Monday, July 11, 2011

Flashing Lights and Career Realities

I'm positive that the state trooper saw me a good seven seconds before I saw him. Speeding (literally) up to the Twin Cities, I verbally articulated the first word that came into my head: crap. I was caught. No way around it. I immediately slowed down and nervously glanced in my rearview mirror to see if he would take advantage of the oh-so-convenient turnaround to pursue me.

The car slowed down and crossed the median into my lane of traffic. My heart sank.

To my surprise, I recovered in seconds. I resigned myself to my fate. I imagined the lights behind my car and the calm way I would pull over. Putting my car in park, I would pull out my driver's license and place my hands high on the steering wheel so so that they could be seen. I would roll my window down and respectfully answer any questions the officer had before receiving a ticket. Wishing the officer a good day, I would continue on to my destination at a more appropriate speed. The images in my head became more visceral as the car approached mine...

Only to pass me.

You might think that I let out a sigh or a *whew!*...but I didn't. I was at peace with it. There was nothing to comment upon.

There was a time when I would have experienced a wide range of emotions in the same situation: anger, shame, frustration, victimization, sadness, etc. What made this time different was my ability to quickly come to terms with something I couldn't change and make choices from a productive frame of mind. In this situation, I chose to be peaceful. I could have been angry, but what purpose would that have served?

During your career trajectory you're bound to encounter problems both foreseen and unforeseen: a layoff, a job rejection, a bad economy, or an awful interview. Coming to terms with the reality of your situation and settling into a tranquil place will enable you to recovery quickly and expend your energy on actions that will move you forward. Follow these steps to move into productivity:

1. Set a timer for 10 minutes. Consider this time your 10-Minute Pity Party. Cry. Yell. Stew. But once the timer is up, you're done.

2. Shake off the pity and take some deep breaths. Let's get introspective. Reflect on these questions:

  • How am I portraying the real me in this situation?

  • What advice would someone I look up to as a role model of productive behavior give me right now?

  • What will I take from this situation to make me happier?

3. Create three realistic, actionable tasks (with due dates) based upon your answers to the above questions that will leave you feeling productive and proud.

It's unrealistic to think that the above will be magic formula to cure a bruised sense of self after a career setback. Practice the steps above and don't move forward until you feel you ready to do so. Challenge yourself to cope with the muck and move to the good of the situation to manifest and keep a sensational state of mind.

Don't make me send the police after you.

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