I just got back from a mastermind business retreat with Christine Kane where we do a lot of focus on both business strategy and business mindset. At the beginning of the retreat, Christine invited us to write down 10 things that we were proud of, celebrations, things that were new and good. Not only did she ask us to share them in groups of three but she also asked us not to ‘yes, but’ or play down our successes by saying ‘I accomplished this but it’s really not that great because…’. I became acutely aware of how uncomfortable this is for me and how I typically downplay my successes with challenges when talking about myself. For example, I might say, ‘I just got a new client referral, but I still don’t have any coaching clients’…almost like glossing over the success and focusing on the challenge.
Many of us have stories from childhood around why we do this and it often boils down to choosing to be liked over choosing to be competent or successful. Here’s mine: I love to learn and am a great test taker so I did well in school. Naturally, I wanted to celebrate good test scores and high grades but I could tell that my friends ended up feeling bad or upset and somewhere down the line, I ended up choosing to keep my successes to myself so as not to make people feel bad. And at the time, this felt like the only choice. What I now know is that if someone feels bad in relationship to my celebrating, that’s something important for them to look at but it’s not my responsibility to play small so that others feel big or okay. Of course, I’m not asking you to go around gloating but merely suggesting that it’s okay and important to share your celebrations and your strengths, spend time focusing on them and talking about them.
So why am I encouraging you to do this? What we know about our brain and our energy is that what we focus on grows. We go where our attention is. Have you ever been riding a bike and see a rock or stick in the road and focus on it so that you can go around it but then roll right over it? This is how our thoughts work too! When we are focused on our challenges, our inner critic, or how not-good-enough we are, we get more and more stuck. And when we focus on our strengths, times when we feel resourced, things that we feel proud of, we move into a more energized, creative, and expansive space. In Hardwiring Happiness Rick Hanson explains that we are actually wired to notice and focus on the negative (which he explains in much more detail and it’s really fascinating if you want to know the nuts and bolts of it). So we have to really be intentional and aware of choosing to focus on the positive, successes, strengths, gratitudes–and to really take them in fully.
So can you relate to playing down or glossing over the things you’re proud of? Or to spending more time thinking about and talking about the challenges or what’s not going well? If so, you’re in good company! But you might want to consider shifting this pattern if you want to be happier, more successful, more engaged.
Here’s my challenge for you: Notice what you’re choosing to share in conversation, how you’re starting out emails, or whether and how you share about the things you’re proud of. Explore what it’s like to share something you’re proud of, to start your day with a positive intention or gratitude, or to acknowledge when things are going well.