Season 3 Episode 128: Changing Your Inner Voice with Mary Polanco

Mary Polanco served 23 years in the United States Air Force in multiple high-level leadership roles. As her final assignment, Mary was the Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Air Force Resilience Directorate at the Pentagon. Today, she is the founder and CEO of Live and Lead Well, LLC, an author, leadership trainer, transformational speaker and curriculum developer. Her focus is helping people prioritize self-health, well-being and resilience.

When Mary was promoted to E-9, she had no plans to retire from the military. Reaching this rank was a career goal and Mary planned for several more years of service. However, during the next 3 years, Mary experienced a lack of fulfillment which turned into anxiety and depression. While she contemplated retiring, many questioned her decision. She began journaling, reading and reflecting to better understand her emotions. Mary was so focused on the goal of E-9, that she had not considered alternate paths for her life. She views the anxiety and depression as a gift that caused her to slow down and reassess her situation.

During her self-reflection, Mary discovered that she had been using a suppression technique for 20 years. Instead of dealing with workplace issues or personal issues, Mary compartmentalized the problems and told herself she would deal with them later. Because of her leadership roles in the military, Mary felt like too many people depended on her and that focusing on herself would compromise her position. Because Mary took the time and energy to finally focus on herself, she was able to form a clear vision for what her ideal day would be after the military; working for herself and in control of her creativity and own schedule appealed to her.

Mindset is what fuels us toward the things that we want instead of staying afraid and stuck where we are. Learning how to recognize limiting beliefs is the first step in changing a mindset. You must be kind to yourself and extend grace to yourself in the same way you do for others. Mary doesn’t believe in failure because in every situation, there is a 100% chance that learning will occur.

Mary is currently in the editing process on a book that will take the transitioning service member through the potential ups and downs that they will feel throughout the transition. She provides actionable steps for the reader to do, learn and practice to ensure a fulfilling life after the military.  

Mary encourages people to think about who they are at their core; traits that may have been suppressed during their time of service. Take time to rediscover yourself. Approach your next career in the civilian sector with humility. Allow yourself to be teachable. You’re not starting over completely – you’re starting from experience – but realize that civilians have so much to share with you as well.

Start changing your inner narrative today. It doesn’t cost you time or money. Be mindful of what you say to yourself when you first wake up and when you go to bed. Make those statements positive and encouraging. Set aside 5 minutes a day and sit in silence. In just a couple of weeks, you will notice your mind slowing down. The To Do lists will fade in the background, and you’ll have the space to process the questions and hear the answers.

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