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Do you know your best?


Remember my sticky on my bathroom mirror that says, “remember who the fuck you are”? That sticky note helps me to remember the qualities that I most value in myself: connection, compassion, grit, tenacity, perseverance, determination, humility, humor, commitment, etc.

Laura Morgan Roberts, a widely recognized organizational behavioral expert, calls these our “enablers”. The attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors that help us summon forth our best cognitive selves. (Roberts, L. M., 2010)

Understanding what our “enabler” qualities are allow us to feel more confident.

It’s easier to show-up fully engaged when we feel solid in the things that are great about us. When we know what these traits are, we are more grounded and centered in ourselves and our sense of worth and inherent value. This then allows us to be more open with and receptive to others.

Feeling clear on who we are permits the best of who we are to shine through in important situations. It also protects us in challenging and adverse situations.

Stanford University psychologist and professor Claude Steele defined this process as self-affirmation theory. We can “defeat threat before it even exists: we affirm our most deeply held values – the best parts of ourselves – before entering into a threatening situation”.

When we are facing a stressful situation, be it a challenging conversation or a hard performance review, we tend to focus solely on the threat, committing all our cognitive resources to defending ourselves. We can overcome this tendency by reaffirming to ourselves our best traits prior to entering a potentially adverse or hostile experience.

David Creswell and David Sherman did research on this by studying cortisol (stress) and adrenaline (activation) levels in participants before and after a stressful situation. The participants who had written about their personal values prior to the situation had no increase in cortisol levels compared to the control group.

These core values and traits that we self-affirm don’t even have to be related to the stressful task at hand. Simply affirming what is best about ourselves allows us to feel safe within ourselves. (Creswell, J. D., Dutcher, J. M., 2013)

When we feel safe within ourselves, we perform better, think more clearly, and are better problem solvers. We’re even more receptive to critical feedback.

Not sure what your “enablers” are or how to identify them? Here are some questions that Roberts and her team have put together to help people identify the best parts of ourselves – and these don’t have to be limited to the workplace:

  • What three words best describe you as an individual?

  • What is unique about you that leads to your happiest times and best performance?

  • Reflect on a specific time – at work or at home – when you were acting in a way that felt “natural” and “right”. Where you felt like you were aligned with your best. Take note of what qualities and strengths were apparent to you in that situation.

Cheers to better living -

Shannon

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