You check your email. There may be a lot, or there may be a few, but tonight (and it’s Sunday night before a big week) you see one from your boss—or sometimes your boss’ boss. You click on it and see his question. It looks something like this:
Hi [your name],
Please give [name of topic] some thought so we can discuss tomorrow.
And sometimes there is the second piece:
Here are a few thoughts:
We could do it _______
In the meeting, we could focus on ________
[something either wildly different or adding to the existing options]
Sometimes it’s harsher, sometimes it has a specific direction, and sometimes it’s about major obstacles/issues that must be addressed.
You pause. Whatever is physically going on around you at that moment just blurs out. You don’t have an immediate response and so you begin to question yourself. “Do I have what it takes? Can I do this? What if such and such happens?”
We do this to ourselves all the time. We get psyched up. We rev up our fear engine. We go a bit overboard and then our spouse, significant other, friend, or roommate pulls us back to reality. “Man, you’ve got this. You’ve seen this movie before.” And that’s when it dawns on you: your problem isn’t this issue, it’s that you’ve labeled yourself as an imposter and you’re (subconsciously) looking for evidence that you’re a fraud. Instead, when was the last time you got a challenge from a boss, customer, prospect, or project manager and instead told yourself, “I may not have the exact answer at this very moment, but I’ve got a track record of figuring out things that I never knew before. I’m excited and looking forward to this challenge.” Using “track record” and “I’m a problem-solver” aren’t just for your resume, they’re for your every day.
This isn’t some “everybody gets a trophy” BS. Yes, there are people who already think too highly of themselves and they need to come down from the clouds they’re on. And even if they think too highly of themselves, it’s likely because they don’t believe in themselves and crave outside affirmation.
So next time you get that email, phone call, text, or Slack message, stop for a moment and think about it. Even if it is outside of what you believe you’re capable of, use it as a learning experience. The best way forward is to ask questions. Gain insight.
But we get so caught up in the minutiae. There are a million reasons it would fail and the best is that we don’t even try. How many inventions would never have been invented if we, as humanity, simply gave up? I’m sure explorers such as Marco Polo or Captain James Cook had a few more concerns about traveling the unknown world with monsters, demons, and truly foreign lands than we do about our current obstacles. This isn’t self-help affirmation, but an honest question of asking ourselves whether we jump to conclusions too much? What is it that we fear?
If, upon reflection, you decide it’s truly too much, then why and what can you do to get there? What are the steps necessary to accomplish your goal? Break them out. Write them down. Sit down with a friend, spouse, colleague, and family and share your vision and ask for critique.
Because what’s often worse than attempting some major challenge is the idea of sitting alone with our own thoughts. And that, as we know, is filled with anti-affirmations.