Don’t be hard on urself…

Don’t be hard on yourself

Ben (Name changed), a research and development director at a pharmaceutical company, was distraught. “A situation happened at work today that I can’t get out of my head,” he said. It turned out that Ben had spent hours preparing for an all-hands meeting with colleagues across the globe. He reviewed the agenda, drafted his talking points, and logged on to the conference software ready to contribute.

Then, things went askew. Ben struggled to be heard above more dominant colleagues, and when he did get an opportunity to speak, he felt flustered and flubbed his words. Afterwards, Ben was preoccupied by the incident. He couldn’t quit beating himself up. Why hadn’t he spoken up earlier or been more assertive? Why did he over explain and blabber on instead of sticking to his talking points?

Ben is a Sensitive strivera high-achiever who is also highly sensitive. He is driven and demands excellence from himself at all times. But when he falls short of those impossibly high expectations, his innate sensitivity and thoughtfulness cause him to spiral into self-recrimination. If you can relate to Ben’s reaction, then you also may be too hard on yourself. This can take the form of harsh, punitive judgments, overanalyzing your shortcomings, rumination over minor missteps, worry, and assuming fault.

Perhaps you have thought that self-criticism is what keeps you sharp. Sensitive strivers like Ben often use it as a form of motivation, hoping that if they’re tough enough on themselves, they’ll be compelled to perform. But research shows that self-criticism is a poor strategy. When used excessively, it is consistently associated with less motivation, worse self-control, and greater procrastination. In fact, self-criticism shifts the brain into a state of inhibition, which prevents you from taking action to reach your goals.

Being hard on yourself may be ineffective, but it is also a hard pattern to break. It requires consistent attention and practice. Here are a few strategies that can set on the path to taking a more balanced, emotionally equanimous approach to your performance.

Name your inner critic.

Create psychological distance from self-criticism by personifying it. For example, choose a silly name or a character from a movie or a book. Mine is called Bozo, but you might name yours “the little monster” or “gremlin.” I once had a client who called his Darth Vader (of Star Wars fame). He purchased a small Darth Vader action figure for his desk, which reminded him to keep the critical voice in check.

Naming your inner critic leverages cognitive defusion — a process by which you separate yourself from your thoughts. Defusion is shown to reduce discomfort, believability, and the stress of negative thoughts. It also promotes psychological flexibility, or the capacity to steady your mind, manage your emotions, and be aware, open, and adaptive to changing demands.

Avoid generalization.

When Ben found out details about the all-hands meeting later, it became clear that no one noticed he was flustered. In fact, the COO later told Ben she thought his comments were the only moment of clarity in the conversation. This shocked Ben since it did not match his impression. It was a clear example of the spotlight effect — a tendency in which you misjudge and overestimate how much attention others pay to your behavior.

To combat the spotlight effect, consider your performance on aggregate versus zeroing in on a singular negative event. Think of a bell curve: you’ll likely perform average or higher than average most days. Some days will be below average, and that’s normal. Keep an eye on the bigger picture. Ben realised that while the all-hands wasn’t his best showing, he was only paralysing himself further by taking this one unfavourable meeting and generalising it to an ongoing pattern. We avoid using extreme statements like “I always mess up,” “I’ll never get my voice heard,” and “This happens every time.”

Flip the “what if” narrative.

The human mind is wired to make meaning and answer questions. The sensitive brain, in particular, is adept at making connections and anticipating eventualities. Studies have shown that sensitive people have more active mental circuitry and neurochemicals in areas related to attention, action-planning, decision-making, and having strong internal experiences.

This means that as a sensitive striver you have the power to channel your thinking with greater precision. Make better use of your brain power by posing more constructive questions. Specifically, consider what could go right in equal measure with what could go wrong. For example:

• What if the senior leadership team loves my presentation?

• What if this idea isn’t stupid, but is the breakthrough that moves the project forward?

• What if this proposal revolutionizes how we work as a team?

Set a timer and a goal.

Being hard on yourself can ruin your mood, focus, and productivity if you let it. Luckily, shame and humiliation  –  two emotions that are common with self-criticism — are shown to only last between 30 to 50 minutes. Take advantage of this fact by time-boxing your feelings: set a timer and allow yourself to fully experience and process your emotions during that period. One helpful practice is release writing, in which you free write for three to five minutes to let go of pent-up frustrations.

