Show Up for Your Best Self

How do you show up for your best self?

Let’s face it: the past 20 months have not been easy. Remaining open, yet vigilant; positive, yet cautious; and resilient, yet flexible has been no easy task. For many, taking care of our loved ones has taken precedence over care for our self. Yet, if we don’t show up for our best self, how do we fully recover and care for others? How do we live our best life?

Demonstrating care (and affection) for ourselves begins with self-compassion. To some degree, everyone suffers. It is part of being human. Unfortunately, denying our suffering may make us more prone to self-sabotage.

Practicing self-compassion means acknowledging that we may be self-handicapping: we anticipate a real or imagined obstacle to living our best life and use it as an excuse for inaction. We practice self-compassion when we recognize this as an ineffective mechanism against suffering, and begin to notice this behavior.

As clinical psychologist and author Alice Boyes, PhD, writes for Harvard Business Review, practicing self-compassion has four components:

  • Practicing a kind tone (and language) that appeals to you.
  • Accepting pain and suffering are part of being human.
  • Allowing and recognizing all feelings (without attachment).
  • Anticipating that you can and will do the best you can at any point in time.

Unfortunately, our self-handicapping can be very subtle. It’s also one of the ways we get and stay stuck, trapped in the familiar, or worse, bad habit loop.

Recognize Self-Sabotage

Self-sabotage can be cunning, especially for highly intelligent and successful people. For example, resting on past accomplishments (too much positive thinking) can sabotage future success. Here are nine other ways we self-handicap:

  • Negative thinking (“I’m not good enough.”)
  • Withholding/silence (Not contributing/responding/offering ideas.)
  • Delaying action (Failing to act.)
  • Excuse making (“I don’t have the time/resources.”)
  • Failure to accept responsibility (Similar to excuse making, we may point to others or circumstances outside of our control.)
  • Adopting a “good-enough” attitude to avoid failure/rejection. (Becoming too risk averse.)
  • Imbalance of focus: too small picture
  • Focusing more on feelings, rather than facts.
  • Allowing (or encouraging) distractions to derail us.

Understand Why We Self-Sabotage

Self-sabotage just might be another part of being human. Fortunately, our brains can help us thrive in the face of adversity, practice self-compassion, and become our best self. We know this through the study of positive neuroscience—the study of positive psychology using neuroimaging techniques to explain the neurobiology.

To some degree or other, we are inundated with information or situations that can evoke an emotion. Whether it is happiness, gratitude, sadness, sympathy or any other emotion, we vary in how we respond. One study leads researchers to conclude that happier people are better able to see opportunities without missing threats.

The Research

Happier people—persons with high positive affectivity—are typically characterized as open-minded, sociable, and helpful. They have high energy and enthusiasm, are alert and active, and have confidence in their ability to achieve—if not now, then later. Persons with high negative affectivity are typically characterized as having a poor self-concept. Nervousness, guilt, fear, disgust, contempt and/or anger are common experiences in persons with high negative affect. 

With the use of fMRI studies, researchers find that our amygdala responds to emotional stimuli according to our affective style. If we have a more positive affect style we are less reactive to stimuli, are better able to regulate our emotions, and our disposition is more positive. If we have a more negative affect style we are more reactive, less able to regulate emotions, and our disposition tends to be more negative. (This is not all bad news: negative affectivity does have benefits.)

According to researchers, our affective style is the result of our genes, attachment style, adversity in early life, and mental disorders. While there is nothing we can do to go back in time to change our genetics or early life influences, we can change our style, specifically, how our brains respond to emotional stimuli or situations.

Self-Sabotage Alternatives

When taking action to counter self-sabotage, especially self-compassion, it’s helpful to understand how emotion regulation can change the brain. While it’s important to recognize the feeling, name it, and allow it to happen, regulating emotions has a bit more nuance.

Emotion regulation is an attempt to influence what, when, and how an emotion is experienced. According to Stanford Professor of Psychology James J. Gross, PhD, and the November 2021 research paper, Assessing Emotion Regulation Ability for Negative and Positive Emotions: Psychometrics of the Perth Emotion Regulation Competency Inventory in United States Adults, we can, and do, regulate both negative and positive emotions. Gross, and his fellow researchers, posit that this ability is “a cornerstone of adaptive psychological functioning.” And they are not alone.

Although it may seem counter-intuitive, emotion regulation techniques are a way to show up for your best self: emotion regulation can change our brain. First, let’s look at some of the conscious techniques:

  • Avoidance: avoiding a situation
  • Focus: noticing breath or other repetitive pattern
  • Seeking support: contacting a friend or support person
  • Smiling: forcing a smile, even by clamping a pen or pencil in your mouth, can stimulate the amygdala, releasing “feel good” neurotransmitters  
  • Exercise

Researchers find that two techniques, cognitive reappraisal and meditation, have lasting impact on our affective style

Cognitive Reappraisal

The technique of cognitive reappraisal can alter the emotional impact of a situation by changing how you think about the situation. Not only can you use this strategy to lessen negative emotions, reappraisal can increase positive emotions. This is important because it allows you to experience your feelings, including unavoidable and constructive negative feelings, and increase the psychological benefits of positive feelings.

You see, when we reframe our thoughts about a situation, experience, or stimulus, we can experience change in our emotional response. Research finds that using cognitive reappraisal correlates with activity changes in specific parts of the brain. We can change the intensity and duration of the emotion, depending on the tactics and frequency.

Meditation

Mindfulness meditation—such as Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR)—which focuses on the experience of thoughts, sensations, and emotions by simple observance—has been used in many neuroscientific studies of emotion regulation. Researches find that:

  • Long-term meditators are better able to accept their emotions.
  • Short-term (8-week) MBSR training increased the functional connectivity between the amygdala and the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, and the ability to regulate emotions.  

There are other strategies to counter self-sabotage and show up for your best self, including spotting the warning signs, stating your goals, and working toward mastering a domain that you value. A qualified coach can help you develop strategies and techniques that work best for you.

The Importance of Coaching Today

How is your organization working within the ever-growing gig economy? Let me ask: how do leaders engage with and develop future leaders?

This is a frequent topic of discussion with many millennials today. And it’s no surprise. The number of entrepreneurs, freelancers, or gig workers—those independent contractors who offer services in “one and done” or project contracts—is growing.  

According to data the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics collected in 2005, 2-4% of all workers were contingent (i.e. short term) and 7% were alternative (freelance, independent consultants, or on-call workers). In 2017, the total number grew to 34%, or 55 million workers, and according to Reuters.com, was projected to rise to 43% for 2020. (Studies are still pending.)

When half of U.S. workers polled prefer the flexibility of independent or gig work, retaining high-performers, and identifying and developing future leaders, is more important than ever before.  

Effective Execution

Recovering from a crisis is a process. It takes time, preparation, and effective execution: a culture that executes specific behaviors and techniques. Going beyond recovery for competitive advantage requires a discipline and system: a comprehensive understanding of the business, its people, and its environment.

An effective execution links three core processes of any organization: the people process, the strategy, and the operating plan to achieve its mission and goals. But in a gig economy, the three core processes are at greater risk to disconnect. Leadership, regardless of level, must be passionately engaged in the organization.

The importance of coaching today cannot be overstated. It is no longer reserved for problem employees or top performers. Enabling all employees to achieve business objectives in the shortest possible time is critical for success.

What Type of Coaching is Best?

At its core, the objective of coaching is to increase performance, achievement, and/or well-being in individuals, teams, and organizations through proven methods grounded in scientific research. There are many types of coaching (and many ways to achieve results), in four broad categories with different emphases:

  • Behavioral Coaching/Coaching Leaders
  • Life Coaching/Career Coaching
  • Coaching for Organizational Change.
  • Strategy Coaching

While there are distinctions between coaching, consulting, mentoring, advising, and counseling, qualified coaches meld differences into a successful coaching process at different times in particular situations.

