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Leadership Thought #248 – Don’t Talk Yourself Out of Success

November 17, 2011

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Be forever on the lookout for negative self-talk and stop it dead in its tracks

Often, the biggest barrier to our success is ourselves.  I’ve noticed that people can talk themselves out of anything.  Sometimes this is good. Sometimes it is not.  When it comes to limiting your perspective on what’s possible for you in terms of your work life, this is usually a bad thing.  Happiness and self-fulfillment in your career shouldn’t be viewed as optional.  The history of the business landscape is full of ordinary people who accomplished extraordinary things. They proactively managed their self-talk.

Sure, there are individuals who were born with extra special talents and unique abilities, e.g., Steve Jobs, Thomas Edison, Leonardo da Vinci, etc.  Very few of us will ever be blessed and lucky enough to be categorized in this group.  It often does take someone of this caliber to completely transform an industry or society.  However, thankfully, the world doesn’t just rely on geniuses to get things done.  In fact, when it comes to day-to-day reality, most of the positive change is facilitated by average people who were willing to bet on themselves and aspire to something better.

You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to be a business owner.   You just need to have a reasonable amount of self-confidence, a clever idea, a passion for making it work, the basic skills to make it happen, and the perseverance to see it through despite the inevitable obstacles.  Of course, not everyone is meant to be a business owner, but within every organization there are usually opportunities for growth and development.  It may sound cliché, but your work is what you make of it.  And, to make something positive out of it, you need to think constructively about yourself and the situation or make a change.  You need to use your own self-talk to your advantage.

I’ve read countless biographies of successful people and two of the most common traits are their ability to see an opportunity in any situation and a willingness to challenge the status quo of what’s possible.  They also embrace the concept that they are the architects of their own life and don’t yield the design work to someone else.  Some of the people I’ve read about were obviously gifted and highly intelligent people, but not all of them.  However, they all believed in themselves and didn’t succumb to the negative thinking that haunts us all.

I’ve heard that humans are genetically hard wired to sense danger and instinctually practice self-protective behaviors.  From an evolutionary perspective it wasn’t too long ago that our survival literally depended on this.  However, many of these dangers have long since passed and our brains have been slow to catch up.   It doesn’t always do a good job of sorting through real versus perceived threats.  As a result, we can be too cautious and critical about our current reality.  Our internal self-talk hasn’t evolved to match our much safer and more predictable external circumstances.

Failure is a part of life, but it is rarely fatal anymore.  To be successful you must risk failing.  I encourage you to challenge yourself to react differently when your initial reaction is to think things like “I’m not smart (or capable) enough” or “I can’t” or “it will never work” or “it’s too risky” or “it’s too hard” or “who am I to even consider this” or “it’s too scary.”   Of course, don’t be cavalier about it but broaden your perspective of what’s possible and stretch your comfort zone.  The goal should be to strive to talk yourself into success or happiness not to limit failure or disappointment…