Successful people are optimists. Anyone who has ever been in sales knows - if you believe you will succeed you might not - but if you don't believe that you will succeed you won't! Optimists tend to chronically over-commit. Why? We believe that we will do more than we actually can do. It can be extremely difficult for an ambitious person, with an “I will succeed' attitude to say "no" to desirable opportunities.
The huge majority of leaders that I work with today feel as busy - or busier - than they have ever felt in their lives. They are not so busy because they are losers. They are so busy because they are winners. They are ‘drowning in a sea of opportunity'. Perhaps this has happened to you. You do something wonderful at work. Suddenly, lots of people want to associate themselves with your success. They think, quite logically, that since you pulled off a miracle once, you can do it again - this time for them. Soon opportunities are thrust upon you at a pace you have never seen before. Since you believe, "I will succeed," it is hard to say "no". If not careful, you can get overwhelmed - and that which brought about your rise will bring about your fall.
In my volunteer work, my client was the executive director of one of the world's most important human services organizations. His mission was to help the world's most vulnerable people. Unfortunately, his business was booming. When people came to him for help, he didn't have the heart or inclination to say no. Everything was driven by his belief that "we will succeed." As a result, he promised more than even the most dedicated staff could deliver. His biggest challenge as a leader was not letting his personal optimism lead to staff burnout, turn over and missed commitments. This ‘I will succeed' belief can sabotage our chances for success when it is time for us to change behavior.
I make no apology for the fact that I'm obsessed about following-up with my clients to see if they actually use what I teach them - and achieve positive change in behavior . Almost every participant who attends my leadership training program intends to apply what has been learned back at work. Most do, and they get better! Many do absolutely nothing and might as well have spent their time watching sit-coms.
When I ask the ‘do-nothings', "Why didn't you actually implement the behavioral changes that you said you would?" by far the most common response is, "I meant to, but just didn't have the time to get to it." In other words, they were over-committed. They sincerely believe that they would ‘get to it later', but ‘later' never came. Our excessive optimism and resulting over-commitment can be as serious an obstacle to change as our denial of negative feedback or our belief that our flaws are actually the cause of our success.
Life is good.
My newest book, MOJO, is a New York Times (advice), Wall Street Journal (business), USAToday (money) and Publisher's Weekly (non-fiction) best seller. It is now available online and at major bookstores.