Let's say you are at a meeting, presenting at a conference, or in a job interview. The conventional advice, 'just be yourself' sounds plausible. It's built on the idea that it's vital to be authentic.
But which you are we talking about?
Is it the grumpy you, the frustrated you, or that part of you that's resentful because your boss turned down your idea? Clearly not.
We have many versions of us. If we are in front of others we must select the version of us that's most appropriate for the occasion. That's in our interests, but it's also in the interests of our colleagues at the meeting, our audience at the presentation or the job recruiters.
Is presenting our best selves less than authentic?
Only if it's false.
Is it an act? In a sense, because it's only a selection from the various versions of us. But it's still us.
And there's something else.
We can use the act to practise cultivating the professional us. We can use it as a benchmark, so we can remind ourselves of the professionalism we showed at the meeting, the conference and the interview and strive to keep being that best version of us.
Just being ourselves has a big downside.
Like the person who throws out tactless personal criticism and says, 'I'm just being honest'.
Or the one who won't change other unsociable behaviour, 'because that's just the way I am'.
Want to be authentic, build rapport with your audience, but still you?
Give away a bit about yourself. Be human. An academic whose work I follow, wrote recently that when he goes through automatic doors he likes to imagine that he is opening them with his mind.
Silly? A bit child-like? Fair enough.
Do you like him more? I do.
Interested in a workshop on emotional Intelligence for your team? (It's about thriving at work.)
What about a workshop on employee engagement? (For your leaders and your teams)
You'll see various interpretations of SMART. Here's one.
Choose goals that are...
Specific (A definite outcome, not just ‘improve my skills in…’)
Measureable (Figures if you can, but sometimes it will be a tick in a box, like ‘climb Mount Fuji’)
Achievable (A stretch, but not a fantasy)
Rewarding (Each goal should be something you really want to achieve)
Time-based (Decide deadlines)
So what's missing?
Action - a particular way of turning good intentions into action. The researchers' name for the next stage is 'mental contrasting'. It means thinking, not only about the goal, but what might stop you making progress towards your goal - in that order. It's contrasting because you regularly compare the two - goal Vs obstacles.
Let's say your goal is to get fit. Maybe your major obstacle is procrastination or distraction. Try this: 'When I get home from work, then I will go for a run around the park.' No excuses, no exceptions. The less you think about it the better. A run immediately after your arrival home is just what you do. Everything else can wait.
More examples of 'when/then'... The sentences might seem a bit unnatural, but having both when and then emphasises the action. (And you don't have to say them aloud.)
Are the obstacles still relevant?
Do the obstacles make the goals unattainable? Would it be better to abandon those goals and try something else?
Are the obstacles so easy to overcome that your goals are not really stretching you? Google has decided that the sweet spot for success with goals is 60-70%. Any more success suggests that the goals weren't enough of a stretch. Lower than that range suggests that we're not dealing with the obstacles or the goal is just a fantasy.