There it was.
My loop wouldn’t turn off.
I had forgotten an important part of our project. I was asked by my manager in front of our leadership team if we had finished the confirmation page designs. It totally fell off my radar.
I turned bright red.
I stumbled for an answer then I told him I forgot. I owned it and told him we would get him the design by the end of the day.
For the rest of the day I noticed that I was getting angry at myself.
I called myself:
The embarrassing part is that I do this to my own boys in my head.
Just yesterday, in my own head, I called them:
I love my boys so much, but they do frustrate me sometimes. They’ve learned to tune my voice out because that’s how they cope. They only listen when I raise my voice and they know my frustration levels are increasing. They don’t want to get in major trouble.
When I’m frustrated with them, I don’t like them. I do love them, but in that moment I don’t feel like I like them very much.
This is where the rub begins.
Of course I love my kids, but I need to be more compassionate. If I don’t show more compassion and I let my frustration take over too often then that’s the father they’ll remember.
This also goes for my coworkers. If I get frustrated too often, they’ll avoid me. That’s not what I want from my relationships. I want people to be around me because I help them laugh, grow, and feel appreciated.
The core issue is the lack of compassion I’m showing myself. If I’m not showing myself compassion then it’s hard for me to do it for others.
It starts with asking myself:
Do l like myself?
If I’m being truthful the answer is often times no. I don’t like myself because I’m tough on myself. I’m judging myself based on my last mistake.
This is hard for me to admit. I want to like myself, but most of the time I don’t.
I do love myself. I do enjoy a nice life. I’m glad I’m alive.
This is different than liking who I’ve become as an adult.
Children get spoiled because we bend over backwards to help them. I do the same thing for myself. It justifies my bad choices. I convince myself that I deserve five cookies or I deserve to binge watch a group of shows on Netflix instead of going for a much healthier and enjoyable walk.
I do this because I want to show myself love.
When you are in love with yourself you aren’t critical of yourself. You aren’t a good assessor of what choices are good for you.
This is why it’s important to practice being a watcher of your thoughts. You want to be your best friend, not someone who loves you so deeply that they can’t see your faults.
Being open and compassionate with yourself is the start of truly liking who you’ve become, When you get to this point, then it’s easier to be truthful with yourself.
My best friend (my wife) would say, “sure you can have a cookie, but you don’t need five.” And “Hey, how about you take a break from Netflix and let’s go for a walk and get some fresh air.”
That’s the difference between loving yourself and liking yourself. There is objectivity in your thought process.
We must understand why and when we don’t like ourselves. Once we understand what is the root cause, we can then create a system that will work so much better for ourselves.
“Why do self-loathers so readily overlook the good parts of themselves? The answer in most cases turns out to relate not to the fact that they have negative qualities but to the disproportionate weight they lend them. People who dislike themselves may acknowledge they have positive attributes but any emotional impact they have simply gets blotted out.” Alex Lickerman M.D. of Psychology Today
It comes down to our expectations of ourselves. This usually comes from our parents. Expectations they put on us, we put on ourselves.
We need to appreciate this and figure out how to notice it so we can build better habits.
One of the most important things you can do is help yourself pause before you act. If you know that you want a cookie and you’ll end up eating five, then you need to recognize this is a potential pitfall for you.
That’s how meditation has helped me. It helps me notice and appreciate thoughts as they happen without allowing them to sway me too much.
You can also help yourself slow down and make smarter choices when you take time to be grateful. You can’t act or worry when you are feeling grateful. Gratitude helps you slow down and make healthier choices.
Pausing gives you a chance to savor the moment. When you slow down and savor a choice that’s when life really comes alive. I have a long way to go in this area. Just remembering to pause is difficult for me. When I do take the time, I feel amazing.
Learn from your mistakes
Creating a place to keep these thoughts together and be able to learn from them is vital. It’s why I keep a Zen Journal now. It’s a journal that helps me set-up my day so I’m happier and more successful. It’s also a place where I document what I did well throughout the day.
My typical journal entry looks something like this:
- I want to let go of my expectation that Nikki should understand how I'm thinking. It’s not fair to her.
- I'm grateful Nikki has so much love in her heart.
- I'm grateful that I can write wherever I am.
- I'm grateful for Gary Vaynerchuk. He showed me that I just have to keep trying to build a connection with my audience. I have to create content that makes me go deeper and helps my people understand how to apply gratitude in their lives. I help others because it’s the right thing to do.
- I’m grateful for a delicious cup of tea that I really took the time to enjoy because usually I don’t pay attention to the flavor of my tea.
- I need to talk directly to people more often. Show that I care about others, show gratitude, and be curious.
- Your mindset is your most precious resource. You build it through gratitude.
- Today I’m proud that I worked hard to create a really good article for my audience.
- Today I created an outline of my first social media story and now I’m much more excited about putting video on my social media accounts.
- I meditated for 5 minutes this morning and it helped me feel more calm today.
This journal entry took me less than 5 minutes to do and I feel more confident and grateful. This whole journal entry was done throughout the day in a series of quick moments. That’s the beauty of pausing throughout the day. You allow yourself to process and learn from your thoughts and feelings.
My father rarely complimented me when I was growing up. It wasn’t until college that I received much praise from him. I wished he would have been more encouraging when I was younger.
Now I understand that his DNA wouldn’t have allowed it.
His internal conversations were tough. I don’t think he treated himself very well for most of his life.
We need to find our own balance, but I believe the 80/20 rule applies here. If we have 80 positive thoughts to 20 negative thoughts (4:1 ratio) then we are slightly improving our internal dialog. I’m probably at a 60:40 positive to negative ratio right now. I’m not exceeding the 3:1 ratio that I would minimally like to be at.
The 3:1 ratio is important because this is the threshold that allows us to grow our productivity. We are kind and compassionate enough to not let our thoughts drag us down.
I have a lot more work ahead of me to improve my mindset.
People who do great work understand that it’s about creating win-win opportunities. If I care about them then most likely they care about me. This is why internal dialog is so important. If you like yourself, you’ll put in the time to grow your career and your own mind. You want to give yourself the time and attention to do great things.
Keeping your own Zen Journal to build confidence. When I work on projects that matter to me it’s so much easier to get engaged with the work. This usually happens because I care about who I’m helping. It might be a great co-worker or a side project with a friend. If I care about making them happy then my work is so much better. Why do you want to improve your inner dialog? By answering this question you are much more likely to start and keep writing in your Zen Journal.
A great way to start is by asking yourself a simple question each morning:
“What is one positive action you’ll take today?”
Then at the end of the day ask yourself:
“What are three things I did well today?”
Do this every day for 30 days and come back and let me know how you feel?
How grateful are you? The more grateful you are the more resilient you’ll become.