The key to successful personal improvement is to make sure you manage your environment.
You see, in many books and on many blogs on self development including this one, there is a strong focus on you and your development, as only you can decide if and how you want to change.
However, there is more to it. We often neglect to consider the context in detail. Your surroundings and your community have to be the right fit. If not, you will struggle more to succeed.
What if I share with you how to overcome this big external barrier to personal improvement, so that it does not stand between you and your goals?
Do not let your environment manage you, manage your environment
Do you have friends who are frustrated at work, because they feel as if they are victims of some sort of a system from which they cannot escape? Do they believe they have no influence?
In my belief, there is only one way to answer this: Change your view and see what you can change for yourself, in your own life and for others. And 99,99% of the time we have the choice to do something.
Here is my favourite quote on this topic which summarises it all:
“To hell with circumstances, I create opportunities.” Bruce Lee
It is all about taking action, while having a clear vision and not ignoring the facts.
I have experienced quite a few circumstances in my life, where I thought I could not change a big deal and just had to live with the consequences. Some times I was right, some times I was not. Since then, I have gained more experience and read a lot. The Forum Corporation shared in a webinar some tactics on assessing situations (source), which build the basis for three key questions to deal with difficult situations in the office, or at home.
3 Questions to overcome the external barrier of personal improvement
Imagine you just finished a two-day workshop on improving communication skills. Your main reason for attending was that you have a difficult boss to deal with every day (this is not the official reason you presented to your boss, of course) and you would like to improve your relationship with him. One of your next actions you set for yourself is to ask your boss whether he wants to come along to your presentation to the Top Management, for which he was not officially invited.
We will use this scenario to illustrate the 3 questions you have to ask yourself to manage your environment.
Question #1: Can you ignore the situation?
Think about the scope of impact on you personally.
Is it effecting your daily work that your boss is treating you differently? Has he been difficult for a while or only since you mentioned that you have been invited to hold this presentation without him knowing? Answer these questions to yourself in order to estimate the need to deal with the situation or not.
Question #2: Is it something you can influence or not?
Relationships matter, notably if you are in it. If your superior shows his temper when you are around, this is likely to effect your mood and motivation, even your productivity. Can you change his temper? Not very likely, but you can take action and tell him about the impact his temper has on you.
In this scenario, this question is relatively easy to answer. Here is it a question of personal relationship, something which at least can be addressed. If you are struggling with a whole project team working within old company structures and principles which do not foster new ways of thinking, it might be a different story. Important to realise is that you always have a choice, no matter what context. Even if you decide right now that you do not decide, that is also a decision. I learned that a long time ago during my first coaching sessions.
Question #3: How can you control the situation and improve things?
If you decide to take control of the situation, there are three common ways to go about it:
- Address the issue: Ask the boss not only if he is okay with you giving the presentation, but also tell him what you perceive when he is not even greeting you in the morning when he walks in the office. Usually the reactions are more positive than we think.
- Ignore the issue: To decide to ignore the situation means to decide to live with it. If you give the presentation without letting our superior know when and where you will be presenting, this is likely to effect your relationship. Maybe just short term or even in the long run.
- Compromise (with others and/or yourself): Is there an alternative solution that you would also accept? Why not ask whether your boss can also come along? Sometimes misunderstandings occur, maybe it was not even done deliberately and you both got angry at each other for nothing.
The Bottom Line
With the help of these three questions, I have managed certain situations much better than before, for my own good. And I hope you will too.
The example of the employee-manager relationship is what it is, an example. Good news: These questions work in all kind of different circumstances to overcome external barriers and succeed with your personal development goals. So, the awareness of the context and situations we find ourselves in, plays a vital role to succeed, along with the right mindset.
Do you agree? How do you deal with external barriers that come your way? Leave a comment.
Image credits: Frankie Chu