Monday Mornings with Madison

Do Less: Eight Things to Give Up – Part 1

We are forever reading and hearing about the things we should do more.  Exercise more.  Eat more healthily.  Walk more.  Laugh more.  Read more.  At home and at work, there are evermore demands.  Do.  Do.  Do more.  Well, here’s a thought.  Perhaps instead of doing more, we should be doing less?

When it comes to business and career, there are thoughts and behaviors we would be well advised to do less.  In fact, what sets high achievers apart from others is not that they do a lot, but rather that they don’t do a lot. The most successful people have mastered the art of filtering.  They eliminate unproductive thoughts and behaviors and focus only on valuable activities that produce maximum results.  They cut away things that are distracting or destructive.  The go-getters and rainmakers of the world (in every profession and occupation) strip away most time-wasting, mentally-depleting activities and thought processes that diminish, delay or drain productivity and reduce accomplishments.

So for a change, we recommend not adding to your list of things to do, but rather embracing a list of things to stop doing.  That’s right.  Do less!  Give up these eight thought-process and behaviors and see what happens.

Give Up Thought-Patterns and Habits That No Longer Serve

People pleasing – What is wrong with pleasing others?  There is a belief that people pleasers are either nice or selfless individuals, willing to put other people’s needs before their own.  The problem is that there is a major difference between being a naturally nice person, and being a people pleaser. Nice people don’t have a problem asserting their own wants and needs.  Nice people don’t let others push them too far and they don’t do things with which they are not comfortable.

People pleasers subjugate their own desires, beliefs and needs in order to please others.  There is an incongruence between the people pleaser’s thoughts and deeds that is deceitful and reflects — deep down — a lack of self respect. Most importantly, a people pleaser is not okay to just be, without some kind of external validation.  There is no personal integrity because the people pleaser’s behavior does not match his internal convictions and beliefs.  The people pleaser’s thoughts, words and deeds aren’t in harmony.  So the people pleaser’s behavior isn’t genuinely pleasing to anyone, especially himself.   It is a habit that actually harms the individual yet serves no one… and should be given up.

Self Doubting – The Greek philosopher Cicero once said “Nobody can give you wiser advice than yourself.”  His words reflect a keen understanding of how people – then and now — struggle with self doubt.  Doubt is defined as the status between belief and disbelief.  To feel that way about one’s own thoughts and decisions is undermining.   Of course, there is nothing wrong with getting advice and considering other opinions when making a decision, but only to the extent that it clarifies (not muddies) the individual’s ability to decide with certainty what is best for oneself.

Self doubt (which is often just an expression of fear) causes people to hold onto dead-end jobs, toxic relationships, and draining friendships because of uncertainty.  Self doubt leads people to make decisions based on what others want or think, not what is truly needed.  Self doubt wages war on confidence and one’s sense of self.  Yet, most people, at one point or another, struggle with self doubt, wondering if they are doing enough, making enough money, being a good enough spouse or parent, or being “successful” enough.  By its very nature, such self-limiting thinking can be debilitating.

When struggling with self doubt, consider that while it may seem like everyone else in the world has it all figured out, they don’t.  No one has everything figured out. Everyone makes mistakes and poor decisions at various times in life.  Everyone is just trying their best to make the most of life. Some days are better than others and some days are worse. No one is infallible.  Instead of focusing on what others would do, it is better for self doubters to focus on their own accomplishments and set aside the expectations or opinions of others.  When paralyzed by self doubt, it’s best to stop over-thinking and, as Nike would say, “just do it.”

Negative thinking – Similar to self doubt, negative thinking undermines professional success. It’s easy to fall prey to negative thoughts, and it is insidious.  Negative thinking drains energy, and keeps the person from being in the moment.  The biggest problem with negative thinking is that the more a person indulges in negative thoughts, the more those thoughts take hold.  Negative thinking has a snowball effect, becoming more frequent and stronger the more often this thought process is indulged.  In other words, the more one thinks negatively, the more often one will have negative thoughts.  It is behavior that feeds on itself, and then poisons others and kills joy.   Negative thinking has also been linked to stress, higher blood pressure, and depression.

Replace negative thinking with positive thinking.  That doesn’t mean keeping one’s head buried in the sand and ignoring life’s difficulties.  It just means that each unpleasant situation is approached in a more positive and productive way. It begins with thinking that the best is going to happen, not the worst.  It involves short-circuiting assumptions.

Positive thinking often starts with self-talk. Self-talk is the endless stream of unspoken thoughts that run through a person’s head.  Each time a person short-circuits negative self-talk and replaces it with positive thoughts, the person is less likely to engage in negative thoughts again.

Fear of failure – To some extent, most people have at least some fear of failure.  In small doses, fear of failure drives people to work hard, be methodical and careful and avoid reckless risks.  However, if unchecked, fear of failure can become a hindrance.  In fact, a more intense fear of failure, — called atychiphobia — can lead to a constricted lifestyle and can quash a person’s willingness to attempt certain activities.  A fear of failure can be so intense that the individual chooses not to risk at all.  This can cause a person to undermine his own efforts.  Since effort is often proportionate to the achievement of personal goals and fulfillment, unwillingness to try that arises from the fear of failure can hold a person back from a life of meaning and the realization of his full potential. Indeed, it isn’t failure, but the fear of failure, that can keep a person from success… from pursuing a dream, starting a business or taking advantage of an investment opportunity.

One way to let go of fear of failure is to consider that failures are learning opportunities.  People who embrace their mistakes in the pursuit of success adopt a “growth mindset” and see it as necessary for learning and achievement.  Successful people don’t see failure as catastrophic.  They see it as a good data point to guide their next attempts.  This way of thinking takes the sting out of failure.  Another approach to letting go of fear of failure is to face it.  Saying yes even in the face of that fear can help a person overcome it.  Focusing on all of the great things that could happen can be more powerful than considering all of the bad things that might happen.

Stay tuned ‘til next week when we look at four more thought processes and behaviors you can give up… let go… and cut out of your professional life!

Quote of the Week

“Giving up doesn’t always mean you’re weak.  Sometimes it means you are strong enough and smart enough to let go and move on.” Oprah Winfrey

 

© 2014, Written by Keren Peters-Atkinson, CMO, Madison Commercial Real Estate Services. All rights reserved.

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