The first Tuesday in September holds special meaning for me. Two years ago, I published my first article as a Forbes leadership contributor, covering a universal topic: fear and its insidious ability to prevent our career growth.
Last year on this day, I wrote an article about the concepts of hindsight (understanding an event or situation after it has happened) and foresight (planning for what we think will happen before it happens), in anticipation of 2020, and what we all hoped would be a banner year, career-wise.
This year, as I embark on my third year as a Forbes contributor, I find myself reflecting on those articles and their themes, and can’t help but see their heightened relevancy in our COVID world. Fear is still pervasive—perhaps now more than ever—and eight months into 2020 (which feels like eight years), we have the unique ability to have some level of hindsight as well as foresight for what’s ahead. The trick is to revisit these themes so we can move forward in our careers; here’s how:
FEAR: Stop making excuses and acknowledge its roots so that you can make progress
Maybe this sounds familiar: You’ve meant to start that new venture/job search/professional dream, but you’ve been too busy. Or so and so is holding you back. Or it’s too risky.
Spoiler alert: what prevents your progress isn’t external; it’s internal.
Pandemic or not, fear has a way of halting our growth. It manifests itself in weird ways, appearing as procrastination, self-preservation, or perfectionism. You can fear ridicule, rejection, failure, or even success, but the real damage comes from the inaction that fear enables.
To combat this tendency, you should practice self-awareness and be honest about why you’re making excuses to help identify the roots of your past and current fears. When you acknowledge why you’ve been stalling, you can finally get moving and make progress.
HINDSIGHT: Learn from your mistakes so you can pivot, not perish
No one could have predicted the year that 2020 has been and continues to be, but one thing is for sure: it has been a masterclass in adaptability and resilience.
Those who have fared best remain open to trying new things (working from home, mastering Zoom calls, launching a COVID-inspired company), and use any missteps as opportunities to learn and course-correct. They also remember that everyone is doing the best they can, and to be kind to themselves and not beat themselves up when something goes awry; wallowing in a world of “would have/could have/should have” is a recipe for misery.
As a reminder, hindsight only works after time passes, so there’s always wisdom to glean from the experience despite the outcome. Reflect on your past actions and decisions to examine what went right, what went wrong, and how you can learn from each, so you’ll pivot, not perish.
FORESIGHT: Use clarity to take action and achieve your goals
If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that waiting for something to happen doesn’t work; we must take action to make it so.
Foresight, by its very definition, is about taking action and planning for what you think will happen before it happens. In the context of your career, foresight can also be preparing for what you want to happen.
And that means you need to be crystal clear on what you want, even (and especially) if that’s shifted from previous goals. Drawing on that newfound wisdom from hindsight, take some time to slow down from your daily busyness to give yourself space to determine your new objectives. And remember that clarity demands specificity: there is no room for a wishy-washy answer. The more focused you can be about your goals, the better.
Once you’ve set your goals, you can then take small actions, regularly and deliberately over time, to achieve your larger objectives. Your clarity, coupled with consistency and discipline of action, helps you make progress and keep moving.
Ironically, sometimes the best way to move your career forward is by reflecting back on it. And with a year like 2020, maybe that’s not so unexpected after all.
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