We have taken a journey together over the past 31 days.  My wish for you is that you embrace these messages and take the steps that will guide you through the rejuvenation process.  Think about this journey to career rejuvenation as having seven steps.  Some or all of these steps will demand that step outside your comfort zone , and do what you would normally not do...  On this journey you will stretch to think, feel, believe and behave differently. 
The seven steps to rejuvenate your career are -

Remember and Reconnect to who you are at your essence
  • Answer the question "What's your story and what are the truths revealed in that story?"
  • Identify those parts of you that you left behind
  • Reintegrate those parts of yourself and bring you back into your life and your work

Eliminate toxic thought patterns and Elevate your belief system
  • Uncover your belief systems - How to tell if a belief is serving or hindering you
  • Form new empowering beliefs                                         
  • Increase your Self Awareness - Getting to know and befriend your inner critic

Nourish your soul and Nurture your spirit
  • Discover your purpose and develop your vision        
  • Clarify your values
  • Identify and demonstrate your passions

Embrace your gifts and Enhance your assets
  • Uncover your gifts and assets
  • Embrace all of who you are and all you have experienced
  • Conduct "Market Research" and learn to receive the gift of                 feedback                                            

Widen your vision and Wonder what is possible
  •   Acknowledge your deepest desire
  •   Open up to what is possible
  •   Choose the path of exploration

Assess your needs and Activate your resources
  •   Assess your needs and uncover the gaps to close to achieve your vision
  •   Mobilize your "village"
  •   Activate your resources

Learn self-acceptance and Leverage self-care
  •   Enhance and maintain your self-esteem
  •   Navigate the Speed-bumps - anticipate and prepare for challenges
  •   Practice self-care - manage stress and keep your "fuel tank" full

You can go on this journey alone, but why would you?  Find a guide - whether it's a coach, mentor or support group to accompany you as you go through the process to rediscover, replenish and renew yourself.   You deserve to have an inspired work-life that is on purpose, full of passion, and serves as a platform for making your own unique difference in the world.  Take care and enjoy yourself on this journey

When we start to take steps towards rejuvenating our career, emotions may get kicked up.  Fear is a frequent visitor as we even think about taking action, especially when we contemplate doing things that will take us out of our comfort zone.  Or when we dare to dream big... 

Life happens... maybe our experiences at work or in our personal lives have taken a toll on our self-confidence and self-esteem.  Maybe we have become more and more driven by external validation (this is what happens in our culture and our organizations!) and have forgotten to touch base with our personal internal standards and values.  Success is only meaningful if it on our own terms.

When did it seem like we did what we liked, we didn't worry about what others thought and we were fearless?  For most of us, it was years ago, when as kids, we had that temporary freedom from fear and self-doubt.

Remember when...
  • You would put on your "plays" for the entire neighborhood
  • You had a rocking lemonade stand and were not afraid to market to everyone who drove by
  • You played in the junior high orchestra or band
  • You won the leading role in your high school production
  • You established your "expert status" in college when you organized discussion groups in your dorm
  • You would do things, that looking back, you didn't know how crazy you were!  (And good thing your parents never found out)
  • You would express your opinion in no uncertain terms without worrying about what everyone else thought

What was different back then?  Our inner critic hadn't kicked in yet.  As adults, as we have discussed earlier in an earlier post, we often let our inner critic run the show.  We were also more fearless because we didn't know (or didn't truly believe) what we didn't know... so we just went ahead and did it!

What is the point I am making here?  I strongly encourage you to spend some time "remembering when" -  when  you were fearless, totally unaware and uncaring about what it would look like to others but letting yourself be driven by your own intuition and internal drives.  Now granted, we probably should have had trepidation in some instances  - you know what I mean - but as adults we way overplay the caution.   From our "grown-up" perspective, we perceive threats where none exist because of our earlier experiences and programming.  Now it just stops us dead in our tracks.

