One of the greatest challenges in changing ourselves is the difficulty of altering the way we define ourselves, says executive coach Marshall Goldsmith. In working with people to help them change, they will often balk and with exasperation declare: “That’s just the way I am.” On the Marshall Goldsmith Library website, he notes that as long as we keep saying that to ourselves, we increase the probabilities “that’s just the way I am always going to be.”
So, for example, when somebody tells him, “I can’t listen. I have never been able to listen. That’s just the way I am,” he will respond: “Do you have any incurable genetic defects that are prohibiting you from being a good listener?”
Mr. Goldsmith invites you to try a quick exercise that might help you determine how your own self-definitions might be inhibiting you from positive change. Make two lists of adjectives that you would use to define yourself, both positively and negatively. “How have the positive words helped you to become successful? How have the negative words held you back? Ask yourself, ‘Is there any genetic or environmental reason that I have to demonstrate the behaviours on the negative side of the page?’ If the answer is ‘no,’ you can get better,” he declares.