At a Dead End? Discover How To Jumpstart Your Future

polishedresumeCareer Growth

Some of my clients are frustrated by a lack of career mobility at their workplace. This could be due to the business situation of their industry, the relationship they have with their boss, or simply the unfortunate structure of their organization. As frustrating as this situation can be, it could very well be a blessing in disguise. This situation often points us to a behavior we should adopt more frequently than we do, but we lose sight of it in the hustle and bustle of our daily lives. Very simply, we must always be on the lookout for ways to grow our skills, opportunity, and perspective. As President John F. Kennedy said, “the time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining.” But where do we start? It’s not easy but the following three exercises will help.

What problem are you trying to solve?

Albert Einstein said, “If I had an hour to solve a problem I’d spend 55minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about the solution.” I find that people are trained how to solve problems, but pay very little attention to understanding how to ask the right questions. We usually think we understand the problem pretty quickly and can transition to solution space immediately. Yet, how many times have we done this to find that others around us had a different impression of what the problem and solution should be. The fact is, most of the time, we are attacking a symptom of the real problem, not the problem itself.

I was once told the story of a university that needed to find a solution for the lack of student parking. They invested a lot of time in meeting, studying, and budgeting for a better on-campus parking solution, but could not find a cost-effective way to do so. They brought in a third-party consultant who was able to determine very quickly that the reason why students needed a parking solution was because there were insufficient options to lock up their bicycles securely. As soon as the university installed options for students to lock up their bicycles safely, the parking situation went away. It is worth the time and energy to invest in truly understanding the problem you are facing.

Let go

Once you have chosen a problem and are confident you understand the subtleties of the situation, the next step is to toss out all assumptions you may be making. A major reason people are unable to attain satisfactory results to these exploratory exercises is because they are too invested in their existing skills and behaviors. The Center for Executive Development (CED) performed a study to discover the key traits and behaviors to predict career success. What they found was that successful people were able to “let go of the behaviors that previously made them successful, in order to pick up the new skills and perspectives needed for performance at the next.” If you are truly stretching yourself, by definition, the skills and perspectives that you already developed should not be the correct ones to get you through the challenge you set before you. It is natural to feel anxiety when we put ourselves in uncharted waters. When we open our minds to the experience without prejudice, we are then able to discover those things within us that expand our perspective.

Be disciplined

In 1952, Florence Chadwick, an accomplished distance swimmer, attempted to swim the distance between Catalina Island and the California coast. It was very cold and foggy on the day she attempted the feat. After swimming for over fifteen hours in heavy fog, she felt too exhausted to continue. Later, she discovered she was less than half a mile from her destination. She told reporters afterwards, “I think if I could have seen the shore, I would have made it.”

Exploring beyond our boundaries is like this story. The journey of discovery is like being surrounded by a heavy fog. Our destination could be just on the horizon and we would never know. I am convinced that, in most situations, quitting prematurely is responsible for more failures than a lack of ability. Be realistic in how much time you can devote to an activity – even if it is just 15 minutes a day. Once you set that realistic goal, however, be disciplined. You will be amazed at what you can accomplish with just 15 minutes a day, if you are disciplined about it.

Take the first step

As the expression says, “the definition of insanity is trying the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Let go of the past, dare to explore untapped gifts you have within you. You may be pleasantly surprised by what you discover about yourself.