Whether you're looking to move up the career ladder or finding your dream job, having the mindset that you're not quite there yet can add pressure for progress and make the experience even more daunting than it already is.
If you find yourself frustrated with the climb for personal excellence because you don't think that you're making the impact that you crave, let me tell you a story.
A few years ago, I was a meticulous planner when it came to traveling. So, when it came to the day that my travel buddy and I were to hike to a remote lodge in the Swiss Alps four hours away by the name of Hut Tschinglehorn, we thought we had it down pat.
The problem was that the hiking signs became less and less frequent and soon became scrawlings on a rock that resembled those you see in horror movies.
But we were confident because there was only one way, and that was up.
Soon, the sun was setting and still no sign of Hut Tschinglehorn. Confidence turned into desperation. We were climbing hills where we couldn't see the top and when we did get to a clearing, we expected to see the hut shining in all it's glory... only to be disappointed at the sight of more cows.
Upon consulting the guidebook, we found out that we had been climbing the wrong mountain for the last four hours. Doh!
I tell this story because many of us approach our career in this way. In school, we declare the mountain that we want to climb and conquer. We draw the map to get there, and we're certain that when we arrive, we will find our life purpose. Maybe we ignore signs and suspicions along the way and at the end of it all, we're tired, overwhelmed and confused about what we want to do for the rest of our lives.
We never did find Hut Tschinglehorn. It may not even exist for all we know. But I did learn some important lessons that can be applied to your quest for a meaningful career so that it doesn't have to feel like a search for the elusive.
Own where you are right now
Being where you are right now is necessary for you to get to where you want to be, even if it's not where you want to be. There will be gargantuan boulders, roaring waterfalls and even broken bridges to traverse. There will be stretches of road where you don't feel like traveling. But they are all part of the journey, there's not one part that can be skipped or ignored. I was talking to a seasoned celebrity coach who told me that even when you reach her level of success, you still have challenges, doubts and fears. So, even when you get to where you aim for, there will be new challenges and responsibilities that come with it that you may not know of right now, so you may as well enjoy the stage you are at right now!
Make enjoyment a habit
Even though the hike to Hut Tschinglehorn at times felt like a death march, the hike was the most memorable out of my entire trip because we enjoyed the most breathtaking valleys and waterfall views to be seen. My friend Nicholas sagely told me, "If you don't enjoy what you have accomplished now, even when you get to where you want to be, you probably still won't enjoy it." Enjoyment is like a muscle, it needs to be exercised. If you find that you are checking things off your list and rushing onto the next big thing without digesting the momentousness of what you've accomplished and the circumstances that helped you to do it, you may end up feeling like you've been chasing a feeling of completion that eludes you. Instead, wholeheartedly celebrate what you've completed and own your role in it.
Recognize that you are making an impact right now
Even though we hadn't reached Hut Tschinglehorn, that doesn't nullify all the steps we took towards it. Several times during the hike, we looked behind us and marveled at how much we climbed, even though it didn't feel like such a great distance. When in doubt or in a failure-oriented state-of-mind, focus on how much you've contributed to date. Celebrate progress, including the disappointments! How have you become more valuable today compared to three months, six months or a year ago? How have the disappointing moments strengthened you? It's still worth making goals for improvement, but it's just as important to appreciate yourself for how far you've become and how much more value you can add to your organization, today. It can be as easy as asking your manager of that coveted project, "Hey I'd really like to work on that project with so-and-so, let me know if I can work on the (insert technical term) aspect for it, I'd love to help." Reminding yourself in between milestones may keep you grounded without spiraling off into thinking you're "not there yet."
So, if you find yourself feeling that you're not making the impact that you want yet, just know that through owning where you are, making enjoyment a habit, and recognizing that you're making a difference right now, you will feel less like you've climbed the wrong mountain and more confident that you are on the right journey.
Catherine Chen, Ph.D., is a Health Coach who believes that you are important, no matter what you achieve. She works with high-achievers to move past the guilt, frustration, and overwhelm that prevents you from living a life of passion and purpose. Sign up here to get a video series on finding your personal awesome at http://www.achievewitheasenow.com
This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post in conjunction with our women’s conference, “The Third Metric: Redefining Success Beyond Money & Power,” which took place in New York on June 6, 2013. To read all of the posts in the series and learn more about the conference, click here. Join the conversation on Twitter #ThirdMetric.
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