Top 10 Ways to Keep Your New Year’s Resolutions #6 – Don’t Try to “Prove” yourself
Never Stop Improving
This step may be the most important in this whole series of posts. That’s a bold statement, but it’s true. Let me explain.
If you take two people who genuinely want to lose weight – say 30 pounds – and one person believes
that he’s “fat” and has “bad genes” while the other person believes he simply “has to workout harder
and eat right,” who do you think has a higher chance of losing those 30 pounds? In this instance, the
obvious answer is the correct one – the person who believes he has control over his weight loss. If you
don’t believe that you can change, whether that’s from a fat loss, intelligence, willpower or personality
perspective, then you won’t take the actions necessary in order for that change to occur.
Now that that concept has a foundation, let’s expand on it, just a bit.
There are some people who see certain aspects about themselves as fixed or unchangeable – such as
how smart they are, how extroverted they are or whether or not they’re good with money. By having
these beliefs about themselves, they stay consistent. Therefore, if they believe themselves to be smart,
then when faced with an academic challenge, they feel threatened because an “academic challenge” to them puts their “intelligence” at risk. In other words, they think, “I’m intelligent, why am I struggling with this? It must be that I’m not intelligent.” In order to continue to believe their intelligent, what they do instead is cheat or avoid situations that put them in situations where they will struggle academically. In other words, instead of trying to continually improve, they are in the process of “proving who or what they are.” By doing so, they take less chances, ask less questions and typically achieve less.
On the other hand, there are people who see most aspects about themselves as a “work in progress.”
This means, that instead of trying to “prove themselves” they are in the process of “making
themselves.” These people feel less anxiety about meeting challenges, and in fact greet challenges as
a way to grow and improve. They ask more questions so that they can continue to learn and improve.
By not feeling scared to make mistakes, they coincidentally make fewer mistakes. They are in the
process of growing.
You see the individuals from step 5 who are scared to hold themselves to higher standards, are also
saying that they are scared to fail. They are saying that they are trying to “prove themselves” and who
they are, as they currently are. In contrast, those who are not scared to be better and hold themselves
to higher standards are less frightened about making a mistake. They see their mistakes as learning
steps which will help them to continually improve. Therefore they hold themselves to higher standards
without the fear of failure.
Your to do: Take this 5 question quiz.
Give a numerical score of 1 – 6 for each question, where a 1 is Strongly Disagree and a 6 is a Strongly
Agree. And most importantly, be honest!
1 – How introverted or extroverted you are is fixed and you really can’t do much to change it.
1 2 3 4 5 6
2 – One’s weight is largely a reflection of their genes and you can’t change that very much.
1 2 3 4 5 6
3 – To be honest, you can’t really change how intelligent you are.
1 2 3 4 5 6
4 – I really wasn’t blessed with good genes when it comes to weight loss, and become discouraged
when I realize how much work I have to put into weight loss.
1 2 3 4 5 6
5 – When facing an intellectual challenge (at work or at school), I avoid it and put it of as long as
possible hoping that the challenge will go away on its own.
1 2 3 4 5 6
Add up your scores. If you scored higher than a 17, you are in the process of trying to “prove yourself”
as opposed to “continually improving.”
If that’s the case, you are hindering yourself from growing and allowing yourself to be in control of your
life. Instead other people’s opinions of you and your past are not controlling your present and hence,
The best way to start to overcome this is by following these 5 steps:
- Know that no one got to where they are by being perfect on their first attempt. As CarolDweck noted, “No one makes fun of a baby when they’re learning to walk.” Allow yourself to makemistakes and realize that everyone (yes, this includes you) will need some time to learn.
- Simply recognize that everyone (including you) has the ability to change. There are some people for which certain things may come more easily than others, but that doesn’t mean that YOU can’t improve.
- Don’t compare yourself to others, but instead compare yourself to your own past performance. Are you improving? That’s the only thing that matters.
- Learn to ask for help. When you stop trying to “prove yourself” it becomes easier to ask someone that might know more than you. It’s also a sure-fire way to learn as quickly as possible.
- Last but not least, read stories of individuals who have overcome obstacles and changed their lives despite the odds. Beyond stories of individuals who have changed, also familiarize yourself with how our minds hold us back, more so than our bodies.
Here are two articles that may make you feel uncomfortable, but worth the read: