Decisions are an inescapable part of life. We all have to make them and, big or small, the process can be daunting. How do you know you’re making wise choices? What if you’re blinded by circumstances, emotions or bad intel?
When it comes to making any kind of major career decision, serious deliberation is in order. But, even with careful consideration, bad decisions still get made. Below, I’ve outlined six common traps that inevitably lead to regrettable career decisions.
1. Make your decision…then justify it.
Confirmation bias happens when your brain only sees evidence to support its decision. So, imagine you have a new job offer that you’re considering and you think to yourself:
Taking this job would be a really good career move for me. But I guess I should weigh the pros and cons before accepting it…
Your mind is made up. You’re taking the job and any effort spent evaluating the decision will only confirm that it’s the right move.
When facing any major decision, give every option a fair shot. Refuse to take sides until all the evidence is in.
2. Ask everyone you know for advice.
Wanna get totally confused? Just share your dilemma with five friends and family members. It’s pretty much guaranteed that you’ll get five different points-of-view and no one will offer you the wisdom you’re really seeking. Sure, they all love you, support you and want what’s best for you. Each person will sound really convincing as well. But you’re the only one who matters.
Asking for advice will only fill your head with the opinions of others. Plus, they’ll dump their fears and biases on you as well. All of these things will only serve to mask your own true instinct and intellect.
If you absolutely must get an outside perspective, find one that’s truly objective. Hire a coach—someone who isn’t personally involved in your life or your situation.
3. Let fear steer the ship.
In general, a decision that stems from any emotion is usually not as sound as one that is based on fact and reason. When the emotion in control is fear, the outcome is even worse. Fear will push you into irrational decisions. It will hold you hostage and keep you safe in your tiny comfort zone bubble. Fear will never, ever support your higher aspirations. Recognize when fear pops up and be brave. Remember that fear is a sign you’re on the right track.
4. Hold tight to your beliefs, even when evidence proves otherwise.
In the book Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior, authors Ori and Rom Brafman refer to the concept of “commitment”—the natural inclination to hold tight to our beliefs. This is sometimes so strong that we make completely irrational decisions just to support the ideas we’re already mentally, physically and emotionally attached to.
…whether we’ve invested our time and money in a particular project or poured our energy into a doomed relationship, it’s difficult to let go even when things clearly aren’t working.
So, let’s say you’ve always wanted to be a nurse ever since childhood. You spent years in school being trained to do the job. You truly believed it was the only thing you were meant to do with your life. And now, after several years in the field, you’re unhappy. It’s not providing you with the fulfillment you once imagined it would.
Many people end up in situations exactly like this. But they’re so committed to the earlier belief that they’re unable or unwilling to see reality, much less make a decision that goes against that belief.
Allow your beliefs to evolve when evidence justifies it. Never let your earlier commitment to something—or someone—prevent you from doing what feels right.
5. Think in black and white.
When facing a major career decision, it’s easy to get stuck in an “A” or “B” mentality. You see only two choices and nothing in the middle. This is a limiting thought pattern that prevents you from truly understanding the vast number of opportunities that surround you.
In truth, there is always a middle road. When you catch yourself thinking in terms of either/or, step back and say, “Yes, AND…” Yes, you have those two options. AND what else?
6. Get stuck in thinking mode.
This is called “analysis paralysis” and it happens to the best of us. After spending a certain amount of time doing your research, you have to stop thinking and start doing. How long you spend is up to you. But be cautious of getting so bogged down in decision making that you never actually take action on a decision. Give yourself a pre-determined time limit and once it’s reached, game on.
You’ve just had the most amazing idea. It hits you like a tidal wave and nearly knocks you off your seat. THIS is the best idea you’ve ever had and you’re so excited to get started.
And then…the voice shows up.
“Who are you kidding? You’ll never accomplish that!”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah. You’ve had ‘great’ ideas before and none of them have ever worked out. What makes you think this will be any different?”
