Learn how to coach yourself to success.
A personal coach – how awesome would that be? Who doesn’t long for that perfect someone to stand on the sidelines, cheering you on, encouraging you, and teaching you how to get better at what you do? But adding that support person to your life can be expensive and time consuming.
So . . . what if you could do the job yourself?
It’s an exciting thought, even a liberating one. And this gong is here to help you make it happen, through practical advice and suggestions that help you become your own best advocate. You’ll learn how to observe yourself, create strategies for improvement, and guide yourself to success.
Self-coaching helps you find satisfaction and make progress along a curvy career path.
How does this sound: “Corner office.”
What about “promotion?” Or – last one – “climbing up the corporate ladder?”
Not bad, huh? If you’re like most people, chances are they’re like music to your ears. Especially if, like most people, you grew up thinking that all three were career goals that would guide you through a long and happy work life. There was a predictability to the way you were supposed to do things; network with the right people, strategize your way into the next pay scale – that’s just how things have always been done.
Well, I’m here to tell you something: take a great big eraser and wipe that slate clean, because the career ladder? It’s a thing of the past. These days, the road to your career happy place is less of a single, perfectly straight freeway and…well, more of a squiggly country road, one that can be long, winding and ideally interesting.
Sound a little confusing? That’s natural. After all, a ladder is a simple thing to climb; there’s one way up and one way down. A squiggly line comes with freedom, but it isn’t necessarily as straightforward.
That’s where self-coaching comes in. Self-coaching is “the skill of asking yourselves questions to improve self-awareness and prompt positive action.” But how do you do this?
One of the first things to do is to think about your mindset. Researcher Carol Dweck introduced the notion of a growth mindset versus a fixed mindset. Here’s one way to make the leap between the two . Instead of saying you can’t do something, say you can’t do it yet. That one word can open the door to limitless potential. Approaching the exercises and ideas in this Gong with a growth mindset can go a long way in helping you coach yourself to your maximum potential.
That raises a question – just what is your maximum potential? Well, to figure that out, you first need to know exactly who you are now. Not quite there yet? That’s normal – a lot of people aren’t. So let’s figure it out.
To begin with, are you a doer or a thinker? Just for fun, “try on” the other side once in a while. Pause often. Evaluate and analyze your work. Listen to your own thoughts. Are they jumpy, or are they focused? Do they shy away from difficult situations?
Next, expand that thoughtfulness outward. It’s not just about having a clear understanding of who you are, but also about knowing how others see you.
Along the way, you’re likely to encounter an old foe: your inner critic, the one who says you’re not smart enough or good enough. When this happens, try to be your own best friend – what would you tell your best friend if they were doubting themselves? Remember to give yourself that same encouragement. And with that in mind, let’s dive in!
“In this gong, you’ll learn more about the six areas of self-coaching: resilience, time, self-belief, relationships, progression, and purpose.
You already possess the tools for developing resilience and self-belief.
Let’s discuss resilience and self-belief, which are often intertwined. These words get thrown around a lot, but when it comes to developing the actual traits, it can be tough to figure out exactly how to do it. Don’t worry. You don’t need to spend your days chasing after an exhausting – and maybe even false – positivity. You just need to notice more of the good stuff that’s already there and talk about it in the right way.
See, the words you use when you talk to yourself can have a huge impact on what you do and how you feel, so you don’t want to use limiting ones. Start with the letter P. Psychologist Martin Seligman identified the three Ps of pessimism: personal, pervasive, and permanent. AKA “It’s all my fault,” “Everything sucks,” and “It will always be this way.”
Words like these are “thinking traps,” and they just box you into unhelpful assumptions. No one’s life is a hundred percent awesome all the time. Need proof? Look around you for examples of people who have overcome the odds. Once you find some, reach out to them for advice. And look within yourself, too. You’ll find examples of how you yourself have succeeded there, and you can learn a lot from examining why.
Which leads us to the next letter in this vocabulary lesson: R. That’s R for recognize, record, and reflect. What is one success you’ve had today, even if it’s tiny? Recognize it and record it – that is, write it down. Then look for the lesson it contains and reflect on that.
Then move your reflections into action. Start by imagining your future – the one you’d like to create. Write down an obstacle to that future, and, finally, imagine how you can overcome it to get where you need to be.
Pay close attention to the way you talk about yourself. What “lens” do you see yourself through; one that’s limiting or one that’s limitless? If the former, try this technique for changing your mindset; called the “fly on the wall” technique.
