Part of why people struggle in their careers is our collective insistence that they do things that they aren’t really good at. Almost every bit of business literature you read these days (don’t even get me started on some of it) talks about how successful business leaders are great mentors, or great team leaders, or great strategists, or great marketers. And I just don’t think it’s that simple.
There’s probably something that you don’t know much about, or that you aren’t really good at, but that you’ve felt compelled to do anyway because it was considered a prerequisite of a promotion or a different step in your career that you wanted to take. You probably struggled with it, felt guilty that you weren’t good at it, hesitated to talk to your boss about it because if you admitted that it wasn’t your strong suit, you’d probably limit your career development opportunities.
I agree wholeheartedly with this sentiment! While we all have things that we have to do that are just part of the job, many times I find that people become unhappy or are less succesful in their careers than they could be because they are playing to their weaknesses instead of to their strengths. They begin to doubt themselves instead of realizing that they are trapped in a cycle of spending so much time trying to fix their weaknesses that they have no time to build on their strengths.
Letting go of your weaknesses is one area where "letting go" is good for your career. But this got me to thinking about other things we need to let go of in order to focus on our positive professional development. Some other things to let go of:
- Bad situations that aren't going to change--They say that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result. When you find yourself in the same scenario again and again, it's time to move on from it. Change your reactions or change your situtation, but don't stick with what doesn't work.
- The wrong crowd--Are you surrounded by complainers, work-obssessed people, or overly competitive folks? Do you find that you're drained after your interactions with certain people? Whether we realize it or not, the wrong people can contribute in a major way to our career unhappiness. Sometimes we have to let go of the people who sap our energy or suck us into their negative ways of viewing the world.
- Outmoded ways of thinking--I meet many people who cling to old paradigms when all around them has changed. They are fighting against a tide that will eventually beat them down. I also see many people who have old beliefs about themselves--their capabilities, their options, and so forth. It's helpful to step back sometimes and look at how our thinking may need to change and adapt to the circumstances we are now in. Often it is our own thinking patterns that may be holding us back.
- Our clutter--Periodically I will look around my office and realize that I've allowed piles of paper, books, files, etc. to build up around me. Simultaneously I will notice that my focus and energy has evaporated. Simply cleaning up and clearing out opens up new space for me to think and create.
- "Good enough"--Sometimes we find ourselves in situations that are "good enough," but somehow they still sap our energy. We can't put our finger on it, but we know that it's not where we want to be. In these cases, we do well to consider if letting go of good enough might not make way for "great" to find us.
Although we may tend to think that our careers are based on what we build with, they are also based on what we release. We have to let go of the old and what isn't working to make space for the new. This can require a leap of faith, but it's faith well-placed.
What do you need to let go?