“That’s a horrible idea. No one will get it.”
“Maybe it’s a great idea…but you can’t do it. Someone else will come up with it and do it better anyway.”
Does any of this sound familiar?
That voice is what’s known as “The Saboteur.”
The Saboteur is a nagging, negative mental manifestation that tries to sabotage your efforts to grow and disrupt your desire to achieve new things. This guy is a real pain in the butt. He appears in a number of different ways and can use thousands of different disguises.
We all have saboteurs but many people don’t recognize them. The Saboteur doesn’t speak the truth but he still sounds pretty convincing. Don’t let yourself be swayed by his charms.
Here are a few things you need to know when dealing with The Saboteur:
The Saboteur Is Not Your Friend
Let’s be clear: That voice is a jerk. Seriously. His sole purpose is to discourage you and keep you from taking any risk at all. While he might sound like a caring, thoughtful voice of reason, he’s actually just a nervous nelly. He’s not looking out for your best interests, no matter what he says. Don’t hang out with him; don’t humor him. He’s no friend of yours.
The Saboteur Is Stuck in the Past
That voice only knows what happened in the past. He doesn’t know what’s possible or what could be. His job is to take the lessons you’ve learned and hold them over your head forever and ever. Sure, it’s a necessary part of growth to learn from history. But remember that the past isn’t always an accurate indicator of the future.
The Saboteur Loves the Comfort Zone
That voice comes up when the possibility of discomfort arises. He doesn’t want you to rock the boat. In his opinion, comfort is the most important thing in life. Of course, as you know, any kind of growth requires a little unease. So, if it were up to The Saboteur, you’d stay right where you are forever. You’d never move forward, you’d never improve. You’d live in the comfort zone and slowly waste away.
The Saboteur Doesn’t Have Faith In You
That voice isn’t aware of your capabilities. He’s not worried about pushing you towards your personal destiny or helping you become your best self. He doesn’t think you’re worth much anyway.
See what I mean? That voice is a JERK!! Keep your eye out for The Saboteur and don’t let him run the show. When you see him, say “hello” and simply ask him to take a hike. There’s no sense trying to reason with him or change his mind. Just put him in a box, place that box on a shelf, and carry on. Like I said, we all have saboteurs. The goal is to recognize them and manage them, so they don’t manage you!!
Previously, I wrote about the dangers of limiting beliefs, how they can prevent us from achieving the personal and professional success we deserve, and even shared a few of my own. To help all of us get in the mode of thinking about breaking these kinds of beliefs, I wanted to share some quick hit ideas on how to go about doing it. In fact, I actually came up with 51. Some are concrete tactics while others are more inspirational. Check it out and add your own in the comments.
1. Acknowledge It
Identify the limiting belief. Greet it. Let it know that you’re aware it exists.
2. Expose It
Don’t hide from it. Bring it out into the open.
3. Advertise It
Share this limiting belief with others. They’ll tell you how ridiculous you’re being when you can’t see it yourself.
4. Challenge It
Ask “What evidence do I have that supports this belief?”
5. Risk It
What if this liming belief was actually true? So what?! Throw caution to the wind and you’ll discover that “failure” isn’t so bad.
6. Remember Others Like It
What limiting beliefs have you overcome in the past?
7. Examine It
When did it start? Where did it come from?
8. Pay Attention To It
What is it preventing you from accomplishing?
9. Take It To Its Logical Conclusion
If you don’t get rid of this belief, what will happen?
10. Get Mad At It
This limiting belief is a jerk. Don’t make friends with him. Show him who’s boss.
11. Laugh At It
Seriously? This limiting belief is hilarious! I can’t even keep a straight face when I think about it…
12. Take a Break From It
Put it on hold. Pretend it doesn’t exist for a while. What’s different?
13. Exaggerate It
Turn up the volume on it. How ridiculous does it look when it’s 20 feet tall?
14. Reverse It
What would happen if the exact opposite was true?