Try strolling down memory lane in your mind.  I find it helpful to close my eyes and engage in a little meditation, letting the pictures in my head float by and remembering how I felt when I sold flowers to my neighbors (did I mention that I sold them flowers from their own garden?)  Not a business practice I would want to embrace now obviously.  What did make me smile however, was my - as my friends would say - chutzpah in even trying to get away with that.

Write down those moments.  Recall how you felt and how others responded to you.  Recall the risks you have taken that have worked out.  And even when you took a risk that didn't work out, what did you learn?  Think about those lessons... it is easy to lose sight of those and instead of embracing the lesson, you just shrink back and think "I won't do that again."

Record these moments of brilliance to remind yourself of who you really are, underneath all the ego garbage we collect along the way.  A big part of rejuvenation is remembering who you were to start with... before life threw you around a bit.  You will need to rely on those parts of you as design a new future for yourself and step into that vision.

Procrastination is the #1 enemy of career rejuvenation.  We feel safe (as we talked about in an earlier blog this is an illusion…) and we consciously but mostly unconsciously avoid taking the steps necessary to step outside our box.  We remember all the earlier times when we got our hand slapped or were made fun of.

And the result?  Procrastination!  When I engage with people after a presentation focused on career rejuvenation, I usually hear people say some form of the following – “great information!  I’ve got to start applying that.” Or “ Maybe I’ll act on some of your suggestions.” (catch the maybe…)  People love the idea of career rejuvenation and nod in agreement with the points I make.  I see the look of  “Oh God, that is me…” when I talk about the fact that 70% of Americans hate their job or feel completely disengaged from their work.  But we still procrastinate…  Some of us for years, counting the days before retirement. 

When do you find yourself procrastinating?  It might be when you think about updating your resume, checking out opportunities, or taking a call.  Or you might put off doing a skills inventory or getting some feedback on how you are doing and what you could be doing differently.  But what is at  the root of all this procrastination?

It's the four letter word,  F-E-A-R.   We are afraid of what people will think.  We are afraid of what it will mean if we complete that project, or get that degree.  Then there will be expectations to be more, to step outside our comfort zone and take risks, to play big instead of small.

First recognize procrastination for what it is -

                It is the busy work we dive into (to avoid the more important tasks).  It is always easier to                     focus on what really doesn't count

                it's a symptom  of lack of clarity (read post on 7/30/13.)  If we are not sure what we want, we                 do not formulate concrete steps

                It is also a reflection of our self-image and our perception of your self-worth.  If we                                 procrastinate, we don't get around to manifesting the vision we have for our careers and our                 lives,

Whatever form it takes for you, there are a few things that can start to impact your procrastination habit.  Try to come to terms with your "why", that will help you with identifying some appropriate steps to transform this habit.  Take some time to figure out what is really important to you.   That will help generate the motivation to move beyond your fear.  Break whatever it is you are procrastinating about down into small, very small, steps.  This will bring your perspective down to the seemingly small and insignificant and may avoid tripping your fear alarm.

Rather than using your procrastination as a reason to beat yourself up, see it as a clue - a clue that will lead you to some personal work that is overdue in order for you to take steps towards rejuvenating your career.

Clarity is a state you must work towards if you choose to rejuvenate your career.  You can't take the necessary steps to renew yourself if you lack clarity in your self-knowledge.  But if you have clarity, you -
  • Are able to leverage your talents to your benefit and the benefit of your employer.
  • Can successfully promote yourself and as a result, allow others to experience your gifts
  • Can bring everything into alignment for greater fulfillment, peace and prosperity
  • Get help in formulating your goals

So where does it serve us to gain further clarity?  It is in the key areas of self-understanding combined with our knowledge of the work world and how it all comes together.  The following aspects of our work-life require some soul searching.  They include -

  • Who you are at your core
  • What is important to you
  • Your talents, wisdom and knowledge
  • Your unique point of view
  • Your USP - unique selling proposition
  • What your experience has taught you

These are all pretty substantial areas to explore and require that if we want to take proactive charge of our careers, we have to figure out the "how" of developing this understanding.  This process looks as unique as each individual tackling these questions.  What I share with clients in terms of how to go about self discovery fall into three categories -

