I have a confession to make. My natural tendency is to be a glass half-empty person. And to be completely transparent, I am more like a glass 5% empty person. It has taken me years to realize that the part of me that feels inadequate and always projects the worst case scenario into the future and worries about events that will most likely never occur is never going to go away. One of the greatest revelations I have had in my life is that rather than trying to silence that little voice in the back of my head that hardly ever has anything good to say I should focus on developing the conviction to remain in action and move forward while the little naysayer is doing his thing, trying to derail my efforts to be extraordinary and accomplish great things.
The question is not whether you have ever had the same kind of self-deprecating conversations with yourself, but how well you’re doing at not letting them get in the way of you showing up as the magnificent being that you are. Whether you aspire to increase your influence in your organization or in your personal life, or you already have formal leadership responsibilities that you want to do a better job of fulfilling, the greatest barrier that is in your way is never what’s going on out there, but the conversation you are having with yourself about it. Consider that what others say and do has nothing to do with you, and how you feel about what they say and do has nothing to do with them! I know on the surface, this seems absurd, but consider it for a second before your reject it. The choices others make about what to say and do are an outcome of whatever is going on in their world and you can’t deny that sometimes the circumstances beyond your control create barriers that you wish you wouldn’t have to deal with, but beyond your immediate reflex or reaction, which may seem automatic and sometimes instinctive, you have a choice about the conversation you are going to have with yourself about the situation.
If you are someone that others depend on for leadership, the choices you make about your internal dialogue and the words and actions that it produces make even a greater a difference for the people in your organization, their families and their communities. If you view a setback as just that, you will take responsibility for overcoming it and moving on and you exude the same energy and create a space for hope and resilience. If you view the same setback as an insurmountable challenge and begin to behave like a victim whose best hope is to survive, then you will likely incite fear and worry and a general lack of enthusiasm in the organization. By the same token, if you are not the leader but you wish to increase your influence, the best time for you to shine is when the going gets tough. Anybody can be happy and optimistic when things are going well but leaders emerge during tough times because people are naturally attracted to those who bring positive energy and create hope for a better future.
But all of this is so much easier said than done, isn’t it?! Well of course, but it’s not that hard to do when you get the hang of it, and what I’d like to share with you are a few simple hacks that will help you do just that. Now before I get into these hacks I must warn you they are not rocket science. They are basic things that we can all relate to but choose not to practice because we are always looking for some other more sophisticated solution. So if your reaction is that this stuff is nothing new and you already know it and it hasn’t helped you, please consider that it might be because you haven’t been practicing it, at least not consistently.
Anyway, if you’re up to it, here are a few suggestions that you can apply to your personal and professional pursuits:
Speak against your negative thoughts – Next time you are down and out and having all sorts of negative thoughts about what is not possible or how things are going to go wrong, try speaking faith-filled words to the opposite effect out loud. I mean open your mouth and declare something positive in that area. If you’re not thrilled about talking to yourself, talk to others who are willing to be positive and encouraging rather than commiserate with you. Choose your relationships such that the normal mode of operation is to have positive conversations that will replace the negative self-talk in your head.
Behave your way into a new way of thinking – Get in the habit of doing what you know you should do while you are trying to talk yourself out of it. I mean, when you are having that conversation with yourself about whether to get up and go to the gym when the alarm goes off in the morning, sit up, get up, start getting dressed and ready to go while the conversation is still going on. Again, if it sounds too simple to work, it’s because you haven’t done it. So, as Nike says, “just do it!”
Openly acknowledge your fears and concerns – What’s unsaid has a lot more power over you than it does when it is out in the open. The habit of not keeping your inhibitions a secret helps you get your arms around your real concern and deal with it, one way or another. A leader who admits that he/she doesn’t have everything figured out and asks for help to develop and execute a plan earns a certain level of respect than those who pretend they have everything figured out don't. The key is to also be willing to follow through by letting your fears and concerns go, rather than using them to justify lack of progress and play the victim.
Supercharge your commitment – It is never the size of the challenges you face that is a problem, it is always the size of your commitment to achieve the goals you have set. There are people with far more challenging circumstances than yours or mine who have managed to overcome them and achieve their goals while the rest of us are focused on why we can’t do something. Don’t focus on reducing the size of your challenges, instead ask yourself just how committed you are to achieving your goal and if you are less than 100% committed, renew your commitment and take another look at your challenges and see how much more manageable they seem.
Write your story down and read it out loud – The imagery you create in your mind about worst case scenarios is often exaggerated and baseless. I was once coaching a plant manager who was concerned about his boss not viewing his performance as stellar, and seeing how distraught he was, I asked him to tell me the worst case scenario he imagined. He immediately blurted out that he was going to get fired and his family would have to sleep under a bridge! Keep in mind, this is a person who had a 30-year career with prestigious companies and no doubt a retirement account that was in the top 0.5% of all Americans. I asked him if he really believed that and the more we talked about it, the more he realized that the image that was floating in his mind was far from anything that would ever happen, even if he did get fired, not to mention that he probably wasn’t going to get fired. By the way, he is still in the same role with the same company, over two years later. If you want to see just how absurd some of your imaginary potential outcomes are, write them down in as much detail as you can and read them out loud to yourself or someone else three times. I guarantee you the drama will turn into a comedy somewhere in the process.
If all else fails, wait it out – It would be great if you could always be on a high and never get in a rut but none of us have figured out how to do that. Sometimes the quicker way out of the rut is to accept that you are there and that you are going to be there for a little while. Instead of resisting it, be with it and watch what’s going on with you. The more comfortable you get with just waiting it out, the sooner you will recover. The less you feed the drama, the faster it will vanish.
I hope you can effectively use these approaches to get on track and stay on track with achieving the personal and professional goals you have set for yourself.
As always, have a great week! May you Boldly Declare, Courageously Pursue, and Abundantly Achieve the Extraordinary! I would love to hear about your victories and/or challenges. Please leave your comments below or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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