15. Repeat It
Ever repeat the same word or phrase so many times it stops making any sense? Do that.
16. Prioritize It
Make it an important priority to get over this limiting belief. Stop putting it off.
17. Lean Into It
Sometimes pulling away from it only makes it stronger. When you stop resisting, it goes away.
18. Replace It
What UN-Limiting Belief can you put in its place?
19. Starve It
What actions and thoughts feed this limiting belief? Get rid of those and watch it die.
20. Make It Hurt
Try the old stand-by rubber band snap on the wrist every time you find yourself falling back on it.
21. Listen To It
What is this belief really telling you?
22. Respect It
Limiting beliefs shouldn’t be ignored or belittled. Underestimate it at your own peril.
23. Doubt It
Just because it feels real, doesn’t mean it IS real.
24. Invest In It
Put your time, money, and energy into overcoming it.
25. Imagine Life Without It
What would you be capable of?
26. Separate It
Maybe this belief is attached to someone in your life and you’re just absorbing it. Is someone else feeding it to you?
27. Disassociate It
Is there an action, situation or feeling that triggers this belief to pop up? Learn how to have one without the other.
28. Track It
Are there times when it doesn’t show up? What’s that all about?
29. Tilt It
Look at it differently. A new perspective may change it completely.
30. Sacrifice It
Yes, you may feel like it’s a part of you that you can’t imagine living without. Let it go. Sacrifice it to the Gods.
31. Reason With It
32. Look for Twins
Is one limiting belief showing up in multiple ways?
33. Forgive Yourself
Don’t hold it against yourself that you’ve been harboring this limiting belief. You’re human.
34. Interrupt It
When you notice a limiting belief rearing its ugly head, stop yourself mid-thought and…
35. Breathe Into It
36. Confront It
Look it in the eye.
37. Verbalize It
Say it out loud. How silly does it sound?
38. Write About It
Put it on paper. How different does it look?
39. Simplify It
At its fundamental core, what is this limiting belief about?
40. Engage With It
Start a conversation. Get to know it.
41. Connect It
How is this limiting belief connected to your mental attitude?
42. Align Forces Against It
Prepare all of your faculties for battle.
43. Reword It
If you phrase it in a different way, does it offer a different meaning?
44. Compartmentalize It
Isolate it to one corner of your mind. Don’t let it infect other thoughts.
45. Normalize It
You’re not unique for having these beliefs. Everyone has them. It’s okay.
46. Reframe It
It might feel like truth. But it’s not. It’s a perception. Reframe it as such.
47. Take Responsibility For It
This limiting belief belongs to you. It’s yours to keep or discard. Make the choice.
48. Disconnect From It
This belief is not a part of who you are. It is not your identity. Losing it will only let your true identity shine more.
49. Tune It Out
Stop listening! Turn a deaf ear on it. Hit the “mute” button.
50. Abandon It
Leave it in a basket at the edge of the woods. A pack of wolves might adopt it and raise it to be one of their own.
51. Take Action On It
Nothing will change without your active participation. What are you doing TODAY to overcome this limiting belief?
I read a wonderful book recently called The Leadership Integrity Challenge by Edward Morler (if you’re interested, you can read my review of it on OfficeArrow here). One area that really struck me was his discussion of limiting behaviors and beliefs.
Here’s a quote that I found particularly powerful:
“Limiting behaviors originate from limiting beliefs. Our beliefs form the basis of our experiences and how we perceive ourselves and the world around us. When our beliefs are limited, we limit our perception and experience of what is possible. It doesn’t matter if those beliefs are false. As long as we believe them, they will accordingly impact and mold our perception of experience. The more limiting our beliefs, the less powerful we feel.”
Amazing stuff, isn’t it? It’s almost scary how much control our minds have over us, especially when the mind is known for playing tricks.
So, this got me thinking: How many of us are experiencing limits in our lives simply because of our beliefs? How many of us are tied to some preconceived notion that is keeping us from achieving the things we really want and deserve, both personally and professionally?
