Zen Habits: How to Accept Criticism with Grace

I recently read Leo Babauta’s book Zen Habits: Handbook for Life which contains some of his most popular blog posts from Zen Habits. It was a great motivation for me because my boyfriend and I went downsizing by moving in together We had to condense and get rid of many of our things.

The problem with that is that over the years I had grown attached to my things, many of which I don’t use anymore. The first part of Zen Habits is about de-cluttering your life and separating yourself for your material things. I realize now that it’s not so much the objects I’m attached to but the memories- and those would still be intact once the object is long gone.

It wasn’t so much the de-cluttering of the physical things I appreciated from this book, but the all around de-cluttering of my life. When I have a clear head and a clear home, I feel more productive. In fact, many times I cannot work on anything unless my place is clean. Otherwise there’s a mental block on my productivity.

If you’re a highly motivated and goal-oriented 20-something like I am, you have to read this book because there’s a whole section on how to handle and accept criticism, boosting your self-confidence and having faith in humanity. Let’s face it if you’re trying to become successful you have probably experienced your fair fare of rejection. And if you haven’t, you’re most likely fearing rejection.

Here’s my highlights from Zen Habits:

Accept criticism with grace and appreciation. The best way to sum Leo’s posts are if life gives you a lemon, make lemonade. Leo has several ideas but my three favourites are:

- turn a negative into a positive

- stop your first reaction

- thank the critic

What has worked for me is to always (and I do mean always, to the point I think I annoy some of my friends) is to turn a negative into a positive. When I plan I had falls through or things don’t go my way, I no longer get upset. Why? I have experienced in past that usually something better will come along. Sometimes the best plan, is no plan.

Did a store run out of your size? Did you fail to land your dream job? Did the concert sell out before you were able to get tickets? I truly believe that something better will come along whether it be a thing, person or opportunity. It just wasn’t meant to be!

It’s difficult to accept criticism because negative comments hurt, especially when they come from the people you love the most. That’s why stopping your first reaction is so important, even when someone is insulting you or putting you down.

I have come to learn that there are two main reasons why someone might criticize me: one, out of love and to protect me from getting hurt; and two, out of jealousy that I’m taking steps to improve myself, something they might not be in a place to do yet.

Once I was able to understand this I wait for some time to past before responding to any negative comment because usually the first thought is out of defence and usually just as hurtful back. This is obviously difficult to go if I’m engaging in a face to face conversation but I find most people hide behind their phones or computers when making a criticism. If that’s the case I have plenty of time to respond or I can chose not to respond at all.

Finally, I don’t always look at criticism as a negative thing. I take it with a grain of salt, which means I take it lightly. If I know the person’s comments were out of love I might thank them for the advice. Quote possibly their criticism on ways to improve can save me time and money. This is especially true if your criticism comes from an expert or someone that has already done what you are trying to do. Appreciate it and thank them.

Leo had a great example of how to accept criticism in his book Zen Habits. After a reader of his blog wrote an unpleasant comment on one of his posts, Leo followed up and thanked him. Maybe there’s some truth to what he’s saying, he thought. At the same time that reader was taken back by Leo’s response and politely responded again, this time with a more pleasant comment.

Lastly, I’m learning to embrace and accept criticism more because it keeps me motivated to become successful in whatever I choose to do. Prove others wrong by working hard towards your dreams. As the saying goes….”What doesn’t kill me, only makes me stronger.”

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