I love getting good feedback, and just recently I’ve had some great feedback from my coaching and from the ad agency I’m freelancing at. Coaching clients are getting results and the agency have asked me to stick around for another couple of months (I said ‘Yes’, coz I’m having fun).
It feels good to know I’m doing a great job and that people value what I do, but there’s this niggle at the back of my head that says, “Steve, if you’re so flamin’ confident, why is it that you’re feeling great simply because someone said something nice about you.” Giving it some thought, here’s what I think.
Yes, people spend too much time looking for signs that they’re doing the right thing or on the right path. Sometimes we get that by hearing that we’re doing well at work, sometimes it could be encouragement from a friend or loved one, and sometimes we get that feedback by seeing our material wealth or possessions growing.
It’s all about validation, and speaking as a human being it’s something that I need. I know that I’m good at what I do, that I work hard and deliver results, but that knowledge and that feeling of capability is internal. Without external validation there’s no feedback, and everything I do exists in a vacuum.
I can say to myself “Nice job Steve” and “Well done Steve, did really well there“, but that’s a different experience to having someone say those things to me.
Knowing that I’ve done a good job carries with it a degree of satisfaction and fulfilment based on whatever the activity means to me. When there’s external validation of something I’ve done it carries a different experience of satisfaction and fulfilment based on what it means to someone else, and that’s where the difference is.
The problem comes, of course, when you start seeking out that external validation as the only means of feeling good about yourself. Start people pleasing and doing things with the agenda of attracting validation and you’ll end up chasing things based on what they mean to other people and not what they mean to you.
That’s a slippery slope that leads to you’re-okay-and-I’m-not-okay-ville. It’s a place that sucks, and going there will only damage your self-confidence and self-esteem (i.e. that’s bad).
So the difference is one of focus. Rather than looking for external validation and aligning your behaviour to deliver that, you need to align your behaviour so that it leads to great work, then look at and acknowledge what you did to deliver that great work.
The cool thing is – and I didn’t know this when I started coaching myself on this whole ‘Why do I need validation‘ thing – that aligning your behaviour to deliver great work is really the same thing as playing a game that matters to you. Make a choice to engage with something that matters and play to your best level, and not only will you feel like you’re doing great work but it’ll be a whole lot more likely that you’ll get some great feedback from others too.
So I’m not bothered by the fact that I love external validation, as long as I’m sure my focus is in the right place.
Who doesn’t love a bit of validation once in a while?
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