“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”
– Not Aristotle
One of the issues people run into when doing self-improvement is they’re afraid they aren’t being true to themselves. We should, of course, be careful about trying to suddenly becoming a new person because that can both confuse the people around us and make them skeptical when old patterns reassert. I wrote about that earlier. However, the person we often have the hardest time convincing is our own self. This requires a shift in mindset. People like to say “fake it until you make it,” but the problem is you feel fake and that comes through.
When you are working on something like your communication style, it is essential to recognize that while who you become will evolve out of your past, it doesn’t have to mirror it. The thing is, you have to decide who you want to be. You are who you are because that’s where life brought you when you went along with it. You can stay that course, which seems easier, but in the long run it might truly be easier to let some more inconvenient life patterns drop.
When it comes to work communication, the thing you need to change most often is an extreme: too direct, too timid, too cynical, too emotional… When people decide to work on these things, or their bosses decide for them, the first challenge is that you have to take the focus off of what you were doing before and put it on what you are going to do now. A word of advice: Being true to yourself means taking care of yourself, not staying true to patterns that weren’t necessarily helpful. What you want to do is to reflect to the world a person who is able to get the things the person inside you wants. That means positioning.
Above, I cited the Aristotle quote about excellence. The problem is that actually, pretty much everything is a habit. You can’t just become excellent, then. You have to stop doing what you were doing before. This is best done gradually, as I noted in my earlier essay. For today, pick one thing that isn’t working for you, then look at somebody who seems to handle that issue the way you wish you could. Steal one or two of their patterns, the ones you think will work best for you, and work on becoming more like them. Then pray that they’re successful since what their strategies bring them they will probably bring you too! But in the mean time, play with it. By moving gradually, you can reorient. This is not about becoming a new person, but about changing the position you are in with respect to events and other people.
Remember: being true to yourself is not about sticking to habits, but about positioning yourself to present, then by habit become, the person you need to be to enjoy the life you want.
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