It’s All About You (But Then Again, It’s Not Really)

women viewing her reflection and looks angst

It’s All About You (But Then Again, It’s Not Really)

The next time you’re bummed out about your past, current, or future situation, there is a powerful tool that can show you where the answers reside—and I’m sure you have one in your office or home.

It’s called a mirror!

How we view ourselves and the options we have to change is fundamental to our success and satisfaction. The bottom line is that you can do something about your situation, even if you temporarily believe otherwise.

Sample scenario #1: Akiko loves to complain and is gifted in telling anyone (who will listen) about how dire her circumstances are, even though she has an interesting job, a good salary, good health, and people who care about her. When challenged about her “finding the dark lining in every cloud,” she shrugs it off, saying, “If I didn’t point out what’s not working, who would?” Needless to say, her coworkers give her a wide berth.

Sample scenario #2: Warren always has a smile and a kind word for everyone, and frequently makes positive contributions to the group process. Very few people know that Warren has a chronic medical condition that requires careful monitoring, that he cares for his eighty-four-year-old mother in the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s dementia, and that he financially provides for a son with a mental health diagnosis who lives out of state. How can he be so consistently pleasant?

Why will this help me at work? How we view ourselves and then exercise our options as we move through the stress of the workplace is a primary determinant of our experience (as well as for those around us). If we are looking for ways to make it better and improve the situation, it is more likely that we can and will. Reducing our negativity will have an infectious, positive impact on those around us.

Why is this so difficult at times? Taking responsibility for ourselves sounds like something we all should do without grumbling. However, for most of us, there are a variety of reasons why this is hard. These include: the patterns we inherited from our families, working in toxic organizational cultures, lack of emotional intelligence, and the “feel-good” of making someone else responsible (to name a few!).

Your frank self-assessment:

Has the world given you a series of challenging opportunities, or has it stacked the deck against you?

What are your beliefs about your ability to control your destiny?

Do you hang out with people who are positive beings, or do they reinforce pettiness, blaming others, and general conspiracy theories?

My Tips: 

  • Begin to practice being the neutral “observer” of your day. Try recording your thoughts and inner feelings to see how much self-doubt and procrastination are part of the background. For now, just observe (and make a few notes if you like).
  • Think about your heroes and other people you admire. Why do they inspire you? How do you see yourself in them? By emulating people we admire, we can internalize different ways of “viewing and doing” in the world.
  • Think about the first steps you would take if you truly had the ability to change your world for the positive. Make a list of the things you can do that don’t require those around you to agree with you or to give you permission.

Action for traction: Write the (abbreviated) story of your life so far in two versions—the first where you have emerged from your circumstances to be an average modern superhero with special powers, and the second, a modern tragedy where life’s dramas have kept you from riches and happiness. Go ahead and exaggerate. Which one feels more like your true story?

  • Ask the people you trust to rate you on a scale of one (low) to ten (high) on optimism. If you’re surprised by the results, see if you can figure out how they came to their conclusions.
  • List the top ten positive changes that you have made in your life, and then the next top ten you are going to make. Spend some time visualizing what it will look and feel like once you do so.

Baked-in benefits:

  • We directly increase our self-confidence, not from the basis of our ego, but from quiet acceptance of our basic goodness.
  • By understanding that we always have options (even though they may not be obvious or the ones we immediately want), we tend to reduce our feelings of hopelessness or cynicism.
  • If we want those around us to be creative, energetic, enthusiastic, and positive, there’s no better place to start than by the good old “be the change you want to see.”

If you are interested in exploring this more, do work with individuals around business relationships, workplace transitions, and professional development. Please contact me for more info. 

Excerpt From: Flip Brown. “Balanced Effectiveness at Work.” Apple Books.