So often when we consider new career opportunities, we are confronted with the negative voice of our own egos. I recently had one client deem hers “the ghost in the room.” Here’s a typical scenario: You’re changing professional roles and the voice tells you that the new team you’ll be working with doesn’t have confidence in you, or that someone else would have been more qualified to fill the position. You start to become weighed down by ideas and stories that you fabricate in your mind. You wind up creating assumptions about other people, their beliefs, and about yourself, and in the process, erode your self-confidence and convince yourself that you’re not good enough.
It’s crucial to identify this “assumption trap” pattern and acknowledge the “ghost in the room.” Self-judgment, coupled with creating assumptions about others, can impact your ability to see new career opportunities and possibilities and keep you from reaching your maximum potential.
Turn on “ask mode.”
One way to get out of the trap is to turn on “ask mode.” When you sense yourself getting entangled in a pile of assumptions, take a step back and, well, ask— others and yourself. Keep communication channels open and initiate honest conversation by asking those involved for their thoughts and opinions. One of my former clients had wanted to present a restructuring plan to upper management, but his inner ghost prevented him from moving forward in his career.
“My manager will not approve of me reaching out to his boss.” “They will think my proposal is outlandish.” During our coaching session, I asked him to explain his belief that his manager would not like his reaching out to his boss. My client concluded that he needed to get his manager’s opinion before presenting the plan to the VP and was surprised when his initiative was well received by his boss.
Come up with positive questions.
In addition to asking others, we must also stop and ask ourselves positive and exploratory questions. You may find yourself in the middle of a job search and feel unsure whether you are qualified for a position. Your inner ghost starts to moan. “I don’t have the skills for this job!” Before you let your ghost convince you, seriously ask yourself if you have the qualifications.
“How can I add value to this company? What is the relevant experience that I can bring to this role?” By asking positive questions such as these, you will be able to dispel negative assumptions that may be preventing you from taking that next step in your career and pursing new career opportunities.
As you fine-tune your mind’s “ask mode” setting, you may wonder what happens when your negative assumptions are realized. I encourage my clients to create open-minded questions (e.g. “What have I learned from this experience? How can I better prepare for the next time?”) and make a conscious effort to see perceived failures in a positive way. You may have finished an interview and felt very disappointed when it didn’t go well. Rather than being judgmental and letting in negative thoughts, stop and make a choice. Ask yourself what you have learned from the process.
Let yourself move into a learning mindset.
In this way, you start rewiring your brain to move into a learning mindset. Having this heightened awareness will help you to avoid the negative thoughts and setbacks that inevitably come with them.
In order to free yourself from the assumption trap, you must have the courage to muzzle the ghost in the room. You need to recondition your brain to create judgment-free questions. By just taking the time to ask, you free your mind from the clutter of unproductive thoughts and clear the way for progress and success.