INSIGHTS (on leadership/self-leadership)
Few emotions sting like regret.
There are two kinds. One more painful, but easier to avoid, than the other kind of regret. First, you regret the thing that happened, that thing you did that you wish you didn’t. Problem with that is, you can’t do much about this kind of regret. The past is the past, and while, sure, you can convince yourself you won’t do that thing again, that’s an ineffective strategy, Why? Because when we do things we regret, we regret them because we knew better, and because we weren’t planning to do them, but did them anyway. You can’t predict, or plan, for that. The exception is when you habitually do the same thing over and over that you end up regretting every time, like hooking up with that ex-girlfriend when you’re hammered. But that’s not most of us, most of the time. In general, an ounce of prevention with this type of regret gives you, about an ounce of prevention, that’s it.
The more painful version is regret born from what you didn’t do. The shot you never took. The effort you didn’t put in. But this time, there’s an effective preventative measure you can take.
Never underestimate the power of giving your best effort – KNOWING – that you’ve done the best you can.
Think about it. If you can truly say you’ve left it all out on the field, that you’ve given it your all to the best of your abilities, what’s there to regret?
It’s a mantra I recite often to myself, “Do the best you can.” It keeps me focused on the input (which I can control) not the outcome (which I can’t).
IMPERFECTIONS (a mistake I used to make)
The opposite of self-confidence is insecurity, and nothing screams “insecure” more than approval seeking behavior. The struggle for approval is an elusive, yet empty victory at best, and confidence eroding/soul-crushing at worst. Approval is an insatiable beast, and the associated behavior can be spotted a mile away by employees who are instead looking for role-models of self-belief. As psychiatrist and author, Marcia Sirota, notes (edited for brevity): “Human beings are highly sensitive to power dynamics in relationships. We admire those who are confident; the ‘Alpha.’ And we’re aware of those who are insecure and lacking in confidence; they come across as weak and needy – and we’re inclined to react negatively toward them.”
Seeking approval alters your behavior in unintended, unhealthy ways. In an attempt to gain acceptance in some form, you grow further and further from your authentic self. The gap between who you are, and who you’re acting like, becomes a deep, dark one, into which your confidence plunges.
I would know. This was a younger me.
I learned, however, to build a habit of inviting my authentic self in, and kicking my approval-hungriness out. Here’s how I did it – and how you can too.
When you catch yourself in approval-seeking behavior, stop, and ask three questions.
#1: “Why am I seeking approval?”
Is it because:
– you want to be liked
– you want to feel like you belong
– you’re uncertain of your abilities
– you’re unsure of getting the outcome you want
– you want to feel validated
Be honest with yourself. Pinpoint the reason, whatever it is.
Then ask yourself,
#2: “How is my need for approval holding me back?”
Seeking approval is borrowing confidence, not building it. It creates a false, forced, temporary sense of comfort that disguises the damage it’s doing. This question is about exposing the cost of your need for approval. For example, maybe after asking this question, you realize your need for approval, to feel liked, to fit in with a “clique” of co-workers who are judgmental towards others, is causing you to act in a way that opposes your closely held value of kindness.
Finally, pivot, and ask yourself,
#3: “What if I acted like I already have approval?”
Imagine if you acted like that group of co-workers already liked you – you wouldn’t have to behave in violation of your values. Or if you acted like your boss already thought you were doing a good job – you wouldn’t overanalyze every offhand comment they make, or keep asking for permission on everything. (As I like to say: “Home-builders need permission. Business builders don’t.”) You get the idea. If you act like you already have approval for whatever you’re seeking approval for, odds are, you’ll act much closer to your true, confident self. A confident self that others will see, and react to, in ways that will give you even more confidence.
IMPLEMENTATION (one research-backed strategy, tip, or tool)
Here’s a simple exercise to help you achieve more success. It’s called The Will vs. the Way.
A little framing first.
More often than not, you actually know what it takes to succeed at something. You’ve seen others do it. You’ve been studying it. You identify a series of steps. You have access to a blueprint.
You know the way.
The bigger question is, given all that you know about what it takes, given that you know, deep down, what you must do…will you do it?
Do you have the will?
What if you stopped spending so much time evaluating, assessing, and reassessing the way, and shifted that energy to fueling your will to do it?
That might look like you pushing past your fear of failure, putting an end to waiting for the perfect moment, convincing yourself that you’re worthy of whatever you’re aiming for, connecting to the meaningful purpose behind the pursuit, and so on. Whatever it looks like for you, it’ll look like more success coming your way.