In today’s challenging times, professionals are longing too to discover their “life purpose” – the one unifying theme they think will bring them the joy, fulfillment, and meaning they desperately yearn for. But a vast majority won’t be successful on that front either. Not for lack of trying or laziness — but because they are looking in all the wrong places, and taking actions that propel them backward or sideways, but not forward.
Why do so many career dreams crash and burn?
I’ve observed four key behaviors that guarantee you won’t achieve your deepest career hopes and dreams.
Below are the top 4 behaviors that will kill your dreams:
1) You’re doing the WRONG things to get what you want
The vast majority of professionals today can’t identify what they really want to create and achieve in their lives. They’re in the dark about themselves and their deepest longings.
But there are some people who DO know what they want, and can articulate it clearly, with passion. Unfortunately, among those who are clear, many aren’t taking the right steps to get there.
Here’s an example: I know hundreds of stressed-out, overwhelmed corporate women who long for more balance, control and flexibility. Suddenly, in a desperate hunt for a new way to work, they embrace the belief that chucking their corporate life and launching an entrepreneurial venture will be the answer to their prayers. The problem is, an entrepreneurial life is not suited to everyone, and is certainly no antidote for work-life imbalance.
What they don’t understand is that there are certain core values, mindsets, traits, and behaviors essential for entrepreneurial success (see Michael Gerber’s book E-Myth Revisited about why so many small businesses fail). It takes an amazing amount of effort, skill, know-how, leadership talent and vision to make it work. Going into business for yourself just to get more work-life balance is the wrong move. Other motivators and factors have to be in the mix, or your business will fail (see the harsh data on small business failure rates).
In the end, thousands of professionals choose the wrong “form” of work in an attempt fulfill the right “essence” of what they want. They know what they want, but have taken a misguided path to get it. Then, after crushing failure, they give up and stop moving forward.
2) You quit too early
You and I know hundreds of people who have deep longings to contribute to the world in powerful ways. The problem is, they want to contribute at this level NOW. They’re impatient for the reward and want it yesterday, without making the commitment.
People who have risen to the top of their field and are making a large contribution in the world, by and large have worked for many years to refine their craft, perfect their messages, amass knowledge and expertise, and close their gaps. They have demonstrated intensive long-term commitment and incredible courage – walking through walls of fear and resistance to make the impact they want to.
If immediate gratification is what you want or expect, you’ll give up and turn back long before you arrive at your destination.
3) You’ve confused a career with a “calling”
A job and a calling are very different. They require different things of us. Many people think their career dream is to have a “calling” and they yearn for that. What they don’t know is that a calling is a vision so compelling that you can’t stop yourself from wrapping your entire identity around it (even if you don’t want to), even to the detriment of your bank account, your relationships and your health.
People romanticize about a calling, just as they idealize “love.” A calling is not something that you choose – it chooses you. And when it does, it exacts a large price.
Neither a job or a calling are better than the other; they’re just different. There are costs and benefits to both. But you can’t fabricate a calling out of thin air, so longing for one is a fruitless endeavor.
he key to creating a fulfilling career is to find the right path for you that makes you feel passionate, powerful and purposeful, and motivates you to be all you can be. Stop wishing for what others have, and start creating the best version of you — your authentic self.
4) You’re too scared to stretch big enough
Finally, the biggest obstacle in the way of achieving large career dreams is an unwillingness to do the internal and external “stretching” necessary to get you where you want to go. The stark reality is that you can’t go from Point A to Point Z without transforming yourself. To have a fantastic career, you have to continually stretch and expand yourself far beyond your comfort zone and learn to walk directly into experiences that would scare the “old you” to death.
You can’t be a thought leader without doing the intimidating work of being on the leading edge with your thoughts. You can’t be a moving public speaker if you shy away from using your voice authentically. You’ve got to do the work of expansion.
To achieve big career dreams you also have to overcome your resistance around getting help. Many are deeply afraid of looking foolish or exposing their vulnerability. Or they simply refuse to invest in themselves (financially or otherwise) to grow. But you can’t do great things in a vacuum, all by yourself, without support.
If you long for the validation, recognition, respect, power, and self-esteem that come from an amazing career, then you have to earn them, by stretching yourself beyond what you thought possible and wrestling down your fears and looking your demons squarely in the eyes.
For the record, I believe wholeheartedly in dreaming BIG and having expansive career visions. I wouldn’t have reinvented my career successfully without them. But if you want to achieve your highest career goals, don’t make these mistakes. Figure out exactly what you want (take my Career Path Self-Assessment for a start). Then do what it takes to reach your goals in a planful, realistic and committed way. Don’t be fooled about the energy and effort it will take. Remember – a fantastic career takes fantastic risk.
Do you have the courage and the right stuff to make your career visions are reality, and are you taking the right steps?
Kathy Caprino, M.A. is a national women's work-life expert, career and leadership coach, speaker, and author of Breakdown Breakthrough. Founder/President of Ellia Communications -- a career and executive consulting firm dedicated to the advancement of women in business -- Kathy is a top media source on current career topics and trends, a Forbes contributor, and frequent invited speaker. For more information on Kathy's leadership and executive training programs or career coaching services, please visit www.elliacommunications.com. Follow Kathy on Twitter @kathycaprino, FB, and Linkedin.