“Those who say life is knocking them down and giving them a tough time are usually the first to beat themselves up. Be on your own side.”
As Jeremy prepared to give performance reviews for his employees, he was struck by this realization: Most of their shortcomings had nothing at all to do with ability. Rather, they were engaging in various forms of self-sabotage. They were all bright enough and quite talented—often they astounded him with their insights—but they were tripping themselves up with self-defeating behavior.
Self-defeating behavior holds all of us back at some point. For some, it can sabotage promotions or careers. To overcome your self-defeating behavior, or to help your employees overcome theirs, first pinpoint what’s going on. These are some of the most common forms of self-sabotage—chances are, you’ve engaged in many of these at one time or another.
- Dominating Conversations
You might think everyone’s listening raptly to your boundless ideas. Think again. If you’re talking over others and constantly directing the conversation, you’re not acting as either a good leader or team member.
- Avoiding Risks
Many of us engage in catastrophic thinking about potential risks (and failure often isn’t as scary as we think). Steering clear of risks means you’ll never achieve sweeping successes. If you lack trust in your own judgement about what risks are worthwhile, bring your ideas to your supervisor or mentor before you dive in head-on.
Most of us have procrastinated at some point. If you’re dreading a particular task, find ways to make it more manageable. If it’s complicated, make an outline showing how you’ll tackle it. If it’s tedious, decide to spend a fixed amount of time on it each day, and then move on.
- Shying Away from Difficult Conversations
Difficult conversations don’t get easier if you put them off—in fact, the reverse is true. Try to look at them as an opportunity for growth. Go into them with a sense of empathy for the other person, truly trying to understand her perspective. You might be surprised at what you both learn. If you want to learn more, read Practical Tactics for Crucial Communication.
- Having Tunnel Vision
Having tunnel vision is a common form of self-sabotage, say Phillip J. Decker and Jordan Paul Mitchell in Self-Handicapping Leadership. This means focusing so narrowly on one task or role that you can’t see the big picture. Think of the angry boss who is so preoccupied with finishing a task that he yells at everyone who approaches him. He doesn’t see that his attitude toward others has a lasting effect on relationships and workplace culture.
- Taking Work Home
If you’re taking work home, you’re decreasing your mental clarity at work. You might think that the more time you put into work, the more you’ll get done. Wrong. There’s a point at which you need to recharge—give yourself that time.
- Not Delegating Enough
Needing to do or control everything yourself wastes your time and tells people you don’t trust them. Micromanaging is one form of not delegating enough—because if you’re watching someone under a microscope, you haven’t truly delegated the work.
- Failing to Ask for Feedback
Fear of feedback keeps people from growing. You might be afraid to hear others’ opinions about you, or you might fear being seen as someone who needs advice. However, everyone needs advice—even executives! Whatever your shortcomings are, remember that in a few short months you could be well on your way to overcoming them—if you ask for feedback.
These three steps will help you banish self-defeating behavior:
- Identify your triggers. Know when the behavior arises, so you can consciously nip it in the bud.
- Create systems of support. Figure out who you can turn to for advice or affirmation, and tell them what you’re working on overcoming.
- Determine steps you can take to set a new pattern. Envision the behavior you want to engage in. Write notes for yourself as reminders.
Beware of one pitfall: Coping with one self-defeating behavior by replacing it with another, say Phillip and Mitchell. This tendency is all too common, they warn, giving the example of someone who avoids getting angry by steering clear of conflict. Asking for feedback from someone you trust can help make sure you’re truly addressing the behavior.
Jeremy helped his employees to grasp how they were getting in their own way. Together, they discussed steps to take in order to break out of these harmful patterns. For instance, the employee who was taking work home all the time decided to set more realistic deadlines. The employee who never took risks decided to run creative ideas by her team to see if they gained buy-in. Most importantly, by showing them that they aren’t the only ones who engage in self-defeating behavior, Jeremy helped foster a culture where employees can talk about these issues. As a result, they had a stronger system of support for overcoming them.
As an executive coach, Joel constantly is supporting his clients overcome self-defeating behaviors that are holding back their career.
“Often people attempt to live their lives backwards: They try to have more things, or more money, in order to do more of what they want so that they will be happier. The way it actually works is the reverse. You must first be who you really are, then, do what you need to do, in order to have what you want.”