Once the timer goes off, make a conscious choice about how to move forward. Define how you want to feel and what actions gets you closer to that feeling state. Ben decided he wanted to feel peaceful. We determined several steps that could help him achieve peacefulness, including a short meditation and taking a break to walk his dog.

Expand your definition of success.

As a sensitive striver, you likely have a tendency to define achievement in a hyper-specific way, that is, complete and total excellence at all times. You don’t need to lower your bar, but you do need to broaden your scope of what qualifies as a “win.” Achieving the desired outcome isn’t always in your control, so broaden your definition of success to include:

• Overcoming resistance or fear

• Pushing back and standing up for what you think is right

• Approaching a situation with a different mindset or attitude

• Taking a small step toward a goal

Take a few moments at the end of your workday to reflect not only on your professional highlights (praise, recognition, positive reviews, etc.), but also to consider moments where you made yourself proud. Acting in integrity with your values is the true definition of success.

As a sensitive striver, your desire to be the best is an asset when managed correctly. Once you tamp down the tendency to be hard on yourself, you’ll be able to more fully leverage your sensitivity and ambition as the gifts they are.

Feeling Overwhelmed? Let’s Avoid These Mistakes…

When you feel overwhelmed, the way you react can actually make things worse. Here are five common, self-sabotaging mistakes to watch out for — and how to avoid them:

You think you don’t have time for actions that might help you. 

Stop waiting for an ideal moment, and do something to help yourself immediately, such as finding a therapist, taking a day off to rest, or calling up a friend.

You don’t use your unconscious mind enough. 

It’s unreasonable to expect to be focused all the time. Try taking a walk and letting your mind drift and see what solutions emerge.

You interpret feeling overwhelmed as a weakness. 

Being hard on yourself will only lead you to procrastinate or become more perfectionistic. Replace your self-criticism with compassionate self-talk.

You default to your traditional approaches and defenses. 

Our strengths may not always work to our advantage; for example, thoughtfulness can become overthinking, or high standards can lead to perfectionism. Be mindful of your instinctive reactions in order to stay flexible in your approach to problem solving.

You withdraw from your support system. 

Find ways to connect with people even when you’ve got limited emotional energy.

Take small steps instead of perfect steps…

To work towards a goal be it personal or professional we have two choices: 

• Take multiple and frequent steps towards the goal – Quantity of steps

Take infrequent but perfect steps toward the goal – Quality of steps

Here is an experiment that elaborates the difference(Courtesy: Atomic Habits):

ON THE FIRST day of class, Jerry Uelsmann, a professor at the University of Florida, divided his film, photography students, into two groups.

Everyone on the left side of the classroom would be in the “Quantity” group. They would be graded solely on the amount of work (No. Of Photos) they produced. On the final day of class, he would tally the number of photos submitted by each student. One hundred photos would rate an A, ninety photos a B, eighty photos a C, and so on. 

Meanwhile, everyone on the right side of the room would be in the “Quality” group. They would be graded only on the excellence of their work. They would only need to produce one photo during the semester, but it had to be a nearly perfect image to get an A. 

At the end of the term, he was surprised to find that all the best photos were produced by the Quantity group.

Reason

During the semester, “Quantity” students were busy taking photos, experimenting with composition and lighting, testing out various methods in the darkroom, and learning from their mistakes. In the process of creating hundreds of photos, they honed their skills. 

Meanwhile, the Quality group sat around speculating about perfection. In the end, they had little to show for their efforts other than unverified theories and one mediocre photo. 

Dont get bogged down to make it perfect

It is easy to get bogged down trying to find the optimal plan for change: the fastest way to lose weight, the best program to build muscle, the perfect idea for a side hustle. We are so focused on figuring out the best approach that we never get around to taking action. 

As Voltaire once wrote, “The best is the enemy of the good.”

The problem with perfect quality steps is most of the time we don’t even know what’s a perfect step and are scared to “NOT GET” the perfect steps. Hence won’t even start towards a goal. It’s very difficult to find out the perfect steps and leads to analysis paralysis.

