BK Blog Post
Posted by Laurence Ackerman, President, The Identity Circle LLC.
Larry Ackerman is a leading authority on organizational and personal identity. He is the founder of The Identity Circle, a consulting and coaching firm based in Westport, Connecticut that helps organizations and individuals thrive.
I came up with the distinctions of Learner/Judger mindsets and Learner/Judger questions over 25 years ago and first wrote extensively about them in The Art of the Question, which was published in 1998. Over the years I’ve discovered how deep these distinctions go, how transformative and healing they can be, and how much of a difference they make in people’s lives—both personally and professionally.
Even though both mindsets are completely normal—we all have both and always will—I’m continually discovering how ubiquitous and painful “going Judger” can be and how high the costs. Later I’ll write another blog on the high cost of Judger in relationships. After that, I’ll delve into the multiple costs of Judger in organizations. At some point, I’ll also explore the costs of Judger in learning and teaching.
You might wonder why I’m so fascinated with Judger. It began because for a long time I was a champion at self-criticism and self-doubt and it made me miserable. My determination to discover the mechanism of this suffering and turn it around eventually led to distinguishing the Learner and Judger mindsets. Along the way I recognized some important aspects of Judger. First, we’re hardwired for Judger mindset—it’s actually there for our survival and protection—even though it usually shows up as harsh and critical. Just as important, I realized that understanding and accepting my own Judger, rather than rejecting, denying, or being mad at myself for having it, is essential for healing and wholeness. This is why I emphasize the importance of “making friends with Judger.”
These days I “do” Judger to myself so much less frequently that occasionally I fall into complacency and harbor a silly arrogance about having mastered the “art of mindset management.” But just recently, I was sharing some painful challenges based on self-doubt with a friend, Bill and he said, “You’re being awfully hard on yourself.” I was stunned; it hadn’t even occurred to me that my upset had Judger fingerprints all over it. I’m grateful for his comment; we all need friends who’ll help us stay awake. It’s a forever challenge.
I’ve discovered that the first step to freedom from the suffering caused by being self-critical is developing the capacity to simply observe Judger non-judgmentally as it arises. This may sound simple, but anyone who’s tried knows it’s not easy to develop and sustain this practice. Motivating ourselves to engage in this discipline gets easier when we remember the costs of letting Judger rule our experiences and our lives.
Here are brief descriptions of eight costs of self-Judger. I provide this list with the hope that understanding the costs of Judger may fortify your resolve to cultivate your Learner mindset and your success in leading a Learner-centric life.
I believe the golden key—the master switch that makes transformation possible— lies in deeply distinguishing, understanding, and reclaiming the energy of Judger. I am not talking about “positive thinking” or avoiding or denying Judger—in the end that just makes Judger stronger. Rather, it requires getting real about the personal experiences and costs of Judger mindset. Contrary to the fear that doing this makes Judger stronger, learning to observe non-judgmentally brings the freedom that makes transformation possible.
If you want to learn more about cultivating your own Learner mindset, check out our one or two day workshops coming up in October. Click here.
Photo by: Kristin Andrus