Why Are You Playing Small?

How to Stop Procrastination and Self-Sabotage When You’re on the Edge of Success

playing-small

Are you not reaching your full potential? Do you know you have so much more you can bring to the table, but you have something stopping you? And, come to find out, it’s YOU?!

Haven’t we all had that happen at times? Haven’t we all been capable of so much more, but then we do something to stunt our progress? Or we procrastinate? Or we sabotage our efforts? What’s that all about? Why do we do that?!

Don’t you deserve better than that? Doesn’t everyone deserve that better version of you?

The other day while scrolling through my Twitter feed, I came across a post by a guy that I follow named Keith Claridge, who says he is a truth seeker, coach and mentor. He had posted a tweet to a longer Facebook thought that was basically him journaling to himself. It struck a chord with me – you can read it here if you’d like. He said, “By playing small I’m not impacting the world. Playing small robs people of having the opportunity to work with me.”

Why Do We Do This?

Have you found yourself “playing small” as well? If we focus on our Self-Awareness, we have to really look inside to determine why this is happening. What is driving you toward a certain behavior? What benefit do you get by not reaching your highest level? Or if you do reach those high achievements, but they still don’t bring the feelings you thought you might experience long term, then what?

I recently watched the Netflix film on Tony Robbins entitled I Am Not Your Guru. The film documents one of his Date with Destiny events, showing the challenges, decisions and transformations people commit to after being part of the event. In the bonus material after the credits, dancer Derek Hough was talking about how he felt like he always had to achieve things in order to feel good; that he had to be first place and be the best. Then he found himself sitting at home after winning a TV show (Dancing with the Stars) three times, surrounded by his trophies and feeling like, “Well now what? Shoot! I thought this was going to bring me, just … long lasting joy.”

The winning didn’t make him feel the way he thought he would. Often, after the initial high once you’ve achieved your goal wears off, you come back to reality and wonder why that didn’t make you happy. Were you happy to begin with? There’s something to consider …

After someone who bought his books asked real estate investor Dean Graziosi why he would be at Date with Destiny, he said, “Are you kidding me? We all have our own stuff … Accomplishments don’t change who we are in here. We all need to fix that. How many successful people end their lives, or drink or do drugs ‘cause they can’t figure it out?”

Understanding why you do things can help you create more Self-Awareness. Knowing what success really looks like for you can help, too.

What’s Your “Stuff?”

Tony Robbins talks about how, ultimately, people usually want to change a behavior, or they want to change how they feel. Which is it for you? Maybe it’s both.

If you feel like you are playing small, why do you feel this way? Is it due to a fear of success? Is there anything traumatic in your past that made you feel like you didn’t get what you wanted? In Psychology Today, Susanne Babbel Ph.D. MFT wrote in her article “Fear of Success” that “… the physical reactions to stress and to excitement are very similar. So, when we experience a traumatic event—such as a car accident or a school bullying incident—our body associates the fear we experience with the same physiological feelings we get while excited. Once we have been through enough trauma, we start to avoid those types of situations that trigger memories of fear. For this reason, trauma victims can tend to avoid excitement, and that can lead them to avoid success.”

Have you had traumatic events in your past that you still hold on to? Most of us have experienced some sorts of trauma of varying degrees, and in truth it is often what makes us better and stronger human beings when we are able to move through and past it all and then serve others around us. What were the feelings that you held surrounding that trauma? How do those feelings play out in your life today, subconsciously or consciously?

Or perhaps you had something that you failed at previously. If you find yourself focusing on that (over and over again) and the reasons you may not succeed, that can also slow your progress. If you feel like you were a failure, you may think, “Why even bother? This won’t work.”

What are the behaviors you then engage in? Did you know that 20% of people identify themselves as chronic procrastinators (Psychology Today’s “Why We Procrastinate”)? Procrastination is a Self-Management issue. When you are procrastinating, you are lacking the discipline to do what needs to be done; something that would likely ensure your success. With regard to one reason people procrastinate, Hara Estroff Marano writes, “They distract themselves as a way of regulating their emotions such as fear of failure.”

