them, for their highest good and the good of others. They embrace change and transition, trusting themselves to weather any storm successfully. Somehow they believe that all will come out well in the end.

Why Crises for Working Women Now?

The current cultural and professional landscape for women reveals new trends affecting women’s ability to succeed in the workplace and at home. While women have made great progress and are achieving new heights professionally, they are still fighting against some very tough odds.

According to Catalyst, a leading research and advisory organization devoted to expanding opportunities for women at work, recent changes in women’s professional involvement and contribution in the United States have been dramatic.1 Midlife women are experiencing newly forged independence, higher earning potential, and increased power and responsibility in the workplace. They are also experiencing greater access to higher education, which leads to increased professional prowess.2 Nearly one-third of wives now outearn their husbands, and the proportion of women earning more than $100,000 has tripled in the past decade.3

Double Lives/Double Demands?

Women’s professional contributions are on the rise, but a key question remains at the heart of their success in life and work: “What has shifted in women’s lives to make way for this change?” Not enough, according to thousands.

While women have stepped up to carve out new and important professional identities, many remain constricted by outdated thinking and behavior. For instance, although women now make up nearly one-half of the U.S. labor force, the majority of domestic responsibility still falls to women, as does raising and caring for children and elderly family members. Dual-career families are on the rise, yet the availability of quality child care has not kept pace. Surprisingly, some people continue to believe that maternal employment is detrimental to children. Despite well-documented evidence that children can develop equally well regardless of the employment status of their parents, many working women are bitterly criticized for being both professionals and mothers.4

With the rise of mothers in the workforce comes the ever-important need for women to balance work with home life. The amount of leisure or free time has steadily decreased, and the associated stress in balancing full-time job demands with other responsibilities such as tending to a sick parent or spouse is escalating.5 These added pressures create acute stress for women.

Not “Men in Skirts”

According to Sylvia Ann Hewlett’s groundbreaking book, Off-Ramps and On-Ramps,6 recent research has documented what you and I have known for years—women are not “men in skirts.” Generally speaking, women have different professional values, motivations, needs, and desires than their male colleagues.

The following components are highly important to women in their work lives:

Image Flexibility in their careers and schedules

Image A healthy, satisfying balance between life and work

Image Reasonable demands on their time in the office and in travel

Image The ability to shift time and focus when important child- and elder-care needs emerge

Image Respect for themselves, their work, their colleagues, and their supervisors

Image A satisfying degree of control over their time, endeavors, and responsibilities

Image The sense of contributing in a meaningful way to others and to society

Men, on the other hand, typically value power, recognition, responsibility, and compensation. When we look at the predominant setup of American corporations today, we see evidence of a white male competitive model. As Hewlett describes, this career model assumes a preference for linear, continuous employment history; an emphasis on full-time employment and “face” time; the expectation that an “ambitious” professional will exhibit the most intensive commitment in his or her 30s (or miss out forever on key opportunities for advancement); and, finally, that money is the primary motivator for professionals.

The assumptions of this model fly in the face of what many women need and want. One consequence of this ill-fitted model is that while women have the talent and ambition to perform outstandingly in the workplace, many are unwilling to fulfill these requirements over the long arch of their career. Why? Because these demands require too great a compromise in other life dimensions that women highly prize.

Midlife Crisis for Women Is Not a Myth

As those who are in midlife know all too well, the middle years of 35 to 55 represent a time of reckoning, reevaluation, and rethinking. One’s perspective can shift radically. From the ages of 22 to 35, a committed professional spends an enormous amount of time, energy, and focus building her career to the level she desires. All of the accomplishments and accolades, however, come with personal sacrifices. These losses take on a very different meaning when viewed from the eyes of a 45-year-old.

Midlife individuals frequently awaken to brand new and startling realizations about what matters most. The glory of achievements and “winning at all costs” often fade. Other aspects of the human experience—helping, supporting, teaching, learning, growing, sharing, giving back, relishing life—become more compelling and meaningful. Dissatisfaction with who we are professionally becomes an urgent issue as we reach the middle years and look ahead to the future, glimpsing what might be waiting there.

