I was catching the train to an early morning meeting in the city this week, joining everyone else in their corporate uniforms; variations of suits and laptop bags, heads bowed, phones firmly planted in faces.
The doors opened at a station and in she stepped, immaculately dressed and groomed. Like most passengers she was holding her phone in her hand, and as she moved into the carriage the device slipped from her grasp and clattered to the floor.
Her response was a loud “whoops-a-daisy!” – which drew smiles and giggles from those around her. Do you remember that scene from the movie Notting Hill, where Hugh Grant lets out a similar exclamation and is paid out for it by Julia Roberts? As Julia’s character points out, "No one has said 'whoops-a-daisy' for fifty years and even then it was only little girls with blonde ringlets."
Who knows how many years ago those words were implanted as a go-to phrase in our well-heeled train traveller’s mind. Was it something her mother said to her, or maybe a grandparent or teacher, or was it a saying she picked up from other kids as they repeated what they’d heard from those who influenced them?
Whatever the source, that particular string of words became lodged in her bank of reflex actions, so that all those years later it was the first thing to come out of her mouth well before she thought about it.
It’s no secret that we all have the experiences of our formative years imprinted within us. Those situations might find instant re-enactment through innocent phrases as in the phone-dropping scenario, or their long-lasting effects might be revealed in more negative ways; behaviour that doesn’t serve us, mannerisms that undermine our confidence and credibility now that we’re operating in the business world. Perhaps it’s an underlying belief that if we’re to succeed, we need to make everyone like us. Or, it could be a nagging idea that everybody is out to take advantage of us or we aren’t good enough to put ourselves forward for new opportunities or business ideas.
We’re operating in an environment driven by reputation and credibility. While our reputation is what others think of us, it starts with self-belief. If we don’t believe we can do it, how can we expect anyone else to back us and our abilities?
Negative stuff will stick if we let it. I had an art teacher at school who laughed at my enthusiastic - and apparently very ordinary - attempts at painting. The result; I stopped trying to draw or paint in any form. Even much later, when I recognised it as a belief imposed by someone else that I innocently accepted at the time, it still had a strong hold on me.
What mental habits have you picked up along your journey? No doubt many of them are harmless, but some might be hindering you from nailing what you really want to achieve.
Sometimes we’re not even aware we have blithely accepted someone else’s negativity as truth. If you were to record all the conversations you have with yourself during the day (now there’s a scary thought!) what would the main themes be? Do you think you’d be encouraging Team You, or simply mimicking the common (usually negative) phrases you heard in the past that are now part of your continuous feedback loop?
Undoing a lifetime of habits might sound like a tall order, but we can take the relatively simple step of just being aware of what generally comes up in our thoughts and words every day. Being aware enables you to take small actions that can mean a big difference to your confidence. That confidence will translate into your behaviour, transforming your relationships and expanding your credibility bank.
Don’t let your version of ‘whoops-a-daisy’ trip you up in your business endeavours. Embrace the positive elements you’ve picked up so far in your life, and weed out the ones that detract from the awesomeness of you. Make 2017 your Year of Credibility.