End of year wrap up and reflection

Dec 19, 2017 | Coach's Questions

Realizing this is our last blog of 2017 got me reflecting on what I’ve learned this year.

The list was too long to do justice to it, but one thing that stood out to me was how we learned through our work coaching successful executives that self-talk can really have an impact — not only on you but on your leadership with others.

What we learned inspired our blog when your toughest conversations are with yourself.

My thinking on this has been galvanized even more after reading an article in Psychology Today that explores the impact of adults comparing ourselves to others in the age of social media.

We’ve heard news reports of how teens can be negatively affected by social media, but they aren’t the only ones who are gauging life success by the number of likes, followers, and interactions on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

It’s human nature to compare ourselves to others, even as professionals. (And we know that teens aren’t typically watching LinkedIn for news of promotions or who has which connections!)

There is some hope, however, in that researchers report we care less about social comparisons the older we get. In my experience, without conscious effort, it doesn’t start noticeably diminishing until we’re closer to retirement.  My hope is that we can make that conscious effort start earlier.

As we enter the holiday season, how many of us will be watching year-in-review posts listing the accomplishments of friends and colleagues on Facebook and Twitter? It’s really hard not to feel a little green with envy about beautiful vacation photos or accolades for achievements and successes.

It can feel gratifying when our peers celebrate our successes, but it can also sting if people we hope will support us don’t comment or engage.

Now, let’s be clear, sometimes competition is healthy. Seeing someone else achieve great things might be motivating to try a little harder – maybe even amp up our drive to cross that finish line, too.

Or, we might feel inspired to try something new or take some risks if we realize others have achieved great things.

The problem is that the negative feelings can sometimes fan the flames of unhelpful self-talk, even among the most successful people. That 24/7 ability to compare ourselves to others thanks to social media can also chip away at self-esteem, particularly if we’ve got a bit of holiday time to be more self-reflective instead of living in a constant state of urgency like the rest of the year.  

All this inspired us to consider implementing several strategies to avoid the trap of constant comparison, taking what we’ve learned in 2017 to give us a strong start for 2018:

Cultivate relationships and connect authentically

It’s so easy to scan through posts aimlessly, sort of like wandering through an online version of a great hall filled with people. I know I’m not the only one to quickly check Facebook only to suddenly find an hour has gone by!

Psychologists recommend using social media with purpose, using it as a tool to connect with people to have meaningful dialogue. So instead of liking 15 posts that show up in my feed, I’ll seek out a few people I want to build relationships with and send a private message to check in or post a supportive comment.

Watch your time and set limits for how long you’ll spend so you don’t get sucked into the void.

Follow what (or who) inspires you

Use social media to find people who will mentor you or provide inspiration. Remember that idea of healthy competition? The experts call it upward comparison, but essentially having someone who outpaces you a little or someone you really admire, to engage with might help you push for better results, too.

This doesn’t mean you have to friend your boss, but you might want to connect with someone a little further or higher in their career than you. Following how they achieve results or seeing what articles inspire them may give you an edge in what you do.

Spend your time online reading articles that will give you strategies to improve yourself or push you to consider new ways to consider your career (like writing your own retirement speech today).

Set a goal

This is the time of year that everyone starts talking about New Year’s Resolutions. People will start thinking about what they’d like to do better, or what they hope to do personally and professionally in the year ahead.

Two of the best things you can do to make a change is to set smaller goals that lead to that change and commit to a deadline for each small goal.  Goal setting and goal management is something we’re going to delve into with our topics in January.

Some of the things we’ve focused on during 2017 may help get you started on brainstorming some New Year’s Resolutions you can stick to! We considered the wisdom of creating a personal vision statement and being mindful (instead of MINDFULL). Check in with us in January to stay motivated to be your best self for 2018.

Find your gratitude

Having a positive mindset can help us to sidestep the trap of comparing ourselves to others.

Did your parents or grandparents ever tell you that you may not have all you want, but you have what you need? It’s so easy for us to get bogged down in comparing ourselves to people who we feel are more successful (upward social comparison), but considering how good we have things compared to others (downward social comparison) reframes everything.

I also recommend finding ways to serve others in your community with your time and talent, not just monetarily. Writing a cheque doesn’t give you quite the same sense of community awareness and involvement as organizing a charity fundraiser that helps people in need, volunteering with a non-profit, or simply dropping off a meal to a family in crisis.

Acts of service generate goodwill in all directions and a change in perspective is a great way to check yourself before you fall into negative comparisons.

Be your best self

According to researchers, the older people are the more likely they are to judge themselves against their past rather than against other people.

We need to learn from the wisdom of our elders and others who strive to beat their own personal bests.

Internal evaluation would be considering how you’ve improved based on your own track record rather than some external measurement. So if you’ve mastered giving a speech without stage fright and nausea for the first time, rejoice!

If you’ve pulled off some great sprints at work and achieved results that previously eluded you, celebrate! And then consider how you’ll take what you’ve learned to leverage even more success going forward.

Acknowledge your admiration of others

The next time you see that someone has done something notable, take a minute to leave a thoughtful comment or send a private email of congratulation.

When you take the time to praise others for their successes and acknowledge what you admire about them or their work, it’s amazing what you learn about them and their effort.

Expressing how you’re happy for someone is a great way to keep feelings of envy at bay. Not only does it generate goodwill, it’s a great way to build a rapport with someone (you might end up with a mentor!).

And you know what they say: You’re the average of the five people closest to you, so it can’t hurt to start bonding with folks you admire!

Coach’s Questions:

How aware are you when you’re comparing yourself unfavorably to others? Which of our suggestions do you commit to trying? How are you going to remind yourself?