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Episode 004

Episode 4: What’s stopping you from rising?

by Gillian Fox

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Who will you be professionally in five years? Now, I’m not talking about the role you’ll be in. That’s kind of old-school career planning. The modern career plan is about being agile, looking across the business landscape, and responding to opportunities. I’m talking about your ideal version of future you. What does she look like? Is she more self-assured? Does she deal with problems with less drama? Does she say no more freely? Does she attract great people around her? What does she look like? Does she have the kind of style that you’d admire? Well, I bet she does. Today, we are talking about what is stopping you from rising and from being your best future self.

You are listening to Your Brilliant Career. I’m your host, Gillian Fox executive coach, women’s career expert, and entrepreneur. The podcast that teaches you how to get the most out of your career. We talk tactics, tools, and stories that all help incredible women like you achieve the success you deserve. If you want to learn more about how to create the brilliant career you’ve always wanted, I encourage you to check out the RISE Program. It’s my four-month career development program. Through a combination of individual executive coaching sessions and group workshops, you’ll discover how to overcome obstacles, create opportunities and reach new heights in your career.

Well, hello everyone and welcome back to another episode. We are talking about some of the limitations that stop us from progressing. And the big culprit we are going to hone in on today is self-limiting beliefs. Many of you want different things from your career. For some, it’s stepping up to a more senior role within your organisation. And for others, it might be stepping into a different role within your industry. For some, it’s transitioning to something completely new. And for others, it’s about being fantastic in your space right now.

Now, regardless of your goal or your situation, every one of those requires you to be more than where you are today. And being more is a lot more attainable for any of us if we have a vision for our future, and if we operate with the right beliefs and thoughts. And this is where we’re heading today. We want to explore what is potentially stopping you from rising or being more. What is causing you to think smaller, or compromise on things that are important to you? And how are you thinking about your future and what’s possible for you?

When you listened to my intro, did you imagine your future self? And did she excite you? Well, she should excite you. I love the idea of future me. For me, she is so much more evolved. She is smarter, braver, she doesn’t complain, and she loves a challenge. Say the word “problem,” and she responds thoughtfully, calmly, and she takes action. I see her and I really like her. I wonder how much you know about your future self? I don’t know if you’ve heard of Dr. Daniel Gilbert. He did a TED Talk called The Psychology of Your Future Self. He’s famous as a Harvard psychologist, but his Talk is fascinating because he explains that almost all of us have a bias. And that is we tend to think that the person we are today is the person we will always be.

Now, I know that doesn’t make a lot of sense in some ways. Because if I asked you: are you the same person that you were 10 years ago? You would say no. But what Dr. Daniel Gilbert is saying is that we have a much harder time seeing potential for change in the future. Despite our awareness that our past self is clearly different than our present self, we tend to think that who we are right now is the real and finished version of ourselves. And further, that our future self will be basically the same as who we are today. Now, it’s so interesting, right? But we don’t want that. We actually want to cultivate our future self because it allows us to build our career more purposefully. Our self-image. And determine what is possible for us.

Generally speaking, most of us … me included for many years, don’t take the time to imagine who we want to be. Instead, we react to what life throws our way. And when it comes to our careers, it’s so easy to get caught up in the doing, the busyness, the drama. But your future self is not someone you discover or stumble across by accident, but someone you decide to be. Research has shown that shaping your future self requires deliberate practice. It’s very intentional. And it starts with understanding your limiting beliefs.

So many of us operate with self-limiting beliefs that are not supporting the results we desire in our career and the people that we want to be. But many successful people, they have had the courage to decide who they want to be. And they have cultivated their future self by developing the right belief. And you can do this, too. I did this really cool visualisation with a group of senior women recently. I was asked to deliver a session on limiting beliefs, the inspiration for today’s podcast, and we did this visualisation. It was so much fun.

Now, I’d never done something like this before. And it felt high risk, because the women I was working with were very senior. Mostly in the corporate sector in C-suite roles or heading in that direction. They had done a lot of training. I was hoping they’d be open to playing. And indeed, they were. They loved it. The exercise enabled them to really see their potential and give them a fresh set of eyes on their career and their future. Seeing their future self in this visualisation, it excited them. And it allowed them to identify what their future self believed that they don’t today. Now, that’s a good question for you, too. What do you think your future self believes about herself and her capabilities that you don’t today?

