How to stop second guessing yourself and overcome imposter syndrome at work

woman writing thinking
Overthinking can hold you back and make it difficult to move forward.

  • Executive coach Melody Wilding helps people navigate their careers and find work-life balance.
  • She says overthinking and second guessing can prevent us from being confident in decisions at work.
  • To move forward, interrupt the thought, root yourself in the present, and redirect your thinking.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

How do I stop second-guessing myself?

This was a question one of my clients, Sarah, came to coaching with.

Sarah was an accomplished manager and executive. During her career, she had earned two PhDs and over the course of twenty years, worked her way from the legal department to director of business development at a luxury retail company.

One year earlier, the CEO had tasked Sarah with starting a sub-division within the business development department to focus specifically on innovation. This meant her team was responsible for creating and implementing cutting-edge strategies to modernize the company’s marketing and distribution channels.

As a Sensitive Striver, Sarah was thoughtful, empathetic, and skilled at spotting opportunities others missed – a combination of skill which made her a perfect fit to lead the team.

But Sarah had started her career as a lawyer and operated under the false belief she had no idea what she was doing. The thought of building the innovation team filled her with imposter syndrome. She doubted whether she had what it took to get the job done and make their work a success.

Soon, her insecurity started to hold her back in other ways, namely in terms of her ability to make decisions. Sarah often found herself overthinking choices – both big and small – which stressed her out and slowed the team’s progress. She had trouble trusting her own judgment, and instead sought excessive amounts of outside approval before making a call.

Most of all, Sarah was constantly second-guessing herself.

After she would eventually make a decision, she would find herself preoccupied by all the what if’s (What if we had chosen direction B? What if X wouldn’t have happened? etc). She would toss and turn at night (and feel distracted at his desk during the day) by thoughts of whether he could have made a better choice.

In other words, Sarah couldn’t stop ruminating.

What is rumination?

Ruminating is a type of overthinking that involves obsessing over the same thoughts. Typically these are “dead-end” thoughts that aren’t productive, positive, or useful. It’s as if your mind is a record, stuck on the same track that keeps playing over and over – hence the second-guessing.

When you’re ruminating, you’re dwelling and living in the past. You analyze and replay situations over and over. You may rehash conversations, dissect people’s body language, and stress about what you did or didn’t say.

When it comes to decision-making, ruminating can look like:

  • Beating yourself up for making a decision too slowly.
  • Wondering if there were better options.
  • Replaying missteps or mistakes you made.
  • Worrying about other people’s reactions and judgments.

Thinking about a decision can be helpful – especially if it leads to a resolution or provokes new solutions and insight. But rumination doesn’t do that. It simply causes distress and drains you of mental and emotional energy you need to do your job effectively.

Why rumination affects Sensitive Strivers

Rumination to some extent is normal because we tend to believe that by ruminating, we’ll gain insight into a problem.

The problem arises, however, when it becomes an ingrained mental habit that begins to hold you (and possibly those around you) back from your full potential – as it was for Sarah in the story above.

Ruminating is also common in people who possess certain personality characteristics, like Sensitive Strivers.

As driven, deep thinkers, Sensitive Strivers pride themselves on being conscientious and thorough. When well balanced, their thoughtfulness can be a strength – contributing to above-average self-awareness and giving them superpowers like intuition and creativity.

However, when unbalanced, their Thoughtfulness can become a hindrance, which is exactly what was happening for Sarah.

Sensitive Strivers also tend to be perfectionists. So while they deliver high work quality, they are often extremely hard on themselves and their own worst critic, which leads to rumination.

If this sounds like you, then fear not, because it is entirely possible to rebalance your Thoughtfulness. With new tools to channel your sensitivity and ambition, you can stop second-guessing yourself and learn to regain your confidence and trust your judgment.

How to stop second-guessing yourself

Here’s a three-step process to end rumination that I coached Sarah through, which will also serve you.

1. Interrupt

At its core, rumination operates on negative self-talk. These unhelpful thoughts can sound like:

  • I’m such an idiot. Why didn’t I think of that sooner? A smart person would have.
  • This is all going to turn out to be a disaster.
  • I bet everyone is thinking I’m a failure.

Everyone’s inner critic is different, so your brand of negative self-talk sounds different. Regardless, your first step remains the same, and that is to interrupt the unhelpful thoughts.

