We are continually reminded about the “new normal” and the struggle to return business to the way it was, as if it ever can be again. The news can become discouraging while working from home, especially if it seems there is no end in sight for current the pandemic and other societal problems. Not only is the news a source of frustration, the certainty of employment has evaporated for many industries and careers. It seems as if a person who has a job has the only future available now, and to dream of anything more is to hope for too much.
Yet it is possible to think about the future, even in the seemingly worst of circumstances, whether or not you work at home, have no certainty of a job in the months to come, and you are or are not employed now. The challenge is overcoming the natural barriers your mind creates when you feel the weight of circumstances around you, from national and international crises, to your own personal and professional matters. When there are so many issues and problems vying for your attention, it weighs heavily on your mind, creating a sense of push and pull. You seem to be pushed from one headline to the next, and your attention continually pulled from one worrisome idea to another.
When you create mental barriers, it interrupts your own development and this is what prevents you from being ready for new opportunities. As an educator and career coach I have used the phrase opportunity-ready to not only refer to the future career opportunities which may come your way, but the opportunities that are available now within your existing career. For example, I am always concerned with my well-being and state of mind as an educator, knowing that I want to be opportunity-ready for my employer, ready to accept the challenges and opportunities which are a natural part of the position. You can also develop this same state of mind when you breakdown any barriers to growth that are present now.
Natural and Intentional Growth
You grow naturally without thought, at a subconscious level. This occurs through time on the job and the experience you gain, along with the skills acquired. You cannot help but grow on some level, whether or not you are aware of it. Even if you are performing the same job, day after day, and it seems as if you have grown stagnant within that position, you are still growing to some extent. Consider the knowledge you’ve gained, even if by trial and error, interactions with customers, problem-solving, and working on projects. You have evolved, whether or not you can see it at this time.
There is also intentional growth, or the type of growth you are aware of and intentionally pursue. It may be formal education, or the type of education obtained within a classroom environment. This type of growth may also occur by reading, attending a webinar, attempting a new project, or consciously becoming involved in any other similar endeavor. When you intend to seek out new knowledge, or acquire new skills, the purpose may be to benefit your current job or future career. The accumulation of your knowledge helps to create a competitive advantage, along with a feeling of being proactive in your career.
Discovering Your Barriers to Growth
As an educator and career coach, what I have learned through my work with students and client is the barriers to growth can be summarized into two primary categories, beliefs and acceptance. Even those who have been seemingly well-focused and able to develop goals can still become wrapped up in current events and need to work on overcoming sticking points.
Barriers Centered around Beliefs: One of the common barriers is centered on the belief that a person’s life and/or career won’t, can’t, or will not change. This is a product of time, effort, and mental habits. If you have been trying to better your life, create new plans, initiate change, or make an attempt to find a new career path, and nothing seems to happen in the manner you would like it to, then it may become easy to develop a negative belief.
The default setting it seems is this: See, Believe, Try. It translates into: I see results of my effort, then if all goes well, I believe in myself and try again. The reverse also holds true: If I do not see the results of my effort, I will not believe in myself, and I may not try again.
Barriers Centered around Acceptance: Most individuals I work with who have this type of barrier are prone to accept reality as it is now, and they are unable to see any hope for future change. The development of reality-based barriers is even more challenging now during a pandemic when the certainty of resolution is unknown.
Anyone who struggles with fear of the future, and becomes mentally paralyzed from taking action because they see no hope, have those feelings amplified to a much greater degree now. There seems to be no escape from reminders of the bleakness the world faces either, as the worst of the crisis is ever present within news, and advertisements remind us we are isolated at home. It can be easy to eventually succumb to the feeling life will not get better.
Breaking Barriers to Growth
We often keep hitting the same wall, until we realize we have become stuck. To overcome any mental barrier, you must be willing to admit to yourself that something is not working well for you now. It is not a matter of right or wrong, ego, pride, or admission of failure. It is being able to continue to evolve, both personally and professionally. You can simply state: “Somehow I feel stuck and I want to make improvements”. That’s how the process of uncovering obstacles begins, as you cannot change the external or the circumstance around your life, but you can change the internal factors that are holding you back.
Self-Evaluation and Self-Discovery
To be able to uncover your barriers, you need to begin by doing what may feel the most uncomfortable, and that is to admit you need to self-examine your mindset. This will begin a process of self-evaluation, which in turn can lead you through self-discovery. The only reason obstacles exist are due to the patterns of thoughts established in the mind.
Consider this example: The mind initiates a series of steps that creates habitual thinking, which leads to chronic patterns of how you act while interacting with others in the workplace and how you perform your job. There is a logical component to these steps, as required for completing your required tasks; however, there are aspects involved that require capacity, and this is where your beliefs come in. Self-evaluation, utilizing reflection as a tool to evaluate yourself, will help to uncover those beliefs. It’s not a matter of being weak when you need to determine why you are mentally stuck, it’s showing yourself you want to grow.
Implement this Strategy: To help you get started, I recommend you create an event log or better stated, an event chart. The events to keep track of during each day are the tasks, requirements, duties, projects, and anything else you were consciously asked to perform in your job. This is the first column of the event chart.
The second column will be the self-reflection reactions. I recommend you record your self-reflection reactions at the end of the day, when you have time to think back on how you responded to the tasks, requirements, duties, projects, and anything noted within your event log or chart. Take time to note your initial reaction, along with the final actions you’ve taken.
The third and final column in your event log or chart needs to be labeled self-focus. You can complete this column at the end of the day, or perhaps you could complete this at the end of the week, after you have given yourself even more time to reflect. This column will present yourself with an opportunity to answer the following questions for each notation within the event log or chart: Was this the best response? Did this response lead to the best possible outcome? Was there a better possible response and outcome? If so, what was it?
From this event log you can then develop a plan of action. My recommendation is that you create a set of statements to acknowledge your new found wisdom. The following prompts can help you get started:
I have learned…
I now know this about myself…
I need to improve upon…
I discovered I am capable of…
I plan to choose this type of reaction in the future…
This may all seem too far-fetched for the average person to complete. Yet we live in a time when the external “noise” is so loud, which includes the technology used, we must find a way to pay attention to what is going on within our minds. This is where the pathway to success can be found, learning to evaluate ourselves from the inside out.
Once you’ve decided to take a proactive approach to evaluating your mindset, you will find yourself better positioned for future opportunities. This doesn’t imply you are going to begin a job search, rather it means you are prepared to perform your best now and in doing so, you’ve become opportunity-ready. The success of many employers now depends upon the performance of its employees. Your willingness to perform your best not only makes you shine, you are contributing to the success and longevity of your employer, and you may also be readying yourself for future opportunities. But no matter the reason why you have broken down the barriers to your growth, it should always be done first and foremost for your own benefit and mindset well-being. To begin each day with a sense of hope and willingness to be fully engaged in whatever task comes your way, regardless of circumstances, can be one of the most rewarding feelings you will ever experience.