What comes to mind when you answer the following two questions?
- What do you do professionally?
- How do you feel about your career?
The first is relatively straightforward:
I’m a student, a musician, an arts administrator, a lawyer, a business professional in transition.
The second is trickier because it gets beneath the surface and examines your attitude towards your career. When I ask this question in my class or in my workshops, I get a variety of answers:
- Eager to help others.
- Looking for opportunities to make it work!
- Frustrated that I am not further along and it’s all because other people don’t do what I want.
- Scared that I won’t make it so why bother.
- Determined to figure it out.
Notice the variety of answers!
In fact, throughout the day and the week, your perspective on your career can change depending on the circumstances. If you just given a fantastic performance or seminar or presentation, you are likely to feel pumped up. If, on the other hand, you have just experienced a setback, you may feel more uncertain, negative and fearful.
Which is truer? Feeling great after a good performance or feeling terrible after a setback?
Both are true to you in the moment. And both are a matter of your perception of your situation.
Over time, the more you stick to one perspective, the more it will become engrained as your default way of thinking. If you spend a lot of time perceiving the world from a place of scarcity, unfairness and fear, chances are that you are not going to feel successful—and other people will probably pick up on that energy.
If you find that the world is a friendly, welcoming place, you are likely to feel more successful and adopt the positive mindset of a successful music entrepreneur or leader.
And even if the negative thoughts are not with you all of the time, they may crop up from time to time, such as when you experience audition or competition rejection and hold you back.
What can you do when these thoughts arise so that you can adopt the positive mindset that is at the heart of being successful?
Notice Your Energy
The good news is that once you understand and are aware of your with respect to a particular situation, you can work on changing your perspective and begin in charge of yourself and your life.
The start of this process is to know about the energy levels.
Energy levels are the attitude you bring to a given situation. As we saw above, there are a variety of ways to perceive your career, which translate into six different energy levels*. These levels reflect your perception based on your past experiences. And people tend to be a combination of many, if not all of these energy levels, with one or two of the levels predominating.
The key is to examine the underlying thought that is associated with the attitude. So let’s take a closer look at the variety of attitudes that one can have to your career situation.
Stress-Inducing Energy Levels
Level 1: Worried
“I don’t want to think about this. I can’t possibly figure out what to do with my career. What’s wrong with me? And what’s the use of trying? “
If your perspective of your career is at this level, you may tend to think of yourself as a victim. People at this level have undoubtedly experienced a lot of setbacks and thus feel that they have no choices. They tend to be apathetic towards their careers and do not do anything to improve their situations. People at Level 1 accept their victimhood, blame themselves, and live with a lot of guilt, fear, worry and other negative emotions.*
Level 2: Frustrated
“I’m smart. I’m talented. I should be able to do anything I want. I need to be better than everyone else in order to get ahead. Why can’t I get what I want?
Level 2 is the conflict level. At this level of energy, people feel a lot of anger and tend to blame themselves and others for not getting what they want. If you view the world from the perspective of Level 2, you tend to think that you can win only by force and that others must lose in order for them to win. People at this level might get what they want in the short run because they force themselves to act but in the long run, they are not successful because they are not effective colleagues.
There is a lot of stress in Levels 1 and 2! As we move up the ladder, things become much more positive.
Motivating Energy Levels
Level 3: Managing
“I am learning skills and gaining experience that will help me to advance in my career. I am responsible for my development and learning. If I make a mistake, I will figure out what I did and how I can be better next time.”
Level 3 is where we start to feel positively motivated. At Level 3, people take responsibility for their actions and handle situations with confidence and logic. They are focused on getting ahead but unlike the people in Level 2, they do not feel that others need to lose and therefore they do not experience anger at others or themselves.
Level 4: Service
“My career is my way to being of service and I really care about those around me. I’m committed to making genuine connections with others. If I do that, I know that I can succeed.”
Level 4 is about service to and concern for others. Level 4 people have compassion for what they do and for whom and with whom they do it. They form deep connections with others. In fact, people at Level 4 have a high degree of emotional intelligence.
Level 5: Opportunity
“I look for ways to create opportunities for others and for myself. We are in this together. Each person has a unique gift and when we collaborate, we will succeed. This is a win/win!
At Level 5, people aim to create opportunities from whatever happens and generate “win/win” solutions. They are the thinkers who focus on what is right, instead of what is wrong. People at this level are great at taking any challenge and turning it around. They also have high expectations of those around them and inspire others to achieve their potential.
Level 6: FLOW
“I love what I do and I am totally in the moment. When I am completely focused in the experience, I am at my best. I will find a way. I just know it and I feel amazing.”
This is the level of creative genius and visionary thinking or Flow!
Level 6 is where intuition comes alive. People at this level are calm and inspire. When they are in a state of Flow, time is suspended because what they are doing is so wonderful that they feel they could do it forever. They focus on the joy of the moment and exude confidence and positivity.
Here’s the good news about working with the energy levels:
Because they stem from your thoughts, you can actually change those thoughts and eventually change your energy!
So next time, we will learn how to work with the energy levels. If you want to get a head start, begin noticing what thoughts come up when you think about your career.
What is your attitude?
What energy level does this correspond to?
With this awareness, you will be ready to take action to adopt a positive mindset!
*Adapted from Bruce D. Schneider, Energy Leadership (Wiley 2008).
*Photo Credit: Flickr/myvector