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When I Learn To Embrace Criticism, These 10 Amazing Things Happened

When I Learn To Embrace Criticism, These 10 Amazing Things Happened

“To avoid criticism, do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing.” ~ Elbert Hubbard

There was a time in my life when I hated, and even feared, being appraised or evaluated. I didn’t like being told I was wrong. In fact, I tried to live a ‘careful’ life or lied to avoid these horrible encounters.

Do you find yourself bending over backward to try to win someone’s approval? Or try to hide something you feel won’t get approval?

Do you pull yourself in and try to make yourself physically small when you are criticized?

When someone makes a comment about you, do you become defensive, or go take the other route of going quiet, while at the same time as your mind races around attaching all sorts of meaning to the comments?

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Critics abound! None of us are immune to them.

You cannot control what others say to you but, when you learn to embrace criticism amazing things can happen.

New horizons open

Criticism can open you up to new ideas and new ways of looking at things. When you pay attention to the words being spoken and not the criticism itself, you just might get a glimpse of a brilliant idea that you can use or expand upon. Listening to criticism had lead me to make some positive moves that I hadn’t thought of.

Listening skills become sharper

When you realize there is value in listening to what is being said, you become an active listener. The typical reaction would be to mentally begin preparing your defense as you partially listened. When you stop doing this, you begin to listen attentively to the whole comment. Separating the gems from the rubbish and then use them to make adjustments and gain success.

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Have more win-win scenarios

When you dig in your heels and defend your position at all cost, you could be doing so at the expense of losing friends, family or a job. Sometimes when you know there is no way to reach an agreement, the best thing to do is to agree to disagree. It is surprising how fast the tension eases and the conversation changes. An adversary could become a friend.

Improve relationships

Criticism gives you the opportunity to explore your people-pleasing tendencies. Relationships based on the need for constant approval can be draining for all parties. You cannot control what other people think and it is an energy drainer to try. When you stop pleasing others it is very liberating and your relationships often strengthen.

Saves time and energy

After receiving criticism, if you spend hours stewing on what he/she meant, what you should have said, or engaging in mental arguments, you are wasting time and energy. You lose focus and become less productive. However, if you can refrain from reacting and quickly appraise the criticism for it’s worth then move on, you save time and energy. For me, this is one of the great benefits of embracing criticism.

Become less stressed

When you acquire the ability to let go of your feelings and thoughts around being criticized you naturally become less stressed. Letting go of worries and fears releases the stress that you hold when you are in a defensive mode. When you no longer make yourself small and start to curl inward like you want to hide, you know you have let go. You can stand tall, be open, and listen for what you can use.

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Instills motivation

Many times criticism magnifies you inner insecurities. You may have doubts or insecurities around something, but the moment someone points it out you are off to prove them wrong. I was great at coming back in attack mode. The beauty of it is that once you get beyond that which is holding you back you realize it wasn’t so bad after all. You might even be motivated to take on something completely new.

Recognize genuine vs false criticism

Some critics give you useful comments while others have no constructive value whatsoever. It is important to differentiate between what is useful and what isn’t. This is very valuable as you strive to do bigger and greater things in life. The greater your success the more criticism you will receive. Know what to ignore and what to heed can be invaluable.

Create clear boundaries

There are times when critics deliver their message in less than tolerable ways. When this happens you might reply with, “You are making some valuable points but, I think I would be more willing to accept them if you didn’t raise your voice.” It is one thing to give criticism, it is another to be rude or arrogant. Letting others know how you feel establishes a boundary of what is acceptable and what isn’t.

Accept imperfection

Receiving criticism well reminds you that it is okay to have imperfections – in yourself and others. If you can admit you aren’t perfect and strive to make improvements in these areas, you’ll experience more happiness, peace, joy and success.

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Accepting that you, and everyone else, is perfectly imperfect makes life so much easier and happier. This is was a great relief in my life and I am lighter for it.

In what ways has embracing criticism enhanced your life?

Featured photo credit: Full Speed Engines on the Disney Cruise/TreyRatcliff via flickr.com

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Last Updated on March 21, 2019

11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

Most gurus talk about habits in a way that doesn’t help you:

You need to push yourself more. You can’t be lazy. You need to wake up at 5 am. You need more motivation. You can never fail…blah blah “insert more gibberish here.”

