“Kathy, I’m feeling paralyzed and so confused. I have a number of options in front of me, but I just can’t figure out what to do. How can I reliably determine if I should take this new job (or interview, or role), or if I should just walk away? How can I know it’s the right move?
In the 11 years I’ve coached professionals, it’s astounded me to see how many people simply can’t envision an amazing life or career for themselves and what that would look like concretely. They’re stuck in “what is” yet instead of working to shift themselves to create something bigger and better, they perpetuate and co-create more of the same, endlessly.
To learn more about how ready people are to build more success in the lives and careers, I launched a Career Success Readiness quiz. 10,500 respondents have taken it so far and more than 50% revealed that they don’t find their work meaningful or successful, nor do they have a pathway for attaining what they want. Here’s what emerged:
55% Said No To:
“I feel that my work is meaningful and I am making the impact I want to, in my organization, community and the world.”
50% Said No To:
“My work interests me a great deal, and I feel there is enough content there of interest to sink my teeth into for the foreseeable future.”
52% Said No To:
“I know how to promote myself, my work and my accomplishments, in a way that feels good, appropriate, and produces great, positive results.”
50% Said No To:
“I have at least one role model for my professional life, and learn from this individual about how to craft a career that’s successful to me.”
63% Said No To:
“I have a pathway for attaining the leadership, managerial and compensation level I want in my work.”
Further, the majority can’t figure out how to make the right decisions that will get them to a happier, more successful and fulfilling place.
I don’t judge this; I’ve been there. For 18 years in my corporate life, I struggled with critical and pivotal decisions like these and in fact, made some terribly wrong moves that hurt me and my life and career (and my health), and set me back. I know why that is now — because I was blocked in some serious emotional and other ways that prevented me from seeing what I was truly capable of and from understanding what I was worthy of feeling and experiencing. And these blocks also prevented me from standing up and speaking up boldly for myself. After 11 years and two total life and career reinventions, I’ve learned what goes into making the right decisions that allow us to expand, grow and thrive.
If you’re facing a decision about whether to commit to a new direction or not, below are the top five signs that you should say “yes” to this new opportunity that’s in front of you.
Saying Yes Will Help You Stretch And Grow
Say yes if the new direction will allow you stretch beyond where you are and help you grow by using your talents in new, exciting different ways, even if you’re not sure the ultimate destination is where you hope to be. When we commit to stretching out of our comfort zones and out of the familiar territory of our past, we commit to recognizing how resilient, flexible and adaptable we are, and that makes us more confident and courageous. (Here’s why that’s critical to our success.)
Ask yourself: Will this new direction help me learn new skills, experience new situations, work with different types of individuals with different styles, achieve new types of outcomes, lead new directions and learn more about myself and my capabilities?
Saying Yes Will Excite You And Scare You And Make You Bolder
Whenever someone says “I’m excited but I’m scared about this,” I know there’s growth involved. It’s not a sure thing and that frightens them. They know they’re ready for more but are insecure about how it will turn out and how well they’ll do. To that, I’d say, there are no guarantees in life – the only thing you can truly count on is yourself — and the amazing talents, gifts and skills you have to offer in service of the world. So do the thing that scares and excites you. Why not? Failure is not to be feared – failure is only damaging to you when you view it as something that smart, accomplished people don’t experience (and that’s a very misguided definition). Truly successful, fulfilled and joyful people have “failed” and fallen down many times on the way to their amazing lives. They just don’t define it as failure.
Ask yourself: Why am I so scared and excited? What could this new direction open up for me, and would that be a positive thing?
Saying Yes Will Let You Become More Of Who You Want To Be
When people share that they can’t imagine what an amazing life or career looks like, I know they’re stuck. But when I ask “What do you want to be more of?” they start to get moving again. They know (and can envision) that they want to be more helpful, powerful, impactful, useful and they want to bring forth their creative talents that they’ve allowed to go underground. They want to be more fun to be with, more relaxed, confident and balanced and less harried, stressed and anxious. And they want to be considered a good, loving person and a positive role model for their children.
Ask yourself: Will this new direction, as far as I know, allow me to become more of what I want to be, or is it fulfilling some driven, perfectionistic fear about what I “should” be in order to be validated, accepted and recognized.
Saying Yes Will Let You Collaborate With People You Respect And Admire
During my most unhappy professional time, I was surrounded by people whom I didn’t respect, like or admire. It confused me – to feel so alienated from those around me. I was a fish out of water, and I hated it. To me, it seemed my colleagues wasted precious time being power-hungry, narcissistic, political, backstabbing, and absolutely cruel and despicable to each other, all the while stepping on hands and heads and pushing people out of the way to get ahead. It was the definition of toxic. I found precious few individuals around me every day I could be comfortable or authentic with.
Ask yourself: Am I ready to move in a new direction that will allow me to be with people I respect, appreciate and enjoy? Will this new direction open the door to being in the company of people I wish to learn from and emulate?
Saying Yes Will Allow You To Let Go Of Regret
Thousands of unhappy professionals carry with them deep, painful regret. “I should have never listened to my parents when they told me to study engineering” they say. Or “I should have left this job years ago, but I was too afraid.” Or they’ll admit, “I really think I’d be so much better suited to running my own business, but now it’s too late.” Regrets made us sick, sad and despairing, because they remind us of how we didn’t listen to ourselves and instead, wasted so much precious time. I remember reading Bronnie Ware’s The Top 5 Regrets of the Dying, and I was so moved. They are:
1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
2. I wish I didn’t work so hard.
3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.
Ask yourself: Will taking this new step allow me to finally let go of my deep regrets?
Finally just in case you want a bit more help in knowing what not to say yes to, here are 5 signs you should walk away:
– You are doing this simply because you think you should (in order to get approval or validation)
– You have a very bad feeling about how this will go, but you’re too embarrassed or ashamed now to turn back
– You’re doing this because it strokes your wounded and fragile ego
– You’re doing this to prove something to someone else (or to your inner critic)
– You’re doing this because you hate where you are and you feel that any place is better than this
What can you say “YES!” to today, that will help you live without regret, feel more joy, and finally understand what you’re truly capable of? I hope you’ll share it below.
This article orginally appeaed in Forbes.