This works because rumination is like an automatic, knee jerk reaction. It may be so automatic that you’re not even aware it happens. But interrupting the thoughts helps you build internal strength and command to be more in control of your experience.

You can interrupt your negative self-talk in a few ways, such as by silently saying STOP or “This isn’t helpful” or snapping a rubber band on your wrist. I also like to have my clients name their inner critic, so they can find emotional distance from their cruel inner voice when it arises.

2. Accept

Rumination and second-guessing yourself are characterized by wishing you or a situation were different or beating yourself up for all the woulda-coulda-shoulda’s that exist in decision-making. In both cases, you are wasting valuable time and energy fighting against reality.

A much more productive approach is radical acceptance. Radical acceptance is not the same as resignation or passivity. Rather it is about:

  • Taking ownership and responsibility for yourself within a situation.
  • Adjusting your perspective to willingly and realistically take in the facts, realizing you can’t change them even if you’d like to.
  • Assertively moving forward without staying stuck in thoughts like “why me,” “this is unfair,” or “it wasn’t meant to be this way.”

Embrace radical acceptance by rooting into the present instead of fighting it. Sarah did this by reminding herself “this is where I am now” or “I don’t like the situation we’re in, but I can’t change how it unfolded” after making decisions.

3. Redirect

After you’ve interrupted rumination and accepted reality, you can approach the final step in the process: redirecting your thinking.

By redirecting your thinking, I mean channeling your depth of thought and intelligence more constructively. Specially, you can do this through self-coaching – asking yourself open-ended, growth-oriented questions that open up new possibilities.

Self-coaching questions to stop second-guessing yourself include:

  • How can I make the most of the circumstances in front of me?
  • How might someone who is confident respond?
  • How would I advise my closest colleague to approach this?
  • What thought helps me feel energized and powerful?
  • What would I believe if I knew everything was going to work out?
  • What’s the very best next step I need to take?

Keep in mind that you can’t attempt this process once and expect rumination to magically dissolve. Changing any habit, especially a mental habit that’s as ingrained as second-guessing yourself, requires repetition and dedication.

But if you follow the steps above, soon you’ll experience greater success without so much stress.

Read the original article on Business Insider

How burnout left Arianna Huffington with a broken cheekbone, forcing her to change her unhealthy work habits

Arianna Huffington Headshot
Huffington realized her phone addition had contributed to her burnout, and this was one of the first unhealthy habits she changed.

  • Arianna Huffington is the founder and CEO of Thrive Global. Marina Khidekel is the company’s head of content development.
  • The following is an excerpt from Arianna’s foreword in their new book, Your Time to Thrive (March 23).
  • In it, they discuss how changing damaging habits in small steps daily can promote wellness.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

We are, as the saying goes, creatures of habit. According to a study from Duke University, around 45% of our everyday actions are made up of habits. Our habits, then, are a fundamental reflection of who we are. “Habit is but a long practice,” Aristotle wrote, which “becomes men’s nature in the end.”

So our lifestyle is, in essence, the sum total of our habits. Change your habits and you change your life. But as most of us have learned, unlearning bad habits and learning new ones are not so easy. Even the most generous estimates show that half of us fail to keep our New Year’s resolutions.

That’s because most of us start off too big. We decide to launch into a whole new lifestyle all at once. Or we think we’re just going to get there by the sheer exercise of willpower. But that ignores the science of how willpower works.

In their book “Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength,” Roy F. Baumeister, a leading expert in the subject, and coauthor John Tierney show that willpower isn’t a fixed, genetic trait – it’s a muscle, and one that can be strengthened.

And the best way to use our willpower to adopt healthier habits is by starting small. It’s a common element of every successful behavior change program. “Make it easy” is how James Clear, author of “Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones,” puts it: “The central idea is to create an environment where doing the right thing is as easy as possible. Much of the battle of building better habits comes down to finding ways to reduce the friction associated with our good habits.”

YourTimeToThrive

For BJ Fogg, director of the Behavior Design Lab at Stanford, it’s about making the minimum viable effort – going as small as you can. “To create a new habit, you must first simplify the behavior,” he said. “Make it tiny, even ridiculous. A good tiny behavior is easy to do – and fast.”

