“Do not beat yourself up.” I am sure you have heard this before. It is a well-intentioned remark meant to soothe the sting of failure. There is some truth to being gentle with yourself. If you planned ahead and worked hard, then there is no need to flog yourself if unforeseen circumstances upend your plan. But I do believe there are many times when you absolutely should beat yourself up.
If you are a high achiever, you know what I am talking about — beating yourself up can be a good push from within. And it is something you likely live with every day.
That push from within is what will keep you going, even when you are faced with a tough challenge or a problem that seems too thorny to solve. And if you have aspirations to reach some meaningful goal (whatever that is to you), then you will need to work hard. There is a logical flow here: Intrinsic motivation leads to hard work which leads to achievement.
When you are intrinsically motivated, you embrace hard work for its own sake. You set high expectations for yourself and enjoy the sense of accomplishment you feel when you reach your goals. You even beat yourself up a bit to remind yourself that you need to be your own toughest critic. Why? Because no one can motivate you but you. Your inner drive will determine what you accomplish.
Otherwise, you could easily grow complacent — doing average work with just-okay results.
Just-okay results might sound unsettlingly familiar. Maybe you are bored in your role or you work at a big company with lots of drama and teammates who have grown indifferent. But you do not need to let mediocrity and indifference become your normal — fight back.
In other words, you need to beat yourself up. Not in a way that leaves you feeling battered and bruised, but in a way that powers you to become a better version of yourself. This is how real growth occurs.
So, how do you “beat yourself up” in practice? Here are the steps:
Strive for self-awareness
You have to keep learning if you want to improve. And you can only improve upon what you know. So, reflect on feedback you have received from bosses and teammates. And if you have not received any real feedback — ask for it. Make a list of areas you need to improve upon and come up with a plan to address those areas right now.
You will not do anything great by staying comfortable. So stretch yourself with audacious goals and audacious deadlines to go with them. As you look ahead, ask yourself, “Why wait?” Do what you can right now — even when you struggle with challenging work or if doing so requires sacrificing your time.
Avoid first answers
As you work through these challenges, never be satisfied with the first answers that come to mind. The first one may be right but initial thoughts can often be the most obvious or superficial. Always ask yourself, “How could this be better? What am I missing?” Keep pushing until you uncover the best answer — not the one that feels most convenient.
Yes, intrinsic motivation is key. But you will find your work elevated when you surround yourself with high-performers. Seek out those who want to do great work and can encourage you to do the same. Maybe this is a member of your own team or maybe it is someone who works cross-functionally. The point is that you do not need to strive for greatness alone — you can create a team of greatness.
Celebrate perfect moments
Pushing yourself should not be a painful experience — it should actually be enjoyable. Embrace each step of your journey as you stretch beyond your current capabilities. One way to do this is to revel in the perfect moments you achieve along the way. This will build momentum as you continue to make progress towards your goals.
No one is going to do the hard work for you — it is up to you to dig deep to uncover what you are capable of.
This means being hard on yourself — really hard. So the next time someone tells you not to beat yourself? Shrug it off. And dig even deeper, recommit even further to where you want to go.
How do you motivate yourself to achieve more?
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