Credit Where Credit is Due

Watching the Academy Awards show this week gave me insight into why so many of us are hard on ourselves. We watch these shows and have a distorted image of the achievements being honored. If, for example, someone very young or whom we don’t recognize receives an award we make a giant leap of conjecture that he/she must be an “overnight success.” Let’s make sure we understand. Overnight successes are incredibly rare. I recall seeing an interview with Gladys Knight, the pop singer who was a huge success in the 1970s. She said, “I laugh when people remark that I’m an overnight success. It’s true. I am. It only took me 30 years to achieve it!”

We live in a society obsessed with instant gratification. One of my favorite quotes is from the writer Carrie Fisher who said, “Instant gratification isn’t nearly fast enough.” We want fast cars, fast food and fast results. There’s nothing particularly wrong with that unless you use your pace of achievement as an excuse to flog yourself OR you spend too much time comparing your results with those of others.

There is a wonderful saying in the 12-step programs: Don’t judge a person’s insides by their outsides. Owen Wilson, who was one of the presenters at the Academy Awards, is a good example. This actor, who often plays happy-go-lucky, wise-cracking roles attempted suicide not long ago. Judging from his outsides, we might guess that he has it all. The same could be said of Heath Ledger, the actor who accidentally overdosed on prescription drugs or Britney Spears who is having such a difficult battle with mental illness.

Maybe you don’t compare yourself to celebrities. Maybe it’s a co-worker who seems smarter or faster to catch on than you. Or maybe you look at a sibling who has had more success and wonder what’s wrong with you. I sometimes catch myself pondering why my siblings seem to have so much more material wealth than I. And then I remember that they are all in marriages where one or both of the spouses have worked in their respective fields for well over 20 years. When I remind myself that I’m single and an entrepreneur for only ten years, I stop beating myself up. Remember, the Law of Attraction says that you attract more of what you focus on. Focusing on where you fall short only gets you more of the same.

Much better and significantly more energizing than berating yourself is tallying up your achievements. What have you accomplished that was only a pipe dream a few years ago? What goals have you reached that you’ve not yet celebrated?

Think back on some of the milestones you couldn’t wait to achieve. Maybe it was moving out of your parents’ house and getting your own place. For some of you it was buying the car you’re now driving. For others it was marrying and having children. Remember when you couldn’t wait to get the job you now have? The point is that there are all sorts of goals you had that have been reached. It is time to give yourself credit for them!

What each of you gives yourself credit for will vary because we all measure success differently. The important thing is to define what success means to you. Until you do, you will continue to fall victim to how others define it.

Once your definition is in place, then it is important to measure your progress. Tally up where you are now, then stand up and do a victory dance in honor of your success (I recommend the Cabbage Patch dance which both looks and feels funny)! Making a list of all you have accomplished thus far will truly make you feel proud. It is important to list all those things you think are “no big deal.” It turns out they are. In fact, those “no big deals” add up rapidly into a very big deal of a life.

Give credit where credit is due. It’s probably long overdue so be sure and include the accumulated interest.

Download a PDF of this column