The benefit of even one small win goes beyond just the new healthy behavior you’ve created – it actually builds that willpower muscle to create even more wins and good habits.

“The more you succeed, the more capable you get at succeeding in the future,” Fogg said. “So you don’t start with the hardest behaviors first, you start with the ones you want to do and you can do and you persist.”

In one of my favorite passages of Fogg’s book “Tiny Habits: The Small Changes That Change Everything,” he shows how our tiny habits can spark a positive impact beyond just ourselves:

Habits may be the smallest units of transformation, but they’re also the most fundamental. They are the first concentric circles of change that will spiral out. Think about it. One person starts one habit that builds to two habits that builds to three habits that changes an identity that inspires a loved one who influences their peer group and changes their mindset, which spreads like wildfire and disrupts a culture of helplessness, empowering everyone and slowly changing the world. By starting small with yourself and your family, you set off a chain reaction that creates an explosion of change.

In my conversations with Fogg and Clear, I have been inspired by how they have pushed our understanding forward and helped establish the scientific foundation for the power of taking small steps. “Your Time to Thrive” builds on this foundation of behavior change, sharing a practical system for exactly how to implement Microsteps into each facet of our life. When it comes to leading a healthier, more fulfilling life, most of us know what we should do. And yet, all too often, we fail to act on this knowledge. We need a little help moving from knowing what to do to actually doing it. That’s what our system is here for.

More action, more meaning

When we take Microsteps, we are not only moving forward, we’re going inward. By creating rituals in our day, we allow ourselves to get into the metaphorical eye of the hurricane – that centered place of strength, wisdom, and peace that we all have inside ourselves. We all veer away from that place again and again – that’s the nature of life. And it’s a place that we are too distracted to access when we are living life breathlessly and always “on.” But from that place we can tap into the inner reserves of resilience and wisdom that make behavior change possible.

You can see it in this Microstep, which happens to be one of my favorites:

Pick a time at night when you turn off your devices – and gently escort them out of your bedroom. Our phones are repositories of everything we need to put away to allow us to sleep – our to-do lists, our inboxes, multiple projects, and problems. Disconnecting from the digital world will help you sleep better, deeply recharge, and reconnect to your wisdom and creativity.

It’s one of my favorites because, for me, it is impossible to separate this Microstep from a very specific moment in my life – a moment when behavior change wasn’t just something I aspired to, but something I desperately needed.

On April 6, 2007, I woke up in a pool of my own blood. I was two years into building the Huffington Post. A divorced mother of two teenage daughters, I had just returned from a week of taking my eldest daughter on a tour of prospective colleges. And since she had insisted that I not use my Blackberry during the day (the Blackberry, if you’re not familiar, was a communication device used in ancient times), I would stay up each night working.

And so, the morning after we returned home, I woke up burned out and exhausted – and then I collapsed. The result was a broken cheekbone, several stitches over my eye, and the beginning of a long journey.

In the days that followed, I found myself in a lot of doctors’ waiting rooms, which, it turns out, are great places to think about life. And that’s what I did. I asked myself a lot of questions, like “Is this what success really looks like? Is this the life I want to lead?”

The answer was no. And the diagnosis I got from all the doctors was that I had a severe case of burnout. So I decided to make a lot of changes to my life. I started meditating again, which I had learned to do as a child. I changed the way I worked so I could be more productive, more focused, more energetic, and less tired and stressed. I started sleeping more. I knew my sleep deprivation was directly connected to my addiction to my phone – it was an addiction – and to my flawed definition of success.

I got deep into the growing body of science on the connection between wellbeing and performance, and how we can actually be more productive when we prioritize our wellbeing and take time to unplug and recharge. And – eureka! – a Microstep was born.

My 70h birthday, in July 2020, was a powerful reminder to me that we don’t need to wait to begin living our best life. At the time I was sheltering in place with my daughters and sister at our family home in LA, and while cleaning out the garage I came across dozens of old journals and notebooks filled with pages and pages of my thoughts and goals and worries and dreams from my twenties on!

And as I read back through half a century of notes, I was struck by four things. First, by how early I knew what really mattered in life. Second, how badly I was at acting on that knowledge. Third, how draining and depleting all my worries and fears were. And fourth, how little those worries and fears turned out to matter.

