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.

A good leader can admit failure

People love leaders who bring in their whole self into their leadership role including their flaws and failures – at least when they are capable of admitting them.

Can you think of a situation when you admitted you had been wrong? Have you ever apologized to your team taking a wrong decision in the past?

If those questions irritate you, it is a good moment to think. I have met a lot of people in leadership positions who I never heard apologizing. Having even talked to some who were convinced that being wrong is a weakness one should not show.

But be honest: Even the most thoughtful leader will make a weak decision at one point. We are all human beings. Independent from our best intentions we will fail.

Based on what I have seen when leaders actually were apologizing, one could say: the credibility of a leader is increasing when admitting a mistake.

Why is that? Admitting a fault shows that you can reflect on yourself and your behaviour. It gives your team the freedom to fail, too. It opens up for honesty and giving grace to one another.

Having said that, be precise when admitting a wrong decision. As a leader people need to trust your decisions. If every decision you take, turns out to be wrong … well, people might question whether they should keep following you. Nevertheless, you are a human being. Admitting flaws and failure adds to your personal side in the role of leadership.

Why being UNHAPPY is actually great

First day of the week. Hitting the office right on time, starting your computer, getting the first cup of coffee, checking your email while trying to enjoy the first zip. The routine is killing you 15minutes into the new working week.

And yet, you keep getting back at this desk every day. Emotionless. Unhappy. But steady and on time.

I know why. The paycheck is convenient. It pays your rent. Your family. Puts money into your bank account to pile up for the future. The future… you are convinced that it will be brighter than today. Just a few more office days like these and then…

I had lots of talks like this with colleagues over coffee. Being unhappy, yet neither willing nor able to change.

Truth is, my mornings look quite the same. Yet, I am looking forward to each one of those working days, loving what I do – although I most certainly don`t like each moment of it. Where is the difference?

The greatest traveller is he who has been able once to take a tour around himself.

Confucius

Conficius is talking about taking new perspectives of oneself. Once you are able to change your thinking and getting a new mindset, you become aware of who you are and who you are not. You challenge all those “I cannot, because…” and start questioning “How could I …?” You get bold in questioning all your assumptions, e.g. “I will never be…”, “xy is impossible because…”. And while you are taking a tour around yourself, you might realize that you actually don`t need to travel away from your current location, but rather from your current mindset.

Here is an example: I know that I am most happy, when I can be a blessing to other people. I feel fulfilled when others are having a good time talking to me. [Will I get this right every moment of my life? No. But I am trying. I decided to bring the best version of me into conversations.] Therefore, I asked myself “How can I be happy at work?” Answer: By being a blessing for my colleagues. And while I bring the best version of myself to work, I experience a lot of positive moments, making others – and ultimately me – happy. I realized, I don`t have to change my job. I rather have to change my mindset and attitude. And all of a sudden everything falls into place and I am happy.

If you are currently in this unhappy place, be bold enough to check on your assumpations and narratives. Coaching can be a tool that is helping you getting your thoughts around the important stuff that matters. Be asured: there is absolutely no reason why you should be hating your life. Unhappiness is just a great indicator that it is time to think about yourself and start travelling around yourself.

The cycle of success

Add more components of what you love doing in your workday and your job will become easier. With you feeling lighter and more joyful, your clients and colleagues will be touched, too. This is how you start a positive cycle of success…

“For my job I like getting up in the morning”, my friend smiles. Four years ago he quit his studies. Low motivation and missing focus led to bad grades and slowly to the conviction that he was on the wrong path. Still, giving up on a lifestyle that is socially accepted and getting on a perceived lower track isn’t easy on the ego. Today he is happy with his daily tasks. Consequently, his joy and power transfers on his clients and colleagues, leading to success in business which nourishes the positive feelings towards the job. “When you love what you do, success is inevitable”, he says with a broad smile.

When you love what you do, success is inevitable

Experience

Is your cycle of “I love my job and my job loves me” working?

What is happening for you when reading this question? Do you even believe that there is a job constellation for you in which you would actually love working? Or are your already there?

Independent from which angle you are looking at the cycle-question let me give you a few questions to reflect on. Take some time to think about each one and take notes of what is running through your mind. These moments of reflection are healthy to become aware of your status quo. Sometimes life rushes by and without noticing a year passed and you didn’t live intentionally and with purpose. But it is in your hands to add components of what you truly love to your workday and thereby keeping the cycle of success spinning.

What did you like doing when you were a child? – Reflect and write down what comes to your mind. This questions assumes that you have been doing things as a child that felt natural and joyful to you. Maybe you won’t do exactly the same things today – but you might find tasks that use the same skill that you have trained as a kid.

With what kind of people do you like spending your time? – The answer to this question might also be: no people at all. That’s totally fine, too. The important thing is that you know what you like and find as many moments in your day that reflect your preference.

