“If you focus on results, you will never get change.If you focus on change, you will get results.” ― Jack Dixon
A good way to predict the direction of our life is to measure how much of our time we’re actually trying to enhance and improve it. Most of us claim that we want better life or want things to change. It is easier to wish than to face change and uncertainty. Sometimes, we imagine that when we make a change, the choice we select should be easy to accomplish. So we wait until that magical state arrives by expending a lot of mental energy only wishing, expecting, and worrying. In other words, much of our time is spent in just maintaining the Status Quo rather than working constructively in creating the change we desire to enhance our personal or professional life.
Many times people end up on not taking action that will take them to the next level and prefer staying with the Status Quo, that is “the way things are”, no matter how flawed that may be. This way, they often find themselves stuck in mediocrity trap that keeps them in an automatic loop of routine. This makes them complacent as they get used to the ‘norm’ and are not desperate enough to change. There are others who want to pursue a goal, but don’t feel it can be achieved. They want to change, but are afraid of failure. Some have clear objectives to achieve but unhappy in place where they are. They want their environment to change without them having to do anything about it. So they just are stuck to their status quo instead of finding ways to make fulfilling changes.
In today’s world, if you want to compete or stay ahead or want to create sustainable growth for yourself or for your organisation or business, you must constantly think about how you can adapt and change. But one of the biggest barrier to change is our Status Quo thinking. We resort to thinking “its how we’ve always done it..” or “ that’s just how we do things here.” and so on. we often like to doing the things in same way or keep things as they are and don’t want to shake things up or change.
So, What is Status Quo?
Status Quo is a Latin phrase that means “state in which”, the state in which your current outcomes or results happen or your current state of things. It is about doing what is comfortable and thinking inside the existing box. As creatures of habit, we always tend to move toward the familiar, known, and believe it into be safer than what is new and different. This creates a Status Quo bias or our preference for familiarity. Because of this, it is harder to accept change and we usually prefer the easier option of keeping things as they are as it takes less mental effort.
Downside of maintaining Status Quo
To maintain the status quo is to keep the things the way they presently are or being complacent with how things are. Sometimes things are done a certain way because it’s the best practice. Other times we do things without a thought to process improvement. Sticking to status quo in your present circumstance, habits, behaviour, or efficiency or your skill or how things are in your personal and professional life not only keeps you stuck, stagnant but also hinders your growth and progress. We get so comfortable and safe thinking inside the existing box that it makes us resistant towards change or to think outside the box or to take risks or to challenge ourselves or to move out of our comfort zone. We see something new as inherently risky while something familiar as safe.
Change is something every body wants and talks about but cannot make it happen in reality as many of us get stuck in our Status Quo mindset. We get caught up in daily routines and any change seems uncomfortable. We refuse to challenge our status Quo thinking and refuse to adopt to more positive outlook thereby creating an aversion to change. Adhering to status Quo and giving preference that things stay the same is problematic for your self-growth or professional growth.
For some reason, we find it difficult to challenge the status quo when dealing with peers, friends, superiors or others in our personal and professional life. There is a sense that the act of challenging is inappropriate and may lead to conflict. But it is important to understand that conflict is not necessarily a bad thing as it can lead to insightful learning and change by challenging a problem from different viewpoints.
Why is it important to challenge your status quo?
Challenging Status Quo means that you identify better ways of doing things in order to change for better or to improve yourself or to add value. This not only makes you feel more engaged, meaningful, creative,and content but also increase your productivity, leadership skills and helps in managing things more effectively. And you can find solutions to a problem through different perspectives and can think more creatively or you can set yourself some personal challenges to encourage personal growth.
To become more productive and improve, you need to shift your perspective to challenge what’s become “the norm.” Just because something has worked until now, it doesn’t mean that there’s no need for change or room for improvement. Also, If you don’t challenge your status quo bias and are not ready to address what’s keeping you from making a change to enhance your life or to get yourself out of the mediocrity trap, you really cannot get on the path to create change or growth that you actually desire for.
“Trust your idea enough to know that it can challenge the status quo.”
― Arlyn Davich
How to challenge your status quo ?
When you have to challenge how things are, you need to modify behaviours to impact results. Just knowing does not equal change unless you take different actions than those that created your present state of affairs. Only when you really understand the relationship between your inputs and outcomes or state in which your current outcomes are generated by current inputs, you can find your status quo and challenge it successfully. One of the effective way to do so is by asking right questions.
Asking yourself ‘why’ can help you to quickly pinpoint the actions that are generating your current results and you can identify what needs to be changed or improved. By asking yourself what actions can lead to positive change, you can challenge the status quo and focus on finding solutions. At work, be open to new ideas brought in by your team or others. Consider all the variables to implement the idea and explore all avenues to make a positive change. asking questions like is there something that isn’t working? Or why isn’t it working? How can you arrive at a solution? What are the ways to improve? can give you the ability to turn negative outcomes into positive. Asking right questions can give you insights to why you need to challenge the status quo, what resistance you may face and potential strategies to improve.
Here are some more ways to challenge your status quo.
Take risks. We often resort to status quo to avoid risk or uncertainty. If you want real change, you must embrace risk as new normal. Understand the impact of doing nothing is rarely ‘nothing.’ You must learn to create to anticipate unexpected and should learn to perform under pressure and should be able to adapt yourself better to change.
Questions To Challenge Status Quo: What is the risk involved in doing the same things or doing the same work or keeping the same habits? What short or long-term risks do your status quo results pose? What is the risk involved if you were to challenge your status quo? What can you do differently to improve yourself?
