New Year, New You? Embracing the Inner Gorilla

As we welcome in another new year, we are overwhelmed with articles encouraging us to become a brand new turbo-improved version of our former selves.  We feel the yearning to shed our skin of the festive season’s over-indulgence, dismiss the mistakes and errors of the previous year, and therefore these calls to leave our ‘old selves’ behind can be very appealing.

Argumentative? Time poor? Control freak? No willpower? Weakness for a good Shiraz? Coffee addiction? Bad hair?  No problem, leave them all behind in 2015 and welcome a NEW YOU in 2016!

But the reality is – You can’t just skip over yourself.  We don’t just wake up one morning and become a different person.  Nor should we.  Carl Rogers famously and very accurately said…The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.

So before you start setting your New Year goals (and not those resolutions that you set on the 31st December after a few champers) – take a good look in the mirror.  To be the best employee, boss, leader, innovator, entrepreneur, daughter, son, mother, father, sister, brother, friend or neighbour, you must first truly see and accept yourself just as you are.  Sometimes you see a gorilla staring back at you – embrace that inner gorilla!  I know – it’s not as much fun as becoming a brand spanking new you in the blink of an eye.  But self-acceptance has to be the first step in any change.

When I look in the mirror, I see a number of my behaviours that drive the people I work and live with a little crazy at times.  I’m really bad at delegating, I can have ridiculously high standards that I don’t articulate very well, I struggle to sit still and I have a propensity for rumination.  I’m also highly empathetic with others and the challenges they face, I deliver quality work time and again, I can be very efficient and productive, and I’m very keen to learn. Seeing and accepting all of these things about myself, I’m in a better position to set goals for myself that are real, meaningful and achievable.

Three important qualities are critical for this exercise – honesty, warmth and a sense of humour.  Being honest with ourselves without warmth can be downright cruel, and ultimately unproductive.  Being warm with ourselves without honesty is a delusion.  A sense of humour is also invaluable, as we tend to take this stuff way too seriously.  We all nail it sometimes, and we all fall flat on our faces at other times.

The questions then become – How honest are you willing to be with yourself?  What are your usual habits and patterns of behaviour?  What are the hidden strengths behind these and how can you harness them more effectively if you truly accept this about yourself?  Where are your areas of weakness?  How can you manage these?  Who is better at managing these areas at work or home, and how can you maximise others strengths in these areas?

A Word of Warning: Watch out for black and white thinking as you ponder these questions.  We aren’t all bad or all good.  It’s highly unlikely that you are a ‘bad manager’ or a ‘bad husband or wife’.  But there may be some areas of each of these roles that aren’t natural to you.  There will also be some areas that are strengths.  Be specific so you can take action.  Black and white thinking almost always results in inaction or unsustained action towards our goals.

Wishing you a year of self-acceptance and slow steady growth in whichever areas you choose to focus on, for your sake and for the sake of others who you live and work with.

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