–By Schon Beechler
In Monday’s blog I wrote about our natural tendency to come to snap judgments about other people and external events. But it’s not just others we judge – we do this to ourselves as well. Most of us have a running monologue inside our heads with our explanations for what’s happened in the past and our expectations for the future. Some of our “self talk” has an overly positive bias in the form of over-confidence and lack of humility. These judgments are detrimental since they can lead us to take unnecessary risks and to alienate others. At the same time, many of us color our internal world with an overly negative brush – questioning or beating ourselves up. That’s an even bigger problem – but something you can change.
For example, last year I met a bright, personable and successful executive, Bill, who confided that he wasn’t sure that “he was good enough” to successfully lead his organization and was afraid to try “something dramatic and risky” in order to turn the business around. And it starts early. When my daughter was in kindergarten she came home proclaiming, “I’m no good at math.” She was 5.
There is a lot of scientific evidence that our self-talk becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. However, most of us believe that self-criticism is what keeps us in line. We’re wrong. Research studies show that while persistence is a key driver of success, it’s the persistence of the Learner in us, rather than the Judger, that fuels our success.
Marilee Adams, Ph.D., was a psychotherapist for over 25 years, is a personal coach, and leadership trainer. She has developed a very simple and useful framework about how we approach every situation.[i] She says that we all have both a Learner and a Judger self and we can chose, moment by moment, which of those two selves we want to invoke. When something happens and we invoke our Judger self we ask, “What’s wrong with me? Whose fault is it? Why are they so stupid? How can I prove that I am right? Why bother?” On the other hand, when we invoke our Learner self we ask, “What do I want? What works? What are the facts and what can I learn from this situation? What are my choices? What action steps make sense? What’s possible?”
Dr. Adams notes that even if we find ourselves in Judger, we can “switch lanes” at any time and move into Learner. Let’s take Bill, the talented but self-doubting executive whom I worked with last year. With some coaching Bill changed his question from “Am I good enough?” to “What am I great at? How can I use my strengths to turn around this company? Who can help me succeed?” Those new Learner questions helped him find the courage and a dramatically different approach. A few months later he wrote to tell me about the successful turnaround of his company and new-found acknowledgment and respect from his co-workers for his great leadership. Most importantly, he now believed in himself.
Pause for a moment and think about yourself.
Are you aware of the self-talk and kinds of questions that you ask yourself? How does it impact what you are willing to try (and not)?
How does your self-talk influence your motivation and your attitudes about yourself and others? How does it impact your successes or failures?
Please share your thoughts with us in the comments box below. We’d love to hear from you!