The way you think about yourself and your work is really powerful. If you want to boost your career, it pays to learn how to be positive — and that includes being nice to yourself.
You may have heard it said that the voice in your head can either be your best friend or your worst enemy, and it’s really true. You can give your career a nice boost by focusing on making improvements from the inside out.
Self-talk can either boost your productivity … or sabotage it. You might be holding yourself back professionally and not even know it. Let’s take a closer look at how you might be getting in your own way at work — and think about how you can be nice to yourself and boost your career instead:
1. Beating yourself up for making a mistake
A lot of folks are in the bad habit of really taking themselves to task when they make a mistake. When you mess up at work, do you learn from your error and move on? Or, do you have a hard time getting past it and forgiving yourself?
“Expecting everything to be perfect can be debilitating and robs you of true happiness,” career expert Christie Lindor told Forbes. “Make sure your vision of success is steeped in reality. For example, if you are promoted next year – instead of this year, as expected – does one year really change anything in the long run? Striving for goals with a detachment to the end state having to be perfect can be a liberating way to live on your own terms.”
If you have a difficult time letting it go when you make a mistake at work, you could be a perfectionist. Maybe you’re an overachiever, in which case the idea of perfectionism may seem like a good thing. But, it really isn’t. Research has shown that self-criticism makes us more emotional and less able to learn from our mistakes. But, self-compassion encourages resilience.
Mistakes are normal, even unavoidable. So, beating yourself up every time you make one doesn’t really make sense. It could create a pattern of negativity that holds you back professionally and undermines your self-confidence.
It’s better to try to remember that everyone makes mistakes. The trick is to learn and grow from your errors. Berating yourself won’t help you to do better next time. But, accepting the mistake and being able to face it will. Practice taking pride in learning new things and in being resilient.
It’s normal to overthink things from time to time, especially when your work is important to you. Maybe you’re worried about how a big client meeting will go, for example. And, even though you’ve planned and prepared, you just can’t stop thinking about everything that could go wrong. Just when you think you’ve focused on something else, the thought comes up again, I hope that meeting goes well….
But while everyone has trouble letting things go now and then, some people are more prone to this problem than others. To help yourself escape the loop, it can be helpful to think about why you’re overthinking. The likely answer: you’re protecting yourself. You wouldn’t overthink if you didn’t believe, on some level, that it was helpful for you to do so. The trouble, of course, is that obsessing over a problem doesn’t make it go away.
“So often people confuse overthinking with problem-solving,” said clinical psychologist Helen Odessky, Psy.D., at Headspace.com. “But what happens is we sort of go in a loop. We’re not really solving a problem.”
Thankfully, there are ways to become more aware of the habit of overthinking and begin to minimize it.
Notice when a thought is working against you rather than for you and recognize that clinging to these kinds of thoughts isn’t helpful. Then, you can slowly begin to replace them with more positive and constructive habits of mind.
At first, it might seem like these things aren’t within the realm of your control. Perhaps it seems like your thoughts happen to you and that you have little to no say over their comings and goings. But, as you practice, you’ll likely find they’re more within your grasp than you previously believed.
Meditation and mindfulness practices can be a great way to strengthen this muscle. They can help you to gain a bit of distance from your thoughts, which will lead to better awareness of them.
3. Externalizing your “locus of control”
Do you have an internalized locus of control or an externalized one? Here’s how you can tell:
Let’s say you arrive 10 minutes late to work. Do you take responsibility for your arrival time by saying or thinking something like, “I really need to allow a little more time in the morning. I was too rushed today so I ended up being late.” Or, do you find yourself explaining the lateness as something that happened to you rather than something that you caused. That might sound something like, “I have the worst luck. The dog was extra needy this morning and I hit every single red light on my way here.”
Do you see the difference? The former is evidence of an internal locus of control, while the latter is a sign of an external one. Which category do you fall into more often? Once you’ve answered that question, ask yourself this: which person would you rather hire or promote?
There are a ton of benefits to having an internal locus of control. These people tend to feel confident in the face of challenges. They tend to report being happier, more independent, more accomplished and even physically healthier.
Folks with an internal locus of control understand that most of what happens to them in life is determined by their actions. Those with an externalized one think that life mostly happens to them and is beyond their control. Although these thought patterns often take root in childhood, they can be altered at any stage of life.
Researchers have found that an external locus of control is disempowering and holds people back. It has a negative impact on how you cope with stress and it can even destroy your motivation. You’ll be happier and more successful if you work toward cultivating an internalized locus of control instead.
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Do you sometimes jump to the worst possible conclusion or outcome when thinking about the future? Some folks try to prepare themselves for the worst-case scenario in any given situation. Another name for this “what if…?” game is “catastrophizing.” And, playing it probably does more harm then good.
Sure, it makes sense to prepare for the worst. Just keep in mind that one of the best ways to do this is to minimize your stress and anxiety. That will help you be ready for whatever might arise down the road. Worrying will likely have an opposite effect.
Also, it might help to realize that the things we worry about often don’t pan out. Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on how you look at it, the challenges we face in life often take us by surprise, seemingly coming out of nowhere.
It’s impossible to really prepare for every negative outcome or challenging scenario that might arise at work. The best way to get ready for whatever is coming is to be nice to yourself and take care of yourself. Putting yourself through mental calisthenics will probably just leave you feeling drained.
5. Not catching Destructive thoughts
The way you think about your career and your job really matters. How you talk to yourself about your abilities and your strengths and weaknesses can have a big impact on the way the world unfolds around you. It’s super easy, and common, to get into bad habits in these areas. And, even when you know better, it can be hard to stop.
The key to eliminating negative self-talk and moving toward healthier mental habits lies noticing that you’re having the destructive thoughts in the first place. But, this is easier said than done. It can be helpful to cultivate detachment from your negative thoughts, through meditation and mindfulness practices or simply by recognizing that they’re counterproductive. However, it isn’t always easy to notice when you’ve fallen into a negative thought pattern. You’ll have to practice in order to improve.
It also might help to remember that thoughts are not facts. If you learn to take them less seriously, you’ll be able to let go of the negative stuff that pops into your head more easily. Thoughts can, and often do, disappear as quickly as they arise. The trick is to notice that you’re having them rather being swept away.
Tell Us What You Think
Have you finally learned how to be nice to yourself? We want to hear from you! Share your tips in the comments or join the discussion on Twitter.