By Behavioral Researchers & Strategists: Kieran Flanagan & Dan Gregory
There is a great deal of business and self-improvement advice out there that if we’re honest, makes most of us feel less than improved, not more.
We’re constantly advised to be more positive and forthright, to become better leaders, listeners, connectors, and on it goes. Now some of this advice may be wise but what is less wise; is beating ourselves up for everything we are not.
We end up blaming ourselves rather than critiquing the hype and ideals we have bought into. We self-flagellate, “I’m weak, I’m hopeless, I’m just not cut out for this.”
We question our abilities in business (and in life) asking, “What’s wrong with me?” Well, the answer is…there is nothing ‘wrong’ with you. Unless of course you call being exquisitely human ‘wrong.’
Yet, much of our current business and ‘self-improvement’ wisdom asserts that there is something wrong or out of place. That our attitudes need adjusting, our self-belief doesn’t run deep enough, and that we need to think more positively apply more discipline and smile.
This is mostly nonsense. Discipline is not always the solution. Positivity is not always a recipe for success, (deep down we all know a corkboard alone won’t get us that promotion), and constantly planning for the day when we get it all together is a waste of time that could be better spent making the most of who we are right now.
So how do we do that? How do we work with human nature rather than continually try to change who we are to fit outside expectations?
First, we need to get honest about what really drives humanity. Then we need to put into place the strategies that work with reality, not hope or fiction and remember:
- Design beats discipline
No one is disciplined 100 percent of the time or in all areas of their lives.
Instead we are all disciplined in accordance with our own values hierarchy.
Think about the fitness guru, who is physically disciplined, but whose taxes are a mess, or the accountancy whiz who can’t seem to make time for exercise.
Both have extraordinary discipline where it matters most to them but nowhere else. That is why it makes more sense to rely on design and build systems that account for human nature versus relying on discipline alone.
For example, why not design malls so that trashcans are right where people leave the food court. It’s a lot smarter than placing trashcans somewhere people have to make a special effort in order to reach them.
- We need to plan for failure
So many of us spend all our time imagining what success looks like that we forget to plan for failure. Given most business people can attest to the fact that failure is a given, our lack of planning for it does seem rather odd.
We are told not to be so negative, to stop looking for problems or issues where there are none. However, planning for problems is good business practice. It allows us to not only be prepared, but also to be flexible, adaptable and resilient.
- We are all driven mostly by fear – so don’t worry about it
Being afraid is a natural human emotion, and in fact, it’s one of the reasons we survived as a species. (By the way we’re not talking about paralyzing phobias, we’re talking more of your general office variety.)
Fear cannot only keep us alive, it can be rather useful by motivating action. Deadlines are a perfect example of useful fear.
However, if you find that a particular fear is stopping you, try flipping it, so the fear on the opposite side of the equation (that of inaction) is bigger that the fear of taking action.
If you are worried about speaking up at work think about why not speaking up is scarier. You may get overlooked for a promotion, the problem may continue, other people may have to endure the same issue and you will end up angry at yourself, and so on.
- Work with who you are not who you wish we were
It is wonderful and noble that we all want to improve but we waste so much energy on ‘if only’ which could be spent on ‘if I’.
If only my family carried their shoes upstairs is something I could think about every day or I could work with who they are and say if I built a shoe cabinet right at the front door the shoes would be out of the way – no special effort required!
So the next time you think, “There is something wrong with me!” Remember, you’re right. What’s wrong is, thinking that everything about you needs to change in order for you to succeed.
Dan Gregory & Kieran Flanagan are behavioral researchers and strategists, specializing in behaviors and belief systems–what drives, motivates and influences us. They have won business awards around the world for Innovation, Creativity and ROI working with such organizations as Coca-Cola, Unilever, News Corp and the United Nations in Singapore. They are passionate advocates for the commercial power of creativity and a return to more human engagement, cultures and leadership. Published by WILEY, Kieran and Dan’s new book Selfish, Scared & Stupid is available in paperback RRP $22.95 from www.selfishscaredandstupid.com .