There may even be a scenario where you have a blind spot … you may think you’re doing everything you need to do, but perhaps you aren’t doing it all in ways that bring you the results you seek. How can you fix something when you don’t even know what isn’t working?

So How Do You Handle This?

How do you break these patterns when you find yourself playing small? Well, first you have to make some decisions. The first decision is that you are no longer going to accept that behavior or that feeling that is causing you to play small and not put your best self forward. You decide that you are tired of the results you are getting. From there you simply have to choose to do things differently, and you have to choose that daily. Yep … Every. Single. Day. This will come as you increase your Self-Awareness. Once you realize you are going down the rabbit hole again, you can stop and change what you are doing.

Don’t be afraid to ask someone for constructive feedback on your performance. It can be difficult to hear what we’re not doing well, but pick a trusted advisor to help guide you along the way and you will reap the rewards of their observations and care. When someone you trust can see things you can’t, you are able to incorporate their thoughts, make small adjustments, and then course correct to get yourself back on track.

Note the different feelings that are happening in your body, the physical cues, the habits you engage in, and the time wasters you allow. I encourage my coaching clients to keep a journal to note anytime something happens that takes them away from what they should be doing. Often they may catch it after the fact … you know, after they just spent forty minutes scrolling through Facebook when they should have been finishing an important report? Yeah, that kind of procrastinating. Figure out what your common distractions are and eliminate them.

If eliminating them is not possible, LIMIT them. Set a time limit on how long you will allow yourself to shift your attention to refocus. Consider how your brain performs most optimally. Travis Bradbury wrote an article called “The Perfect Amount of Time to Work Each Day.” In it he states, “The ideal work-to-break ratio was 52 minutes of work, followed by 17 minutes of rest. People who maintained this schedule had a unique level of focus in their work.”

He went on to say, “The brain naturally functions in spurts of high energy (roughly an hour) followed by spurts of low energy (15 to 20 minutes).”

Did you even know your brain works that way?! This was news to me, but it made so much sense when I started to think about some times I have gotten distracted or lost focus on a project. It usually happens about an hour in … interesting, right?

So look at structuring your day differently if you can, in hourly blocks with little breaks. When you take your break, separate yourself from your work so that you can refocus. As someone with many different aspects to her business, I can sometimes feel scattered because I have so many different tabs and email accounts open, and I try to tend to all by jumping from one to the next at times. Guess what? I am figuring out that doesn’t work well for me. When I shift and focus on just one at a time, it helps me to better manage everything.

Get up and walk away from your desk! Have you heard? “Sitting is the New Smoking.” Do you spend too much time on your caboose in front of the computer? When you take those focus breaks, ensure that you are getting up and moving your body, even if it is just for a quick stretch or a walk to get a glass of water. Are you getting enough exercise every week? That can kick your brain into action, too. If you change your physical state, you change your brain. Form new habits, and you will form new neural pathways in your brain. Create a new and better you!

I have not written this blog as regularly as I had planned. While I love to write, I often have to feel inspired to do so. It feels difficult to me to be “creative on demand.” I have always felt the need to be in a writing mood, and sometimes my brain is too full of other things to feel creative. Which stinks! Because my brain a great power tool full of creative energy … I shouldn’t keep it locked away!

I have been thinking lately that if I will make a practice of setting aside my time differently – I am currently working on scheduling and time blocking for different projects, learning, and tasks – I could create better and more regular habits around writing as well, in addition to some of my other work. Sometimes I feel I just have too much on my plate, which can lead to feeling overwhelmed at times. But then I step back and remember my QuantumThink mantra, “I have all the time in the world.”

Once I relax into that, my focus shifts and I can move forward. Usually. Except on those certain days when I also find myself playing small. Which is what brought us here today. I don’t want to do that! As Keith expressed, I don’t want to rob people of the opportunity to work with me, because my goal is always to impact change and make a difference. If I am playing small, I can’t do that. And neither can you!

Let’s stop. Right now. Together. Because I’m a pretty cool person, and so are you if you’re reading this. And cool people should never play small! Right?!

