Part of Kathy Caprino’s series “Becoming The Most Powerful and Impactful You”
In the past 16 years years of coaching and training professionals, entrepreneurs, and seasoned and emerging leaders, I’ve had a window into the lives of people who are dreaming big and wanting more, and doing what’s necessary to reach their highest goals. I’ve also witnessed scores of behaviors and mindsets that prevent us from achieving what we’re longing for.
Through that lens (and from my 18 years in corporate life and later as a therapist), it’s become clear that there are several key actions that continually pave the way for greater success and expansion, and also unlock previously closed doors to what we personally want most – in both life and work. These actions help us bypass or overcome the common behaviors and thinking that sabotage success and often lead to failure.
No matter what your professional and leadership goals are, there are six core actions that will support you to achieve even greater success and fulfillment over the long arch of your professional life. These steps will help you understand what you truly want to be in life, as well as make the right moves to build your desired identity while receiving beneficial support that sustains you through tough and uncertain times.
The top 6 actions to take to achieve the success and fulfillment you want in your career are:
1. Gaining greater clarity
Bar none, this is the most important action if you want to achieve anything significant in your career and life. It’s critical to understand exactly what you want and what matters most to you – in short, what you’ll give up everything for. If you have only a vague, nebulous notion such as “I want to do something meaningful” or “I want to make a difference” but haven’t done the work to tease out what that difference or meaning is, there’s more work to be done. You need to drill down deep and peel the layers to understand what “meaningful” signifies to you, personally and specifically. Then start vetting and trying on new directions that allow you to experience that meaning and purpose. They are often afraid and insecure, and that fear stops them in their tracks.
The reason many people fail today to create fulfilling and exciting careers is that they hold back from doing the inner and outer work to determine how best to “connect the dots” – to uncover their amazing and unique talents, skills, and passions, and then find new ways to be of service drawing on those talents and passions.
They also aren’t aware of one key principle that’s operating in our lives:
What chronically repeats over and over isn’t “random” – it’s often something we’re co-creating, attracting, sustaining or allowing.
As I learned in my marriage and family therapy training and my years as a therapist, “greater awareness equals greater choice.” People who’ve achieved goals that matter to them are continually committing to increasing their awareness — of:
1) Who they long to be in the world
2) How specifically they want to be of service and the key talents they can leverage to do that work
3) The ultimate (measurable, definable) impact they want to make
4) And how they have to grow further to achieve that impact.
When we’re clear about those issues, and believe we’re worthy of reaching our highest goals, then we will more likely build the courage necessary to pursue exciting new opportunities for our growth and impact.
2. Transforming desperation into inspiration
Some years ago, I had a great conversation with Vanessa McGovern of Gifted Travel Network who shared a concept she heard from Jairek Robbins that we must learn how to “turn our desperation into inspiration.” This is a vitally important endeavor – to move away from feeling desperate, victimized or out of control in the face of our challenges. I’ve lived this experience personally too – when I was laid off from my corporate VP role in the days following 9/11. I had a true “breakdown” experience where I recognized then and there that I simply could not return to the professional life I had built – complete with sexual harassment, gender discrimination, toxic colleagues, narcissistic bosses, zero work-life balance, chronic illness, no contributive meaning and purpose in the work, and more.
The key is to learn how to grab the reins of your life and find new ways to become more accountable, authoritative and capable – viewing what’s happening to us as a way to learn and grow, not get crushed down over and over.
Another way to view this is to see your “breakdown” moment as your “breakthrough” opening. (I found this breakdown-breakthrough process so powerful that I wrote my first book – Breakdown, Breakthrough – all about it.)
Many corporate women come for coaching help, sharing their painful and confidence-crushing stories about the unfair situations they are facing (due to factors like the economy, or a toxic boss, a damaging office-politics situation, gender bias, mistreatment, being passed over because they haven’t stayed abreast of key industry trends, etc.). I’ve been there and know how demoralizing and confusing it can be. But there are also life-affirming, uplifting lessons to be extracted from these experiences — about the power and confidence gaps we internally possess and how we can in fact close those gaps for good.
If we break ourselves against what is and resist it, rather than using it to help us be more of what we want to be, the road will be much more difficult. It’s essential to find new ways to access a braver, more self-trusting, self-assured and resilient path.