I’m guessing that most of you reading this have at least one or two limiting beliefs you’re holding on to, whether or not you even realize it. Don’t worry. I’m right there with you. We all have limiting beliefs of some kind. They usually sit just beneath the surface, in our subconscious mind, and have been there for years and years (usually since childhood). Recognizing your limiting beliefs is the first step to overcoming them.
What is a Limiting Belief?
A belief is a conviction or generalization that is accepted as truth without positive proof or knowledge. A limiting belief is one that places artificial boundaries around your personal potential.
A Limiting Belief…
tricks you into not trying.
blinds you to the realities of the world.
stops you from taking risks.
keeps you where you are.
obstructs your growth.
keeps you repeating negative patterns.
prevents you from taking responsibility for your life.
prevents you from going after your dreams.
gives you an excuse for not doing what you really want to do.
fills you with doubt and fear.
prompts you to find “evidence” to support it.
stops you from imagining the possibilities.
makes you feel negative and discontent.
Here’s the truth: Beliefs are not facts. But they are just as powerful. Regardless of whether or not they are true, beliefs shape reality.
Common Limiting Beliefs
Listen to yourself. What lies are you telling?
I don’t have this skill.
I’m not good at this.
Others can do it better than me.
I’m not experienced enough.
I’m not smart enough.
I’m not important enough.
I’m too young.
I’m too old.
I don’t have the money.
I don’t have the time.
It’s just not in my genes.
It’s too hard.
I don’t deserve success.
Nothing ever works out for me.
Nobody ever notices the work I do.
I never get what I want.
This is just “the way it is.”
I have no control over this.
I have nothing to offer.
My Limiting Beliefs
I have several limiting beliefs to work on overcoming but I’ll share two that I can quickly recognize:
I’ve always been the kind of person who catches any bug that goes around. I have poor immunity and I tend to hang on to sickness for a very long time. It’s draining and can be very problematic for obvious reasons. But this has become a limiting belief. Just because I’ve gotten sick a lot in the past doesn’t mean I always will. I can’t use this as an excuse to avoid pushing myself. I can’t use it to hide from the world just because I’m scared of getting sick. I have to do what I can to build my immune system and stay healthy. But if I keep telling myself that I’m a sickly person, I’m always going to feel that way, and ultimately, it’s always going to be true. Instead, I need to remember how strong I am.
The second limiting belief is similar. I’ve always been somewhat accident prone. Several years ago, I had a bad ski accident and broke my leg. After 6 weeks on crutches and arthroscopic knee surgery, I basically gave up on any activity where I could possibly get hurt. I’ve developed the belief that I’m just horribly clumsy and it’s dangerous for me to participate in such activities. This belief has prevented me from doing really fun things—going on trips with friends, having spontaneous adventures, and just living life to the fullest. Instead of believing I’m a danger to myself, I have to start believing that I am capable of taking care of myself. Of course, there’s no need to take silly risks. But I can’t continue viewing every situation as a possible danger to my physical safety. At some point, I have to start believing in myself again.
I actually have one more limiting belief to share and this is one I recently overcame. You see, I never thought I could be a professional writer. Though writing has been my passion since childhood, I never believed that I could earn a living doing it. When I went to college, there was a small part of me that wanted to be an English major, but it just seemed so unrealistic. It was much more practical to get a business degree. It wasn’t until several years after graduation that I started, very tentatively, putting some of my writing out into the world. The Internet made it possible for me to slowly (and anonymously) share my work and get feedback. Soon, I began to realize that the only thing keeping me from writing for a living was my belief that I couldn’t do it. Once I broke that belief and I began really thrusting myself into my writing and getting it out there, everything changed. My blog was discovered by someone at OfficeArrow in March of 2008 and I was given my first ever full-time job as a writer. I felt lucky but also worthy. I believed in myself and my writing, and my reality changed because of it.
So, what beliefs are currently limiting you and how do you plan to shake them?