Marshall Goldsmith’s popular book essentially discusses how certain small habits can actually hold us back from further progress in our lives. Many people might think that a certain characteristic they have, like always winning, for example, is something that fostered their success so far. However, the characteristic of always winning, whatever it takes, may actually be working against them. They might actually have succeeded in spite of that characteristic rather than because of it. Choosing to always play that “card” of always winning may actually place obstacles in the path of further promotions or result in lost business because people who always play that card can be perceived as being stubborn, arrogant and unteachable. Another situation which can arise from clinging on to what people think makes them successful is that of doctors deciding for patients when life has become “unbearable” and actually proposing to stop medical treatment so that the patient can be left to die. You can read of an example here.
I thought that many of the habits discussed in the book are actually surface symptoms of deeper root causes. People manifest their core values and beliefs through how they behave. In trying to be “politically correct”, we often gloss over character flaws and attribute bad behaviour as being the weaknesses of any given personality or behavioural “types”. Saying that bad behaviour can be attributed to “weaknesses” takes the responsibility for the bad behaviour away from the person demonstrating that bad behaviour and seems to say “It’s ok, he’s only human”. Now, while of course that is true, many people seek to excuse such bad behaviour as a result. “He can’t help it, it’s a weakness of his behavioural type”, we hear people say. Rubbish. He can help it if he is willing to make a change, regardless of what behavioural type he happens to be.
So, while Marshall Goldsmith’s book is certainly useful, bear in mind when you read it that it deals mostly with surface issues. What you need to tackle lies a lot deeper. When you decide to tackle the deeper issues, you grow and change for the better.
Of course what got you here won’t get you there. You need to become better in order to get there.