06/05/2012 12:33 pm ET Updated Aug 05, 2012

Are You 'Bringing It' at Work?

I was at my gym the other day when one of the trainers shouted "Bring it!" as I added another level of weights to my strength training regimen. As I hoisted the heavier kettle bell, my trainer's words made me think of how this concept is also applicable in our careers.

It takes courage and conviction to seek out your career destiny -- it doesn't happen by default. So many people let the momentum of a job take them on a path that leads them to a place they have no desire to go. Power is not given, but taken. You have the power to take small and incremental steps on your personal career journey to lead you to where you want to go. You also have the power to make stretch goals and expand your comfort zone to take risks and try new things.

Are You Bringing It?
I'm the first to tell you that it's not always easy, but it is certainly doable. The first step comes from articulating what you want in your professional life. Say it out loud, write it down and then start to own your aspirations by telling others. Before you know it, people will surface who can help you on your customized career journey. You will attract members of your Personal Board of Directors when you start to envision what it is you really want in life and there is no better time to start than now!

Lean Into Your Career
Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook, gave an inspiring graduation speech at Barnard College in 2011 that lives on in the blogosphere. She told the young graduates to be ambitious and self-confident, and to "lean in" to their careers, especially since control was theirs for the taking. The world will present many choices during your professional lifetime and career paths can be circuitous and inevitably, they will change. But if you "lean back" and let things just happen by default, you lose the power of choice you so richly deserve.

According to Sheryl: "Put your foot on that gas pedal and keep it there until the day you have to make a decision, and then make a decision that honors you." Be excellent at what you do and lean into your career with self-confidence and the power to control your professional destiny.

Make Time for Dreams
Give yourself permission to dream. It's healthy and exhilarating to think big and be ambitious about what you really want personally and professionally. Leadership belongs to those who take it and career management is leadership behavior. Leadership has nothing to do with rank. Whether you are an entry-level employee or a C-Suite executive, you must take your career future into your own hands.

It's easy to get caught up in the day-to-day minutiae and forget to honor your dreams. Work/life integration is tough and balance is next to impossible, but dreaming will empower you to rejuvenate and focus on what you really want. Dreams are necessary to develop your goals and they tap your creativity to consider the possibilities.

Only you can define what success and happiness means to you. Dreaming gives you permission to design your life and career destiny. Dreaming begs the question, "What would you do if you weren't afraid?" Fortune begs the bold -- don't let your fears overwhelm your desire and give yourself time to dream big so you can begin to make it your reality.

Expand Your Comfort Zone
Put yourself out there because you will never know what you are capable of unless you try. Aim high and don't think about stepping out of your comfort zone as a painful process. Consider expanding your comfort zone as a way to sharpen your strengths and discover new passions.

Naomi C. Earp, former Commissioner of the EEOC said: "Society moves forward because people venture something new, not because they play it safe. Push through your fear and seize new opportunities." You've got to identify how you want to bring it career wise.

Ask Your Way Up
Selena Rezvani, author of Pushback: How Smart Women Ask And Stand Up For What They Want was a guest my CBS Radio Show -- Career Coach Caroline last month and talked about being the CEO of your own position no matter where you are in your career lifespan. Taking control and asking for what you want at work and in life is essential if you want to honor your plan and not one that was prescribed for you by the establishment.

On a recent employer relations trip I made to Chicago in order to mine new jobs for my law students, a Vice President of Human Resources for a major corporation shared an inspiring story about a young professional who skyrocketed upwards in his organization. I inquired about how this superstar distinguished himself and earned promotional opportunities and the VP with whom I was meeting smiled and simply responded: "He asked for new challenges and promotional opportunities so we knew he was hungry for it."

If you wait for the powers that be to recognize your accomplishments, you'll need to have extreme patience. According to Selena Rezvani, you must "Ask your way up..." and manage up to make your aspirations and career goals known to your boss and her boss.

DeeDee Wilson, former CFO at NIKE, shared in Selena's book: "I've never been afraid to say, 'This is what I want and why, and this is how I plan to deliver on it.' If I was told 'no' the first time, I would go back and ask several more times. You need to take what you want!"

Create Your Own Tipping Point
By bringing it, setting goals and dreaming big you not only honor yourself, but you can create the momentum you need for your personal tipping point. All of these things add up and will help you prioritize what you want and deserve in your professional life.

I take comfort in knowing that I am in control of my professional dreams and my career future. I can change my mind, change direction and reinvent as often as I wish. But bringing it is my way of embracing my dreams, walking tall and owning my self-confidence. That's the message I want to send out into the world.

Consider the legacy you want to leave in the world. Are you bringing it?

Caroline Dowd-Higgins authored the book "This Is Not the Career I Ordered" and maintains the career reinvention blog of the same name ( She is also the Director of Career & Professional Development and Adjunct Faculty at Indiana University Maurer School of Law. She hosts the national CBS Radio Show Career Coach Caroline on Tuesdays at 5pm ET.