If you’re like most people, your career path started out pretty much like this: You went to college, thought you were interested in a couple of subjects (or really knew you disliked others), and decided on a major.
When you graduated you jumped on the first possible job that would take such an invaluable (but full of potential) individual with a college degree. Now, whether that’s your current situation or you’ve had several jobs since then, you’re probably still in the same place.
What’s the same place we’re talking about? I’m talking about a state of boredom, dissatisfaction, disbelief and overall unhappiness with work. But how did this happen?
Where is the reward we expected to show up after graduating? Didn’t we think that the thousands of dollars invested in a career would land us a sweet jobs paying okay money and then we could simply just “work our way up”? Don’t jobs just magically get better?
For most people, reality is far different than you expected…
The reality looks more like this: You graduated college, found the first job that would take you (it may not even have been in your field!), worked there a couple of months, realized you hated it.
At first, you thought perhaps you made a bad first choice, so then you got a different job, only to come back to the same conclusion. With time (and more job changes) you start wondering to yourself “did I make the wrong call? Is there such thing a satisfying job? Does the rest of my 40+ year career mean doing this? Maybe I should consider gradschool”.
If this is you, you’re not alone. Many people begin having serious self-doubt the moment the reality of their professional outlook sinks in. Often they have a mini “midlife crisis” or a “quarter life crisis” and begin doubting the decisions they made along the way. They feel empty, disappointed and lost.
Once you have this realization, things play out one of two ways.
You play defense. You keep doing what you’re doing, hoping that one of the many jobs along the way will turn out to be better. You find some coping mechanism to try to deal with the dull the sting of those negative emotions.
You play offense. You start problem solving. You start thinking of solutions. You start evaluating your options.
These two scenarios lead to significantly different paths.
The first leads to a life of complacency, or dissatisfaction.
It is a non-choice made by those that hope to just not lose in life (defense). This path is dangerous because it leads to loss of personal power. It makes you bounce from job to job hoping and wishing one day the perfect job the promotion we’ve been waiting for comes only to realize that the promotion will eventually feel no different than before. This is a scary path.
The second leads to a life of satisfaction and control.
This group of people are the ones that don’t just play in the game of life to not lose, but they play to win (offense). They, unlike the first group, realize that they are in control of their circumstances. They question their decisions in the same way the first group does, but their thinking creates action and the action creates better solutions and more life satisfaction.
So, how do you play offense instead of defense?
Here are the 4 differences between playing offense vs. defense when evaluating your career path.
Proactivity- playing offense requires work. There’s a quote by Maya Angelou that says “nothing will work unless you do” . This means identifying possible solutions to your dissatisfaction. It begins by being proactive and rather than waiting for something to happen, it means making something happen.
Evaluating- Offense requires analyzing more than just the superficial facts. This means asking tough questions. What options do you have? What would make you happy? What specifically about this job doesn’t appeal to you? If you realized you needed to change directions would you have the guts to do it? And if you did, could you formulate a solid alternative plan? These questions are the source of hope and the door to new opportunities.
Desire- This is one of the most important differentiators between those playing offense versus defense. Napoleon Hill once said that “Desire is the starting point of all achievement, not a wish, not a hope, but a pulsating desire that transcends everything”. The desire of those playing offense is to choose their life. The external factors simply do not matter when playing offense. They are simply problems that haven’t been solved yet.Their desire to win does not have an expiration date. They are constantly evaluating their progress, making appropriate changes, and then evaluating and making changes again. This mentality separates them greatly from the people playing defense who go through life hoping to one day (maybe) win.
Focus- Playing offense means keeping your eyes on the prize. It means continually performing towards the goal. Maybe your goal is making an impact, learning a new skillset, owning a business one day, or simply having a job you love. Whatever it may be, the focus is always on pressing forward. They use roadblocks as means of evaluation, tweaking and redirecting. They do not get caught up in the daily minutia and always keep working on their master plan.
Now, the tricky part is to honestly identify what group we fall into. Do you play offense or do we play defense? It is easy to fool yourself if you don’t ask yourself the right questions.
These questions are really up to each of us to decide. The good news is that it is never too late to play offense. The game of life is worth winning. There is no reason to merely exist and dwell on “shoulda, coulda, wouldas” one day. If you implement the offense mentality you are bound to get unstuck and move towards a path that leads to more satisfaction, more control, and more happiness.
Good news is, you are player and you get to choose which side you want to play on.
Get the FREE worksheet below for key questions to make sure you’re playing offense.
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