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Why you don’t have the career you want (and what to do about it)

Why you don't have the career you want (and what to do about it)

One thing I’ve learned about the human condition through coaching hundreds of clients is that we all secretly hope there’s a magic formula for success. We crave an easy solution even though we know deep down that it couldn’t be that easy, or everyone would already have everything they want.

To create a really great career you have to push yourself out of your comfort zone.

Even if you love your job you need to keep challenging yourself and raising the bar or you’ll start to feel bored, or worse like you’re being left behind.

Just ask Ryan from Million Dollar Listing New York. In recent episodes, he’s been having a crisis because his business was feeling like Groundhog Day. After a lot of soul searching he realised what the problem was. He’d stopped taking risks in his business. With success had come responsibility and now that he had a large staff he was playing it safe. Once he became aware of the issue, he was able to do something about it and get excited about business again (spoiler alert – he expanded into Brooklyn by buying a large real estate brokers there).

So how can you break out of your comfort zone and take more risks with your career?

1) Examine the reasons why you’re not where you want to be

Are you feeling uncomfortable about taking on more responsibility? Did someone tell you you’re not ready yet? Or maybe you’re just nervous about what life would look like if you took the next step. You believe you would be overwhelmed, stressed out and exhausted if you got the job.

Take a long hard look at these reasons because they are really just excuses (sorry!), they are all the ways in which you’re holding yourself back.

A useful exercise I sometimes do with my clients is to reframe every reason as an excuse. So instead of saying: I’m not ready for a promotion right now, write: I can’t get a promotion right now because I believe I’m not ready. Now write down all your reasons for staying stuck in the same way. Does this make you see your options any differently?

2) Simply decide that you’re going to take more risks

It sounds simplistic but setting an intention can be extremely powerful because you switch on your risk taking antennae (also known as your reticular activating system). This means you’re going to start spotting opportunities to take risks everywhere. It’s like when you decide you want to buy a white SUV, suddenly you’ve never seen so many white SUVs in your life. If you are avoiding opportunities to take on more of a leadership role for example, set an intention to practice leadership at work (even if it’s just being the boss of yourself – we all know how hard that can be!).

If you want to build influence at work, start at the office break room or ask a colleague out for coffee. You don’t have to do everything at once. The important thing is to start moving in the direction of what you want.

3) Take on your fears

It’s completely normal to feel fearful when you’re considering taking a risk. Sometimes you will have to take big leaps but a lot of the time you will see opportunities to take small steps towards what you want. If you have a fear of public speaking, you could start by sharing your ideas in team meetings. If you want to host a workshop, start by co-hosting one. Want to write a book? Start a blog first. Need to find a new job? Ask for more responsibility at your current job, or attend a networking event to practice your pitch.

4) Make a different choice

When Ryan got the memo about why he was unhappy at work, he decided to go for broke every single day, including getting tough with another agent to get his client a better price. It wasn’t his usual way of doing business and it was risky but it worked.

What can you do to shake things up? I’m not suggesting you act out of character or come down hard on people, but if you want a different outcome you’ll have to make a different choice. What would be a stretch for you right now? Whatever it is, go and do it. Overloaded with work? Set firmer boundaries. Want to write copy for a big campaign? Ask if you can contribute. Go for broke. Go for expansion. You would be amazed at what can happen if you’re clear about what you want.

As Ryan discovered, risk has its rewards and sometimes playing it safe just winds up feeling like Groundhog Day.

How do you feel about risk? What’s the biggest risk you’ve ever taken at work?

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