I’ve coached hundreds of leaders through deep dives on their teams to understand each person’s individual development needs. One of the common themes that come up in these sessions is this idea of a leader being too hard on themselves.
We found that these people usually were very driven and wanted their area of responsibility to be a successful part of the organization. They also typically had a high level of care for their people. The feedback about the individual was that they took constructive feedback hard and were in fact harder on themselves than their actual leader could ever be.
Maybe that hits a little close to home, or you know someone that describes.
I certainty was that leader for a time. I had a high drive to be the best field location in the organization. We had very high expectations for our people while having a great time with wonderful results. It was also not uncommon for me to get wrecked as my leader layout constructive feedback during visits. I was too hard on myself and I often felt failure after the visit.
Negative self-talk can eat you alive in your personal and professional life. Being mindful of positive self-talk can make a lasting impact on your overall leadership and emotional health.
4 types of Negative Self Talk
Before we fill our lives with positive self-talk, we need to understand negative self-talk so we can identify when it’s happening and how often it occurs.
Personalizing: The, “It’s not you, it’s me” mantra. This is one of the most common forms and basically follows the pattern of when something bad happens you automatically blame yourself for the outcome. It’s important to do some reality testing here to determine if you are truly responsible or are there outside circumstances at play.
Real-Life Example: You weren’t chosen in the interview process. Constructive feedback at work.
Filtering: Here you filter out the good things in the situation and magnify the negative. An example of this would be an area leader’s visit to one of our locations. They leave a heap of positive observations and affirmations while giving you a couple of things to work on. After the fact, you only focus on the couple of negative things and discount all the positive pieces that they gave you.
Real-Life Example: Filtering teachers/professors/mentors’ notes on a paper/project/challenge.
Catastrophizing: This is where you automatically think the worst in situations. It’s important here to think about the likelihood that your thought will actually occur and consider other possible outcomes.
Real-Life Example: You always get stuck in heavy traffic. You feel like you are always going to be excluded.
Polarizing: It’s either all good or all bad. There is typically no middle ground in this thought process. You have to be perfect or you are a total failure. Maybe you have a goal to run or walk three times a week and you are only able to do it twice. Your overall focus is on the “failure” and not on the progress that you are making.
Real-Life Example: Hobbies/home projects are perfect or you failed overall. Being destroyed by a “B” in school. When a friend/customer experiences a service failure.
Identify those areas in your life where you are sabotaging yourself with negative self-talk, and remember that it’s not created equally across all parts of your life. You may struggle with personalizing-type of negative self-talk at work and be fine at home. You may be polarizing at home, and be fine where you volunteer your time.
Now that we know those areas of opportunity, we’ll cover some tips for positive self-talk and reflection next week.
I seem to coach and help a lot of leaders looking for their next job or step in their career. One thing I always stress is for the person to find their job, not just any job. (Ep 228-231) There is an intentional reason behind the distinction between the two; your job has purpose and will give you long-lasting satisfaction, while any available job will likely leave you empty and back and same place of searching for another role.
We all want our work to mean something. We want to know that we are contributing to something larger than gathering a paycheck. Here are some ways to lock in on your purpose as you carry a strong connection to what you do.
1. Find purpose in your purpose
A purpose that doesn’t run deep or ring true on a foundational level is…well not a true purpose.
It’s easy for an organization to say, “These are our Values and the purpose of our work.” Unless you find a way to connect with that on a personal level then that purpose doesn’t really mean anything. We all have inherent things that uniquely drive us and motivate us to be our best. Some people are drawn to be connectors, others are servants, others creative, builders and solutionists. Connect to whatever your inner drive is to latch on to your purpose in your work. It’s common to find people working on the same team and on the same tasks with totally different purposes for being there and finding value in their work.
2. Think of purpose holistically
I’ve coached several very talented people in the past that had bountiful potential. It struck me as odd at first how some would burn out, not meet their potential and leave their job. You could see it coming towards the end, so it wasn’t a surprise but it surely was disheartening. They were frustrated by not reaching their sense of purpose, which was often a world-changing event on impact in the organization.
