If You Want to Change, Tell The Truth

tell the truth

So I went to a job interview last week and, to be honest, it didn’t go well. What I found interesting, though, was in the aftermath of the interview my mind was on overdrive. And by paying particular attention to these thoughts rushing through my head I noticed something: I wanted so badly to blame external factors for the way the interview went. I wanted to blame the public transport for making me 5 minutes late. I wanted to blame the interviewer’s wooden demeanor for the uncomfortable atmosphere in the interview. I wanted to blame the unusual interview questions that had me on the back foot trying desperately to recall some specific example from past.

By the time I got home from the interview my mind had settled somewhat. Whilst in the bathroom, I paused for a moment and stared at my reflection in the mirror. It was then that I said to myself: you sucked. That was it. That was the brutal, honest truth. I went to the interview under-prepared and the famous Benjamin Franklin quote came true: “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”

Then something strange happened: despite my disappointment, I felt at peace. Sure, my pride and ego had taken a battering. What I realized, though, was that by accepting responsibility for my role in the failed interview, I was opening the door to change. I knew that if I was honest with myself, then I was giving myself the opportunity to address my shortcomings.

I think, then, the lesson we can all take from this is: if you want to change, tell the truth. Being honest with yourself about your shortcomings is always the best policy. Sure, it is easier to blame external factors when things go awry. All this does, though, is make you vulnerable to more pain in the future as you will not have addressed the underlying issues.

With this in mind, here then are 3 quick tips you help you be truthful with yourself:

1. Be concrete: it is important to say more to yourself than simply I sucked. Try to pinpoint exactly what it was that let you down. In my case, I was under-prepared for the interview, which led to me being nervous in the interview and not giving well-thought out answers.

2. Be courageous: it may be very uncomfortable to examine your life and acknowledge what isn’t working. This is why you need to be courageous. Fight the desire to blame others. And remember: it is impossible to change aspects of our lives that we hide in the shadows.

3. Be complete: there is potentially a danger here of becoming too negative. I suggest you “be complete” by also reflecting on your strengths. Recall past experiences where you did successfully change some aspect of your life and use these as inspiration.

Photo by GabPRR

tell the truth

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17 thoughts on “If You Want to Change, Tell The Truth”

  1. I completely agree. Being honest with yourself about your shortcomings is sometimes the hardest thing to do. Especially in this day and age, we are almost “trained” to look outside of ourselves for responsibility and blame. The first step of being honest is necessary though, if we want to improve upon ourselves.

    Good post.

  2. I agree, this is one of the most important, and difficult, steps in realizing and implementing personal change. It is also something that is not mentioned enough. As long as we use outside factors as a crutch we will never see the need to change.
    Great Post.

  3. :) That reminds me of the first interview I had after staying home for 10 years with my daughter. Oh, Lord! As soon as I left I could see the things I did wrong, so I stopped at a bookstore on the way home and bought a book entitled “How To Interview.” Within a week I had two job offers. And one of them turned out to be for the best job I ever had in my life. Thanks for bringing back some wonderful memories.

  4. I don’t know that there was so much value in the “you suck” part of the experience. But the honest self reflection will help. Most helpful however was that in the acceptance of your role you took total responsibility for your experience. When you did that you ceased playing the role of a victim in your life. That’s the basis for real change.

  5. Thanks for the comments everyone.
    Jean: there is definitely a skill to interviews and if you haven’t had one for awhile (as was the case for me) it is easy to be caught off-guard. I will be better prepared for the next one :) .

  6. There is always a tendency to focus on what went wrong after an event that you place great importance upon occurs, especially if there is uncertainty that goes with it. It’s useful to step back, look at the event, and evaluate it from a bit of a distance, too.

    For instance, I wrote a very different article on my website lately, and I was very uncertain as to how people would react. It was important to me, because it was something I felt very deeply, but I didn’t know how others would react, and, in fact, my subscriber count went down just when I’m trying to increase it. So, afterwards, that’s what I focused on, but now I’ve given that up… I wrote what I wrote, and it affected people how it affected people. There are good points, too… I wrote an important article, for myself, and I didn’t change who I am for what I think (thought) other people want.