  1. Reflection and Introspection - digging through your history or your personal portfolio, journaling, meditation and straight forward documentation, if you prefer, puts you in the place of recording your thoughts and feelings as you acknowledge what you know to be true
  2. Obtaining feedback from others (see my post on about the personal focus group in formal and informal ways -  for those of us with lower self-esteem, it is crucial to ask for input from others because our own tendency is to dismiss or minimize our own experience.
  3. Guided experiences with a coach or mentor - We always have the choice to dive into this by ourselves.  However my experience as a coach has taught me that it is often challenging to do this on your own.  Coaches have structured processes, and are able to listen carefully and reflect back to us what they hear in order to help us bring that interior "lens" into focus.

Clarity allows us to take the correct action and taking action brings us further clarity.  If we stay confused or unclear, we take ourselves off the hook from doing anything about what we say we want. Committing ourselves to work towards greater clarity empowers us along the way and allows us to find our voice.

There is a great cost associated with toxic work environments  -  there are personal costs,  productivity costs and purpose costs.  What I refer to as purpose costs are all the ways the purpose of individuals and the purpose of the organization are taken off track when the work environment is toxic.

How do we know if we are operating in a toxic work environment?  Here are the three key signs -

  •   You feel emotionally spent by the end of the week
  •   You find yourself psychologically drained
  •   You experience self-doubt because your self-esteem is eroding

I have talked to many clients who have experienced one, or typically all three "symptoms" of a toxic work environment.  You can readily guess from the list above that there are resulting symptoms within the organization as well.  But the question remains what causes a work environment to become toxic?

From my experience consulting in organizations and also coaching hundreds of people coming out of those organizations, the reasons are any one or a combination of the three below.

Toxic Personalities - These are individuals who breed chaos, demean those they work with (often in very subtle ways) and undermine work efforts.  They are very skilled in creating self-doubt in others and ensuring that they come out of every conflict smelling like a rose.  They can also be those colleagues who have a challenging time taking a positive view of anything and always have reasons why "it can't be done."

Toxic Culture - This is created by behavioral norms that create dissension, unhealthy competition, and that reinforce unproductive habits like lack of collaboration and inadequate communication.  A toxic culture also sends out its tentacles that create self-doubt wearing away at the self-esteem of the employees.  Those tentacles can be in the more of institutionalized practices  or lack of practices in leadership, performance management, employee development and recognition.

The Toxic Boss - This is the one I see most frequently and can wreak the most havoc in anyone's career.  In organizational life, this is the one person with the most influence on our day-to-day experience at work.  And the toxic boss can spread out their "poison" in a number of different ways that diminish who we are by undermining us, causing us to question our own skills and knowledge, and not giving us the autonomy or resources needed for success in our role.

What can we do about these toxic influences if we find ourselves dealing with one or all three of them?  It comes down to how we respond to these influences and what choices we make about our career when it is evident that we must find a way to take ourselves out of the environment that is making us sick - physically, emotionally and spiritually.

Here are some of considerations -

  1. We must create strong boundaries so that we don't take on the negative energy that may surround us.  We need to model a more constructive way of being and choose not to buy into the victim stance that others may have taken on.
  2. It is critical for us to recognize when the environment is toxic and make choices that will put us in a more supportive situation.  Sometimes that can happen within the same organization and sometimes it requires us to make a more significant career change.
  3. The "bad boss" is typically not fixable - not by you.  If the organization has chosen to ignore or doesn't deal constructively with destructive behavior, you have little power to bring change about... except within yourself and how you choose to manage up.
  4. Little changes if you don't speak up.  Sharing what you experience in a professional and respectful manner is one approach as is asking for what you need.  Remember there is always risk in speaking up if the culture doesn't support it.  Remember the risks to you if you don't speak your truth.
  5. Self-care is essential when you are dealing with negative influences.  You need to take care of only your physical self, but your emotional and spiritual self as well.  That includes nurturing your own self-esteem because it takes significant hits in a toxic environment.

