One of the best decisions I have made in the last several years is to commit to meeting with my therapist every two weeks, no matter what. This ongoing investment in myself isn't always driven by crisis, as most people likely associate with therapy. Sure, challenging emotional situations come up from time to time and it's great to have a therapist for those times. But for the most part what keeps me coming back to therapy is what I learn about myself and the emotional and behavioral structure of people. This not only helps me to craft more meaningful relationships with friends and family, but has also brought career success. That's what this post is about.
I found Daniela through Psychology Today's therapist directory. I had been seeing a marriage counselor for several months, but once it was obvious things were not going to turn around in my marriage, I shifted my attention to my own care and growth.
In the directory, Daniela had a nice picture and her blurb felt like she was operating in a familiar space. I got really lucky that I found her on the first shot. We had a short intro conversation and I felt comfortable with her right away.
I met with her in her office near downtown San Jose every two weeks starting in 2015. It happened to be a convenient location for my commute. Life took her to the east coast, and so we continued meeting over video from there on out. I took a pause from therapy for a short time early on, but reached out again when I was facing a new and difficult situation, and have kept the continuity since then.
There's something about Daniela's whip-sharp New York sensibilities mixed with her deep insights, pure compassion, and clear perceptions that help me to help us make good use of our time together. She's from a different world than me, and so that distance brings about space for her different perspective than mine. She brings ideas and thought patterns from her education and personal background that would never occur to me. I highly recommend finding a therapist that can complement you like this.
I could go on about how understanding one's self can draw a direct line to a more fulfilling existence, or in bringing understanding and compassion to difficult situations rather than responding chaotically. Or in connecting more to more people around you and the warm feelings of community that creates. I certainly have a much deeper and more meaningful relationship with my kids as a result of what I've learned in therapy.
If none of that speaks to you, then please read on. This post is for you. 🤑
The investment of time and money into regular therapy sessions yields a significant positive financial benefit. To support this, I'll start with some foundational understanding of some of the outcomes of therapy, how they relate to success in a job, then describe my own situation and how I think therapy has led to improvement in my own financial situation.
Laying the Foundation
Having a deep understanding of yourself is a superpower. Knowing your sensitivities and how to direct them. Knowing how you tend to perceive others. Knowing how your traumas influence your perceptions. Having awareness of your biases. Understanding various bodily sensations as indicators of emotional state and building a mindful relationship with them. Much of therapy involves self-discovery and self-understanding.
By being astute students of ourselves, we can approach situations like negotiations and design discussions and yield better outcomes without as many emotional bruises along the way. By keeping discussions on-track, in a constructive direction, with an awareness of the vector of emotion we can make better use of our time and likely arrive at more creative solutions. This is good for us and good for business.
An Evolved Understanding of Emotion
Psychology is a science. My biweekly therapy sessions serve to educate me on the science of emotion and human behavior. This education carries beyond the immediate relationship or issue Daniela and I are talking about in that moment, but into an overall understanding of the structures of human emotion and systems of behavior.
Daniela is an effective teacher, leaning 100% into guiding our conversations, making me feel like my breakthroughs of understanding are my own ideas rather than a result of a lecture.
We explore how our primitive origins as very social creatures are deeply embedded in our own behaviors in this modern life. We talk through how past traumas or experiences can influence present responses in surprising ways. We find compassion for those who seem to be bringing discomfort to the table and feel how that helps to foster peace and rationality.
By building a blueprint for a better, more evolved, more peaceful understanding of human behavior, we can more skillfully navigate tricky situations in life and in work. We can confidently engage in conversations that would have otherwise made us shy away, for fear of the unknown of discomfort. Consistently better outcomes are the result.
Practicing Hard Communication
Well-functioning therapy can be seen as a training ground for open communication around otherwise difficult issues. Too often, we hide from discomforts, cozy in a place where they don't need to be surfaced. This is anti-productive on many levels, and in business can even be seen as negligence or dishonesty if you are aware of a bad situation but are afraid to talk about it out of fear of uncomfortable feelings.
