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How To Push Yourself Towards Greatness

11/06/2015 03:08 EST | Updated 11/06/2016 05:12 EST
Antonio_Diaz via Getty Images

How do you react when someone pushes you? I don't mean pushes your buttons to get a reaction, but pushes you to do more, achieve more, reach higher.

"Pushing" can come in many forms. It can be simple encouragement, like when your parents pushed you to take music lessons. It can come from colleagues, who try to push you into a new project, telling you that they know you can do it.

It can even come from someone telling you that you can't do something.

When I was in high school I took all of my subjects at the advanced level, including math. During the first semester of my first year, I was struggling a bit with some of the concepts and I was not doing as well as I was used to doing. Perhaps it was the excitement of high school, perhaps it was just more difficult; but I struggled and that wasn't really my norm.

My math teacher took me aside and suggested that I lower the level of my math class from advanced to general. I was mortified! I was smarter than that, and I certainly wasn't a quitter.

Fortunately, I was able to turn that teacher's suggestion into a challenge -- a kind of push -- that prompted me to set the bar higher for myself and reach my goals.

I began working twice as hard. I studied and I studied more. I got all my math assignments in on time. I didn't give up.

And I finished all of my high school subjects, including math, at the advanced level.

Let's look at another example: applying for a job. We know that when we apply for jobs, we will typically apply for one that is slightly above our skill and pay level. That's normal. We've all heard the adage that if you have all the qualifications they ask for in a job advertisement, then you're overqualified.

But how do you react when you don't get the job? Does it make you want to back down and apply for jobs that you are only qualified for? Or does it challenge you to find out why you didn't get the job, and to improve?

In some organizations, you can get information about why you were not hired for a particular job. Many people never take advantage of that, yet they really should. Just because you don't get a job doesn't mean you aren't qualified for it. It could be that there was someone who was simply a better fit. It could be that you are a little weak in a specific area--and if you knew that, you could either get those skills or improve your interviewing techniques in those areas.

I often have to fill out RFPs for training and consulting contracts. I don't get them all, even when I feel that I am fully qualified, and I always want to know why. I don't always agree with the employer's reasoning, but I use the situation of me "failing" as an opportunity to push harder. They reject me (or push me away), and I react by finding out why and then addressing that situation.

When someone offers you constructive criticism, do you use that push to react, or respond?

Let's assume someone tells you that you aren't a very good listener, and that you tend to interrupt others. Do you walk away thinking that person is wrong and they don't know what they are talking about? Do you use an excuse and say, "That's just the way I am" or do you take that push and use it to help yourself?

It's better for you in the long-run to embrace that push and figure out what you can do to be a better listener. Don't assume that the person's constructive criticism has no validity. Use their push to become better.

It isn't easy being pushed by others. We tend to react negatively, instead of seeing the push as an opportunity.

But if we see pushes for what they are -- challenges and opportunities -- we can use them to help achieve our goals.

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