Nervously clutching my cup of tea, I waited for my manager to arrive for my mid-year review. Subconsciously, I’d primed myself to be on the defensive. In my mind, I’d already seen the meeting go badly and expected to walk away, feeling overworked, overloaded and underappreciated.

And then, guess what?

Nothing bad happened.

Nothing! In fact, the meeting couldn’t have gone much better! Not only did I receive great feedback from my manager, but also from other team members and company partners. Instead of being burdened with extra tasks I didn’t want, I walked out excited about my new projects! Furthermore, I gained some genuinely helpful suggestions for how I can grow, both professionally and personally.

Coming out of the meeting, I was elated with how well it had gone – but I also felt terrible!

How could I have thought this meeting would end otherwise?! What on earth made me think that someone – who has always been kind and supportive towards me – would be any different today? What’s wrong with me?!

I felt so guilty! Urgh.

After giving myself a mental kicking, I stood back and tried to look at the situation objectively. Like everyone, I’m a perfectly imperfect person. This was a simply prime example of how we, as human beings,  should know better, but still sometimes behave badly. Inevitably, there are going to be times when I’ll mess up like this again, so deciding to forgive myself had to be the first step to getting out of this mental funk I found myself wallowing in.

Preferring to think of myself as an enlightened and evolved self-help junkie (try saying that after a gin or three!), I made a further decision to take whatever lessons I could from this experience. If I can’t always be the better person, at least I can be in the process of becoming better.

In the spirit of sharing my new-found knowledge, upon reflection, here’s what I learnt:

Lesson #1: Take responsibility. My thoughts, actions,and emotions are always mine to control. 

Emotions often feel unmanageable, as they seem to arise spontaneously.  An unconscious reaction to a given situation, we can fall into an emotional habit loop. Before we know it, we’ve spiralled into a state of self-hate.  Going into this meeting feeling anxious and apprehensive, I’d unwittingly set myself up for a negative experience.

While it’s true that many emotions seem to “just happen”, it doesn’t mean they have to stay this way. My morning Hour of Power ritual has taught me that I’m absolutely in control of my mindset. In the time it takes to walk to work, I create my emotional state for the day, whether that’s feeling energetic and excited, or creative and caring. Taking responsibility for my mindset is a choice I’m making regularly, by applying the skills and knowledge I’ve taken from Tony Robbins’ books and videos. Though Tony insists that he’s not our guru, thus far I’m finding mounting evidence to the contrary!

What’s more, I’ve learnt that I can change things in a moment. There’s no need to wait. Before I even finished listening to Mel Robbins‘ audiobook, “The 5 Second Rule”, I’d already used her simple technique to help me break free from my disempowering preconceptions about my appraisal. As I relaxed into the conversation, I made a conscious effort to focus on the positive and it changed how I felt almost instantly. Whilst I didn’t literally count 5-4-3-2-1 to myself beforehand, it was a moment where I chose to act differently, and this choice turned the experience around.

Lesson #2:  Choosing and living by my own values all areas of life, I’m genuinely being myself.

Another of Tony Robbins’ top tips for self-development is to make decisions about the person I want to be, rather than the person I think I am, or think I have to be. Having always held very firm boundaries between “work me” and “home me”, I was surprised to be praised by my manager for qualities and skills I thought I’d kept well under-wraps.

“From quite early on, I had this idea of compartmentalised identities – ‘this is how you are when you are with your mum, and this is how you are when you are with your dad’ – so it seemed like I could never absolutely be myself. And the image of myself as compromised and inconsistent made me want to withdraw from the world even further.”

Russell Brand

I can relate to the quote above from comedian Russell Brand. Rather than living by my own values, rules and beliefs, – and being the person I want to be –  I’ve accepted those which evolved unconsciously over my lifetime. Also like Russell, I’ve been plagued with an uneasy sense of incongruity; never fully being myself and instead, only showing those parts of me I thought people would find acceptable.

Taking Tony Robbins’ advice to consciously choose the values by which I want to live has changed who I am in every area of life. Creating my new values lists, has shown my true self to be someone who prioritises my physical and mental well-being; values giving and receiving love; and living with integrity above all else. What’s more, I’ve learnt that values permeate boundaries, and so in focusing on living my values, I’m no longer wasting energy in trying to build false walls between myself and others.

