Career Goals in Jeopardy? Vow to Find a Way. | Swimming Motivation

Dream big dreams. Reach for the stars. Go for the gold.swimming 694371689_950a3bca2b_m

Alas, the dreaming and reaching and going are so much easier than the doing.

Achieving, big things or small, is about:

  • Amassing essential knowledge and skills
  • Preparing and planning
  • Cultivating supporters
  • Taking risks, failing, and trying again
  • Mental toughness, grit, and belief
  • Patience and perseverance

Acknowledging this work list is the first test of your commitment to your goals. The action steps are your acid test.

Keep breathing.

Goals are slippery fish. They have a way of swimming into view, tempting us to hook them, and then spitting out the hook when we aren’t paying attention.

When our goals seem elusive or our efforts to achieve them unproductive, it’s easy to:

  • Revise them downward
  • Abandon them for something less arduous
  • Defer them until we believe the time is right
  • Cave in to what others say we should pursue

If this is where you are, it’s time to take a deep breath and reconnect with what’s been driving you all along–your passion, calling, or vision for a career that is you.

It all starts with getting clarity around your career goals. Then you’re ready to rock and roll.

Keep moving.

When you stop moving,  your goals start to sink. To keep moving, you need sources of inspiration that you can tap into quickly.

Diana Nyad might be just that inspiration.

On September 2, 2013, at 64, Diana became the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida without the help of a shark cage–103 miles in 53 hours.

It took Diana five attempts to reach her goal: once in 1978, three times in 2011 and 2012.

The obstacles she faced in earlier tries became the lessons that prepared her to succeed on her 5th effort.

USA Today reported (with video):

Her last try was cut short amid boat trouble, storms, unfavorable currents and jellyfish stings that left her face puffy and swollen.

This time, she wore a full bodysuit, gloves, booties and a mask at night, when jellyfish rise to the surface. The new silicone mask caused bruises inside her mouth, making it difficult for her to talk….

Although dreams of success are the driver, it’s human will that propels us to overcome the sheer weight of the tasks and the setbacks.

Diana is quoted in a CNN Press Room article (also with video) saying:

When you’re feeling good… you’re singing Neil Young songs to yourself…But when you’re suffering, and…I had two nights of full suffering this time with the mask with the salt water. Now you’re not thinking of anything. You’re just coping and surviving, and your team is somehow helping you making it through every 15 minutes, every hour. Let’s not give up.

When Diana completed her marathon swim, her first words (quoted in USA Today) are worth remembering:

I have three messages. One is, we should never, ever give up. Two is, you’re never too old to chase your dream. Three is, it looks like a solitary sport, but it is a team….

Understanding why your goals are important to you is central to your drive and the message you send to those around you.

Diana also told CNN Press Room:

The people who follow me are human beings “who are dealing with their own heartaches, and their own obstacles in life. And they want to know how to get through. And I think I’m a person who represents…You never give up. You find a way if something really is important to your heart, you look and see what’s inside yourself, and you find a way.”

Stay committed.

If your career goals are in jeopardy, you too can find a way. You may discover that you need to look at what has worked and what hasn’t, who is helping and who isn’t, how much time you’re dedicating to the work, and how patient or impatient you’ve been.

Finding the way forward may mean reexamining how far you’ve come and then reinvigorating yourself and your plan. Go ahead. You can if you really want to.

 Photo by camilla via Photoree

The Gift of Encouragement—How Generous Are You?

One day you’re setting the world on fire and the next you feel like a complete loser. It seems to happen so fast.   

  • Your old boss loved your work; the new one not so much.
  • You used to navigate software effortlessly; now the new system has scuttled your productivity.
  • The work team once looked to you for leadership, now there’s a new member they’re following. 

You’re not alone. It happens to all of us. 

Perspective matters. 

We’re often our own worst critic, setting expectations for ourselves that are, perhaps, higher than is reasonable. Why? Because we want to: 

  • Excel over others or test our limits
  • Chase rewards like performance ratings, raises, or promotions
  • Measure up to what we’re told is our potential
  • Exceed our prior levels of performance 

These are pressures we create and/or accept for ourselves. This pressure leads to stress that can affect our performance, taking our self-confidence with it. 

The key to a successful career is to avoid the downward spiral of eroding self-confidence. The sorry truth is that you can kill your own self-confidence through negative self-talk, but it’s highly unlikely that you can restore it by giving yourself a pep talk. 