Identify the emotions behind change. You must identify what fears or emotions may be keeping you from changing. Unhelpful emotions can hold you in a status quo state. Emotions like fear of failure, or unwillingness to move out of your comfort zone or fear of the consequences of an unsuccessful implementation can keep you in Status Quo. Sometimes the root cause may be fear of additional effort required to implement a change, or to invest in time, money or other resources. You need to emotionally commit to the desired change.
Questions To Challenge Status Quo : Which emotions have strong hold on you? Which emotions are holding you back? Which emotions drive you towards change? Are you willing to move out of your comfort zone to challenge yourself?
Take responsibility. We talk about change but we don’t include it in our thinking or actions or decisions. We expect and maintain the status quo and want others to work on existing framework and not challenge them. This happens when we don’t take responsibility for the problem. You must be willing to reach out to others and new ideas. Also sometimes you might not be thinking in the right boxes to recreate growth or it might be uncomfortable for you to think outside the box. By being accountable, you will be able to challenge the status quo of your actions and decisions.
Questions To Challenge Status Quo: Are you willing to take responsibility for your ideas or choices or decisions? What needs to be challenged? Is there something that needs to be changed? What can you do differently to improve your status quo?
Be growth seeking. When you lack growth mindset, you cannot break down status quo bias or open to new possibilities to learn and grow. To challenge status quo, you need to think long-term and explore new insights, perspectives and ways to improve things.
Questions To Challenge Status Quo: What is your obstacle to growth? What behaviours are causing you negative outcomes? If you want your outcomes to change, which actions or behaviour you need to change? Which new ideas and perspectives you should be open to?
Evaluate your core values. Lack of honest evaluation of your current conditions, values, results and actions keep you in status quo thinking. How you approach change depends on your core beliefs and in how you view learning and improving yourself and other values.
Questions To Challenge Status Quo : What are your core values? Are your core beliefs aligned with desired change? What values are taking you away from moving forward in new and better direction? What values you need to embrace to progress in the direction of change?
Prepare your approach. If you are challenging long-standing attitudes or processes, you cannot just challenge them in a knee-jerk manner. Being passionate about change is admirable, but not able to present your ideas in a positive manner may lead to failure. You might face resistance while challenging status quo, especially in a workplace environment from your coworkers or superiors. Some may resist your efforts and think you are accusing them of doing something wrong. Some may even take changes you proposed personally or perceive them as self-serving, or inappropriate and reject them. In such situations, clearly communicate your intentions as to why you are challenging the status quo.
Questions To Challenge Status Quo : Am I presenting my suggestions in a positive manner? Does the proposed change leads to improvement? What actions can lead to positive change or increase productivity, efficiency or morale right now?
Improve your social environment. Your social environment like friends, family and co-workers play an important role in challenging status quo in progress oriented way. Your social interactions and relationships may hold you back in implementing the changes whether intentionally or unintentionally. You need ensure you have supportive, challenging and mutually beneficial relationships in place to enable you to successfully challenge status quo. Gather right allies to wheel and support you in the cause and change.
Questions To Challenge Status Quo: Is your social environment supportive of you? Do the people around you facilitate change you want to make? Are people holding you back in challenging your status quo?
Challenging status quo is not pointing out every little flaw and error or being rebellious. It has got more to do in making a positive or creative contribution that can improve your present situation. It is about bringing change by trying something new be it in your work, or personal habits, or in setting a new routine, or to implement new ideas in your business or workplace.
Measure your goals. Goals are nothing more than desired changes. You are choosing to maintain status quo if you don’t have concrete goals. To create the change you desire, you need to confront what has been simply accepted so far. Identity which areas of your life you are stuck in mediocrity and use the above strategies to challenge your status quo. The more you challenge the status quo, the more progress you will make towards your goals and objectives.
“Too many of us fail to fulfill our needs because we say no rather than yes, yes when we should say no.” – William Glasser
To handle uncomfortable or hostile or difficult moments or situations in your personal or professional life, you should have a strong sense of yourself and should find balance in your passive and aggressive behaviours in order to stand up for yourself. You need to be more assertive in expressing yourself in a positive way in such situations and should be able to communicate your thoughts and feelings firmly and directly in order not to be on the receiving end of meanness or bullying or teasing. Research has shown that those who are victimised by bullies exhibit a certain kind of vulnerability as they lack the ability to stand up for themselves and are unable to assert themselves or defend themselves even when picked on. How well you can handle such situations is often determined by your levels of assertiveness. Some people are naturally assertive, but if you are not one of them, it is an important skill to be practiced and developed.
Assertiveness is a must learned skill when it comes to handling stressful and conflicting situations in our personal and professional relationships and to overcome traits like passivity, sensitivity to criticism, insecurity, anxiety and low self-esteem. Some of us struggle to be assertive in some situations, but can find the right words in other. Some are not assertive for fear of upsetting or displeasing others and of not being liked. Even though you may avoid immediate unpleasantness by not being assertive, in the long run, you end up jeopardising your relationships. And if you are too passive, always putting others’ needs before yours, you give others the license to disregard your wants and needs. Sometimes this leads to saying ‘yes’ to certain things at the expense of your own interests and priorities thereby leading to an internal conflict, stress, resentment, seething anger or feelings of victimisation. And also leading to your needs always ending up on the back burner leaving you perpetually dissatisfied.
So, What is being assertive or self-assertion all about?
Being assertive is standing up for your rights while still respecting others, defending your own boundaries while not crossing other people’s lines, expressing your own opinions, needs, wants and feelings without hurting others, or disagreeing without being disagreeable. It means you are not afraid of speaking your mind. It requires being forthright about your wants and needs, while still considering the rights, needs and wants of others. You thus draw power from this to get your point across firmly, fairly and with empathy.