Whatever you do, once you acknowledge that you may be working in an environment like this, don't ignore it!  I have seen more than a few clients put up with this type of situation in their work-life to their own detriment.  Just remember -

  • You aren't earning brownie points putting up with what is essentially an untenable situation.
  • Life is too short to deal long-term with feeling negative and diminished as an employee and as a human being.
  • When you put yourself in the position of continually dealing with this kind of energy, you are minimizing your potential, and sacrificing your well-being.

You deserve to thrive in the workplace, not merely survive.  Managing the toxic elements in your work-life is key to rejuvenating your career and embracing your brilliance.

In our culture, our identity is wrapped up in our work.  What's the first question we ask someone we have just met?  "What do you do?"  And the "do" of course is about our career, not our leisure time.  We eventually work our way to asking about someone's life outside of work, but it is rarely the starting point.  What makes losing one's job so stressful for most people is not the loss of income, but the fact that we no longer have our job title as our identity.

So who are we without our job?  It seems bizarre that we would associate the totality of who we are with what we do for work.  What about our character and personality?  Don't we have qualities that exist regardless of what we do for work?  What about the impact that we have had and continue to have even when we are not associated with a particular role?  And then there is our collective and unique combination of skills, knowledge and expertise.

This begs the question of our essence.   What exists simply because we are, and is not contingent on what we do.  We seem to have lost sight of this once we are adults.  No one asks the inherent value and worthiness of a infant or child.  They do not have to do anything to earn our unconditional love.  Yet, once we have grown, we attach much, if not all, of our significance to how we earn our living.

People's self-esteem fluctuates with their employment status, and they lose touch with all the other roles they play in life - husband, wife, parent, son, daughter, friend and neighbor.  Self-esteem also fluctuate  with the events in our lives - unemployment, financial crises, or health crises.  As someone who personally experienced a number of losses in this recent recession,  I know that question is ever present, "who am I without ________, _________, and _________.  You can fill in the blanks.

I remind my clients about this all the time.  We are not the worst thing that has ever happened to us and we are not the best thing that has happened to us.  We, you, are beyond that and we have to keep this perspective if we have hopes of rejuvenating our career.  Because if we are too attached to specific outcomes and certain things happening in our career, then we are over-identifying with our work-life and we are we are unable to open ourselves up to possibilities.

It is important to get in touch with you, before going down the path of rejuvenating your career.  Both for the purpose of guiding you in your decision-making and for the purpose of grounding you in your worth, your beauty and your brilliance  - all of which exist whether or not you have a job title to hang your identity on.  

My clients often talk about those folks they admire.  It is usually in the context of a conversation about their personal and professional development.  They mention someone who they would to be more like, especially when they facing challenges and they perceive that this other person would be able to handle their situation with more ease, grace or skill.
Here's the thing.... When we admire someone and their qualities, we are looking in the mirror.  The reality is that we would not be able to see, and appreciate these qualities if these qualities didn't already exist in us.   People are often surprised or confused when they learn this, assuming that if they truly possessed these qualities, it would be evident to them and everyone else.

So if we possess the qualities we admire in others, why do we see them as external qualities embodied in other people?  As we have discussed in earlier posts, we are all in the position of reclaiming parts of ourselves that we leave behind.  This is what I believe to be the case with these qualities that we admire in others.  We may have owned these parts of ourselves earlier in our lives, but because of a number of different factors, we bury them deep inside.

 In my work, clients and the organization in which they work, will identify ways those clients should change in order to be more effective in their role.  What if that is the wrong assumption?  Maybe the individual doesn't need to change, but rather needs assistance  removing the blocks to his or her inner qualities.  Since all of us have challenges making changes, doesn't it make sense to view "self improvement" as a process or reclaiming parts of ourselves rather than becoming something we are not?

I use the following exercise with my clients to help them reclaim their inner qualities -

Step 1 - Bring to mind those whom you admire.  Take out a piece of paper and create two columns.  For each person you admire, add them to the list by putting their name in the left-hand column.

Step 2 - In the right-hand column, list the specific characteristics and traits you admire about each person on your list.