Find Your Purpose

In an episode of Oprah Winfrey’s Super Soul Sunday on OWN, Oprah conducted an interview with Wes Moore. Wes is an entrepreneur, Rhodes Scholar, war veteran, former White House staffer, prior Wall Street investment banker and now a best-selling author of the books The Work and The Other Wes Moore. Yes, one could say he’s accomplished! He has a focus on pursuing passion and finding your calling, and has founded BridgeEdu to help students positively transition from high school to college in an effort to increase retention and graduation rates.

Do you sometimes feel like you’re faking it? In response to the thought of when you are feeling like an imposter or that you aren’t good enough to be in a room, Wes said, “We are never in a room that we don’t belong in.”

Remember that. Whatever insecurities you may be having, wherever you may be falling short, stop playing small and feeling like you don’t belong or that you don’t deserve the success you’re headed toward. Are you worried about what other people think of you or what they will say about you? Pause … let it go. Move on already. Wes has a great thought that everyone should incorporate: “Don’t let people that don’t matter too much matter too much.”

Why are you giving those people any real estate in your head? Release those people and things that do not have you performing at your highest potential. Sometimes that also means letting go of that little voice inside your head that holds you back. For some, this is the biggest culprit in self-sabotage. Negative thinking must be eliminated, along with negative self-talk, if you want to reach the next level. When you catch yourself listening to that little voice in your head and you don’t like what it’s saying, change the soundtrack and focus on the possibilities ahead instead.

As we all search for meaningful ways we can serve in this life and put forth our best efforts, don’t let fear or the act of playing small stop you from bringing everything amazing about YOU to the world. We are all here for a reason. What is yours?

I will close this with a final thought from Wes Moore: “I would rather flirt with failure than never dance with my joy.”

There you have it. Now stop reading. Go dance!

 

Valerie M. Sargent is a dynamic speaker, trainer, consultant and executive coach. A natural and engaging motivator, Valerie is a Level I and Level II TalentSmart Emotional Intelligence Certified Trainer and President of Yvette Poole & Associates. She helps individuals and organizations increase their EQ, managing emotions and relationships better on the job for maximum performance. Her signature message, “It’s in the Pause”® focuses on the need for Self-Management skills to preserve positive relationships in the workplace and beyond – follow her blog: https://itsinthepause.com/). For more information: http://ypooleandassoc.com/  or http://valeriemsargent.com/.

Photo Credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/137169575@N04/25072344705">Adorable Handsome Black Boy Child in Baggy Business Suit laughing and walking over white background.</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">(license)</a>
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Pause … to Understand Your Reactions

Do You Ever Wonder WHY You Reacted That Way?!

It’s funny how often I get asked the question, “What IS Emotional Intelligence?” when I tell people I’m a certified trainer in Emotional Intelligence (EQ). This tells me how necessary it is for people and organizations to make learning more about their EQ a priority, especially in the workplace. There are dysfunctional teams everywhere, and a focus on enhancing EQ helps companies and employees take their performance to new heights.

Emotional Intelligence was brought to light in the workplace in 1995 by Daniel Goleman, who based his research on affective neuroscience. According to Drs. Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves, the authors of Emotional Intelligence 2.0 (also the research and thought leaders behind the EQ programs I teach), Emotional Intelligence is: “Your ability to recognize and understand emotions in yourself and others, and your ability to use this awareness to manage your behavior and your relationships.”

There are four components to Emotional Intelligence: Self-Awareness, Self-Management, Social Awareness, and Relationship Management. Okay, great, that all sounds important, but what does it really mean? Essentially, it is saying that the better you know yourself and how you respond to others and to situations, the more you can grow your EQ and the more successful you will be in life. You will have better relationships with people, both on and off the job, which will lead to a more productive and happier life.

Like it or not, every time you head to work, you take that head full of thoughts with you, and those thoughts (yes, we have tens of thousands per day – some say upward amounts are 70,000 or more!) are tied directly to your emotions and emotional patterns you have carried around with you for years. YEARS, I say! This causes you to respond to people in habitual ways with thoughts, judgments, assumptions, offenses, etc. It’s bad enough when we do this at home with our loved ones, who may or may not easily forgive our transgressions, but when we bring habitual negative emotions and patterns into the office it can damage work relationships and lead to productivity problems for your company.