Being able to stand up for yourself in a way that is both respectful to yourself and others shows that you have boundaries and you are prepared to put your own needs first. When you are effectively assertive, you are neither aggressive nor passive — instead you are honest, direct, and skilled at articulating your views. Assertiveness is being proactive. It’s negating any possibility of the person we communicate with getting mad at us or disliking what we said or did.
Being Assertive over Passive or Aggressive
Assertiveness is often confused with aggression as there is a very fine line between the two. For this reason, it is important to know the difference in both the behaviours. Assertiveness means standing up for yourself in a nonaggressive way and it does not mean dominance over others or controlling. If you are aggressive, and in case you had a difference of opinion with an other person, you may resort to anger, rudeness or name calling. Also you might try to force your point of view, even at the expense of another’s. Whereas assertive behaviour is standing up and expressing yourself by being respectful and without putting down anyone else.
Being aggressive is also disregarding the needs, feelings and opinions of others. Aggressive behaviour damages your personal and professional relationships and undercuts trust and mutual respect. Others may come to resent you, leading them to avoid or oppose you. On the other hand, if you are passive, you become uncomfortable expressing yourself honestly. You feel you don’t have the right to be heard. You back down easily or would go with whatever others decide to avoid conflict. Also if you are passive-aggressive, you may say ‘yes’ when you want to say ‘no’ and you may complain and pass comments behind their backs rather than confronting them directly. You may show anger and feelings through your actions or negative attitude. Overtime passive-aggressive behaviour makes it difficult for you to meet your goals and needs.
Why is it important to be Assertive?
Being assertive is to find the right balance between passive and aggressive. To be assertive is to have a strong sense of yourself, your values and to openly express your opinions, feelings, needs and desires and to act in accordance with your goals and objectives. Knowing and claiming your own rights while at the same time respecting others can help you build better relationships in your professional endeavours. You can get things done by treating people with fairness and respect. It can help you to interact and negotiate so that yours and others’ views are given fair treatment and can find common ground to arrive at the best solution possible.
With increasing competition, being assertive at the workplace becomes really important to openly share your ideas thoughts and opinions at work. Assertiveness helps you exhibit positive and open style of communication that is neither submissive nor aggressive. It also improves confidence and is an indirect and a powerful tool to increase your productivity and efficiency. Being assertive is important to handle different situations like to respond or cope with putdowns, to make requests, or to say ‘no’ effectively, give and receive criticism appropriately, handling and expressing anger, speaking up to a rude person, or to deal with stressful or unpleasant situations in your personal or professional life. It helps you plan and carry through difficult encounters and to manage conflicting situations more effectively.
How to become more Assertive?
Not everything you want will be handed to you. Sometimes, you have to go out and get it. And if you want to succeed in your goals, you will have to be assertive. The right amount of assertiveness can help you get ahead. Assertiveness can be learned and the key is to understand the context and to set realistic goals to make small changes. Here are some strategies to help you become more assertive.
Assess your level of Assertiveness. You can assess your own behaviour or can do so through feedback from others. Check your willingness to express yourself and what you want. Try to assess your interactions as to what is being said and how you feel about it, how do you want to respond to what is being said? Or what do you want from that particular situation. This way, you will be able to decide whether you need to be assertive and most importantly how to be assertive so that there is a positive result. If you find that in your assessment that you are holding back in certain situations where you shouldn’t, write down the reasons as to what you aren’t saying and the reason as to why you aren’t saying. This way, you can make yourself assertive next time you enter a similar situation. Assessment keeps you focused on improving your abilities to be assertive in difficult conversations.
Practice assertive communication techniques. Sometimes it is often quite hard to know how to put your feelings across clearly and confidently to someone. The scripting technique can help in such situations as it allows you to prepare what you want to say in advance. You can tell the other person exactly about the event and how you see the situation or problem. You can describe your feelings about the situation and express your emotions clearly. You can tell exactly what you need from him or her so that he or she doesn’t have to guess. Describing the positive impact that your request will have for him or her if your needs are met.
Using ‘I’ statements lets others know what you are thinking or feeling without being accusatory, like for instance, “I disagree” rather than “you’re wrong”. While requesting , you can say, “I want you to help with this” rather than “ you need to do this”. Keep them simple and specific to get your points across firmly. Try using verbs that are more definite and specific. For instance, use verbs like ‘will’ instead of ‘could’ or ‘should’ or ‘want’ instead of ‘need’ or ‘choose to’ instead of ‘have to’. Keep your communications direct to get your message across by using the assertive communication technique.
Express yourself positively. It is important to express your thoughts and opinions even when dealing with difficult or unpleasant situations. Don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself and to confront people who challenge you. If others get angry or resentful towards you, avoid reacting to them. But try to control your emotions and stay calm and respectful at all times. Accept both positive and negative feedback positively and if you don’t agree with criticism that you receive then you should be able to say so without getting angry or defensive. Express negative emotions in a healthy manner. Don’t take out your frustration or aggression on others in order to be assertive. Understand that you cannot be assertive all the time with all people in all situations. The key is to achieve the right balance of when to be assertive and when not to. This will help you to respond and not react to situations.
Practice saying ‘no’. Many confuse saying ‘no’ with negativity. Knowing your own boundaries or limits and how much work you are able to take will help you to manage your tasks effectively. You cannot possibly please everyone. Saying ‘no’ assertively when necessary can save your time and work load. Saying ‘yes’ to a commitment or task you don’t really want to do can get you into a state of stress and negativity. If you have a hard time turning down requests, try saying “No, I can’t do that now.” Don’t hesitate and be direct or brief in your explanation if required. It is important to be consistent in respecting your boundaries and to learn to say ‘no’ clearly and unambiguously.