Step 3 - Read through the list of characteristics and traits and ask yourself,

     Do I like hanging out with people who display these characteristics?  Are these folks "my peeps?"           Do I feel "at home" with people who demonstrate these traits?
     When I think about this characteristic, does it create a positive feeling or emotion and/or does it              energize me?

     If the characteristic gets a "YES" on both counts, highlight or underscore it.

Step 4 - Transfer the highlighted characteristics to the following page.  Each of these traits has meaning for you  because you have this trait within you.  If you did not have this characteristic (let's not worry right now about whether you see yourself as someone who has this characteristic or whether you believe are currently displaying this characteristic), you would not be able to recognize it in others.

Step 5 - Take the list on the following page and print it out or transfer the list to a card or a note on your smart phone.  Put at the top "My Operating Values".  At the bottom, write or type "I know these values are mine because I recognize them and respond to these values in others."

Step 6 - Start taking notice (try recording in a journal) when you display these values.  Reinforce your thinking and action by stating "I am a person who xxx."  For example:  "I am a person who follows through once I make a commitment."

Also start paying attention to when you don't  display a value (when you feel a small, or big, twinge of regret.)  What was the situation?  What may have been a barrier to you displaying that value?  How did you feel in that moment?  How would you have liked to feel?

This exercise will get you in touch with the person in the mirror.  And you will be gathering insights that will help you access that quality on a more regular basis.  Once you put your focus on seeing these positive qualities within yourself, you will find yourself demonstrating these qualities more consistently. 

Pay close attention to those qualities that will serve you well in rejuvenating your career.  You will find less need to focus on outside factors, and instead will learn to rely on yourself.  The confidence you will be building, by demonstrating these qualities, will form part of the foundation on which you will build

This is a key question you need to ask yourself  before setting forth to rejuvenate your career.  I hear from clients all the time that the reason they don't take risks or don't attempt to take the steps they need to transform their work-life is their attachment to their sense of security.  I say their "sense" of security because all security that is based on external factors is in reality a false security.

So where is your sense of security based?  We can either base it on external circumstances - a full-time job, benefits, that fact that we have a spouse that works - or we base it on internal factors such as our courage, capacity to learn, education and skills.

Since life and work is requiring us to continually manage change, it is critical that we develop our resiliency and our readiness to respond to those changes,  both when we want to and when we need to.  When we base our security on our current situation assuming that it will not change, and inevitably it will, then we make ourselves vulnerable and find ourselves unprepared when someone pulls the rug out from under us.

I see many people lure themselves into a false sense of security out of fear.  From this stance, we can't be proactive about our careers.  We don't take the steps we need to in order to create options.  What's the fear about?  It's the feeling we don't measure up, that if we take risks, we will fail.  The irony is that is we don't take risks, we will end up ill-prepared to deal with the winds of change.

So if we want to be more resilient and ready to shake up our work-life on cue, how do we develop a sense of security that will support us taking action?  We need to believe in ourselves and adopt a sense of self-confidence, even when we may question ourselves.   We start by believing in our inherent value and the wisdom we have developed out of our unique experience here on the planet.

Our security is also based on having a clear personal mission.  Remembering what our purpose is and that our sense of purpose is not subject to a particular set of ideal circumstances.  Having purpose gives us strength and gives us direction. 

 When we make the decision to base our security inside ourselves, we can take control over our own fate and take the actions that build our security - committing to our self-development and everything that goes with that, investing in our formal and informal education and increasing our awareness of what is relevant.  We need to keep our skills sharp, keep our expertise current and continually gather feedback about how we can a difference.  So in other words,

Security = Unshakeable self-worth +a  clear sense of purpose + a strong foundation of knowledge,  skills, and wisdom

This "equation" will empower us to get centered, get clear and get confident that we can rejuvenate our careers any time we want.  