    So now I’m not only focused on the bad part, and that helps me to get more use and learning out of the experience. And you never know, good things can come out of what seemed like a bad experience… you might get an offer even though you thought the interview didn’t go so well, and perhaps someone will like my article well enough to link to it, and I’ll get more subscribers than I originally had.

    By the way, Peter, thank you for all that you do for me, the feedback and conversation, and congratulations on the thousand subscribers it looks like you will soon have.

  7. Thanks for an important reminder. If we don’t admit our flaws, at least to ourselves, we’ll never be able to change. This was a great look at how easy it is to blame others instead of seeing if we could have done something better. It’s not easy, but the better results are worth it!

  8. I agree with you 100% its a lot harder to be truthful than to make up lies. What’s really crazy is what majority choose to lie about and how unnecessary it real is. That’s one thing you have too appreciate about small kids they always tell the truth even at times you rather them not!!

  9. A great article. Being honest with yourself is very important. How can one even begin to improve oneself unless there is honesty to start with. It is often difficult to face up to your own shortcomings. It is sometimes more difficult to recognise your own strengths and potential, also.

    However, reading this article, I cannot help feel that you may be beating yourself up too much over something that has happened. The good thing is that you are able to draw up, and share, the positives from this experience. Thanks

  10. Hi Pete,
    Sigh – your comments on the interview I could relate to and we have all been through it. I think the interview process is like the examination process – it does not necessarily provide the best example of what a person can do however what else does an emplyer really have to go on? Iit’s your resume, your referees and your interview – so we are stuck with it. They say that the most successful people in the world have also failed dismally too and it is what they do with this failure ie how they turn it around that makes them successful. Besides, in the bigger picture, it may not have been the best job for you so maybe they did you a favour and at least you are all prepped up for the next one now which may be the one you are meant to get. Don’t be too hard on yourself but be hard enough to make sure you are better prepared for the next one eh? I have heard the quote somehwere that there are 2 ways of becoming unhappy – one is not getting what you want and the other is getting what you want – meaning that we may not always know what is coming over the horizon for us and that this failure may not be bad – it just seems that way. So, you sucked well that’s okay – it is humbling and that is okay too. Big egos in interviews don’t always go down well – listening also helps. At least you took it on board which is all good – better luck next time. When I am super rich I will give you a job no worries :P

  11. PETER– great article! Being honest with yourself is the MOST important thing we can do for personal effectiveness. Great work…

  12. Peter I agree – great article.
    It brings to mind Andy Andrews “The Traveler’s Gift” where he suggests Seven Decisions one must make for personal growth. The first decision is The Responsible Decision, where one must accept responsibility for the decisions you have made in the past and will make now and in the future. We are given the ability to choose, to make a decision. If we make a wrong decision – who do you blame? You made the decision, so act accordingly – accept the responsibility. Stop blaming others around you. It may be one of the hardest of seven decisions to accept but to grow and change, you must.
    Make it a great one – I know you will.

  13. Found your site through lifehacker. Great tips all around in your blog.

    One thing I try to train myself on is how to let my pride and ego not take a beating when I don’t get the approval of others. A job interview is a fine example of this. You seek the approval of a stranger, and he or she judges whether you are good enough for the job, essentially giving you the thumbs up or thumbs down.

    The trick is being able to take the thumbs down without beating yourself up too much. A job or interview is hardly an important thing in the grand scheme of things. ‘You suck’ can be a dangerous thought to harbor, because it can lead to putting your concept of self in the hands of other people. I reserve the ‘you suck’ thoughts only when I fail on things that are most important to me, or if I go against my principles and values.

    I do like your advice of examining your life and identifying what isn’t working, so that it can be fixed. Analyzing yourself in a non emotional, non-ego-related way is a good first step.

  14. The way I see it, you can either go through life blaming others or, you can exercise a little self-reflection and accept responsibility. Only then will you realize that your “luck” will start to change. By accepting responsibility, your daily actions take a different course…one for the better!

  15. Living with integrity, operating from a consistent, value-based paradigm (including honesty) and always taking responsibility for your life are things which all truly successful people do, it seems to me.

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