"You’ve been criticising yourself for years. Try approving of yourself and see what happens." Louise Hay.
How does behavioural change really happen? We are so conditioned to believe that to make adjustments and grow ourselves we have to find the things that we are ‘bad’ at, or that are not working for us and do less of them…easy isn’t it? We spend such a lot of our lives being down on ourselves, and criticising our every little action. How’s that working out for you? Not so great? Are you still down on yourself, still doing those things? What if we started focusing somewhere else?
Our attention is one of our most valuable assets. Did you get that? Attention is one of our most valuable assets. Whatever we give our attention to is what will grow and flourish. So if we are focussing on what we are doing wrong, then chances are we will see more and do more of that. Hang on…wasn’t that supposed to help us do less?? I suggest not. If, on the other hand, we choose to give our attention to what is already working for us and focus on that, then chances are we will find ourselves doing more of that…and maybe even enjoying ourselves in the process!
We are all motivated to be competent and to become more competent. A feeling of competence contributes to our well being. But how is this best developed?
In corporatesville, there is a thing called the Pareto principle. This basically says that 80% of my income is coming from 20% of my customers; So – If you focus your very valuable attention on the 80% of your customers that is giving you only 20% of your income and try and grow them, there is a real possibility that the 20% that are your loyal clients or customers and your real bread and butter are going to lose out. So spending less time on focussing on what is not working, and more time on making the 20% more prosperous, could that take less effort, be more profitable and perhaps be a good strategy?…yes?
The same goes for personal development. Let’s look at this from a public speaking perspective. I am wanting to be a great public speaker. If my valuable attention is where I perceive my downfalls are – counting how many times I say Ummmm, focussing on how nervous I am, the stain on my shirt from lunch etc, then I will no doubt finish the presentation knowing that I said Ummm 12 times, that my hands shook and that the stain is still there. I will walk away with that as a focus and as the relationship that I have just built with my audience; all of that attention that I could have been giving to them, not me.
How about I change that around? The feedback is that I know I am good at some things, like building rapport, eye contact, and storytelling. So if I can change where I put my attention and start focussing on more of what is already working for me, then I can start to build my relationship with myself and my audience from a positive perspective.
Constructive criticism is often ‘back handed’ compliments, designed to undermine our self value. Think about everything that happens in a sentence before a ‘but’. I loved your presentation, but I think…..Did I really love the presentation? What happens after the ‘but’ is going to be the thing we listen to the most. We love to hear negative things – we have heard them all our lives and that is what we are used to. It comes down to self-esteem. We all seek to verify our own perceptions of ourselves, so if we have low self-esteem we will look for the criticism and be comfortable/comforted with that. We will often not believe a compliment when it is paid; not even receive it, let alone believe it! Negative events have a greater impact on your brain than positive events do. This is because negative events pose a chance of danger and we become hypersensitive to them at the level of instinct, the spiral is that we then have a hard time seeing, hearing or feeling positive.
We tend to focus more on what they think went wrong or what we did badly. We are very quick to criticise ourselves and need to be encouraged to see the positives first. If we focus on the negatives first, we will have a really hard time giving ANY attention to the positives.
Powerful change can be achieved when we focus on identifying what is already working. What are your good and great attributes? Celebrate them and then apply them and grow them.
Once again…in corporatesville… the phrase for this is called Appreciative Inquiry. It is about building on the strengths to transform an organisation. According to Peter Drucker of the Drucker School of Management, change comes from an alignment of attention on strengths that makes a systems’ weaknesses irrelevant. I believe this applies in a similar way to personal change. Elevate your strengths and your perceived weaknesses become irrelevant. Enquire of yourself – what is already working for you? Now work to amplify that.
Your ATTENTION is POWERFUL. Choose what part of your experience you want to see more of, focus on that, and more of it will flow into your life. Guaranteed!
It is not the horse that draws the cart, but the oats. −Russian proverb
http://youtu.be/QzW22wwh1J4 for a cute look at Appreciative Inquiry