Your list of „Why not“ kills your career

How do you like people telling you first thing why your ideas and plans won‘t work?

While a reality check is quite healthy from time to time, way too often people rather think of „why not“ instead of „how“. I see this daily with my clients and some of my colleagues. Instead of being the driver of change, they know all the reasons and risks why an idea will fail.

But guess what … you are not being paid for listing all the „why not possible“ points. Your boss employed you to solve problems. And that is basically why your clients pay your company, too. You solve a problem for them, they cannot solve on their own.

Whether you are providing a service or a product – at core, you are adding value to your clients lives. And if you don’t add value, you are – quite frankly – useless.

If you are self-employed, you see the effects in your sales numbers immediatly. The bigger the organization you are working for, the effect of your problem-focussed mindset will be less obvious. Maybe you wonder why you don‘t get the promotion you are longing for. Maybe you are not asked to work on the interesting assigntments.

Check on your words for a while. What are you talking about when asked? Are you the one that knows all the „why not“ or can you improve ideas by adding potential „how to“?

Challenge yourself a bit and start thinking in new ways. If you are very trained in thinking and speaking „why not“ this will feel wired – maybe even unrealistic. But keep in mind: unless you are not precisely asked what the risks of an option are, you will be perceived as a stumbling block to the idea and people will take you out of scope.

Instead, if you can add value by bringing up some ideas how things can work, you stay in the conversation. And when the reality check is due, you can add all the relevant risks that you see.

You see, it is not about leaving all „why not“ out of consideration. But it is about timing. New ideas need some space to evolve. The reality check comes in later.

I am in the wrong job

Once you realize you are not happy in your current position, get real and find out what you really want.

The emotion can hit you hard: I. am. in. the. wrong. job.

Independently of how long you are working in you profession, the overwhelming desire of getting a change can sweep you off your feet. Especially after a longer break over christmas and the first few days back in the job, you feel problematic areas even stronger. Back in the holidays you were at peace, but in your work environment you are being confronted with all this negative emotion.

Feeling this inner turmoil, it’s very easy to attribute all the worst reasons to your environment, colleagues, clients and tasks. Finding external factors for your misery is the easiest way. Truth is that these intense emotions are a good moment to get to know yourself a lot better.

  • Why exactly are you feeling the way you feel?
  • What are your expectations towards yourself, your job and the people around you?

While you benefit from getting to know yourself a lot better [thanks, dear turmoil times in life!], you still need to find some sort of solution for your issue with the working environment. Let’s explore the options.

Change it!

The first question arising is: What can be changed? Where is your influence? What is in your hands?

You can change yourself and you can change the situation but you absolutely cannot change other people. Only they can do that.

Joanna Trollope

The writer Joanna Trollope puts it quite well. You need to accept that you cannot change the people around you. You might change yourself – meaning your attitude, expectations, perspective. And you can also change the situation, e.g. not attending a certain meeting, change your seating or regroup your team members. But other people’s behaviour and attitude – including your boss, colleagues, clients – is out of your hand.

Take a moment of analyzing your status quo. What can be changed about the situation? What can be changed in your attitude?

If you are sensing that a lot of your ‘problems’ lay in the behaviour of other people, you might need to check the next paragraphs for a solution.

Love it!

Sometimes a broader view and a different angle of the perspective works miracles. Maybe you don’t really like all aspects of your daily tasks – but you only have a 10 minute drive to work. Or you feel overwhelmed by a lot of responsibility, yet the potential freedom in structuring your time during the day is unique to your position.

When feeling unhappy about a certain aspect in your work life, there is the risk of focussing too much on this particular thing – increasing the problem even further. At the end you only see the negative.

Take some time to write down all the positive aspects of your job. Actively refocus and check areas you haven’t considered yet: location, travel time needed, freedom of selecting tasks or allocating time, payment, tasks, additional benefits of your employer like canteen, sports or health support. Make sure that your brain doesn’t play a trick on you by only focussing on one negative thing that becomes the center of your universe.

Aside from taking a broader view also think of the people around you. Generally spoken, everyone tries to do the ‘best’ in life. So while your colleague or boss might annoy you, keep in mind that they are also just acting based on their perception of what is ‘the best thing to do’. Even if you consider their behavior as ‘stupid’, other people might classify of your actions ‘unreasonable’.

While thinking about all aspects of your status quo, you might already get a different attitude. Are you able to love certain flaws and downsides of your current job – including colleagues – when considering the whole package?

If not, maybe the last option is for you.

Leave it!

Sometimes the feeling of not belonging to a certain place is a good wake up call to leave a job or position. But leaving includes a risk: Why are you sure not running into the same problems in your next job?

If you leave only to avoid certain problems, chances are high that you will end up in exactly the same problems – only with different people. This is why the first two paragraphs are so important to you – or even more important when you consider leaving over staying.

Ideally, you know yourself and the environment you need to thrive. Then you can start searching for that spot in the working market. Rather be ‘drawn to’ a new opportunity, than ‘running away’ from your status quo. With all respect, be aware: if you choose based on wrong motives, you might even end up worse than your current state.

