Everyone loves a fresh start. A fresh start forgets about all of your unkept promises, your well intentioned to-do list, and offers hope that this time can be different. This time you will make the most out of the opportunity before you. For few, that is exactly what a fresh start is. For most, me included, it often serves as a temporary reset. Too often, our suppressed character flaws, bad habits and ungratefulness resurface even after our most well intentioned attempt to embrace the reset. I believe this has more to say about our approach to our current opportunities and our commitment to the TODAY version of ourselves, than it does about the "available" roles, responsibilities and opportunities that are out there.
There are a few ways we approach new opportunities, which are telling of the person we are. Some are quick to jump at every drastic change in scenery believing, "There is something better out there than what I'm doing now". On the other end of the spectrum people fear the discomfort of the unknown. Having to adjust and take on the risk associated with the changes that new opportunities bear spurs fear. The common thread that ties these two approaches together is the heavy dependence on who the TOMORROW version of you is, and forgets about the TODAY version of who you are and will probably be. There is a very different subset of people as well. A small sliver of the population that know they can do more, they can be better, so they work on the TODAY version of themselves and get the most out of their current opportunity. That's the sweet spot!
I often get posed questions from people about going after a new career opportunity. They want to discuss the pros and cons, and discuss the long term effects either decision can have on their career. I typically ask the same three questions, in some fashion:
What does this new opportunity offer you, that you would otherwise be deprived of?
What does your current situation offer you, that this new opportunity would be depriving you of?
Are you making the most out of your current situation, or are you too focused on every passing opportunity to take the lead of your career in your current role?
The first two questions really get to the heart of the trade off that opportunities present. The back breaking landscaping required to keep the grass greener on that side of the fence, and the every day benefits your current role offers that have become second nature to you and thus have been taken for granted. The answer to the third question, almost 100% of the time is "no, I'm probably not making the most out of my current situation".
So, that's exactly what I challenge them to do before anything else. Make the most out of your current opportunity. We get into ruts, fall into social roles with our peers, find the perimeter of expectations and get comfortable. If we stay in this state for too long, change seems daunting. It seems like the easiest way to break free of this is to leave your current state and chase an opportunity. This doesn't solve your issue however, even if you do find another opportunity. The issue you must address is you - the TODAY version of you - and your approach to your current role, position or opportunity. Every opportunity is what you make of it, which is why it's called an opportunity. With that in mind, consider the following actions to best assess if you're making the most out of your current opporunity:
Get a fresh take. Try to look at your current situation the same way you did when you first received the opportunity. Without the blinders of "the way things are done", the status quo you've embraced and harken back to a time when you had a list of things you were going to accomplish in this new position. What mountains have you yet to climb?
Take the PRO's & CON's list one step further. Instead of just a list of pro's and con's, make a list of all the great opportunities this new position offers, then think of ways you could incorporate those elements into your current role. What's stopping you from taking those on? Get creative, and try not to make excuses and ask yourself, "why not"?
Give yourself another chance. If you have fallen into a rut, or assumed a social role on the team that's holding you back, then break the pattern and give yourself another chance! If you don't have the ability to do this, you probably wont have the ability to do this once you take on your next role and find yourself in a similar situation. Take it one step, one idea, one day at a time and be the TODAY version of you, that will make yourself proud.
If after that honest assessment, you still believe you've outgrown your current role, responsibility or opportunity then I'm totally onboard! Go after that new opportunity with a vengeance, as if it were created with you in mind.
I ask two things of you this week:
If you're hitting that "what am I doing with my career" wall we all pass time to time, dive deep into the self assessment I hit on above. Get a fresh take, take the pro's & con's list one step further and give yourself another chance. Life rarely fixes itself without the intervention of intentionallity.
If a colleague or friend is in the same boat and comes to you with concerns over the TODAY version of themselves, ask the questions above and help guide them though their answers with the understanding that only they can decide what the next logical step is in their career.
Don't get me wrong with all of this. I'm not saying don't chase after great career opportunities. I'm just saying that if you took the time to focus more on the TODAY version of you and getting the most out of all the opportunities you currently have, than you wouldn't have so much time or need to create the magical world around the TOMORROW version of you, because you would be making the most out of the current moment you've been given.
Note: All of the opinions expressed in this article are my own, and are not a reflection of the viewpoint of my employer.