As I paged through my old notebooks, I wanted to shout advice at myself across the years – telling the younger me not to worry or doubt so much, or to just go ahead and take that risk. And that is one of my biggest hopes for this book: that instead of looking at those fearless and wise elders among us and thinking, “I want to be that way when I’m old,” we can use Microsteps to tap into what is wisest, boldest, and most authentic within us and live each day from that place right now, however young or old we may be.

Excerpted from Your Time To Thrive: End Burnout, Increase Wellbeing, and Unlock Your Full Potential with the New Science of Microsteps by Marina Khidekel and the Editors of Thrive Global. Copyright © 2021. Available from Hachette Go, an imprint of Hachette Book Group, Inc.

Arianna Huffington is the founder and CEO of Thrive Global, the founder of The Huffington Post, and the author of 15 books. In 2016, she launched Thrive Global, a leading behavior change tech company with the mission of changing the way we work and live by ending the collective delusion that burnout is the price we must pay for success.

Marina Khidekel is Thrive Global’s head of content development, bringing Thrive’s corporate and consumer audiences compelling multimedia storytelling and actionable, science-backed advice to help lower stress and improve wellbeing.

Read the original article on Business Insider

7 key strategies for scaling from a solo entrepreneur to a successful business leader

colleagues in work meeting
Teams thrive when they have a higher purpose and long-term goal.

  • Entrepreneurs should adjust the mindset of doing everything solo to building a team to grow their business.
  • A culture of learning from failure is key to becoming a successful business leader when scaling a startup.
  • Fine-tuning the business’ purpose is important for entrepreneurs becoming team leaders.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

As an adviser to many startups today, I still see that most of you entrepreneurs see yourselves as the sole driver of your new solution, and the key driver of your new business.

That’s not all bad in the beginning, but as you scale, every business has to build a team to keep up with the wide range of skills needed, fight new competitors, and respond to changes in the marketplace.

For many, it’s hard to make the switch from that top-down, order-giving culture, and it’s hard to find the time to recruit and coach the new team members you need to scale the business to success.

Many new businesses fail at this stage because they don’t build the required team culture to keep teams engaged and committed, and founders burn out trying to do too much.

Based on my own experience in large companies, as well as small ones, here are seven key strategies I recommend for building the teams and culture that will drive business success:

1. Admit to yourself and others that you need help

Don’t let your ego and passion prevent you from building a team around you, listening to others with complementary skills, and delegating decisions as far down as possible. We all need to be humble and recognize that what we need to know about technology and the market changes daily.

2. Identify a business purpose and goals that motivate any team

Today, modern teams are engaged by a higher purpose, such as improving the environment or helping the underprivileged, more than just money and profit. You need them to make a personal commitment to customer service, improved quality, and change to improve the future.
 
Blake Mycoskie, founder of Toms Shoes, set a goal of donating a pair of shoes to the needy for every pair sold, and maintains team commitment by providing international trips to assist partners in distributing shoes in interesting places, including Nepal and Honduras.

3. Encourage your team to make decisions and take action

Many teams I know are frustrated by never-ending debates and constant requests for more analysis by management. Satisfaction and commitment come from choosing a path to move forward, evaluating results and customer feedback, and learning from all their best efforts.

4. Keep teams small, diverse, and collaborative 

I find that teams with more than eight or nine people often get bogged down in internal politics and have trouble sharing data effectively or reaching consensus. People all need to trust each other and be able to recognize the value of diverse perspectives. Avoid long and never-ending projects.

As an example, CEO Jeff Bezos at Amazon is known for his two-pizza rule: No meeting or team should be so large that two pizzas can’t feed the whole group. He is convinced this assures maximum productivity and that no one’s ideas get drowned out or ignored.

5. Practice active listening and open team communication

As the size and number of your teams grows, the amount of time you spend listening and communicating must also grow. Resist the urge to limit what teams need to know, interrupt negative messages, or jump quickly from listening to a solution. Promote the sharing of ideas and feedback.

6. Foster a culture of constant learning, even from failures

Many new business leaders can’t wait to implement fixed team processes to improve productivity and minimize risk. While productivity is important, the bigger risk is not learning from customers and the market and falling behind. Reward new ideas, experiments, and critical team feedback.

