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10 Life Lessons You Should Never Believe In

10 Life Lessons You Should Never Believe In

As you go through life you probably encounter many different life lessons.  Some are very good pieces of advice and you should follow them.  But, some life lessons turn out to be false and you should be aware of the folly of following these life lessons.  Here are 10 examples of life lessons you should never believe.

1.  You should always follow your passion.

Dilbert cartoonist Scott Adams calls passion “bull.”  The writer Dan Pink says the he “detests” the question “What is your passion?”  Following your passion is a common piece of career advice but not especially helpful when trying to figure out what you should pursue as a business or a career.  Instead, Dan Pink suggests focusing on what you actually do.  When you’re not at work, what do you do just for fun?  What are you good at?  What are you willing to put your effort into?  As Scott Adams points out, rather that passion causing success, “success causes passion.”

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2.  You need to do well in school to insure success.

Yes, school is important but what you soon discover after you graduate and begin looking for a job is that no one cares very much about what courses you took or what grades you received.  What counts is the skills you actually have and that you can show evidence for these skills.  Getting an “A” in a management course means less than demonstrating your management skills.  Having done well in school what you will discover is that it will often take more than that to succeed.

3.  You can’t teach an “Old Dog” new tricks.

Most people have heard that as you grow older it becomes more and more difficult to learn new things.  If you want to learn a foreign language you should start when you are young.  If you want to learn how to use new technology it helps to be young.  But, research on the brain and learning indicate that this is simply untrue.  The brain has a phenomenal ability to adapt and learn even as you grown older and the more you learn the better the brain can continue to learn and adapt.

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4.  You have to believe in yourself.

In order to achieve your goals and your dreams you have probably been told that you have to believe in yourself.  The essence of much self-help advice is that there is a power in positive thinking.  Affirmations are also based on this idea that you must visualize in a positive way the goals you wish to achieve.  But, as the author Dan Pink has pointed out, research seems to show that there is actually greater value in cultivating some self-doubt.  So, instead of confidently stating “I can” begin by asking yourself “Can I?”  This will put you in a better overall mindset for success.

5.  Life “back then” was better than it is today.

Ahh, the “good old days.”  Life was better back then.  But, nostalgia often blinds us to just what the reality was in those days gone by.  However far back you go in the past you can find indicators that things were not, in fact, as good as today.  Life expectancy is a good example.  The incidence of deaths from infections, childbirth, even the flu were much higher.  People had to spend more time acquiring food, clothing, and shelter and the rate of poverty was much higher than today.  As we look back to the past we often forget these realities which makes it seem as if life were better “back then.”

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6.  Getting ________ will make you happy.

Many people base their happiness on acquiring things.  The new house or the new car will make you happier than the one you have now.  But, once the novelty of having that new thing wears off, your happiness will return to its former level.  Or worse, you will discover that there is a newer thing to acquire and now you need to base your happiness on acquiring that thing.  In that case you have gotten on the “hedonic treadmill.”  You work harder and acquire more things but are still not any happier.

7.  You need another person to “complete” you.

We all have the image of love as somehow finding someone to complete us.  But, this presupposes that you cannot be a complete person without that other and that is not true.  It can also lead us to commit some to someone who may end up being wrong for us just to avoid being “incomplete.”  But, each one of us is a unique, complete human being on our own.  Being in love and sharing your life with someone special are wonderful gifts, but you should not view yourself or your life as incomplete if you are single.

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8.  Practice makes perfect.

For most skills improvement requires practice.  By some estimates it can take up to 10,000 hours to really master a skill such as playing a musical instrument or being a competitive athlete.  What can make this work seem so frustrating is that the “perfection” which is promised never arrives.  In fact, practice does not and cannot make you perfect at anything because perfection is an impossible to reach standard.  As the saying goes, “the perfect is the enemy of the good.”  We often use our failure to achieve perfection as a reason to stop trying at all.  Practice does lead to improvement and should be valued for that reason alone.  Set aside perfection and work on being good.

9.  Once I finish _________, I’ll have more time.

Everyone has probably said this at one time or another whether it is about something at school or work.  But, what you soon learn is that the free time you see in the future is always receding because once you finish your current project you’ll end up with another and then another.  As long as you focus on finishing things you will never end up with the free time you plan on having.  The key to breaking this cycle lies with not starting things.