Encouragement as gift 

The beauty of encouragement is that you can re-gift it openly and should. You don’t need to give it back to the person who gave it to you, but you do need to be ready to give it when someone else needs it. 

Lest you think that encouragement really isn’t that important, consider what these two highly successful people have to say. 

Jim Furyk, professional golfer and 2010 PGA Tour Player of the Year, recently played in the 2011 President’s Cup, a tournament that pits a select team of U.S. golfers against an international team. Furyk won all five of his matches, a rare and totally unexpected feat. You see Furyk had just come off, quite possibly, his worst year on the tour. 

Here’s how he summed up his surprising success:

I enjoy the team atmosphere, and knowing Phil [Mickelson] for as many years as I have … I’m guessing he asked to play with me, because …I struggled so much this year and played poorly, probably the worst of anybody that’s sitting up here right now.

So knowing him for as long as I have, being good friends, I assume that he asked to play with me because he felt like he could get a lot out of me this week; that maybe he could help me and pump some confidence into me and get me playing well, and he did that.

You see, we give the gift of encouragement by what we do, not just by what we say, although they can go hand in hand.

Michelle Williams, the actress who plays Marilyn Monroe in the new film, “My Week with Marilyn,” was asked by the Today Show’s, Ann Curry where she got the courage to take on such a daunting role.

…in the beginning I just tried to ignore the risk because I thought if I really contemplated it, it would only stand in my way. 

You could say she wagered her self-confidence on her ability to succeed in that role. But Michelle revealed something else in an earlier interview with Mo Rocca on CBS’s Sunday Morning:

A lot of the time I feel like– I feel like I’m living hand to mouth on people’s compliments. I don’t ask anybody, like, ‘What did you think of that scene?’ or, ‘How did it go?’ or blah, blah, blah, because I get addicted to positive affirmation… There’s just so much uncertainty when you’re making your work, doing your job….

In all, we need credible compliments that encourage us, people to stand by us when we struggle, and the insights of others to help erase our doubt and replace it with optimism.

Give generously 

Encouragement builds on itself. The more we give, the more we attract. We need to make giving it a habit, our way to lift others up. In the process we’ll see our own situations in a brighter light. Please encourage generously.

Photo from lie_inourgraves via Flickr

Superstar or Has Been? | Career Tips to Stay On Top

The rush is in the reaching. Ask any athlete whose career is on the rise. Every day is about putting it all out there for the team, the fans, and the games they love. Winning is the driver, the measure of their contribution and achievement.

Their personal value rises when they: 

  • win a championship
  • get selected for the All-Star Team
  • receive Most Valuable Player (MVP) honors 

There’s nothing quite like attaining superstar status, especially in our careers. It’s exciting, often representing the reward for years of struggle and hard work. 

The moment we’re tapped as “best” is when our career life changes. 

The meaning of the moment 

When we’re recognized, we’re elated. We bask in the: 

  • Public recognition of our value
  • Upcoming opportunities to showcase our talents
  • Access to company leaders
  • Deference and/or congratulations from our coworkers 

Our moment passes quickly, though, just like the All-Star Game or that “I’m going to Disney World” TV shot. What follows are new challenges. 

At work superstars are usually considered “comers“—high potential performers and/or  succession plan designees. They’re the company’s MVPs. 

Their status is generally achieved through performance results over time and the endorsement of the leadership, not necessarily in equal measure. 

The bottom line: Someone thinks you have “it” and the company wants to put “it” to the test and benefit from the outcome. 

Sustaining momentum 

Superstar status raises your bar. When a broader audience starts paying attention to you, there’s pressure to perform at a higher level.

 Superstar moments launch new expectations for more and better performance like: 

  • Delivering significant outcomes on more complex projects
  • Assuming greater levels of authority and responsibility
  • Demonstrating tolerance for stress and the ability to perform under fire
  • Engaging effectively with powerful influencers
  • Negotiating with high profile customers or political officials 

You know what happens in sports: Last year’s MVP needs to increase on-field performance or hear about how s/he has declined. This year’s baseball All Star better hit well during the second half of the season or be questioned. 

Once we’re designated as a high potential player at work, if we don’t live up to expectations, we can fall out of favor and see our careers go downhill.

Avoiding “has been-ship” 

It’s difficult to get recognized as a top performer and even harder to sustain it.

In our jobs, success measures combine the objective and the subjective, the concrete and the abstract. But they count just as much as batting averages or yards per carry. 