Whereas small frequent steps give us confidence, make us more proficient in the skill, giving us a much better chance. So let’s keep taking small but frequent steps even if it’s inaccurate towards our goals and achieve them.

Why are you thinking?

Thinking is considered a waste of time today. 

Imagine, if you found someone sitting alone in a conference room or someplace with no laptop, no devices, with just a pad/pen thinking? What will be your reaction? 

It will be like – “This guy is a nut case, what is he doing?

But he is thinking, reflecting and getting things in perspective or solving a problem.

Thinking, reflecting, and getting deeper into our own consciousness have given human beings all the ideas, inventions, & discoveries around the world. In fact, Einstein used to call it “Thought Experiments” and that’s what gave him his best inventions.

How can someone solve any problem without thinking? “Thinking is the most productive work and that’s what differentiates us from animals”.

But still, we spend much less time “Thinking” nowadays. Here is why we stopped giving importance to “Thinking”:

Its derogatory to make time for thinking

Similar to the above scenario (Sitting alone in a conf room), there are numerous examples, where making time to think is disapproved. What are you thinking? Why are you thinking? These questions are asked more as criticizing the person as if thinking is a crime.

The person who wants alone time to think is considered anti-social. 

Instead of thinking you should be working or discussing with colleagues etc. Should be doing something productive, why are you wasting time on thinking :). To hell with that – “Thinking” is the most productive work one can do.

Too many distractions 

When was the last time you sat down for 20 minutes without doing anything, without mobile/laptop, without TV, without any distractions? 

Before the mobile or internet era, at least while traveling, we use to enjoy scenes and in the process think & reflect. Nowadays because of mobile (or a device), we listen to sound bites, watch movies, chatting, texting in media, or on calls. 

Can we sit in a room for 20-30 minutes without distractions? When do we have time to think?

Can’t be alone, thinking is so boring, makes us uncomfortable

We can’t be in solitude today. Flexing our thinking muscles makes us fidget and cannot do it for long.

Our excuse is we always have more exciting things to do.

Yes, thinking is boring initially, but as you do more often, you start enjoying it. Thinking is a conversation you are having with yourself, how can it be boring? 

It’s just that we lost our thinking cap because it’s considered unnecessary.

Thinking is replaced by copying others or social pressures to conform

Most of our life is spent analyzing & copying peers or doing things under social pressure. What are they doing? What others will say? etc.

Hence most of our decisions are already made by others. Look at your decisions, it’s driven by peers or neighbors or social rules. Yes, I agree, there is nothing wrong with being influenced. But in most cases instead of reflecting whether it is good or bad for us, we just copy or follow.

Copying is easier so why think? But as we mature and reflect on our decisions, we realize that most of what we copied or followed without thinking was not right for us.

The world does not want us to think

In today’s “materialistic world” no one wants us to think, Govt, Companies, Big brands, Social media. In fact, they want us to stop thinking and just listen to them, consume what they say, buy what they want, do what they say.

Look at it from their perspective, if all the decisions you take has to be taken by your independent thinking, will you never keep buying unnecessarily. Nope, if you reflect, pause and think why I am doing this? You will stop it and will become more sensible.

They don’t want us to think but to react, that’s what benefits them the mosts.

So how to get back to thinking

It’s simple – “Start thinking”. We all are culprits of not thinking enough, not analyzing enough, and let life happen to us in a zombie mode.

So relax and start thinking, let it grow on you. Make thinking time, take being alone time and be in solitude for some time daily. Let’s remove all the distractions while thinking, switch off everything else.

Thinking can be in different forms: 

• It can mean introspection, 

• It can mean sustained reading or writing. 

• It can mean the concentration of focused work alone.

• It is something where you brain is driving instead of being driven.

Thinking is the most productive work, and the more you do it..the better you become at life and enjoy doing it!

How to avoid bad decisions…

Success can be defined as avoiding failures. Failures happen mostly because of bad decisions.

So how to avoid bad decisions? Here are the top reasons why we make bad decisions

We are sometimes stupid, biased human beings

We like to think that we can rationally process information like a computer, but we can’t. Cognitive biases explain why we made bad decisions but rarely help us avoid them in the first place. It’s better to focus on these warning signs that signal something is about to go wrong.

