“You never change your life until you step out of your comfort zone; change begins at the end of your comfort zone.”
-Roy T. Bennett
We are always drawn to easier way of doing things. Many of us feel safe in our comfort zones. Convenience and comfort has become our default choice and many times it becomes a driver of our decisions. But the problem with convenience is that it makes us intolerant of things that are not within our comfort zone. It is very hard for us to do things that could be good for us like leaving a bad habit or learning a new skill. We fail to do so and tend to avoid taking action as it might involve a certain level of discomfort and unfamiliarity. We constantly try to avoid facing such situations that cause us discomfort which otherwise could fulfil some of our personal and professional endeavours. Most of the times, we relinquish many of our cherished goals because they fall outside of our comfort zone.
We make new goals, new dreams and develop new passions from time to time. We make new resolutions to change ourselves in order to meet those desired goals. But this desire to change also makes us reluctant to leave things that are familiar. For most of us, leaving our comfort zone is difficult because of the fear of the unknown which coaxes us right back into the known and old familiar ways. We might feel frustrated and annoyed about the fact that we have to leave our comfort zone. We often feel stuck to adapt ourselves to unfamiliarity and avoid anything that is not comfortable. To overcome this pattern of avoidance, it is important to learn to step outside our comfort zones and get accustomed to discomfort.
What is comfort zone?
The comfort zone is a behavioural space where your activities and behaviours fit a routine and a pattern that involves less risk and stress. It provides familiarity, security and to some extent some level of certainty. Within our comfort zone, we become comfortable with what is familiar and get used to a steady level of performance. This soon makes us complacent as we easily fall into comfortable habits and begin to avoid those which are not.
We avoid changing most of our habits and behaviours by rationalising our thinking and saying ‘this is not the right time.’ or ‘It’s not important for me to do it.’ We tend to structure our lives to avoid moments and tasks that cause us discomfort. But those are the things that are probably important for our personal and professional growth and to maximise our potential. We hold ourselves back by thinking it is better to stay the way we are in order to avoid the discomfort, stress and anxiety.
Why is it important to come out of your comfort zone?
We are comfortable in engaging ourselves in a familiar pattern, but sometimes they may not be serving your current goals. They may prevent you from making necessary changes and hold you back from reaching your full potential. You may not be open to new challenges, to learn, grow and try new things. You begin to underestimate your ability to make any kind of change by judging yourself and end up convincing yourself that you will never be able to make necessary changes. Such thoughts can influence your actions and keep you from doing things that you might otherwise would like to pursue and can cost you your own success.
But with little awareness, understanding and by making few adjustments, you can break away from your routine and can push yourself to make those necessary changes in order to pursue your goals and aspirations. By learning to stretch yourself beyond your comfort zone, you can open a lot of new possibilities and discover things about yourself that you could not have otherwise discovered. You might learn things that you are capable of and could achieve things that you could not have anticipated. You cannot be successful in achieving your dreams if you only stick to a comfortable habit pattern and routine. Sometimes you need to take risk of attempting something which is outside of your comfort zone as well.
Outside of your comfort zone
“ Life always begins with one step outside of your comfort zone.” – Shannon L. Alder.
Within our comfort zone, there is little stress and anxiety. We can anticipate things to certain extent and know what’s coming next and can plan accordingly. Whereas outside of your comfort zone, you are open to risks, challenges, and open yourself up to the possibility of more stress and anxiety. But sometimes, a little bit of healthy stress and discomfort is not all that bad and is required to provide motivation for us to achieve desired goals.
“Being slightly uncomfortable, whether or not by choice, can push yourself to achieve goals you never thought you could.”
But it is important to not to push yourself too far and enter the zone of bad stress. This if happens can interfere with your ability to work well, to learn and to plan effectively. Here are some benefits of getting accustomed to “productive discomfort.”
• It improves your performance by opening up to challenges and taking risks.
• Makes you more creative by trying new things.
• Lowers your fear of failure and creates openness to new experiences.
• Improves your curiosity, imagination, and drive to explore.
• You can deal with new and unexpected changes easily.
• Improves your productivity and you will be willing to push your boundaries by adjusting to what was difficult.
We know what we need to do to improve our lives. We say we want to change for the better. But we often are held back by our belief that sameness equals safety and change equals discomfort. The key is to be aware of whether your comfort zones are preventing you from creating change and to be willing to leave what is familiar to make the change you desire. Here are some ways to get accustomed to ‘Productive discomfort’.
Try new things
We have a tendency to only seek out information we already agree with and avoid doing new things. Seeking new experiences, learning new skills and opening yourself to new ideas inspire you to challenge your confirmation bias. You can see old problems in new light and take risks. By challenging yourself to things you normally wouldn’t do, you can experience some of the uncertainty and get used to tackle changes easily. Try changing your daily work routine or try some new activities and be open to new experience.
Decide to take the leap
One of the important factor to break out of your comfort zone is to find your source of conviction about why a task is important to you or why making that change is essential. When you face situations that are not in your comfort zone, even if you feel the discomfort, believe in your convictions. This way, you can fight through the discomfort to take that leap towards the desired change. You may come to realise that what you feared most is not all that true and in a way, slight discomfort becomes normal to you.
Every time you open yourself to challenges and risks, regardless of their outcome, they provide you with learning experience and provide you an opportunity to utilise your store of untapped knowledge and capabilities. Even if you make mistakes and don’t get it right, there are always these experiences you have to tap into in future. Taking risks is important for your personal growth. challenges and risks expand the size of your comfort zone and you can cultivate openness to experience.
Do things differently
To stretch beyond your comfort zone, you need to make changes either large or small in the way you do things on a daily basis. For instance, sometimes slowing down is all it takes to make you uncomfortable especially if you are used to speed or quick thinking. If you are one of that conflict avoidant, you must embrace conflict. If you are an introvert, you have to do things which you have been avoiding like meeting new people or having different conversation. By doing things differently, you can expand your comfort zone and open yourself up to new possibilities.
