My old startup founder had a mantra for all our company leaders:
Be soft on the person, hard on the problem.
Which is wonderful advice in the world of management, but it’s also profoundly useful in the conversation we have inside our heads.
Because that’s leadership too. How we choose to be with ourselves. Even when nobody is watching. Especially when nobody else is watching. This determines how we are with everyone else.
The problem is, many of us have the wrong story in circulation.
For decades, we have been slowly drifting into superstitions about ourselves, practicing unhealthy patterns of behavior based on irrational assumptions.
In short, we aren’t soft on the person.
Consider several examples.
We assume that by criticizing our choices, we will be in control of ourselves.
We assume that by beating ourselves up, we will change who we are.
We assume that by making things as hard on ourselves as possible, we will meet our high standards without compromise.
We assume that if we give the punishing voice inside our heads free reign, we will alleviate our guilt and increase our humility.
We assume that if we act unkind and impatiently towards our work, we will create enough anger to catalyze ourselves into taking action.
We assume that if we unfairly compare our career with someone else’s, we will get our life back on track.
Each of these assumptions becomes a lash with which we punish ourselves. But we have no idea that paying rent in blood just to be allowed to go on living is not a healthy approach to life.
That’s the work. Acceptance, forgiveness and surrender.
Being hard on the problem, but more importantly, being soft on ourselves.
LET ME ASK YA THIS…
Are you still using tools you built around assumptions that don’t work anymore?