Do you have "success amnesia"? Is it much easier for you to recall your mistakes and what's gone wrong than it is for you to remember your successes?
If so, most of us can relate. We humans are supremely adept at remembering, noticing and imagining everything negative. The good stuff? It flashes brightly for a moment and then is gone.
Our positive experiences leave a weaker imprint on our minds than negative. We're also wired to recognize danger immediately. So no wonder it's daunting to attempt to change something big (like our job for example) - a lot of us are focusing on our shortcomings and on everything that could go wrong.
But if you want to sell someone else on your outstanding capabilities, relevant experience and general awesomeness, the first person you need to genuinely impress is yourself.
Most of us not only downplay our successes in our minds but also don't receive direct, helpful and timely feedback on our successes from our managers. So it becomes doubly hard to counter our tendency to forget our past accomplishments and acknowledge how competent we are.
To start recovering from success amnesia, go to your computer or grab a piece of paper and give these exercises a try:
Write down the problems you've faced at your job.
Take some time to remember specific situations you've handled. What action did you take and what were the results? No problem is too small. Record ten examples or so from the last five years.
Write about the successful projects you played a part in.
Again, think about specific examples going back at least five years. What part did you play? What were the results?
Write down the qualities that it took to solve those problems and accomplish those successes.
Examples of qualities include intelligence, compassion, creativity, diligence, thoroughness, trustworthiness, and persistence.
Write down the skills and knowledge you used to solve the problems and accomplish those successes.
Examples of skills include persuade, direct, delegate, analyze, motivate, budget, program, organize, lead, maintain and negotiate.
To come up with examples of knowledge that you have, think about the kinds of information you rely on to do your job, whether that be rocket science, accounting principles, how to market consumer products, the intricacies of the emergency services world, and so on.
Write down your significant successes outside of work.
Write down the problems you've solved, your major accomplishments from the last five years, and what it took to succeed. You want to remind yourself of your competence in all areas of your life.
Ask people who know and like you to tell you your five most outstanding qualities.
If this feels too strange, then pretend to be your best friend, your manager, your former co-worker, or whoever would be on your list to ask. What are you known for? If it's hard for you to toot your own horn, see if you can let in the positive views that others have of you.
Commit to recording your successes.
Writing down what you do well (and then looking at your list every once in a while) helps you avoid success amnesia. Use Evernote or just keep a paper file - whatever works.
Commit to savoring positive experiences.
Savoring goodness has been shown in studies to boost positivity. When something good is happening, notice it! Think about it in a way that makes it last. Appreciate the feeling that it gives you, and talk about it with someone else.
Appreciate your talents.
What seems easy or basic to you may seem incredible to someone else. You're used to being able to do what you do, so it's easy to forget that to some other people your skills are quite valuable. Keep this in mind when you think about signing up for a big new project or looking for a new job.
When you notice and savor your successes, you feel more confident, have a stronger resume and LinkedIn profile and perform better in job interviews. Worth doing!