Becoming Your Best Self

Your work and your work ethic reflect you. Do you coast by doing the bare minimum to collect a paycheck, or do you push yourself to strive for excellence? Do you sit back and wait for your annual performance review to think about how you can improve?

The way to improve in your job is to improve yourself. Taking steps toward self-improvement will also improve your skills and capabilities at work. According to Harvard Business Review, there are nine ways to become your best self in the workplace.

  • Turn weaknesses into strengths. 
    • We can all identify our faults, but many people are afraid to take the first step to make improvements.
  • Find opportunities to learn.
    • There are endless opportunities to learn new things. We are surrounded by talented people that can teach us new things.
    • For example, my very first office job was as a motivational speaker. They had a graphic designer create all the seminars’ handouts. I had an interest in how to do graphic design on the computer. Until then, I was trained to do graphic design by hand. I took the initiative when to sit with the graphic artist. I watched what she did, asked questions, and slowly learned the program. Eventually, I would help her with projects, and I learned how to use desktop publishing software, which landed me an excellent job because I had developed the skills needed with that specific industry software.
    • The opportunities will come when you put in the effort, ask questions, and do all you can to learn a new skill. It would be best if you overcome the fear of asking questions and learning from others.
  • Set measurable goals and track them.
    • Setting and tracking goals give you accountability for your actions.  
    • When I worked at a college in Canada, I wanted to learn how to use Photoshop. Being trained to design by hand drawing, the challenge I had at the time was that I am left-handed, and the industry was right-handed driven. Have you ever tried to use a mouse with your left hand? The user could reverse the mouse buttons, but the arrow still moved backward in the left hand because it was programmed for a right-handed person. 
  • In my work calendar, I scheduled ‘learning time”. This was the time when I would do research, follow tutorials, and practice.
  • Your goals are personal, and as long as you set realistic goals with a timeline, it doesn’t matter how long it takes you to achieve the goal as long as you are making progress.
  • Believe in the power of asking questions.
    • I have always been a curious person, and I am unafraid to ask questions. Asking questions is one of the greatest learning tools we have. We can learn much from more experienced people. So don’t be afraid to ask questions.
  • Do not ignore your health.
    • The first step to performing at your optimal capacity at work is having a good night’s sleep. When you start to feel a mental fog, you need to give yourself a break from the task. Taking care of your physical body with proper sleep and exercise increases productivity and keeps your mind focused. Be sure to have a balanced work/family life.
  • Seek Feedback
    • To become our best selves, we need both negative and positive feedback. The negative feedback can be challenging to hear, but if we listen with the intent to improve, it can be beneficial.
    • I received feedback once where I thought for sure a job I wanted was mine. After several interviews, I was surprised to learn I wasn’t offered the job. The feedback I received was that I had undersold myself. It is true; I didn’t sell myself to the panel to the best of my ability. It was valuable feedback to hear and something I can work on improving. Let’s say you want a promotion even if you are not looking for a new job. We must sell ourselves, our talents, skills, and especially our knowledge.
  • Do not multitask
    • Gone are the days when the ability to multitask was considered a strength. Research today has taught that multitasking does not improve your productivity but slows you down by about 40% of your capacity. We cannot always focus on one task at a time that is not realistic, and our days are filled with interruptions and distractions. We need to learn to be interrupted and then jump back into the task we were performing. 
    • For example, my day was filled with interruptions when I managed a team of 18 people. I had telephone calls, people walking into my office, and instant messages from team members on different floors and buildings. I learned that I closed my office door when I needed to focus entirely on a specific project. My team discovered that when the door was closed, I was undisturbed until I opened the door. Open communication with team members helps you navigate through reducing interruptions.
  • Avoid distraction
    • Today it is easier than ever to get distracted. How many times a day do you pick up your cell phone? We need to learn self-control to limit our distractions. Put your phone face down on the desk or in a drawer. Do whatever it takes to reduce the distractions. 
  • Do not over-commit.
    • We cannot become our best selves if we overcommit our time and resources. This ends up stressing us out and increasing distractions. Learn to say “No” and, if possible, delegate. Know your limitations, and it is okay to say I cannot add that to my list now. 

You are the master of yourself, and it is up to you to become the best version of yourself. Strive for continual growth and remember to stop and celebrate our success along the way.

Contributed by Cheryl Viola, MBA, Executive Director