Well, do you?
I’m asking because I’m guessing you probably don’t. And that therefore you could probably benefit from establishing a Credit Practice in your life.
Now you may have heard of a Gratitude Practice – this is where you set aside a little time every day to remember all the good things you have in your life, that other people have done for you, or that your environment and your surroundings and your society provide for you.
A Gratitude Practice is a wonderful thing to do, and if you haven’t tried it yet, I encourage you to give it a go, it can make a big difference to your level of happiness and contentment in your life.
But by definition, a Gratitude Practice is about what you receive from others and from elsewhere. It leaves out what you bring to the party, and for a certain kind of person, that leaves out a big source of dissatisfaction and unnecessary suffering.
On a bad day, a Gratitude Practice might even leave you feeling worse about your situation:
Look at all the great things other people have done for me, and I’m still not happy!
If you heard the interview with Rich Litvin from Season 3 of The 21st Century Creative, then you might remember what he had to say about the downside of success:
I’ve been a high performer for a long time for most of my life. I’ve always aimed high. I’ve always been really ambitious. Still to this moment, to this day, when I have a success in something or rather, I give myself, see if you recognize this one. I give myself about 25 seconds to acknowledge myself before I look at how could I have done it better, bigger, different, improved it or I’m looking into the future like what am I doing next.
And this is the blessing and the curse of being a visionary, of being a creative.
I can certainly relate to Rich’s words here. But where Rich and I are lucky is that we are both coaches to high achievers, so we know this isn’t just us – in fact, this attitude is epidemic among high achievers.
We have high standards, we push ourselves, we’re not satisfied with good enough, the way most people are. Which means we can achieve great things.
But the flipside is that we’re never satisfied, even when we do something amazing. We can always see the flaws other people don’t notice. We can always compare ourselves to someone else who has done something similar but far better.
So if you relate to this, and you find it hard to give yourself credit for your achievements, then I invite you to experiment with adding a Credit Practice into your life, where you deliberately give yourself more credit than usual.
Every day, or at least once a week, stop and give yourself credit for any and all of the following things you’ve done today or this week:
- The effort you put into your work
- Any specific achievements you can point to
- Any times when you were brave and did the scary thing
- Any times when you were tempted to take a shortcut or compromise your principles, and you did the right thing
- Any times when you were irritated with someone else but you were compassionate and kind towards them
Even if you can’t think of much in any of these categories for today or this week, you can always go back and remind yourself of things you’ve done in the past. You still did them, so they still count!
The Credit Practice is even more powerful if you do it with someone else, such as a friend or your partner.
My wife and I have a tradition of doing a Weekly Review on a Friday night. We have a glass of wine and look back on the week and tell each other all the things we did this week that we’re proud of. We also remind each other of great things the other one did that they overlooked or forgot about.
So whether it’s been a good or bad week in terms of results and outcomes, it’s a great way to start the weekend – we both feel good about the efforts we made and it makes it a little easier to relax and let go of work and enjoy a well earned rest.
Another aspect of a Credit Practice is to set up physical reminders of your past achievements, so that even you can’t forget about them and dismiss them.
One corner of a bookshelf in my office is where I keep all the magazines my poems have been published in, and all the anthologies and collections of competition winners. So if I’ve had a particularly disappointing rejection, or I’m feeling doubtful about what I’ve written today, I sometimes look at that shelf as a reminder of the successes I’ve achieved.
Now, there are a couple of concerns I sometimes hear about when I invite a client to begin a Credit Practice.
Firstly, they don’t want to turn into an egomaniac, with an inflated sense of their own importance.
And secondly, they don’t want to get lazy. They have achieved a lot by being hard on themselves, so they worry that if they ease up on themselves, they might start to be satisfied with achieving less.
But look – if you can relate to my description of the high achiever who doesn’t give yourself enough credit for your achievements, I think you can probably relax on both fronts.
You’re probably not going to turn into an arrogant idiot overnight. And even if you did, you probably have enough people in your life who would tell you!
And I think it highly unlikely you will lose your motivation to achieve great things. It’s much too deeply rooted for that.
The Credit Practice is a counterbalance to your tendency to be too self-critical. So you would have to give yourself a hell of a lot of undeserved credit for you to shift the balance so far that you lost your perspective on things altogether.
And a Credit Practice isn’t about singing your own praises all day every day. It’s for the end of the working day or week, when your energy is depleted and you’ve given it your all.
On Monday morning, when it’s time to start work again, you can be as rigorous about your work and as demanding of yourself as ever.
The only difference is, if you’ve really given yourself credit and taken some time out to recharge, you’ll probably find you have even more energy and enthusiasm for your next big challenge.
You can hear an audio version of the article in this episode of The 21st Century Creative podcast, starting at 1’50”.