I was speaking to my friend Koya the other day about how our pasts affect how we make decisions in the future. She said, “it’s like when you smell someone’s perfume even after you have left the room. You are not in its presence but it still has an impact on you.” I just loved the analogy because it brings up so many emotions and memories about times I have been hugged by someone who went a little zealous when putting on the perfume and I felt I needed to take a shower to get rid of the smell. What if past experiences and memories were still attached to us like someone’s overpowering perfume?
I’ve been in a garden or even an aromatic restaurant and was unable to smell the wonderful smells because I was still stuck with the haze and smell from the perfume hug. I could not enjoy what was right in front of me because I was overwhelmed by a smell that got stuck on me in the immediate past.
It’s not just smells that stick. Negative experiences, failures, unkind words, negative thoughts and even successes and kind words can stick with you and prevent you from moving forward. It is often easy to see how negative things prevent you from moving forward but we rarely think about how a positive can keep us back.
Have you ever had someone praise you for something you did? Maybe when you were little your parents gave you a piece of candy or cake whenever you got a good grade or you received a gold star on your homework when you did extra credit. Think back now about your present motivators. Do you still reward yourself with candy or cake when you succeed at something? Are you upset because your boss did not give you a gold star the last time you did more than you were asked? Do you get mad at yourself because you can’t lose weight and your health is suffering as a result? How about when you did something above and beyond your job description and no one even noticed?
What started out as a positive motivational action from someone outside yourself has now turned into a negative motivator because you are unable to move forward unless you receive the positive reinforcement. You begin to get angry and shut down or even lash out. I know people who have left jobs because they weren’t praised even with pats on the back. They got lots of raises but they didn’t get birthday cake or public “Atta boys or girls” from their boss and peers. They were only able to see praise in one way and without it they felt they were unappreciated.
I was recently a volunteer team leader to reestablish a group for a non-profit. This group was a major part of the foundational principles for the non-profit. I heard nothing for ages as to how things were going. When I asked another team leader about it, because I was angry that I could not get anyone to give kudos for what was being accomplished, she said to me, “why do you need them? I look at it as no response means they have no issues with how we are doing things.”
Talk about an eye opener! I still had an issue with wanting external praise. I thought I was past that but I wasn’t. My perception was completely opposite of hers and you could see the peace she had around volunteering and praise. Me, I still need to work a bit on it. I also need to work on the chocolate and cake as reward for a job I feel I did well!
How about you? Do you still smell the perfume? Tell me your stories and how you are going to change them!