You see, how we see ourselves in business or life is a function of our beliefs and influences our decisions and what’s possible. Your beliefs have far-reaching consequences. Some negative. Some positive. Beliefs affect your moods, the relationships that you have, your job performance, your self-esteem, even your general outlook on the world. Many of our limiting beliefs were developed during our childhood. Dr. Bruce Lipton, who’s the author of a great book, The Biology of Belief, talks about how from birth to around the age of seven, we operate primary in brain wavelengths that are very close to a hypnotic state.

When we’re a kid, we are literally a sponge soaking up every little thing around us. And of course, many of our beliefs are formed. Some researchers say as many as 90% of our beliefs are formed during childhood. Amazing, huh? Now, of course, the problem here is if we continue through life operating with these beliefs … and some of them may not support the results that we want today, then it becomes problematic. They actually become a self-limiting belief.

Now, we all have beliefs about the world, and the way we think it works without even realising we have established notions about what is and what isn’t. You see, some beliefs are very real. For example, if I said, “If I put my hand on a hot plate, it will burn”.

It’s true, right? You can’t refute that. But most of our beliefs are perceived. They’re our version of the truth. Think about when someone says something like, “I am hopeless at networking,” or, “That stakeholder is consistently difficult to deal with.” Or what about, “My mother-in-law has so much to say for herself,” or, “I look fat in that dress?”

You see, some beliefs are helpful, and they propel us forward, and some don’t. They are self-limiting beliefs. Let’s take imposter syndrome. Imposter syndrome is that state of being afraid that you’ll be exposed as a fraud or as an imposter. And it’s pretty common among women, particularly at those junctions in your career where we are truly stretching ourselves. It could be a new role, new boss, new business expectations. Let’s say the belief is, “I am an imposter”. Now, when we have a belief like that, it drives some fear, and that fear will very likely prevent us from doing things. Perhaps it’s from speaking up, or stepping up, or backing ourselves. And in this way, the end result is less opportunity.

Now, it might just be a little bit of less opportunity. That idea of just not speaking up in those meetings. It’s only little. Every incident is only little. But the cumulative effect of not speaking up over a couple of years is considerable when you want to have a brilliant career. You might think right now, “Well, the easiest way to rid ourselves of a limiting belief is to change it. Create a new one”. Let’s look at that. Let’s take, “I am an imposter,” and let’s switch it to, “I’m amazing and everyone loves me”. Now, theoretically, this would work well. Change the belief. Feel and behave differently. Get a different result.

But it’s a bit of a stretch to go from, “I’m an imposter,” to “I’m amazing, and everyone loves me”. And this is just my approach to it. I think extreme examples like that won’t create the behavioural change that we need because they’re not believable for us. What high performers do exceptionally well is that they think about the way that they think. They are intentional when it comes to their beliefs and thoughts. They know there’s no magic pill. For them, it’s a system of managing their thoughts, and it’s part of what they do every day. They make it believable and accessible. They know having limiting beliefs such as, “I don’t belong here. I’m not as good as my colleagues, or someone is going to figure out that I’m not smart enough”, isn’t going to support their performance. It doesn’t mean they don’t have them. It just means they are intentional in the way they manage them.

What does intentional mean? What does it look like? You know, when I started my business many years ago now, one of the things I did is interview a whole range of high achievers from CEOs that I admired, to entrepreneurs like Janine Allis from Boost, to the beautiful Carla Zampatti. I wanted to know how they manage themselves, how they thought about things when they were tested, and how they stayed so focused. And what I learned is that they all had fear and limiting beliefs, but they also had a vision of who they wanted to be. And they consciously chose their beliefs, and thoughts, and the stories about themselves.

I remember … and it was a very long time ago now, Carla saying to me that she knew she had something great to offer. That amazing creativity of hers. She knew she had something good to offer. But she also knew that to grow her business, she had to be braver. To get that business going, she was going to have to step into areas that went beyond her creativity, out of her comfort zone where she didn’t have the confidence and competence. She was trying to think, “How do I tackle that, knowing that that’s a reality?” And in her words, she started to remind herself that she could do hard things.

