I got this email from Eric, who reads this blog, the other day.
In order to be awesome, I need to fully embrace my successes. Sounds simple, but I utterly fail to do this. Is it any wonder I’m not awesome yet?
The other day I realized I had lost a lot of weight one week on my diet after doing everything right for a full 7 days. My reaction? It was probably just water weight. If it was maybe my electrolytes are out of balance and I need to check with the doctor. I’ll probably gain a lot of it back and it will average to a more normally sized loss. The one thing I didn’t say? “That’s freaking AWESOME!” I didn’t embrace my success. It’s hard to be successful if you don’t welcome success into your life.
Now my motto is “Embrace Success”. I think there’s a blog in there somewhere for you.
Indeed there is, Eric, and this is it.
I’m a New Zealander, and we are traditionally very bad at blowing our own trumpets.
There’s a New Zealand myth – I think it’s probably a myth with a touch of reality rather than the other way around – called the “tall poppy syndrome”. The myth is that if you stick your head up above the other poppies you’ll get cut down to size. I’ve also heard it described – not by New Zealanders, so it’s apparently more widespread than just us – as being like crabs in a bucket. They’ll prevent each other from climbing out.
All of which teaches us that we should be modest and retiring and not say anything about our successes.
We’ve all met people who ignore this convention, of course. My father used to refer to someone like that as a “big I-Am”. They’re always on about what sets them above the people they’re talking to.
My father’s boss at one time was a terrible name-dropper. “Oh, we’ve got a venue for the function, Keith’s going to let us use his place…” (referring to the Governor-General of the time, Sir Keith Holyoake, and Government House).
We rightly recognise all this big talk as a sign of insecurity, and don’t take the “I-Am” seriously. We don’t want to be That Guy.
And so we overcompensate and diminish our own achievements. Well, news flash. That’s just as insecure.
I’ll be talking a lot about fear in the next little while. I’m going to be providing a free ebook soon for subscribers to my How to Be Amazing mailing list which is all about dealing with fear. All I’ll say for now is: whether you’re boastful or bashful, you probably worry too much about what other people think.
When I have a success, I want to tell someone. Fortunately, I have lots of avenues.
I have a loving and supportive wife who I know will be happy for me if I succeed in something.
I have good Facebook friends who will “Like” a post about my success. (They’re all people I know in real life. A Facebook page for How to Be Amazing is on its way, though, I promise.)
I have two blogs (actually I have six, but two I update regularly), two mailing lists and a Twitter account, though I’m hardly ever on Twitter and very seldom does anyone respond to my tweets. (Those two things are connected, by the way.)
When good stuff happens, I can tell my world. And my world will be happy for me.
But first – as Eric has so wisely figured out – I need to be happy for myself, or I’ll never think of celebrating it publicly.
I have to recognise my own amazingness.
Jump up and shout
I’m not talking here about “accidental” success – good things that just happen to us out of the blue. I’m talking about progress on a challenge you’ve set for yourself, like Eric with his weight reduction. I’ve already talked about how to pick a challenge and how to stick with a challenge. How do you celebrate success in a challenge?
1. Recognise the voice of resistance
Eric, when he made progress on his goal, heard his critical voice start up. It wasn’t attacking him, this time (though it could have done). It was questioning his progress on the challenge.
It started to go into a long sequence of explanations why the change he’d made wasn’t actually good, why it was potentially a bad thing, why this wasn’t really progress, why it wouldn’t last.
Eric recognised that voice and called it out.
Any time we set out to change, there’s going to be a voice of resistance. Our minds and bodies are set up to prevent drastic change. That’s why change is hard and takes a long time. We’re only going to be able to change if we’re aware of the ways we resist change and know how to deal with them.
2. Welcome your own success
Eric puts it well: “It’s hard to be successful if you don’t welcome success into your life.”
I’m becoming more and more convinced of the importance of mental gestures.
In Centering Prayer, which is a meditation tradition that I’ve had some involvement with, meditation teacher Cynthia Bourgeault talks about a mental gesture of releasing which you can apply to anything – thoughts, feelings, patterns of behaviour. It’s like opening your hand, only inside your mind.
There’s a gesture of accepting, too. A gesture of receiving, of embracing. That’s what Eric’s doing when he’s welcoming success.
Practice the mental gesture of embracing and welcoming success.
3. Recognise your contribution to the success
Success in a challenge doesn’t happen by itself, if you’ve picked a challenge at the right level. You have to work at it.
Notice why Eric was succeeding. “I had lost a lot of weight one week on my diet after doing everything right for a full 7 days.”
Eric, mate, that is amazing. How many people can say that? Sticking with any change program at all is hard to do. That’s why some diets are now building in “cheat days” as a psychological release valve – both so you can save up your “bad” stuff for the cheat day, and so that after you’ve taken it you don’t get the “what the hell effect” of having blown your diet, so you might as well give it up. They’re acknowledging that people don’t stick with this stuff all the time and actually making it part of the program.
You stuck with the program, and you got the results. You totally deserve your success and all celebration pertaining thereto.
Celebrate your successes, and make them stepping stones to more and more amazingness.
Do you want to be amazing? Become an Amazing Member and get immediate access to member-only resources like the How to be Happy ebook.
(I naturally won't pass your email address on to anyone else.)