One hallmark of a patient engaged in effective therapy is that they have a high level of comfort with their therapist. Therapy is most productive when nothing is held back - be it words or emotions. It may take some time to arrive at that level of comfort with a therapist, but it should be the goal; with appropriate time-to-success boundaries set. The presence of good chemistry is just as important in a therapist-patient relationship as any other close relationship.
Therapy is, among other things, practice talking about difficult things. It's a training center for honing in on crafting messages of honesty and compassion, keeping our wits about us in the face of anger or fear. This is a critical foundation for effective personal and business communication.
Putting it Together
Given the foundations above, we can draw a solid line between a person honing these skills and that person finding success at work. We work with people, and are at our best when we work well together. By having an evolved view of the behaviors of ourselves and our fellow humans, we can work more harmoniously and efficiently.
These skills also make up significant aspects of the difference between ineffective and effective leadership. Effective leaders able to skillfully read the room, they know their team, and the team reciprocates the modeled compassion and respect.
Those who exhibit these qualities are more likely to yield positive outcomes when they are involved. Those positive outcomes are hopefully noticed by your leadership, and you should be rewarded with a quicker path to promotion as a result. Furthermore, by keeping work interactions in a highly constructive direction your own learning of your work domain will be maximized since you will not be as distracted by interpersonal issues.
Seven+ years on, I view my divorce as the origin moment of an era of invaluable growth. It brought me to a state of introspection and awareness of this world of emotion and behavior that I was really truly clueless about. I see this reflected in my personal life, especially my relationship with my daughters and family. I also see it reflected in my happiness and effectiveness in my job.
I have learned to really love the role of manager or leader of a team. I love getting to know my teammates at a deeper level, since I feel like I can help the team work together very effectively with this knowledge. Each team member is their own very unique person, and brings something unique to the group. By getting to know your team at this level, you can better maximize productivity and harmony in the group. By being unafraid to confront difficult topics, you can lead your team to resolution or compassionate compromise faster. Your employees will be happier and do their best work.
Since this turning point in my life, my salary has doubled. The seven years prior to my divorce saw an increase of about 20%. I am certain that my improved compensation is directly related to my effectiveness in how I show up in interviews and at work.
The nature of improvements that I've been able to bring to my roles is dimensionally different now than it was before 2015. In those earlier times, I was honing my technical breadth and depth but always feeling like an imposter or checkbox-checker as a manager. Since 2015 I have pivoted to more impactful roles in leadership, taken on more responsibility, and had more of a hand in the success and happiness of the people around me.
Of course there are many many other factors in the complex system of a career, but most of my increased satisfaction at work is emotional in nature. Learning how to more skillfully connect with and motivate my teammates has allowed us to be more successful. I attribute this satisfaction and success directly to what I've learned in therapy.
Let's assume a hypothetical situation of a person making $100K/year. Biweekly therapy sessions at $200/hour add up to a total of roughly $5K per year. If it takes seven years for the person to double their salary to $200K, then we're looking at a $100K gain with an investment of $35K.
This is nearly a 17% annual rate of return. Starting out at $200K/year increases the ROI to 28%, since the seven year investment of $35K remains the same. The average annual ROI for the S&P 500 is roughly 10%.
True Statement: Therapy pays far better than the stock market!
Chances are your health insurance will cover most of the cost of regular therapy sessions. ROI approaches infinity! 🚀
Of course, this is a synthetic situation and I'm a single data point and everyone will have a different experience. But my hope here is to plant a seed that may not have been there before - to contemplate therapy as an investment with a exceedingly positive ROI.
Life is an series of experiences. Each experience is a teaching moment. By investing in becoming a student of our own humanity, we can face those experiences with deeper understanding and get more value from them. I don't think I've mastered anything here by a long shot, and old patterns creep in from time to time. But at least now, through this investment, I have an awareness of when negative patterns start to show up and can more mindfully approach the situation. Better things usually happen.
You don't have to be in a personal crisis to seek the guidance of a therapist. An hour of emotional and behavioral consulting every fortnight - file it as an investment in yourself and to others.
Here's to your health and success!