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18 Career Enhancement Caveats

By David Krueger MD
Posted Thursday, February 24, 2005

Core value investing in your career

Many people walk through their lives never, ever being better at something than anyone else. What is it that you know or do better than almost anyone else in the world? What is it that you do uniquely well? Do your core values for yourself and your family fit with what you are doing, where you are putting your energy, what you are developing, and where you are focusing/immersing yourself?

In your career, as well as in your life, to achieve full capacity and happiness, all of you must be going in the same direction. For career and personal success to achieve its fullest potential, the inside and the outside must match: strength, motivation, passion, strategies and goals must be consistent with who you are and be an extension of who you are -- not to define yourself, but to be defined by you. The application of focus and direction on your potential and goals with all of you going in the same direction allows expansion of strength and measurable results to achieve your vision.

Knowing what you want to achieve is crucial, with a game plan, specific steps, and measurable results. Review your responses in these four areas.

What do you want to achieve?
What do you want to maintain without change?
What do you want to change?
What do you want to delete or avoid?

Investing in your core values is synonymous with the pursuit of simplicity. Your decisions are your self statements, not statements about anyone else. Simplicity includes not taking things that others say personally, but recognizing that they, too, are making self statements; discerning internal versus external point of reference; owning rather than blaming your decisions and their results; creating reality rather than believing in fate. Change does not happen, you create it.

Your assumptions and beliefs drive your behavior. Coming to the end of the past is not enough: you have to have a purpose, a dream consistent with your internal ideal in order to have hope. A game plan and goal actualize hope, the confident expectation that something good can be created. You move toward what you picture in your mind. Pinpoint focus and laser precision of that picture allow the pathway of a plan and the flexibility of strategy to have a context and meaning.

What you believe to be true about yourself will become true. What you believe will work well can be changed to become that which works well. Change may involve new ways of thinking, doing, being, and growing. If you let someone recommend a solution or strategy for you, unless you fit it to your situation and ideal, you will be getting a suit tailored to someone else. If you want to change your life, your performance, and your career, change your mind first. At times, however, you may simply look for patterns in your behavior, find out what is working, and create that more often, and that will change your mind. A wise and experienced addiction counselor who was one of my treatment team members would say to some of his clients, “Sometimes you just gotta act your way into thinkin’ and feelin’ different.”

18 Career Caveats

When your head and your gut (what you think and feel) both agree, and act accordingly, you won’t go wrong.

It is disregarding, deleting, or covering over one or the other that results in compromise. Emotional goals and internal values must be consistent with external plan and vision.

Having a definition of success and an internal ideal of “good enough” are essential for satisfaction.

Epicurus indicated, “Nothing is enough for the man for whom enough is too little.” A passage in one of Schumann’s piano sonatas marked, “As fast as possible” followed a few bars later with the admonition, “Faster.” The most outstanding characteristics of the superachievers I have known are that all of them love their work and their play.

Rich is knowing you have enough.

An internal definition of success may not be easily mapped. And it may be defined differently by men, by women, and even individual by individual. The familiar model of male competition makes measurement of external success clearer. But internal success is measured by ideals, relatedness with important others, and comfort with one’s self; esteem that only results from having internal ideals and leading up to them.

Long-term goals are necessary to keep perspective, while short-term goals are necessary to sustain enthusiasm and tolerate frustration.

Short-term setbacks are an essential part of achieving success within the orientation and organization provided by long-term goals. In learning to walk, the toddler’s fall is not a failure but part of the process of learning to walk. When you have the endpoint of your purpose clearly in mind, you can more easily keep setbacks in perspective.

Respect the boundaries between work and private life.

In order to be fully immersed in your work at your office, and your private life when you are home, a clear boundary between the two must exist for each day, each weekend, and for designated vacation periods. In order to be maximally effective when you are at work, making time for a private life and for play is crucial. Creativity, which can be nurturing in itself, needs time to ferment, develop and expand. Though you may enjoy and feel rewarded by your work, play is equally important.

Develop your emotional and interpersonal expertise as well as your technical expertise.