Resist the temptation to react immediately and in extremes. Difficult conversations often trigger a huge amount of stress which is why you may avoid such interactions in the first place. When pushed to our limits, most of us get either compliant (submissive) or defiant(opposing or resisting). Reacting either way does not help you in being a good team player or to lead effectively. Recognise your style either compliant or defiant and then consciously try to take the middle ground. Ask questions rather than reacting. It gives you specific points to argue rather than just catastrophizing about how others might react if you object. And in contrary, If your views don’t chime with the dominant view point, you need not change yours on important issues according to who you are talking to. Sometimes saying nothing also is one of the most assertive position you can adopt.
Do you voice your opinion or remain silent in important discussions and conversations? Are you able to assert yourself or defend when you get picked on? Do you often say ‘yes’ to additional work even when you have work to do? Is your unassertiveness is because of the fear that the other person will criticise you or put you down? Do you stand your ground or do you feel victimised when it comes to your values or important issues in your personal or professional relationships? Is your communication style aggressive or assertive? Do you often disregard the needs, feelings, and opinions of others or do you respect them? Asking yourself above questions will help you to know where you are particularly sensitive and where you need to be assertive thus you will be better placed to avoid being too passive or aggressive.
If you’ve spent years silencing yourself, becoming more assertive takes time and practice. You don’t need to be assertive in every context of the day or you need not change your authenticity to become assertive. Assess your own degree of assertiveness, understand the context, set realistic goals to make small changes in your behaviour or communication with the help of the above strategies to become more assertive in your work or social or personal relationships. Express yourself openly and authentically without being passive or aggressive.
“Assertiveness is not what you do, it’s who you are!” ― Shakti Gawain
“As iron is eaten by rust, so are the envious consumed by envy.” – Antisthenes
Envy is the emotion that all of us experience from time to time. It is an emotional state we get into when others get what we want or it can stem from comparisons in belongings, personality traits, physical appearances, relationships and or achievements. Regardless of the personal or professional climate, people at all levels are vulnerable to envy. Feelings of envy can also happen in domains of work, family and friendship negatively impacting our emotional health, productivity levels, relationships, teamwork, and creative abilities.
So Why do we feel envy?
Envy is like most of our other emotions, it comes from within and causes lot of unhappiness and resentment. It’s important to remember, though, that you don’t feel envy when as much when someone achieves great success in a different life pursuit. But you feel envy when someone who is of roughly the same background, abilities, age, location, life situation or achieves something similar to your goal in your field of choice. When you compare yourself to others, you mostly compare in extrinsic qualities or things like fame, status or wealth rather than intrinsic values like meaning or purpose. This is the reason, your initial response will often be one of envy when you compare. Being surpassed by another’s ability makes you feel insecure about your concept of who you are.
Also, when you are constantly exposed to stories of success which makes them seem so close within your reach. This makes you crave for the same opportunities and achievement they appear to have. Feelings of envy also arise when someone achieves something that you have always wanted to achieve, or when someone you don’t like succeeds or when someone manages to get something and you think that he or she doesn’t deserve it.
Why is envy harmful to your productivity?
“Our envy always lasts longer than the happiness of those we envy.” – Franois de la Rochefoucauld
Even though enviousness makes you lead your life in constant hope to have more. It can never lead to better outcomes like the way you can with intrinsic motivation.
Envying others and worrying about others’ successes will make you blind to your own potential, strengths and to the weaknesses of rivals. Sometimes, we make ourselves feel better by belittling the accomplishments of the person we resent and tend to distance and disconnect ourselves. Such envious emotions leads to missed opportunities, unproductive behaviour and professional inefficiency. Ignoring other people’s ideas or dismissing the value of others’ qualities due to envy makes it difficult for you to learn and collaborate.
Envy also increases your insecurity, self-doubt, and lowers your self-esteem. Most of all, when you become so fixated on envy, you start to neglect or sabotage your own efforts or performance. When others successes bother you, you become ruminative and lose focus on your priorities. Envy interferes with your ability to think and act and instead of working on attaining what is important to you, it focuses your energy on what you lack.
Envious feelings are difficult to manage if you try to conceal and deny as the repressed feelings inevitably surface. Also with envy, the gap is between what you have and what the other person has or it may be that the other has something you want to have but don’t have thereby making you feel of inferior.
So, How to deal with your envy constructively?
You can recognise your potentially, destructive thoughts and behaviours by being honest with yourself when you feel envy and try to respond to it constructively. Instead of allowing the emotion to linger and derail, you can try and interpret it as a signal for what it is and what is that you actually want to achieve and can turn them into more positive and productive ones to set and achieve your goals. Envy is mostly about relative status compared with someone else’s, hence you need to know how to transform your envy to help you achieve what you want. And also freeing yourself from the control of envy liberates you from unrealistic and counterproductive desires. And you can make progress in the areas you want to grow.
Here are few ways to deal with your envy in a more productive and positive manner.
Understand your envy
When you identify with your envy, don’t ignore or conceal it but at the same time don’t continue feeding it. Instead try to understand what’s really behind the envy. Envy can tell you a lot about what you want. The key is to understand the circumstances and qualities in others that trigger your envy. Ask yourself what is that you are most insecure about. Witnessing someone else’s success can highlight your own insecurities and perceived failures. Once you understand the WHY, the feeling will have much less control over you. Not doing things that you want to be doing is when envy has a perfect breeding ground. Through understanding, you can use it as an opportunity to see the gap between what you are doing right now and what you still aspire to do in the future and what are the other areas you can improve.
