As a mentor in my workplace, I frequently bear witness to employees telling themselves “no”. No one phrases it that way, but that’s the reality. In a mentor or coaching session, we talk about goals, aspirations, opportunities and what they want to be doing. When I ask why they’re not doing those things already, I most often hear:
"I know I'm not a fit"
"It's not worth trying"
"That's not the way they do it here"
"I'm not qualified"
"There are better options than me"
"I'm too new"
"I would but I have [insert excuse] to do"
"Maybe next time"
"That's not my job"
All of these translate to me as, “I told myself no”.
In the early 2000's, I was in a band, and we exclusively wrote our own music. We knew it wasn’t the best music, but it was ours, and the one thing that always stuck with me once we finished a song was that we had just created something that didn’t exist in the world when we woke up that morning. If we had chosen not to get together that day, or if one of us didn’t show up, that song we created would have never existed. Writing music – and I assume all other artistic feats – is full of "what ifs". What if we change the cord pattern here, what if we strum it this way, what if write the lyrics this way, what if we leave the drums out of this part? In the corporate world, those “what ifs” manifest as "what if I told myself no today?" It's the difference between creation and nothing.
You may think, "I never tell myself no. I always step up to face challenges head on". Are you sure? Review that list above again. Telling yourself no can be disguised many ways, but it always looks like a cloaking spell for your own initiative and drive. They're cliché sayings that allow you to put your goals, ambitions and visions on the back burner - where they do not belong! My biggest goal as a mentor is to be the motivator my struggling coworkers need in order to go after what they already know they want.
I ask two things of you today:
Think about that opportunity or idea that's sitting on the shelf. It could be a blog, job opportunity, a morning run, a raise, but whatever it is, dust it off. Instead of telling yourself “no” (via any of the ways listed above), ask yourself "why not?" - and take one first small step forward to take action!
Keep an ear out for the ways people are telling themselves "no” and be the helpful force that they might need to push themselves forward At worst, you may help them realize they really don't care about the opportunity or idea all that much. At best, maybe you just helped to get them out of their own way and move onto a better place.
Asking "why not?" will help to filter through your spur of the moment ideas that don't stick, but it will also unearth some amazing potential. So, stop telling yourself no! Leave that for someone else to do, and when they do say that, be ready to follow it up with a "why not?".
Note: All of the opinions expressed in this article are my own, and are not a reflection of the viewpoint of my employer.