10.  You can be anything you want if you work hard enough.

We are often taught some variation of this idea from an early age.  But, it ignores an important part of life: limits.  These limits are not necessarily a bad thing.  Creativity arises out of limitations as artists struggle against the constraints of their medium and skill.  Hard work can take you far but it cannot guarantee your success in everything you try.  Because of my physical limitations I will never play football in the NFL.  Because of my artistic limitations I will never play in Carnegie Hall.  Recognizing one’s limits actually liberates you from the burden of being able to do everything and focus on what you can do.  Ultimately, the fact that our life is limited is what allows us to give it meaning.  If you lived forever what would it matter what you did or when?  Likewise, if you really could be anything, what you chose to do would have less meaning.

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Last Updated on December 4, 2020

How to Give Constructive Feedback in the Workplace

How to Give Constructive Feedback in the Workplace

We all crave constructive feedback. We want to know not just what we’re doing well but also what we could be doing better.

However, giving and getting constructive feedback isn’t just some feel-good exercise. In the workplace, it’s part and parcel of how companies grow.

Let’s take a closer look.

Why Constructive Feedback Is Critical

A culture of feedback benefits individuals on a team and the team itself. Constructive feedback has the following effects:

Builds Workers’ Skills

Think about the last time you made a mistake. Did you come away from it feeling attacked—a key marker of destructive feedback—or did you feel like you learned something new?

Every time a team member learns something, they become more valuable to the business. The range of tasks they can tackle increases. Over time, they make fewer mistakes, require less supervision, and become more willing to ask for help.

Boosts Employee Loyalty

Constructive feedback is a two-way street. Employees want to receive it, but they also want the feedback they give to be taken seriously.

If employees see their constructive feedback ignored, they may take it to mean they aren’t a valued part of the team. Nine in ten employees say they’d be more likely to stick with a company that takes and acts on their feedback.[1]

Strengthens Team Bonds

Without trust, teams cannot function. Constructive feedback builds trust because it shows that the giver of the feedback cares about the success of the recipient.

However, for constructive feedback to work its magic, both sides have to assume good intentions. Those giving the feedback must genuinely want to help, and those getting it has to assume that the goal is to build them up rather than to tear them down.

Promotes Mentorship

There’s nothing wrong with a single round of constructive feedback. But when it really makes a difference is when it’s repeated—continuous, constructive feedback is the bread and butter of mentorship.

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Be the change you want to see on your team. Give constructive feedback often and authentically, and others will naturally start to see you as a mentor.

Clearly, constructive feedback is something most teams could use more of. But how do you actually give it?

How to Give Constructive Feedback

Giving constructive feedback is tricky. Get it wrong, and your message might fall on deaf ears. Get it really wrong, and you could sow distrust or create tension across the entire team.

Here are ways to give constructive feedback properly:

1. Listen First

Often, what you perceive as a mistake is a decision someone made for a good reason. Listening is the key to effective communication.

Seek to understand: how did the other person arrive at her choice or action?

You could say:

  • “Help me understand your thought process.”
  • “What led you to take that step?”
  • “What’s your perspective?”

2. Lead With a Compliment

In school, you might have heard it called the “sandwich method”: Before (and ideally, after) giving difficult feedback, share a compliment. That signals to the recipient that you value their work.

You could say:

  • “Great design. Can we see it with a different font?”
  • “Good thinking. What if we tried this?”

3. Address the Wider Team

Sometimes, constructive feedback is best given indirectly. If your comment could benefit others on the team, or if the person whom you’re really speaking to might take it the wrong way, try communicating your feedback in a group setting.

You could say:

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  • “Let’s think through this together.”
  • “I want everyone to see . . .”

4. Ask How You Can Help

When you’re on a team, you’re all in it together. When a mistake happens, you have to realize that everyone—not just the person who made it—has a role in fixing it. Give constructive feedback in a way that recognizes this dynamic.

You could say:

  • “What can I do to support you?”
  • “How can I make your life easier?
  • “Is there something I could do better?”