Get to your core self-concept
Getting to the essence of your self-concept helps you connect to your core values, your needs, and things that are most important to you. Most often we include things such as money, abilities, physical appearance or status as part of our self-concept. When you evaluate yourself lower than how you evaluate those around you in comparison to these things, you may see it as a threat to who you are and experience envy. Gain clarity on your core values and instead of comparing yourself with others, measure your past self with present self. Reminding yourself of your strengths, past accomplishments and your core values, you can fix your mental self-image and thereby remove any feelings of insecurity you might be feeling. There is no reason for you to envy what others have when those things don’t align with your core values.
Shift your focus to gratitude
Being intentionally grateful can help you put greater emphasis on what you have rather than what you do not have that is causing you to be envious. Gratitude creates feelings of connectedness to a bigger purpose and increases feelings of empathy rather than envy. Make a list of things you are thankful for, no matter how small they are. Shifting your focus to positive life events or the small everyday occurrences can help you not to take what you have for granted. When you compare yourself with others and label the outcomes of your comparison as good or bad, you tend to lower your self-worth. Instead be grateful of your uniqueness, talents and abilities and remind yourself that no body has it all. Rather than fixating on what you don’t have, make gratitude your strategy to replace each envious thought with a moment of gratitude.
Be realistic in assessing others
We always compare the worst of what we know about ourselves to the best assumptions we make about others. Be realistic in assessing others. Everyone experiences their own problems, trials and weaknesses. But if you place more value on others’ abilities, you tend to devalue your own. Constant exposure to social media creates a delusion that everyone else’s life is happier than yours, more productive and more valuable. When you fall prey to such delusion, you start feeding yourself with envy and begin to think that everything else is better and not yours. That friend or coworker or relative who seems to have an amazing life might be striving to put his or her best face forward. Correct your false assumptions about others and realise that everyone struggles with something or the other in their life.
Stop comparing yourself to others
We tend to judge ourselves by comparing with others. Comparison to people who are similar to you is a normal process to evaluate yourself and to improve your skills or abilities. But the judgment and value you place on your self-judgment can lead to envy. Comparing yourself to others is a great way to learn and comparing yourself to people who are sufficiently different or ahead of you can make you strive out of inspiration instead of envy. Focus on yourself to be better and stronger. Being able to applaud success of others without having negative reaction leads to more opportunities. When somebody receives something that you desire, be happy for them. If you wanted they too probably wanted the same. Stop judging yourself negatively by focusing on your strengths and knowing for certain that your are worthy can be enough to eliminate any feelings of envy.
While the feeling of envy may arise from time to time, we don’t have to respond to it counterproductively or try to repress it. Even though it is difficult, but it is always possible to prevent yourself from being consumed by it and you can even try and harness it to your advantage. Admitting that you are envious is not easy, but admitting it to yourself allows you to change your priorities so that you can redefine what is important to you and also helps you find other areas where you can excel. Be honest with yourself when you encounter feelings of envy within yourself and respond to them constructively by using the above strategies. Get interested in creating an environment that boosts productivity and work on your aspirations and work to improve yourself.
“There is nothing like success to blind one to the possibility of failure.” – Roger Lowenstein
Every day we hold onto certain kind of expectations about ourselves, others and about our circumstances. These expectations we hold about ourselves directly influence our attitudes, decisions, behaviours, perspectives, as well as interactions with others. To succeed in our goals and to achieve our objectives, we must have a realistic assessment of our expectations. Being confident that your expectations will be met is important in business or work and life in general. But confidence is not about having it all. Instead, it’s about being okay with whatever you have and using it to its best potential. However, If you don’t use it wisely, it turns into overconfidence which then turns against you. It is important not to be overconfident. For instance. being overconfident while making a decision, you may overlook something important or might not look at all because you are confident that you already know what to choose.
You might be creative, hardworking, ambitious and might think you are much better in what you do. At the same time. you also might allow the confidence you gain from your talents to delude you into believing that you could do everything else to the same level of success in other areas. As a result, you become overconfident in your abilities. Such thinking can make you think that you’re invaluable to your company or in the work you do where in fact almost anyone could do your job. Research shows that we overestimate our precision of information that we have about a situation and thus tend to believe something is much more likely to occur than it really is. Such bias from overconfidence is quite prevalent where most of us believe that our judgments and decisions are better than they really are.
So, what is a overconfidence bias?
Overconfidence bias is in which people demonstrate unwarranted faith in their own intuitive reasoning, judgments or cognitive abilities. It is a tendency to hold a false and misleading assessment of our skills, knowledge, intellect or talent. You might come across such bias in yourself or in people around you in your personal or professional environments. You may see yourself a more capable than your colleagues, more knowledgeable or even ethical and talented.
What causes overconfidence bias?
Emotional and cognitive distortion that creates overconfidence can be a major hindrance to any form of success. Overconfidence bias might occur after recent success or because of a sense of self-importance. Sometimes it may be due to social pressure when the stakes are high as people tend to act on pretended knowledge as a preferred solution. It is also caused by doubt-avoidance, inconsistency-avoidance, incentives, denial and due to believing first and doubting later.
Sometimes, we all become victims of our own delusions of self-confidence where we begin to see ourselves valuable, honest and intelligent. We start viewing our successes as the result of our own efforts attributing it to our natural abilities thereby forgetting the others contributions or timing and other factors. We fail to recognise that skill in one area doesn’t always translate to skills in another. Each success confirms our heightened self-image creating overconfidence bias.
