When I was a kid, I wanted a Cabbage Patch Kid.
My parents, ever practical and never indulgent, said I could save up for one. They helped me by designating a piggy bank, kept in their office, where I could save my pennies.
They were clear that there was to be no doll without my own prioritization, effort, and planning.
Despite this clarity, I never, ever, ever stopped asking. I never stopped reminding them that at any moment they could just decide to buy me a CPK and get all the begging out of their lives. I tried every tactic available to me. Every emotional entry point, every manipulation. I knew that my goal would be achieved, I just had to figure out how. And every time they said no, I got down to work figuring out my next move.
What chutzpa. What determination. What conviction.
If I’d treated every goal + vision in my adult life this way, I can’t even imagine the results.
As adults, there are two related belief patterns that get in the way of reaching our goals and achieving our visions. We get confused about how to bring others along and get confused about what it means when they’re not on board.
Achievement of a goal or vision often involves sharing it, or getting someone else to see what you can see — whether you’re founding a company and need startup funding, have an idea for a better way to offer benefits at your company, or want your team to adopt a new practice.
The trouble comes when we think our job is to convince the other person and when we use their buy-in as our measure of success. Thinking this way is totally normal and natural. It also happens to be how we’re taught to think. I need to sell others on my idea. And if they’re not on board, I’ve failed.
Little me did not believe this. Probably little you didn’t either. But at some point, through command-and-control exposure, organizational charts, and a societal error of equating power with rightness, many of us started to believe that the merits of our ideas were determined by what other people thought of them.
What I’d like to offer is that our job is to share the potential of our vision in the most compelling way we know how, without attachment to someone else’s response. Our job is to be the best us we can be. (Here’s another post about determining your own success.) Our job is to keep believing in the vision, and not abandon it because someone else doesn’t understand it. And our job is to (lovingly) think that those who aren’t yet on board are just confused. Because our idea is amazing.
The reason this distinction is so important is twofold:
- When we think of our job as sharing, painting a vision, and telling a great story, we are in full control. That doesn’t mean that we don’t consider our audience, and the story that will be compelling to them, too, it just means that we’re fully in our own sphere of influence, rather than distracting ourselves from our capability by being in someone else’s head.
- When we measure our success by anything outside of ourselves, we stop working toward our vision based on our most recent “evidence” about our idea, not based on its actual value or potential. In other words, we let a single “no” be the reason we stop moving toward our vision. (Insert anecdote about cultural icon being rejected 247 times before getting the yes that skyrocketed her to her current place of influence.)
Belief error one: My job is to convince, and I’ll know my idea is good if I convince someone else.
Belief correction one: My job is to share my vision fully and compellingly, and learn something about how to share it again if it doesn’t stick this time. This idea is too good not to keep offering it.
The second (very related) belief pattern that gets in our way is about rejection.
We hate rejection. Biologically hate it. Our sweet little brains think that rejection means we’re not being accepted by the group, and will be ostracized and have to fend for ourselves in a cold, harsh world filled with predators.
Our brains are confused about the world we live in.
And when they feed us this fear, we often don’t even know that it’s happening. I know I was never taught to understand that feeling. Why someone not liking me, or saying no to me, or breaking up with me . . . felt like absolute shit.
The reason is that we use our natural, biological response to look for evidence that we are terrible. That our ideas don’t make sense. And that we should probably just stop trying.
Rejection is an emotion, and our emotions come from our thoughts. They do not come from the behavior or thoughts of another person.
So just think about that for a moment. Rejection is the emotion we experience when we reject ourselves in our own minds.
We catastrophize about what the other person thinks when we feel rejected, and then we repeat that out-of-proportion negativity to ourselves over and over again.
But what if a no is just a “no thank you”?
What if a no just means they can’t yet see what you can see?
What if a no means you have new data, new ideas for presenting your vision next time?
What if a no means the other person is just confused about how amazing what you’re offering is?
When we make a no mean rejection, and think that feeling rejection is out of our control, we either stop showing up or, let’s face it, show up super weird — not like ourselves, not full of passion and conviction and clarity — rather than as we really want to.
But what if we chose not to feel rejection? Because we chose different thoughts in advance?
Belief error two: If they say no, it means I and my idea are worthless. It means I have to feel rejection.
Belief correction two: They won’t say no, but if they do, I’ll try a different tactic with the data I learn in this conversation. The idea is amazing, I just need to show them how amazing it is.
You get to choose what you believe. You get to choose to be undaunted. You get to choose whether a no is a rejection or an opportunity.
And most importantly, you get to choose whether you keep moving in the direction of your vision.
I bet it’s a good one.
How about more time? More balance? Confidence as a meta-skill? A different relationship to yourself? Better relationships with the most important people in your life? And with everyone else?
Every day, I work with clients to teach them the skills I’ve used to transform every aspect of my life and leadership. And I’d love to help you achieve whatever result you’re looking for — or help you identify it. Book a free consultation call with me — there’s no risk, only potential gain. I can’t wait to meet you.