Here’s a powerful practice for living with courage: ask for honest feedback.
(Note: This is a tip from a blog post I wrote on 10 bullshit-free ways to do the hard work and play to your own leading edge.
Most people have difficulty receiving feedback, much less asking for it, directly–talk about a practice that requires courage!
But if you, like me, are trying to play the Game of Life in such a way that you live 100% fully alive, without the blinders on, without going through life in a fog of default reactions and responses, then feedback is part of that.
Why It’s Important
Asking for feedback and being willing to hear it will leverage up your life.
It’s like putting Miracle Grow on your process.
It gives a deeper context and a richer meaning to things, because you’re considering divergent points of view and using critical thinking to tease out what your own True North is.
Sometimes people say that you shouldn’t ask for feedback, because you should just hone in on what your own internal compass is saying.
Sure, that’s a worthy practice as well (like most things in life, there’s a dichotomous relationship at work, here, and I can see the benefits of deciding that you’ll avoid asking for feedback because you have another process of going internally, or to avoid being swayed by someone else’s opinions).
At the same time, if I’m truly connected to my True North, really and truly aligned with it, someone else’s feedback won’t matter, now will it?
So what’s wrong with asking for feedback, considering it, taking what you like, and leaving the rest?
Criticism Isn’t What You Think it Is
By the way: Criticism is generally seen as different than “feedback.” Criticism is the mean stuff, whereas “feedback” is usually seen as being more neutral.
It’s all “Feedback,” even the criticism.
Criticism is just the other person’s spin on the feedback that happens to be negative, negatively phrased, or at odds with what you had hoped for.
Seeing everything as just being “feedback”–if you really integrate it into your life–is a powerful open door to a new way of thinking about everything that you encounter.
It also diminishes the fear around receiving feedback. When you’re no longer thinking that what you hear is someone else being “mean” or not “liking” your project, it gets easier to hear whatever they have to say. They’re just doing their thing.
If it’s all just feedback, then it’s all just that person’s perspective. That’s it. Their perspective, aired.
Where feedback becomes difficult is when we think it has to “mean” something.
We get afraid of asking for feedback when we think that what someone says has any effect or bearing on our lives, whatsoever.
It doesn’t–unless you let it. Feedback is just feedback. You ask for it because you want to keep a sharp ear for any places where you have a blind spot.
In many ways, asking for feedback is a very self-ish practice, in the sense that you’re ultimately asking because you want to see if what is offered can give you–yes, YOU!–more insights into something.
And that’s fine.
Another fear? We get afraid of asking for feedback when we worry that someone might use it to hurt us. We’ve all met that person (and it might have been one of our own family members) who knew just how to let us know that we had royally fucked up, in the most passive-aggressive possible way.
Whether it’s direct criticism or passive criticism, when you’ve received criticism that hurt earlier in your life, it’s harder to think of receiving feedback with anything but fear.
It becomes easier to decide to do it all perfectly so that you never need to hear the criticism, and it definitely isn’t something you’re going to ASK for (because that would be crazy, if your history with criticism/feedback has been negative!).
So if that’s you (and it has definitely been me!) then I’m asking you to step into a new paradigm.
I’m asking for you to practice courage, because that’s how you get to the freedom–of seeing that what other people think of you truly has no bearing on you, and of how powerful it can be, what a collaborative experience it can be, to receive the feedback of others.
Things You Could Ask
I’ve asked friends and family all and any of these questions:
“Regarding [particular problem where I was stuck], tell me the honest truth. If you were me, what would you do?”
“Based on what you know of me, what does your gut say?”
“Is there anything that I’m missing, here?”
“Does this truly resonate with you?”
“What are three things that you’d suggest for improving this?”
“I’m very open to feedback and suggestions. What would make this even better?”
“Where am I currently being hard on myself?”
“Will you let me know if you sense that I’m hiding out, in some way?”
I’ve asked this about everything from inter-personal conflicts, to projects, to website sales pages, to e-programs.
What if It’s Mean?
Well, what if it’s mean? What if they are unkind? So what?
First of all, don’t sabotage yourself by directly asking people you know are going to be unkind because they’re in a space where they’re just kind of acting like an asshole with everyone. They’re limited in what they can truly offer you when they’re in that space.
Second of all, go ahead and put some boundaries in place. “I’m feeling tender around this…” “Could you phrase it so that I can hear it?” “I really want to get this, and I’m worried that I won’t if it’s not phrased gently.” In essence, the boundaries are about how you can get a bit vulnerable and ask for help in truly being able to hear what they have to offer.
Third, so what if it’s mean? It’s just feedback. It’s only mean if you say it’s mean. You can choose what to do, from there.
For instance, sometimes I get hate mail, and someone else’s feedback isn’t phrased with any intention whatsoever to give helpful feedback in the spirit of change or collaboration. Instead, they’re ranting. It’s destructive and unkind.
I choose what to do, from there…and sure as shit, I choose to hit delete.
It’s Your Choice
The feedback I’ve been given when I wasn’t expecting it has always been powerful to work with.
The most powerful feedback I’ve ever been given has been at those times when I directly asked for it, and then I got it–that person’s raw truth, because I asked for it.
What’s powerful is not the truth (though that’s helpful) or even that I asked.
What’s powerful is always how I decide to receive it. I’m in choice around that.
You are, too–so get started with asking for feedback. Ask people to share.
