Success: Beliefs or Behaviors?

June 2007

Yesterday I attended a coaches’ conference in Washington, D.C.  One of the highlights of the day was hearing a keynote presentation by Marshall Goldsmith, a preeminent executive coach who has worked with more than eighty CEOs in the world’s top corporations.  Marshall helps people achieve long-term positive behavioral change.  In his fascinating talk, he discussed key beliefs of successful leaders, which ironically often keep them from being open to the change needed to be successful today.

The first belief is “I have succeeded.”  This is what, consciously or not, successful people have as a mantra.  They edit out their past failures and focus instead on the positive.  Yet despite this positive view of their past, this belief becomes an obstacle to behavioral change that may be called for in the present.  The second belief is “I can succeed.”  This belief reflects the high confidence that most successful people have in their ability to recreate their success.  They do not feel that fate, luck, or external factors have much of a hand in their success, but rather that it is due to a function of people’s motivation and ability.  They correlate their success with their behavior, so it is a challenge to get them to see that sometimes they are successful in spite of certain behavior. 

“I will succeed” is the third belief that is tenaciously held by most successful people.  This reflects their view of the future, and often translates into an unwavering optimism that success is on the way.  Goals are pursued with a rabid enthusiasm and commitment to do whatever it takes to achieve success.  This often leads to the danger of over commitment, an inability to say no, and ultimately burnout (your own or your staff). The fourth belief that successful people hold is “I choose to succeed.”  The more successful a person is, the more likely it is that they believe they are doing what they choose to do.  Goldsmith maintains that where this becomes problematic is that “the more we believe that our behavior is a result of our own choices and commitments, the less likely we are to want to change our behavior.” 

Are you aware of which beliefs and behaviors that got you where you are today, may be holding you back from where you want to go tomorrow?  If I can help you in identifying behaviors that no longer serve you, please give me a call.  Also, I have an autographed copy of Marshall Goldsmith’s newest book What Got You Here Won’t Get You There.  Hit “Reply” and tell me why you would like to have this book (or any feedback you have on my monthly Musings letters), and I will enter you in a drawing for the book!

Sharon Keys Seal

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