This quote is brilliant on so many levels!
It got me thinking about the career and success blocks we put on ourselves by not doing the required ground work for developing true self-awareness and awareness of others, and thus building up our emotional intelligence. This lack of awareness not only sabotages our own career success but also the success of those we may be unconsciously mismanaging by misjudging and not appreciating their gifts and not utilising them to their best ability.
Overcoming Self-Imposed Career Blocks
If you're a fish, life is unnecessarily hard to be trying to be or do something you’re not innately designed to do, such as climbing trees. This takes a bit of creative thinking, but it does make sense when applied in the human realm. It is much more productive and rewarding to focus on your strengths and to find your purpose. The chances of succeeding by making the most use of your strengths are already in your favour.
Trying to rewire our weaknesses is like learning to write with your left hand if you’re naturally right-handed. It can be done but there is a lot more wasted struggle and discomfort to get it right. Yet this was something that was forced on many left-handers in the past. As it was not considered to be the norm or acceptable to be left-handed, if you weren’t naturally right-handed you had to conform. At this point it is worth considering how many other expectations we might be unconsciously or consciously conforming to, rather than being ourselves. We have been moulded by others’ expectations to varying degrees for all of our lives. Not everyone is lucky enough to have had the clarity of purpose and mission from an early age or the conviction and support to pursue their destiny.
It is not hard to end up on the wrong career path, in the wrong role or otherwise mismatched, misunderstood and unappreciated. Perhaps you’ve been living your life based on meeting someone else’s expectations or dreams. For example, my father thought it would be a good idea for me to be a dentist. It is a good thing I didn’t go through with that as it would have been so not me - however I did go on to make another “safe and sensible” career choice. Having originally chosen one path following my heart, I then “corrected” it for what I thought were safer and more sensible reasons. Choosing what you think you should be doing in your career, or making what you or others think are safe and sensible career choices can leave you feeling unfulfilled and wanting more out life. When this happens it is easy to end up feeling stuck, stressed and frustrated.
I had an important (ah-ha) realisation in my earlier career when doing some organisational team exercises. These were designed to develop employee awareness of personality types. To demonstrate the different personality types in the group we went into different corners of the room, according to our type grouping. Interestingly, most of the staff ended up in one corner of the room. The other two corners had fewer staff and I found myself in the fourth corner, on my own. What I realised after this exercise was that the organisation had hiring practices for roles to conform to a fairly rigid mould. I was an exception for my role type as my hiring manager decided to try something new in order to get different results. This was a success story on many levels, including testing flexible work arrangements, yet I somehow felt a bit like a round peg in a square hole, feeling misunderstood and that something was stopping me from expressing myself and my untapped potential more fully. The reason for this became clearer. Although one hiring manager had adopted what was then pretty innovative and out-of-the-box thinking in hiring differently, the existing in-the-box environment and system was not designed to fully recognise and tap into the full diversity of personality types, strengths and talents.
It left me wondering whether I was like Einstein’s metaphorical fish finding itself misjudged by a rigid set of expectations, and wondering whether I was in the wrong fishbowl or whether I was trying to climb the wrong tree. I am happy to see that much progress has been made in this organisation and others with a greater awareness and appreciation for innovation, diversity, balance and the value of complementary strengths-based teams.
Without awareness of the resources available to identify our innate strengths and talents and without the right support network, we may have been left to flounder about trying to figure it out on our own. We may not have developed the required self-awareness and understanding to proactively position ourselves to shine. This lack of awareness could also be causing us to misunderstand others and to be misunderstood. This in itself can lead to various issues and career blocks.
Are you facing self-imposed career blocks right now? Not appreciating or realising your full potential, not being courageous or able to express yourself authentically, feeling that you’re not fitting in and playing small leaves you with self-limiting beliefs and reduced confidence. These are hardly the building blocks for a thriving career and life.
Job interest alignment and the ability to use your strengths in the workplace has a high impact on job satisfaction, engagement and career success. It is never too late to reconnect with your purpose and to discover what you were destined to excel at by being your authentic best self. It is a much smoother path, paved with your success in mind. Now imagine how much more successful, engaging and rewarding your life and career could be if you put your best self forward.
Knowing and using your strengths at work has many benefits, and is backed up by decades of scientific studies (study references available on request). A strengths-based focus at work leads to:
1. Improved confidence.
- Strengths-knowledge and strengths-use are significantly associated with self-efficacy, self-esteem, self-acceptance and self-confidence.
- increased happiness,
- higher levels of positivity
- lower levels of depression
- better work-performance and problem-solving
- higher levels of vitality
- Using character strengths of kindness, social intelligence, self-regulation and perspective creates a buffer against stress
- Positive self-monitoring and strengths-building are particularly suited to circumstances when you’re learning something new, something difficult, or something perceived as difficult.
- The feelings of being authentic, vital and focussed when developing strengths help people to better adapt to change, engage in more creative and proactive behaviours, pay more attention to detail and work harder.
- People who use their strengths more feel more satisfied and experience more meaning in their work. Studies have found that people who use four or more of their top character strengths at work are more likely to experience job satisfaction, pleasure, engagement, and meaning in their work
- Employees who have the opportunity to regularly use their strengths at work each day are up to six times more engaged in what they’re doing
To build a fulfilling, successful career for ourselves, we need to look inward to understand our strengths and weaknesses, to understand how we show up, and how others see us. We need to understand what powers us up and what to avoid, or reduce, as it de-energises and stresses us and how to better understand others in order to improve communication, develop more productive relationships and interactions.
Most people are not aware of their own unique abilities and best-self strengths, and even fewer get to focus on using them. If you are stuck doing something that is not aligned with your innate purpose, you may be left feeling frustrated, unappreciated and not appreciating your own worth and unique contribution to your team and organisation. This is not the best way to show up in order to succeed. By not taking the time for self-discovery, you may never realise the genius within and may be sabotaging your career and personal success.
Do what you do best, follow your strengths and innate talents.
If you don't get to use these, there’s a chance you're in the wrong fishbowl or even worse, climbing the wrong tree.
Tune in, discover your authentic best-self and confidently present the best of what you have to offer into your work and into the world.
Don’t be afraid to show your genius, own it and allow yourself to shine!
- Nada Matijevic
Thanks to Michelle McQuaid for her energy and dedication to raising awareness of strengths-based benefits and for so generously sharing her research and resources.