You’ve tried writing your affirmations and faithfully repeating them each day. You’ve tried not sweating the small stuff. You’ve made lists of goals and worked on being an effective executive. You’ve searched for excellence. You’ve tried to get a competitive advantage and learned that ego is the enemy. You’ve read so many management books your mind is spinning.
Is there something more basic you could be working on to make yourself more successful in business and in life? Something that’s not external, but something personal and very, very internal?
Many people, especially those who have a natural tendency to view life in an analytical way, may be missing something basic: the core values that make them who they are. It is so easy in today’s fast-paced, technology-driven world to lose sight of the things that make each individual person who and what they are.
These values get lost in the noise of the internal monologue that makes up each human’s ongoing soundtrack. There are limitless combinations of the general negative mixtape that we hear inside without even consciously realizing it: shame, self-doubt, anger, fear of failing, fear of the new, fear of repeating old mistakes. You may not even realize how much this “best hits” playlist is holding you back. Every time you encounter a similar situation, your brain is probably queueing up the same song.
How are you supposed to ever achieve success with that noise undermining your energy and enthusiasm?
In her book, Emotional Agility, psychologist Susan David, Ph.D. stresses the importance of detaching oneself from this inner monologue. She says when people buy into those thoughts and treat them as facts, they “sap important cognitive resources that could be put to better use.”
Emotional inflexibility is keeping you trapped with these negative and nonproductive thoughts. The onslaught of change in today’s business environment can exacerbate this problem. If you’re constantly putting out fires, how are you ever going to find time to create a sea of change within yourself?
Workplaces are increasingly complicated. They are multigenerational, and there are so many gender issues and personality types to navigate. What can be done to create an inner environment of inspired thinking, synchronization and effective teamwork?
Until you can match up your work environment with your company’s core beliefs and values, you’ll continue to struggle. It’s also important to understand if your own values correlate with those of your company. It’s difficult to be successful or happy if those two are at odds with one another.
It will require some honest assessment on your part. What is your company’s mission statement? Does it resonate with you? What are your company’s stated core values? Core values are who you are, who you have been and who you will continue to be. They are what make you, you.
Now that you have a fair comparison, how many similarities are there versus differences? Are the differences slight or is there a sizable chasm? Armed with that information, it’s time to explore your options. How are you going to reach your personal and business goals? If the core values are a bad match, you might need a change.
You’ll need to develop a plan to get the intended outcome. Should you stay where you are, move to a different department or division, change companies or strike out on your own? Once you’re on your chosen path, you’ll need to do a regular check-in: Are former objectives still aligned with today’s goals? You might need to work on a course correction.
Staying accountable is tough. If you’re staying true to your core values, the negative inner chatter should be down to a minimum. If you’re actually doing the work and staying on track, those greatest hits shouldn’t be playing in your head all the time.
It’s valuable to have a mentor on your side who can tell you when you’re reverting back to emotional inflexibility and old habits. Find someone you respect with core values similar to yours. A colleague who has done her own work to develop emotional agility would be an ideal choice. This trusted advisor can remind you of your goals if you start to backslide or get distracted. Your mentor will also remind you to celebrate your successes while you’re learning to ban those repetitive, negative thoughts.
This article has previously been featured on Forbes