As humans, we are pattern-seeking creatures. It’s what we do. Something happens, and our brain decides what box it fits in. When you see the world through a lens of lack and limit, that sets the pattern your brain is looking to match. So when negative things happen, it reinforces that worldview. And when positive things happen, they are both minimized in importance and truncated by waiting for the other shoe to drop. A perspective of possibility and potential, on the other hand, does the opposite.
All of that has an impact on what you’ll be willing to try and how you will interpret whatever results you get. And what you are willing to try by definition defines what you have the potential to achieve.
If you want to craft and refine your outlook, a great place to start is by paying careful attention to the language you use. Is it limiting or expansive? Does it assume the best, or does it assume the worst? Often the language we use is habitual, a knee-jerk response.
Eliminate these four phrases from your career vocabulary, and you’ll open doors for your future:
In a decade of my Passion Catalyst work, I have seen this assessment turn out to be wrong so many times. It might feel real, but often it’s not. The reality is often something completely different. On closer examination, “I can’t” frequently means things like, “I could, but I don’t see all the options yet.” Or “I could, but I’m not willing to do the hard work it would require.” Or “I could, but not immediately.”
Unless you happen to be a mind reader, steer clear of this one. You don’t—and can’t—know how other people are going to respond until they do. Need help from someone in your job search? Reach out and ask. You’re guaranteed to not get it if you don’t (in which case “they won’t” is spot on). Want to collaborate with someone on a project? Again, don’t assume you know the negative answer.
Even if you’re right that “they won’t” eight out of ten times, that still opens two doors that would otherwise have remained closed forever. Imagine the cumulative impact of that over the course of your career.
It’s not possible
When I hear this, one of the things I often ask is, “Do you know that for certain? Can you prove it?” Often people just default to this without really thinking it through. “It’s not possible” often winds up being, “It’s possible, but it would take a lot of effort,” or, “It’s not possible in my current scenario, but if I make these changes it could actually be possible.”
A good question to ask if this phrase comes up for you is, “What if I HAD to make it happen? How could I?” Stretch your creative problem-solving.
I have to
People have so many ingrained rules about what they have to do, and often they’re little more than unquestioned assumptions installed by other people (parents, teachers, past bosses, etc.). If you find yourself operating according to a set of have-to expectations, ask yourself, “Do I really? Why? What if I didn’t?”
Now, of course all of these are going to be accurate on occasion. There will be times when you really can’t do something. And there will be times when, yes, you really do have to do something. But there will also be times when these assumptions simply aren’t accurate.
If you take yourself off autopilot by questioning your assumptions when these phrases come up, you’ll open the door to possibility and potential. And step-by-step, you’ll leave that knee-jerk perspective of limits and lack behind.
After years as a professional malcontent, Curt Rosengren discovered the power of passion. As speaker, author, and coach, Rosengren helps people create careers that energize and inspire them. His book, 101 Ways to Get Wild About, and his E-book, The Occupational Adventure Guide, offer people tools for turning dreams into reality. Rosengren's blog, The M.A.P. Maker, explores how to craft a life of meaning, abundance, and passion.