Finally, Start with making small changes.
It is always overwhelming to step into discomfort and into the unknown. But instead of thinking of big picture, it will be easier to break down what you want to accomplish by making small changes. Getting used to ‘productive discomfort’ is to embrace new experience and to reach the state of optimal anxiety in a manageable way.
Comfort zones exist in every area in our lives. To practice ‘productive discomfort’, be aware of which comfort zone may not be serving your current purpose or which comfort zones are preventing you from making the desired change in your habits or behaviour. If you feel that you are stuck in your routine, challenge your underlying belief and make small changes to your routine to slowly move out of your comfort zone.
“The purpose of disagreement is not victory or defeat, it is progress.” – Teal Swan
Disagreements and differences are inevitable and they often spark a conflict. We all have different opinions and ideas that often lead to serious disagreements in a discussion be it in work places or in our personal lives. You won’t always agree with the beliefs or ideas of others and everyone won’t always agree with yours. We tend to and want to take sides. We all are different in the way we view the world which is influenced by our values, upbringing and background.
Sometimes these disagreements and differences impact people’s behaviour towards each other and ends up in a conflict. For instance, in work places conflict might arise due to competition or due to value clashes and personality differences, or due to perceived unfair treatment. Conflict can cause lot of stress and strain relationships both personally and professionally if not managed well. If left unresolved, it can have various negative effects such as low morale, choosing sides, quitting and violent outbursts. But it also serves as an opportunity for our transformation and personal growth if handled constructively.
Conflict by definition, is a disagreement or difference of perspective among individual or groups characterised by bitterness, tension, emotion, and hostility. But voicing your differences is important for creativity and innovation. Challenging status quo, challenging what is acceptable, and challenging the norms usually leads to innovations. New ideas emerge in work places when there are different opinions.
However, care should be taken for those differences should not move further down as major conflict. What initially starts as discomfort or differences between individuals or teams in discussions or conversations, slowly simmers on, if not managed well, creates perceptions, prejudice, wrong intentions and interpretation in the minds of one of the sides or both sides at times. This further not resolved, turns into a conflict.
How differences become Conflicts?
•Differences as and when they are voiced, if not agreed upon, flares the focus away from the issue to direct itself on the people who are creating opinions. This leaves a bad taste in the other side and things begin to get misunderstood.
•Misunderstandings if not resolved at this stage, leads to feelings of distrust, disagreement, lack of communication, blame game etc., and creates a stressful environment of tension.
•Tension gets build between both sides and thus further leads to louder gossips, back-biting, strong opinions against people, and creates strong divisions. This turns into a conflict.
•Conflict further strains trust, relationship, conversation, working together. Individuals at this stage attach their egos to their already diverging opinions and if that opinion is not accepted, they feel that this means a loss of credibility or loss or rejection and the whole situation may turn destructive.
Some more reasons for conflict
• Unwillingness to resolve the disagreements.
• Avoidance of conflict because of dislike of differences or contradiction or fear of disagreement.
• Being close-minded, not open to contrary views.
• One-mindedness prevents us from seeing what is true of value.
• Goal of defeating or destroying the other.
• Receiving only positive support and reinforcement of our beliefs or engaging only with like-minded.
• Inability to tolerate the ambiguity, ambivalence or tension that can arise in a disagreement.
Dealing with disagreements constructively will help you to recognise that the opposite, contradictory or ‘other’ point of view may have some validity. You should make an attempt to identify and understand disagreements and should be able to resolve them be it personal or professional lest they create stressed environment and might hinder your productivity.
The problem is that while conflict provides opportunity for change, we often miss it because conflict always touches our deepest emotions. So, we tend to become defensive in such situations. Our reaction to conflict makes us miss the opportunity which it provides for a change.
“A sense and normal society is one in which people habitually disagree.” – Carl Jung.
How to manage conflicts constructively
We know that conflict is a natural phenomenon because of clashes of thoughts and ideas. If managed well, conflict can be a constructive tool and can emerge as more meaningful and can be helpful to the people involved to understand the situation and to better themselves. By embracing it when it naturally comes our way helps a variety of opinions to surface which can be more useful and innovative. Here are certain ways to manage when disagreements or differences turn into conflicts.
Try and establish a dialogue for negotiation. When facing conflict you can become hostage to your inner fears and doubts, but it doesn’t have to be so. With self-awareness, you can overcome your doubts and change the way you perceive and behave in a situation. Try to see that as an opportunity, not as an obstacle. Talking, establishing a dialogue with the person you are in conflict and negotiating creates genuine and productive transactions focused on the common goal. Talk and listen without hostility or aggression. To resolve, it is more productive to persuade than to force.
Know the root cause
Be aware of the root cause of the disagreement. It is important to not only understand your own perception, but also you need to be aware of the other side’s. Often a disagreement starts from people having different set of goals, interests, or values. To address the conflict you are facing, ask yourself whether it stems from an interest or a need. An interest is more superficial and a need runs deeper like identity, security or respect. Most of the times, the behaviour of people involved in conflict is driven by needs. When you really know the root cause of the conflict, you can respond to that—in order to resolve the conflict.
Establish ways of working
Encourage open differences. This makes everyone aware of how to put up with differences respectfully. Understanding the others mindset helps you to resolve the conflict. If one wants to win, and if that one person is willing to make the other person lose, then the conflict remains unresolved. Leverage your different view points unconditionally and in positive regard. Try to find a common ground for mutual respect and cooperation. Collaborate with the other side and work towards a true solution to the conflict.
Develop willingness to resolve
The unwillingness to resolve does not help you to manage conflict effectively. You need to figure out whether you are stuck up, or is your ego attached to the unwillingness to resolve? Practice being empathetic in those situations. Be kind to the other side and make the right concessions. This gives an opportunity for the other side to respond accordingly. Develop the ability to listen and then respond. And once a concession has been made by the other side as well, reciprocate by moving the dialogue forward.