When we make the commitment to rejuvenate our careers, it is necessary for us to get back in touch with the themes in our career by reviewing our timeline.  Our timeline is a historical view of where we have been, the critical incidents that shaped us both as people and professionals, and how we experienced those events.  When I work with my clients, we create a timeline that focuses in on several dimensions of career (and life) history in order to search for clues.  To uncover those clues, we ask the following questions such as -

·         When have you been in a state of flow?  These are the times/events in your life when you feel most in sync with who you are at your essence.  It is most often when you are using your gifts and  when things feels almost effortless.  Others around you would observe a grace and ease in you because you are doing what comes naturally, expressing your talents.

·         What energizes you?  I often refer to this exercise as looking at your energetic timeline.  When have you been at your peak energy?  What are the events, tasks, jobs, or experiences where you became energized in the process?  And conversely, what are the events, tasks, jobs or experiences where you have felt a draining of your life force?  The events at both ends of this spectrum are important clues for you to pay attention to uncover those themes that will lay the foundation for how you can rejuvenate your career.

·         How have you responded to career and life events in the past?  This last set of clues has to do with your emotional life.  Again, we are looking at two ends of the spectrum.  When did you feel happiest, most content and fulfilled?  Where were you at peace?  And at the opposite end, when did you feel disconnected, unhappy and unfulfilled?

So take out a piece of paper, or a big sketch pad and draw a horizontal line.  Create blocks of time on the timeline to spur your thinking about the critical events during that time of your life.  Once you bring an event to mind, think about that event in terms of the three criteria above.  If it is at the negative end of the spectrum, make note of it below the horizontal line - how much below will depend on how negative/difficult/challenging that time or event was for you.  With positive events, make note of them in the appropriate time block above the horizontal line.  Again, the more positive the event, the higher the notation is above the horizontal timeline.

 Take some time to make notes of all the critical events in your life and career, and then assign them a spot, in their time block, either above (positive) or below (negative) the timeline.  Connecting all the events with a line will give you a visual sense of the ebb and flow of your life.  Then you can capture all the themes and insights that emerge and translate them into career options and next steps.  Here is where a professional coach or mentor can come in handy.  They can help you make that translation into action steps that will, as Johnny Mercer wrote "accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative" and bring you closer to your vision of your desired work-life.   

One of the things that gets in our way of effectively managing our career is our all too human tendency to take events personally.  It is obvious that personality plays a role here and there are many of us who succumb to this habit more than others (it's me raising my hand...)  Regardless of our personality type, taking things personally can be a pretty automatic response when we let our emotions run the show.

 "Don't take it personally!"   Why do we respond to that statement with such strong emotion?  It is part of the human condition to see ourselves as the center of our universe and look at every event from the perspective of the impact it has on us.   We see enemies where there are none, we make assumptions about how events reflect on us, and we ascribe ourselves power over others and their behavior that we truly don't have.

But what is interesting are all the other ways we don't take it personally.  We often don't take credit for our accomplishments, we minimize positive feedback we receive, and we don't claim ownership over our own talents and gifts.  In these instances we don't acknowledge our personal power and our true ability to impact others.   

It is our ego that takes things personally.  If we quiet our ego, we stay centered, we don't pay heed to what others say or think of us.  Yesterday I wrote about our anchors and when we find ourselves taking things personally, we know we need to focus on our anchors.  That will allow us to detach ourselves from our ego-driven interpretations of everything that happens.

We know intuitively that it does not serve us to take things personally.  It is too easy to get into a cycle of unproductive emotion.  After all, it is the perceived assault to our self-esteem that causes us to get pulled away from what we know to be true.

What can we do to minimize taking things personally?   We need to shift those beliefs that have us invest in others' opinions, or put us into a victim mentality and cause us to give away our power.  We need to get in touch with our strengths and our courage by touching base with our anchors.  And we need to choose to put our attention on our own inner truth rather than all the noise that surrounds us. 

Then we can set our intention on taking those things personally that count by learning to receive the kind words of others, welcoming praise for a job well done and overcoming our fear to put our gifts and talents out there.  We can find that quiet space within when we hear those words "Don't take it personally" and keep focused on what we have control over - who we choose to be, how we choose to respond and who we choose to love and honor ourselves each step along the journey.