5. Give Examples

To be useful, constructive feedback needs to be concrete. Illustrate your advice by pointing to an ideal.

What should the end result look like? Who has the process down pat?

You could say:

  • “I wanted to show you . . .”
  • “This is what I’d like yours to look like.”
  • “This is a perfect example.”
  • “My ideal is . . .”

6. Be Empathetic

Even when there’s trust in a team, mistakes can be embarrassing. Lessons can be hard to swallow. Constructive feedback is more likely to be taken to heart when it’s accompanied by empathy.

You could say:

  • “I know it’s hard to hear.”
  • “I understand.”
  • “I’m sorry.”

7. Smile

Management consultancies like Credera teach that communication is a combination of the content, delivery, and presentation.[2] When giving constructive feedback, make sure your body language is as positive as your message. Your smile is one of your best tools for getting constructive feedback to connect.

8. Be Grateful

When you’re frustrated about a mistake, it can be tough to see the silver lining. But you don’t have to look that hard. Every constructive feedback session is a chance for the team to get better and grow closer.

You could say:

  • “I’m glad you brought this up.”
  • “We all learned an important lesson.”
  • “I love improving as a team.”

9. Avoid Accusations

Giving tough feedback without losing your cool is one of the toughest parts of working with others. Great leaders and project managers get upset at the mistake, not the person who made it.[3]

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You could say:

  • “We all make mistakes.”
  • “I know you did your best.”
  • “I don’t hold it against you.”

10. Take Responsibility

More often than not, mistakes are made because of miscommunications Recognize your own role in them.

Could you have been clearer in your directions? Did you set the other person up for success?

You could say:

  • “I should have . . .”
  • “Next time, I’ll . . .”

11. Time it Right

Constructive feedback shouldn’t catch people off guard. Don’t give it while everyone is packing up to leave work. Don’t interrupt a good lunch conversation.

If in doubt, ask the person to whom you’re giving feedback to schedule the session themselves. Encourage them to choose a time when they’ll be able to focus on the conversation rather than their next task.

12. Use Their Name

When you hear your name, your ears naturally perk up. Use that when giving constructive feedback. Just remember that constructive feedback should be personalized, not personal.

You could say:

  • “Bob, I wanted to chat through . . .”
  • “Does that make sense, Jesse?”

13. Suggest, Don’t Order

When you give constructive feedback, it’s important not to be adversarial. The very act of giving feedback recognizes that the person who made the mistake had a choice—and when the situation comes up again, they’ll be able to choose differently.

You could say:

  • “Next time, I suggest . . .”
  • “Try it this way.”
  • “Are you on board with that?”

14. Be Brief

Even when given empathetically, constructive feedback can be uncomfortable to receive. Get your message across, make sure there are no hard feelings, and move on.

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One exception? If the feedback isn’t understood, make clear that you have plenty of time for questions. Rushing through what’s clearly an open conversation is disrespectful and discouraging.

15. Follow Up

Not all lessons are learned immediately. After giving a member of your team constructive feedback, follow it up with an email. Make sure you’re just as respectful and helpful in your written feedback as you are on your verbal communication.

You could say:

  • “I wanted to recap . . .”
  • “Thanks for chatting with me about . . .”
  • “Did that make sense?”

16. Expect Improvement

Although you should always deliver constructive feedback in a supportive manner, you should also expect to see it implemented. If it’s a long-term issue, set milestones.

By what date would you like to see what sort of improvement? How will you measure that improvement?

You could say:

  • “I’d like to see you . . .”
  • “Let’s check back in after . . .”
  • “I’m expecting you to . . .”
  • “Let’s make a dent in that by . . .”

17. Give Second Chances

Giving feedback, no matter how constructive, is a waste of time if you don’t provide an opportunity to implement it. Don’t set up a “gotcha” moment, but do tap the recipient of your feedback next time a similar task comes up.

You could say:

  • “I know you’ll rock it next time.”
  • “I’d love to see you try again.”
  • “Let’s give it another go.”

Final Thoughts

Constructive feedback is not an easy nut to crack. If you don’t give it well, then maybe it’s time to get some. Never be afraid to ask.

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Featured photo credit: Christina @ wocintechchat.com via unsplash.com

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