This time of the year, attention shifts to making resolutions, taking personal inventories, or charting paths to greater self-awareness. While such contemplation can be healthy and motivating, it can also lead to paralysis, evidenced by inaction and non-productive navel-gazing. How can you move beyond self-awareness to the hard – yet satisfying and necessary – work of making changes? Here are four keys:
Once you’re aware that something needs to change, try to clearly understand what is driving that behavior. If it’s a bad habit, is there a certain trigger? Maybe even another bad habit behind the one you’re trying to change? An example could be overeating one day when you don’t get enough sleep the night before. Or maybe a certain person, thought pattern, or value triggers you. For instance, you might tend to emotionally overreact when someone criticizes one of your ideas.
The first step to self-improvement is gaining next-level self-awareness – the kind you cannot gain just by introspection. This will require some tough, direct feedback, supported by clear data and outside perspectives, etc. Once you have that deep self-awareness, it’s time to create a behavioral action plan.
If the behavior you’re trying to change is rooted in a pattern of unhelpful thinking, you’ll need to attack that thought pattern. Maybe you become really rigid and prevent others from being creative, because you believe the only path to success is to never make mistakes. Even if there’s some truth to that thought process, we need to give ourselves more flexibility and freedom to think differently. Like it or not, it’s impossible to always do what drives and inspires us. Sometimes we have to do what drains us, and we need to find a healthy way to cope. One way to counter a mindset you’re trying to change is to proactively look for disconfirming evidence – try to prove yourself wrong!
This one may be the most obvious. If there’s something that is emotionally draining, but you want or need to improve, it may be draining to you simply because it’s difficult for you. After all, few people love doing things they’re terrible at. If this is the case for you, then it’s time to build skills in those areas: learn, find a mentor, practice, etc.
To elevate your skill-building, target one thing aligned with your drivers. For example, if you’re really driven by having a big impact and you know the ability to persuade is important, but you’re low on charisma, maybe take a course on storytelling or join a Toastmasters club.
If all else fails, realize that – in many ways – you are responsible for your own situation. Change could mean finding a new job or just modifying your current job to better align with your strengths.
Productive change might include allocating more non-work time to pursuits you find energizing. If you are driven by collaboration, for example, but you work in an isolated, individual role, consider joining a book club, sports league, or service organization.
These four keys – being intentional, thinking differently, building skills, and changing your context – can make a vital difference in moving from passive self-awareness to dynamic action. The impact can help springboard you to a more enjoyable and productive 2020.
To learn more about what drives and drains you at work, consider taking our DRiV™ personality assessment.