How do you recharge? – The idea of this question is simple: if you recharge while doing the work you get paid for, you will not leave your workplace exhausted but rather thrilled and excited. If you could add a few components of the aspects of how you recharge, you will have more power during the day and feel much happier at work.

How do you express thankfulness and love? – Usually human beings get happy when they can show their thankfulness to others. Therefore it is an easy exercise to increase your happiness during the day. You choose whether you need to give a gift, speak words of affirmation or clap someone on the shoulder. If you know yourself, you can activate these resources in you anytime.

Start your cycle of success

No matter how well your cycle of success is already working, you can keep it up and running by investing in yourself. Your personal well-being during the day and your mindset towards workplace situations are keys to your personal success. Start by integrating short components of your favourite situations and expand the timeframe to your energizing moments whenever possible. Soon you will see how your positivity and power will affect your colleagues and clients positively.

My bonus shows I am undervalued

If you handle failure the right way, you win nonetheless.

There are these times – the promotion has been denied, the deal has been lost, the project failed. The bonus is lower than expected and the pay raise had been higher once. Despite all the time and personal invest, you are confronted with failure. What usually worked, all of a sudden doesn’t.

Although everyone knows that the paycheck doesn’t reflect a person’s worth, very often people feel tremendously undervalued when not achieving their aspired goals. High performing business people invest so much time and energy into their professional success that the reward gets mentally linked to their identity and self-esteem. As long as win follows win this connection feels awesome. It is not only a professional win – it is also a validation of the person, to some even their personality. Sometimes the feeling of invincibility is visible from the outside by posture and gesture.

This grown connection between success and personality or even identity becomes dangerous when success is being delayed. Or worse: if failure is settling in. One bad situation might be handled. But if failure after failure is hitting, the impact cannot be ignored. All of a sudden the business flop feels like being a failure as a person. Bad comments of colleagues on top and the self-esteem crumbles. Depending on the person, the downward slide can take pretty long and is quite devastating.

Crack the causal connection of success and identity

When in a downward spiral it is quite easy to spot the unhealthy connections between success and self-esteem. It can be felt deep inside. Thoughts of failure keep nagging. So, if you currently feel like you are a total loser check on this connection in your brain. Yes, you might have failed in business issues. And no, that doesn’t define who you are as a person. Use this awareness to crack the causal connection of success and identity within you and explore who you are as a person. Thereby you win as a person although you are walking through failure.

But even when there is no failure trend in sight, it is helpful to disconnect personal success from the feeling of self-worth. Only because you are successful, e.g. got the promotion or won the big deal, doesn’t mean that you are more worth than anybody else. Step away from entitlement and be thankful for what you have. This way you can enjoy your success and you are prepared for times of failure.

Will you regret your success?

If you follow an unreflected assumption of success, you will lose in the big picture. Check yourself with the questions provided.

The group gathered from all ends of the world at the wooden kitchen table in some hostel in the middle of Dubai. They are exploring what success means to them and what they want from life. The swiss girl just quit her job and is convinced that success lies in happiness. And happiness is not connected to money. The guy from argentina is having is laptop in front of him – just doing one last thing for his job. He wants to get rich. Money it is!

The engineer from Kenia tries to find the balance between these two extremes – a certain amount of money will lead to happiness, he argues. But chasing money all your life doesn’t add value.

What is success to you?

How you answer this question will tremendously influence your behavior. And if you are one of many who hasn’t found your unique individual answer, it is worthwhile to check on your actions. Where do you allocate your time? Where do you invest your money?

Money and time are tremendous indicators in telling what is truly in a person’s heart. And there you will also find the truth of what you believe success means to you.

It is being able to go to bed each night with your soul at peace.

Paulo Coelho

Paulo Coelho is addressing success from a different angle. He brings in a measurement of peace. What do you think of this viewpoint?

Think early, avoid regret

Everyone wants to feel successful. This is how our brain is wired. If we are successful we get this tranquilizing rush that lets us feel happy, invincible and at peace. Unluckily, if we are wired to the wrong measurement, e.g. what success means to us, we will pursue agendas that won’t lead to an overall successful life.

Let’s take money as an example: Earning the first money is awesome. We are able to afford to move out from our parents homes or to buy our very first own trip abroad. It feels awesome. We are successful. So our brain learns that more money is wired to a feeling of happiness.

Over time it will get harder to increase the income. The sacrifices are higher, we need to invest a lot of time to stay top of our peer and get promotions. If we never question the underlying measurement of success – in this case: money – we will run blindsided into problems, e.g. losing close relationships.

regret/rɪˈɡrɛt/

a feeling of sadness, repentance, or disappointment over an occurrence or something that one has done or failed to do.

