Use The Power of Optimism to Let Go of Criticism and Boost Your Personal Growth
One of the biggest traps we fall into as people is the criticism of others.
When someone makes a mistake, or even simply performs a task differently than how we would have done it, our first instinct often is to criticize …
Especially in a position of leadership.
When the line between constructive feedback and outright criticism becomes blurred, it can negatively impact the performance of your team.
A key to being a successful transformational leader is using the power of optimism to avoid the trap of fixating on the flaws and errors of others. Instead, focus on personal growth and development.
This article is the ninth in a series exploring The Optimist Creed, written by Christian D. Larson, a renowned American New Thought leader, teacher and author.
Promise #9 of the creed is “to give so much time to the improvement of yourself that you have no time to criticize others.”
Use the Power of Optimism to Create New Opportunities of Transformation
Why is it so easy for us to fall into the habit of criticism?
We often use criticism as a means to avoid addressing our own shortcomings. The things we criticize in others usually are aspects that we dislike about ourselves.
Here’s an example…
There’s a man who’s been married for a few years, but after a while he becomes unhappy. He’s frustrated and upset. One day, he decides he’s had enough and wants to divorce his wife.
So he goes to his attorney in a vengeful rage and tells him, “I’ve had it. I’m fed up. My wife can’t do anything right; she’s not the woman for me. I want a divorce and I want to make it painful.”
The attorney creates a plan for the man to follow to make the divorce as painful as possible. He tells him to go home and treat his wife like a queen, day and night, for a month. Buy flowers, make breakfast in bed, go on romantic getaways — the works. Then after the month is up, drop the bomb about the divorce.
After hearing the plan, the man is thrilled, and he goes home to follow it through. At the end of the month, the attorney expects to see the man again to execute the divorce.
Time passes, and the man never returns to the attorney’s office.
But two years later, the attorney is walking down the street when he happens to see a couple holding hands and looking madly in love. Suddenly, he realizes the man on the street is the same one who had come to his office wanting a divorce two years ago.
At that moment, the wife dips inside a store, leaving her husband standing on the sidewalk. So the attorney runs across the street and up to the man, asking,
“What happened two years ago?
You were supposed to come back in a month and execute on this divorce.”
The man replies, “Well, you know, I was going to do that. But you see, she changed.”
Although his actions weren’t initially coming from a genuine place, when the man shifted his focus to becoming a better, more loving husband, his wife responded with a similar positive shift.
So where does this come into play in leadership?
Embracing the Power of Optimism to Lead by Example
As the leader in your business, your management team and employees take their cues from you. This hich is where Promise #9 comes in.
When a leader is singularly focused on micromanaging and critiquing their employees, they wind up not only negatively impacting team performance, but also inhibiting their own growth.
By contrast, when you shift the focus to your own development and improvement, it creates a ripple effect throughout the company.
Instead of constantly waiting for the hammer to drop, your team will be inspired and motivated by the example you’ve set. Your strength and capability as a transformational leader will skyrocket.
Putting the Power of Optimism into Action
Like any habit, breaking out of the cycle of criticism requires cultivating mindfulness and intentional action.
To get this process started, I have a challenge for you.
Your goal is to go one full week without engaging in criticism of any kind (self-criticism included) using this 3-step process.
- Start by writing down Promise #9 somewhere you’ll be able to see it every day.
“I promise to give so much time to the improvement of myself that I have no time to criticize others.”
You could take a snapshot and keep it as your phone background, or write it on a note and stick it on your fridge or laptop as a daily reminder.
- Determine the scenarios where you’re most likely to criticize.
- It may be in the office when talking to employees, at home after a long day, or perhaps even while driving.
Intentionally addressing instances where you’re more likely to criticize, will make it easier to recognize – and correct – critical patterns when they occur.
- Finally, identify 3 areas where you would like to grow — as a leader or even just as a person — and devote time each day to working on those aspects over the week.
Use the Power of Optimism to Create the Life You Want
The only thing we can ever really change in life is ourselves.
If we spend our time criticizing others, we are robbing ourselves of the opportunity to create real transformation in our own lives.
When we’re willing to reject unconstructive habits and live in a greater level of optimism as transformational leaders, that power allows us to transform not only our lives, but the lives of all those we impact.
Let’s kick this Leadership Promise off — what are the areas where you would like to see the most growth as a leader?