In the space of a week, I have led two new programs. The first was a workshop on managing change, “Life Interrupted – Five Strategies for Empowered Change.” The second was a two day leadership class for a client.
As with any new skill or lesson, I did not do everything correctly or the way I had hoped. However, for the first time in situations like these, my spiteful inner critic did not get the best of me. I think that was my big success. I am left with a positive focus on where I need to improve and much less stress than I might have had.
As I think about what was different this time, a few recent experiences and leadership lessons come to mind.
Prepare and allow space for dancing in the moment
Preparation and confidence are important, but so is the ability to trust yourself and your intuition. Staying curious and in the moment helped me to create spontaneously when I needed a word, a response or to make an immediate decision.
Define your purpose
Having a clear stake or purpose helps override any fear or unplanned occurrences. I recently participated in a high ropes course with a partner. (Note my former response to risky ventures in my blog on Risk Taking). Our purpose was to teach a class, topic of our choosing…while walking across a single wire. There were (very) occasional ropes for balance, but it looked almost impossible.
Needless to say, neither my partner nor I stayed upright the whole time. However, we kept teaching (with occasional screams and expletives). The difference for me was that I was committed to our purpose: to communicate our topic in a way that brought learning and humor to the onlookers. For both of my recent facilitation experiences, I was clear on my purpose.
Don’t take anything personally
If you have read Don Miguel Ruiz’s The Four Agreements, then you know that one of his agreements is “don’t take anything personally.” They say feedback is a gift. I believe that is the case most often. Treating it as such allows you to take what is useful or meaningful and let the rest of it go.
Don’t get mired in assumptions
Another one of Ruiz’ agreements is “don’t make assumptions.” This message helped keep me focused on my purpose instead of creating stories about what was going on around me. While it is true that we do not know what people are feeling or thinking, it is very easy to make judgments and assumptions. These “stories” are not helpful. Let them go or check them out.
Learn from your mistakes AND your successes
The final contribution to silencing my inner critic was the knowledge that my best lessons often come when I make mistakes. They also come from what I did well. Doing a post-event debrief with myself helped me see where I needed to focus my attention and make adjustments for the future. It also helped me realize how many things went well and reinforced what I should continue to do.
We all have our own inner critics. Use these five lessons to silence yours. In doing so, I think you will find more peace and courage, a higher level of self-acceptance and freedom to be your best.