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Reflections on Sally Helgesen and Marshall Goldsmith’s book, “How Women Rise: Break the 12 Habits Holding You Back from Your Next Raise, Promotion or Job

I was recently invited to attend a virtual happy hour/ book group discussion on “How Women Rise: Break the 12 Habits Holding You Back from Your Next Raise, Promotion or Job,” co-authored by Sally Helgesen, women’s leadership expert, and Marshall Goldsmith, executive coach and best-selling author. The event was part of Wealthstone Advisor’s Women 4 Women Initiative, designed to “Educate, Empower, Promote and Welcome women to a comfortable space to explore various topics with experts in their respective fields.”

For those of you who know me, I’ve dedicated a sizable portion of my career, and life, to the advancement of women — as leaders, entrepreneurs, philanthropists and a force for change. It has not been without struggle, and ongoing side effects from the “disease to please,” defined as “the desire to be wonderful in all circumstances — to be thoughtful and nice and make everyone around you feel good.” Helgesen and Goldsmith assert that this condition is particularly prevalent among women, and can “undermine your ability to make clear decisions among competing needs in hopes of creating consensus or avoiding offense.”

Yikes!  Did those two have my home and office wire-tapped?  

This passage, from the final paragraph of Chapter 12, “Habit 8: The Disease to Please” hit me simultaneously like a ton of bricks and a ray of light. 

“To retain any serenity in this ramped-up environment, you need to think long and carefully about your priorities. Not what would please others, not what would make everyone think you’re the most wonderful person they’ve ever worked with or met, but what you in your heart want to be and achieve in your life.” 


You see, I’ve had a lifelong battle with this disease. It’s how I’m wired. It was reinforced by the people in my life, and the joy I felt from their validation and appreciation. Making other people happy was (and still is, to an extent) my jam. Making myself happy? Well, that’s another story.  

Through reflection, counseling and the support of amazing friends and family, I am taking steps to overcome the “disease to please.” Setting limits with other people; advocating for myself; being “real” — these are all things I’m working on, and making strides every day.  

At Crosworks, we believe that career and personal fulfillment is largely driven by one’s ability to identify his or her needs, and find a job, boss and environment where they will be met. This notion is part of the science behind The Birkman Method, the foundation of Crosworks’ coaching methodology. Sounds pretty straightforward, but it took me until mid-life to figure it out.   

So what have I done to get more of my needs met? First and foremost, I changed careers, moving from a marketing role in Corporate America to self-employed career and executive coach. Needless to say, I LOVE IT and feel like I am totally in my element. My level of stress has diminished, and I feel a tremendous sense of satisfaction in the work that I do to support my clients in clarifying their own unique paths to fulfillment and success.

I’ve also made changes on the home front. You know that airplane safety message that instructs you to “put on your oxygen mask before others?” Well, it’s real, and I’m proud to say I’m putting my mask on first. (And my COVID mask, too, for what it’s worth.) An example of my new approach? Everyone in my house does their own laundry (my 12- and 16-year olds, and my hubby) so I no longer spend the entire weekend doing load after load. In addition, I no longer feel guilty about protecting my “me time” and making sure I’m not spreading myself thin across a host of networking, volunteer and other activities.

It’s an ongoing battle for me, fighting this disease, but it’s worth it. At the end of the day, we all have to decide, and fight for, what we want, and what brings us joy.   

If I can be of help to you in fighting your own battles, and clarifying your path to fulfillment, don’t hesitate to reach out to me.

Eden Sulzer

Crosworks | Career & Leadership Strategist
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