TalentSmart, the organization that provided my EQ certification, reports that, “After supervisors received training in emotional competencies such as how to listen better and help employees resolve problems, lost-time accidents were reduced by 50%, formal grievances were reduced from an average of 15 per year to 3 per year, and the plant exceeded productivity goals by $250,000 (Pesuric & Byham, 1996). In another manufacturing plant where supervisors received similar training, production increased 17%. There was no such increase in production for supervisors who were not trained. (Porras & Anderson, 1981).” Those are some pretty powerful numbers. Think about what enhanced EQ could do for your organization.

Dive Under Your Personal Microscope When You Have a Strong Reaction

I had the joy of attending a Google Hangout with Glenn and Marian Head with Lisa Engles on “Revolutionary Agreements – 12 Practical Ways To Be All We Desire, Dream and Deserve.” Marian is a dear friend of mine and the author of a lovely book called Revolutionary Agreements. My favorite agreement has always been, “I agree to look within when I react.” I love it because it is the foundation of Self-Awareness, which is the most important competency of Emotional Intelligence. Without Self-Awareness, the other three are much more difficult to explore.

If you find yourself reacting to something that someone has said or done – you feel angry, annoyed, upset, jealous, misunderstood – do yourself a favor: just pause. Try to separate any action that has happened from the person. Take a look inside yourself and attempt to take your ego out of the situation. Breathe. Think. Chill.

Ask yourself things like, “Why am I feeling this way?” and “Have I felt this way before?” Whatever words you are inflicting onto that other person inside your mind, turn them around and aim them toward yourself instead. The hardest thing to do is to ask yourself, “Is there a part of me I don’t want to acknowledge that is like this?” For instance, if you think someone is insincere, rude, selfish, etc., try to think of times when someone would perhaps have thought the same thing of you or in what moments have you behaved in the same ways. Ask yourself what you are holding onto: Resentment? Hurt? Loss? Jealousy? Anger? Blame? Feeling not enough? Are these feelings driving your reaction?

Our egos are very powerful, persnickety creatures, and they can play tricks on us. Our attention hungry egos make us look at things from only our own perspective, which can cast others into an enemy role. In his book A New Earth, EckhartToll Tolle says, “The particular egoic patterns that you react to more strongly in others and misperceive as their identity tend to be the same patterns that are also in you, but that you are unable or unwilling to detect within yourself … It has nothing to do with who that person is, nor has it anything to do with who you are.”

If you find that you have reacted this way before, chances are it could be a deeply ingrained pattern of response in your brain. Once you recognize what your body does in these times (for instance, I found that I hold my breath if I am feeling upset; others may have their chest tighten, break out in a sweat, etc.), you can pause and identify what’s really happening. Instead of hurling a negative emotion toward someone, get curious and try to figure out WHY you are reacting in that way. Think, “Hmmm … this is interesting.” Consider couples who fight a lot … it is primarily a habit. So is withdrawing, running away, blaming … they are all coping mechanisms we have learned to use through the years. And if someone at works reminds us of someone we habitually fight with, well, you can imagine how that could play out if we practice those same reactions in the workplace …

So I urge you to really stop and think when you find yourself reacting to something. Look inside. Find the root source. That simple act of presence and observation where you step outside yourself to look at things more objectively can save a relationship with a co-worker, a customer, or a loved one. Pause to stay in the moment. Don’t let the moment run away with you. With time and practice, thanks to the amazing neuroplasticity of your brain, you can develop your EQ and choose better responses. And that, my friends, is Emotional Intelligence.

Valerie M. Sargent is a dynamic speaker, trainer, consultant and executive coach. A natural and engaging motivator, Valerie is a Level I and Level II TalentSmart Emotional Intelligence Certified Trainer and President of Yvette Poole & Associates. She helps individuals and organizations increase their EQ, managing emotions and relationships better on the job for maximum performance. Her signature message, “It’s in the Pause”® focuses on the need for Self-Management skills to preserve positive relationships in the workplace and beyond – follow her blog: https://itsinthepause.com/). For more information: http://ypooleandassoc.com/  or http://valeriemsargent.com/.