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March 13, 2024

Don't Start With What Went Wrong

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A key piece to improvement is reviewing our performance. But when we enter our evaluation with the intention to find opportunities to make things better, we naturally see things through the lens of what wasn’t good enough.

We can be more intentional than that! Rather than reenforcing our negativity bias, let’s commit to seeing what’s going right before addressing what went wrong. There are a few reasons why this is such a powerful perspective shift and they all build around the concept of priming.

The first moments of an interaction, reflection, or evaluation set the anchor. Everything else that comes after that is placed relative to the anchor. So if we start with a more positive reflection of all the things that went right, it sets the tone. This means that areas that fell short or didn’t meet expectations are viewed through the lens of opportunity rather than criticism.

In addition, priming naturally shifts our awareness. When we start with what went wrong, it’s easier to find more things that went wrong. But the opposite is true too. So we can prime positive awareness and ultimately shape our perspective.

All of this leads into an important end - Our intention is to do well.

We’d prefer not to have a lapses in performance, but ultimately when they happen it serves us to turn them into learning lessons that help us do better next time. Starting with what’s going right infuses more belief that you can succeed, that the goal is achievable, and that belief helps fight off any doubt or discouragement that might creep in. 

This is why I like starting my conversation with either gratitude or wins. When you do that, you establish the anchor, prime positive awareness, and set yourself up to believe that you’re capable of the results you want. Give it a try and see if it changes the nature of your conversations.

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