I was almost two hours and 55 km into a 152-km GranFondo cycling event in Penticton, B.C., a few weeks ago when I felt like quitting. I had been riding hard and it was starting to get hot.
As I struggled to climb a hill, it seemed like 50 riders passed me, and I asked myself what I was doing. I hadn’t prepared for the ride and had only registered the day before.
Suddenly the James Brown song I Feel Good popped into my head and I started singing it to myself as I rode for a few kilometres.
Self-image is key to performance because a low self-image can undermine how we act in certain situations. If we see ourselves as losers, deadbeats or failures, we will typically act in a manner to ensure the results we get manifest that self-image.
When I’m working with top performers in sales or leadership, I’m always amazed at their level of self-confidence. They believe they’re the best in their company and work to ensure they stay on top. Often, they have self-image statements like: “I’m a great sales professional and I can sell anything to anybody,” “I get results because I work hard and build relationships,” or “I’m able to get my team excited about our vision and support them in achieving their goals.” These are all positive self-image statements.
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Self-image affects each of us every day in many facets of our lives. We might see ourselves as one way at work and another way with our family. We might be really confident in sport but see ourselves differently in relationships. I might think I’m a wonderful father but a terrible spouse. A great cook but a terrible athlete. A good dog trainer but a poor salesperson.
While self-image is complex, and I don’t have the psychology degree to explain all the dimensions of how we might acquire our self-image, how we see ourselves affects our results and our performance. While we can’t change how others see us, we can change our thought processes about how we see ourselves.
In order to change our thinking and our self-image, we need to recognize what our current self-image is in certain situations. If I’m a leader, what am I telling myself about my leadership? I may be repeating to myself something like: “I don’t know how to lead and my employees don’t like me,” or “I’m a great leader who can bring out the best in the people around me.”
I was feeling sorry for myself as I endured the pain of the bike ride. I intrinsically knew I could give up or change my mindset. Having a self-image statement that I could repeat over and over, such as the lyrics in a song – “I feel good, I feel great” – enabled me to reframe my ride and break the self-doubt thoughts that were ruminating in my mind. I was able to shift my thinking from the fact that I wasn’t feeling good and should quit to “I’m feeling good. I’m enjoying myself.”
I was going to finish the ride and it didn’t matter how many people passed me because my goal was to finish, not finish first.
Your self-image has everything to do with your performance. What are you telling yourself about your role at work, at home, in sports or in relationships? What’s your mind telling you?
Perhaps it’s time to turn off the negative self-talk and watch your performance improve. By developing a positive self-image statement and repeating it to yourself regularly, you can change your mindset and get better outcomes.
Dave Fuller, MBA, is an award-winning business coach and a partner with Pivotleader Inc.
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