For more about how to recognize and address the 7 damaging power and confidence gaps that negatively impact a staggering 98% of professional women today and 90% of men, download my free chapter – Chapter #1: Not Recognizing Your Special Talents, Abilities and Accomplishments – from my latest book The Most Powerful You: 7 Bravery-Boosting Paths to Career Bliss, and tune into my Finding Brave podcast episode below:
3. Enforcing your boundaries
Building healthy boundaries is a critical part of living and working productively and healthfully. If our boundaries are weak or “diffuse,” we’ll “catch every ball that’s thrown at us,” even the damaging ones. We’ll be unable to discern what’s best for us or stand up for what we need and deserve. And that inability will open doors to mistreatment and injustice.
I’ve seen that many high-achieving professional women suffer from what I call “perfectionistic overfunctioning” – doing more than is healthy, appropriate and necessary, and trying to get an A+ in all of it. When we operate in this way, life and work become exhausting and overwhelming, and we grow resentful and angry about it. Building stronger boundaries takes effort and bravery, but it’s a doable process that dramatically improves our lives.
One key step that will move you forward is to identify today the one conversation that you need to have, but have been avoiding for fear of the consequences. Get some outside expert help to work through what it is you need to say and do, and build a solid plan for standing up yourself and enforcing your boundaries in a more powerful way.
4. Committing yourself 1000% and taking reasonable risk
To be successful and find reward and joy in life and work, it takes commitment that doesn’t wane. It requires believing that you can create movement in your life and work, even when the waters are still and the world seems to be giving you evidence that you’re not going to make it to your destination. And it demands risk.
That doesn’t mean that you should continue on your course blindly, crashing into the rocks without modifying your direction. It means that you know when you need help, and you ask for it before it’s too late. You commit yourself to your goals without doubt, without reservation, and do what’s required, while at the same time learning to be flexible and avoid overly attaching to how it has to look or to one particular outcome.
People who realize they have vulnerabilities and gaps in their knowledge and ability, and work diligently to address those vulnerabilities, succeed at a much higher level and quicker pace than those who hide their heads in the sand when things go badly.
5. Communicating powerfully and adeptly
Highly successful professionals and entrepreneurs are typically very captivating storytellers. They know how to talk about their endeavors and visions in ways that engender excitement and inspire others to follow and support them. They also keenly understand their “why” (check out Simon Sinek‘s groundbreaking TEDx talk on this ) and are very clear about the beliefs behind what they are proposing or doing. Because of that, they attract amazing supporters, clients, customers, and ambassadors who share their visions and beliefs.
Successful professionals also know how to negotiate and advocate for themselves and for others powerfully – sharing the right information at the right time, in a compelling way that builds rapport, gains support, and engenders loyalty and trust.
6. Nurturing empowered relationships
Finally, highly successful people understand that they can’t achieve their visions alone or in a vacuum. They invest time and energy in building mutually beneficial and rewarding relationships and energizing partnerships that last over time. They don’t reach out only with their hand out, asking for something. They understand that great relationships involve give-and-take. Successful individuals focus on developing an empowering, engaged support community that helps them reach higher heights. These relationships are built on trust, honesty, integrity, and on shared values.
On the other hand, folks who step on people on the way up, or who narcissistically surround themselves only with people who say “yes” and never challenge them, won’t succeed in the long term. If you wield your power in negative ways to hurt, diminish, or squelch others, or if you’re overly-invested in corporate politics because you think you’ll “win” that way, you’ll be sorely disappointed. (Here’s more about how to tell if you should be following the leaders you’re supporting today.)
Guerrilla warfare and political tactics to overthrow your “enemies” at work simply won’t sustain your success or growth over time.
Can you find career success without taking these six actions? Perhaps, but it will be a far bumpier ride with many more agonizing detours and painful disappointments. And without these steps, you’ll most likely wake up at the end of a long journey wondering why you feel so lost and unfulfilled.
For women ready to build their impact, success and confidence in their careers, join Kathy in the Fall session of her online courses The Most Powerful You and The Amazing Career Project. For hands-on career and leadership coaching support, work with Kathy in her Career & Leadership Breakthrough coaching program.
And join Kathy for her FREE webinar on September 8th, 2023 – 5 Key Steps To Growing Your Confidence and Building a Better, Happier Career.