Way too many people have already decided that a job is a way to pay the bills and nothing more. They reached that conclusion after beating their head against the wall trying to get more out of a job than just a paycheck, to no avail.
There’s no question that the world is full of dysfunctional organizations and lousy managers. My daily inbox is testament to those problems, but a lot of people manage to have great careers anyway. How do they do it?
The number one thing successful people do is to change their mindset. I’m sorry if that sounds hippy-dippy to you. I come from northern New Jersey, possibly the least “woo-woo” place on earth. People who believe in themselves are more successful than people who don’t, period. That observation begs the question “How do I start to believe in myself?”
For starters, you can let yourself off the hook. Nearly all of us have been trained since childhood to set very low expectations. Even the people who love us tell us to aim low. They don’t want us to take chances. That’s a shame, because taking chances teaches us that it’s perfectly fine to take chances.
Since we’ve been trained to set tiny, incremental goals if we set any goals at all, we have to re-train our brains to be more ambitious. We have to re-program our minds to feel that it’s reasonable and normal to set huge, life-changing goals and then to achieve them. After all, if you set big goals, what’s the worst thing that can happen?
If you succeed, it’s magnificent. If you fail, you learn. There’s really no such thing as failure. Other people can call you a failure if they want to, but who cares what other people think?
I got lucky because my parents told me “Do what you want” when I was a kid. I was the sixth of eight kids in my family and my parents were exhausted. Too many teenagers can take it out of you!
I squeaked out of high school in three years because I was sick of it. First I went to conservatory in New York to sing opera. The program wasn’t my cup of tea and I quit after two years. I sang in a punk rock band and waited tables. I went to Chicago with the band. I got a waitress job in Chicago.
I took an office job because the restaurant closed. I was a customer service person. I became an HR person through a fluke, and I did HR my own way, which turned out to be the opposite of what most HR departments did then and still do now.
The company grew from $1M to $180M in sales. I went to another company and helped them grow, too. I became a Fortune 500 HR SVP. Every day I was clueless about something on my desk. So what? That’s the only way we learn! My co-workers were always clueless about something or other, too.
If you step out into new territory every day, then it’s familiar territory the next day and your reward for having learned something is that you get to be clueless about something new.
Your cubicle walls are thin. Office walls are thin, too. They can’t protect us from reality. The only way to survive and thrive in this new-millennium workplace is to build yourself up from the inside. That means telling the truth and trying new things all the time.
It can feel scary to do those two things but if you aren’t feeling a little bit of fear every day, you’re asleep. You’re in a stupor. Repeating the same activities over and over isn’t growing. You turn into a machine when you do that, and an out-of-date machine, at that!
The first step in reprogramming your mind for success is to get a journal. Start writing in your journal every day or whenever get a moment. Here are journal prompts to get you going if you’ve never kept a journal before.
Everything that looks like a barrier to you is flimsy. You could knock every barrier down, but our obstacles look insurmountable from the ground level. You have to get altitude to see how easily every barrier in your way can be overcome.
I remember freaking out about a project at work that was kicking my behind. I was way behind and it was a big, important project that my boss was waiting for. I was about 28 or 29 at the time. I had to give him a status report on a Thursday afternoon and the deadline had snuck up on me. I was behind in my preparation.
The Sunday before my status report was due, I was in the office by myself, trying to catch up. I was creating presentation slides to show my boss, and anticipating his penetrating questions. I heard him asking me questions in my mind, and I knew I didn’t have good answers.
I wanted to do more analysis. I wanted to have more time! I started crying in my office, sitting by myself. I felt hopeless and unequal to the task I had to accomplish.
Impulsively I sent an email message to my boss. “I’m sorry,” said my message, “I’m not going to be ready for our Thursday meeting. I see that there are more factors I have to look into. I have to do more research.” I was a very diligent HR manager. Like most people I was brought up to work harder, harder, harder all the time.
My office phone rang. My boss had received my email message at home and called me at the office. “Are we supposed to meet on Thursday?” he asked. “Yes,” I said, shocked that he would have forgotten. It seemed like a big deal to me.
“That meeting is off,” he said. “Call this number – it’s our after-hours travel agency number. We’re going to the U.K. this week. We’re buying a company there and we need to go see them.”
I got off the phone, called the travel agency and made my reservations. “Life is very strange,” I said to myself.
“I was a mess fifteen minutes ago, and now the whole frame has shifted. Everything I was worried about has completely evaporated.”
I was worked up about nothing. Nearly everything we get ourselves upset about turns out to be no big deal. The sooner we learn that lesson, the happier we will be!
I don’t think my boss and I ever got back to the topic I had believed was so earth-shaking and critical. We bought the company in the UK and then another company and another one another that until we lost count.
We are not in school anymore. There is no one to give you “A” grade. Your path is your biggest priority. Your current job is just a step on your path. You are wasting your precious mojo by caring too much about your relationship with your boss or your upcoming performance review. What difference does it make what your boss thinks about you?
Your focus must be on your own path and your own goals. If your boss can help you take a step on your path, great! If not, there are plenty of other bosses who can. At some point you may decide the only boss you want to work for is yourself. That step will feel scary for a little while, too, and then it won’t feel scary anymore.
Write in your journal and envision the life you want — not an incremental step that seems desirable now only because it’s a tiny improvement over your current situation.
Give yourself permission to dream a lot bigger than “I’d like to get a Team Leader title, since I’m doing the job already” or “I’d be happy with a six percent increase.” What would really make you happy, and how can you take a step toward the life you’ve designed for yourself?
The more permission you give yourself to envision the life you want and deserve, the more easily you’ll be able to see how to navigate there. A jerk boss is just a gnat buzzing around your head, if you are in charge of your career.
Every system that was every built can be torn down and improved upon. The system of fear and control that holds sway in so many workplaces is crumbling already. More and more working people are deciding they’ve had enough of kissing other people’s rear ends to get crumbs. They are managing their own careers now. You can do the same thing!
You are stuck as long as you believe that other people are more powerful than you are. A nasty recruiter, an unhelpful HR person or a domineering manager have no power over you, but you have to feel that power in yourself. I can’t convince you of it and neither can anybody else.
One day, perhaps while you’re writing in your journal, riding your bike or folding a load of laundry, you’ll ask “Why am I tolerating bad treatment?” There is no good answer, apart from “Who cares why I tolerated bad treatment this long — all I know is I’m not going to tolerate it any more!”
You have to look in the mirror and ask “Why am I making my boss more powerful than I am?” Maybe it’s so that you can blame your boss for your frustration instead of owning up to the fact that it’s hard to make changes and you’ve been avoiding the job search that will free you from the domineering manager.
You are in charge of your life and career. You can take a step today to change whatever isn’t working for you.
Bad bosses will always be around us. We can blame them for our problems or step over, around or right through them the way you’ve dealt with other obstacles you’ve encountered and surmounted in your life so far.
You are mighty now, and you are just getting started!
This article was written by Liz Ryan from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.