How Knowing What You DON’T Like Can Be a Powerful Driver of Change

During the pandemic, I worked out in my living room.

At the time it was great to have classes or trainers on Zoom when we couldn’t leave the house. Fast forward a few years, I’m still exercising in my living room, but feeling less excited and skipping more workouts. Ok, I thought, Where’s the willpower? Why is it fading?

But then one day I had a revelation.

I DON’T LIKE exercising in my living room. 

Really, actively don’t like it.  It evoked a strong negative emotion, which was kind of a shock. I usually encourage my mind to focus on alternative explanations and positive resolutions versus this blunt, almost child-like dislike.

But then, the understanding of what I DIDN’T like gave me the energy and direction to make a change. 

Don’t like exercising at home? Find a place outside your home.  And I did. 

It’s striking how we can ignore our own preferences, the negative signals from our bodies and minds.

Instead what if we treated them like valuable guides?

Try this framework: “I don’t like X; instead I need Y.”

I don’t like…to be rushed before meetings. Instead, I need …space in between. So, I shorten my 1 on 1’s to 45 minutes (by the way, I did this when managing a large group and it totally changed my energy).

I don’t like….to be stressed Sunday night before work. Instead I need… an agreement with myself about what I will or won’t do. This could be a short checklist to prepare for the week, or acommitment not to check email until Monday morning.

I don’t like….my manager making unclear requests. Ok, this one is different since it’s about the behavior of someone else. Try telling them, “[What you don’t like] is getting in the way of me doing [my job, the task] well, so would it be possible to [your suggestion to improve it]?”

Not only is this great data for yourself (see exercise below), but for a leader, these likes and dislikes are extremely valuable. If we make an effort to listen generously to “complaints,” it encourages the people around us to open up about their actual experiences.

And…you can always assign the person who doesn’t like it to help solve the problem.

Here’s an exercise to clarify your own preferences:

  1. Make lists of what you like and don’t like.  No one else needs to see it and you need no excuses for your preferences, so don’t try to edit or justify them.
  2. Ask yourself:  How does it feel to write them down? Are there any that are surprising?
  3. Pick one or two and think about the need behind the request.  How can you meet that need?

‘Tis the season to share….good ideas.  If you like this article, please share it with a friend or colleague, or send them to my newsletter info page.

And it’s budget season.  Are you planning for your team’s (and your own) growth and development next year?  Please reach out to discuss scientific leadership coaching and see if it’s a good fit.  Here’s a direct link to my calendar just for newsletter subscribers.

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