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I Was Betrayed

I was betrayedI was betrayed by others in my life, I have betrayed others, and I have betrayed myself. Betrayal is a truly awful feeling (one of the worst), no matter who is to blame.

I was Betrayed by a Contract with Myself

In executive coaching, I help clients investigate their core purpose. Their purpose is often dictated or clouded by a contract that they made with themselves when they were younger. These contracts–spoken or unspoken–can hold incredible power, even if they were made when the client was 10 or 11. Breaking these contracts feels like a betrayal of self–today’s self and all the selves they’ve been since they were the age they made the contract.

What contract did you make with yourself when you were younger? Do you still hold yourself to it? If so, why?

Sometimes the contracts we’ve internalized come not from ourselves, but our parents or other authority figures. Did your mother or father have an expectation for you that has become your own? You must be a “Good Person,” “Successful Person,” “Put everyone else first,” “Put yourself ahead of everyone else,” “Protect your brother”–you know the territory. These expectations can feel a lot like burdens if your inner self (or soul) feels betrayed whenever you stray.

The expectations we have for ourselves and others have for us aren’t written agreements, but they’re contracts  nonetheless. We feel bound to these whispers, ties, and binding elements. And yet something inside us says, “This is not me! This is not who I am!” Your body demonstrates your desire to rebel–either by becoming tired and sluggish or the opposite (restless and itchy). Beneath the rebellion, your inner voice is crying, “Mend my life.”

You may realize that you have, in fact, been living someone else’s life. Your footsteps are not your own. You have been dutifully fulfilling agreements that you shouldn’t have made or ought to have revisited and rejected long ago. You may want to blame those you made these bad deals with, but they may not have known that these promises would lead you away from your true self. Plus, blaming won’t move you forward.

If you’ve been betraying yourself or others, it’s time to establish a new contract–for your benefit and those you lead. Start by ranking and living according to your core values. And start valuing questions more and answers less. Take a page from the poet Rilke:

“I beg you to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.”                   - Letters to a Young Poet by Rilke


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About the Author

Gary Cohen is a highly-skilled Executive Coach, Leadership Author, Trainer, and International Keynote Speaker. His clients range from entrepreneurial CEOs of the nation’s fastest-growing companies to executives of global 100 companies. He differentiates himself from traditional (psycho/therapeutic) executive coaches by bringing a vast amount of business experience as a former Founder / President of one the Nation’s Fastest growing companies. He is the author of Just Ask Leadership: Why Great Managers Always Ask the Right Questions (McGraw Hill). Gary B. Cohen Full Bio

  • Greg Marcus

    Thank you Gary. I think many people fall into what I call Corporate Idolatry – the adoption of a value system perpetuated by your companies culture. Cultures very, and some are more ethical than others but almost all of them share one key element – the company should come first in your life. This is an issue I struggled with for many years, to the detriment of my health and time with my family. It was when I reconnected with my core values, putting people first that my life got better.

    Greg Marcus

    • Gary B Cohen

      I see this with clients. It is amazing how Aristotle understood this over 2500 years ago. Thanks for your comment. Gary

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