Not only is a values-driven life significant for its positive impact on my self-esteem, it’s also crucial in setting a positive example to the people I manage at work. More importantly still, I don’t ever again want to be anything other than a brilliant role model to the people I love. Years ago, my sister told me she never wanted to be like me, and while I know she feels differently today, I’ve never been able to forget it. I want to be the kind of person of whom my sisters, nieces and nephew can be proud.

So while I’m certainly not here to preach positivity, I’ve definitely found myself feeling happier thanks to practising self-development. Other people are also noticing it, too.  In my appraisal, my manager told me how pleased she was to see me feeling excited and enthusiastic about work, and life in general. It’s boosted my confidence in risking a little more vulnerability, and through living my values, sharing more of my true self – even at work.

Lesson #3: You become like those with whom spend most time, so choose your friends (and colleagues) wisely. 

Whether via the Daily Mail’s sidebar of shame, binge-watching reality TV, or in hushed whispers by the photocopier at work, it seems that we’re all sometimes tempted by the magnetic pull of gossip. Working in an office, it’s pretty standard to have a natter,  and an occasional moan, at the tea point.

By creating connections between colleagues, who often have little else in common other than work itself, gossip can perhaps be justified as helping build relationships. But I don’t want to be someone who can only connect with others in a negative way. Bonding over bitching isn’t cool. I may sound a bit like a broken (BBC Grange Hill) record (Just say no! Anyone?!), but it’s true. I’m ashamed to admit my part in gossip, to , despite rationally knowing that it’s immature, unprofessional and it’s generally shady behaviour.

“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”

Jim Rohn

Before I went to my appraisal meeting, I made the mistake of chatting with disgruntled colleagues. As Jim Rohn’s quote above states so succinctly, who you spend time with influences the kind of person you become. Allowing myself to be carried along by the tide of negative influence certainly affected how I felt. Reflecting back, my pre-appraisal anxiety and apprehension was totally unjustified. Unconsciously absorbing other people’s bad vibes, adopting their worries as my own, I’d shaped my expectations of the meeting around the unhelpful attitudes of others.

To truly live my values, I realise that I need to choose my company more wisely in future. Selecting the people by whom I want to be influenced by is my decision and my responsibility. Looking at the mindset I took into my appraisal, I’d made a bad decision to engage in gossip with people living in a negative state.  So while I’m trying not to be too hard on myself, I’m taking this opportunity to draw a line and “raise my standard”, as Tony himself so often says.

Lesson #4: When in doubt, feel grateful.

“Without gratitude and appreciation for what you already have, you’ll never know true fulfilment.”

Tony Robbins

Hearing news of colleagues facing redundancy got me thinking about my own good fortune at work. As I’ve mentioned before, gratitude is key to many self-improvement programs. My appraisal reminded me how lucky I am. I have a job where I’m valued, I can make a real difference, and my being there matters.

Not only am I appreciated for my work, but for how well I manage and motivate my team. Overcoming social anxiety, I decided to focus my energies on showing I care; that I’m genuinely interested in my employees as individuals. Making their days better makes me feel like I’m doing a good job, and more importantly, I’m being true to myself.

Further proof I’m making a lasting, positive impact arrived in the post this week: a parcel from a former student. I’m touched that she thinks enough of me to keep in touch, even in such a busy new phase of life. By helping people progress to bigger and better things, I’m able influence their future positively, if only in a small way.

Personal development requires appreciating my existing skills and qualities, as well as the contributions I’m making through my work. As a professional adult woman, I know I’m more than competent at my job.  With years of experience in my sector, I’ve tons of market knowledge and have developed excellent relationships with key stakeholders, who regularly feedback to colleagues how efficient, effective and helpful I am.

What’s more, I’ve grown to become a brilliant teacher, presenter, and motivator. Whether I’m speaking at training events, or working one-on-one, my personal passion for self-help shines through. Looking at my work from this perspective, I’m proud to have made what I love part of my regular day job. I’m excited to explore opportunities to grow and expand my skills, with the support of kind colleagues. Whilst I dream of future career greatness, for now at least, I figure why not be the best person I can be in the job I do now?

Self-development is ultimately a process of becoming the best version of ourselves. By taking to heart these lessons, this experience has taught me that I can feel like the best version of myself right now. My thoughts, emotions and actions are all within my control. It’s a scary yet empowering concept that I’m still getting my head around.

In seeking self-improvement, I’m always going to be a work-in-progress. I’m grateful to be surrounded by people, like my manager, who want to help me build my confidence and grow. By learning from my mistakes and accepting my flaws, at work and in all other areas of my life, I’m already making progress towards becoming a better, truer version of myself.