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Learning from criticism

Improving Systems and Habits

Scott Miker is the author of several books that describe how to use systems and habits to improve.  This free blog provides articles that to help understand the principles related to building systems.  

Learning from criticism

Scott Miker

One of the areas that can be difficult for people who want to improve and grow is to be able to take in negative or constructive feedback and make changes. 

This can be an incredible way to gain insight into areas that are holding you back.  But you have to be able to calm your emotional response and then evaluate the feedback without strong emotion.

Years ago I heard Dr. Wayne Dyer talk about how he can get up in front of a large audience for a speech.  He said he started to realize early on that if there are 10,000 people in the audience that means there are 10,000 points of view. 

If he gets obsessed with those that don’t like him or don’t like what he has to say it will ruin his presentation for everyone else.  So he just focuses on doing the best job he can and tries to be as authentic as possible. 

In the 2,500 year old text, the Tao Te Ching, verse 41 addresses this also.  It says:

            “The wise student hears of the Tao and practices it diligently.

            The average student hears of the Tao and practices it now and again.

            The foolish student hears of the Tao and laughs and laughs.

            Without the laughter, it wouldn’t be the Tao.”

The Tao Te Ching is known as one of the wisest books ever written and yet there are many that will hear of the Tao and laugh.  Many times they simply do not understand the wisdom and their response is to try and minimize the value of the Tao. 

So the first step to being able to take feedback and improve is to gain control of one’s emotions.  There will always be a negative opinion.  There will always be naysayers, we just have to keep focusing on what we think is best and move forward with confidence.

But even if you are able to avoid the emotion anguish that sometimes accompanies negative feedback, how do we take the information and then make improvements in our lives?

If, after evaluating the information, we find that we have to make a change, we should work to change consistently.  Changing consistently means that we make a behavior change and do it over and over again.

The repetitive nature of this is important.  We have to do it enough that it starts to form a pattern.  As the pattern forms it will start to change the structures in our lives and then the mental models that we hold.

But without the repetition it only becomes a one-time attempt at change and will not last.  The repetition is the key that will allow the change to become a permanent improvement in your life.

Because the importance of the repetition, it is better to start with very small steps than to try and change too drastically, too quickly.  Starting small allows the habits to be built up and it will make it significantly easier to keep going long enough for the change to have an impact.

Adding more to an ingrained habit is much easier than starting from scratch.  Use the initial motivation to start to build that ingrained habit.  Doing that first will help to address the areas that you would like adjust in your life in order to improve.

Learning from criticism can be an incredible tool to help you improve.  In order to gain the most from negative or constructive feedback, we have to calm our emotion, realize that everyone will always have an opinion and it doesn’t mean that they are correct, and then take small steps over and over to form new habits.  Doing this can help overcome an obstacle that many face and will help you to improve be taking in this valuable feedback.