Written by Russell Johnson
Career stagnation may not be officially recognized as a disease, but its subtle and not-so-subtle stresses exact a toll. Over time, they can contribute to the development of recognized and serious diseases.
It’s a good idea for all of us to search our lives for these stresses. Once we acknowledge and address them, we can greatly improve our career fulfilment and enjoyment of our lives. The earlier we start, the better.
A vicious cycle typically underlies a struggling career. Often, it begins with a lowered level of self-esteem due to failure to recognize and address a self-defeating behavior pattern. This can lead to attempts to compensate, that fail and lead to frustration and demoralization.
Unfortunately, the longer this continues, the more damage will be done. Confidence is likely to suffer. The deeper we dig this hole, the more difficult it becomes to get out of it. We can end up chasing an ever-receding level of wellbeing.
If you are working in a highly political environment, it will be toxic. This may be acceptable in the short term if you are in a position to change it and are deeply invested in doing so. If on the other hand you accept that you can’t change the situation, and you try to live with it by participating in the political warfare, you will only condition yourself to see life as a field of battle.
You’ll be damaged by accepting that perspective. Regrettably, it results in carrying stress outside the workplace and affecting your relationships with others, even loved ones. However, if you become passive instead, you will risk demoralization. And that, too, will result in carrying stress outside the workplace and affecting relationships with others.
In short, if you’re working in a highly political environment and you’re not in a position to help change it, the best thing you can do is leave. And it’s essential to do so on your own terms. Because the way we leave one environment tends to affect how we enter the next one.
Workplaces vary enormously in their levels of harmony; a collaborative, harmonious one benefits everyone; a toxic one ultimately harms all those who accept it. Certainly, you don’t have to accept such a workplace. The best antidote, if you’re not in a position to change it, is to find a better environment.
Above all, look for a leader (or a board, if you’re a CEO) that you can respect and trust. Seek a leader who is principled, skilled in managing and defusing conflicts when they arise, and who inspires harmony.
Loss of Confidence
Whatever we accept in our lives sends a message to our subconscious mind. If the message is not empowering, it will be disempowering.
This principle has great power for good or harm. We need to remember that all of our actions are also messages to our subconscious mind regarding the kind of person we are – or more correctly, the kind of person we see ourselves to be.
The subconscious is like a robot; it cannot make judgments about the messages we send it. However, it’s responsible for helping us maintain consistency with our own self-image. So it will work to perpetuate in our lives the messages we send it consistently.
You may be familiar with the technique of affirmations. They’re a valuable tool in making ourselves into the people we want to be, but actions speak louder than words. If we say one thing to ourselves and yet consistently do another, the subconscious won’t be fooled. On the contrary, our actions work deeply on the subconscious. As the principle, ‘actions speak louder than words’ suggests, our actions let us know who we are, and help us faithfully replicate this sense of ourselves in our lives.
That is to say, affirmations are only helpful if we’re ready to commit ourselves to the effort that’s required to live up to them.
This is a much larger subject than we can address adequately here. For now, just remember that we must keep our actions in harmony with our self-talk – and that it’s entirely feasible to do so.
Remember, too, that confidence is palpable. That is, it’s not something we can keep to ourselves. Others will recognize whether we have it or not. And it will shape our careers fundamentally because it’s an attribute of leadership. We may have exceptional levels of ability, but without confidence, our strengths are unlikely to win respect.
To flourish in our careers, we need to know how to nurture confidence.
Our physical health is to some extent a barometer – not of atmospheric pressure but of the pressure we are experiencing in our lives.
It’s well established that higher positions in society are correlated with better health. This could, of course, be seen as a simple case of cause and effect, where those blessed with good health are more likely to end up in leadership positions. And that’s undoubtedly true, as far as it goes. But it’s far from the whole truth, and the reality is anything but simple.
The deeper truth is often best seen in the lives of those who reach high levels of responsibility and enjoy high levels of respect, though they may have ‘started from behind’ regarding health and social position. A compelling sense of purpose, along with responsibility, and respect, are themselves generative of good health. In part, that’s because they stimulate the production of beneficial neurotransmitters such as serotonin.
When serotonin levels are optimal, we are not easily stressed. Those who become most skilled in maintaining control of their own minds, improve their health and their ability to reach and maintain the kind of leadership roles that are most conducive to continuing good health.
Again, this is a subject for expansion at other times. However, if we keep the central principle that our careers can help or hinder our health in mind, it will help us remain aware of the dangers of allowing stagnation into our lives.
In conclusion, if you are currently under stress, and your career is stagnating, your health alone is an excellent reason to refuse to accept it any longer. And to act to rectify the situation.