Focus on the combined desired outcome
When the conflict reaches a crisis stage, it is better to focus on the desired outcome of the resolution. It is better to reveal the big picture that you need to focus on. If the individuals involved in the conflict have different outcomes in mind, first inclining these outcome into one common outcome is important for the conflict to be resolved. If you are not able to arrive at common grounds because of your past misunderstandings, it is better to pare the past and move forward.
Finally, Maintain a positive relationship by respecting and staying aware of other person’s perspective. Emotions such as anger and frustration disrupts thoughtful actions. Even when you don’t agree with a specific point or a behaviour, demonstrate your acceptance of them as a person. Try to separate the person from the problem and focus on real issues and common goals. View it as an opportunity to work through the conflict for a mutually beneficial outcome.
Disagreements and diverse points of view often stimulate creativity and bring about change. But if you find these differences ending up in conflicts, embrace them and resolve them effectively by using above approaches and remember to,
•Communicate to the other person your own perspective, and reflect back your understanding of theirs.
•Help other side to maintain feelings of acceptance, value and worth through conflict, and help them to stay focused on the goal of a mutually acceptable outcome.
•Consider big picture and think beyond current conflict to the long-term relationships and goals involved. A broader perspective may reveal new options and make other issues seem less important.
•Focus on the problem and not the person and approach the conflict without taking it, or making it personal.
“The quality of our lives depends not on whether or not we have conflicts, but on how we respond to them.” – Tom Crum
We all make different decisions every single day either big or small. Most of the decisions made on a daily basis are relatively inconsequential or small and are made without us paying much attention to them. Whereas making some of the big decisions like career related choices or work/business related matters can be tough and can have a major impact on our personal and professional lives.
Why decision-making is important?
Your competency is often measured by the quality of decisions you make and the outcomes achieved in your life or work. Whether you manage a team at work place or manage an organistation, your success depends on you making right decisions and learning from wrong ones. No matter how big or small a decision is, it is important to have a clear intention for why you are choosing a specific course of action. Our lives are an accumulation of the decisions we make both big and small. Making the best decisions becomes important in many disciplines. But not everyone is well equipped with good decision-making capabilities especially when it comes to making tougher ones.
Difficulty in making decisions
Throughout our lives, we come across situations, where we need to make hard choices, especially when the decisions we need to make are life-altering, it gets much harder. In other words, making such decisions makes us uncomfortable as we tend to think what we choose will say something about what we are and what we value. Some of us get anxious when making these decisions by weighing the merits of each option back and forth in our mind thereby making us indecisive. Some of us are used to having a need to rationalise each possibility before deciding on the best course of action. When faced with too many options, we just cant make a choice. Difficulties in making decisions can lead to stress, anxiety and depression and if left unchecked, can distort your perception of the world of yourself.
The reasons behind such indecisiveness is largely due to doubt or regret or the element of uncertainty and is mostly rooted back to certain personality traits and cognitive biases. For example, people witch strong need to reach a conclusion in a given situation tend to engage in black-and-white thinking, while ambivalent tend ṭo be more comfortable with uncertainty. Sometimes, the internal biases hold you back from making decisions. We all have them and they can affect our “big picture” decisions for better or worse without we realising it and would often impact our decision-making capabilities. These biases can lead us to judge a situation too quickly. Here are some of the most common ones.
Change more often is not preferred, so if given a choice, many stick to what they know as they are comfortable with and are afraid to deviate from them. They make past choices as established custom and do not go by logic or rationality or relevance while making a decision. To overcome this, believe that change can be good and start with small changes and be open to doing things differently.
We all like being right. But sometimes we ignore information that challenges our beliefs. We don’t want ṭo seek the information that opposes our views thereby creating a bias in the decision taken. To balance out your prejudice, it is always better to consider the information even if that opposes your views.
We tend to feel more comfortable with those who have things in common with as we feel more understood and accepted. We begin to treat these people more favourably or become more aligned to such a group. In other words, we start judging a book by its cover. To break this bias, try to interact genuinely with individuals outside of your group. You might have more in common and can transcend surface-level differences.
When we place too much emphasis on certain piece of information, we tend to use that as a reference point to measure the remaining information creating the anchoring effect. In order not to let this happen, take time to evaluate by considering various aspects instead of rushing into a decision.
Being aware of your own biases will help you view your situation more objectively and to gain clarity around the decisions you make.
How to make effective decisions?
All of us have innate desire to be able to make better decisions and to protect ourselves from the wrong ones in order to create a bright future. But many factors; conscious and subconscious affect our choices and we need to know the ones that will help us improve our decision-making. Here are some ways to improve your decision-making.
Identify the triggers for indecisiveness
If you have difficulty making decisions – there is a chance that you are afraid of something. Figure out the reasons behind those fears to recognise triggers that cloud your mind. Is it a fear of failure? Or fear of missing out? Or is it because of your insecurities? By knowing the reason behind your discomfort, you can figure out how much sense it makes and whether it leads you to making the right decision. It would be a positive mental shift in seeing options as ‘ good’ and ‘bad’, to just choice A and choice B. Train yourself to think pros and cons with out being emotionally affected. Be aware of your triggers and practice challenging your previous choice patterns.
Squash all the biases
With biases we become prejudiced and make decisions without proper clarity. Simple errors lead to poor decisions due to our emotional ambiguous state. It is important to spot these errors and omit them to make better choices. You need to consider the likelihood of all particular outcomes. Instead of taking into account every possible outcome, look at the ones that are most likely to happen. You need to guard yourself against biases to think clearly when making decision.
Gather right information
Assuming that you know everything about a choice that needs to be made may not lead you to right decision. You can only make a decision based on the best information you have at the time. That is why it is important to gather right facts as many as relating to what you are contemplating on. Question your assumptions instead of jumping straight into something without properly considering the facts. All big choices have consequences and could result in more failures and regrets. If you rely on your assumptions, you run the risk of accepting a bias. The more you explore the background information, the more reliable your decision will be.
