A good friend recently asked me what I would change if I had to do it all over again. What a great question, but how would I want to answer that?
My thoughts flicked across the spectrum from concrete career choices (would I have taken that job at PepsiCo, or transferred to Hong Kong?) to people and personal relationships (perhaps had more children, or called home more often?) to correcting my biggest mistakes.
In the end, here’s what I said I would do differently, knowing what I know now. I would:
1. Worry less
I wasted a huge amount of time and energy worrying about things, including those that didn’t matter (and most turned out to be in this latter category). Things like:
- “What if I don’t get that job?” – I didn’t, but ended up with a better one
- “What if I do get that job?!” – I did and it ended up working out well
- “What if I never amount to anything?” – still TBD, and what does that mean anyway?
- “Am I going to get fired?” – I was never fired, but if I had been, it would have ended up being a good way to get on with the rest of my life sooner
If you’re an expert worrier too, you’ll understand how easy it was for me to be a serial worrier, moving on to a new area of worry once the first had passed, and even a multi-tasking worrier, juggling more than one worry at a time.
2. Be more bold
I wish I had been bolder in my thinking and my aspirations. Only when you think boldly can you make bold moves that create the next big breakthrough, do your best work or contribute to humankind in some significant way.
I started out fairly well. When I was 9, I dreamt of being the first woman pole-vaulter. Lacking the physical attributes to excel, at 11 I wanted to write that great American novel, and at 14 to become a concert pianist. At 17, my love of French led me to want to be the Ambassador to France.
But then I graduated from college and started working, and my ideas became more conventional. Some might say more realistic. I wanted to be the best Analyst, the most sought after Associate, to get promoted the fastest – ambitions bounded by the system I was in.
3. Have greater confidence
At the root of it all was my lack of confidence, accompanied by a strong dose of negative self-talk. As a result, I suffered from “an abundance of caution”, engaged mostly in acts of omission rather than commission, and kicked myself as I missed opportunities.
That made it hard to try new things, raise my hand, make a comment – all those actions that help us to be seen and heard.
If only I had had the confidence to speak up, invite my boss’ boss to hear me speak at the client conference, and even sit in the dunce’s chair in the corner in kindergarten.
Looking back, I’ve been happy with my choices for the most part, particularly on the important ones related to family. However, I clearly spent most of my career “driving with the handbrake on”.
I can’t help but wonder what more I could have achieved and the extra joy I would have experienced if I had only worried less, been more bold and had greater confidence.
That’s why today, I’m focused on making sure I do these three things differently going forward.
- Worrying less
I’m still battling with the “worry gene”, but as they say, recognizing a habit is the first step to breaking it. And I have people around me who help me talk it through (thank you!).
- Being more bold
As a speaker, executive coach and advisor, I’ve set a goal of helping one million people accelerate their time to success and be the best they can be.
- Having greater confidence
I’m using strategies like Stop, Drop and Replace to shift my self-talk from negative to positive, and embracing my fear as a guide for taking action.
Shame on me if they’re still on the list when someone asks me again in 5-10 years!
So, what would you do differently if you could do it all over again? And how could you start changing those things going forward?