5 ways to unlock clarity, purpose and confidence
The women in our community want to create careers and lives that they love, but many feel like they’re living life on autopilot, without enough time, space, strategies or support to get off the never-ending treadmill and consider what is missing that would bring them more fulfillment and joy. Other women in our community are held back by feelings of doubt, an overriding sense of imposter syndrome, and a constant feeling of overwhelm. If this feels like you, here are 5 ways you can unlock more clarity, purpose and confidence.
1. GET CLEAR ON YOUR VISION
Do you have a vision for how you want to live your life?
Over the past decade, I’ve asked thousands of women whether they have a life vision. It’s one of the most important questions we can ask ourselves. And yet it’s also one we spend the least amount of time contemplating.
Although it’s a challenging question, without a life vision we can end up living on autopilot, where we’re just going through the motions. We’re on that treadmill and running for our lives. We’re not looking left and we’re not looking right, because we think we’re going to fall off.
The other thing that can happen when we don’t have a vision is that we’re living our life following someone else’s agenda or someone else’s vision for our lives. That can be our partner, our parents, our children or it can be our boss or our best friend.
Sadly, it’s an all-too-common scenario. In her incredible book, The Top 5 Regrets of the Dying, author Bronnie Ware shares from her years working in palliative care that the number one regret of the dying is “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”
So how do you get clear on what you most want for your life and what it would look like to live a life true to yourself? There’s a wonderful 4-step process to create your life vision that we take women through, or you can begin by reflecting on these questions:
- If you could have anything in the world right now, what would you ask for?
- If you could give up one thing that was weighing you down, what would it be?
- What are the values that you hold most sacred?
- If you followed the joy in your career and your life, where would it lead you?
- What is your definition of success?
- What is your greatest dream for your work?
- What is your greatest dream for your life?
2. BUILD PURPOSE AND MEANING
One of the biggest questions that women ask about their careers is how do I find my purpose? We know from research that for most people, purpose is built, not found. And that working with a sense of purpose day in, and day out is an act of will that takes thoughtfulness and practice.
There are two helpful ways to look at it:
- Where can you find meaning in the work you are already doing?
- Where might there be a greater purpose on the horizon to be discovered?
If you want to build more meaning at work, which is proven to lead to more fulfilment and positive outcomes, you might enjoy this article, 4 ways to create more meaning at work.
And when you’re thinking about a greater purpose on the horizon, there are two helpful questions you can ask:
- What do you care about?
- How can you become masterful at that?
If you stopped stressing about finding your purpose and making money from your calling and instead asked yourself these two questions, what would you discover about yourself and your work in the world?
Take out all the concerns about how you could turn a passion into a vocation. Take any income out of the equation. Take out the worries about when, where, what people will say, and how on earth you can transition. Just start by asking: What do you care about?
Is it education, disrupting the system, empowering teenagers, re-homing animals, nursing, making pottery, being a general manager, starting a small business, wellness coaching, making art?
What do you care about? Make a list. Circle the things on that list that really light you up. Things that you would do or have in your life, even if no-one ever noticed, cared or paid you. Then go and do those things, or one in particular, in small ways. Keep doing it. Explore it. Play with it. Ignite and reignite your passion for it. Then work out how you can become masterful at it. Let your purposeful path unfold.
3. CREATE RADICAL CONFIDENCE
Confidence is one of those things that can leave you feeling perplexed. When we’re feeling less than confident, it’s easy to look around us at women we think of as successful and imagine that they never have any issues with their own confidence: they never question their right to be in the meeting, never think twice before expressing an opinion or putting themselves forward for a promotion, always speak up for themselves, and rarely think that they’re not good enough. But the startling truth is, even the most seemingly confident women are often anything but.
Research tells us that more than fifty percent of female managers have feelings of doubt about their performance at work, compared with roughly thirty percent of men. There’s no denying that a lack of confidence can be draining, and that time spent worrying, over-preparing, perfecting your ideas and second guessing yourself can really deplete your energy.
It’s challenging, to say the least.
Until a few years ago, there wasn’t a scientific definition for confidence that was helpful in enabling us to be more so, nor a good framework that would light the path forward. But after decades of work, researcher Richard Petty discovered that ‘confidence is the stuff that turns our thoughts into actions.’
So, if we know that to be true, the big question is, what stops us?
Often, it’s the stories we tell about ourselves.
We are constantly creating stories, as our minds try to make sense of what’s happening around us. At the same time our brains are constantly processing and tapping into what has happened in the past, which shapes our beliefs about who we are, what we believe to be true, what we are capable of, and what we think we deserve.
When they turn negative, they can significantly impact, and even derail, our confidence. We need to learn how to stop our negative thoughts from taking hold of us and allowing our self-berating stories to run our lives (and our careers).
