Believing everything you think. When it comes to what’s possible in our lives, we really are our own worst enemy. We make assumptions about what we can and can’t do and what is and isn’t realistic without critically examining those beliefs. Time and again I have seen people realize that their unshakeable belief that something was out of reach was actually wrong. When you run up against limiting assumptions, which tend to start with words like “I can’t” or “that’s not”, stop and take a step back. Ask yourself, “Is that really true? Can I prove it? Has anyone else in a similar situation done this? If I had to, how could I make this happen?”
Not asking questions. I frequently talk about the power of the mighty question mark. It has the potential to shed light and shred illusion. Unfortunately, most people don’t put its powers to use in their career, which leads them down the path to the previous obstacle, believing everything they think. Make it a regular habit to question both your beliefs and your plans, not from a perspective of doubt, but with the intent to get more clarity and understanding.
Seeing yourself too small. Many people have a self-image of themselves that doesn’t allow them to stretch and reach beyond the limited scope of what they see as possible. In many ways, how you see yourself represents the outer boundaries of what you’re willing to reach for. But those boundaries are entirely self-created. Reach beyond your self-perception. Set goals that feel beyond your immediate reach. The more you achieve what you didn’t realize you could, the more you realize that those boundaries are really just a mirage.
Not taking risks. Very few careers worth spending your life in are going to come without taking risks. Maybe it’s the risk of failure, or the risk of feeling like you don’t know what you’re doing. Perhaps it’s a financial risk, or a risk of making a decision and taking a direction that others won’t understand. Whatever they are, risks are portals to expansion in your career. When you refuse to take them, you stay in your small, limited current reality. Experiment with taking risks. Start small if you need to, and start developing that risk muscle.
Doing it alone. We live in a culture that values independence and being self-made. Unfortunately, that’s a myth. Nobody succeeds on their own. You don’t and can’t have all the answers, so don’t even try. Make it a habit to reach out to people for support. Learn from people who know more than you. Ask for guidance. Don’t let your ego trap you into staying smaller than you could be.
[See 5 Job-Search Habits to Break.]
Believing what other people say. Just like our own flawed beliefs and assumptions can keep us limited, so can the beliefs and assumptions of other people. When people say, “that’s not possible” or, “that idea is no good,” they might be right. But they’re just as likely to be projecting their own fears onto you. Listen to what other people have to say, and then whip out that mighty question mark again. Look at their opinions objectively. Is there truth there, or is it a projection of their own limiting views?
If there is one thing I know almost beyond a shadow of a doubt about you, it’s that you’re not yet living up to your full potential. I don’t say that because I know you’re playing too small. I say that because each of us has infinitely more potential than we realize. And the less you engage in the career obstacles outlined here, the more freely and fluidly your career can flow into that potential.
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 Work, 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.