In Part 1, I referenced the need to shift your perspective when it appears that many things are outside of your control and you’re stuck in a negative work environment. I noted that while “many employees actually experience a lack of freedom and autonomy at work, still many more fail to take advantage of opportunities available to them. Sometimes, it’s a matter of focus. By that I mean being unable to see the possibilities for growth and fulfillment because of work conflicts, low morale, and discontentment, which can cloud our vision of anything else.” Today, I want to show how shifting your focus can allow you to see more opportunities.
Recently, in a discussion with one of my executive coaches, she shared an area that she had always perceived to be a weakness and expressed the intent to take an online course to remedy this. This came about as a result of talking with her supervisor, who wanted her to take on another project based on some exceptional work she’d done lately. As she considered what this project might mean for her, she realized this presented a good time for her to address this problem area. I think it’s noteworthy that her decision was not based on a need to conquer this problem for a job requirement or advancement. (Her supervisor was unaware of her perceived weakness.) As I listened, I noticed the more she talked about her decision, the more her level of excitement grew, particularly as she began envisioning herself overcoming this area to the point of being able to turn it into a strength and using it to help others. It was also evident that the area identified was not necessarily a weakness but one that simply required more knowledge and understanding. I marveled at her strategy and as I continued to reflect on this later in the day, I was reminded of a conversation I’d had many, many years ago with one of my cousins when I first began teaching at South Carolina State University. He was then a professor at Morehouse College and was giving me advice in addressing my stated area of weakness – Statistics. Ugh!! Just the thought is enough to bring on flashbacks of taking Research Methods and Quantitative Design in graduate school at Auburn University! So at the time, I couldn’t appreciate his advice that I should teach Statistics as means of gaining more understanding while overcoming my shortcoming in this area. But as I think about how teaching various courses throughout the years has increased my knowledge and comprehension of those subjects, I realized he was correct. Who knows? Had I listened to him, I might have been able to turn this aversion into a love as I mastered the area of Statistics! Maybe I could have become an expert and major contributor to the field! Ok, it’s obvious that not only am I dreaming but I’ve clearly ventured into delusions of grandeur. But, you get my point.
I have to add that my coach also had the experience of job dissatisfaction and had made the decision to look at her daily activities through a different lens and try to consistently incorporate more of her strengths as a means of increasing her sense of personal and professional fulfillment. The more she looked for those opportunities, the more pleasure she began experiencing as she was able to bring more of her authentic self to work. You may or may not be in a position of climbing a corporate ladder. In fact, advancement may not have any appeal to you. Whatever your position, why not consider revisiting an area that presented some challenge for you before and see if you can’t turn that situation around? Take advantage of some of those professional development training courses your company advertizes. Or maybe you can take an online course or learn a foreign language during your lunch hours. Imagine the feeling of empowerment you’ll experience for doing something just for you. Who knows, you may become an expert and make a major contribution to the field….. It could happen!!
I’ve since realized that Statistics was not a weakness for me but it was actually based on something I’d told myself once when encountering difficulties in a Research Methods class. Internally, I told myself that I wasn’t good at math and in that moment, accepted it as truth. It wasn’t until years later that I decided to check the truthfulness of that statement. To my surprise, I remembered that math was always something I did very well, until that fateful graduate course that challenged me. You may not be in a position to change the culture of your work environment. You may also be powerless to alter the mindset or behaviors of your supervisor. However, there may be something you can do about your perception of yourself that could have an impact on how you view your work in particular, and your life, in general.
Connecting the Dots:
v What statements have you told yourself about yourself that just aren’t true? How did that come about?
v Now that you know the truth, what is one step you can take to turn that seemingly negative task into an exciting project?
v What opportunities for growth can you take at work?