~ Margaret Young ~
Annie Asks: The job I have is not satisfying. I’ve been doing it for over twelve years. I don’t know what I like to do. How do I figure this out and find a career that is fulfilling for me?
Joel Answers: For most people, changing careers is a process, not an overnight, snap decision. You know you are unsatisfied in your current position, and you’re exploring your options. That’s the first—and often the hardest—step in the process. The good news is that you can change careers at any age or stage in your career. Whether you’re changing careers at 30 or 45, the process is still the same. Here are some tips to help you discover your dream job, regardless of how old you are or how long you’ve been in your current position.
- Think about what you really love to do.
For now, don’t try to make this work or career-related. Don’t think about what kind of work you love to do; think about what you love to do in your free time. Do you garden? Spend time with your grandkids? Putter around in your workshop? What really makes you happy? Any one of these things could be the foundation of a new career. What is it that you do in your own time that really makes your heart sing?
- Consider ways to make what you love into a career.
Once you have determined what makes you happy, think of ways that you might be able to turn that activity into a new career. If you love to garden, you could start a nursery, go to work for a greenhouse, become a landscaper, or even teach others about gardening. If you love spending time with your grandkids, you might enjoy working with other people’s children as well. A career as a teacher or daycare director might be right up your alley. For the workshop hobbyist, making and selling handcrafted furniture can be extremely fulfilling and profitable.
- Get help from a career coach.
If you’ve tried coming up with ways to turn one of the things you love into a career but you’re still stuck, consider turning to a career coach for help. A good coach will guide you through the career change process and help you find the right career for you.
If you’re unhappy in your career, the time to get started searching for a new career is now. Even if you’re just 30 or 35, changing careers is hard, but as you get older, it gets even harder. If you’re young now, don’t wait until you’re 45 or 50 to think about changing careers. Older workers often face more of a challenge starting over in a new career due to reluctance on the part of employers to hire an older worker to fill an entry-level position.
If you are changing careers in mid-life or later, first read my article, “5 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Pursuing Your Dream Job,” then consider ways that you might be able to combine aspects of your old job with your new career. For example, if you are a sales manager now, you might have an easier time changing industries if you accept a position in sales in that industry first, then pursue the position you really want after you’ve gained some experience in the industry.
Do you need help finding your dream job? Fill out the career assessment on the Dream Job Coaching website to receive a personalized response from Joel.
Talkback: Are you in the process of making a career change or have you successfully completed one? Tell us about it below or leave a question for a future Q&A with Joel.
Are you trying to find your dream job? One approach is to have a solid online presence and online marketing strategy. With that said, how you project yourself online can make or break your job search efforts. Here are 3 deadly mistakes you can’t afford to make when using the Internet to find your dream job:
- Relying on just online marketing. If you think applying to hundreds of jobs online gives you a better chance of landing your dream job, you’re dead wrong. Imagine thousands of applicants aspiring for the same job. This could spell disaster for you and for the employer who posted the job. Could this mean many employers may choose not to post the job online? From my experience I know this: the best jobs are never posted but are found through networking and contacts. If you want to find your dream job, you can’t limit your search to online job boards.
- Focusing on quantity not quality. There are literally hundreds of social media portals out there. Trying to post your online profile on all of them is like spreading your net out as wide as you can but not catching anything at the end of the day. A better approach is to focus on building your online profile on some of the most popular and well-respected sites out there. LinkedIn is a good example. Focus on one or two sites to demonstrate your skills, experience, make contacts and build positive relationships in your industry.
- Playing the waiting game. One of the worst things you can do is to build your online profile and NOT do anything after that. Don’t assume people will land on your profile, contact you and hand you your dream job on a silver platter. You’ve got to work hard with online networking. Connect with people offline and tell them to connect with you on LinkedIn, for example. Join industry-related groups and be a part of the conversation. Leave helpful comments on other people’s posts. Demonstrate that you’re an expert in your niche. All of this will help increase your visibility at work, which just might catch the eye of a headhunter or your future employer.
Understand that without a doubt, potential recruiters are going to look you up online. Maintaining a strong online profile is essential to finding your dream job. However, a successful job search program or plan does not only involve having an online presence and using online marketing.
Traditional methods like using influence, getting others to perceive you positively, and building your brand are equally if not more important to get ahead in your career.