It will only hurt you as much as you choose to let it–which means that from this moment on, that could mean that feedback no longer has any power whatsoever over who you decide you are.
Seriously–Fuck “being realistic.”
Pragmatic? Yes. Implementable? Yes.
But “realistic”? No.
I’ve never gotten anywhere in my life by “being realistic.”
Guess what? If you’re trying to “be realistic,” you’re not getting anywhere, either.
I’m not talking about surrendering to the truth of current reality, or acceptance as freedom. I’m talking about the times when “be realistic” is really a euphemism for “don’t think you’ll get much” or “lower your hopes and dreams so that you won’t feel the sting of disappointment.”
They told me to…
People have told me to “be realistic” about:
For example: I was told to “be realistic” about a health issue that, it turned out–and I knew this in every cell of my being, all along–there was a way to fix (the doctors were WRONG).
I was told to “be realistic” about starting a business and seeing it make money. I was told to “be realistic” about healing relationships–that “people don’t change” and I “shouldn’t expect much.” I was told to “be realistic” about being able to afford wild travel adventures or the house I live in, today.
Take a moment to think about all the places in your own life where you’ve been told to “be realistic,” to reign it in, to not hope for too much.
Chances are, this “be realistic” shit has poisoned several areas of your life–career, money, intimacy, partnerships, connection, creativity, passions…
Then consider where else in our world we tell ourselves to “be realistic,” and how that negatively impacts our quality of living, as a collective whole.
We tell ourselves to stop even hoping that poverty or violence could be a minor societal problem, or even eradicated, and then those problems simply swell. We tell ourselves to stay in jobs that we hate because we don’t think there’s another way to live, resulting in a culture where most people hate what they do eight hours a day. We tell ourselves that people don’t change and so it’s better to avoid those family members who push our buttons than it is to enter into collaboration (the latter is certainly more valuable). Families are torn apart by this nonsense.
Look–lots of people have told me lots of things over the years about “being realistic,” and what it always has amounted to was that their own world view was limited.
Every single time I decided that I’d take in their feedback–while pursuing my own highest vision for what I wanted–it has worked out for me.
Every. Single. Time.
Down to Brass Tacks
What’s realistic is only ever this: what you clarify wanting for yourself, and what you dare to go after.
(Click here to tweet that: http://clicktotweet.com/8r31b )
That’s the kind of “realistic” that I choose–the reality of looking around, asking what’s possible, then asking what else is possible, and putting positive action in that direction.
Along the way, there’s sweat and work and disappointment and tears, but all of that is a pretty worthy price to pay for “being realistic.”
What makes your list?
So here are a few things that I currently practice not “being realistic” around:
Practical action + “unrealistic” life dreams is a wicked powerful combination.
So–If you weren’t “being realistic,” what would go on your life list?
Practice courage, and you get unstoppable. This is the complete program in courage that helps you clarify what you want, and then supports you in getting it–no matter the fear, procrastination, resistance that arises.
It’s important to know what drives you–what’s your motivating force?
What gets you out of bed in the morning? Is it…chasing safety? Money and success? Being of service? Obligation? Responsibility? Bliss, joy?
What’s driving the underlying energy of that conversation, of that relationship, of that interaction–domination? Respect? Collaboration?
What’s driving your career, right now? Fear? Courage? Passion?
Stopping to ask yourself about the driving forces in your life will point you to what it is that you’re creating.
We are creators, constantly creating. The life I live today is a very different one than I lead five, ten years ago. That’s been through a series of choices I’ve made, little choices that created and made up the whole.
When I was a new coach, I didn’t feel like I was creating anything–I felt incredibly reactionary. I didn’t feel like I was creating a client base; I felt like I was reacting to the clients that came (or didn’t come). I didn’t feel like I was creating a business; I felt like the world was holding back, not giving me permission to create the business that I wanted to create in the world, and that I was reacting to that.
(Oh! Massive Victim energy to acknowledge in that!).
It was jarring to be in that space, because outside of the vulnerable context of trying to work for myself, I knew that I made powerful choices, not reactionary choices.
As I share in the introduction of The Coaching Blueprint, the entire program has been born of the same ingredients as everything else I’ve ever created:
I have a sincere desire to help people end suffering. That’s the place that I create from.
I created The Coaching Blueprint out of a sincere desire to help other coaches, because I will never forget how those early months of trying to grow my coaching practice from “side hobby” to “business” felt. I cringe to remember those comparisons. I shudder to think of the endless days spent spinning my wheels.
With The Coaching Blueprint, I created exactly the program that I would have wished for, that would have helped me align with my center, get focused, and see movement happening.
The same is even true of The Courageous Living Program–once things began falling into place in my life, I was compelled, utterly driven, put it in a format where it could be shared.
I realize only in hindsight that the times when I’ve been reactionary have been times when something other than my power was driving me.
Clinging to control. Insisting on safety. Avoiding risk. Prioritizing old stories of lack. Continuing to exist in a space of less-than, because it’s comfortable.
That’s what drives me when I’m reacting to life, instead of creating my life.
We all do it, to some degree or another, in some context or another (no one’s perfect).
The difference between those who are successful and those who experience less success is directly correlated with an understanding of what drives you, and how to change course when what’s driving you isn’t anywhere near where you aimed.
It’s not about becoming perfect; it’s about noticing the perfection of where you’re at, and making conscious choices within that realm.
So consider: what’s driving you, today?
What do you want to be driving you, tomorrow?