How To Stay True To Yourself In A Professional Environment

July 6, 2021Yalanis Velez Gonzalez

Isn’t it satisfying to be good at what you do? If you’re a person with a job or a goal, chances are you want to be successful at it. That can be a challenge if you are not aware of how you feel, how you think, and how you act.
Self-help conversations often include concepts like awareness, identities, strategies, and behavior modification, which all meet the idea of bias. If you haven’t watched B4B or Sesgos para el Éxito seminars, here at Perspectivas Globales we define bias as “the tendency of acting or thinking in a certain way when there are other alternatives.” You can find out more about the Bias for Business seminar here. As humans, from the moment we are born, we are exposed to varied information causing each of us to have unique experiences that we can use to learn, go about our lives, and make sense of the world. We propose that being aware of how we think, act, and feel helps us elaborate a strategy to manage our biases and behavior so we can be comfortable and satisfied with our efforts.
Perspectivas Globales presents the Gaining Perspective (GP) and Human Systems Interconnection (HSI) models (diagrams below) as tools that can guide the process of understanding how we learn, make decisions and perform all kinds of activities. The GP model shows how outside information interacts with our body, previous knowledge, and feelings to formulate a prediction about our surroundings. It shows how we gain perspective, how it changes over time, and how we unconsciously and automatically develop a very specific point of view.
The HSI model, on the other hand, reveals human behavior to be a combination of communication processes relaying through different layers that make up the human system: media layers (environment and body), mini-modules (subconscious mind), and host layers (consciousness mind) to produce and/or respond to events. Both models can and have been used to learn about one’s potential and harnessing biases to work alongside goals.
Of course, this journey is easier said than done, and in PG, we know this. As a personal note, I’ve been learning about my biases for a year and while I’ve been able to work through certain biases, others feel impossible to modify. As an example, here is my experience with fruits and nail-biting…

Since I was a child, I would not tolerate the feeling of fruit in my mouth. I grew up to become an impressive fruit detector, biased to regard their smell, taste, or texture as disgusting. As I entered college, my despise for fruits was unusual and I started feeling guilty for not appreciating the food as others did. During the first four years of college, I made zero progress. Even if I would make an effort to try a variety of fruits, I couldn’t get myself to enjoy any of them. Similarly, with the nail-biting, I tried to stop in different ways but always felt like it was out of my control. I would paint my nails weekly up until college when I realized I had been a slave to my nails for years and nothing had improved. Nevertheless, when I was introduced to the GP and HSI models, I felt I could tackle these problems by creating a strategy that worked for my lifestyle and the biases that encompass. Gaining conscious awareness of how my body was feeling and the thoughts I was having when exposed to fruits or when impulsively biting my nails, gave me the insight I needed to better analyze both situations and pinpoint specific triggers. I still bite my nails before a big event, but now at least I don’t have chopped nails for weeks and it might sound weird, but having this framework also helped me develop a new interaction with fruits. I now see them as an exciting challenge, something to learn and explore. Also, I can say I enjoy apples, melons, berries, oranges, and certain mangoes; but most importantly, I can say I am willing to try any fruit before judging it.

So how does all this have to do with staying true to ourselves in professional settings?

If we are not adequately equipped, balancing our desires and responsibilities while trying to be a happy successful person becomes overwhelming pretty quickly. No matter how hard we try or how much willpower we have, we will never be “in control” of ourselves and that is fine; that is part of how humans work. Feelings and emotions are also part of how humans work, they practically guide much of what we do, and that is fine as well. Learning about ourselves, our surroundings and using that information to our advantage is the most “in control” we can be. The HSI and GP models help us make sense of the information we gather and figure out how to use it. In my experience, the models helped me explore my mind and deal with risk. I feel more comfortable, capable, and informed when taking chances, sharing my thoughts and trying new things because I know myself. I know what I need and how certain things can make me feel. I think about how something might influence my behavior and be prepared for it. I accept that I am unique and I should not try to be anything else because that just makes things more complicated. However, it is quite a challenge. Similarities between people are generally perceived as unifying, while differences are regarded as distancing factors, and thus, to maintain peace, people often aim to reduce variability. I found this led to a biased consideration of my individuality and others’. It seems the automated approach I took when thinking about myself and my surroundings possibly harmed my ability to recognize the ways people are different, how I am different, and how I could use that information conveniently. I realized that succeeding was a lot easier when I would be myself, which is why I decided to learn to do so. 
How exactly am I doing that? With practice. Well, I practice conscious observation and noticing things without any pressure of doing anything or having to judge them, just acknowledging they exist. 
Then I turn inward, to my mind and body, to identify the source of the driving force behind my thoughts and actions. More often than not, I will forget to do this and check up on my learning progress. Be that as it may, the HSI and GP models support the statement that consistency and time lead to increased automated engagement, reducing the effort required. Time and consistency have allowed me to learn, experiment, and try again. This way I can use what I learned about myself to develop strategies that encourage self-confidence in my professional environments.
These are some of them:

1. Simple thinking

Even though we often talk about thinking, we don’t think about it. We don’t think about thinking. Most of us relate thinking to a tedious kind of mental exercise that can burn our brains or give us a headache. What we don’t realize is that thinking doesn’t have to be complicated. It is easy to confuse or get overwhelmed by our thoughts, and it’s also okay when it happens. The HSI model presents a layered organization of our minds. Minds. Yes, in plural because the model shows our brain as having a two-part arrangement, our subconscious and conscious minds being separated, but in close communication with each other. Our subconscious works automatically and indefinitely, while our consciousness is limited in capacity. This causes us to be aware of only a fraction of all that goes on around us and all our minds do for each one of us to be who we are and do what we do. No wonder we tend to get overwhelmed, there is a lot going on, even if we don’t know it. If our subconscious suddenly stopped working for some reason we would die. We cannot consciously pump our blood or make all the calculations needed to walk while we are walking. Our consciousness can only focus our body budget on a small number of activities at once, it is not a good multitasker. Since we lack control of exactly what we are aware of, I found that simple and accessible thinking made it easier for me to think clearly and sincerely communicate with others while sticking to my goals. Emotions tend to complicate thoughts, situations, tasks, even our actions, so trying not to overwhelm our conscious thoughts by keeping them straight to the point helps me interpret complex information more efficiently and enhances my creativity.

2. Flexibility

Because our subconscious works so much and so fast, the information that reaches our conscious mind changes in a matter of seconds, causing us to have different thoughts that only stay in our minds for brief periods. This is easy to notice when we try to concentrate on a specific thought or task. We will find that it is very hard, if not practically impossible to be consistent within a train of thought because our minds will drift off. It is certainly frustrating when we feel we cannot concentrate on something, but it’s not like our minds can do anything else. The best we can do is bring back our thoughts whenever we realize they’ve drifted. With practice, you will find that consistency and time will guide this process automatically. Flexibility is also important when we feel out of control or overwhelmed. We already know how humans work and that we are not robots, so it would be weird to expect everyone to do or want the same things, in the same way. A more accurate prediction is that we will be out of control and we will feel overwhelmed. If that is so, what do we do? What do we do when we have a million things on our to-do list and no willpower to concentrate? Strategize. We can gather the information we need and elaborate a simple plan to feel comfortable enough to tackle some items on the list. Being flexible can help us identify other ways we can meet our goals and be okay even though our plans might have changed. Being strict or hard on ourselves, on the other hand, might deplete our energy and probably won’t help the fact that we feel overwhelmed. For me, flexibility has been key to finding balance and allowing myself to be comfortable outside of my comfort zone.

3. Thinking activities

Is all thinking the same kind of thinking? How do you feel when you think? Does your view of thinking influence your thinking experience, how? 
These are all personal questions with different answers for each person. We can consider these and many more to find out about ourselves and how we work best. If we know details about our thinking, as an activity, we can set up thinking activities to meet our specific needs. I enjoy going to the beach whenever I’m going to read and/or write something, but hiking is best for analyzing and decision making. Driving, doing the dishes, painting, cleaning, and jogging are activities that are often regarded as daily life thinking spaces, but each person should identify their own. This way everyone can personalize their thinking activity, be satisfied with their efforts, and enjoy it. Identifying a thinking space that fits your requirements eases the process of self-reflection, promotes consistency and commitment. The approach we take when thinking about ourselves might be making it complicated from the start.

4. Share your thoughts

The fact that each of us is a unique individual human being implies that no other person will ever share our exact perspective or ideas so we are all different but highly valuable. Considering the GP model and keeping in mind how distinct we can be from each other is a good way to begin enriching and stimulating our thoughts. Once we understand that we only think and speak from what we experience and that it may be very different for everyone else, it is easier to have an open mind, to be flexible. Talking with others and paying attention to their goals is a great way to begin to practice exploring different alternatives. Sharing our thoughts and asking or giving authentic feedback can greatly improve our learning curve and give us a wider perspective to come up with innovative ideas. Communicating our thoughts can be harder than we think, it is through practice that we can best acquire the skill of expressing ourselves genuinely and accurately.

5. Embrace the differences

Although the concepts are used interchangeably, knowing who we are doesn’t have to be the same as being aware of who we are. There seems to be a greater distance between awareness than knowledge of “who I am”. If we look at it from the HSI model we see that our capacity for awareness is limited and what we are aware of changes depending on our thoughts and surroundings. Awareness makes sure we have a perception, we’ve perceived that we are something. Whereas knowledge can mean we have a deeper understanding of that idea. Noting that distinction can make thinking about oneself a lot easier, reducing it to paying attention and acknowledging ourselves as unique, different from all other people. Moments of genuine introspection can provide authentic insight about ourselves and help us figure out whenever we are driven towards something from external factors, or from within because it is personally rewarding.
Accepting individuality, knowing where you lack knowledge and experience, being yourself, and looking for authenticity in others is a useful way to approach your professional interactions and learn from them. If you feel distant from others because of your differences, consider finding a way to expose yourself to that which can make you feel even a little closer. Interest in others and enhancing the distinctions can help cultivate teamwork and productivity. It makes sense that awareness and appreciation of our own and other’s uniqueness should promote positive development for all, so why not try looking at our differences differently?
Now, being aware of or knowing who we are, does not mean we are making use of that information. For that, we are to do something different: we are to change because of the newfound knowledge about ourselves. We would have to change our actions. While strategies that lead to behavior modification are certainly attractive, they might give us a false sense of control. It’s unrealistic to think having a strategy guarantees your goal will be met, but it helps ensure you engage in activities that will bring you closer to it. Flexible strategies are tailorable and can foster hope in ourselves and our progress. The more we find out about ourselves the better we can use our surroundings in our favor and the easier it can be to reach our optimal potential. Building a successful team, Developing your brand’s mission, vision and values, and recognizing The importance of self-confidence are opportunities to consider how humans work best so you can rethink your strategic approach and naturally set yourself up for success.

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