When I talk to entrepreneurs about making positive change in their businesses and lives, this is what I usually hear:
I need to stop being so negative all the time.
I’m just so lazy!
I’ve got to stop being so disorganized or I’ll never accomplish anything.
These people have screwed up their courage and are doing their best to face their problem head-on. I get it!
But in their effort to “be real” and “not let themselves off the hook,” they are unintentionally slamming the brakes on their effort to change.
Here’s why: It is hope, not shame, that will drive you towards change.
Shame will make you feel misunderstood and preoccupied trying to figure out why (Why? WHY!?) you are so fundamentally unsatisfactory. This will distract you from the real work of doing something differently.
Hope, on the other hand, gives you a spark, energizes you, and focuses all that analytical fervor (previously directed at yourself) onto how you can realize your dreams. Hope, my friends, is change fuel.
Think about your clients and you’ll realize how true this is- when you give them feedback who is able to work with it? It’s not the person being really hard on themselves, is it? No, it’s the one who is clear about their strengths and hopeful about their progress who takes your feedback in stride. Right?
“But,” you say, “don’t I need to really grapple with my issues if I’m going to make lasting change?” Sure, but the issue you need to grapple with is not the one you think. The issue you need to grapple with is that you aren’t seeing yourself clearly; my guess is that you are completely missing half of the picture.
Which half are you missing?
Every challenge you have comes prepackaged with an equally powerful strength. For example: I subject my family to very high expectations (weakness?) because I am very driven (strength). I often get anxious when new things are unfolding (weakness) largely because I am deeply committed to doing the right thing (strength). I call these pairings my yin-yangs.
I’ve found that the intensity of the challenge is matched by the intensity of the related strength. For example: one of my strengths is that I am very, very (hugely) introspective. This is great because I can process complex ideas and emerge with clarity that helps myself and others. For this, I am hugely grateful and I rely on it every single day, but it does come with some intense downsides. Here’s a short list:
This isn’t me doing that weird job interview thing where you offer weaknesses that are actually just plain strengths. Rather, I’m truthfully acknowledging that my absolute favorite strength is part and parcel of my truest, deepest human weaknesses. The same is true for you.
Here are some other yin-yangs I’ve observed in other entrepreneurs I know and love:
Do any of these sound familiar? I see these people ALL OVER! We spend a lot of time talking about the downside (Why can’t I stop being so bossy? Why am I always late?) without acknowledging that if we suddenly lost that trait, our strength would go with it. It’s very important that we take a kind look at our weaknesses and recognize the strength being fed by the same source.
I don’t mean that you shouldn’t work to improve your life! You should! In fact, at the core of personal improvement involves managing your yin-yangs to maximize the strengths and minimize the challenge.
As you contemplate the changes you want to make in your life, stop shaming yourself! It’s completely inefficient and undermines your greatest assets: your own powerful strengths.
You’ll find hope waiting on the other side if you do, and the power to fuel your change.
Amanda Crowell, PhD is a cognitive psychologist obsessed with how people make change. She is best known for translating cutting edge research into practical strategies that can be used right away.