Overconfidence is something that can make us blind to the mistakes in our decisions and thought processes. It further manifests into overestimation where you overestimate your actual abilities, performance, the amount of control you have , or your chance of success. It also can manifest into overplacement where you believe that your position is higher than those of around you. Like for instance, you think you received higher score than your friend and in reality, your friend receives better scores than you do, in this situation, you have overplaced your scores. And it also manifests into overprecision when you are confident that you are correct.
Why overconfidence bias is bad for you?
Overconfidence affects your judgments and decisions in different ways. Here are some ways in which it does.
Overconfidence affects a people’s judgment as it relates their own personal performance as higher than it actually is. Generally, most of us think we are better at something than we really are and we are less likely to admit when we are not as good as we would like to be. This can cause problems as it can make you feel more valuable within a team or group or workplace and may end up taking too many risks. This creates a pattern for failure as your skills do not match up to your beliefs.
Illusion of control
This happens with the idea that if we can quantify something, we can measure it, understand it, and thus manage it.
Believing that you have more control over a situation than you actually do leads to you taking unnecessary risk, or inability to assess the risk involved in the situation. Also, this can lead to wrong decisions and choices in both personal and professional matters. Failure to accurately assess risk leads to failure in managing and accomplishing your goals.
The desirability effect happens when people overestimate the odds of something happening simply because the outcome of a situation is desirable. This is also a type of overconfidence bias. Many times, this leads to many mistakes and faulty behaviours simply because we believe our desired outcome is more probable just because that’s the outcome we want.
This occurs when we are too optimistic about how quickly we can perform a task and underestimate how long it takes to get things done. One outcome of over-confidence is missed deadlines and delayed projects on account of the planning fallacy. When is the last time that you finished any task or project early? And this leads to creating unrealistic project plans in hopes that the future will somehow be different than the present.
Overconfidence bias can do a lot of damage to your relationships, career, financial or investing choices, business and your productivity levels. Overconfidence bias leads to many errors in various walks of our daily lives. It becomes a major hindrance when it comes to improving your understanding of a situation.
• You misjudge your value, opinion, beliefs or abilities or you may oversimplify things.
• You may not prepare properly for a situation or may get into a situation that you are not equipped to handle.
• You may procrastinate to failure because of your timing optimism.
• Overestimating your abilities causes missed deadlines, shoddy performance and stress at the cost of your money, time, and your well-being.
• You may take excessive risks and make decisions that are not beneficial to you or your team.
• Being overconfident can affect your work, attitude and behaviour towards others.
• Leads to unreal expectations and makes you more vulnerable to disappointment.
How to avoid overconfidence bias?
Biased way of looking at a situation is considered as the most pervasive and potentially damaging of all the cognitive biases to which most of us fall victim. Almost all of us suffer from some kind of overconfidence bias in various situations. Here are few ways to stay unbiased.
• Past successes inflates our perception of our own abilities. When your self-image becomes tied to your last success, you may tend to overlook your mistakes and become judgmental. Success in past or expertise is no guarantee of future success. Just because you had a string of correct decisions has no bearing on the one you face now. Treat each new decision as if it were your first. Discuss the matter objectively and make a thorough assessment of the risk involved.
• Overconfidence by its very nature, distorts your own image of reality. It is important to recheck your facts about a situation. Disregard your initial judgment about a situation and check the validity of your assumptions. Develop habits and systems that provide feedback to stay connected to reality. Each success brings you closer to overconfidence and complacency. Cultivating a realistic attitude towards your successes and failures prevents you from untoward consequences.
• With overconfidence bias, you tend to ignore criticism and you might get into a false sense of security. Acknowledging your mistakes instead of blaming others helps you clear your heads of any hubris that might cloud your judgment. Reflecting as to what plans worked and what decisions yielded good results and what decisions ended up wrong, you can use your mistakes and failures as learning opportunities. When you get criticised, instead of defending, deal with it constructively to help improve yourself.
• As we accomplish more and more things, it is easy to believe that what we are doing is right. Trying to control every situation or believing that your contribution to a decision is more valuable than it actually is or trying to handle everything yourself or insisting that your way is the only way is a recipe for disaster. Recognising the role that others had in your success will keep you grounded and focusing on your specific role in failures will remind you that you have areas that you can improve.
• Look at multiple perspectives and think through the implication and consequences of a belief or an action. Alternate perspectives push you out of your comfort zone and force you to think critically and you may discover better way of doing things or improve yourself instead of giving into your overconfidence bias. Healthy discussions always give you new perspectives and let’s you see ways of doing things or improving yourself. So when making decision, be humble, seek out new perspectives and be well-informed to take into consideration of all the factors and risks involved.
• During our decision-making process or while making a choice, we first assess the familiarity of the options or opinions and search for facts in order to construct an explanation about why the familiar option is true. An explanation forms in our mind that really seems right and we tend to focus on that first familiar option which may not be right. Instead of option-fixation, make a best possible guess, then assume that guess is inaccurate, and then generate plausible reasons for why the guess was inaccurate. Research shows that overconfidence is reduced after listing the arguments that contradict the reasoning that lead to the guess and often the more estimates that are averaged the better, so long as they are based on different reasoning. This will minimise risk. Keeping your thinking in present instead of outcome lets you focus on what is needed right now and much more realistic and more achievable.
