What you think you know…
You’ve had the same position for several years now. You do your job well, but there isn’t much left for you to learn there. You’re not challenged, just going about your day to day activities. At some level, you think it’s time for a promotion and you like the idea of a more impressive job title (and the bigger paycheck that comes with it). You are torn between leaving the comfort of your current position and reaching for something better.
It’s been years since your last job interview and you might feel a bit rusty. You wonder if your application package would be good enough and if you would do well enough at an interview. Your mind brings up many concerns: What if you don’t even get an interview? Or what if you get one but you do poorly? Or what if you are invited back and become a finalist but ultimately, aren’t chosen? Applying means making yourself vulnerable, spending many hours preparing, and quite possibly, being turned down. It could be all for nothing.
You think fear of failure is what is holding you back from advancing your career. You don’t want to apply for a job unless you are sure to get it, and that’s simply not how things work. Instead of getting yourself motivated to do what it takes to succeed, you either don’t apply, or you apply but don’t do your best. Doing less than your best is a way to make rejection less painful. It wouldn’t be you but your lack of effort that would be rejected. Your behavior is driven by your subconscious need, which is to avoid pain and remain comfortable.
What is really going on…
Have you watched the news lately? People are dealing with school shootings, hurricanes, flooding, fires, crimes, wars and many other life altering events. Do you really think that you are not strong enough to handle not being chosen for a job? That’s ridiculous. Worst case scenario, your ego gets slightly bruised and life goes on. You can’t possibly let that stop you from growing and advancing your career.
So what is really going on? It is not fear of failure but fear of success that is stopping you.
Your subconscious mind wants to keep you safe. If you see your supervisor exhausted and overwhelmed because of the amount of work they have to do, your mind will create fear of having too much work. If you see administrators one or two levels above you on the organizational chart, having to play politics daily, your mind may associate their positions to having to become highly political, and may make these jobs unappealing to you.
If consciously you think a promotion would be good but subconsciously you see it as something undesirable, your will inevitably engage in self-sabotage. You might blame people or circumstances for your lack of career growth but the truth is that you are holding yourself back. The only way to get unstuck is to bring your fears to the surface and find reassurance.
What to do about it…
1. Face your fears
Be honest with yourself and write down what problems you may have to face if you get a promotion (e.g., higher level of responsibility, having to say no to people, keeping people accountable, dealing with more conflict, presenting to the Board, having to make tough decisions, etc.). Second, list what you think you may lose (e.g. comfort, predictability, buffer between you and intimidating leaders, manageable workload, ability to be off the clock during nights and weekends etc.)
2. Find reassurance
For every fear you have identified above, write down what you are going to do about it. For example, if you are afraid of having too much work, decide that you will improve your organization and time management skills. Make yourself a promise that you won’t sacrifice your quality of life for your job. Occasionally you will have to work long hours but you can make it the exception rather than the norm. Great leaders understand the importance of self-care, healthy boundaries, and balance.
3. Remember that you will be in control
While some things will change and new demands will be placed on you, you will still retain a high level of control over your work-life because you have the power to decide how to handle situations. Moving up in administration doesn’t mean becoming powerless and reactive to external circumstances. It is a time to get clear on your values and priorities, and model the behavior you want to see in others. Observe what your mind does and choose to develop a more empowered mindset. Observe how you spend your time and choose to be a more productive and effective leader. You’re in charge of you!
4. Get the resources you need
Lifelong learning should be more than a value; it should be a priority, clearly reflected in how you choose to spend your time. Don’t hesitate to go to more leadership conferences, take courses, read books, get a mentor, observe what successful leaders do differently, and consider working with a coach to accelerate your growth and success. If you would like to find out how I can make this entire process easier for you, click here to schedule a complimentary consultation.
5. Focus on positive aspects
You may be familiar with the expression “Focus on your WHY”. It is the basis of all motivational approaches. You must stop focusing on what can go wrong and instead, intentionally direct your mind to focus on all of the reasons you have to step outside of your comfort zone. Imagine how your life will transform when you have your new position. How will you feel about yourself and your success? How will this benefit your family? What will become possible? What kind of role model will you be?
I hope this article inspired you to engage in self-reflection, uncover new insights, and commit to stepping up. You can do this! It may not be easy on your own but you don’t have to do this alone. Let me show you how to get rid of fears and create trust and enthusiasm so that you can build the career and life you truly desire. Let’s talk soon.
About the author: Dr. Audrey Reille has empowered thousands of professionals through one-on-one coaching, group coaching, speaking engagements, online courses, and interviews on international telesummits. Audrey is the go-to coach for leaders in higher education administration. She empowers them to thrive by reducing stress, optimizing strategies, improving professional relationships, and developing a strong and empowered mindset.