The good news is, there’s a simple 3-step strategy that you can use to understand and manage your stories, thereby taming your inner critic. You can read more about this strategy in our free guide 3 steps for taming your inner critic.
4. UNDERSTAND WHERE YOU’RE AT ON THE CAREER MASTERY CURVE
One of the most beneficial things you can do to unlock more clarity and confidence in your career, is to understand a framework called the career mastery curve and reflect on where you’re at right now and what this means for your career journey.
This is the model from inside our program. The career mastery curve plots competence on the vertical axis and time on the horizontal axis. And there are three core phases along what is commonly known as an ‘S’ curve. The ‘novice’ phase, the ‘experienced’ phase and the ‘mastery’ phase.
In the novice phase, you might be early in your career, new in your role or working on a project that you’re not very experienced in. You may have changed functions or industries, which in some ways has put you back at the bottom of the learning curve. You may have been promoted into a management or leadership role, and even though you have core subject matter expertise, you don't have expertise in management and leadership.
I often refer to this stage on the mastery curve as the white-knuckle period. It's where you are really holding on, sometimes for dear life, as you are learning and growing. You need self-compassion and grit as you start working your way up from novice towards the experienced phase of the curve. The novice phase is something you can experience no matter how far through your career you are because there can always be aspects of your role where you’re back at the novice stage. In fact, this stage is often a good sign that you’re continuing to learn and grow and take on new challenges.
The second part of the career mastery curve is the experienced phase. This is where you have a solid level of expertise, and a level of comfort in both the strategy and the execution of your role. Others see you as an experienced operator, and you're confident in your ability to get the job done. You still have a level of excitement and challenge in the role that you're in and you can still see growth ahead of you.
As you reach the top of the curve, you reach the mastery phase. At this stage you’re at the top of your field or excelling in your role and you are considered an expert. You may be familiar with the 10,000 hour rule, which came from research by Anders Ericsson, Professor of Psychology at Florida State University, who studied what it takes to be the best in the world in domains such as music, chess, medicine, and sports. Ericsson found that 10,000 hours of deliberate practice was required to reach expert level in any skill.
Whilst this number and research has been contentious in recent years, it still points to the fact that deliberate practice is necessary to get to expert level in anything, including our professional roles. For practice to be considered deliberate, it must involve trying activities beyond your current abilities, having well-defined goals, as well as a teacher or mentor who provides feedback and helps you achieve those goals.
When you reach the top of the mastery curve you’re also in a position with your level of expertise that you can teach, mentor and advise others, and you can see broadly and integrate across areas.
At this point in your journey, you may be starting to seek out new challenges, or different opportunities and areas for expansion. And often you may be starting to feel stifled or a bit bored. You may have lowered your engagement levels and lost some enthusiasm in your role. When I see this with women in our program who are wondering why they are feeling apathetic, where before they were so passionate, it often turns out that they are right at the top of the mastery curve, and are simply ready for their new challenge. They're ready to jump to the next mastery curve and start back at the bottom to learn and grow again.
It's important to realise and acknowledge where you’re at on the career mastery curve, even if it’s different from what other people's expectations are. It’s a significant level of maturity that you can bring into your career understanding, acceptance and planning. It also allows you to question if you are where you want to be, or if there is a shift that needs to take place.
5. FOCUS ON YOUR WELLBEING
The old adage goes that you don’t know what you have until it's gone. Sadly, for so many of us, this is true of our health. We spend our lives pushing and punishing our bodies with too much work, the wrong food, little sleep and toxins like alcohol, then wonder why we have no energy, fluctuating moods, untold stress, and lifestyle illnesses that could be prevented with healthier habits.
We take our health for granted, usually until we can’t anymore. I see so many women in the Women Rising community and among my friends who have become burnt out or ill. Or they’ve suffered a physical injury like their back going out, which is often our bodies’ only way of getting us to stop.
Wellbeing is our ability to feel good and function effectively, and it’s often not a straight line or easy path for many of us. It takes deep intention and commitment not just to optimise our physical health, but as importantly to invest in our mental, emotional and spiritual wellbeing. It can be small steps, not giant actions, which make the greatest difference and most positive impact on your daily vitality.
In the Women Rising program, the module on Intentional Wellbeing is packed with evidence-based strategies to fuel optimal wellbeing. We talk about the pathways to becoming physically energised, emotionally connected, mentally focused and spiritually aligned. There really is so much to teach on this topic. For now, think about the core elements of wellbeing and what you need to focus on right now. Is it better quality sleep, nourishing nutrition, more movement, connecting with loved ones or perhaps restoring your energy more frequently or deeply? Small steps in each of these areas can change the game and lead you to more intentional wellbeing. Pick one thing today and go from there.