Would you like to be better or get better? There is a subtle but powerful difference between the two.
Who doesn’t want to be better—right? No one would object to waking up tomorrow and being better in every role and responsibility in their life. So asking if you want to be better is an irrelevant question because the answer is obviously yes.
I recently worked on a project with a business leader. I asked him, “What would you like to be different a year from now?” Most every thing he spoke about began with, “We need to be better at…”
His responses stirred my curiosity. I begin asking people the same question and I get similar responses. People focused on “being” versus “getting”. The subtle but powerful difference between “being” and “getting” is focus, effort and action.
My literary coach Kary Oberbrunner says, “Writers don’t like to write they like to have written.” This is not just a writing condition. This is our human condition. We fall victim to the resistance and challenge inherent in the journey to getting better.
Marshall Goldsmith is the number one ranked executive coach in the world. He is a supremely talented, effective and productive coach. The best CEO’s of many of the greatest companies in the world seek him out to help them and their organizations get better. He has written multiple best sellers with powerful insights on what it takes to get better in including his latest, Triggers: Creating Behavior That Lasts–Becoming the Person You Want to Be
Why would he do this?
As a guest on Rory Vaden’s podcast, The Action Catalyst, Marshall Goldsmith said, “I pay a woman named Kate to call me on the phone every day. Every day she just listens to me read the questions I wrote and provide the answers I wrote every day.”
Why would a successful world-class coach like Marshall Goldsmith do this? In his own words, “Because I am too cowardly to do this by myself and too undisciplined to do this by myself. I need help.”
Why is Marshall Goldsmith the best in his field? He looks at himself and does not fall in love with who he has become. He challenges himself by asking, “What do I have to do to get better?”
Everyone needs a coach.
The fact is no one gets better working on their own. On our own we are much more likely think (dream, wish and fantasize) about being better but never actually get better.
When I was young I tried to do everything on my own. Who doesn’t? It’s what you do—right? You instinctively strive to become self-sufficient and self-reliant. You declare your desire to learn and grow the first time you say, “Let me do it” or “I know how to do this!” Born with this innate drive for empowerment and competence, it is natural to push coaching and assistance aside.
Who hasn’t said, “I don’t need a coach. I can do this on my own?” There is a certain degree of pride and satisfaction that comes from knowing you did something on your own. When progress is slow and achievement fleeting, it becomes stubborn pride—a sense of determination spurring on great effort and commitment.
The higher you set your goal for mastery or excellence in a particular role the greater benefit derived from expert coaching. Plato learned from Socrates, Aristotle was Plato’s best student and Marshall Goldsmith has Kate.
What do you control?
If you want to be successful, find other people who are creating the impact you want to experience and do the same things. This is an ageless and proven principle for getting better.
I recently had lunch with a young man who is one of the top amateur golfers in the country. He is unquestionably talented but was struggling with his game. Our conversation was focused on how he could get back on track. He clearly wants to be better and understands what success he is seeking.
But there was something missing. It wasn’t effort—he worked hard. It wasn’t technical coaching—he is surrounded by great golf coaches. What was missing was his focus on what he had control over. By focusing on his effort, the process of getting better and his self-talk. His next tournament produced a top-10 finish. He is on the path to getting better.
How to get better?
There several proven strategies you could employee. But let me offer you two things you can implement and execute immediately.
- Engage a coach. If you want to get better in any area of your life find a coach. A coach can take you to heights of personal achievement and contribution you can’t get to on your own.
- Own the things you control. You control three things that will enable you to shift from a “be better” to a “get better” mindset. Every day you choose your effort, attitude and self-talk.
I, like Marshall Goldsmith, am cowardly and undisciplined, maybe even fearful from time to time. An honest and authentic evaluation confirms it. My first reaction is to reject anything that suggests I am cowardly or undisciplined. But I take heart in knowing I have identified the problem and it is me.
“We don’t quit because it doesn’t work, we quit because it does work. No one likes to face the fact, ‘I am the problem’.”
We get to choose—be better or get better? Looking in the mirror I can see the problem.
Add to your learning by adding these books to your library:
By Marshall Goldsmith:
What Got You Here Won’t Get You There: How Successful People Become Even More Successful
By Rory Vaden:
Take the Stairs: 7 Steps to Achieving True Success