Self-Improvement that doesn’t hurt: Explore Options with others

Cute little hiker girl looking with binoculars at sunset.Image is intentionally with grain and toned.
Exploring doesn’t mean that something is wrong.

Professional and personal development is work, so let’s not pretend it just happens. Many advise that the way to self-improvement is to gather feedback – to put ourselves out there in a vulnerable and humble kind of way. Some workplaces are shooting for a candid culture where everyone tells everyone, all the time, how they are doing. What’s wrong with that? Well it can get a little tiring – for the giver and the receiver. We human beings tend to focus more on the gaps and what’s wrong than what’s good or even okay. Being constantly corrected – especially by unskilled others – can hurt. And it an sap all the energy out of the work of growing up and waking up.

Here’s an idea:  Pick one thing you’d like to get better at in 2017. This can be a task or a trait.

And it doesn’t have to be something you’re really bad at! It can be something you are actually sort of good at – something others rely on you for. But you’ve been doing it the same way forever.  Perhaps you’re bored. Perhaps there is a next-level of competency you’d like to achieve.

You could choose a gap – something you’ve been avoiding. Or it could be something you gave up on once-upon-a-time, because you tried and failed, or didn’t like how it fit. It could be something you see in others and that you admire (yes, I’m re-watching Downton Abbey and I can spot admiration and disgust more easily now).

You have your one thing. Now make a list of 4 or 5 people who seem to do this well, or at least take a different approach than you do. You might have to search a little in other companies or industries. You might have to ask your best connected colleagues and friends for a name.

Invite each person to lunch or coffee to pick-their-brains. Tell them you want to refresh yourself. You want to learn. You are not going to learn by asking them to “rate you” or tell you what to fix. You are going to learn by listening as they talk about their own approach. You are going to be curious and open-minded.

Don’t waste anyone’s time. Consider this serious research. Come up with pertinent questions to ask, and use them to compare notes. You might add questions after each interview, as you accumulate insiders depth and relevant knowledge. Listen and take notes. Be grateful no matter what. You may think “I’m not learning anything new here” and be surprised by what lands solidly on you later.

After all your meetings, choose one or two habits to try. If you need more instruction, Google it. Or call back and ask specifics. One of the 4 might agree to mentor you if you show you are serious and focused on just one small thing. Make a plan and set a deadline. Share your commitment to learn with a supportive coach or friend. Then go have fun exploring this new you.


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