Unless you’re a Major League Baseball player, you probably don’t readily admit to being a superstitious person – at least not at the office, where being sensible and making decisions based on data is part of projecting a professional image. But in reality, most of us do harbor at least one or two totally baseless beliefs. Sometimes, these are harmless (astrology lovers, we’re looking at you) but sometimes, superstitions can keep you from achieving your goals. If you recognize any of these, use this Friday the 13th to engage in a little cognitive restructuring.
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1. “The boss is always right.”
Of course, you’re not going to get very far at your company if you point out the boss’s mistakes all day long. (Unless the goal is to get far from your company, by way of getting fired.) But, just as it’s a bad idea to nitpick your boss’s ideas, it’s also not smart to assume he or she has the only right approach to a problem.
No one’s right all the time. Beyond that, there’s rarely only one way to do things. Your team’s goal is to make the company more successful, and that means not hiding your opinions, even when they conflict with your manager’s.
“Most of us assume that if you want to be respectful, you have to dilute your disagreement, and if you want to be honest, you’re going to have to hurt some feelings,” writes Joseph Grenny at Harvard Business Review. “But this is a false dichotomy. You must find a way to assure your boss that you respect her and her position. When that sense of respect is secure, you can venture into expressing your views openly and honestly.”
2. “Everything happens for a reason.”
This belief can be reassuring in times of trouble, but it can also prevent you from fighting your way out of a bad situation. After all, if everything happens for a reason, why bother trying to improve?
A more accurate statement would be “some things happen for reasons.” Look for causes, including your own decisions and actions, before you shrug and chalk it up to fate.
3. “Bad things happen to me for a reason.”
Humans are pattern seekers; given a few isolated data points, our brains will try to make a story, even where none exists.
If you’ve been having a bad run lately, it’s tempting to assume that you’re walking around under your own personal rain cloud – or that you’re just unlucky. Again, it’s worth it to examine your behavior and your actions, but it’s also important to understand that you’re not the only factor at play. For example, it’s common to feel personally responsible after a layoff, but it might just be result of the economy or a downturn in the company’s fortunes. Don’t assume everything is your fault.
4. “I’m a fraud.”
If you suffer from Impostor Syndrome, you might spend a large chunk of each day waiting to be “found out.” But, it doesn’t have to be this way. You can beat the feelings of fraudulence and stop wasting your energy worrying about a day of reckoning that’s never going to come.
5. “I’m just not good at X.”
Work teams, like families, develop their own mythologies, assigning members identities based on the idea that certain people are just more skilled in a given area than others. The problem is, it’s easy to get too comfortable and wind up selling yourself short.
If you’re not good at something today, whether it’s Excel or giving presentations or even doing math, that’s a temporary situation. It’s easily remedied with a class or some practice. Just as you shouldn’t rest on your laurels, you shouldn’t get comfortable in your perceived deficiencies. Every day is a chance to get better at something. The skills you start acquiring now could net you your dream job down the line.
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