Clear mental clutter to gain career clarity

By Felicity Dwyer | Career change

Nov 30
Woman with cluttered brain

Many of us tackle some clutter clearing from time to time, and often this is about getting rid of unwanted physical “stuff”.

But what about mental clutter? This could include outdated assumptions or ideas that could that be getting in the way of making beneficial changes or stepping up a level in our career or business.

I’ve just been inspired to do a late autumn clutter clear in my office. Getting rid of redundant papers, sorting out my files and disposing of some old boxes (including baby slings last used in 2009!).

Clearing outdated physical clutter set me thinking about the internal clutter we also hang onto for too long. Are any of these things clogging up your mental shelf space?

Redundant qualifications

It can be hard to let go of hard-won qualifications. If you took a law degree for example, does that mean you always need to work in the legal field? Of course not, but sometimes it’s hard to let go of a past achievement in order to follow a career path that is right for us now.

Self-judgements

It’s so tempting to judge ourselves against our peers or even some external imagined standards. We may metaphorically beat ourselves up for not reaching a certain level in our career by a certain age. Or compare ourselves against other people. But everyone’s life path is different, and some of the most interesting and accomplished people didn’t find their vocation until quite late. The bestselling writer Mary Wesley published her first adult novel at the age of 71.

Too many ideas

Ideas flowing Making a clear decision about a career, or a business niche, can be scary, because it means letting go of all the other ideas of things we “could” do. It means closing down possibilities, at least for now. In career or business planning, there is a time for generating lots of ideas and possibilities, and this can be valuable. But to make things happen you have to take action. And to take action means making a decision. And making a positive decision to follow one path means letting go of another direction, at least for a while.

I say for a while, because it is perfectly possible to build a successful portfolio career with different strands and income streams. But there is a danger in trying to do everything all at once, and power in making a decision and staying focused on one thing for a while, to give it a chance.

Perfectionism

Perfectionism can hold you back. Trying something new involves risk, whether that’s going for a promotion or starting a business. You will make mistakes, and that can be painful. If perfectionism is one of your traits, take some time to work out what it’s costing you. Wanting to do a great job, and putting in the graft is well worth it. But expecting perfect results when you do something for the fist time can set yourself up for disappointment and a sense of failure.

In his book The Chimp Paradox, Dr Steve Peters suggests that if you set your bar for success as “doing your best”, then this is always achievable. You may not do something brilliantly first time, but you can always gain satisfaction if you know that you gave it your best shot and did the best you could at the time.

Outdated dreams and visions

Creating a vision of where you want to go to in business or life is valuable and important. It can give you a sense of direction, a compass to navigate the choices and opportunities that come your way. But we change and what matters to us can change. If you made a decision some time ago to follow a certain direction, it may be time to check in and make some adjustments. And be mindful of differentiating between a setback along the way, and a true change of heart.

Find a listening ear

If your mind feels cluttered with ideas, concerns or judgements, then it can be invaluable to speak to someone. A chat with a friend can help clear the mental cobwebs. And do think seriously about working with a coach too. A few sessions with a good coach can help to shift outdated thinking, and clear space for fresh new ideas to come in.

And if you would like some help, email me to request a free telephone consultation.

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About the Author

Felicity is a career coach. She help people who want to change career, start a freelance business, or build their confidence. Felicity writes about career and business development, leadership and personal effectiveness.

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