Imagine that you’ve got a great idea that you think will really benefit your organization. There’s a big meeting coming up, and you’re planning to pitch it to your colleagues. As the meeting approaches, you’re getting more and more excited about sharing the idea – your colleagues are really going to love it, and once it’s adopted, it’s sure to be a hit. When your moment comes, you stand and deliver. And . . . it’s a flop. It’s pretty clear that your idea, the one you’ve been so excited about, hasn’t been very well received. You might be tempted to leave the meeting upset about bombing your big pitch – in fact, you’re only human; you might find it hard not to!
But before you do, pause. Shift your perspective. What would you see if you were a fly on the wall? It sounds weird, but really – what does the meeting look like from the outside, from the perspective of someone (or something) that doesn’t have their feelings all wrapped up in it? Being a fly on the wall helps you see more than just what’s inside your head. It helps you remember things like that one coworker who nodded when you spoke or another who smiled and scribbled some notes. It helps you remember that your manager didn’t say your idea was horrible, but instead, “Why don’t you crunch the numbers and bring it back to the team next week?”
Self-belief isn’t something you’re necessarily born with. Through techniques like the fly on the wall exercise, it can be learned and built. And often, it’s hard work! So while you’re doing all this cultivating of resilience and self-belief, remember to rest. Actively resting by doing things you enjoy, like playing an instrument or reading a good book, can help you build your “resilience reserves.” The simplest pleasures, like trying a new ice cream flavor, can help boost your day. And a boost to your day is important, because time is limited, and you want to make the best of what you have.
Make time your friend and it will reward you well.
Think of pretty much any conversation you’ve had with anyone in your life lately. It probably went something like this: “How’s it going?”
Eyeroll. Deep sigh. “Busy. Just so busy. Kids, work, school. Just busy all the time.”
Society has reached a point where the busier you are, the more valid your life seems. Learning to manage time is a crucial aspect of self-coaching; here are several super-helpful exercises to help you do just that:
To begin with, think of your time as a person. Describe that person. Harried and flustered? Efficient? Disorganized? How would you like that person to be? Now think about how you spent your day. Think about how you’d have liked to have spent it. Write down your answers. Reading them back, is there a big disconnect? If so, how can you bridge the gap?
Here’s another exercise. You’ve heard athletes and artists talk about “flow,” that almost effortless state when you’re so into what you’re doing that the rest of the world almost ceases to exist. Monitor your “flow” chart. Do you feel flow at work, or are you stuck on autopilot or mired in boredom? Make lists of meaningful and challenging things you can do to get into the flow zone.
You can also learn to “manage your monkeys.” Imagine your boss swings by your office and says, “Hey can you take on this project and have it done by Friday?” Though your instinct might be to say, “Of course,” stop yourself. Try something along these lines: “I’d love to help, but I have my hands full with a campaign. Can you help me reprioritize what I’m doing now so I can take that additional project on?”
When it comes to managing your precious minutes and seconds, it’s incredibly important to learn to focus and make the best use of the time you have, and there are several tested techniques that can help you do that. The monk tactic calls for a block of time (say, two hours) where you focus completely on only the task at hand. Then there’s the popular Pomodoro technique, where you work for a 25-minute block and then take a 5-minute break. Maybe, rather than making a to-do list, you can make a to-think list, focusing more on your big ideas than on small tasks that clutter your day.
Study your day: When are you most alert and active? Let’s call that the “goal-den hour.” Use that time wisely and you’ll find yourself more productive than ever. Try chunking or batching your time – blocking out bundles of hours to focus on specific tasks or a particular theme. For example, Monday could be set aside for meetings and Wednesday for quiet, creative work. Or Monday mornings from 9:00 a.m. to noon could be when you respond to emails and plan meetings. Find ways to become efficient within your existing structure. Let’s say you’re often asked for specific sets of information – if so, it’d be helpful to create templates that you can hand out within seconds, right?
If you do better when you have a friend walking the path with you, find a productivity partner who will keep you accountable to your goals. If you can’t think of someone specific for this, you can find apps that pair you up with someone.
Managing relationships effectively is key to self-development.
Speaking of “someone,” the next important aspect of self-coaching is relationships.
You might have heard about “Dunbar’s Number,” which psychologist Roger Dunbar came up with to demonstrate the number of relationships most people maintain. Picture a series of concentric circles. Dunbar says most people have five relationships in the innermost circle – for a lot of people, that’s probably their family and best friends. In the next circle, most people typically have about fifteen trusted friends, and in the one after that, fifty. In the outermost circle, you can have up to 150 casual acquaintances.
