Updated: May 25, 2021
This post is the sixth in a series on Green trends and foresight in support of our forthcoming GreenSenses Workshop: Practical Strategies for Career Pivots
What do you do when you are tested on your journey? How do you handle distractions on the way?
You will encounter tests, some minor some major
Sometimes more dangerous are attractive distractions
Keep your friends and mentor close by and encourage their insights and suggestions
Include celebrations and rewards on your journey
Sometimes the situation calls for focus, sometimes for creativity
If you ever have hiked, you may recall your first treks. You might have been wearing shoes and socks that were not the best for the terrain. Perhaps trails rockier surprised you and, because you did not bring hiking poles, you found yourself doing more slipping and sliding than hiking. Gradually, you found your rhythm and the right equipment for you and you built your confidence with every hike.
You decided to go on a more strenuous, longer trek. The weather forecast turned out to be a bit off and the expected partly sunny day turned into a steady rain. The path was more challenging and your progress less than expected. Your inner critic sounded almost gleeful as it (and it is an “it”) mocked you, calling you an impostor and demanding you quit. You did not listen to that voice as you pressed on and finished the trek and met the test, sore, tired, and wet, but satisfied and even more confident.
It may be similar with your Green career journey. Even with the right mindset and preparation, you will run into unforeseen challenges: your network turns uncharacteristically quiet and unresponsive, the economy dives, the company of your dreams moves their operations offshore, family members and close friends voice concerns about your plans. These “tests” play an important role in your journey, even as they seem very personal.
They may even turn on the impostor machine, a devious device designed to sow doubts and distrust about you. And, since it is designed and operated by you, it knows all the buttons and vulnerabilities, presenting them with rationality and precision: your progress is small and insignificant; you are not trained to do this; your network is too small to get the chances you want; and, besides, your current position is not all that bad. The list can be infinite if you let the machine run on.
It is perfectly human to do this. Researchers have a name for it—negativity bias. We give more strength to negative thoughts. In Jim’s first career, a common saying (cleaned up a bit) was that one “aw, crap” criticism wiped out one-hundred “good job; way to go!” compliments. Recognizing that tendency is an invitation to put your thoughts into perspective. Is the negative thought based on a day or two of toe-stubbing?
It does not even have to do with your career journey—it might be a series of ankle-biters, small things that just seem to add up: broken shoe-strings, spilling coffee in your lap, stepping into a gift left by a neighborhood dog. Insignificant as they may be, it just seems that the universe is conspiring against you. Recognize that “bad” news carries more weight and research shows it might even be perceived as more truthful than good news.
“When you focus on problems, you'll have more problems. When you focus on possibilities, you'll have more opportunities.” Attributed to Zig Ziglar
If you have a mentor, touch base and share the doubts. Try not to make the mistake of assuming the doubts are too trivial to share, that telling someone about them is an act of weakness. Telling a confidant or mentor about your reservations is a reminder that you are human. These hesitations could be an invitation to check in with your friends who are on the journey with you; likely they have experienced or are even experiencing similar qualms and tests and may share the ideas that carried them through.
Try engaging in a game with your friends; voice a doubt and your friend voices an anti-doubt; then, it is your turn to state an anti-doubt in response to your friend’s doubt. The anti-doubt doesn't have to be perfect or even effective. The idea is to realize that you are not a victim to the doubts and that action forward is a better way to handle misgivings.
“Doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will.” Suzy Kassem
Negativity and doubts might well be less stressful than other tests because we can work our way through them to see that they generally are false, often fear-based, and come from unfounded arguments against our plans. More insidious, perhaps, is the “shiny object syndrome” where you may see an alternative activity that seems much more attractive than the journey. It may appear that way because it is more novel or it is a new trend that is emerging and gaining widespread attention.
The shiny object may be something that might even be helpful. This sometimes happens to Jim in his work analyzing trends and creating forecasts—“maybe I should check one more database, one more reference, conduct one more interview;” all reasonable but the added research just might be a tactic to delay putting fingers to keyboard. Or it might be a beautiful spring day that argues for playtime outside.
One way to handle those shiny objects is to plan playtime as part of your reward and to celebrate your journey achievements. Sometimes, you may just have to have a negotiation with yourself—you can play today and can plan on rising an hour earlier tomorrow to work on your journey.
Jim has two ceramic pebbles on his desk, one with the word “focus” and the other “create.” When he gets diverted or “tested” the pebbles remind him to ask: is this a matter of focus? Do I need to be more focused on my path? Or is this a matter of creativity? Am I on the right path, but being invited to be more innovative in the journey walking? (The pebbles are by Rae Dunn, Magenta.) The answer is an invitation to get another perspective and to resume moving.
Tests and losses of perspective are part of the journey and sometimes other things look more attractive than the sometimes hard work a journey calls for. It is not personal that they happen and it is personal how you handle them. The good news: you needn’t manage them alone and each challenge is an opportunity.
Some questions to ponder:
Is this a real test or a loss of perspective?
Why does a distraction look so attractive?
Have I shared my doubts with my friends and mentor?
Have I celebrated my progress?
Do I need to better focus or be more creative?
Can we help with building and sustaining the skills you or your team need to advance professionally? Reach out to Beth Offenbacker, PhD, CPCC, ACC, at firstname.lastname@example.org or via phone or text at 703-623-4811 to discuss if our Green Career, Executive/Leadership Coaching, Small Group Coaching and Mentoring, or Learning & Development services are right for you. We work with professionals and organizations that have a sustainability focus in their work. All services are customized to your needs.