I. am. in. the. wrong. job.

If that’s your feeling right now, use the momentum to explore your status quo. Where is this emotion rooted? What actually needs to change? What do you want in your work life?

Stop complaining and get real.

Get ahead between years by reflection – a practical guide

As the year is coming to an end it is a good opportunity to take some time to reflect. In this article you will find inspiration on how to use your reflection time well.

Before starting to reflect set aside some undistracted time. Spend this time with a long walk or in a peaceful place in the house or your favourite cafè. Helpful can be to take a piece of paper and a pen. If you choose walking, make sure that you have a time afterwards to take notes of your thoughts.

Very often when we want to get into moments of reflection, our mind is still spinning. Thousand thoughts of to dos are coming up. In order to calm that storm in your head write all important to dos on a piece of paper – in order to solve it later. Tell your brain that it has been taken care of and it won’t be forgotten. But for now, you want to concentrate on the reflection. Start inhaling and exhaling slowly. Use your full lung capacity to fill yourself with fresh air – and let go of all worries while exhaling.

Depending on how experienced you are with reflection times, this process of letting go of unnecessary thoughts can take a while. Walk through it. The results coming from a good reflection session are amazing.

When you are ready, walk through the questions of the three sections. At best, you already take notes while you are thinking. It reduces your thought speed leading to deeper understanding and new insights. For sure you can also just think about them without writing. You don’t need to take all questions. Rather take one and really think and reflect.

The Past

  • What happened the last year?
  • What were your highlights?
  • What/Whom did you lose?
  • What/whom did you win?
  • What memory do you want to keep?
  • What are you thankful for?
  • What will you leave in the past?

The Present

  • How are you feeling?
  • Is anything hurting?
  • Whom in your environment do you love?
  • Are you happy?

The Future

  • How do you want to be feeling?
  • What are the problems you want to solve?
  • Who do you want to have with you?
  • What are your life goals?
  • What makes you happy and satisfied?

Usually you will gain clarity during the answering of these questions. If you hit any topic that cannot be ‘solved’ by this one reflection, write down all questions and feelings that are running through your mind. Sometimes topics get started by a reflection but need more time to be cleared. Don’t push the topic away. Rather hold it in your mind and wait for clarity to come. Some stuff needs time.

If you want to intensify this reflection, take a coach. With a coach you will start with one of those questions and then go deeper. A good coach will stretch you by asking thought-provoking questions and providing observations. You will get new insights and gain clarity on what to do next.

My life is f***ed

When bad luck is piling up, it is easy to get lost in despair. Losing sight of the blessings in your life, will leave you empty and defeated. Get inspired how to handle those moments.

Emptiness. Thoughts are running and yet there is no precise idea. Every inch of my body is hurting. I have fought. Argumented. Given my best. And yet: didn’t win. And then again, it doesn’t really feel like ‘not winning’ but rather losing. Losing 100%. While my mind is still spinning, this feeling of failure is creeping in. The emotional journey is hitting fast forward button and all of a sudden I am convinced that I am a failure. The failure in person.

From a lot of talks I know that this vicious cycle is quite common to many people. It is invisible. It starts slowly. It intensifies when energy level is low. And then it drags all emotions down and sucks up all energy, hope and vision of a person.

It can hit you in your educational journey, family life or business endeavour. It can hit you for a few minutes or follow you over weeks. It can affect your smile only for a day or your whole life for a season.

So, what can be done when sensing that emptiness or when you are in these moments of despair?

Very often the emptiness starts due to one or two moments that didn’t go well – e.g. an argument with someone or a hope didn’t materialize. Because a strong emotion is connected to these moments, our brain tends to focus on these occasions much longer than on others. This in turn leads to increase of the bad emotion and the start of the vicious cycle.

In order to escape this cycle – at any stage – you need some strategies. Here are some proven ones.

When certain parts of your life are in turmoil it is helpful to actively focus on other areas of your life. Your life doesn’t consist of that one educational path or that one relationship or the one deal you didn’t win – although your brain is telling you that this is THE ONLY PROBLEM.

Write

Take action and write down everything you can be thankful for. Especially in the area you feel defeated. Yes, the one relationship didn’t have an awesome moment – but what about all other relationships!? Yes, the one teacher gave you unfair feedback – but what about all other teachers!?

Start reminding yourself that you are more than your feeling of emptiness. You are more than failing in a moment.

While writing you will feel stress leaving and calmness settling in. Your brain is forced to think proper sentences and put your thoughts in order. That’s why journaling is such a great tool when your emotions are spinning.

Move & Create

Once you are calm, it’s time to check what you need in order to recharge. Most likely, movement should be involved, independent of how you are feeling. Maybe you meet some friends and just relax with them (but don’t start the vicious cycle again by complaining about your problem). Or you get some creativity started by writing, cooking, baking, drawing … creating something. Creating requires concentration and new thoughts – shifting your focus actively.

Think & Decide

Once you are recharged you can go back to the moment of despair and check if you need to change something in your life. Maybe you really need to change your path. Or maybe you just need to learn how to deal with the situations you are in because these moments won’t change even if you change your studies / relationship / job.