Consider what is at stake
Do not allow others’ agenda to sway you from making the choice thats right for you. You should be making difficult decisions with yourself in mind. Ask yourself:”will I like myself after making this choice.” Anyone can tick all the boxes in terms of a solution, without taking into account how that decision may make them feel about themselves. Consider how you’ll feel about yourself when you’ve made that choice. If you choose the easier, unassertive option, you risk a drop in self-esteem. Trust yourself enough to believe your decision is well informed and good.
Once you made a decision, it is easy to find evidence to support it. confirmation bias will ensure you find more and more reasons why you are right. So Instead of trying to prove your potential decision is right, prove it wrong. Look for reasons to doubt it, of you can’t find any then you can have confidence that decision you are making is a good one. Test your decision against multiple scenarios and if it still looks the best choice from different perspectives, go with it.
Don’t prejudice outcomes. There are always more variables to consider. The more alternatives you consider, the more likely you are to arrive at a better decision. But with too many, you may find it too hard to make your decision. Keep them limited. Step back and identify alternatives to seek others’ view points. Listen to arguments and probe for understanding. There may be valid perspectives you hadn’t considered, which could pave way for right course of action. Looking for alternatives creates different points of view, new insights and new choices.
Sometimes people mull over too many dimensions and are unable to choose a course of action. There’s this or that person to consider, the consequences that might arise, and sometimes it might be the fear of making mistakes, or fear of what others might think and so on. The flip side of over analysing is that we fail to identify what is outside our control. Take decisions based on what feels right, with proper assessment of the best available information instead of overanalysing.
Finally, Trust your instincts in making your decisions based on right principles and establish clear objectives that identify with your desired outcome or that which provides solutions to your problems. Decide on the lines of whether to if your decision is efficient and effective.
Next time around while making a decision that is crucial to you follow these steps to make better decisions. Once you’ve made your decision, act on it. Make your decision measurable and achievable.
“A creative man is motivated by the desire to achieve, not by the desire to beat others” – Ayn Rand
Competition has always been taught to us from very young age in order to become something, to achieve and to survive. We are taught the virtue of competition in every aspect of life in order to succeed and to win. When competing against another, we tend to draw on to our untapped reserves and this brings the best in us because of the inherent instinct to better the other. This very basic nature of competitiveness has always been an integral part of us from the early centuries as we had to compete for resources like food and shelter. Those who are able to compete and strongest would win the best. Competition is inevitable and being competitive is important when it comes to academics, sports and work. Those who make an effort and draw on their own strengths and possibilities turn out as winners. There are benefits to having a competitive nature like you learn the importance of setting goals, following rules, to cope with stress, to take risks,and to be committed. But is it that only competing against other can bring the best in you? Or can you do better even by yourself? Or Is it always important to define yourself in terms of being better than others?
True competition is about competing with and not against
Competition brings out both the best and the worst in us. And though it is a natural instinct, nurturing it is equally responsible. There is always a danger of ignoring moral values in favour of winning or succeeding. While competing, we learn the virtue of selfishness, being all-out egotistical, and demonstrate superiority on others. We tend to believe that true competition is about breaking others and we constantly compare ourselves to others which leads to insecurities and fears. This further leads to unfair practices like where the aim no longer remains to better yourself or to succeed, but to pull down or belittle another.
But true competitive spirit is about growing, bettering and prospering together while competing with, rather than against another. If you learn to work along with, you will be able to build better strengths and qualities to succeed. Focusing on working together to solve problems, and helping each other to get the job done can result in mutually beneficial outcomes rather than focusing on a short-term, one-sided win.
Compare to your former self and not to others
When you are competing with others, the achievements made by others makes us crave the same achievement when we believe it’s within our reach. There will be always people who are better than you. Accept and use them as inspiration for pursuing your own instead of comparing yourself to others. In other words, comparing yourself with someone else is an inaccurate way of measuring your success. How well you do depends on improved version of yourself. If you question the logic of your comparisons, most of them rather turn out to be irrelevant in their reasoning.
Instead of comparing yourself externally, redirect your comparison within. Question yourself as to how you can continue to become a new and improved version of yourself. It does not matter how you perform relative to your opponents, so long as you perform better than your former self.
Know that your only competition is you
Our natural instinct is to compete with others and not to compete with ourselves. However, if we choose to, we can also compete with ourselves which leads to our self growth. We get so caught up in the competition with others professionally and personally that it is easy to forget that to improve ourselves and reaching our potential is more important than competing against others. It is important to remember that your competitor is not other—your competitor is yourself.
why you should compete with yourself
Always running after the competition will make you less enthusiastic. When you compete with yourself, whether it’s in your learning or work, you can focus on the process of getting better each time. This small shift in your perspective allows you to progress faster and to focus on process.
True competition is not always about beating or outdoing others, but about growing and improving. You should condition to compete constructively by measuring your success not against others but against yourself.
Here are some benefits in competing with yourself than against others.
Can measure your success
If you take a look around, you come across people who made some amazing achievements in their life. Someone is always going to be better than you at something. When you learn to be competitive with yourself, you can have a better measure of your success rather than stressing out on someone else’s. You know success will come to you at the right time when you put in the right effort.
Can improve your capability
Knowing your strengths and weaknesses gives you an opportunity to assess whether or not your goals are right for you. Once you know the things you are not so good at, you can decide upon improving your weak areas in order to achieve your goals. Looking into your own shortcomings rather than outwardly at other people paves a way to improve your capabilities.
Can increase possibilities
When you are competing with others, you are only competing in arenas that others have set up for you. But if you continue to do so, you will end up limiting your possibilities. Only when you use yourself as a true measure of your success do you open yourself up to the infinite things and possibilities. These things might ultimately lead ṭo your passion and happiness.
Can be free of people’s judgment
When you compete with yourself, you are letting go of people’s measure of success. and defining your own measure of success. You are free of what they think of you and their expectations. You chose to follow whatever it is that makes you happy. This makes you answerable to yourself in doing everything you could possibly do to achieve your goals and not because of other people’s judgment.
