Leaving Space For the Potential You

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“Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” – George Bernard Shaw

Career exploration really begins within our own imaginations — well before we utter a single word or visit a job board. We consider where we currently find ourselves and where we’d like to go, trying on jobs and titles and experiences in the process.

It’s a very quick exercise within our mind’s eye. However, it is a vital step in the career growth dynamic.

How we visualize ourselves in the future matters.

I happened to be reading about mindfulness yesterday, particularly discussions about carving out space between a stimulus that we encounter and our reaction to it. (See a discussion of the one-second rule here.) Research has revealed that taking a moment to suspend making a decision, forming an opinion or choosing a behavior, can have a significant impact upon our work lives.

That has me thinking about our initial responses as we consider our own abilities or potential.

Conventional thinking tells us that all human beings seek pleasure and avoid pain. Yet research has shown that our own regulatory focus — or the way we typically approach risk plays a role. (Some of us are more naturally promotion focused and embrace more risk; others choose a safer path and are more naturally prevention focused).

So, do you dismiss yourself too quickly? Pass over a path that may be fruitful long-term because of the risk or disruption involved? Do you have moments where you consider ourselves in a non-reactive way?

Does a prevention focus hold you back? (Read more about that here.)

We can’t build careers if we don’t fully consider all of the possibilities. Yes, there are risks. But, we can be aware of our reactions to those risks and manage the associated fear.

If you respond with an immediate “nay” when contemplating a pivot or challenge, be mindful of your own natural tendency in that regard. When you pause at that window of possibility — envision yourself succeeding, not drowning — and see what that brings. Keep your desire to prevent failure in check.

I challenge you to hold on to the possibilities just a bit longer.

See what you do next.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist.  She is the Director of Organizational Development at Allied Talent. A charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program, her posts on workplace topics have appeared in Forbes, The Huffington Post, US News & World Report and The World Economic Forum.

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2 thoughts on “Leaving Space For the Potential You

  1. What more can I say. You’ve said it all. It’s recognizing the “triggers” that either make or break us. The key word is US! There’s much that can be discussed on this subject and you’ve done a great job. Keep up the good work!👌😉👏

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  2. Thank you, Marla, for another great observation. I hope it captures people attention. I particularly liked your noting our need for “carving out space between a stimulus that we encounter and our reaction to it.” I’ve recently wrestled with that same concept, what I more or less casually referred to as Gap Theory (http://wp.me/p2k440-nl and following), that time gap between the stimulus, be it crisis, challenge, or disruption, and our reaction to it. A short gap can be disastrous, but the deliberately longer gap can very often lead to far better outcomes. Human nature seems to prefer short gaps. Thank you for your posts.

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