The Strategist

Get out of your own way: Correcting inner mistakes

03/12/2021 - 03:22

Sometimes we think that everyone around us is to blame for our troubles. Surprisingly, our worst enemy is ourselves. And it is because of our self-destructive behaviour that relationships often break down - at work or in the family. There is a way out - it's time to learn to work on our mistakes.

Don't give up too quickly

Sometimes we get inspired by novelty, and when we get into the boring and monotonous part of the process, we quickly lose patience and go off the rails. After a little excitement, reality sets in and we say, "It's not what I imagined" or "It's not at all what I really want to do".

Boredom is by no means the only reason why we fold our arms too soon. Sometimes things in our lives, whether it's work or marriage, turn out to be harder than we expected, so some of us decide it's not worth the gamble. Especially when the obstacles we face expose our own weaknesses or ineptitude. Fear of humiliation quickly negates the willingness to pursue what has so far failed.

There are times when no amount of effort or good intentions will save a business project or relationship. But there is a huge difference between stopping something and giving it up quickly. The first approach implies a careful reassessment and adjustment of the future plan of action; the second means that you are fleeing from a sinking ship; that you are cowardly and lazy to absolve yourself of responsibility.

How can you tell the difference? One surefire way is to look back and try to identify your pattern: are you more likely to do something too soon, or to persist in doing something you should have stopped long ago? It's also very helpful to get information from knowledgeable people. Take their advice to see if you've explored all available options, gathered all the information you need, and asked for all the help you need before giving something up. If you have not, you have probably folded your arms too soon.

Don't give up because you don't feel ready

Whether we're about to propose marriage, start a new career, have kids, or finally make a claim on someone, we somehow expect to feel unfazed by the fact that we're ready for it. But often instead of all this, we experience intense discomfort and take it as a sign that we are not truly ready for such a step. In fact, when faced with a major problem or change, it is only natural to feel anxious. It is normal to wonder if you can cope and do the right thing, and not be able to escape these thoughts. But if you give in to them, you may end up settling for less.

If you're tempted to give up because you don't feel ready, pause. Ask yourself why you feel that way. Make a list of reasons.

Ask yourself what needs to happen for you to feel ready. Think about the likelihood of meeting these requirements. What do you need to do to make it happen? Is it worth the time and effort?

Ask yourself if you are prepared for the change. To answer this question objectively, ask people with experience what it took for them to be so prepared. Think about situations in the past where you have fallen back on your plan. Now answer whether those decisions were wise or whether you later regretted them?

Don't put up with broken promises

Breaking promises is always destructive to a relationship because it conflicts with one of our deepest aspirations, which is to believe in others. In a quest for inner comfort, people throw around words and make things worse. Managers hint at an imminent promotion so that employees will work better, while parents promise their children a trip to Disneyland so that they will stop bullying.

Suppose someone constantly violates these promises to you, and you suddenly find that, hearing their next promises, sneakily nod. Take this as a sure sign that you're exhausted by his apologies to the last degree and it's time to draw a firm line. 

Make your expectations clear: "This sounds like a promise. If you don't keep it, I will be very hurt. To what extent can I count on your honesty?"

Don't bring up past grievances. This is a waste of time and possibly an invitation to battle. Set a clear time frame for delivering what you have promised: "When exactly can I count on it?" If the person refuses to answer this question, set a deadline yourself: "I'll remind you on the first day of next month".

If the person repeatedly fails to keep promises, nail them to the wall, but without any complaints or threats. Act thoughtfully and imaginatively: this works much better than confrontation or ultimatums. If diplomacy fails, make the person aware of the consequences of not keeping their promise. Say: "I think I'm in a lot of trouble if I keep believing you".

If you take all these steps, a persistent defaulter can turn into someone who always keeps his or her promises. But if no change follows, then that person probably has no intention of keeping their word at all - unlike people who make well-intentioned promises without thinking of the consequences. Perhaps once you realise this, you will decide never to trust them again.

Based on “Get Out of Your Own Way” by Mark Goulston and Philip Goldberg

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