Can intrinsically motivate yourself
While competing against others, you feel that you achieved something only because it gives you a sense of being better than what everyone else is doing. But that is not the true measure of your success and that feeling is fleeting. But when you compete with yourself, you will be intrinsically motivated to accomplish things that are true to your abilities. You can strive to improve yourself and to challenge yourself in new ways.
To conclude, although competitiveness is innate, do not hold yourself to the standards of other people, wishing you could be better than them. May be this is motivating you, but an even greater skill is to be better than yourself. How about pushing yourself to do better each day. Goal setting is a great way to compete against yourself. You select the end result that you want and that you choose. Then, it is up to you, to work to achieve those goals. Thus, you can push yourself towards your goals, rather than creating unnecessary competition against others. Develop a desire to achieve and always strive to push yourself to become better.
“The principle is competing against yourself. It’s about self-improvement, about being better than you were the day before.” – Steve Young
“Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfils the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.” – Winston Churchill
Criticism and confrontational situations arise everyday. You may not be able to avoid other people’s criticism of you, but you always have a choice as how to respond to those. There are times when you feel that almost everyone is against you and our balance of temper depends upon others, just as others depend on us. Such situations cause uneasiness. This is natural because of our expectations and we feel hurt and start brooding about the criticism we face. Criticism if not handled properly can really create stressful and unpleasant working environment. Being criticised causes most of us to feel poorly about ourselves and can lower our self-esteem and productivity as we devote more time and energy dealing with it and are less focused on important things.
According to science, there are two portions of our brain that dictate how we emotionally process and respond to criticism. The amygdala plays a huge role in our fight or flight response, which is why negative reviews or feedback from others make us feel truly threatening and create a negative bias. Unpleasant remarks and experiences stick with us so much more than the pleasant ones.
When faced with criticism, not everyone deals with it in the same way. There isn’t one size fits all responses. Some instantly know its not personal, some get defensive, some may feel completely crushed by even the most minimal feedback. Here are some ways people deal with the negative feedback.
• Some people seem to accept criticism rather well on the surface while mentally they put themselves down by being overly hard on themselves.
• Some of them take negative feedback very personally. However, they deflect the blame back on others by challenging or arguing against as a means of convincing themselves that criticism is unjust.
• Some feel put down by the negative remarks, but they aren’t beating themselves up and aren’t deflecting blame onto the person giving them. They simply want to know the reason and what they could do to change critic’s mind.
• Some choose to defend themselves against criticism and exhibit a defensive reaction to negative feedback. However, they don’t argue and they likely think that their critic is somewhat misguided and are fine to leave it at that.
• Some get sensitive to negative feedback and tend to turn that into anger or feelings of inadequacy and react in way to quickly seek validation from others.
Feeling bad about being criticised is totally natural and unavoidable, but allowing it to effect our productivity and happiness can be often detrimental. We are not well equipped to handle negative feedback positively and fail often to deal with it smartly. However, criticism, if you learn to face it openly and learn to handle it in a more positive and constructive manner, can be a pathway to your progress and improvement. Managing negative feedback constructively creates better interpersonal relationships and can grow your leadership effectiveness. Here are certain ways to turn criticism into constructive tool for your individual success and not to let it affect you negatively.
Do not ‘defend’ yourself
When we are criticised, our most common instinct is to defend ourselves. Resist proving yourself right every time and focus on what is going on. Address it with curiosity and not as accusation. Even when you disagree, listen to what the other person has to say and think it over. Resist the urge to focus on the minor elements of what’s being said and instead focus on the major implication of the criticism. There may be things you can learn and benefit from if you consider the issue in larger perspective. Getting defensive takes away your emotional control and limits your ability to respond thoughtfully.
Know your ‘negative self’
Critical comments about yourself can activate a deeply held negative beliefs and your insecurities. You tend to overreact because it activates your negative belief as you are sensitive to that particular issue. Criticism may lead to anger, bitterness, stress, resentment, self-doubt, and pity. By becoming familiar about them can help you overcome these feelings that gets triggered.
Don’t take it personally
Many of us take criticism more personally than we should. It is essential to separate criticism from your sense of self. Learn not to view it as about who you are as a person , but rather as feedback about an individual action or a particular situation. Always learn to look at the context from an objective stand. The disagreements you have with others is often due to different views and perceptions. If you can learn to view it as feedback about something you did and not about who you are, you will be able to take it less personally and can respond accordingly.
Go to the ‘source’
Identify the source that triggered the criticism or try to have a conversation with the person criticising. If the person delivering the criticism is prone to criticising others unreasonably, or being egotistical, or has unpredictable behavioural-pattern, then you need not take their feedback seriously. However, if the person delivering criticism is stable, supportive and trustworthy, take stock of the criticism and explore it further. Try to have a conversation and get to the bottom of it. Getting to the source keeps you in proper perspective.
It can be very unpleasant when someone finds fault with you. But If you react emotionally to what’s been said, or if you go into fight mode, it only takes you out of your rational behaviour and it is better not to respond. Take a step back emotionally so that you can respond calmly and use simple response to acknowledge that you have heard their opinion. Take few minutes out and breathe in a relaxed way to bring down your stress response so that you can respond calmly.
Look for the ‘positive’
Always look at what you can learn from the situation. If there’s anything the situation is helping you to learn or is it in anyway serving as an opportunity for your growth. Sometimes it might help you to learn the need to be more resilient or patient or to learn to stand up for yourself or to take responsibility for the behaviours you have that invited criticism from others. Be focused on the positive aspects of the situation.
Strengthen your positive ‘self’
Agree with any valid part of the criticism that is true. If there are elements that are not true, state your differences. If you are brought down by someone else’s unjust criticism, consider working on your self-esteem, try to reduce your interaction with someone who regularly criticises you. If it is someone whom you can’t avoid, try being more matter of fact with them, or, ideally, withdraw your need for their approval or validation.
