(By Mark Lukens)
“It’s not just okay to be selective about who you work with, who you put trust in, and try to earn trust from; it’s essential if you want to be happy and productive. Yet many of us default to working and spending time with the people we’re thrown together with from the start. Instead, make the people in your life the ones you want in your life story. You are under no obligation to spend any more time than you must with the rest“.
Your life is your story. It’s your opportunity to be the hero of your tale and to do what you want with the time you have. But it’s easy to slip into the roles assigned by others, into living the life that’s expected of you rather than the one that you want, in your career as much as any other area.
To succeed in life and in business one of the most valuable things that you can learn is how to make it your story. Here are a few tips:
THE POWER OF ASSERTION
Asserting yourself and your views is central to making your story your own. Being assertive doesn’t mean being needlessly aggressive or trampling over the views and interests of others. But it does mean stepping beyond passivity, a way of behaving in which you allow the interests of others to over-ride your own at every turn. It means finding a middle path between the two, in which you calmly and confidently express your views.
Remember, this is your life. You have a right to be heard, to shape the dialogue around you and the actions coming from it, even if more senior people are expressing different views. Assert yourself clearly and politely and they will listen–you may even change their views.
CHOOSING WHO TO BE AROUND
Your life is all about you, but in a sense it’s also about the people around you. They will shape your moods, your views, your ability to get things done, and of course how much you enjoy life.
It’s not just okay to be selective about who you work with, who you put trust in, and try to earn trust from; it’s essential if you want to be happy and productive. Yet many of us default to working and spending time with the people we’re thrown together with from the start. Instead, make the people in your life the ones you want in your life story. You are under no obligation to spend any more time than you must with the rest.
Perhaps there’s someone who really inspires you. That’s great. Pay attention to what they do, what they achieve, and the pace at which they work. Trust them to set your pace and to provide your inspiration. Seeing them do it will help you to work towards what you want, rather than working to the goals that were left lying around for you to stumble across.
DON’T LET OTHERS DEFINE YOU
Even well-intentioned outside views can end up limiting you if you internalize to them. There are always people writing and talking about what this group represents or how that one behaves. At the moment it’s all about the millennials. Maybe next year it will be the elderly employed or mothers or entrepreneurs.
The problem with these views, as with so much of the individual feedback we receive, is that though well intentioned they can be restrictive. We recognize something familiar in them and say ‘yes, that’s me,’ then fall into the pattern of fitting that feedback, and so adapting your story to fit someone else’s understanding.
Instead listen to what others say about you and try to separate the wheat from the chaff. Work out what rings true and why, take on those part and leave the rest behind.
You only get one life, so make the most of it. Be true to yourself, follow a path that you find inspiring, and express yourself in a way that you find satisfying. Because nobody else can do that for you, and whatever else society might have taught you, only you can tell your story.
Mark Lukens is a founding partner of Method3, a global management consulting firm. He has 20-plus years of C-Level experience across multiple sectors including health care, education, government, and talent/human resources.
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