At the same time, midlife women are going through dramatic personal change. As Sue Shellenbarger notes in The Breaking Point, there are currently 41.6 million baby-boomer women in the United States, and by age 50, more women than men are reporting a turbulent midlife transition. Based on recent studies, it has been forecasted that “more than 15 million U.S. women who are 38 to 55 years old will have, or are already having, what they regard as a midlife crisis—a staggering number about equal to the populations of Colorado, Massachusetts, and Minnesota combined.”7

Midlife women are increasingly finding themselves in a host of new experiences that would have been inconceivable fifty years ago. Divorce rates for midlife women are on the rise, and women are initiating these divorces more often than men.8 New life situations include blended families, single parenting, and dating. While life-changing events often lead women to reinvent themselves, adjusting and reconstructing requires tremendous effort and energy.

What’s It All Mean?

Many factors are colliding at this time, bringing about a radical shift in what women want to achieve. Women now hold completely different expectations and longings than those of previous generations. This shift brings with it new beliefs about what is important in life, and what women are capable of. Role models from previous generations don’t offer guidance on how to achieve a healthy, balanced, and meaningful professional and personal life. Today’s midlife women may have grown up believing they could “have it all,” but now that they have it, they’re not sure it’s worth keeping.

The critical thing to realize is that if you are a professional woman longing for a radical change in how you work and live, you are not alone. There are many solid, reasonable, well-founded, and well-documented reasons for what you’re experiencing. Simply put, thousands of women in this country view life as unsatisfying, challenging, and exhausting—for many, it’s a struggle. But we can’t help ourselves if we continue to hide how we feel.

Let’s face it: we all can’t be wrong!

Can Women Achieve Breakthrough and
Find Passion, Power, and Purpose?

The answer is a resounding “YES!” But not without significantly revising our individual and collective thinking, assumptions, and behavior. When women experience crisis, they often think, “How did I blow this?” and “When will I be found out?”

What I’m proposing here is a revision to that line of thinking. I’m suggesting that you stop in your tracks when facing crisis and begin to ask different questions than you’re used to, questions that allow the possibility that this situation is occurring for a critical reason you are meant to address, for the betterment of yourself and others, challenging as it may be to do so.

Asking yourself “What am I meant to learn from this, and what changes am I needing to make in my life?” is a powerful start to examining the process of living, rather than just the content of your life.

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Endorsements



“Finally, a book written specifically for women stuck in professional crisis. Caprino provides warm, intelligent, and much-needed guidance, plus a sound methodology, for breaking free and gaining lasting personal and professional satisfaction.”

—Julie Jansen, author of I Don’t Know What I Want, But I Know It’s Not This

“The flow between riveting true stories and the lessons learned from them makes this book not only impossible to put down but a must-read for women at any age and any stage in their careers.”

—Sharon Jordan-Evans, executive coach and co-author of Love It, Don’t Leave It: 26 Ways to Get What You Want at Work


“A great resource for any woman contemplating a career change that validates her self. I especially liked the combination of the psychological thought processes along with the concrete steps to make the change. The experiences of others who have been through it is very helpful as well.”

— Nancy Mark, former Director, Lotus Development, and former Senior Manager, IBM


“Kathy invites the reader to reveal what already lives inside. What makes Kathy’s book even more powerful is her willingness to share her personal experiences. Suddenly you feel as if you’re sitting on your living room couch with your best friend, feeling a bit more confident, and decidedly not alone in your journey.”

—Laurie Howlett, Vice President of the Board of Trustees, Westchester Exceptional Children’s School, and former Vice President of Marketing, Fortune Magazine Group


Breakdown, Breakthrough does what so many books promise and so few deliver. It tackles a huge issue, recommends solutions, and then provides real, practical tools to get you from where you are today to your breakthrough. Empathic, powerful, and inspiring. Bravo.”

—Noah Blumenthal, author of You’re Addicted to You: Why It’s So Hard to Change—and What You Can Do About It

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