If only I would have…
This phrase is one of the most depressing phrases anyone can use in their career.
Depending how long you’ve been in your current career, you’ll notice the small regrets and missed opportunities adding up.
I say this because I’m living proof that it’s true. It’s usually never just one thing that I’ve passed up, it’s been the little daily choices where I’ve dropped the ball.
Here are ten choices that can prevent regret and create a better career and life.
1. Embrace challenging work.
A career without challenges is just a boring career that isn’t worth talking about. It’s a job that helps you pay the bills. You have a daily choice to seek challenging work that will grow your career superpowers or hide from it.
When you are willing to say, “Yes!” to challenging work then you are stretching yourself outside your comfort zone to a place that will open up new doors internally and externally. Internally, you’ll find that a different type of work will help you unleash your superpowers. Externally, you’ll find people seeking out your help because you aren’t afraid to tackle a new project.
You don’t need to be amazing at every new challenge. You just need to show you aren’t scared. People will be impressed by your willingness to grow.
2. Find your own definition of happiness.
Your happiness is very important to growing and enjoying your career. When you allow someone else to set the ceiling for your happiness, you’ve lost leverage and respect. To gain both back, you must look at what type of work makes you happy and make this a regular part of your day.
Even if it’s just 20 minutes, carve out time to do work that you are passionate about, work that gets you excited. Then start dedicating extra minutes to this type of work each day. When you show people the great results you are getting, I know they will want you to increase the time you spend on these type of projects.
3. Appreciate the people who’ve helped you.
Every career is built on advice, support, and love from others. You would never be where you are without these amazing people, from the co-worker that encouraged you to take the lead on a project to a boss that believed you had the potential to do even better work.
Go for a walk and think about the people who have helped you improve your career. It’s these people you should thank and make sure they know you appreciate them. This helps you because it brings more gratitude to your relationships and also reminds you that for every person who has helped you, there are people who need your help.
4. Introduce people who can help each other.
When you have a chance to introduce two people to each other so they can help each other, you are helping their careers. It’s this help that always comes back to you in some form or another.
Don’t let scarcity thinking hold you back from making these introductions. When you help other people, it will ultimately help you in today’s world that depends so much on networking.
5. Ask your co-workers how you can better help them.
A career is always a work in progress and sometimes we stall out because we burn out and/or we’ve lost interest in our work. This is natural and the ebb and flow of any good career. The best way to break out of a rut is to get feedback that challenges you to take action.
Next time a co-worker or boss asks for help, say yes and also try asking them for feedback. Show them that you are trying to improve on your results. Many people aren’t very good at giving constructive feedback, so help them along. Ask them good questions that make it easier for them. For example, “What could I have done better on project X?” or “I felt a little awkward when I did XYZ, what do you think I could do to improve next time?”
The better the questions you ask, the easier it will be to obtain feedback that can help you improve and grow your career.
6. Share your gratitude with others.
“Thank you so much! I couldn’t have done this without you,” is one of my favorite phrases. It makes me feel like I’ve had 10 cups of coffee.
Gratitude is very important to making people feel happier. When you make people feel good, they will want to keep delivering great results for you.
Do you take the time to tell people how important they are to your projects? If not try to do this whenever you get great results from a co-worker, boss, or contractor. The key is to be authentic, so they truly feel the quality of your appreciation.
And instead of just saying thank you, insert more detail. For example, you could say “Thank you so much for all your hard work. When I saw the quality of the graphs you made, I knew that you really thought about the best way to present the information to the client.
The more detail the better. They will feel seen and appreciated.
7. Plan your projects.
You are busy. I get it. The thing is a little planning can actually save you time. You are more focused on getting the results that will help you and your company.
Look at the last project you worked on, where did things get dropped? Could this have been avoided? Probably some or even a lot of them.
Next time, try thinking about your most important goal for the project first and then work backwards. Look at how you can chunk down this big goal into little goals so the project doesn’t feel so overwhelming. Then when you have a smaller goal, you can tackle this goal before you move on to the next phase. You’ll get better results and you’ll feel less stressed.
8. Refrain from complaining.
Ahh, a complaining session can just seem to pop up spontaneously. And I admit it can feel good to complain, but what good does it do in the long run? It can really hurt your morale and that of the people around you.
Next time you happen to get caught in a spontaneous complaining meeting, try listening and asking questions. Let’s say someone complains about a co-worker. Oh, I know this doesn’t happen at your company, but bear with me.
Next time someone complains about a co-worker try this:
“Yeah, that is frustrating. What do you think they could have done differently?”
Hopefully they will feel like joining in on your little game and they say something like, “Tom could have just emailed us an agenda before we sat in the meeting for two hours talking in circles.” Then you say something like, “That’s a great idea. “How do you think we could get him to do that next time?”
Now if they just throw their arms in the air and decide to give up, you probably aren’t going to be able to help them. At least they felt heard. If they come up with a good idea, you can help them implement it.
Great questions help dig to the root of the problem. Once you understand the problem, it’s time for a little change in behavior to see if you can get the problem solved.
9. Trust others to do their job well.
As a manager of people, I know how hard it is not to micro-manage people. You have a vision in your head and want it executed well. But if we don’t allow other people to unlock their own superpowers, then they won’t feel fulfilled by the work they do, and this will cause them to lose interest in their work. And we all know that’s a bad thing.
You need engaged people who want great results. The best way to do this is to trust that they want to do great work. If they continually fall short of your expectations, then you should either coach and train them to meet your expectations, look for a different position that actually fits their talents, or let them go so they can find a better fit for their superpowers
Making your expectations clear is the most important part of this process. When people know what is expected of them, they can do their best to meet or even exceed those expectations.
10. Make time for projects you care about.
You can’t always do work you love, but you can find time each day to do work that you are passionate about. Even if it’s just 30 minutes, it’s important to help keep that fire burning inside of you.
Set time aside to do the type of projects that energize you. Look at what projects you are currently working on and whether they excite you at all. If not, what projects have you done in the past that got your juices going?
Can you create a similar project that excites you and find time every day to move this project forward? If you need approval from your boss, then put a compelling plan together that they can’t say no to. If they say no, then try a different angle. If they keep saying no, then it might be time to find another job that is willing to appreciate your desire to do great work on what you’re passionate about.
What career choices have you made that were difficult at the time, but helped you grow your career?