So the next time you connect with someone online, also remember to network face-to-face, recruit a person of influence to hand-deliver your resume to the HR manager, and assume that your prospective employer will be conducting a search for you on Google. With all the right elements put into place you’ll be well on your way to finding the job of your dreams.
“When we dream we make meaning of life, discover the essence of ourselves, truly grow up, and most importantly, model for children how to dream.”
~ Whitney L. Johnson ~
Years ago, an associate of mine was working in a job that had already made him more money than most Americans earn in a lifetime. Right out of college, he landed a position with a major tech company and helped design several iterations of the world’s leading networking equipment.
Some might call my associate’s career a study in success—a perfect example of how a smart, hard-working, enterprising individual could still do great things in America. Only, the man wasn’t happy. In fact, he was miserable. He was tired of networks and technology and wished his life had taken a different direction. In other words, he felt trapped.
He was also paralyzed by fear. He attributed most of his success to luck, circumstances, and youthful enthusiasm. More than halfway through his life, how could he dramatically change its trajectory, yet still meet all of his financial obligations? More importantly, did he have what it took to do something new?
The man eventually hired me as a career coach, and several months later he made the transition into a C-level position at a leading nonprofit organization. When he and I reflected on his success, he said, “I think it’s the questions we discussed, the ones right at the beginning, that made it all possible. Once I realized I could answer them all in the affirmative, I knew I had what it took to make a change.”
Those questions are reproduced here:
- Can you invest hours of your free time in learning something new? Most people’s dream job—whether it’s a director of marketing, a boarding school history teacher, or a chief information officer—requires a high degree of expertise in a diverse set of specialized skills. Those skills take time, effort, and intentional practice to master.
- Are you willing to accept rejection? It’s the extremely rare individual who lands his or her dream job on the first interview. Just as J. K. Rowling received dozens of rejection letters before having her first Harry Potter manuscript accepted, most dream job seekers will have to deal with being turned away by HR.
- Do you know how to talk with people? Whether it’s fair or not, few people will recognize your expertise and value if you don’t introduce yourself to them. Old-fashioned networking is essential to finding most dream jobs. The more people know or hear about you, the more likely they will be to hire you—or point you in the direction of the perfect opportunity.
- Can you discipline your thinking and achieve emotional detachment? For most people, one of the biggest barriers to landing their dream job is self doubt. The human subconscious has a negativity bias by default, which leads us to constantly question our plans. Thankfully, practice and mindfulness can transform our thinking and dramatically decrease self doubt.
- Are you willing to put happiness above money? According to psychological researchers, earning more than $75,000 per year (adjusted for local COL) doesn’t contribute to the average American’s overall level of emotional well-being. While not every dream job comes with a pay cut, some do; others may require substantial education or relocation costs.
If you’re interested in reading more about how to find your dream job, my friend Whitney Johnson has a new book out titled Dare, Dream, Do: Remarkable Things Happen When You Dare to Dream, which is available at bookstores nationwide, as well as on all major online retailers, including Amazon, B&N, and Indiebound.
Talkback: Are you working at your dream job, or is it “just a job”? How would you answer the five questions above? Are you willing to do what it takes to find your dream job?
Passion is not something you are born with, yet it defines who you are. Developed from a combination of your interests, your inspirations, and whatever truly motivates and excites you, you are the only one who can decide what you are genuinely passionate about.
How intense your passion is towards something directly correlates to the level of fulfillment you get from doing that task. This is why those who are truly passionate about what they do don’t think of work as “work.”
How would you rate your level of passion in your job?
If your current job is leaving you burned out, tired, and exhausted at the end of the day, think about what you like to do outside of work—your hobbies or interests. Studies suggest that 65% of people do not like their current job. Money can be one of the biggest limitations to finding your true passion, especially when you’ve got to put food on the table.
If money was not an objective, what would you be doing to bring you the most happiness? Once you know what gives you the most fulfillment, see if you can’t find a job you’re passionate about or an opportunity that supports and fuels your passion. Passion is essential to reach your true potential and be the best that you can be.
If you are passionate about what you do, you can use that passion to get ahead. Learn how you can use passion to grow as a leader and gain loyal followers in your industry, and find out how the wrong kind of passion can work against you.
Do you want to find passion in the job you already have? Order your downloadable copy of Love Your Work and reach new levels of fulfillment in your current job.