Say ‘No’ to negative self-talk
Negative self-talk can be damaging to your self-esteem and can become a biggest bully. Don’t let your inner critic demean you and lower your self-worth. Ask yourself the question: would you put up with a person saying negative things about you? If you wouldn’t tolerate that tone from someone, then why put up with from yourself? Get positive perspective of you as a person or your achievements and focus on them when your inner critic tries to break you down.
If you get into disagreements or confrontational situations, don’t engage in too much talk or debate. Try to exit from the situation with ease. Know when to quit the conversation. Adopt strategies that regulate your emotions before negativity takes you over. Develop an ability to put away the unpleasant experience and get on with new approach, in other words, have the ability to bounce back and explain your stance or take on that particular issue later.
Straighten your own attitudes
When you feel or think that you are off the target with someone or you think that he or she disapproves of you, there may be nothing wrong with you. It could be the other person is simply drawing upon his or her own past experiences or even highly suspicious of others in his or her dealings with others. Understand person’s motivation for being unfairly critical. Is he stressed? Insecure? Unhappy to change?In such cases, attitude to your own self is important. If you feel someone’s criticism of you is unfair, don’t be afraid to say so. Be irrespective of others’ unjust criticism. Even though you’re the target, it is more often about them than you. Try to view it in broader perspective.
Ask open-ended questions
Asking open-ended questions to those who criticise you will not only make their feedback valuable, but also allows you to learn more about why they viewed the action or the situation the way they did. Asking open-ended questions like “Tell me more…,” “what is the impact of that?” Asking a series of ‘why?’ questions is the best way to know their perspective and makes you better equipped to handle the situation in future. You can facilitate a more open conversation with your critic and can end the conversation on good terms.
Finally, pay attention to the criticism you face. Take action in order to improve yourself if the criticism is because of your faults and weaknesses. View it as learning opportunity. Instead of feeling bad about your mistakes and any criticism that may have resulted from them, accept them and view them objectively. This way, you will be better prepared to deal with similar situations in the future.
The next time you come across criticism, remember what you learned and take a suitable approach, don’t let anger get in the way. Respond in cool, calm and reasonable manner. Trust your instinct, if its something worth fighting for. Be assertive and firm, but don’t be demanding or aggressive. If the criticism has resulted because of your mistakes, learn from them and move on.
Ambitions or goals give us particular aim and direction in life. All of us have certain ambitions, want to obtain and reach something or be someone or have something. For any ambition to come true, It is not always just about the ambition or climbing your career ladder or to get ahead in your work, but it is often more about how you do it…you must be confident in your abilities in striving for them in a positive manner and should not get controlled by negative characteristics like fear, greed, desire for fame or power. If you are controlled by these negativities deep down your ambitions and dreams can be crippled. Failing to address your inner fears and negative beliefs lowers your self esteem which further leads to unproductive and dysfunctional behaviours.
Don’t let your low self-esteem limit your ambitions
Most of us experience low self esteem levels at some point in our lives. This is particularly true among even highly successful and achieving individuals. This might be due to variety of reasons and varies in levels for different people. For some the reason might be when they are facing hurdles, they may not be stronger in overcoming them and easily give up. For some others it may be due to coming out of their comfort zones. More often we feel confident in our comfort zone. When things feel good and things feel familiar; you know what to expect, you know what to do and you feel at ease and in control. But the moment you step out of your comfort zone, some begin to feel stressed and this lowers their self esteem. Besides the skill, what decides whether you can achieve your goal or ambition is your self esteem. Healthy self-esteem provides you the motivation to give your best when faced with any difficult or uncomfortable situation in life.
What is Self-esteem ?
Self esteem refers to the way we feel about ourselves and is an important aspect of our emotional well-being. High self-esteem means that we are comfortable about who we are and accept ourselves for the way we are. Low self esteem means otherwise. We all at some points learn the traits of being confident and it is injected into our identity. Most of the times, we use self-esteem as a meter that reads out the state of the system, when you are doing well, the meter will register high. When you are doing not so well, it will register low. Many times we equal self-esteem to various other self concepts thinking it is the same. Here is how it is different .
1. Self-concept is not self-esteem. Self-esteem may be part of self-concept. Self-concept is the perception that we have ourselves.
2. Self-esteem is not self-image as self-image is based on false and inaccurate thoughts about ourselves. Our self-image may be close or far from reality.
3. Self-esteem is not self confidence. Self-esteem is more about the internal measure. Self confidence is based on external measures of success such as the trust in ability to deal with challenges and solve problems. One can have high self-confidence in certain field, but still lack a healthy sense of overall value or self-esteem.
4. Self-efficacy is not a self-esteem. Self-efficacy is the belief in one’s ability to succeed in certain tasks. It is based on external success than the internal worth.
What causes low self-esteem
Most of the times, the unrecognised and unacknowledged core fears are the root cause of low self-esteem which can lead to our unattained potential. Yet not all those fears are not necessarily bad. You can use them to improve your performance. If you are willing to address these fears or negative notions and beliefs of self as to where they are coming from, you can channel them productively.
Here are certain fears that lower your self-esteem.
Fear of being wrong
Harbouring this thought makes you focus more on rules, ethics, standards, and ‘ right vs wrong.’ This makes you deeply afraid of making a choice that will later prove to be objectively wrong.
Fear of not being good enough
Constantly thinking not being good enough makes you insecure, more focused on your image, and desperate to prove your worth. Because you are motivated by how you are seen by others, you may tend to fudge facts and lower your authentic inner worth.
Fear of missing out
This makes you to constantly seek new possibilities and experiences. The down size is it can scatter your attention and muddy your decisions. Pursuing multiple interests at once can lead to more frustration and confusion.
Fear of taken advantage of
Afraid of being seen as weak, you feel the need to win every battle. This can make you more defensive and controlling. The underlying anxiety can make you low on emotional quotient and suffering from not being good enough can further lower your self-esteem.