A pinch of energy

Use your finest memory to regain strength during the day and relax even under pressure. Get mentally strong to conquer your toughest days.

English chitchat mixes with french laughter while the chinese lady next to me is writing text messages in her beautiful font. I am in the middle of Germany and yet surrounded by the world. This is a moment I cherish – being just another art piece in this international patchwork. I am smiling when I think back at that moment – and instantly I am relaxing. Suddenly, life seems brighter and better.

Having these moments of relaxation during the day is important. It strengthens your resilience and energy level during the day. And it is that energy, that you need to be at your best. Being inwardly strong so you can cope with failure easier, smile at the client even under pressure and handle challenging tasks smoothly.

The technique that is used in the first paragraph is called “visualization” or sometimes referred to as “inner balcony”. You use this technique by recalling your favourite places, situations and people. While thinking of that very moment, your brain experiences the same emotions (or lets say: dopamine-rush) as you experienced when you were in that moment. Your brain doesn’t care whether it is actual happening or if you run through a memory – it will react. And you will get the relaxation, happiness and stress-detachment you need.

What is your favourite memory to indulge in?

You are not good enough

When doing a career, stop sabotaging yourself!

Just recently I watched one of my favourite stand-up comedians. He was putting himself in the perspective of someone living and thinking only in stereotypes and thereby the whole scene clearly got preposterous. Although the audience knew that he was acting out, the truth of the displayed mindset was too real to applaud immediately. Rather – the audience went quiet every once in a while, knowing that this mindset was part of their reality, too. The comedian got to his goal. Making his audience aware of the little box in their heads that sets boundaries to their mindset.

Sometimes your mindset is bound to stereotypes or limited by lies, too. As long as they are not challenged, you probably won’t even notice which fixed assumptions are navigating your thoughts.

But here is an important aspect: Your thoughts are directing your decisions. Your mindset is influencing your behaviour unconsciously.

As long as you are happy with your life, choices and results, you probably won’t see a need to check on your mindset. (Sidenote: it still might be valuable to reflect on your self-believes.) But when you are not as successful as you want to be or if you are successful but extremely exhausted, it might be helpful to check on your assumptions.

For the next few lines the scenario is plainly focused on success in business – although you can extend the thought-provoking ideas also to your private life. One classical mindset will be taken as an example and examined from the out- and in-side. Maybe you find yourself in this. Maybe you have a different mindset that needs challenge. In any case, be bold to rethink your assumptions.

Let’s assume you are convinced: “I am not good enough.”

This conviction can be deep inside you although you are very successful in your career. Still, whenever there is a new challenge, you will need to prove to you or others that you are good enough for it. In consequence, you are almost always overachieving. You are best in class or top in your peer. Nevertheless, deep within you, you know exactly what you could have done better… in essence: you are not good enough.

This inner mindset of not being good enough costs you a lot of energy. It is this fear that keeps you up all night studying and turning the numbers on a sunny sunday. And even when you score best, deep within you are not satisfied. This voice isn’t silenced.

For your own time of reflection let me ask you this:

  1. How well does your mindset serve you?
  2. What other assumptions do you believe and where are they leading you to?

Do you have a leadership mindset?

Do the test and find out what kind of leadership mindset you have. Is your behavior attractive for other people to follow you? Check on your attitude to discover areas to grow next.

Take some time to answer the following questions for yourself. Think about them and maybe take a note. This reflection is part of the test and will already help you to find new ideas and areas to grow. After answering read on and evaluate yourself.

  1. How do you like to be led?
  2. Whom did you help in your career? (Name at least 3 people)
  3. How do you like to lead?
  4. What is leadership to you? (Find at least 3 descriptions)

As you can imagine it does make sense to look at the answers of questions 1 and 3 together. It really is important to know what you need when you are led: freedom to decide for yourself? guidance for the next step? vision to move on? feedback in order to grow? Take the effort to think about it and reflect on the leadership styles of your superiors. Maybe it is worthwhile to tell some of them what you need in order to reach your full potential.

Look at question 3: how do you LIKE to lead? It is not so much about your actual behavior – which you should also check. But it is about your inner feeling regarding leadership. What attracts you to leadership? Why do you acquire a leadership position? Usually leadership positions are rewarded with a higher salary. But leadership means working with people – not working for more money. Or lets say: a lot of poor leadership roots in weak motivations for leadership positions.

This leads to question 4 – what is leadership to you? There is probably no right or wrong answer to this question. But when you look at your answers, check this question: would you like to work for a person that describes leadership that way?

Let’s talk about the core question: Whom did you help in your career? Who is on your list? People who were your bosses back in the days or people who were in a position where they could not promote nor repay you (e.g. mentees, interns, students)? Where is your focus? Do you take care only of your own career or are you concerned of the career of others, too? This question is a good indicator for a leadership mindset. Leadership in a sense of bringing other people to a new place in their life.

This test is not about name and shame bad behavior but rather a heartcheck for yourself whether you are growing into the person people like to follow.