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Are You Standing in the Way of Your Own Career Success?

Too often, the greatest obstacle standing between us and the career levels we aspire to reach is not an external force, but ourselves. We may have the right skill sets, experience, and connections, but we allow our own fears and limiting beliefs to hold us back. Instead of taking calculated risks to advance our careers, we stay safely inside our comfort zones.

The comfort zone is a dangerous place because it offers the illusion of security. If we choose not to venture outside of it, we protect ourselves from the failure, rejection, and other possible negative consequences of taking a chance. Unfortunately, we also insulate ourselves from the opportunities available to us. Nobody has ever achieved success by remaining in a comfort zone.

Taking the next step in your career will always involve risk and uncertainty. Common questions range from, “Will I be able to do the job?” to, “Will I lose the flexibility in my current schedule?” Every important change requires courage to face the unknown, and faith that the outcome will move you in the direction you want to go.

As you consider your next step, think about the ways in which you may be holding yourself back. Are you hesitant to apply for a higher-level position? Are you reluctant to ask your manager for more responsibility? Are you remaining in a role that is unrewarding? If the answer is yes, you are an obstacle in your own path to greater career success.

Here are some steps you can take:

1. Recognize that all-important changes are accompanied by fear. Sometimes our expectations are unrealistic. We assume that if a change were meant to be, the process would be easier or less scary. Recognizing that fear is part of the process can help to keep it in perspective.

2. Expand your comfort zone incrementally. Some steps are just too scary to take all at once. If the step you are considering is paralyzing you with fear, break it down into incremental steps. For example, if you’ve been thinking about applying for a new role within your organization, but have been hesitant to take the plunge, take some interim steps. Get to know the group’s manager or other people on the team. Learn about what the group does, the challenges they face, and the expectations they have of group members. The more information you have, the more confidently you can decide whether to pursue the new role.

3. Challenge limiting beliefs. Limiting beliefs are such a powerful force in our lives. They are the lenses through which we view the world. Although we believe them to be unequivocally true, in reality, they are only true because we allow them to be. If you find yourself encountering a limiting belief, such as, “They would never consider me for that type of role,” or, “I could never be successful at that level,” first, notice the thought. Most of the time we don’t even hear ourselves. And then challenge it. Do you know with absolute certainty that that belief is true? If not, you owe it yourself to find out. Don’t allow an unsubstantiated assumption to stand in the way of your goals.

Advancing your career requires you to put yourself out there. If you are committed to moving ahead but hide behind the curtain of your comfort zone, you will never achieve your goals. Ultimately, you need to decide what is more important to you: shielding yourself from the possibility of failure, or opening yourself up to the possibility of greater fulfillment.

Some people experience fear but are able to sufficiently manage it so that it’s not disruptive to their careers. Others struggle with fear in a way that is far more damaging. If your career is suffering because of your inability to manage your fear and limiting beliefs, find someone to help you. Consider seeking the support of a mentor, coach, or even a therapist. There are plenty of challenges on the road to career success. Don’t allow yourself to be the greatest obstacle you face.

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