If you are trying to become a high performer— and who isn’t? — it’s going to take some hard work and a lot of reinforcement. If we are going to put in the work, we want the results to stick, right? Personal development is a long game and the results take time to start to show. There are plenty of opportunities in our daily lives that can sabotage our efforts, or keep us from moving forward and getting a little bit better each day.
When I was younger, I struggled a lot with imposter syndrome, which is an “inability to internalize…accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a ‘fraud.’” (Wikipedia) I remember that when I joined the Army, the recruiters told me the experience would give me the confidence to do anything. They were wrong; I was still just me.
It wasn’t until I started journaling and taking the time to get to know myself that I became comfortable with who I am. There are days that I struggle or that I wish I had gotten more accomplished, but that usually happens because I am not on top of my biggest levers: sleep, exercise, accomplishment, stress, and communication. Your levers might be different, but there will most likely be some overlap.
What I found is that there were little things in my phrasing that showed how I viewed a situation. Some of them moved me down a peg in my self-worth. It took me a long time to realize that this was happening, and since what we do will influence how we feel, I decided to work on it. I began to journal about these statements and slowing down in my conversations so that I wouldn’t let these limiting statements pop up in my conversations.
I am going to clue you in to a couple of mindsets that come out subconsciously in how we phrase things. If you can work on these things, you will see better results in every project you undertake because you will have broken down the belief that being yourself isn’t good enough. Some people will think this is nonsense and I used to feel that way as well; for those people, I would ask if that doubt is moving you forward on the path you want to be on? For everyone else, there’s no better time to start that work than today.
Sorry vs. Excuse Me
This one is probably the most common in day-to-day life. For instance, you might be walking down a sidewalk on the right side of the path when someone steps in front of you, and you apologize to them instead of going for something like, “pardon me” or “excuse me.” It’s instinctive, right? But, you didn’t do anything wrong, so why are you apologizing?
Now, I’m not saying that you should be indignant, and respond with a tone dripping in accusation, but that you should merely politely say “excuse me,” and move on. Why apologize for something when you didn’t do anything wrong?
I’ll give you another example: I was standing in line for a beer the other day at an event, and someone decided to cut through the line to get past, and it was awkward because there wasn’t really enough room to fully get out of the way. I almost reverted to saying “sorry,” then I caught myself and just moved. They said “excuse me,” cut through, and kept walking.
You’re just as important as anyone else, so don’t put yourself in a mental position where you might not be. This is also really important in business because, whether you’re pitching to the C-suite or the business owner, you need to have equal footing with them. You provide value with what you do, or else you wouldn’t be wasting their time (this of course assumes that you are only talking to people who actually show a need for what you do).
Have To vs. Get To
This one is more subtle than the first, but just as important. We get to do things that we enjoy; for instance, you get to go on vacation. We have to do things that are chores; “I have to wake up early to go to work.”
I was talking with a friend over a beer who runs a relatively large business. He said that he needed to go because he had to sign some payroll checks for his staff. This guy works his tail off, but I stopped him in his tracks, when I said, “have to, or get to?”
He looked confused, so we talked about the fact that he gets to run a very successful company and has a team of people who work their asses off for him. Because of that, he gets to come and go as he pleases, as evidenced by stopping to have a beer at 3:30pm. Signing those checks to keep his people happy and working on his business should be something he looks forward to each time he gets to do it.
He didn’t care for my point of view and tried to explain it away, but he texted me the next day to tell me that he thought about it more and even brought it up to his wife. They talked it over for a while, and now he agrees with me. He doesn’t have to pay his employees, he gets to. Imagine what a new outlook that little change in perspective can bring to his whole relationship with his company and work!
We get to do these things because of our hard work and constant improvement. I get to pick up my daughter from school most days because I work for myself. I would need to send her to daycare if I worked for someone else, and that would have a negative impact on my relationship with her. Changing that one phrase can really put a lot of your life and business into a new, more positive perspective.
No Problem vs. You’re Welcome
My grandfather would point this out to me when I was a kid and it drove me nuts. These days, it’s a popular internet meme that I see come around from time to time. It basically boils down to this: if someone thanks you for something, saying “you’re welcome” is an acknowledgment of the effort you put in.
Let’s break it down. When you say “no problem” in response to someone thanking you, what you are doing is cheapening your effort, or essentially saying that you don’t think it deserves that thank you. Same goes for “it was nothing.” It was something to that person, so don’t disregard their feelings just because you are uncomfortable.
I always feel a little awkward when someone thanks me for my military service. I was a reservist and thankfully, I was never deployed, and I know too many guys who have come back from deployments and still have to deal with injuries or mental issues after the fact. To me, those guys are the real heroes. I was with a prior service friend at a networking event, and someone who knew we had both served thanked both of us for our service. He said “you’re welcome” and I did my standard attempt at trying to explain it away, that I never went anywhere and so on.
My friend pulled me off to the side, looking mad. “What the fuck was that?” he asked. I explained that I feel weird taking credit in that situation. He asked me if I signed up and swore an oath, and I replied that of course I had. He said that it was just luck that I didn’t get deployed and nothing else. I’d signed up to serve my country, been trained for combat; I just hadn’t ever been sent into combat. He pointed out that my ass had not been my own for the entire length of my contract, just like everyone else. I was diminishing the reality of what I’d signed up for just because my name hadn’t ever been picked to deploy.
He’s right, and since then, I do tell people they are welcome if they know me well enough to know that I served. Teach yourself not reduce your efforts and the thanks other people give you for them.
Buying vs. getting sold
This last one is a subtle change you’ll hear in conversations all the time. For instance, your friend might tell you, “I just bought the new iPhone.” But when you purchase something that you regret or have a bad experience with, the language goes the other way: “I got sold this crap car that doesn’t work.”
Well, the victim train stops here. If I am going to buy a used, older car, I am first going to take it to a mechanic. If I am going to buy an older home, I am also going to pay for a top-notch inspection before I sign the contract. It’s when we try to go cheap or assume that we know enough to get by that we get into trouble, right?
So do your homework and be prepared, or you get what you get — don’t blame someone else for giving you a raw deal that you bought and paid for.
If you can work on these four perspective changes and try to keep them at the front of your mind, all of your efforts in personal development (including relationships, work, and life, in general) will go a lot further and be more fruitful in the long run.