Purpose is certainly having a large-scale impact on others, but that is not all of what purpose is. Those “tent-pole” moments of purpose don’t happen on a daily basis, and if we hold ourselves to the all-or-nothing mindset of purpose we can have long stretches of dissatisfaction in what we do.
Think of purpose holistically. We often talk on the show about how minor things matter. That’s certainly the case with purpose. Making someone’s day a bit easier, bringing a smile to someone’s face, or helping someone meet a need could all be parts of your purpose. Find purpose and joy in the smaller things that you do throughout your week. There are plenty of small opportunities to serve a bigger purpose and cause in what you do.
If you only chase after monumental purpose moments and events, you’ll find yourself unfulfilled.
3. Break the comparisons
Not everyone is going to be a CEO or someone that is written about in the history books. As obvious as that sounds, there are plenty of people that put their purpose and impact through a comparison lens of others. Perhaps you look back every once in a while to see how you are doing compared to your high school or college classmates. Maybe you compare yourself to your teammate or a family member. Letting go of the self-induced pressure of legacy frees you up to truly live out your purpose in your work and in your life.
I once coached and mentored a small-town business leader who was singularly focused on leaving a great legacy behind as he retired. You’ve likely never heard of him, but that doesn’t mean his legacy with those that do know him is any less valuable. He truly lived thrived in his purpose to serve others by not caring about comparisons between him and someone else.
4. Remind yourself of your purpose
We can lose our focus on purpose through changes in the how of the work, cultural changes, or technology changes. If you find yourself struggling to find the Why in work, take some time to refocus on what you do.
Make a list of all the things that you enjoy about your job. Remember the small things!
List out all of the accomplishments you’ve had over the last 6 months or a year. You’ll likely be surprised by how much you have accomplished.
Take some time off to refresh and recharge.
Be transparent with your supervisor or peers. Look for new opportunities or projects that you can be a part of to help introduce you to some new people and concepts.
Latch on to your purpose, let go of comparisons and keep your focus on your Why as you navigate change. You’ll be more productive, have a higher sense of satisfaction, and work in what you do and you’ll have a long-lasting impact on others.
I once worked for someone where nothing was ever good enough. I felt like I had to prove myself over and over again no matter how long I had been in the role. It gets exhausting and it crushes your morale and drive to do better.
You shouldn’t have to live life running through fire every day to prove your worth as a person and as a leader. Here are some thoughts to help remind you that you have nothing to prove.
Judge your success by your own standards
Our society today is one of comparison. We want to be like the person living their best Instagram worthy life, our extended friends and family that live in our dream house, or even the jerk that is sitting in the job that is meant for us.
The problem with comparing yourself to others is that it will always be an unfair comparison and you’ll never be truly satisfied. Judge your success on your own standards. It doesn’t mean you stop pushing yourself for growth. It means to focus on your individual progress instead of putting it up against other people’s situations.
We talked about this more in-depth way back in PTB Episode 36: Who is your competition?
You can’t please everyone
As an early leader, I know I tried too hard to please everyone. I felt that I wasn’t the best leader unless everyone was happy. Understand that you aren’t going to please everyone. It’s impossible, because of so many variables in ethics, upbringing, lifestyle, and perspective.
Lead by what’s best for the group and have confidence in your leadership and decision-making ability. When you live your life this way, you have nothing to prove to the naysayers and doubters. When a person doesn’t care for your leadership style, accept it, and keep moving forward.
It only matters what a few people think
It’s easy to get hung up in what other people think of you. You see these scenarios play out in school, work, professional & volunteer organizations and in social circles. Like a good golden retriever, we want to please others and be liked.
At the end of the day, the most valuable relationships in your life will likely total 10 people are less. This is your innermost circle. These people matter. Outside of that, most people you meet will likely exit your circle at some point in time.
You can give too much mental space and attention to people that are inconsequential to you in the big scheme of things.
One of my favorite scenes from the Office is when Andy is destroying himself because people on the internet are trolling his youtube videos. It’s funny how much he loses control but it’s also funny because that reaction is a reality for many people.
