“Criticism is just wisdom contained in a bitter pill. Swallow it and grow stronger” – Futurist Jim Carroll
Criticism, especially when it is unwarranted, is the foundation of much-lost opportunity. When it is internalized far too much, it becomes the crucible of missed success. When it becomes an obsession rather than a fleeting thought, it becomes the platform for many failed initiatives – simply because it can hold us back from starting to do what we need to do. Criticism can slow us down, distract us, misfocus our minds, and mess with our goals.
It’s not good for us – unless we choose to make it so.
But the first step in doing so is to recognize the damage that it can do. Criticism often stops us from trying to do what we should be doing, and instead has us doing what we shouldn’t. It’s unwarranted criticism that causes us to focus on the smallest of our goals rather than the biggest of our accomplishments. It’s criticism that can derail us from the path of casting our mind to where we could be going, instead worrying about where we’ve been in the past. It’s harsh criticism that shatters our confidence and crushes our optimism just when we might need it the most. It’s criticism that turns our mind back to the challenges of yesterday rather than the opportunities of tomorrow, and in doing so, becomes the weapon that causes many a failed future.
Criticism is a destructive drug – but it need not be. Criticism should be turned around, and molded into an asset instead of a liability. It should be a drug that becomes a vitamin for opportunity and an elixir for optimism.
Turn it around! When taking on criticism, try to listen to it without going into defense mode. It’s our natural reaction to fight back – but don’t. Sometimes it is warranted – and because it is negative, our inclination is to block it out. But we shouldn’t – instead, we should work harder to try not to block it, but to listen to it – and learn from it. Acknowledge it: own it, work with it, accept it, and don’t try to hide from it. Wear it: don’t internalize it, but confront it and turn it into a tool to help you go forward. Find the improvement within it. Innovate from it. Develop skills around it. Use it as a bridge to tomorrow rather than a path to yesterday.
Use a positive approach to criticism, and rather than criticism owning you – you’ll own the criticism!
As an aside, I must criticize myself for the basis of the idea that led to today’s quote, because I did it all wrong!
Every morning when not traveling or golfing, I start out my day with a 7km walk – immediately after writing and sharing my Daily Inspiration post. Yesterday morning, I walked past the ‘graffiti wall’ – it’s a large wall backing onto a massive data center on the other side of the forest behind my house. The phrases there have become the fodder for many an inspiration in my mind; I mull them over, shape them and mold them while walking.
Yesterday, I read the phrase “criticism is wisdom….” on the wall again – it’s an unfinished bit of graffiti on the wall that has caught my attention for quite some time. And yesterday, I finally had the chance to finish the quote in my mind while walking. I finally had that one!
Later in the day, I put together the image with the quote that is found above, basing it on the ‘criticism is wisdom‘ bit. While watching the pouring rain through the day, I started to insist to my wife that we needed to walk there at some point – because I needed a photo of the origin of today’s quote for my post! She was not amused but relented.
Only to discover that the actual phrasing was something entirely different altogether: “Cynicism isn’t wisdom….”
I don’t know what I was thinking yesterday; I must have been thinking about issues of criticism in my mind! I totally got it wrong!
And so with the idea of turning criticism into wisdom, I know what I’m writing another day!