Having a strong sense of self is an area of life where comfort is a good thing because being comfortable with who you are and what you stand for is key to making good decisions about where you go in life and work. Don’t get me wrong, I am all in favour of comfort zone expanding (one day I will tell you about my foray into stand-up comedy) but I know from my own experience that without that really knowing who we are, we can drift through life and careers without really understanding why we are doing what we are doing, what we get out of it, and how it fits with who we are.
Without a sense of self you can lose your sense of direction
Here’s an example from my own experience. I was happy in my job; supporting a demanding and fast paced part of the business as a finance business partner, lots of variety in my job and in the people I worked with. Then in a department restructure I was offered a role where I would be looking after the organisation’s financial plan, quarterly and annual planning, collating and reporting performance against that plan monthly for the Board. My boss thought I would hate this role and would refuse to do it but I didn’t even though I was disappointed to be moved on. Why didn’t I refuse?
- I was intimated by the person (personality and seniority) offering me the role.
- I saw myself as someone who liked a challenge and so far had made a success of taking on new and challenging roles. The challenge in itself would be enough for me…surely?
- I hadn’t recognised my own strengths and importantly, my weaknesses
- I didn’t really understand what motivated me and hence that the challenge of doing something new wouldn’t be enough.
So how do you think I got on? Well I hated that job! I spent my time doing detailed analysis without ever seeing the point of it. I am a big picture person who was mired in the detail. I loved being of service and felt I was serving no one, I enjoyed variety but never got a change of scene whilst being trapped in a monthly, quarterly, annual cycle. My boss was right. So what did I do? I ran away to another opportunity I was asked to take on. However, I wasn’t offered the package my forerunner got and because I didn’t recognise my worth and was desperate to leave, I took the job anyway. Big mistake! It turned out to be a great job and lead to great things but in the back of my mind I always felt undervalued.
What did I learn from this? My sense of self was severely lacking. I had no strong sense of what I wanted in my career, what my dream job looked like or even what got me up in the morning. If I had known more about me and had been comfortable with who I was, I would have had very different, more powerful, conversations about those roles and perhaps the confidence to say no. Having got myself into a job I didn’t enjoy, it would have been helpful to identify what I did like and go find it rather than run away to another job at any price.
Finding your sense of self – when are you “on it” or “off it”?
Getting comfortable with who you are really helps you to develop a clear sense of direction. This isn’t about complacency or a means for you to avoid activities and situations you find uncomfortable. Yep, you still have to do that presentation or make those cold calls! This is about making better decisions around where you take your career, the people you listen to, how you choose to challenge yourself, and how you respond to challenges in life and in business.
Here’s a simple way to get some clues to what motivates you. Get a piece of paper and divide it into 2 columns titled “on it” and “off it”. Under “on it”, list what you are doing, how you are working, where you are working when you are totally “on it”, that is, when you’re in flow, having a great time, most productive, fulfilled and creative. In the other column think about times when you are “off” it, when it has SO not been a good day, when you’ve been distracted and unfocussed, frustrated or bored. What sorts of activities were you doing? What was the environment like? Etc.
Compare the columns. What do these lists tell you about what is important to you? How does what’s important to you and what you enjoy fit with where you are now and your plans for the future? It is a great time to take stock, so do this exercise and resolve to get clearer on who you are and what you are about.
If you want to find out more book a free kick start call on 07990 514537 and discover how coaching from the Change Agent can introduce you to your true self.