I am finding that one of my biggest challenges in life has been my own frame of mind.
I am independent; I can be stubborn and I’m not easily influenced, especially once I’ve made up my mind. Where I am today in my career is the sum of the decisions I’ve made in the workplace. I haven’t always known what to do, but when I’ve made mistakes, I’ve owned them and tried to learn from them. In my mind, I always thought I was doing the right things, making the best decisions and really didn’t need the help of those around me.
But often, I was a prisoner in my mind—and the danger is I didn’t even know it. My individual success was hindered due to the false realities I’d created in my mind. There were instances in my career where I may have had more leadership experience than the person I reported to. Naturally, I felt superior though I was serving in a subordinate position. This thinking kept me from unleashing my potential in that position. In realizing this sad truth, I had to change my thinking habits.
First, I had to acknowledge the importance of realistic thinking. Regardless of how experienced you are, you will always need the help of others. In no way shape or form is it ever acceptable to place yourself on a pedestal. It’s totally acceptable to have confidence, but when you really are great, exceptional and extraordinary, your reputation will precede you without your pride. In my career, I’d established unrealistic goals and perceptions I could neither meet nor live up to. In the end, I had to revisit that which I’d made up in my mind. This time, I had to be honest with myself and face the harsh reality that perhaps I wasn’t as great as I thought I was.
Next, I had to release the power of strategic thinking. Strategic thinking means you always consider the future course. I didn’t always know what I wanted to be when I grew up—but I could easily identify what I didn’t want to be. When I began to think strategically, I had to examine my thoughts and decide which ones to eliminate, which ones to revise and which ones to keep. Ridding yourself of ineffective thoughts allows you to craft your vision and plan for a successful career.
Finally, I had to question popular thinking. Going along with everyone else should only be OK if you sincerely agree with the group. When a group says yes, there are times I say no. Recently, a couple of colleagues made a decision that seemed to be the best solution, and when asked if I agreed, I stated that I didn’t. I also respectfully shared why I wasn’t in agreement. It was a tough call, but in the end, my leader confirmed my suggestion, even though I had to stand alone when I initially shared my thoughts.
When you change your thinking, you can change your life. Taking an inventory of your thoughts and evaluating your mindset might just be the next step on your path to a successful career.
Ericka Spradley is a career coach, columnist and owner of My Next Level who prepares clients for interviews. In her spare time, she writes career articles and takes career questions on her blog, The E Spot.