Now, I love that thought strategy. But it didn’t ensure her overnight success, but it opened her up to new opportunities. Completely different to conceding. Now, can you see how intentional she was with her thinking? If she went on autopilot, maybe she would’ve hesitated because of the risk or boldness required. And if so, we would never know who Carla Zampatti is today. You can see we do have this natural tendency as human beings to focus on the negative, and hang onto a negative story, and play the same story over and over again. Shifting this around and inviting your mind to consider other possibilities in a very intentional way makes great sense. If you’re going on autopilot, it’s very easy to keep producing the same results and the same feelings.

Let’s talk about this, because I always like to give some practical “how to” pieces when we’re talking about a concept, and I just want to share with you a three-step way of really trying to shift some of your limiting beliefs. I think it’s very practical and accessible. Something you can play with. Let me take you through it. Step one is this idea of developing your self-awareness. More specifically, figuring out what you are thinking about yourself. Now, one of my old limiting beliefs was hard work is the only way to success. Nose to the grindstone. Don’t look up. Work like a dog, and you will be rewarded.

Now, this is partly true. Hard work drives results. But that belief … oh. It always made me feel like it was a grind. A battle I was not achieving unless I felt the discomfort, the sacrifice. And it was a belief that I definitely inherited from my upbringing. But it wasn’t supporting who I wanted to be, or what I wanted my career to feel like. That’s step one. Figuring out what you’re thinking about yourself.

Step two is coming up with a better thought strategy. And we can do this by identifying … just brainstorming, really, what you wish you could believe about yourself. What is a new thought? A believable new thought.

Now, for me, I wanted to feel calmer. Have more mental space. Not feel overwhelmed. Not be at battle with myself or others. I think I was pretty intense to be around. I wanted to achieve with more ease. My new thought strategy was all about working smarter, not harder. And I got very curious about that. I observed other people, and I made tweaks, and over time I changed. I now have so much joy in my work. Yeah, I have some big days, but it’s so different. As soon as something lands on your radar like that, it’s amazing what else you see. You see, my mind opened up to new ways of working, and slowly my style and approach to work evolved. I developed a whole new set of beliefs around it. And it was one of the best things I ever did, to be honest with you.

Step one, self-awareness. Figure out what you’re thinking about yourself. Step two is coming up with a better thought strategy. And step three is about practice. The more you practice and think these new thoughts, the stronger the new belief. You’ve got to embed it. It’s not just a one-off activity. You’ve got to keep integrating this and practicing it. You see, many of our beliefs are self-fulfilling. Now, think about that for a second.

With my belief, as it was, that hard work is the only way to succeed, there was never going to be any joy because it’s self-fulfilling. In the same way, if you believe you need eight hours sleep a night and your emotional state every morning when you wake up will be governed by whether you got it. Believe that life is fun, and it will be. Believe that it can’t be done, and your brain won’t even try. Career plateaus happen when people stay in the endless loop and operate with the same limiting beliefs, and it simply doesn’t have to be that way.

In the RISE Program, we introduce some great tools to get you unstuck. And the progress I see with the women who do the work is incredible. No one will know your value until you know your value. If you want a voice at the table, if you want to step up, command more respect, whatever it might be, you need to have the right beliefs. Think about your fantastic future self in all her glory. How do you need to think differently to move towards that? What is one belief that you could harness that could move you towards your future self? I think it’s kind of an exciting thing to explore. I hope you reflect on this. Maybe play with a little bit. You could join us on the RISE Program if you want to go deeper, but that is all for today.

Thank you so much for joining me. Here’s to your brilliant career. Have fun exploring, and I will see you in a few weeks.

Thanks so much for listening to today’s episode. If you are enjoying what you’re learning on the podcast, sign up for our free training session on how to land your next promotion. This course is going to give you a close look at the three reasons why people don’t land their next promotion, and what you can do differently to ensure you succeed. I think you’ll love it. 

Head over to https://www.yourbrilliantcareer.com.au/land-your-promotion/. And if you want some inspiration and tips during the week, join us on Instagram, Gillian Fox Group. I look forward to seeing you soon.

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