But let me share with you the unconventional truths I found out:

To build and change habits, you don’t need motivation or wake up at 5 am. Heck, you can fail multiple times, be lazy, have no motivation and still pull it off with ease.

It’s quite simple and easy to do, especially with the following list I’m going to show to you. But remember, Jim Rohn used to say,

“What is simple and easy to do is also simple and easy not to do.”

The important things to remember when changing your habits are both simple and easy, just don’t think that they don’t make any difference because they do.

In fact, they are the only things that make a difference.

Let’s see what those small things are, shall we?

1. Start Small

The biggest mistake I see people doing with habits is by going big. You don’t go big…ever. You start small with your habits.

Want to grow a book reading habit? Don’t start reading a book a day. Start with 10 pages a day.

Want to become a writer? Don’t start writing 10,000 words a day. Start with 300 words.

Want to lose weight? Don’t stop eating ice cream. Eat one less ball of it.

Whatever it is, you need to start small. Starting big always leads to failure. It has to, because it’s not sustainable.

Start small. How small? The amount needs to be in your comfort zone. So if you think that reading 20 pages of a book is a bit too much, start with 10 or 5.

It needs to appear easy and be easy to do.

Do less today to do more in a year.

2. Stay Small

There is a notion of Kaizen which means continuous improvement. They use this notion in habits where they tell you to start with reading 1 page of a book a day and then gradually increase the amount you do over time.

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But the problem with this approach is the end line — where the “improvement” stops.

If I go from reading 1 page of a book a day and gradually reach 75 and 100, when do I stop? When I reach 1 book a day? That is just absurd.

When you start a habit, stay at it in the intensity you have decided. Don’t push yourself for more.

I started reading 20 pages of a book a day. It’s been more than 2 years now and I’ve read 101 books in that period. There is no way I will increase the number in the future.

Why?

Because reading 40 to 50 books a year is enough.

The same thing applies to every other habit out there.

Pick a (small) number and stay at it.

3. Bad Days Are 100 Percent Occurrence

No matter how great you are, you will have bad days where you won’t do your habit. Period.

There is no way of going around this. So it’s better to prepare yourself for when that happens instead of thinking that it won’t ever happen.

What I do when I miss a day of my habit(s) is that I try to bounce back the next day while trying to do habits for both of those days.

Example for that is if I read 20 pages of a book a day and I miss a day, the next day I will have to read 40 pages of a book. If I miss writing 500 words, the next day I need to write 1000.

This is a really important point we will discuss later on rewards and punishments.

This is how I prepare for the bad days when I skip my habit(s) and it’s a model you should take as well.

4. Those Who Track It, Hack It

When you track an activity, you can objectively tell what you did in the past days, weeks, months, and years. If you don’t track, you will for sure forget everything you did.

There are many different ways you can track your activities today, from Habitica to a simple Excel sheet that I use, to even a Whatsapp Tracker.

Peter Drucker said,

“What you track is what you do.”

So track it to do it — it really helps.

But tracking is accompanied by one more easy activity — measuring.

5. Measure Once, Do Twice

Peter Drucker also said,

“What you measure is what you improve.”

So alongside my tracker, I have numbers with which I measure doses of daily activities:

For reading, it’s 20 pages.
For writing, it’s 500 words.
For the gym, it’s 1 (I went) or 0 (didn’t go).
For budgeting, it’s writing down the incomes and expenses.

Tracking and measuring go hand in hand, they take less than 20 seconds a day but they create so much momentum that it’s unbelievable.

6. All Days Make a Difference

Will one day in the gym make you fit? It won’t.

Will two? They won’t.

Will three? They won’t.

Which means that a single gym session won’t make you fit. But after 100 gym sessions, you will look and feel fit.

What happened? Which one made you fit?

The answer to this (Sorites paradox)[1] is that no single gym session made you fit, they all did.

No single day makes a difference, but when combined, they all do. So trust the process and keep on going (small).

7. They Are Never Fully Automated

Gurus tell you that habits become automatic. And yes, some of them do, like showering a certain way of brushing your teeth.

But some habits don’t become automatic, they become a lifestyle.

