Words by Paula Coogan
February 6th, 2018
Most of the decisions we make on a day to day basis are simple and straightforward: we decide on what to wear, what to watch on Netflix, what to eat for lunch etc. They don’t cause us too much stress or inner turmoil- most of the time!
However, the prospect of having to make career decisions can leave many people feeling completely stuck, powerless and scared. Our career is such a big part of our lives that ultimately, a new decision in this area will actually change your life. No pressure right?
Should you move city for work? Do you take that promotion? Do you walk away from the industry you’ve been in for years and start something new? Do you start your own business? Do you go back to college?
Making big decisions can be quite tough because the fact is that we don’t know how things will work out. We don’t have a crystal ball that we can wave our hand over into and see that 6 months down the road, everything has worked out well, we’re ridiculously happy and incredibly successful! None of us have access to that level of certainty when making new decisions yet we crave it.
What I’ve seen from my work is that so many of us don’t trust ourselves. If we find ourselves in a career that we’re not happy about and are stuck there for a while, we start to believe that we aren’t qualified to make decisions for ourselves in that area. The self-talk goes a bit like this: ‘Well, at the end of the day, it was me who accepted this lousy job in the first place so who am I to choose better next time?’ What often happens then is that we bring out our inner pollster and before we know it, we’re quizzing friends and family, posing the question ‘what do you think I should do?’ and listening to everyone else’s opinion.
What’s really going on here is that by doing that we’re telling ourselves that we aren’t good enough, that our own judgement isn’t enough, that we’re not capable of making decisions on our own lives. We’ve lost trust in ourselves and fail to show up for ourselves in our lives and careers.
One of the biggest influencers in my work over the past few years is Brene Brown, a researcher and author and her words ring true here ‘You don’t want to be at the end of your life asking yourself what would have happened had I shown up for myself? We need to be able to make bold decisions and trust in ourselves, without the safety net of certainty. So let’s break this down and a bit and explore trust.
First of all, what the hell does trust mean anyway? It’s such a vague concept! Brene Brown quotes Charles Feltman, author of The Thin Book of Trust who describes trust of others as ‘choosing to make something you value vulnerable to another person’s actions’. Think about this for a second in relation to your career decisions? You are choosing to give your time, energy, passion, commitment, growth, development, sweat, most of your week to a particular company or role. These are things you value so trust is an incredibly important factor in your working life. However, what we’re focusing on in this article is self-trust and your ability to make decisions so let’s deep dive a bit more. In her research, Brene has uncovered the ‘Anatomy of Trust’ i.e. what needs to present for trust to exist and the ingredients are summed up with the acronym B.R.A.V.I.N.G.
I trust you if you are clear about your boundaries and you hold them and you’re clear about my boundaries and respect them.
I can only trust you if you do what you say you are going to do, consistently.
I can only trust you if/when you make a mistake, you are willing to own it, apologise for it, and make amends. You can only trust me if I can own it, apologise for it, and make amends. No accountability? No trust.
What I share with you, you will hold in confidence. What you share with me, I will hold in confidence.
I cannot trust you and respect you if you do not act from a place of integrity and encourage others to do the same. Choose courage over comfort, and choose what’s right over what’s fun, fast, and easy; practice your values, don’t just profess them.
I can fall apart and be in struggle and ask for help from you without being judged by you, and you can fall apart and be in struggle and ask for help without being judged by me.
A relationship is only a trusting relationship if you can assume the most generous thing about my words, intentions, and behaviours. If I screw up, say something, forget something, you will make a generous assumption about me.
So, flip this over to you now and it should shine a light on the exact reasons why you may be struggling to trust yourself to make decisions right now. Make a note of what resonates with you most.
Boundaries – Did I respect my own boundaries in my working life? In my current or last job, was I clear about what was OK and what was not OK?
Reliability – Can I rely on myself? Do I do what I say I’m going to do? Do I follow through on my boundaries and decisions? Do I put other people’s needs ahead of my own?
Accountability – Do I hold myself accountable when I make a mistake? Do I take responsibility for it, own it and make amends or do I try to hide it, feel shame or blame other people? Remember, no accountability? No trust.
Vault – Do I respect the vault and share appropriately? Do I share my story with people who haven’t earned the right to hear it? Do I gossip and share other peoples stories?
Integrity – Do I act on my integrity? Am I honouring my values? Do I even know what is most important to me in my career? Where is the line? What are my deal breakers? How do I behave when something is in conflict with my integrity? Remember, choose courage over comfort, and choose what’s right over what’s fun, fast, and easy.
Non-judgment – Do I ask for what I need? Do I judge myself for needing help or for outgrowing a role? Do I judge myself for my own desires? Do I judge others for following their dreams? What triggers judgement in me?
Generosity – Am I generous towards myself? When I’m fearful or scared or having a rough time, do I attack myself or do I practice self-compassion?
When we have big career decisions to make, there will always be uncertainty and learning to lean into ourselves and trusting ourselves is the most powerful tool you can possess to enable you to move forward. Trust is a vague concept, however, Brene Brown has done a wonderful job in breaking it down so we can pinpoint exactly where we have breached our own trust in the past. From there, we can immediately understand it and start to make amends. Know who you are, know what you’re about and start to work on building up your self-trust. You still want the crystal ball but you will have everything you need to make the next decision.
Paula Coogan is the founder of The Quarter Life Coach – a vibrant career and life coaching company aimed at empowering women in their 20s and 30s to practice courage, figure out their true desires both personally and professionally and then, to make it happen.
Her work is delivered through several live group programs and Masterminds including Career Breakthrough Mastermind and The Wisdom Circle. She also works one-on-one with clients who are ready for big transitions in their relationships, careers and businesses.
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