Dictionary

In order not to regret your behavior when it is too late, it is clever to question your measurements early in your career. With a regular reflection you are able to pursue a career and still keep your measurement in check.

What does success mean to you?

What evidence do you see in your behaviour – especially in time and money allocation – that shows that you your assumption about yourself is correct?

Are you successful?

In a corporate career you will answer this question within the career framework provided by your company. But does that external measurement align with your core values? How do you define success?

“Yes! I’ve made it!” Do you know that feeling that comes along? This deep satisfaction and happiness that a goal is reached. Usually accompanied with some sort of stress relief or even tiredness – because all the training paid off, the invested hours in learning resulted in a graduation or you are finally standing on a mountain after a long hike. Satisfying success feels good.

Usually we are connecting success with mastering a task, reaching a goal or getting a promotion. At least when you are working on a classical career in the corporate world.

Here is a different view: Just recently I watched the son of a friend doing his first steps. How successful, I thought! Amazing how quick children develop and learn – mastering their way into life without knowing the adult-way of success.

That somehow leads to the questions: What actually is success? Or better. How do you define success for yourself?

Why is this question important? Having a diverse circle of friends I can see how different each “segment” of friends is answering the question. While all business friends tend to take the general business definition of success that is mainly offered by their company or society, my friends in social service, schools and medical jobs (e.g. nurses, midwives) already answer that question differently. And the answer to that question influences the perspective in life and resilience in tough life situations.

Therefore, if you are working in business take a few moments in answering the following questions for yourself before reading on.

  1. What is success to you?
  2. When do you feel most successful?
  3. How do you measure success?
  4. Who defines that you are successful?

For each question I will comment why it is useful to think about it and what benefits you might have if you know what drives you. In the end all of us want to have lived a fulfilled life – therefore, better know your inner drivers early on. Otherwise these drivers might lead you to a destination you did not intend to reach.

What is success? When do you feel most successful?

Both questions address a similar point. But while the first one is targeting your rational, the second question relates to your emotions. It is worth checking whether your logical answer is in line with your feelings.

Sometimes human beings tend to tell themselves a rational lie because it is what they have learned, e.g. “Success is reaching your next promotion.”. But when you are checking on your emotions that you had during your last promotions, you did not feel the success. You might have felt pressure to bring higher performance. Or resentment because you gain that promotion with a too high invest in terms of working hours or working against your inner values.

If you find a mismatch between the two answers, acknowledge it. Don’t judge yourself. It might be helpful to write down your discovery. It is a great start for finding out who you are and what you want in life. Be happy that there is a mismatch; that way a really cool journey can start.

How do you measure success?

What is your measurement? Actually take some time to think about this question. Because the answer will tell you a lot about your inner drivers. And those drivers can easily be used by others to manipulate you. So it is very valuable to know them. By the way: that does not mean that you have to change them.

I give you some examples.

  • Youth -I am successful because I have reached xy at this young age.
  • Money – I am successful because I earn xy amount.
  • Grade – I am successful because I have grade xy in my company.
  • Status – I am successful because I have this house/watch/car/hobby.
  • Working hours – I am successful because I work a 70-hour-week.
  • Beauty – I am successful because I weigh xy kg.
  • Family – I am successful because I have xy kids.

You can continue the list as you like.

Let me give you one thought on the list: What do you do when you lose your success factor?

All of the named examples have one thing in common: They are all external factors and timely limited. Basically you have little to no influence in maintaining these measurements. Think again of the question: How do you measure success?

Who defines that you are successful?

Be honest to yourself: who has the power in your life to take away your feeling of success although you might have reached a certain goal. Who tells you that you are not enough? Or that you will never accomplish anything?

We all have these voices within us every once in a while. They come from our parents, friends or current environment. Although it is totally normal to handle an inner fear from time to time, it is important to be aware of this inner self talk. If you just progress in life without checking on that question, your inner driver will kick in every moment you touch a similar situation.

Here is one example:

If you have learned that only a 6-figure-salary makes you a successful person in life – and you might even get comments from relatives or colleagues while progressing in your career – you will never feel successful with your first promotions. The frustration raises when the promotion that leads to 6-figures is delayed. And even worse: when you finally get to that mark: you are not happy. You just reached the bare minimum of what is acceptable to the people who define your success. (and by the way: You will not get a “well done” when you reached it. Those people will raise the bar the moment you are there.) But remember your unhappy talks during those years: all the coffee breaks and evenings complaining about your ‘miserable’ life not earning 6-figures – what could you have done with the time instead?

Therefore, it is worthwhile to think about the question: Who defines your success?

And consequently: Do you align with that definition?

[If you feel that these questions made you think, take some time to write down your thoughts. Follow your intuition and be bold to question your current believes. It is a healthy start in getting to know yourself and setting up your way of life.]