Albert Einstein said, "Intellectual growth should commence at birth and cease only at death." As an executive coach who has devoted her career to helping people develop, I wholeheartedly agree with him. We all have the capacity to become better versions of ourselves.
While I think most successful people recognize the need for growth, it's also not uncommon for me to come across people who have lofty career ambitions, but are full of excuses for why they can't develop. Read on for four common beliefs that stall careers.
1. You believe that you don't have anything to work on
If you truly believe that you don't have any opportunities for personal development, then I encourage you to start by taking a long hard look at yourself, and perhaps reframe how you are looking at your situation. Keep in mind that having a developmental opportunity doesn't mean that you necessarily have a weakness per se, it just means that you recognize that by strengthening in a given area, you could become even more effective.
A great example of this is the case of tennis professional, Serena Williams. Though most would list her amongst the ranks of the best tennis players of all time, she has consistently worked on fine-tuning aspects of her game throughout her career, due to a desire to be her absolute best.
Keep her example in mind, and self-reflect with the aim of uncovering areas of development that will make you more effective in the present, or get you ready for your future goals. And, if upon further reflection, you still believe you don't have anything to work on, try getting feedback from your boss, a mentor, colleague, direct report (or even significant other). Doing this will likely give you food for thought and help you to become aware of any blind spots that could derail you.
2. You are being black-and-white in your thinking
Sometimes, clients have an initial fear that developing in a certain area will cause them to become someone they don't want to be. For example, when talking to a client about his tendency to avoid conflict, I hear something like, "I don't want to be an aggressive jerk." Or in response to a suggestion that someone should be a less demanding manager I might hear, "I don't want us to be doing shoddy work."
If you are looking at personal development in black and white terms, you are forgetting that behavior occurs in matters of degree. Although it might feel like the two options are passive and jerk, or perfectionism and apathy, for example, there is actually a pretty wide range between those two extremes. Remembering the many shades of gray in behavioral styles will give you a greater sense of assurance as you experiment with new behaviors.
3. You think you don't have time
Perhaps you recognize that you would benefit from developing in a certain area; however, with the demands of work, you feel that you just don't have the time to devote to it. With your work load, you might feel that reading a book, going to a conference, or getting additional training are luxuries that you just can't afford to do. However, while these sorts of experiences are often part of a personal growth strategy, the best development process is one that is integrated into your work.
For example, if you could stand to be more assertive, reading a book on the topic would likely help you. However, at some point, you will actually need to put your learning into practice. And, where better to do so than in meetings that you are already attending as part of your job? Or, if you need to get better at prioritizing, you could start by taking time at the beginning of each work week to look ahead and make a list of the most important things to get done.
Instead of focusing on time constraints, look for opportunities to work on your development goals as you engage in business-as-usual. Doing so will increase the odds that you actually work on your goals, since it will be convenient for you. Further, it will give you the critical real-world practice that is going to make the biggest difference in the long run.
4. You believe you can't change
Maybe you believe that a development effort is a waste of time because you're "wired" to be a certain way. As a result, you think that there's no point in working on it, because that's just how you are. There is definitely a genetic component to many qualities, and so it is true that it's unlikely that you're going to go from incredibly shy introvert, for example, to the life of the party.
However, we all have the ability to grow (and neuroscience research is increasingly showing us how through changing our behavior, we can actually alter our neural pathways). In my professional experience, I have seen clients develop in all sorts of areas with intentional effort. And, I have also experienced such changes myself (for example, moving from a shy and quiet newbie consultant to someone who is incredibly comfortable and at ease meeting new clients). So, suspend disbelief, and give development a try.
See yourself in any of these beliefs? Read my book The Consummate Leader: a Holistic Guide to Inspiring Growth in Others...and in Yourself for practical strategies to grow in your career.