How to Use Embarrassment to Your Advantage
Have you ever made a promise to start a new behavior, or to put a stop to one you know is sabotaging you, only to be met with people who are happy to let you slide? In fact, they encourage the very behavior you’ve promised yourself to stop doing.
Like that time you decided to give up sugar, only to have a friend drop off your favorite cookies. Or when you promised yourself you’d start exercising — today — until you got that call to go out for drinks instead.
We all want to live to our potential — to share the greatness that exists inside of us, but too many people are willing to let us off the hook. It’s easier than worrying about embarrassing us, or hurting our feelings.
A few years ago, I started this new habit and I’m not particularly proud of it. This habit has caused me incredible embarrassment a couple of times, and leaves me saying “I’m sorry” way more than I’d like. In fact, “sorry” has become synonymous with “I’m human, accept it.”
I’m late. And I’ve used every excuse in the book, from “a meeting ran over time,” to “traffic in DC is so unpredictable” to explain my lateness each time, trying to give the impression that I’m surprised that I’m late. Ha!
Beyond the embarrassment, I’ve also felt horrible for leaving people waiting. It’s annoying — I get it! So, I decided to do something about it.
I set a goal to be a minimum of 5 minutes early to every meeting. That is, actually ready to begin the meeting 5 minutes early, not arriving in the building or parking lot 5 minutes early.
In order to shift my behavior, I decided give myself a 1 burpee penalty for every minute I’m late. And I have to do them — no matter what I’m wearing — right then and there, if physically possible. If not, then I tack them on to the end of a hard workout.
So far, I’ve learned that doing burpees in dress clothes makes for a sweaty mess. Also, doing burpees in front of the person or people I’m late for has the potential to embarrass them. Not fun either!
The key to my success with this is holding myself accountable, which turned out to be very difficult when my friend, Donna — who’d carved sixty minutes for me — told me I was 20 minutes late.
“Are you sure I was twenty minutes late?” I asked Donna.
“Dangit! I’m going to be sweaty and gross for my next meeting,” I said.
“I can let you off the hook?” Donna said, as I was sucking wind.
Before I could think, I blurted out, “No, I’ll never learn!”
Thank God I didn’t think before I opened my mouth (this is probably the only time I’ve ever said that!), or else I would have said something like, “Okay, I’ll finish them later, when I’m in workout clothes.”
In reality, letting me off the hook would have played into the game I was already playing with myself, causing me to continue a habit I am ready to change.
Rather than let anyone off the hook, enroll yourself into the results they’re pursuing — and completely capable of achieving — and then hold them to it. Don’t give them permission to keep to the habits that are holding them back.
People want to be provoked into their greatness. And when you hold them accountable, you help bring forth their greatness.
Find out what they’re hooked on achieving — ways you can help them stick to their commitment, and then, hold their butt to the fire. They’ll appreciate you later!
p.s. please post a comment and let me know your thoughts!
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