Give yourself credit!

“A house divided against itself cannot stand.”

~ Abraham Lincoln

Give yourself credit!

By Andrea Novakowski

At the start of every coaching session, I ask my client: what’s gone well for you since the last time we sat down together? It’s a chance for them to pause, recognize their achievements, and celebrate their progress.

But for some reason, people often have a hard time with this question.

My client Jonathan, a business owner with a new product, has had a good year by any standard. He brought his product to market ahead of schedule, his company recently received an award as a Best Place to Work, and later this summer, his son heads off for his first year at a prestigious college.

After a certain amount of prodding, Jonathan acknowledged that his life – both professionally and personally – was going great. But still, he was reluctant to talk about his successes. It was much easier for Jonathan to discuss what was going wrong than what was going right.

Jonathan is hardly alone. In this fast-paced world, few of us have – or take – the time to appreciate what we’ve achieved. It’s easier to focus on our never-ending to-do lists and all we have left to accomplish. We prefer to dwell on where we’re falling short, rather than what we’ve done right.

Why is that? Why do we hesitate to give ourselves the credit we deserve?

Here are a few reasons why you may be reluctant to acknowledge your own success:

The voice in your head tells you not to. Most of us are familiar with that nagging “inner critic” who loves to find fault with everything we do. Rick Carson’s book Taming Your Gremlin: A Surprisingly Simple Method for Getting Out of Your Own Way offers useful ideas for managing negative self-talk.

You think people won’t like you. You don’t want to look cocky or appear to be glorifying yourself. The truth is, quiet confidence is a very attractive quality. And false modesty can be irritating in its own way – don’t you think?

You don’t want to jinx yourself. Are you superstitious? Afraid to call attention to your good fortune, lest it disappear? I’ve coached many high-achieving business executives in my career, and trust me, luck had very little to do with their success. Chalking your accomplishments up to chance is just another way to steal credit from yourself.

You didn’t receive a lot of praise as a child. Many of us were born too early to enjoy the fruits of the self-esteem movement. We didn’t get trophies just for showing up; instead, we were told that children should be seen and not heard. Or that we were getting too big for our britches. We took these admonishments to heart, as children do, and we may still carry them with us, having never taken the time to assess whether they still apply to us.

And now, here are some ways to start celebrating what you’ve achieved, instead of dwelling on your shortcomings:

  • At the end of each day, write down three concrete things you’ve accomplished. They don’t have to be major triumphs. Some days, just filing a report or turning in an assignment might make the list. But this exercise will help reinforce the awareness that you’re moving forward.
  • Look at where you are today on your priorities vs. where you were yesterday, a week ago, a month ago. Acknowledge the steps you took to get here. Pretty soon, this will become a habit that feels good.
  • At the dinner table tonight, share a success story or two. Then turn to the person next to you or across the table and ask them to share a highlight of their day. Watch them light up.

Need more reasons to acknowledge your success? How about: when you recognize what’s going right, you shift your outlook from one of negativity and complaint to positivity and possibility. You create new pathways in your brain that look for solutions and opportunities, instead of dwelling on failures.

And last but not least: you’re more fun to be around!


Coaching Call to Action

Share some of the good stuff that happens to you with your friends, family, and coworkers. How did people respond? Let us know in the comments section below.