To keep your superstar status up, these actions are essential: 

Remain relevant—Keep your knowledge, skills, and experiences ahead of the curve by staying up on innovation, politics, economic issues, and industry challenges; Be the voice of “what’s coming”

Maintain strong connections—Leverage is essential; Build, tighten, and expand your relationships in every direction, both inside and outside your company; Create allies and be one

Over-deliver—Make sure the results you and/or your department produce exceed expectations without exceeding costs, always improving the process

Engage employees—The ability to build and sustain a positive, can-do group of employees, engaged in their work, performing professionally, with little drama, and without giving away the store cements your value

Stay in the mix—Be there. Make sure you have a seat at the table. It helps to be likeable, a source of proper levity, and a voice of reason. When decisions don’t feel right to others unless you’ve been consulted, that’s a plus.

 Keep a clear head

 The rarefied air of superstardom at work can muddle our thinking unless we’re careful. Being recognized is important and when we get it, we should enjoy and value it. Our next moves, though, need to be informed and steady. Getting to the top is only the first step. Staying there is often the bigger one. Go for it! 

Photo of Phillies 2011 All-Star pitcher, Cliff Lee, from Matthew Straubmuller via Flickr

The “You’ve Got Potential” Scam—Resist It With Action

Someone says it to you. You say it about a friend or coworker:

  • “You have so much potential.”
  • “With all your potential, you can really go far.”
  • “Don’t waste your potential.”
  • “I think s/he has potential to do so much more.” 

When we’re in school or just starting our careers, being told we have “potential” sounds like praise, reason for optimism, and early votes for our success. 

After we’ve been at our jobs for awhile, having missed out on some opportunities, potential feels like a weight, unfulfilled expectations, and reason to doubt future success. 

No points for potential 

Potential is what we and others think we could do if we tried and then more of, if we tried harder. 

We want to be successful. Everyone wins, or so it seems, when we turn our potential into achievement. 

Lots of people bask in all the attention heaped on them for the potential they’re deemed to have. Others shrink from the pressures of their potential and sabotage their future success. 

On its own, unfortunately, potential can become a self-defeating scam that won’t win us any success points unless we act. 

Potential as “could’ve” 

Career potential is undelivered ability. It’s what we could achieve if we operationalized what we’re seemingly capable of. 

It’s also a guess. Who really knows what’s really latent in us and whether or not it can be put into practice in a big enough way to create real success.?

I’ve overheard many conversations like these: 

“Donald is so smart. He could’ve gone to medical school and become a doctor.”

“My daughter has such a beautiful golf swing that she could’ve become a pro golfer.”

“My boss is the only one with a real strategy. He could’ve easily been the CEO.”

Really? Who’s to know? Why didn’t these outcomes take place? 

Potential is risk 

No guts, no glory—these are the facts about potential. Whatever our talents, gifts, and capabilities are, if we don’t put them out there, act on them, and take the chance that we’ll fail or succeed, it’s as though they don’t exist. 

You get no points in the end for potential. You, in fact, may get a black mark for squandering it because you were afraid to: 

  • Test it against the requirements of the marketplace
  • Put in the hard work to turn it into real knowledge and skills
  • Risk criticism, failure, challenges, and struggle
  • Expose your frailties, your ego, and/or your security 

With action, potential can turn itself into achievement in a thousand ways big and small, like 

  • Achieving a diploma or degree
  • Breaking into sports broadcasting
  • Starting a cottage business
  • Problem-solving your way out of the projects 

“Could’ve” of doesn’t get you anywhere. “Should’ve” doesn’t either. 

Country singer Toby Keith’s lyric is a great reminder: 

“Shoulda been a cowboy

Should’ve learned to rope and ride….” 

We’ve actually got to do stuff. We don’t get anywhere on a wish. We have to learn and act. We have to stick our necks out. 

Potential is investment capital 

We start with potential. It’s always in you. It’s like a money stash that we’re born with and have the opportunity to invest. 

If we leave it buried and don’t act, it delivers no return. If we invest it by acting, we have a chance, not a guarantee, it will grow.

It’s important to listen to everyone who identifies what they see as our potential. There’s a good chance that the people we trust the most and who know us best see what we can’t about ourselves.

Our challenge is to pay attention and try to see what they see. Then we need to ask ourselves, “Am I going to do what it takes to turn my potential into achievement or just let it lie?” I’ve got my money on you taking action. 

Photo from cessable via Flickr