How many of us are like the kitten in the picture above? We portray an image that we either want to be true of ourselves or that we think the world expects us to be.
Perhaps that’s not always a bad thing. For example, if we have an important speech to give, or we are pitching for a key piece of business, its salient that we portray ourselves as confident and knowledgeable and a safe pair of hands. Indeed, coaches teach us how to visualise ourselves in situations where we may need to act like the tiger rather than the kitten to give us a competitive advantage. And, when we set goals, we are advised that visualisation of our desired image and state can help us subconsciously move from where we are to where we want to be.
The problem is, visualisation by itself can be more harmful than good, if it isn’t accompanied by reflection and then action. I’ve witnessed countless people buy into the ‘law of attraction’, expecting their lives to transform simply by creating a Vision Board and meditating on it daily – only to be disappointed. Likewise, I see countless organisations that start to believe their own press about how marvellous they are; how great their systems and people are; how innovative and creative they are, only to sit with their head in their hands at the end of each financial year wondering why they aren’t achieving the growth they are looking for; why they are still talking about the same problems over and over again.
Worst still, once people start to believe in their own story, they cannot see the story for what it is – a made up and often embellished box office hit story; and then denial sets in about any need to reflect or change on the inner workings – despite the evidence to the contrary. I have a sad example of this in action. I used the analogy to a previous client “If you were on the starting line of a Grand Prix, you would be the envy of all the drivers. You have the shiniest, smartest looking car on the starting block, but the problem is, your engine in knackered! You are spending so much time adding new spoilers, the latest go faster stripes and touching up the paintwork that you are neglecting to check the oil; give the engine a tune up and install upgraded parts.”
Unfortunately, the organisation concerned was ‘to the outside world’ flying high, growing fast, being lauded by the press and so it became easy for them to believe the story. They simply couldn’t believe that it was not sustainable without changing their internal practices. Some time later, the company was forced to close its doors.
So how can we stop ourselves from being sucked into the hype and manage ourselves and our organisations with the authenticity needed to enable us to embrace our reality?
- Reflect, reflect, reflect – regularly
This means self-reflection in action and on action. It means thinking about how we think; understanding what happens to our emotions when we think certain thoughts and what actions these provoke. It means taking each area of our lives (relationships; work; finances; health; interests. personal and spiritual growth) and honestly assessing how happy we are with them.
- Show humility and ask others for feedback – regularly
Jack Canfield, author of ‘Success Principles’ suggests we take each area of our lives and, as well as self-reflecting on how these are panning out for us, that we ask a significant other in each area the following 2 questions:- a) on a scale of 1-10 how would you rate our relationship (personal); my performance (work – bosses; peers; employees, clients); my authenticity (friend) or whatever the question might be relevant and then b) what do I need to do to make it a 10?
- Listen to the feedback and ‘own it’
Most likely, as in the case of my previous client, your automatic reaction will be to deny, defend or justify what you hear. True reflection takes place when you suspend judgement about what you have been told, and rather put yourself in the shoes of the person giving the feedback to understand why they might have said what they have.
- Look for clues to disprove your ‘automatic reaction’
Rather than try and disprove what you are being told, look for clues to see if the statements might be true. Bank statements for example don’t lie. The fact that you have been passed over for promotion for xx years also tells a story. That your spouse chooses to be with his/her friends all the time rather than with you. That the managers in your business are always firefighting or trying to solve the same problems over and over. Clues are everywhere!
5.Reflect on your reflection and act on what you find!
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