“Human nature seems to endow people with the ability to size up everybody in the world but themselves.”
– John C. Maxwell – author of “The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership”
Life is all about perspective, how we see the world. However, our view of the world is skewed badly when it comes to assessing ourselves. With this in mind, I thought I would share a story from my weekend to inspire you.
Every month, I spend a few hours thinking about what has happened over the past four/five weeks. The practice is aligned to my daily Mind Chi routine of assessing what has gone well and what I would seek to improve from the previous 24 hours. Typically, I have tended to focus on tangible matters – conversations, actions and achievements and, in the context of 24 hours, that is relatively straightforward – them memory of a particular situation is recent enough to stimulate ideas for improvement. Over the course of a month, the brain begins to play tricks – adding touches of colour and twists of detail that may or may not have been obvious at the time, but seem very real now.
But, that’s not the problem I wanted to share right now. The other issue is the fact that the brain loves patterns. It loves to store information in ways that make them easily accessible and, to do that, it uses a bit of poetic licence. Sometimes, an experience may be unique or an insight may be new and the brain may struggle to immediately allocate it. It’s a bit like when you’re tidying a room or a cupboard, many of the items you discover fit into easy categories and can be immediately placed in a small pile, while others are placed in a pile that becomes known as “miscellaneous”. In memory terms, such miscellany can become forgotten and hard to retrieve.
This is particularly true when the brain is attempting to recall something successful or positive. Even the most positive-minded person can forget their achievements and impactful actions when they are piecing together ideas and strategies for moving forward. Which brings me to my weekend story.
As someone who is keen to help others, I have become an expert in critiquing my work. I can look back at my words, my workshops, my writing and see lots of opportunities for improvement. In fact, I have become so good at this, that when something significantly positive happens that is outside of my quest for improvement, it gets put into the miscellaneous portion of my brain and I tend to ignore it. Over time, the focus becomes only what can be done better and not on what has gone well. This myopic view can lead to a poor self-assessment and maybe even a mini crisis of confidence.
That’s what happened to me this weekend. I found myself wondering about certain aspects of my work and wondering if I was making the impact I really want to make. The downward spiral kicked-in and pretty soon, my mind was offering me all sorts of reasons to give up – from stage-fright at my first conference talk, to youthful conversations which led to abrupt endings to relationships and even one editing error in a 40,000 word book! It’s almost as if the brain can’t get enough of the bad news!
Luckily, I had my confidante and life partner to hand to save the day! Having spotted that my mood was uncharacteristically sombre, Jacqui asked me a bunch of probing questions that exposed the limitations of my thinking and, more importantly, some additional perspectives that I was unable to see. Due to the current pandemic, we have found ourselves doing this for each other a lot.
Other people, regardless of how well they know you, are always able to provide a different perspective because it is informed by their life experience, the folders their brains have created over the years and their view of the information you are presenting. This is why there is such huge value in services such as coaching and particularly, mastermind groups. The opportunity to see your challenges through completely different eyes is always helpful and often game-changing. It’s not that the ideas and perspectives are always valuable in themselves, it’s the extra dimension they provide for you. Sometimes a different view is the vital connection between two folders in your brain which your experience was unable to provide. The mix of the two and more folders literally provides an exponential number of new opportunities in your brain.
Do you have someone who can do this for you? Someone with astute questions that will cause you to pause and reflect and connect your own thinking? If not, find yourself a competent coach or join your own mastermind group. It could literally transform your year and your life!
If you feel this blog would help someone else, please Share it with them and let’s lift up everyone in the days, months and years ahead.