What I mean by that is that you won’t automatically “wake up” in the gym and wonder how you got there.

It will just become a part of your lifestyle.

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The difference is that you do the first one automatically, without conscious thought, while the other is a part of how you live your life.

It’s not automatic, but it’s a decision you don’t ponder on or think about — you simply do it.

It will become easy at a certain point, but they will never become fully automated.

8. What Got You Here Won’t Get You There

Marshall Goldsmith has a great book with the same title to it. The phrase means that sometimes, you will need to ditch certain habits to make room for other ones which will bring you to the next step.

Don’t be afraid to evolve your habits when you sense that they don’t bring you where you want to go.

When I started reading, it was about reading business and tactic books. But two years into it, I switched to philosophy books which don’t teach me anything “applicable,” but instead teach me how to think.

The most important ability of the 21st century is the ability to learn, unlearn, and relearn. The strongest tree is the willow tree – not because it has the strongest root or biggest trunk, but because it is flexible enough to endure and sustain anything.

Be like a willow, adapting to the new ways of doing things.

9. Set a Goal and Then Forget It

The most successful of us know what they want to achieve, but they don’t focus on it.

Sounds paradoxical? You’re right, it does. But here is the logic behind it.

You need to have a goal of doing something – “I want to become a healthy individual” – and then, you need to reverse engineer how to get there with your habits- “I will go to the gym four times a week.”

But once you have your goal, you need to “forget” about it and only focus on the process. Because you are working on the process of becoming healthy and it’s always in the making. You will only be as healthy as you take care of your body.

So you have a goal which isn’t static but keeps on moving.

If you went to the gym 150 times year and you hit your goal, what would you do then? You would stop going to the gym.

This is why goal-oriented people experience yo-yo effect[2] and why process-oriented people don’t.

The difference between process-oriented and goal-oriented people is that the first focus on daily actions while others only focus on the reward at the finish line.

Set a goal but then forget about it and reap massive awards.

10. Punish Yourself

Last two sections are pure Pavlovian – you need to punish bad behavior and reward good behavior. You are the only person who decides what is good and what is bad for you, but when you do, you need to rigorously follow that.

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I’ve told you in point #3 about bad days and how after one occurs, I do double the work on the next day. That is one of my forms of punishments.

It’s the need to tell your brain that certain behaviors are unacceptable and that they lead to bad outcomes. That’s what punishments are for.

You want to tell your brain that there are real consequences to missing your daily habits.[3]

No favorite food to eat or favorite show to watch or going to the cinema for a new Marvel movie- none, zero, zilch.

The brain will remember these bad feelings and will try to avoid the behaviors that led to them as much as possible.

But don’t forget the other side of the same coin.

11. Reward Yourself

When you follow and execute on your plan, reward yourself. It’s how the brain knows that you did something good.

Whenever I finish one of my habits for the day, I open my tracker (who am I kidding, I always keep it open on my desktop) and fill it with a number. As soon as I finish reading 20 pages of a book a day (or a bit more), I open the tracker and write the number down.

The cell becomes green and gives me an instant boost of endorphin – a great success for the day. Then, it becomes all about not breaking the chain and having as many green fields as possible.

After 100 days, I crunch some numbers and see how I did.

If I have less than 10 cheat days, I reward myself with a great meal in a restaurant. You can create your own rewards and they can be daily, weekly, monthly or any arbitrary time table that you create.

Primoz Bozic, a productivity coach, has gold, silver, and bronze medals as his reward system.[4]

If you’re having problems creating a system which works for you, contact me via email and we can discuss specifics.

In the End, It Matters

What you do matters not only to you but to the people around you.

When you increase the quality of your life, you indirectly increase the quality of life of people around you. And sometimes, that is all the “motivation” we need to start.

And that’s the best quote for the end of this article:

“Motivation gets you started, but habits keep you going.”

Keep going.

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More Resources to Help You Build Habits

Featured photo credit: Anete Lūsiņa via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Sorites paradox
[2] Muscle Zone: What causes yo-yo effect and how to avoid it?
[3] Growth Habits: 5 Missteps That Cause You To Quit Building A Habit
[4] Primoz Bozic: The Lean Review: How to Plan Your 2019 in 20 Minutes

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