In the rigor of everyday life, we often forget what we need the most: A heaping helping of self-compassion.
Yes, I’m all for a culture of kindness, but there’s another adage equally as important: If you want to help others, help yourself (like the oxygen mask rule on airplanes). This is particularly important for those who lead — without self-esteem to ground your decisions (rooted in compassion), you will likely find yourself flailing. Not only will employees sense this and lose faith in you, but customers will, too. Business will suffer.
Too often, our response when this happens is quiet self-beratement with the door closed. “Why couldn’t you figure that out? Why couldn’t you make that decision? What’s wrong with you?” That feeds our self-doubt and makes future decision-making painfully difficult. We question everything.
There are a few ways to stop this spiraling out of control.
First, breathe. If you have a breathing routine you use to manage anxiety or stress, use it. If not, I recommend a simple four-count in-and-out breathing cadence. Do that for about 30 seconds to calm your heart rate and your mind.
Second, and most importantly, come back to this: Decisions are not life-or-death events. They are learning experiences. In the moment, you will make the best decision you know how to make. And when the cards fall, you can see it as a chance to gain insights, new knowledge, and new experiences.
If you look at decisions this way, each one is a step up instead of a step backwards — an opportunity to grow.
The key, of course, is keeping this top of mind. Some people do it by reciting a mantra before big decisions are made. Others put a sticky note on their computer screen as a reminder. Still others have a whole ritual to ground them before making a call. Do what suits you best, but make sure you have growth and learning top of mind as you make your decisions.
Oh, also, this: You may make the wrong decision. That’s okay. Others may excoriate you for screwing up. That’s on them. Perhaps worse still, you may not have any idea what will happen on the other side. That’s not where your confidence needs to be — it should be placed squarely in the knowledge that you acted to the best of your ability with all knowledge and experience at your disposal and for the greater good.
The rest is summed up in this delightful quote from author Neil Strauss: “The cost of failure is learning.” How bad can that be?