Debunk Coaching Myths

One of the greatest coaching myths is that coaching is simply goal setting with accountability and a bit of “rah-rah” or hype for motivation. Sure, taping in to the human spirit is an important component to expand human capacity to achieve stretch goals. But more importantly is to consider and alter the underlying context in which goal setting, motivation, and feedback occur.

Underlying context is all of the conclusions, beliefs, and assumptions you (and/or the group of people) have reached in order to succeed. It is shaped by the shared interpretations you have about your business environment. It also includes the management culture, inherited or self-imposed. This basic cultural context must be considered in creating a framework for effective coaching.

Effective Coaching

Today’s successful organizations rely on a new kind of management culture, one that is based on creating new knowledge. This requires constant learning. A crucial catalyst in this new management culture is the transformational coach. His or her job is to provide direction while leaving plenty of room for people to pursue their passions, personal interests, and projects.

In its simplest terms, effective coaching involves expanding people’s capacity to take effective action. It involves challenging underlying beliefs and assumptions that are responsible for one’s actions and behaviors. At its deepest level, effective coaching examines not only what one does, and why one does what one does, but also who one is.

Measure Your Coaching ROI

When applying common return on investment (ROI) standards for evaluating training and development programs, the amount of variables challenges the ability to establish reliable data. It is difficult to quantify data of a qualitative nature.

The marketplace is perhaps the most vocal proponent of the use of coaching. Top corporations and leading organizations are among those that invest heavily in hiring coaches for their executives. According to ibisworld.com, 2021 annual spending on business coaching in the U.S. will reach $10.9 billion.

Organizations, entrepreneurs, and even gig workers with smaller budgets are wise to follow. Successful companies don’t throw money at programs that don’t have a positive impact on their bottom line—or, at least, they don’t for very long. Even so, the question remains how to measure the ROI.

5 Key ROI Indicators

To measure your ROI, look to changes in individual and/or team:

  • Productivity
  • Outlook/feelings
  • Specific behaviors and/or skills
  • New insights that support progress toward goals
  • Qualitative and quantitative measures: feedback, scores, self-reporting, etc., and what matters most to the client.

Get the Most from Your Coaching

Consider these questions to ensure that those being coached, as well as the organization, are getting the most from coaching:  

  • Is the organization committed to coaching as a process, rather than just an event?
  • Are supervisors of those being coached committed to the coaching process?
  • What are the types of changes that you hope will result?
  • Have you established internal measurements to identify when you have achieved success?
  • What are the benchmarks/baselines/waypoints on those measures?
  • Do you have a control group identified?
  • Are you using the right period of time (at least 18 to 24 months) to properly achieve the results you are looking for?
  • Have you considered indirect measures? (i.e. employee satisfaction or turnover)
  • Are you measuring the coach on the results that the coach achieves or the time that the coach spends?
  • Have you ensured that one of the measurements is perceived improvement, as viewed by those who work with the coachee on a frequent basis?
  • Based on everything that you know about the person being coached, is there a reasonable probability for change?

What’s Most Important to You

When working with your coach, talk about your important needs—what really matters. Here are seven other tips to get the most from your coaching:

  • Make space for feelings. Feelings drive behaviors. To change behaviors, change how you feel. Awareness is the first step.
  • Simplify. Simplification also creates space, which allows you to learn and evolve.
  • Make yourself a priority. Examine activities, environments, and attitudes that impact your energy. Identify ways to reduce drains and replenish your energy.
  • Be curious and open. Be willing to examine your assumptions, ways of thinking, expectations, beliefs, and reactions.
  • Practice mindfulness and awareness. Sensitize yourself to see and experience things quicker.
  • Clarify goals and objectives. Ensure you and your coach are clear about your goals, short- and long-term.
  • Improve feedback skills. Practice giving your coach feedback, especially at the end of each session.

Coaching is a developmental process. As you evolve, you will think differently. A more accurate and expanded personal vision of yourself—and your place in the world—will replace outdated beliefs and assumptions. You’ll learn how to accomplish more with less effort.