Warning signs you’re about to unintentionally do something stupid:

• You’re tired, emotional, in a rush, or distracted.

• You’re operating in a group or working with an authority figure.

The rule: Never make important decisions when you’re tired, emotional, distracted, or in a rush.

We solve the wrong problem

The first person to state the problem rarely has the best insight into the problem. Once a problem is thrown out on the table, however, our type-A problem-solving nature kicks in and forgets to first ask if we’re solving the right problem.

Warning signs you’re solving the wrong problem:

• You let someone else define the problem for you.

• You’re far away from the problem.

• You’re thinking about the problem at only one level or through a narrow lens.

The rule: Never let anyone define the problem for you.

We use incorrect or insufficient information

We like to believe that people tell us the truth. We like to believe the people we talk to understand what they are talking about. We like to believe that we have all the information.

Warning signs you have incorrect or insufficient information:

• You’re speaking to someone who spoke to someone who spoke to someone. Someone will get in trouble when the truth comes out.

• You’re reading about it in the news.

The rule: Seek out information from someone as close to the source as possible, because they’ve earned their knowledge and have an understanding that you don’t. When information is filtered (and it often is), first consider the incentives involved and then think of the proximity to earned knowledge.

We fail to learn

You know the person that sits beside you at work that has twenty years of experience but keeps making the same mistakes over and over? They don’t have twenty years of experience—they have one year of experience repeated twenty times. If you can’t learn, you can’t get better.

Most of us can observe and react accordingly. But to truly learn from our experiences, we must reflect on our reactions. Reflection has to be part of your process, not something you might do if you have time. Don’t use the excuse of being too busy or get too invested in protecting your ego. In short, we can’t learn from experience without reflection. The only reflection allows us to distill experience into something we can learn from to make better decisions in the future.

Warning signs you’re not learning:

• You’re too busy to reflect.

• You don’t keep track of your decisions.

• You can’t calibrate your own decision-making.

The rule: Be less busy. Keep a learning journal. Reflect every day.

We focus on optics over outcomes

Our evolutionary programming conditions us to do what’s easy over what’s right. After all, it’s often easier to signal being virtuous than to actually be virtuous.

Warning signs you’re focused on optics:

• You’re thinking about how you’ll defend your decision.

• You’re knowingly choosing what’s defendable over what’s right.

• You’d make a different decision if you owned the company.

• You catch yourself saying this is what your boss would want.

The rule: Act as you would want an employee to act if you owned the company.

Fish looking for the Ocean…

Fish looking for Ocean

I heard this story about a fish. He swims up to an older fish and says: “I’m trying to find this thing they call the ocean.

The ocean?” the older fish says, “that’s what you’re in right now.

This”, says the young fish, “this is water. What I want is the ocean!

-Soul

We are running to get life, while life is running away!

-Anon

Why be happy only 10% of our lifetime?

Small things in life.

Why be happy only for the big moments in life?

Why can’t we be happier, laugh more and make merry for the smaller moments?  Why can’t we lower our bar to get excited and be happier about the small things?

If we divide life into two parts :-

The first part – Smaller, daily, or routine things that happen. It constitutes 90% of our lifetime. Smaller things like:- 

A casual laugh with friends.

An emotional smile with your other half.

The tasty food.

Smell of Coffee.

Sunlight in your face.

Playing with your kids.

Helping others sometime going out of way.

Play games with your family & friends.

These smaller moments happen almost daily and frequently but we choose to either ignore it or bypass it watching in a drunken stupor looking something beyond them…something bigger, holding ourselves back for the big moment to come.

Second part – Bigger, larger life events that happen. It constitutes 10% of our lifetime. Bigger events like:–

Got selected into a good job.

Got your salary hike.

Bought something new and bigger than your neighbours. A car, A house.

Travel to some exotic place.

There may be more, but the above does not happen more than 15-20 times in our lifetime.

So why depend on these bigger moments that are rare to make us happier and keep waiting?

Sure we should strive for the bigger moments but if we are happier with the smaller things in life i.e the 90% part, these 10% will automatically be with us.

This is the reason children are happier most of the time as they are happy and excited about smaller things in life.

So smile 🙂 ! Be happy and be excited for the next small thing that is coming your way today.