3 Beliefs That Are NOT As Productive As You Think
It’s funny how when you’re younger, you have this vision of how your life is going to be, despite not really knowing who you are or what you want. For me, I had been this advanced academic whiz who wasn’t afraid to work hard as early as 14 and was secure in my talents and abilities. As a late bloomer, experiences I hadn’t had yet didn’t feel so much like a failure as it felt like a chapter I hadn’t gotten to yet. It was all so simple.
In my 20s, I had become less secure with this “outlook unclear” status about my
career and my personal life. By then something had changed: I started to examine what I had failed to achieve or accomplish, losing sight of my successes. After all, what was success? I hadn’t defined it yet. Instead, it was easier to cling to the judgments of what a successful 20-something should be which bred fears and created a defensive barrier around me. I toughened up, but the problem with not letting people in is after some time, you also can’t find the way out either.
There I was, lost in my own cesspool of destructive beliefs and related behaviors, but I managed to stay safe even if that sometimes meant playing small. I would revisit my past failures and figure out how I had gone wrong. I was trying to develop a growth mindset, but somehow I kept getting stuck. Suddenly, complication struck.
By the time I had gotten to my 30s and became a certified professional coach and mentor, I was able to better observe this behavior in myself by being curious about these behaviors in others. I love how my own coach and mentor says, “you can’t see when you have spinach in your teeth”! And hey, who hasn’t had errant spinach, lipstick, or poppy seeds in their choppers—we all have! She’s right—we can’t see things about ourselves as clearly as when we observe these things in others. So here are the common beliefs that have been getting stuck in your craw:
“It’s too late to change.” True, you cannot rewrite history but you CAN change how you respond starting with trips down memory lane. Recognizing times when you may have experienced a different result is not intended to keep you stuck in place. Instead, this is valuable information that you can use to choose new endings in the present. There isn’t necessarily a “right” way about creating your life. Allowing family, friends, coworkers, peers, or even society in general dictate what is right for you generates a lot of pressure to keep a ton of other people happy with your performance. End the show. Let the last time be your encore performance and make a new choice. The GPS of life is never going to take you in a straight line—imagine, if it did, how many times would you end up over a cliff? And if at first you don’t succeed, fail, fail again. Get knocked down nine times, get up ten. You don’t ever have to stay down, just know that if you do, it was your choice. Make lefts, take rights, expect detours, and if you’ve ever been to Jersey, look for circles and jughandles before you accidentally end up on the Turnpike headed towards Delaware.
“It happened before, it will always happen that way.” Remember that the past is not indicative of the present or future. This belief is a symptom of stress where absolute negativity seems much more likely than any positive departure from the past. When you feel like there is no upward mobility from a situation, chances are, you are going to stay down there in the funk. This response is often Level 1 leadership where you do not feel that you have the power to change your circumstances, nor do you feel any responsibility to do so. You end up piling on and piling on until the most obvious reaction or response is to do nothing about it at all.
“Being vulnerable is a sign of weakness.” Remember the toughness from before? It’s not uncommon for people to be reluctant to ask for the help they need (or want) because saying the wrong thing, saying too much, getting the feels in a heart that’s ten sizes too small, or telling people what they mean to us is as uncomfortable for some of us as a pair of wet skinny jeans. But here’s the gag: being vulnerable is not always about being comfortable, it’s about showing the side of yourself that is imperfect, unfinished, or under construction. It’s about braving the danger of being seen without our figurative makeup on. If you cannot open yourself up to failure or rejection, how can you be open to opportunity and success? Stop trying to rationalize how you can appear to be open, honest, and vulnerable and just be those things. Be free of the fear that in doing so you have something to lose.
When you embrace change, release your assumptions, and drop the tough-guy act, you will begin to break down the wall.
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