How much have you achieved?

I often ask clients to name something about themselves they’re proud of – almost everybody finds it difficult unless they’re prompted.

Your confidence can be so easily shattered and there’s the habit we have of not wanting to look boastful but I believe we’ve been conditioned to think that only the really big things can count as achievements.

All the talent shows like BGT, all the crushed participants who aren’t the winner. All the players who get knocked out of Wimbledon before the final (or in it!), all the Olympic athletes who don’t get golds – are they under-achievers? Are all eyes so firmly fixed on winning that all the work and success that went before gets overlooked?

Yes, of course we should have big goals and strive to do our best but we should also have small goals on the way to the big ones and we should revel in the sense of achievement that reaching them gives us. It all helps motivate us along the way and all the small achievements add up.

How much effort is enough to qualify? Who decides whether the objective is sufficiently commendable to count? Whose praise or approval do we need to make us feel we’ve succeeded?

You can assess your own achievement – did you put your best efforts into it? Did you improve on previous performance? Have the results (not necessarily final ones) moved you in a direction that is positive? (You’ll notice I don’t say “the right direction”.) If you can say “yes” to these questions, then congratulate yourself! Recognise your achievement and enjoy it!

Tip: Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that, if you did it, it can’t be that difficult and therefore isn’t much of an achievement.

Feeling good about yourself.

It’s all too easy, sadly, to look at our own achievements and accomplishments and dismiss or undervalue them because we did them. And what other people achieve seems so much more praiseworthy. But, if you learned something that took time and effort, give yourself credit – enjoy the feeling.

By the way, what is that feeling and where is it located in your body? Is it, for example, a nice warm glow in your belly? Is it a feeling that your feet are planted on something solid? Is it in your head? Whatever and wherever, take a moment or two to locate and identify it and then practise making it more intense. Crank it up as high as it will go and wallow in it!

Some other easy ways to feel better:

  •  Say something nice to someone – not so they’ll return the compliment (though they probably will) – but for the pleasure of seeing their pleasure.
  •  Make a list of at least 5 things you’re good at (anything at all from keeping your teeth clean to turning round failing companies), re-read and add to it frequently.
  •  Think of a small challenge, give yourself a done-by date and do it. Congratulate yourself!
  • Here’s one that needs just a bit more effort: ask people what they value about you & ask them to write down the results – preferably with evidence so you can’t tell yourself they’re “just saying it”! (It’s critical here to remember what I said last week about other people’s areas of expertise.) Re-read it frequently and enjoy it!

Tip: Pick an item (or 2 or 3) from one of your lists and make a point of keeping it in mind as you walk, lift your chin till it’s parallel with the ground, put your shoulders back and look the world in the eye. Make it a habit.

When it’s not all about you….

Part of the ecology of your goals is the people around you and this is something you need to think about very carefully when you’re planning.
Who are the important people in the situation and how will what you do affect them?

If you’re single and have no dependants, giving up your job to start your own business will only have consequences for you whereas, if you have a family to provide for, you’ll have to take their needs into account.

There’ll be the financial consequences to consider, of course, but will it also impact on your ability to, say, help your kids with their homework, ferry them to activities or simply spend time with them?

What about how you currently allocate your time? How will that have to change?

What support do you need to put in place to help things go as smoothly as possible?

And this is not only a practical point but a psychological one as well. If your family is used to having you fulfil certain functions in their lives, how will they react when this changes? If you were the one who cleaned up after them, how will they deal with doing it for themselves? Will you and they be able to accept lower standards - at least until they’ve mastered the skills needed? The upside of course will be their increased independence – is that something you’ll see as a positive?

Will your partner understand and support you? Will your success damage their estimation of themselves or will it increase their pride in your achievements?

Whatever reactions you get from everyone, you need to know how to deal with them and how you’ll get everyone onside.

This must be the time for getting everyone together, discussing all the pros and cons and negotiating as fair a distribution of tasks and rewards as possible. Not something you should do when you’re all tired and/or hungry!

Try to set aside a couple of hours when you can all be undisturbed and have an agenda that you can work through calmly.

Beyond the immediate family, who else will be affected by the changes you’re going to make? If you’re going to launch yourself on a new and better life, will this win the support of your friends or might they be envious of your success? And, if the worst happens, how will you deal with the loss of that friend?

It’s important to remember that the people closest to you have their own picture of who and how you are and how they relate to that. They believe, rightly or wrongly, that they know your capabilities and may have a vested interest in keeping the status quo. Keep in mind that when they seem to have reservations about your ability to do something, it’s often a reflection of their doubts about themselves and their own capabilities.

This may seem a touch pessimistic and I hope you won’t get that kind of reaction but, if it does come and you’re prepared to deal with it, it’ll lessen the pain and, if that person is important to you, you’ll be better equipped to help them come to terms with the new you.

To finish on a more positive note, seeing you take on challenges and succeed (whether it’s as you originally defined success or whether you’ve made necessary adjustments) will have a very liberating effect on those around you.

You’ll be a great role model, especially for your kids; you’ll demonstrate in the most compelling way that things can and do get better when you tackle what’s wrong in the right way.

And it’s more or less a given that when you’re happy, it rubs off onto other people. Spread a little joy and watch how everyone benefits!

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