But it can be tricky getting the balance right:
There’s a harmony between cutting yourself some slack and asking for more from yourself.
On the one hand, you don’t want to beat yourself up severely for falling short. We’re human. We fall short. It’s just what we do.
But on the other hand, you don’t want to give up on yourself prematurely. There’s a lot to you. There’s so much untapped potential inside, that to let yourself completely off the hook from becoming better is… a legitimate disappointment.
When I find myself in this situation, there are two rules of thumb I follow:
- Don’t punish yourself for doing something that you want to see yourself repeat.
- Keep your eyes on the situation itself, not on any opinions about you.
1 | Don’t Punish Yourself For Doing Something You Want To See Yourself Repeat
We know that we’re unlikely to repeat behavior that is met with a harsh response.
Yet it’s still easy to find yourself reacting in extreme negative ways — with self-ridicule, self-beration, or negative rumination — when you don’t get the results that you want.
When we associate an unpleasant or painful response with good behavior, we’re less likely to repeat that behavior in the future. When you punish yourself for doing something that’s good — even if the results fell short today — you decrease the likelihood that you’ll ever do better.
Don’t punish yourself for making progress.
Don’t punish yourself for taking a step toward something that matters. Don’t punish yourself for taking a step toward becoming someone you want to become.
You might not be where you want to be (yet)… but if you took positive action toward your valued goal, then you’re not where you were. If you’ve pushed your limits, if you’ve learned something new, then you’ve made progress.
Focus on that.
If you didn’t run as far as the distance goal you set, don’t punish yourself for it. Celebrate the fact that you ran at all. Then learn, and do it again, as you try to get better.
2 | Keep Your Eyes On The Situation Itself, Not On Any Opinions About You
Disregard the roaring spectators — both the cheering fans, and the jeering hecklers. Disregard the goofy mascot. Disregard your parents. Disregard your own yapping inner monologue.
Put your eyes on the net, on the ball, on your positioning. And shoot.
Doing this doesn’t guarantee that you’ll score. But not doing it does guarantee that you’ll miss.
Keep your eyes on the situation itself — on the actions you’re taking, and how those actions influence the outcomes. And then learn.
Whatever happens, learn from it.
If this is truly a valued goal of yours, then nothing matters except getting better at it. You can’t change anything in the past, and you can’t control anything in the future — all you can do is give your best right now, and in doing so, learn from your own actions, your successes, and your failures.
We need the world to be a better place, and the only way the world gets better is when we — each, individually — get better.
And so it’s good for you to push yourself beyond the comforts of who you are now.
We need you to set high standards for yourself. We need you to critique your own output and to seek out constructive feedback.
But there’s a difference between setting high standards and holding yourself accountable to them vs. shoving your own face into the ground when you make an effort and fall short.
Critique is valuable, and it helps you become better; it helps improve the quality of your contribution.
But the purpose of criticism is to identify what’s working and what’s not. The purpose of criticism is to reduce the damage and to bring forward the good, so that the good can flourish.