Have you ever said anything like one of the following statements?
“I can’t take a risk because I have a mortgage to pay;” “I can’t accept my dream job because I’d have to move;” “I can’t work long hours because my spouse would be mad at me.”
I hear these statements every day. As humans we often have a pessimistic view on what’s possible. We’re wired to assume “I can’t” instead of thinking, “How can I?” In this way, we are on own worst enemies. We are the ones who hold ourselves back.
When we create limits that don’t really exist we are justifying where we are. The problem? Where we are is never as great as where we could be. It’s imperative to stop setting self-imposed career limits. Here are four ways to help you let go of the limits and ignite your career.
Find out where the limits are coming from and why you’re reinforcing them. Often times, we have our own big beliefs that we see as facts. We think that we can’t move for a job, or we can’t risk working at a startup, or we can’t accept an opportunity that involves travel, but often times we haven’t really thought the reasoning through at all. We haven’t tried to find a way—and most times, there is a way.
2. Recognize that you’re holding yourself back. It’s easy to blame society, the government, the economy, a health situation, or a family situation—and any of these can be challenging or debilitating, but often we put more limits on ourselves than forces outside do. Instead of blaming others for setbacks, accept accountability and understand you’re the one who’s responsible for chasing—and catching—your dreams.
3. Make choices carefully. Everything comes with a tradeoff. It’s up to you to decide if the tradeoffs are worth it. Once I started advancing in my career I knew that I didn’t have the educational chops that my peers had. That made me feel inferior in some ways and at one point I thought about going to back to school to Harvard or Stanford to get an MBA. At this time, I was already a CIO and the sole provider for my family so this decision carried tremendous consequences. After critically looking at the situation and consulting with mentors and friends I decided that an advanced degree was not actually what I needed. It wasn’t the lack of a degree that was holding me back (I already had much of what an MBA would give me: a good job, the right skills and a network); it was my inferiority complex. I had always been ashamed to talk about my background for fear of being judged, but I realized that my background, with its lack of pedigree, yet ample opportunity, turned out to be inspirational to others.
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4. Play out all of the options and know where they lead. When I was in my late 20s I was starting to get some traction in my career at IBM, and I knew I wanted to be a manager. I was enamored with the art of HR and coaching, but I was also very drawn to technology. In tech, there were lots of opportunities including myriad things people didn’t want to do such as getting called into work in the middle of the night or working weekends. I volunteered and truthfully I thought that I was doing grunt stuff. But taking this work on set me up for the next steps. I got my first management job (others didn’t want because it required working two Saturdays a month and doing payroll) and then it led to another promotion in management. Instead of imposing limits on myself such as declaring, “I won’t work weekends” or “I only want to work on certain work,” I remained open to all options and discovered they led to what I was chasing.
Every time you hear “I cant,” dive in and ask “why not?” Then, focus on “how can I?” All of us possess potential that’s boundless. Every time you push against your capabilities, they expand.