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The Objective Leader: Are You Good Enough? Make Your New Year's Resolutions ...Objectively

One of the most powerful and pervasive mental models I have found in people of all ages, walks of life and career status -- from presidents of corporations to high school interns -- is this: I believe, deep down, that I am not quite good enough.
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Unfortunately, the beginning of each New Year is the time that many people reinforce a common human mental model of Insecurity -- I Am Not Good Enough. As I said in my last blog, there appears to be common mental models that drive many of our responses to what we experience each day. Mental models are deep-rooted ideas and beliefs, hardwired in our neural net, about the way the world is and how things ought to be. Our mental models are the basis for our perception, analysis, understanding and response to everything we experience. What is wired together, fires together. We think and act through our mental models. As an Objective Leader it is critical that you develop the tools to identify and evaluate your underlying assumptions in order to ensure that your leadership mental models are effective.

One of the most powerful and pervasive mental models I have found in people of all ages, walks of life and career status -- from presidents of corporations to high school interns -- is this: I believe, deep down, that I am not quite good enough; I am limited in some way; I am not 100 percent acceptable to myself; I can be better. It is fascinating to see how readily and openly people admit this. This appears to be a fundamental mental model for many of us, and it underlies much of our negative spiral of thinking, the often harsh voice of judgment that many of us experience. This mental model becomes the basis for our self-concept. How often are you beating yourself up each day? How often are you worrying about what others are thinking about you? We can be very hard on ourselves, and it may be because deep down, we really believe we are not good enough.

The most interesting observation from my research on objectivity has been the connection between the Insecurity: I Am Not Good Enough model and other common mental models: External Validation, Competition, Perfectionist and Control. My hypothesis is that we know how unpleasant it feels to believe that we are not good enough, so we try to develop other mental models and behaviors to compensate. A few examples of this include:

  • External Validation -- I need others to tell me I am doing a good job so that I feel good enough
  • Competition -- I constantly compare myself with others and try to overachieve and outshine everyone so that I can feel good enough.
  • Perfectionist -- I have to be perfect in everything I do so that I will be good enough.
  • Control -- I must be able to control my environment. My self-concept is based on how well I can control the uncontrollable -- people, circumstances and events -- so that I can feel good enough.

The problem is that the sense of not being good enough has very strong connections in the neural net because it is often linked to intense feelings of disappointment that come from an early age; therefore, it is very difficult to simply compensate. Indeed, too often the counterbalancing mental models, thoughts and behaviors actually end up reinforcing the fundamental mental model. For example, if you fundamentally believe that you are not good enough, then being a perfectionist only makes it worse, since something is guaranteed to go wrong eventually. Or, when you decide that you are going to get healthy by eating better and exercising more, and then one day you do the couch potato-pizza and ice cream thing and then end up feeling frustrated and inadequate, it reinforces your belief that you are not good enough. This is a difficult, self-perpetuating cycle in which many of us are caught. And yet it is all in our minds, a setup -- our minds bringing us what we fundamentally believe!

As an Objective Leader, you can choose which mental models serve you and which do not. As an Objective Leader, you can change your mind about yourself and the world. What if you framed your world around the belief that you are, in fact, good enough? As an Objective Leader, you have the power to see things as they are and create powerful new mental models to frame your world.

So, given the statistics cited in Money Magazine's article by Kit Yarrow entitled Avoid These 5 Pitfalls That'll Undermine Your New Year's Resolutions dated Jan. 2, 2015: "Fewer than 10% of New Year's resolutions are kept for the entire year. In fact most are toast by Valentine's Day," here are two key tips for making resolutions -- objectively:

1. Start from a place of self-acceptance.
Many people set resolutions in order to fix something, with the underlying assumptions that there is something wrong with them, thereby reinforcing the Insecurity: I Am Not Good Enough mental model. Objectivity is defined as seeing and accepting things as they are, which includes you. Being objective requires a deep understanding of who and what you are relative to everyone and everything else, but not compared against anything or anyone else. Acknowledging and accepting your core gifts and skills, along with your unique background and experiences, are key.

2. Be kind to yourself.
Changing behavior and shifting mental models takes time, energy and focus. It is the nature of the mind that under stress, we often revert to old behaviors. So, expect that you will have good days and days in which you learn more about yourself. Remember, every time you are impatient and disappointed in your behavior, you end up strengthening the Insecurity: I Am Not Good Enough mental model. Instead, recognize what may have gotten you off track and what your triggers might be, see where you are and then go from there. There is no failure, it is just learning along the way. Have fun with your resolutions, and keep a long-term view. That is being objective.

Happy New Year!!!!

Based on the new book: The Objective Leader: How to Leverage the Power of Seeing Things As They Are to be released February 10, 2015 by Palgrave Macmillan