How to break the cycle of the career treadmill to nowhere

As an executive coach, I see three main challenges repeatedly surface for leaders seeking to better their careers, teams, and relationships.

The Treadmill to Nowhere

When things aren’t going well people get stressed and think that if they just try harder the situation will get better. They focus on one-size-fits-all strategies such as – work more hours, hold more meetings, take a course, call a recruiter, network more, get another degree, put in for another promotion, change for the sake of change, read more self-help or business books.

They think things will improve because of their fierce dedication when in fact doing more of the same just brings more disappointment, let down from unmet expectations, stress, lack of confidence and makes them feel exhausted on the treadmill to nowhere. They seek “more” instead of less. They can’t slow down enough to be vulnerable – to risk searching inside themselves where the answers always lie. So they end up more tired and stuck.

All the Right Stuff

All the right education, good grades, top tier schools, awards, experience, letters of reference, and measurable accomplishments in the world won’t matter if people don’t like, respect and want to connect with you. You need to have something they either a) want more of, or b) want to put to work for them. Your unique leadership value and likeability is your signature. Know what it is.

Getting another degree or certification is great if you have the time and money to do so or is required for your industry. Don’t confuse these credentials as a substitute for heightening your “It-Factor.” Done and noticed for your signature strength is better than perfect.

The False Mirror

This is the number one thing that holds people back from what they desire. We think we know how we are perceived. But the truth is we are so close to our own habits and familiar with our own perspectives that we can’t see what is obvious to others – we don’t know what we don’t know. We can’t see our blind spot. This kills executive presence.

Sometimes we get stereotyped without even knowing it. “She’s not executive material.” “He’s too emotional.” “He can’t take it to the next level.” We don’t understand why we aren’t progressing because we aren’t being a third-party observer of what others notice. We don’t ask for feedback because we don’t want to feel judged. Pride and lack of self-awareness get in the way. Then we lose assurance, become stressed and play it safe, making the situation worse.

The Emotional Toll of Getting It Wrong

Often by the time people start talking about how unhappy they are at work they have felt that way for so long that the stress and dejectedness has internalized into three key assumptions originally defined by psychologist Dr. Martin Seligman. They assume that the problem is 1) personal to them, 2) is pervasive across not only work but personal life as well and 3) that this current state of bad luck will last forever.

Corporate America has learned that “doing” has taken a toll on the workforce, innovation and engagement. Mindfulness programs and meditation sessions evolved organically at Google and Aetna and are now cropping up at offices around the globe. Participants in my eight-week Mindful Break course within a repeatedly always has a waiting list.  I teach an eight-week Mindful Break program within my organization and see improved stress reduction and coping skills as evidenced by surveys.

The world is much bigger than you think when you can take a mindful step back to look at it from a broader perspective. It starts with a pause and a deep breath. Achievers don’t want to believe this because they are used to “doing” to get what they want.

Follow a mindful pause with mindful daily routines such as setting a daily intention (I will be compassionate today), meditation, and keeping a gratitude journal and you will turn off the treadmill to nowhere and open the window to inspired results. Less is truly more. Here is a link to a mindful practice tip sheet that my clients use to break the cycle of the treadmill to nowhere – The Pause Café.