You determine your happiness
At the end of the day, you determine your level of happiness no matter the circumstances in your life. No one can take your happiness away from you unless you allow them to.
Your definition of happiness may be very different from someone else’s. Others strive for the biggest beach house that they can’t afford and you may just want to live in a tiny house on the side of a mountain.
Chase what makes YOU happy instead of allowing others to build a narrative that you have to prove yourself towards time and time again.
You have nothing to prove to anyone but yourself, (a new job or client being the exception). Push yourself for growth and let success follow you.
I’m a big-time management guy. It’s a subject that I get a lot of questions about at Passing the Baton and when I’m meeting people in the real world. Recently the question and idea came up about the desire for time versus the desire for more personal experiences. Could the aching desire for more meaningful memories actually be disguising itself as a desire for more time?
I want more time to spend outside of work
Let’s say you are already doing well with your time and you still want more time outside of work. Evaluate your time in a given week and see how much leisure time you actually have. It’s likely higher than you think.
Use your calendar to determine your average amount of leisure time. This alone may be the wake-up call that you are spending more time doing things that have little significance.
Pull out your hobby, friends, family, education, and health maintenance time. Examine the quality of those times. Are they being utilized well or is there a lot of wasted time? How about technology’s impact on those times?
Time perception is real. How we perceive our time impacts how we spend it. If you feel like you have no time, you are likely more stressed about it and aren’t using it all efficiently. On the other hand, those that feel like they have a good grasp and control over their time get more out of the moments they create.
What you think you spend your time on and what you actually spend your time on might be more different than you realize.
I need more space
I always tell people to schedule their free time. I know it sounds weird. John shares a story years ago when he started doing this. He started scheduling daily water intake and playtime with his kids. Wouldn’t you know it, he started getting healthier and enjoyed more memories with family.
Scheduling off times and space protects it from other time-wasters and other priorities from stealing it away from you. Place memory-building activities on your calendar. It doesn’t always have to be a grand adventure; it can be as simple as a date with someone or a phone call to an old friend.
I need help being in the moment
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become much more aware of being in the moment. I no longer take the situation or time for granted anymore. I think of it as memory imprinting. I’m very aware of what’s going on around me and I’m actively building that memory as I live it out. It may sound odd, but it has certainly helped me. Here are some tips to help you with memory imprints.
Call out details in your mind as you are in the moment. What are the smells? What are you wearing? What is the weather like? What are the key things going on around you? I love doing this on film sets. There’s always a ton going on and its fun to remember all the behind-the-scenes things happening when it comes out on the big screen.
Think back and reflect on the time soon after it wraps up. This will help solidify the memory in your mind. I usually reflect back immediately after it’s over and then a couple of times the following days.
Eliminate all distractions. Another plus about the film industry is that you are not allowed to have phones on set. It forces you to be fully in the moment. That experience has taught me that there are times when I need to put up my phone. I know that I have missed memorable moments because I’ve had my face in a phone. Make sure that you are not that person.
Grow an appreciation for the moment. Realize that the moment you are in is a snapshot, never to be repeated again. (Even if it’s an ongoing event like work or Friday nights with friends) Each event is different and the circumstances of these events will change before you know it.
I need help remembering
Our minds can be a frustrating thing. You want to hold on to retain quality memories and experiences, but it’s constantly dumping that info so that it can process new ones. There are a couple of options that I would recommend to help catalog and enjoy your memories.
Daily Journal – Use it as part of your morning routine or at the end of the day. This doesn’t have to be a significant amount of writing every day, just enough to catalog the high points. A side benefit of this is that it may open up creativity and a larger desire to write and compose. It also gives you a semi-detailed look back so that you can see the progress that you’ve made.
1 Second Everday APP – I found myself frustrated that I wasn’t remembering as much as I wanted to. The creator of 1SE felt the same way and that’s why he built this app. Basically what you do is take a picture every day and then the app catalogs it and can make things like slideshows and movies out of them. You can also just browse daily pictures if you’d like.
The app forced me to be on the lookout for good moments and appreciate them more as they happened. It also helped me remember them. I’m currently looking back 7 months and I remember the details of every one of those events. I highly recommend the app to others.
