How We Make Work Better
Why better? I once heard a story from a colleague who said a coworker of his always replied to the question, “How are you doing?” with “Better!” Initially this perplexed people. Had he not been well? Had he been struggling or unhappy in some way? When my colleague finally asked him about this, the coworker said that each day he thinks, “How can I make this one better?” For him, choosing to focus on better made each day better than the one before.
The cynical among us probably just stopped reading. But if I still have your attention, and for everyone who feels inspired by this man’s outlook I ask, what does it mean to strive for better?
There are lots of ways to break this down. I like these two: growth mindset and resilience.
Choosing a Growth Mindset
When we adopt a growth mindset we believe that hard work and learning allow us to grow our capabilities. This makes us open to learning new ideas and information, and also new ways of seeing and doing at work.
In contrast, a fixed mindset limits our beliefs about ourselves because we see our talents, strengths, and weaknesses as being innate. In other words, “There’s nothing I can do about this, it’s just the way I am.”
By shifting to a growth mindset we assess, with some humility, our capabilities as well as our limitations and then set goals for, well, growth. We focus on what we can change to make ourselves and work experience better rather than what we cannot. (Hint: we cannot control others and often not the circumstances BUT we do have control of our own self.)
True Resilience, Not Just Dealing with It
Resilience has received a lot of attention these days and unfortunately there are some misunderstandings about it. Resilience is not “just dealing with” a difficult situation. Increasing your capacity to be resilient takes time and effort. It involves a lot of things—taking care of yourself, learning new ways to handle stress, setting better boundaries, and increasing perseverance.
Resilience is a seed that does not grow without attention, and must be actively cultivated. What does this look like? Each person has to make this process their own, but here are some general ideas…
- define & connect with a purpose in life
- identify & tap into your strengths
- keep difficulties in perspective
- develop a practice of gratitude, every day!
- seek authentic positivity in yourself & others
- allow others to support you
Take a moment now and reflect on these elements of resilience. Are there any that stand out for you? Are any dormant? What might you do to increase any of these pieces of resiliency?
Growth Mindset + Resilience = Better
Back to the idea of being better each day. Whenever we want to make a change we have to start with our self. However, we often start with trying to change other people or circumstances outside of our control. This does not mean that if someone is treating you badly you need to learn how to tolerate it. On the contrary, adopting a growth mindset and flexing your resilience muscle may lead you to take bold action to disrupt the mistreatment. You may feel more empowered to confront the individual. You may report the behavior because you gained clarity about what you can do, and tapped into some inner resources to do it. Even if you do not have a bad situation to deal with, you can use this framework to build on personal or professional skills or qualities.
By now you might be thinking, “This sounds great, but how do I do it?” Good news! You just took Step #1, awareness. Now, Step #2 is to take some time (on your commute, in the shower, walking the dog —this does not have to be an extra “to do”) to decide what needs attention . Do you limit your beliefs about yourself (mindset)? Are there elements of resilience that need bolstering?
Put this into action with Step #3, commit to making one small change. A wise friend, counselor or therapist, personal coach, spiritual practice or adviser, mentor, as well as books and podcasts can all help you on this journey. Change does not happen on its own or in a vacuum, so actively seek opportunities and resources to help you make and sustain it.
Better vs. Good Enough
A final thought…do not confuse “bettering” with berating yourself. When I say “be better” I am talking about healthy and incremental growth that you define as making you and your life better. It is 180 degrees from running yourself down for not being good enough in some way. Thinking about how to be better actually builds on strengths and positivity. It is saying both, “This is pretty good, I wonder how I can make it better?” and “This isn’t so great, I wonder what I can do to make it better?” And if you think that right now, today, things are super and you would not make any changes, that is great too!
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