I recently saw a great post from Kristy Arnett (poker player, writer, commentator, coach):
Shortly after that, I saw this article from the New York Times, hitting on themes I have read about in many leadership articles and have written about, about being hard on yourself (I use the phrase negative self-talk):
Both of these writings are related in my mind, as they deal with how we treat ourselves and how we react to hardships. Often our reaction to hardships includes some pretty strong self-criticism. Even the situation Kristy describes with the cancelled flight, which is clearly an external condition, I imagine some folks finding a way to place a piece of blame on themselves (“I knew I should have booked the earlier flight”).
Our reaction is always a choice, whether it be to a positive event or a negative event, an internally controlled situation or an external factor. Do we over-celebrate the good, and over-criticize the bad? Or do we see them as part of an overall kaleidoscope of our life? Some good things will happen to all of us, some bad things will happen to all of us. Sometimes we do things well, sometimes we do things poorly. How will we respond? With grace, and gratefulness, or with contempt and jealousy? With bemoaning over our poor performance or with a spirit of learning?
This goes to the concept of a balanced life. If we put too much of our worth onto any one piece of our life, we can set ourselves up for failure, but also too much success. Our roles – parent, employee, leader, friend, profession, fan of our team, etc. – should not define us. If it does, failure in that area will hurt disproportionately. But success may not be all it’s cracked up to be either. It can lead to hubris, to assuming you don’t have anything to learn, and to excess like addictions.
Know yourself, slow your reaction times, and think about yourself as a whole. Work to ensure you react to situations that you can’t control in a way that moves you forward in a productive way. Ensure you don’t beat yourself up for things you can’t control, and even when it’s all “on you” and you fail, pick yourself up and find learnings in the failure.