In a work situation, you can convert the inner three circles to your confidants, your counsel, and your connections. Consider these lists as investments. Ask yourself: Who do you always run new ideas by? Who helps you refine your presentations? Who do you trust when you talk about your true feelings about your job?
It’s a good idea to write down your answers to these questions. You’ll start to see lists building up, but as you do, keep in mind that you don’t want everyone on them to be the same type of person. You want your cheerleaders, sure, but you also want constructive criticism that makes your work better. Include people who have differing points of view, maybe even from outside your industry or company, as well as those who work with you, who can understand your specific situations and sympathize with your thoughts about them.
Once you’ve built these connections, it’s important to maintain them. Let’s suggest a couple of different ways to do this. One is by doing a 5-minute favor. This could be any small but highly effective thing you do that really impacts the other person, like writing a LinkedIn review or sending them a podcast or article they might be interested in. You can scale this concept up, too: Give something of value to a whole lot of people by writing a newsletter or hosting a weekly lunch-and-learn.
Relationships in your personal life aren’t without friction, and the same holds true for professional ones. When conflict happens, as hard as it is, it’s important to have “courageous conversations” that can lead you to reconciliation. Empathy is important. Put yourself in someone else’s shoes by offering to do parts of their job, perhaps while they’re on vacation.
Consider your personality type. Are you a conflict activator or an avoider? In the face of a disagreement, some people are fine with immediately having a conversation about it, while others shelve an uncomfortable topic for later. With different techniques, you get the best from both types of people. For example, when you hold a meeting, give everyone five minutes at the start to share their opinion or appoint a neutral facilitator. For those who are uncomfortable with direct conflict, suggest making pro and con lists, or ask everyone to share their thoughts ahead of time via email.
Understanding your purpose can help guide your progression.
Let’s talk about progression and purpose, two factors that are vital for a truly satisfactory work life.
Progression used to mean working long hours and sacrificing family time for a series of promotions until you found yourself in an important corner office with an assistant outside. But now, progression can come in many ways. Status isn’t as important as finding the unique fit that works for you. It’s important to set your own pace and not be trapped by traditional ways of thinking. The authors of You Coach You, Helen Tupper and Sara Ellis, share some great examples of ways they progressed in their careers.
Sarah Ellis went the volunteer route. She started a group called Inspire, which raised money to help young employees at the company who were starting out from disadvantaged backgrounds. Helen Tupper took the education route. While working at Capital One, she researched and pitched additional learning to her managers. Not only did she earn additional qualifications, she passed along what she learned through the courses to her team, adding value to the whole enterprise.
These types of sideways moves can lead to great progression through that squiggly career path we talked about at the beginning of this digest. As well as volunteering and education, consider doing projects in other departments, mentoring others, doing a job swap, or shadowing someone in another position, or even creating a new role.
Because here’s what drives progression: purpose. Maybe you worry that you’re just putting in days at work without a real purpose or direction; that kind of anxiety is totally normal! But you should understand that purpose in itself isn’t an achievable goal because the finish line is always moving. It’s more of a direction.
To get at your purpose, ask yourself questions. For example, who inspires you? What are your passions? What do you want to learn? How do you want to change the world? The answers to these questions can help guide you towards your purpose.
Now observe your workday and pick out meaningful moments. Why are those moments meaningful? How can you create more like them? And where do you have an impact on others?
Now look for overlap between your answers to the first and second sets of questions and you can start to get an idea of how you’re achieving your purpose and where you can grow. Ask yourself what the purpose of your organization is. Does your purpose fit that of your employer?
Perhaps most importantly, ask how much of yourself you bring to work every day. Do you bring the person who’s ready to learn and grow and bring all aspects of themself to the table? By following the suggestions in this Gong and learning how to build the right mindset and skill set, you can coach yourself to a unique, personal success that suits you, your purpose, and your workplace.
Coaching doesn’t have to be an expensive, out-of-reach thing that you wish you could have. Self-coaching using specific steps within certain actionable areas can help guide you with purpose. Keeping an open mind about the meaning of progression and success will help you discover better ways to a fully realized career.
Here’s one more thing you can do, too:
Start having Switch-off Sundays.
Working around the clock doesn’t lead to career progression – it just burns you out. And with your smart devices keeping you plugged in all week long, it can be hard to truly unplug. These days, the only way to do that might be to literally turn off your phone on Sundays. It might sound radical, but doing this, even just for a few hours to start with, can result in a dramatically more energized and productive Monday morning.
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