Posted on

Want To Advance Your Career? This Is The Best Question You Can Ask


One of my favorite quotes comes from a young Australian poet, Erin Hanson:

“What if I fail? Oh, but my darling, what if you fly?”

In only two sentences, it speaks to both the fear that paralyzes so many of us as well as the unlimited potential should we allow ourselves to imagine.

It also frames up the best question you can ask to advance your career: “What if?”

Asking “What if?” tends to bring out extreme anxiety around career-related matters. Horrific nightmares of self-doubt plaque nearly everyone at some point, especially when we genuinely care about the outcome. We stress about doing those things that we place high importance on and that we value, such as a promotion, winning a new client, or starting our own business. So much so, that we might never even attempt them because our answers to the “what if” question sound like “I’ll make a fool of myself” or “I could never be successful.”

When you let fear-based thinking prevail, it prevents you from taking a risk—and from progressing. Worse, you get stuck in a negative loop in your head, repeating self-defeating stories to yourself, believing there’s no way out. You safely stay where you are while everyone else takes action to move forward until pretty soon stagnation keeps you firmly stuck in a rut, far behind your peers.

If this sounds like you, don’t lose hope. Fortunately, you only need to shift your mindset; here’s how:

First, get clarity about what you want—and what’s scaring you.

You can’t successfully go after what you want until you can clearly articulate what that is. Challenge yourself to dig deep and identify your dream even—and especially—if it’s vastly different from your everyday life. Be as specific as possible. Your honest answers can help you gauge the distance between your current reality and your goals so you can start to create strategies to bridge the gap.

And don’t forget to fess up on what’s been holding you back: fear of failure? Of success? Other people’s expectations of you? Your preconceived notions or limiting beliefs? Remind yourself that it’s okay to gravitate away from something that no longer serves or interests you to connect with something you want.

Next, ask yourself: “What’s the worst that could happen?”

When you work through the worst-case scenario of taking action you perceive as risky, you might find that it’s not so bad after all. Often, what we’ve imagined in our heads is far worse than any real-life outcome. This exercise can help you diffuse the fear enough to take action.

And suppose you determine that the worst thing that could happen is that you fail? No big deal, so long as you reframe the failure as a learning opportunity. The most innovative people in the world—entrepreneurs, inventors, and scientists—use the data from their failed ventures and experiments to inform their modifications. They adapt and enhance, but they never stop pursuing their dreams. Neither should you.

Finally, think positively and imagine the possibilities. 

This is the fun part. Once you’ve identified what you want, what’s been holding you back, and the worst-case scenario, you’re free to shift your perspective to the positive. Now envision your best-case scenario: What if you achieved your goal? What if you allowed yourself to consider the infinite possibilities? How would it feel to take action to get yourself closer to the career and life you desire? What new products and services might you create?

And the chances are that when you follow this advice, you’ll soon ask yourself another important question: “Why didn’t I do this sooner?

Source: Forbes – Leadership