What You Tell Yourself Matters

I recently discovered that my friends and fellow Patreonauts, Colin and Shayla Maddox, have a nickname for me. They call me Task because, apparently, they think I’m the kind of guy who gets things done. A Task Master, to misuse a rarely used old phrase. This came as a surprise to me.

I haven’t ever had a nickname before. That’s not to say nobody has ever had a… special word for me, but never a nickname. So I was delighted to know that I now have one. But I honestly didn’t think it would be my go-getterish, JFDIness that would end up being my defining feature.

I try not to go in for too much false modesty. I know that I have some admirable qualities, among other less admirable ones, but I have never thought of myself as much of a doer. I’m a thinker, almost by profession. And I had assumed that this was how others saw me too. A deep thinker who occasionally writes some of it down. But apparently in the Maddox household my name is synonymous with getting stuff done.

Two initial points strike me:

1. Perhaps I’m not as good at knowing what others think of me as I thought I was
2. Perhaps I’m not as good at knowing myself as I thought I was!

This new information came to my attention a few weeks ago and since then I’ve been looking at myself a little differently, noticing my patterns. It’s quite possible that my habits now are different precisely because of this new information and the attention I’m paying but, as it turns out, I’ve noticed that I’m a bit more do-y than I used to believe.

Yes, I like to think, but entirely theoretical stuff bores me after a short while. I have a bias towards action that I’d previously not noticed. So much so that I can tend to leap before I look when I feel the urge.

This new insight into myself has lead to some changes. I’ve become addicted to my daily task list. I now take pride in checking off my actions but, more importantly, I find the job of scheduling and organising my time satisfying in a way I never have before. I’ve been reading Getting Things Done by David Allen (just owning the book and seeing it on the coffee table makes me want to do stuff!) and, in all, I’ve become more productive and more aware of my flow of work.

I’ve even updated my contact information on my phone so that Siri calls me Task. She used to call me Your Highness but it was starting to feel creepy.

For so many years I have told myself a story about who I am and, importantly, who I’m not. Some of this story is good. I tell myself I’m a kind person. I tell myself I’m a generous person, a forgiving person. I tell myself I’m not someone who holds grudges or likes to harm others. These are all fine things to tell ones self and doing so is part of how we reinforce our self identity.

But I’ve also told myself some things which aren’t so good. One of them is that I’m a thinker but not much of a doer. I’m not the kind of person who gets things done. This self limiting belief has been stuck in my head and every time I fail to do something it is reinforced. Suddenly seeing myself through different eyes, realising that the me I say I am is only a story and that it might not even be true…

As a coach this shouldn’t be much of a revelation but, as we say, the first person you coach is always yourself (and you’re the worst client you’ll ever have!). Our own stories, our own beliefs, are the hardest to see past. So it helps to pay attention when you find that the experiences of others don’t tally with what you believe about yourself. For better or worse.

It turns out that I’m not exactly who I thought I was. This limiting belief isn’t true. Imagine how many of your own limiting beliefs are similarly false? What if the stories you tell yourself about you, the ones where you explain to yourself why you can’t or won’t achieve or do whatever it is you wish you could or would, weren’t true?

The story you tell yourself matters. Be open to the idea that you should yours.