• The inherent state of overconfidence is strong when projecting our beliefs about our future. We tend to overestimate our ability to predict the time frame as we tend to put higher probability on desired events than undesired events. Work is always better done when more time is spent on it. Try to give yourself a bit more time than your first estimate. Double it if you can for completion of your tasks or projects. The more time you give yourself, the less chance you take of missing deadlines.
We all fall victim to moments and sometimes stretches of over-confidence which often end with disappointment or failure. And yet, despite what we think we have learned for next time, we continue to be over-optimistic about our abilities and the state of the future. The same mistakes occur again and again. We often take into account only our planning and generally ignore external factors and tend to indulge in over-assessment of our expectations and capabilities. We rate our competence too high and plunge into overconfidence bias. If over-confidence is not constantly checked, it leads to poor outcomes, failures and disappointments. To overcome this bias, you need to install objectivity into your systems and thinking. Keep yourself responsible and objective and try the above techniques to consciously confront overconfidence bias before it distorts your view of reality.
“Mastering others is strength. Mastering yourself is true power.” – Lao Tzu
When it comes to achieving our big goals, whether it’s at work, in bettering health, in managing finances, or even pursuing an unlikely dream, we sometimes find them elusive for one reason or another. These challenging goals test our resolve and stretch our comfort zone. When you prepare for a presentation rather binge on a weekend, save money rather than spend it, or eat broccoli rather than candy, what you are really doing is ensuring that future you will be better off. But to make this happen or achieving your other big goals is easier said than done. It requires right motivation, self-control, and a great deal of effort or will power to achieve them. Like, to accomplish a goal of losing weight, following a low-fat diet and regular exercise is the best way, but how do we ‘just do’ what we know is best? to eat healthy and to stick with an exercise program, you need to have strong self-control. And especially, when it comes to avoiding temptations, you require focused effort to get consistent results.
We all have this perfect vision of ourselves at some point off into the future once we attain our goals. But getting from where we are today to our desired destination requires consistent self-control, focused effort and strong will. We search for shortcuts, techniques, methods, and easy ways to motivate ourselves to get there. But on the way, we become impatient, impulsive, and give into the desire for immediate gratification, be it impulsive spending, or distracting our attention to games or social media rather than learning or hoaning skills we need, or giving into momentary eating at a cost to our well-being. This results in impatience and we get biased towards pleasure in the moment. The result is that most of us fail to stick with our daily goals by giving into desires for short-term pleasure.
Most of the times, we don’t feel the effects of our decisions immediately. What you choose to eat and how you choose to invest or spend your free time. These decisions often have different gains or losses in long-run. Eating that extra piece of cake might feel great in the moment but will result in weight gain later. Even though our minds come equipped with necessary tools to succeed, we foresake them and face problems when it comes ṭo delaying gratification, developing strong self-control, and cultivating perseverance. So how would you choose between working on your goals or giving into your immediate gratifications? The ability ṭo control your impulses matter in life. Whether it is studying, practicing, saving, exercising, or persevering in your goals, a willingness to sacrifice in the moment to gain greater rewards in the future can make all the difference.
Why you cannot rely only on your will power?
Most of the times, the value derived from achieving your desirable goal is mostly far off into the future that working on this goal just doesn’t bring you as much pleasure as spending time on other things that give you instant gratification. All the things that bring you instant pleasure makes you struggle to resist leaving you feeling conflicted between the big goal you want to achieve and these small pleasures you so desperately want to indulge in. The choice lies with you to choose either to move down the path of instant gratification or to choose to resist and focus on your goal. Resisting seems to be a rational choice, so you choose to muster up the will power needed to overcome your pleasurable urges in preference of your long-term rewards.
But relying only on your willpower doesn’t take you far as you only have one reserve of it, if you don’t agree, pick up an object and hold it up in the air. Now keep holding it there-forever, ofcourse you can’t do it. And yet, most of us try to do the same with willpower – keep exerting forever. Focusing on your work drains your will power, as does resisting the urge to eat junk food, as does making yourself get out of bed in the morning when you want to sleep. Each time you tap into your will power reserves for difficult tasks, or to maintain healthy habits, you end up depleting your will power reserves. And the more difficult the goal, the faster the rate it gets depleted.
Also using will power will help you only in the short-term as it fails to deal with the source of the problem. Most of the times, we also use techniques such as reason, distraction to keep ourselves from reaching back to what is tempting us to overcome cravings for immediate pleasure. Such habits can help you delay gratification without stress but in limited ways. And when your desires and values are in conflict, you will eventually get caught up on these temptations. So, instead of using willpower as the only source of fuel, it would be better off learning the art of self-control and applying it to goal achievement in a focused way. In an age of instant gratification, self-control seems to be an unusual and undervalued quality, but it is an important one to strive for to achieve your long-term goals.
So, what exactly is self-control?
Self-control is the ability to subdue or resist your impulsive urges, emotions, and behaviours for immediate gratification in order to achieve your long-term goals. Self-control is different from grit where grit is the ability to pursue long-term goals over years, self-control is the ability to resist temptation in the moment. It is the ability to say ‘no’ to yourself in tempting and challenging circumstances and also is the ability to know the difference between a need and a want. Self-control comes from a rational understanding of the consequences of your behavior so that you can sacrifice short-term pleasure for long-term gain.
Why you need to have greater self-control?
The famous marshmallow experiment conducted back in 60’s reveals a clear correlation between self-control and the quality of our life. During experiment, kids were offered a choice between one marshmallow immediately or two marshmallows if they waited alone in the room for up to 20 minutes, during which the researcher left the room and returned. Some kids couldn’t resist the temptation and had the single marshmallow, other kids, however, waited for the researcher to come back into the room and received the second marshmallow as a reward to their patience. In the follow up studies, they found that the kids who were able to wait longer for the bigger rewards fared better in their lives. Those who couldn’t resist had shown more behavioral problems and tended to struggle with stressful situations.