The desire for more memories is often the starting point of some type of time management. Regardless of the motivation, I would encourage you to pursue it. Passing the Baton teaches online classes several times a year and I would certainly recommend Lee Cockerell’s Time Management Magic for people to read.
Have you ever felt like a phony, fake, or inadequate no matter how successful you really are? It’s often referred to as Imposter Syndrome. You feel like you aren’t truly good enough to be the leader, great parent, or friend and once everyone figures it out, it will all be over.
You are not alone in dealing with Imposter Syndrome. Over 70% of people will deal with it at some point in their lifetime. Several very successful people have come out to discuss their own dealings of feeling like an imposter including Neil Armstrong, Tom Hanks, Emma Watson, and Maya Angelou.
Types of Imposter Syndrome
Imposter Syndrome can fall into several categories but often look something like this:
“It has to be perfect.” This person feels like they are a failure if they don’t complete a project or task perfectly. They may lead a very successful community event and feel like a failure because there was feedback on improving the parking situation. If it’s not 100/100 then it’s not good enough.
“I trick people.” These people feel like they don’t deserve the promotions, accolades, and recognition that they receive. They feel like they have fooled or deceived others into thinking they are more successful than they are and have high anxiety that they will eventually be “found out” or discovered. They may feel like they come across as more competent than they really are.
“I’m lucky.” These people attribute their success to luck or others and often downplay success altogether. They don’t feel like their hard work is successful; instead, they feel like they stumbled into success time and again.
“I should be a great juggler.” This person feels like they should be able to juggle all aspects of their life perfectly. They are extremely hard on themselves when they let a role in their life slip, (spouse, parent, friend, student, employee). They expect themselves to nail it all, all of the time.
“I’m only a winner if I win.” If this person doesn’t make the MVP list, win the award, or is recognized for their contribution, they feel like they aren’t good enough. They also see asking for help as a sign of weakness in themselves.
Your environment plays a heavy part
Imposter Syndrome is not a mental disorder; instead, it’s rooted in how we react to an environment and stimuli. Here are a few of the common environments that help push us into this space.
A new job or work environment: There is added stress in not knowing everyone or everything. You also likely won’t be executing your job at full efficiency for a while. Compound the problem by comparing yourself to your new co-workers.
Online and social settings: Comparing your real self to the best versions of others on social media or during social gatherings.
Academic: Comparing yourself to other students as far as grades, success, ease, and acceptance.
Relationships: Comparing yourself to yours or the other’s expectations in the relationship both friendly and romantic.
Identity and connections fuel the fire
Think of your environment as the wood in a fire pit. It’s just there and nothing will happen if it’s left alone. Your connections and identity are the fuel that starts the fire. Consider these connections and how they play a role in how you react in the environments above:
Overbearing partner/ overprotective parents
Depression, low self-esteem and anxiety
Gender, racial identity
How to break the cycle
You can break out of the Imposter Syndrome cycle. The first step is obviously to know that you are dealing with the issue (Self Awareness). Here are some other things you can do to lessen and potentially eliminate feeling like an imposter:
Talk it out with someone. Imposter Syndrome loves to live in isolation inside yourself. Talk out your feelings and thoughts with a trusted friend, advisor or mentor.
Be kind to yourself. I have seen some of the kindest people beat themselves up for their perceived shortcomings. Give yourself the same forgiveness that you give others and be kind to yourself. Let someone besides yourself be your worst critic.
Understand that your thoughts and situation are not unique. Remember when you run into a bout of doubt that others are likely going through the same. Know that it’s not just you and that it’s temporary then step up and do well.
Learn from failure. To our Baton Carriers that are perfectionists; It’s okay to fail. You need to fail to keep learning and growing. Use failure as a learning opportunity and move on. Don’t dwell on failure for failure’s sake.
Go small. Focus on the smaller tasks and the accomplishments that come along with it instead of focusing on the larger issue. It can help you stay focused in a positive direction.
You are not an imposter. Understanding what Imposter Syndrome is and how your environment and connections impact your thought process will help you understand where you need to start to recover from this type of thinking. Lean into others to help you break the cycle.