7. Be the model of customer focus for the team

Too many business leaders I know retreat further and further from the customer as their business scales. Make sure you schedule time for regular customer visits, and make sure your team understands that providing value to more customers is your definition of growing the business.
 
As your business grows from a startup to a sustainable business, you too have to grow from an entrepreneur to a business leader. Of course, if your interests and passion don’t lean in this direction, you can always bring in an outside CEO who already has the skills, or you can merge or sell your startup to another enterprise and move on to start a new venture.

Just be aware that a winning team makeup and culture won’t happen by default. It takes recognition of the need and effort on your part. I urge every entrepreneur to take a hard look at their own situation – you may be a key part of the problem, or the driver of the next unicorn business solution.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Every leader needs to build their emotional intelligence right now. Here’s how to do it, according to diversity and inclusion consultants.

video conference work from home woman working meeting
Diversity and inclusion experts say the pressure to enact change means more leaders will be judged on their emotional intelligence.

  • Employees and customers are demanding action when it comes to racial equity in the workplace.
  • As a result, more leaders will be judged on a key trait: emotional intelligence.
  • Emotional intelligence is one’s ability to understand how people feel and react to make decisions.
  • This article is part of a series called “IQ to EQ,” which explores the management styles of inspiring business leaders. Check here for similar stories.

Emotional intelligence is a crucial leadership skill that is going to become more important for executives across the board.

That’s according to diversity and inclusion consultants who said leaders can’t achieve the important work around racial equity without it. 

Emotional intelligence is defined as “the ability to understand the way people feel and react and to use this skill to make good judgments and to avoid or solve problems,” per the Cambridge Dictionary.  

“It’s a crucial leadership skill to have, one I think more people are going to be talking about in the future,” Arquella Hargrove, DEI consultant and leadership coach, told Insider. 

Here’s why. Calls for racial equity and diversity, equity, and inclusion have never been louder. Workers and customers are demanding corporate leaders take action. In order to achieve those goals, experts tell us that leaders have to listen to their colleagues from underrepresented backgrounds. They have to engage in tough conversations on race and privilege. And they have to enact changes and work with others to solve problems. 

“Diversity and inclusion – we are dealing with people. We want to humanize it. There’s emotion there,” Hargrove said. 

Arquella Hargrove
Company leaders need to demonstrate their ability to listen to others and take action, Arquella Hargrove, diversity, equity, inclusion and HR strategist, told Insider.

The killing of George Floyd and other unarmed Black Americans, and the resulting resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement, turned DEI from tired buzzwords into business objectives. It became personal, Hargrove said. 

Doris Quintanilla, executive director and cofounder of The Melanin Collective, a DEI consultancy, agrees. 

“If we’re trying to center around humanity and accept people for who they are, you have to have a skillset of understanding and of empathy,” she said. 

What emotional intelligence looks like and how to build it 

There are multiple parts to emotional intelligence leaders (and managers in general) can work to improve. They fall under a few broad categories, explain Daniel Goleman, famed author of “Emotional Intelligence 2.0,” and Richard E. Boyatzis, psychology professor at Case Western Reserve University. 

One is social awareness: or the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. It’s having empathy, they write in Harvard Business Review

To boost your empathy, Hargrove and Quintanilla recommend leaders spend more time learning about their employees from underrepresented and marginalized backgrounds. Invite them to share their experiences, and listen to them. In addition, educate yourself by reading books on anti-racism. 

Doris Quintanilla
Doris Quintanilla, executive director and cofounder of The Melanin Collective, said DEI goals can’t be achieved if a company’s leader is not empathetic and able to listen to others.

“The beauty of this is when leaders listen to their colleagues from different backgrounds, they start to value those differences. They make people feel included on the team,” Hargrove said. 

Another part of emotional intelligence is how well you manage relationships, or your ability to communicate effectively and work with others. 

“One part of emotional intelligence is asking for feedback and being able to accept that feedback. That makes managers and leaders better,” she said. 

Quintanilla recommends leaders invest in their relationships with Black and brown employees. Give them a seat at the decision making table, and incorporate their advice into your plans. 

“Everyone had a statement after the murder of George Floyd, those things don’t matter anymore. The words that you say – if they’re not in alignment with the actual actions you’re taking, the people you’re hiring, the people you’re promoting – we don’t want to hear it,” Quintanilla said. 

Read the original article on Business Insider