If you’ve been following this Blog closely and/or keeping up in the BBTL book, you’ll recognize this is not the first entry titled, “Hard on self…”. In reality, nearly every entry could carry a “Hard on self” subheading, as becoming BTL very often involves a long, hard look in the mirror. As Kouzes & Posner wrote in their bestseller, The Leadership Challenge, “In the art of leadership, the artist’s instrument is the self. The mastery of the art of leadership comes with the mastery of the self. Ultimately, leadership development is the process of self-development.”
So, how do we best develop the self? By consistently holding ourselves accountable for our actions and, when necessary, being hard on self. But, as Chet distinguishes, NOT down on self.
Hard on self involves self-talk that challenges, calls out, or even rips into one’s self, but in a manner that suggests the ability to do better — “That was a terrible presentation! Get your head in the game!”
Down on self self-talk, on the other hand, leaves no room for learning or improvement. The difference between, “That was a terrible presentation!”and “You’re a terrible presenter!” makes ALL the difference. One is temporary and specific, leaving open the possibility to be better next time. The other is permanent and pervasive, declaring this is just how I am and how I’m bound to stay. The first is hard on self, while the second is down on self. In fact, one is optimistic, the other pessimistic. Huh?
In his book, Learned Optimism, Martin Seligman refers to optimism and pessimism as explanatory styles. Those who see their mistakes as temporary and specific to a situation, use an optimistic explanatory style in their self-talk. Conversely, those who frame their errors as permanent and pervasive, use pessimistic self-talk. Optimists also attribute mistakes to external causes, while pessimists blame themselves.
This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t own our mistakes. But we need to own them with a mindset that we can and will do better next time, verses a mindset that chains us to our mistakes and closes the door to improvement.
Hard on self, not down on self.