Sometimes we’ll pick and choose what feedback we want to listen to, and the rest of it goes out the other ear. Why bother with advice that doesn’t align with how we view ourselves? No one likes to be reminded of their weakness or blind spot even though the blind spot could be the very thing that threatens their personal or professional ambitions. With any potential change, we hope it doesn’t require too much of our time and effort. Most will put it off as long as possible. That’s what I did, and I learned the hard way.
On New Year’s Day, I clutched my arm and chest terrified that I was having a heart attack. The pain lasted for hours. I have to admit that this wasn’t the first time, but on that day it just felt so much worse. The other times it lasted for a few minutes and I’d typically make a half-hearted promise to myself and others that I’d change, slow down and not take on too much. As we all know when it comes to changing habits – whether it is health, personal, or work habits, change happens when we are truly willing to do it. And I clearly was not ready to face it.
After undergoing some tests, it turned out that my heart wasn’t the problem. There were problems with other organs (and a lot of jargon that I didn’t really comprehend). Things that I never thought would be an issue at my age. Luckily, they caught this early, and I didn’t need surgery yet. But major lifestyle changes needed to happen. I had ignored the warning signs long enough, and this feedback finally had my full attention. Although it could have been a simple fix if I had made it a priority in the beginning, it was now jeopardizing my health and future.
Even though not everyone experiences such a scary wake-up call, it’s still easy to get stuck in autopilot mode. We get focused on the next sale, job, or promotion that might bring the success, money, or recognition we hope to get, but we often forget that we are humans first and employees second. Some will do what it takes to rise to the top, even though they’ll burn every bridge on the way to it. Others will struggle with burnout and say yes to another task or project when they don’t have enough bandwidth to support it. We often know, or are made aware by someone else, when we are stretched to the brink because things slip through the cracks, and we struggle to balance the different pressures, demands, and responsibilities we face daily. But our habits and behaviors will eventually catch up to us when we’ve managed a situation, our teams, or even ourselves, poorly. More often than not, we tend to justify our actions as “that’s just how I am, I can’t change that” or “they caught me on a bad day”, but is it worth it to constantly dismiss feedback that has come up repeatedly when it could cost us in the long run?
We will always be receiving feedback that could help or hinder the trajectory of our lives and careers. We can try our best to filter out feedback that aligns with our goals and what we want, but we’re not always successful. There may be a piece of feedback we’ve received that is just too hard to face or not a priority at the moment. Finding a healthy balance between reaching our goals at all costs and paying attention to the way that we reach those goals takes time and some trial and error. My health scare forced me to look at the consequences of my decisions over time, and I realized it was affecting me internally. If I had continued to ignore the red flags and the advice from those who had my best interest at heart, it would’ve harmed not just my dreams but my life itself.