Ego and inner critic stories create what leadership coaches commonly call “limiting beliefs.” A limiting belief is a story that you tell yourself, whether true or false, that does not help you.
Regardless of whether the stories that you tell yourself are coming from your ego or your inner critic, your limiting beliefs have the following characteristics in common:
- You tell limiting beliefs primarily to yourself, although you may share your beliefs with others at a later time.
- You create limiting beliefs to fill-in missing information.
- You believe your limiting beliefs are true, whether they are true or false.
- You make behavioral choices based on your limiting beliefs.
Since your limiting beliefs inform your behavioral choices, consider the impact that the stories you are telling yourself have on your behavior.
Essentially, you will make behavioral choices, based on information that you believe to be true. Whether your behavior is conscious (purposefully chosen) or unconscious (the natural way you react to something), some type of behavior will surface.
How can you easily identify a story that you are telling yourself? You know you are about to create a story if you find yourself starting a sentence with one of the following:
· “I think…”
· “My guess would be…”
· “Sounds to me like …”
· “It seems to me that…”
· “Well, if you ask me…”
For example, a colleague asks you for your thoughts about Pat being promoted to a new role. Your story may sound like one of the following:
· “I think… they picked Pat because he sits right down the hallway from Susan (the hiring manager) and Pat sees her every day. We’re disadvantaged because we are all located in different parts of the country.”
· “My guess would be… that Pat was threatening to leave and the company didn’t want to have to deal with that.”
· “Sounds to me like… Pat’s been brownnosing the right people.”
· “It seems to me that… this company likes picking men for key positions.”
· “Well, if you ask me… Pat must have done someone somewhere a big favor.”
It is important to note that stories are not lies. We sometimes hear colleagues say, “He’s just lying to himself.” A lie is typically an untrue statement created with the intent to deceive or create a false or misleading impression. Since you believe your stories to be true and have not been created to deceive, stories are not lies.
Many of my clients are faced with challenging decisions every day and the first place they jump to is making the decision. Many of them do not take the extra step of first figuring out “how to decide.”
Let’s say you are going to buy a car. Do you walk into a showroom, pick a car, and drive out of the lot? No, of course you don’t. You typically would check with other owners of the car you like, investigate research on the car in magazines like Consumer Reports, look at the car at multiple lots, and read online reviews. In other words, you are taking time to decide how you decide, before making the decision.
Leaders would benefit from this behavior a great deal. Next time you are faced with a decision, take a few moments to decide how you will decide, before you make a decision.
Some things you might do include –
- Speaking with a colleague for her thoughts and insights. Colleagues are the most underused resource in an organization!
- Find a colleague who had a similar situation and discuss the decision your colleague made.
- Find an article that discusses your situation in greater detail. Sometimes an article may not be available, yet a book might. Either resource can be a great help to you.
- Speak with other stakeholders to gain additional insights and ideas.
Take time to decide how you are going to decide, before you make a decision. This should make all of your decisions better and easier to make.