Have you ever felt like you’re moving sideways in your career when you want to move forward, and had that frustrating feeling that you're languishing on a plateau?
Well, all of us feel that way at one point or the other, and I certainly had my share of feeling like I was languishing and going sideways in my career.
The interesting thing is, that's when your mental game becomes really important.
Your Mental Game
I was reminded of this today when talking to one of my daughters, who's really interested in sports psychology. We started talking about the mental game for athletes, and she told me that in baseball, sports psychologists are now becoming an integral part of the team.
It’s a tough sport mentally in that you’re considered to be doing an outstanding job if you hit just three out of every 10 balls pitched at you, which would make your “batting average” .300. So there are seven other times when you're feeling like you're languishing. And that's just for the outstanding players – for everyone else it’s more often.
Bringing it back to work, sometimes our “batting average” can feel similar to that of baseball players. And in some cases, we’re getting even less feedback than 3 out of every 10 times that we do something. So it’s easy to feel like we're going sideways or languishing, which is when that mental game becomes crucial.
5 Things You Can Do
When you're feeling like you're languishing, here are five things that you can do. I've used all of these at different times and found they’ve helped me. I hope they will help you too.
Look at Your Progress
The first thing you can do is to remind yourself of the progress you've made. Yes, I mean looking back at where you started from and seeing how far you've come, instead of looking at where you are now versus the ideal of where you want to get.
Comparing your current situation to your ideal is always going to leave you feeling like you’re falling short because those two things move in tandem – as an achiever, you’ll always be striving for more and adjusting your target as you improve.
Also remember not to compare yourself to everybody else. Especially important is to stop comparing yourself to the person who’s in the lead of whatever “race” you’re focused on. I had a habit of comparing myself to the best-in-class person for each dimension, and of course I felt like I was languishing.
Falling into the comparison trap can be really demoralizing. Instead, just focus on yourself and where you are relative to where you were, and keep taking steps.
Remember That You’re Right Where You Need to Be
The second thing is to remind yourself that you are right where you need to be. By definition, we’re all right where we’re supposed to be. It's perfectly natural to have ebbs and flows in your career, and whether you’re ebbing or flowing, it’s not a permanent state.
So, when you feel uncomfortable about your situation, It’s time to engage with that and ask yourself, “what is this feeling trying to tell me?” Your feelings are your inner guidance system, your inner GPS that’s pointing and tugging at your sleeves saying, “Hey, pay attention, something's going on here.”
When you pay attention, you may decide that you’re worrying over nothing and you don't want to make any changes. Or you might decide that there are a few tweaks you want to make, or a few habits you want to change. Or perhaps you’ll decide to make a big change and move halfway around the world.
Whatever you decide is up to you. Just remember to embrace that feeling and use it as a prompt.
Pick an Area to Work On
The third thing is to pick an area and work on that. That’s what my husband, who’s a basketball coach, tells his athletes who feel like they’re in a slump, or have maxed out on getting improvements from what they’ve been working on.
So, if they’ve been working on their agility, maybe it’s time to shift their focus to strength or endurance or technique and so forth. There are a whole host of other things you could be working on as an athlete. Just pick a new area and work on that. It just might be the springboard to making the next step up.
In our careers, we can do the same thing. Maybe it's choosing to work on your presentation skills, your negotiating skills, your presence and impact, or building your network.
So when you feel like you’re going sideways, go find that next thing to work on that's going to move the needle for you most. Then work on that.
Talk to People You Trust
The fourth thing you can do is to talk to people you trust. Talking to others helps get things out of your head and it's really useful. You can use those conversations to brainstorm about other options, get some feedback, or simply have a supportive listener.
Just remember that when you talk to other people and get advice from them, at the end of the day it's still for you to decide what you want to do or not do.
Take Care of Yourself
The fifth thing, and this is really important, is to double down on taking really great care of yourself. That's about getting enough sleep, eating the right foods, exercising, breathing (as in engaging in mindfulness), having compassion for yourself and making sure you're getting enough human connection everyday.
Moving Forward Again
When you take these steps – whether you do any one of them, all five, or some combination – that's going to help you in your mental game when it comes to your career.
And the beautiful thing is that when you've got your mental game in order, you'll find that you're likely to start moving forward again.
What Will You Do?
So here's a challenge for you…
I want you to take one action today to help somebody with their mental game when it comes to their career. And that somebody could be you or it could be someone else that you know, like and respect.
Leave me a comment to let me know what you will do, or how you will help someone else.