If you are low in self-esteem, you will have difficult time focusing on a task as you constantly doubt your inner worth. You even be justifying the self-doubt and will cause trouble which lowers your chances and opportunities in life. It creates a sense of hopelessness and low resilience. At times when your confidence runs low you might give into self destructive behaviours and self deprecating thoughts by going into a downward spiral. In such times, it is important to make a conscious effort to boost your self-esteem. You can rebuild your self-esteem and go after the goals you have dreamt of by believing in your abilities once again.
Ways to boost your self-esteem
Expressing personal emotions, attitudes and cognitive thoughts are highly associated with self-esteem.
Having healthy sense of self -esteem guides you towards accepting reality, thinking critically about your failure to achieve your ambitions, and problem-solving instead of wallowing in self-pity or giving up. With Higher self esteem you can accomplish what you set out to achieve. to achieve your goals, ambitions and the life that you want to lead.
Here are some strategies to upgrade your self-esteem.
Scientific research shows that naming the emotion can dampen the activity in the amygdala, which is the emotional hazard detection centre of the brain. This allows your brain to take back the control and become more aware of your emotions and to separate yourself from them. This helps you to take the edge off your anxiety and help you feel more in control. Simply acknowledge the emotion and name your feeling. You might say ‘ I am feeling angry’ or ‘ I am feeling pessimistic.’
List your ambitions
Write down your ambitions and aspirations. Writing them down can boost your motivation and get you fixed up in the right mindset to accept challenges and to take risks. This helps you in gaining more clarity and makes your goals more attainable than just thinking about them as a mountainous tasks. Write those things that really inspire you and give you a lift, the things you’d love to achieve.
Use social media positively
Studies suggest that social media usage negatively impacts self-esteem. Even though we need social media to interact, we also use those around us as comparisons to measure and track our progress in work, relationships and life in general. Social comparisons with unattainable standards is clearly a bad habit to get into because the image projected is often curated as polished and perfected appearance. Comparing yourself to others makes you experience negative emotions. You can use social media more positively by drawing inspiration and motivation rather than unhealthy comparison.
Stop yourself from dwelling on past
Dwelling on past mistakes and regrets, or worries about the future, can be very damaging for your inner self worth. Stop the cycle of frequent reviewing of past blunders and preventing future problems by engaging yourself in present moment awareness. Distract yourself from such self destructive thoughts. If you continue to dwell on some issue, structure your thought by writing it down and making a plan for either dealing with it in future or moving on from past regrets and failures.
You can develop self-esteem through meditation. When we meditate, we cultivate our ability to let go and to keep our thoughts and feelings in perspective. We learn to simply observe and loosen the grip we have on our sense of self. We gain the ability to become aware of our inner experiences without over-identifying them. A regular meditation practice can upgrade your self-esteem by helping you let go of your preoccupation of negative self. When you have the ability to step back and observe your fears and self deprecating thoughts, you begin to de identify the negativities that lower your inner worth.
Dealign with your fears
Understand and admit your fears if there are any. Take a close look at the choices you’ve made in the past and the reasons behind those choices. Spend some time considering what it means if you failed at something. What would happen if you took on an ambition that didn’t play your strengths? Acknowledge your fears and move past them. Align your actions and behaviour more closely with your ambition and not with your fears
Achieve your ambition with confidence
When you pick a big goal, break it down into small, manageable goals that are with in your power. Tackling one issue at a time can help you build required skills and improves your performance. You might not be able to complete all of them straight away. Figure out the first few and focus on them. Working out the tasks and challenges will gradually stretch you and build your skills towards achieving your ambitions.
Finally, Arduous self-examination of your fears can turn your self-esteem around. Acknowledge both your accomplishments and mistakes and have s honest and realistic conception of yourself. This will help you to keep a positive outlook and drives you to make positive changes.
If you want to boost your self-esteem. you need to start from within yourself and speak to your negative inner voice that says you can’t do something or you are not good at something else. Challenge negative thoughts by taking responsibility and change your mindset to positive. Boosting your Self-esteem will help you find the courage to try new things, builds resilience to bounce back from failure and makes more susceptible to success.
While you are working on your self-esteem, remember to
• Be less critical of yourself and others.
• Be assertive about expressing yourself.. your likes, dislikes and feelings.
• Be open to criticism and in acknowledging mistakes.
• Avoid dwelling on the past and focus on the present.
• Accept challenges and take risks.
• Value yourself and communicate well with others.
• Be optimistic and hold a positive outlook on life.
• Build strong and honest relationships.
• Have self-realistic expectations.
“True leadership of self and others starts with the mind and it is best thought of as a behaviour, not as a role.”
Everyday you come across your inner leader while making choices, decisions or in getting work done or in guiding others in your workplace or chasing your goals. It becomes very important to lead others in a positive way wherever you are or at whatever place you find yourself in life, be it personally or professionally. The true leader in us is always facing work reality day in and day out where we are constantly distracted by external forces, people and tasks, information overload, and are often interrupted by matters that are not in your control which needs your immediate attention. The pressure is always on as you are always drifting and trying to catchup living on autopilot without a clear sense of purpose and direction.
Whether you are aware of it or not, on some level you are continually leading and managing yourself and others. If you come under the day to day limitations and distractions no matter how expert your capabilities, skill and competence may seem, you fail to connect and inspire the people you lead in an organisation or in your personal life and would fail to value and flourish. You cannot manage or lead others if you have never learnt to manage, lead and discipline yourself. The first way to encourage the assets of others is to develop these within yourself first. In order to do this, you should be able to:
• Take yourself beyond your routine ways of thinking and behaving and lead yourself to higher levels of focus.
• Cultivate optimism, persistence, openness, high emotional quotient, and better interpersonal skills.
• Grow your inner focus which attunes you to your intuitions, guiding values and better decisions.
• Show self-restraint to inhibit your impulses and develop will-power and self-discipline.
• Have long-term goals to be able to focus on without getting distracted from all the clutter and distractions around.
• Shed your old habits, beliefs and older ways of working by asking whether the presumptions you are holding onto are true or not.
• Leave your comfort zone once you realise there is no growth and should be prepared to do or learn newer ways by adapting to change.
