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“We can do so much more when we navigate our way through the journey together “
One thing I’ve always wanted to do in my career is move “up”, believing that the main objective was to climb the ladder towards management and leadership positions. I held myself back for many years because I didn’t feel good enough, secure enough, consistent enough or intelligent enough to sustain a position like that. The emphasis being the “enough”, somewhere deep inside I knew I had “something” I knew I had the ability, but I created an opposing picture, I would seek out evidence that proved I could only half do the job and so, I convinced myself I never fully fit the brief. I’ll use an analogy, my career thus far could be likened to my swimming squad days, in the pool I was one lane off the top squad team (with the fastest swimmers), but I never quite reached the top. Similarly, if I apply this notion to my career history; I was often excelling in my lane, I was a high achiever in sales, I was a dedicated customer service expert, coach, consultant, trainer, facilitator and team player. The many roles I have had all indicate a high level of drive, aptitude and commitment but I had remained at a level that was comfortable. That lane became safe, I was pretty darn fast, I was pretty good, but I wasn’t the best and somewhere along my career journey I had decided that was ok.
Until, I began to realise that the more I held myself back the more resentful I felt, queue next job where I’d promise myself, I would step up! This process eventually wore me down, so I started to take a closer look at myself. Who was I trying to impress? Me? Or others? And most importantly what did I truly want? I felt lost, burnt out and needed to “find myself” again.
I know this sounds like elementary thinking in a world where personal and professional development is at our fingertips, but I found no matter how much material or reading is available, cultivating a strong sense of intuition (gaging how we are feeling about our options or decisions) has been my special ingredient to career satisfaction. Sometimes our potential is over-shadowed by limiting perceptions of ourselves in such a way that it’s not until we have a major wake-up call such as experiencing burn out (like me), our relationships suffer or we reach a pain point so great that we just can’t live in the shadow any longer, so we finally take action! I’d like to think we can prevent ourselves reaching these points by re-focusing inward more often. A mentor once told me “intervene early and intervene often”, this was to apply to Human Resource Management but it is a great mantra to use when managing our own professional development. I’ve found it extremely useful to check-in with how I am feeling regularly at work, if you are in a high paced role that requires a consistent level of emotional intelligence then it’s important to self-regulate by taking care of yourself. Understanding what’s happing for you on the inside can make all the difference to how you respond to work situations on the outside.
It’s not a new concept to seek answers from within. I view it as a cyclic part of life where we sometimes need to return inwards for the “true” answers as we learn, forget and re-learn time and time again what we really need.
Life is busy, expectations can be high and unless you are an enlightened monk, I think we are stretched and challenged away from and back to ourselves, our wants and our needs throughout this lifetime.
I’m now at a point in my career where I would like to share some of the ways I have learnt to ‘self-manage’ and stay true to myself and my needs. In my experience personally and as a coach I see career transformation or change as a choice to unlearn behaviours and beliefs that are not serving us any longer; turn down the external voices, pressures and all the have to’s, should not’s and could not restrictions that can be used as evidence against our pursuit of professional happiness.
One of the best things I’ve ever done, is to give less of a sh!t about what people think of me. I’ve come to find comfort in the beating of my own drum, my lane doesn’t look so bad, I stayed true to myself, even if I had held myself back at times, does it matter? Maybe I wasn’t ready. From where I began to now, I have discovered life choices MUST be driven by me! Living up to the perceptions of others is career suicide and it’s enough to cause major fatigue and unhappiness in your whole life.
It’s taken me a long time and as a creative person, it has hurt my soul (more than a little) to deny my true passions but I don’t think it matters how long a lesson takes to sink in, we all have a path and there is always time to tune inward and love ourselves back in the right direction.
If you’d like to know more about the strategies and tools I’ve used to coach myself through various career challenges please follow my blog.