There was a time in my life when I really cared about what everyone thought and I put a lot of stake in how people reacted to me. As you can probably guess, this totally stifled not only my creativity, but also my ability to be brave and try new things. The curious thing is that half the time I didn’t know I was doing it. It was just how my brain was worked, an automatic response or so I thought. After recovering from years of reactive thinking which yielded nothing but frustration, I discovered what is known in scientific terms, as “what wires is what fires”. All of the thoughts and opinions around me were what my brain used to identify what was the right and safe thing for me.
It’s only natural. The brain was doing its job of making associations and the society was doing its job of making sure things are somewhat orderly. Associations serve their purpose and so do rules, the problem is when they stop you from being who you want to be and doing what you love.
The first time I felt a shift in my thinking was when I heard my coach mentor, Martha Beck, talk about “everybody”. Your “everybody” is a small group of people (typically 5 or 6) who have large opinions about the right way to be, act, and think in the world. And when this group tells you no you believe it.
When you get an inkling that you might want to change careers or start a business, you will most like hear the “everybody” voices. And when you actually say what you want to do out loud, you may hear a lot of this coming from everybody’s mouth. At times, you may fall back into believing that the “no” you are hearing is an undeniable truth.
The trick is learning to recognize that it’s just the” everybody” voice. Then finding a group of your own “everybody” that supports what you are doing. At first these people may be imaginary and that might feel a bit creepy, but the more you surround yourself with these new voices the less you will be affected by the “no”. It may make you feel less strange to know that highly successful people like Jim Collins, a leader of major companies and author of “Good to Great” attribute it to their own success. When you start going for what you want, your real world support system will grow.
When I was leaving my job and starting my biz I heard a lot of no’s. When I decided to move to Texas for the winter I heard more no’s. When I finally did exactly what I wanted and disregarded the no’s, I noticed something very interesting. The strongest no’s turned into ”how did you do that”? You see, people often resist new ideas, adventures, or ways of doing things not because it’s the wrong thing to do, but because they are scared. They are reacting with their own fear. The best thing you can do for yourself is to chalk off their resistance to “being an everybody” and focus on you. Do the things that make you feel good; make the career decisions that work for you. In the end, you may notice a ripple effect of others allowing themselves to follow their own path
If you are still exploring what your “yes” is you can try this out at work. Notice the no’s without reacting, then keep working towards your yes by focusing on doing things a little differently. It’s the small things at first. Making these small shifts will open you up to larger ideas: like what your next big step is.
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Martha Beck, PhDAuthor of Finding Your Own North Star, The Joy Diet, and O! Magazine Monthly Columnist
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