• Create an inspiring shared vision and the drive to achieve goals.
• Pursue a plan for improvement of self and others.
Performing right and required actions is the foundation for everything you want to achieve in life in general. You should not be predefined by what you are now, rather you should be able to recreate yourself by what you do. Your inner leadership skills further depend on achieving results in your own life or for your work place or for your people who believe in your goals. From this perspective, the ability to manage yourself and things you pay attention becomes important. By developing your awareness of self and others and applying it to manage your inner world and your relationships with others can improve your decision-making abilities and control your choice-making capabilities.
‘Success on the outside really does begin from within’. Here are certain qualities to develop to embrace your inner leader.
In order to lead and inspire others successfully, you must be in tune with your inner leader by understanding your strengths and weaknesses. You must devote yourself to you own self growth to find meaning and live each day with purpose and intention. The more you come to know who and what you really are as a person, the more value you will be able to create. Identify what is most important and what makes you meaningfully different and authentic. Self-awareness will enrich your judgment and makes you aware of the consequences of each of your choices or decisions. This will help you to develop new strengths and have a positive impact on others.
Your values determine whether or not you are in control of your inner leader. Align your actions to what you believe and say. Having high integrity helps you in doing right by making right choices. Sharing your values help others understand what motivates you and strive to learn and understand the values of the people you work with. This reduces the chances of future conflict and strengthens your interpersonal relationships.
Every time you avoid doing right, you fuel the habit of doing wrong. Always take a high road and make a tough and right choice based on your values rather than the easy road. Decisions aligned with your values help you to become more effective in leading yourself and others.
“One cannot do right in one department of life whilst he is occupied in doing wrong in other. Life is one indivisible Whole – M. K. Gandhi.”
When you pursue right purpose, it leads you to do things that are meaningful to you and whatever is relevant to that purpose gets priority thereby eliminating distractions. Get people around you excited about a meaningful cause that contributes to the lives of others. Make decisions that support your purpose and focus on liberating their full potential through the work they do. Align and prioritise your actions to achieve results that matter most to you and to people you work with. Your commitment to right purpose and adherence to it will improve your leadership ability.
If your goal is to lead and create the most value for your organisation or for yourself, then you must be able to perform to the best of your abilities. This can be achieved by cultivating self-discipline. More often, it’s not that achieving your goals is physically impossible, it is the lack of self-discipline to stick to them that keeps you from reaching your full potential. Self-discipline improves your will-power to overcome obstacles and moves you onwards towards your goal. Every act of discipline strengthens your confidence and helps you control your impulses while staying focused on what needs to get done. The strong desire for your purpose can act as a self-motivator to discipline yourself and to channel your energies in appropriate ways.
“Efficiency is doing things right. Effectiveness is doing the right things.” – Peter F. Drucker
The ability to manage your attention and having right focus is the key to bring out the leader in you. Increase in ‘on task’ time could have a significant improvement in leading yourself effectively to get more focused attention. Focusing your attention on right things and directing attention toward where it needs to go is a primal task of leadership. The ability to shift attention to the right place at right time can refine efficiencies and improve yours and everybody’s performance. By maintaining right focus on goals that matter to you , you can seize opportunities and can improve yourself to be innovative and productive.
As important it is to know yourself, to bring out the leader in you, you need to like people and should have a passion to interact, listen and understand them. Develop a deeper understanding of people around. Be empathetic and sensitive to their needs. Understand what drives them and demonstrate genuine concern for their welfare. Guide them through challenges and always be on the lookout for solutions to help them get through their personal challenges. Paying attention to others needs and listening to advice and expertise helps you make right decisions that transform fear to hope by questioning your assumptions. Learn to listen and communicate with care.
“When you start to develop your powers of empathy and imagination, the whole world opens up to you.”- Susan Sarandon
Have genuine passion and enthusiasm for the work you do. Be excited about what you do and find the best in others and surround yourself with positive people. Pursuing a vision that makes you feel worthy and meaningful and helping others ṭo liberate the fullness of their talents makes you more passionate. Being passionate opens up new possibilities, this in turn, would lead to new choices and new changes and action. Your passion becomes an anchor to keep you from drifting during turbulent times. Being passionate helps you to see good in every circumstance and creates positive attitudes to the opportunities.
“Good leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision, and relentlessly drive it to completion.” – Jack Welch
Develop the ability to communicate persuasively. It’s easy to get others to do what you want them to do if you’ll see things from their perspective. Avoid thoughtless actions and look for ways to passionately stimulate and energise people and deliver right messages that motivate and reassure. Praise them for every effort they put forth. When something isn’t going right, point out the one thing at the moment that they could do better and help them find the way without making them feel small. Motivate and steer them in right direction and help them be successful too.
There is no singular path towards solving a problem. Rather than rigidly adhering to traditional and outdated ways of doing things, remain flexible in your thinking and in management of others by adapting to change. Adopt new habits and cultivate new attitudes to embrace change. If your old ways are not proving to be of value, it is important to have the flexibility to re-examine and change the course as needed. Sharpen your skills, develop your talents to help you turn your weaknesses into strengths.
Be determined not to give up easily when things don’t go your way. Never run yourself down. View failure as opportunity and seek to better yourself and your circumstances. Esteem yourself not with egotism but with humble, realistic self-confidence. If you possess genuine confidence and live with an unshakable sense of who you are, you can be determined to achieve your goals. Make your decisions with clarity and act despite risk and doubt.
• Be inspired by great purpose.
• Remain flexible and maintain openness to change.
• Accept responsibility.
• Be resilient in the face of obstacles.
• Create a sense of direction in your life having the foresight to anticipate problems or needs before they arise.
• Increase your mindfulness by constant questioning and listening.
• Have impeccable integrity.
• Listen to advice and expertise
• Be collaborative and make decisions by consensus.
• Motivate, influence and help people in developing new strengths or refining their abilities.
• Be receptive to insights, perspectives from other people and their perception.