Reframing your mind with Mona Patel, CEO of Motivate Design
There’s at least one moment in every day when you decide to take on a challenge or to make an excuse. It could be the split seconds between your morning alarm and grabbing your running shoes. Or the moment between speaking up in a meeting or staying quiet. It could be small, or large. No matter the size of the decision, the result will always be the same: if you choose the challenge, you will grow as a person and if you choose the excuse, you won’t.
It’s straightforward logic—one that allows a person to continually build on their experiences until mastering the skill, action, or habit. Despite this simple formula for success, many of us choose excuse over action every time. We might chalk it up to laziness, procrastination, or apathy, but Mona Patel, CEO of Motivate Design, believes that fear is the real culprit.
As Patel says, being brave is hard, especially within the workplace. No one wants to say, “You know what I’m afraid of? You!” to a boss, coworker, or project. Most insecurity comes from a lack of experience. By eradicating your excuses and taking on more experiences, your confidence will grow. Fears will diminish. In no time, it will be easy to meet life’s daily opportunities head-on instead of hiding.
Being brave is hard, especially within the workplace. No one wants to say, “You know what I’m afraid of? You!” to a boss, coworker, or project. - Mona Patel
In Patel's work as a design strategist, she’s studied why and how people make excuses. Eight excuse personas emerged from her research: The Brat, The Bullied, The Bottlenecked, The Scaffolder, The Square, The Sheep, The Blamer, and The Slacker. Patel shared these personas in a recent talk at HOW Design Live and challenged the audience to look in the unblinking excuse mirror to identify their persona. Things got real, really fast. Patel pointed out that we can have multiple excuse personas, depending on the situation or person. Read them all and see which personas ring your bell.
The Brat: A person who immediately judges ideas before looking at the data. A lot of, “I don’t understand, so it can’t happen,” within moments of an idea introduction. Poor Brat never gets to try innovative ideas because they always squash them too soon.
The Bullied: A person who is constantly placing themselves in a victim position. They might say, “I don’t have X so I can’t do Y,” or “I’m not the manager type, so I could never get that job.” Our dear Bullied knows all the reasons why they don’t deserve what they really want.
The Bottlenecked: A person who likes to create a complex system of processes that force all final approvals to be made by them. But then they are too busy to actually follow-through with the approval. Busy Bottlenecked can never move projects forward because they don’t act.
The Scaffolder: This person takes a simple solution and converts it into an unsolvable complexity. Patel talked about how a Scaffolder might want to create a simple medical product but gets stuck trying to revamp the whole healthcare system.
The Square: A person who loves the lines and rules. They can be heard saying, “If it hasn’t been done before then we can’t do it now,” or “We can’t do that in retail.” Even if the statements are true, treating them as ultimatums mean Squares won’t experience innovation.
The Sheep This person always follows the herd, even if their idea might be better for the business goal. A Sheep would say, “Well if everyone likes that idea, I’m not going to bring mine up.” Safe Sheep get pulled along by the group and never grow as individuals.
The Blamer: A person who is convinced that it’s not their fault. It’s the boss or it’s the company or it’s any other reason. Their unhappiness and stagnant experiences are never their own. But the blameless Blamer eventually runs out of fingers to point.
The Slacker: This person is in the passenger seat of their own life. It’s the person who says, “I don’t want to start my own company,” even though they’ve talked about it for 20 years. Sleepy Slackers are waiting for people to take them where they want to go. Patel pointed out, “The best way to get where you want to go is to get in the car and drive.”
“The best way to get where you want to go is to get in the car and drive.” - Mona Patel
Anything ringing a bell? If something hit home, don’t despair. We’ve all made excuses. I’ve even made some today.
The important step after identifying your persona is to reframe your thinking—take power away from the excuses. Expose excuses as a type of fear and address them head-on. Patel has a bevy of tools to help overcome your excuse obstacles, but her first suggestion is to change the question of “What if I fail?” to “What if I come up with the most awesome idea in the world?” It could happen. So quit making excuses already.
Chelsea Larsson is a content marketer for Zendesk and a frequent contributor to Relate. She believes any problem can be solved with a pen, paper, and Pimm's cup. Find her on Twitter: @ChelseaLarsson.