Every day I receive e-mails and phone calls from women and men who say they're having trouble reaching their career goals. They express serious doubt about their abilities to accomplish what they really want to do.
Each time I tell them an anecdote about a young Michael Gelman.
While in journalism school at the University of Colorado, Gelman solicited much advice from his professors. Most of them said that if he wanted a career in television, he'd have to start in a small market and hope to work his way up. He let it all sink in -- and then abandoned their directives.
Confidence Pays Off
Instead, armed with an abundance of energy and determination, Gelman headed to the Big Apple as an intern on an early version of what ultimately became the popular talk show hosted today by Regis Philbin and Kelly Ripa. Gelman once told me he knew that "someone had to get those TV jobs, so why not me? I realized that these were ordinary people -- nothing to put on a pedestal -- and if they could do it, so could I."
That passion, guts and logic worked: In 1987, after freelance assignments and staff stints, Gelman became the youngest executive producer of a national talk show, and he proceeded to turn the program into a ratings powerhouse.
It could be argued that his talents in television are on par other people's skills in their chosen lines of work -- from administrative assistants to electrical engineers. But it's his can-do attitude that really sets him above and beyond many of us.
Your Attitude Adjustment
Most of us let "reality" squash our career dreams before they've even had a chance to develop. Instead of listing all the reasons you can't do something, just this once list all the reasons you can, and should. Positive thinking takes practice. We all have negative thoughts from time to time, but it's possible to turn your negative thoughts into positive ones by following these simple guidelines.
Identify your negative thoughts. Negative ideas can spring into your mind so fast and so often that you are hardly even aware of them anymore. Consider the last dream or idea you rejected. Maybe you thought about asking for a new assignment at work, for example. Write down all the excuses and problems you came up with to reject the idea.
Weigh each excuse for validity. Take each item on the list and think through whether they are really obstacles that could block you from achieving your goals ... or just excuses based on fear or procrastination. In the example above, not having enough experience could potentially keep you from getting the assignment. But fears about handling the extra workload or wondering if it has already gone to someone else will not prevent you from getting the assignment. Let's face it: They are simply excuses not to go for what you want.
Think of ways to overcome your obstacles. So you don't quite have the experience to take on the project. How can you overcome this? Maybe you are willing to cooperate with a coworker who does have the experience, so you can learn what you will need to know on this project and you can work independently the next time. Or maybe you can take on a smaller project until you build up to the one you want. If your dream assignment has indeed gone to someone else, try to develop a few main reasons why that person had the advantage over you. Perhaps there are areas for you to focus on going forward to improve your chances for the next opening.
Reclaim your dreams. Once you have successfully broken down all your excuses, re-imagine the dream. You are the savvy team leader of the most important assignment for the company. You handle it with expertise and efficiency. Is it still a dream that fits?
Instead of figuring out why you can't accomplish what you've set your eyes on -- there's way too much competition or you "just don't have enough time" -- turn the tables on that negativity. Figure out exactly what it'll take to get you where you want to go and start heading down that path. Get going today.
Tory Johnson is the CEO of Women For Hire and the workplace contributor on ABC's "Good Morning America."? Connect with her at www.womenforhire.com.
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