Therefore, by practicing self-control, you can overcome unwanted impulses, thoughts, fears, obsessive, addictive or unsuitable behaviors. You will be better equipped to handle your emotions and can cope with stressful situations far more effectively. It improves your focus and brings a sense of balance into your life. By strengthening your self-control, you can improve your self-esteem and confidence. Lack of willingness to change and improve, or lack of self-discipline and lack of faith in yourself or in your abilities can weaken your ability to develop self-control. Sticking to your goals and to follow through your plans, you need to have strong control on your emotions to resist short-term desire and temptation.
So, How do you develop greater self-control?
Delayed gratification or self-control is a skill better learned as children, but for those of us who did not receive this form of guidance, it can be still learnt and can be improved with practice and persistence. Here are some ways to enhance your self-control.
1. Gain clarity and set specific goals that you want to control. Set concrete and specific goals like in which areas of your life you would like to enforce more self-control. For example, what goal do you have and what is your intent for accomplishing it? is it regarding health or time management ? would you like to spend less time on your distractions so you can use that time to work or study? or Do you want to follow a healthy diet? You can make an inner commitment by understanding the benefits once you implement those changes and plan ahead on how to go about achieving those changes. Think of how you are going to adapt in case things don’t workout as expected. Gaining clarity keeps you disciplined and focused.
2. Increase the value of your purposeful tasks. Being purposeful in your tasks makes your life more meaningful and significant and you will be driven intrinsically to give it your best. Since such purposeful action has an intrinsic reward tied to it, you see immediate benefit in taking that action. You will be also motivated by the long-term rewards that will result in future if your tasks remain purposeful. All temptations and distractions come with immediate gratification and draw you away from tasks that have no immediate reward attached with it. So, our minds have a tendency of discounting the value of future rewards. So by keeping your tasks more purposeful and meaningful, you can over-ride momentary impulses and can reduce the habit of discounting the value of future.
3. Find the balance. Having self-control is not about total abstinence. It is more to do with finding the right balance. Denying yourself or suppressing what you need is as bad as over-indulging. You can do so by asking yourself these questions. Do you often over-indulge in things you like? As soon as you get something, are you looking for the next? If you want something in large quantities, isn’t it going to affect your health or well-being? How far would you go to get what you want? Do you enjoy it enough to make it worthwhile or simply move on to wanting some more of it or something else? By knowing the difference between your need and want, you can strive for balance.
4. Use your emotions to achieve a challenging goal. Cognitive strategies such as will power, distraction, reasoning and the like do work at times, but they are not optimal. Using these mechanisms to suppress your desires for immediate satisfaction can work, but it gets stressful and requires much effort that can affect your well-being. Instead, using your emotions can be powerful for developing self-control. Emotions such as desire, sadness, or anger push you towards short-term concerns. But if you rely on emotions such as gratitude, compassion, persistence, cooperation or perseverence when temptations arise, you will be able to have a long-term view and these right emotions can nudge your mind to favorable future gains over immediate ones.
5. Gratitude boosts self-control . Feelings of gratitude encourage you to resist and overcome selfish temptations when dealing with others. Gratitude stems from recognising that others have offered us something of value. We feel grateful when we feel others have invested in us, which makes us willing ṭo return the favor in future. Whether you’re paying people back for their investment in you with money, time or effort, gratitude nudges you to sacrifice your own gains in the moment to build better relationships for the long term. Gratitude not only builds self-control but also in helping others you also help yourselves down the line.
6. Practice compassion. Like gratitude, compassion motivates you to care for about others. It starts a virtuous cycle by encouraging people to take that first step to sacrifice time, money or some other resource to benefit another even if other is their own future self. Care and compassion towards others and towards your future self drives your willingness to sacrifice in the moment and produces an effortless self-control. It decreases the value we attach to objects and events that offer immediate gratification and this makes it easier to persevere in ways that pay off in future.
7. Meditate regularly. Reflect on thoughts and beliefs that push you to behave in an uncontrolled manner. Practice forgiving and empathizing with yourself for failures as opposed to criticizing yourself. Set some affirmations to act with self-restraint and self-control. Even taking a little as ten minutes a day to focus on your breathing can improve your ability to resist disruptive impulses. By recognising your self-talk and reflecting on past-failures and writing your internal dialogue makes you less vulnerable to impulsive actions.
“Meditation and mindfulness training are essentially exercises in self-control. From controlling the focal point of one’s attention… to a controlled awareness of whatever is going on internally or externally at that particular moment”
Mastering self-control in various situations in your day to day activities takes consistent practice in small ways. It is important to gradually increase your ability to resist larger temptations over time.
The following questions can help you assess your self-control. What has been your biggest challenge when it comes to having self-control and what can you do to overcome it? Can you recall a time you demonstrated strong self-control? Can you recall a time you gave into your temptations or instant gratifications? How much self-control do you have when it comes to your diet or exercise? Does your spending and buying reflect self-restraint? What habits would you like ṭo change to strengthen your self-control?
Recognise the areas where you are struggling with self-control and, rather than giving into those impulses, use the above strategies to work your way up to resist them and strengthen your resolve. Also it is important to remember that to resist immediate gratification, do not ignore or suppress certain emotions. Find ways to embrace gratitude, perseverence, compassion, forgiving and empathizing with your future self. The more self-control you exercise, the more freedom you experience from the irrational impulses that could take you away from your goals.