Both can be finely tuned and mutually enhancing. Consider also when different listening positions may be more effective. At times a colleague or employee may need your empathic ear; at other times, an objective, even confrontational position may be needed. Part of establishing a goal is identifying who you need to work with. Then identify the skills, knowledge, and abilities you need to develop in order to reach the goal. Thinking, feeling, and imagining are all active forms of doing something. Yet thinking, feeling, and imagining are different from action. Physical action is not the only form of doing something. You can’t simply apply willpower to become happy or undepressed; the emotional issues that interfere and facilitate have to be addressed.

A potential space between urge and action is where judgment resides.

“What is in my best interest?” is a question that can always be in the background, and at times the foreground. Thinking about something and considering it is a response, one that may be necessary at times when you feel the urge to act, or may be feeling the pressure from others to act. There are few true emergencies in life.

You’ll never do anything important that will feel comfortable in the beginning.

Mastery requires you to proceed despite your anxiety. You can’t learn to swim by figuring it out on paper or in your head. Mastery and effectiveness convert anxiety and uncertainty to comfort. Anxiety is often assumed to be bad, as a signal of danger as if may have been in an earlier context. Consider anxiety as a signal that you are proceeding in new territory, beyond where you’ve been before. Anything really important requires a commitment to going forward despite discomfort. Assess what reaching a goal will do.

It is important to know what achieving a goal will do in order to distinguish clearly what it will not do. For example, reaching a career goal will not undo the past, or make other troubles go away. Having more money won’t make a marriage relationship better.

Just having a choice can make choosing the same thing feel very different. Not only can you change, but you can choose how you change. Insight and understanding are internal change; external change is another step in and of itself. Every step of growth and change involves its own mourning; you have to relinquish a past position in order to move ahead. What you decide to accept undergoes a change. The only familiar territory is behind you. Danish philosopher, Soren Kierkegaard said, “Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards.”

Growth and change are hard. The only thing harder is not growing or changing.

Recognize your own limits in order to achieve success. It may be difficult to recognize those limits and to seek the advice of others. It may seem a weakness or an acknowledgement of limitation to consult with an expert. Failing to recognize the limits of your knowledge in any area, or being unable to admit mistakes, can profoundly hamper your judgment.

Admit mistakes in order to cut losses.

For instance, the prospect of selling a plunging stock at a loss may make the loss so concrete and real that you will have difficulty selling. As long as the stock isn’t sold, you can retain the hope that it will rise again. It is as if the loss is not real until the stock has sold, because it’s only a loss on paper. The hope of salvaging a loss may ensure further losses. Be able to recognize that success and sound decisions in one arena did not guarantee success in others. Physicians and other professionals are notorious for believing that since they have achieved success in one specialized field, their ability automatically spreads to other endeavors such as investments. With little time to research investments or conduct business activities, uninformed decisions may prevail.

Be willing to seek suggestions, critiques, and advice and not to take it personally.

Consulting only with those who mirror and agree with your opinion is far easier than listening objectively to critical or contradictory information. The decision to seek consultation from individuals knowledgeable in specific areas may be as logically sound as it is emotionally difficult. Distinguish lack of information and organization from unconscious conflict. Further information, strategy, and redoubled efforts will continue to not work if emotional conflict creates a barrier. To make an informed decision if the structure/plan itself is inadequate and needs to be changed, performance at the full level and capacity within that structure is first required.

Planning and strategy are essential components of a game plan.

Planning is creating an agenda for what you want to happen. Strategy is having a view and structure of how you will proceed. Strategy includes flexibility, because you can’t always predict exactly what will happen or how you will need to respond. The most common reason for failing at a game plan is not having one. The second most common reason is having a game plan but not sticking to it.

Examine the process that gets you to a good result. Examine the process that gets you to a bad result.

You can learn immensely from both. Any plan for success must incorporate the understandable fear of taking risks and making mistakes as a necessary stepping-stone to goals.

About the Author
David Krueger, M.D. is an Executive Strategist/ Professional Coach ( Email He is author of 11 books on success, money, work, and self-development. This article is excerpted from Dr. Krueger’s 12th book, soon to be published, LIVE A NEW LIFE STORY: The Essentials of Change, Reinvention, and Personal Success.


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