Several years ago, I was working with a client who was brilliant, talented, accomplished and highly educated. (Let’s call her “Ashley”). She was the sort of person who should have had plenty of opportunities coming her way. Yet, Ashley was really struggling in her job search. During the course of our career coaching sessions, it became clear that she was having challenges in her personal life as well. “What’s going on here?,” I asked myself. |
By consistently listening intently to Ashley’s words, I gained insight into the ways she thought. These thoughts, naturally, determined how Ashley felt and behaved – as well as how she reacted to people and circumstances, and how she made choices. Once I “tuned into” Ashley’s thinking patterns, I saw clearly what was holding her back. It was her “self-talk.”
We all do it. We go about our lives, doing what we do and living with an endless “tape” running in our heads. It’s a habit that is so ingrained that we don’t even notice this “noise” most of the time. But the “tapes” are in there, and they rule our lives – for better or worse!
In Ashley’s case, her “self-talk” was actually quite negative and self-defeating. It was limiting her options and keeping her “stuck.” I realized that unless we could address this issue, I would not be able to help Ashley move her career forward. She was not being held back by a bad resume or a challenging job market. Indeed, it was Ashley’s “internal script” of negative self-talk that was blocking her progress.
I had a serious conversation with Ashley, during which I shared my thoughts about this. After a moment of reflection, she said, “Well, I guess I’ll just have to ‘Flip my Script’ in order to create the sort of career and life I really want!” I smiled, nodded my head, and said, “Exactly!” I added that when a person is at a crossroad in his or her career, it is important to expose one’s fears or concerns, write them down, acknowledge them, and then ”Flip the Script.”
Of course, the “Flip the Script” technique has its limits. It is most effective when dealing with challenges that are practical, logistical or intellectual in nature. When there is a deeper psychological matter or a mental health concern, it would be better to pursue other kinds of strategies and treatments.
Ashley asked me how she should “Flip the Script.” So I asked her to take out a piece of paper and draw a vertical line down the center. I continued, “On the left-hand side, transcribe as many of your internal ‘tapes’ as you can. Write-down the actual words that run through your head all day about work, family, personal life, finances – everything!” Ashley began doing this, and after about ten minutes I told her to pause. “Now, on the right-hand side of the page, write-down the exact opposite of everything you see on the left-hand side.” Ashley did this for about ten more minutes, and I must say that she found this part of the exercise challenging! Our coaching session was over at that point, so I instructed Ashley to continue working on the assignment until our next meeting.
When Ashley returned to my office the following week, she had a big, beaming smile on her face. She pulled-out a paper-clipped stack of papers and handed it to me. What I saw “blew me away!” Ashley had worked very hard on this exercise throughout the week, and she had typed-up almost ten pages of “Flip the Script” material. She had made the left side of each page black and the right side blue. I went through the entire document with Ashley, and we made some important refinements to her “blue” text. When we were finished, I looked directly at her and said, “This is the script for your new life. If you internalize it and incorporate it deeply, you will create a different and better life – both professionally and personally. But it won’t be easy. Are you up to it?” Without missing a beat, Ashley exclaimed, “Absolutely!”
At this point, it would be helpful to show you what it actually looks like, to “Flip the Script.” Below are random examples of the “old script” (in bold) contrasted with the “new script.” They were gathered from many different clients, and of course their names have been deleted to protect their identities:
I fear that I don’t have the personality and skills to survive long-term in the work world. I am taking proactive steps to identify my weaknesses and equip myself with the tools I need to succeed long-term. I can learn anything if I want to and have to. I’ve been in difficult places before and I have always emerged stronger on the other side.
I am afraid that I will never have the self-confidence to take a job that will stretch and challenge me. I have the confidence to step-up to new challenges. I’ve done it before and I can do it again. By building on my successes and taking small steps outside of my comfort zone, I am growing in confidence.
I am afraid of failure and experiencing shame in front of co-workers. I welcome failure – especially as I learn from it – because all successful people fail many times before they truly succeed. It doesn’t matter what my co-workers think. I can only succeed when I put myself in a position where I might fail.
I am afraid that I will be unemployed and lose the respect of my family and co-workers. Being unemployed is a fact of life that affects almost everybody at some point. I am positive and proactive in creating an action-plan to be prepared for those seasons in life. My family accepts me unconditionally for who I am, not for my job.
I don’t feel comfortable being assertive as the leader when dealing with an opinionated or strong-willed employee. I was trusted enough to be given a position of authority for a reason. When dealing with a difficult employee, I am assertive. It’s not personal; it’s business. Other employees are not better than I am, and I don’t need to be intimidated by them.
I care too much about what others think of me. I focus on the mission and responsibilities that the company has entrusted to me, rather than the perceived opinions of others.
I am fearful of change. I love change! I grow, learn new things, experience new adventures and feel more alive as a person. Change is an opportunity for creativity and development in my career.
I can easily be taken advantage of. I know when the situation calls for me shift my position and when I need to stand my ground. I am committed to my ideals. I surround myself with mentors and colleagues who will support my position when needed.
I can “live in my mind” and seem aloof. I am observant, attentive and in-tune with my environment. I am responsive to others and interact with them in appropriate, productive ways. This, in turn, is good for my department and my company.
I am not good at “breaking the ice” or conducting “small talk.” I am excellent at initiating conversations with others and engaging in productive dialogue. My ability to do this has a positive impact on my career and my company.
I am not comfortable exercising authority over others. I earned this position and therefore I am uniquely qualified to do it. I am comfortable with being in charge and helping to make my team-members successful. Leadership is a privilege to bring out the best in others; using my authority is a means to that end.
I am not always clear on the “how” to get things done at work. I surround myself with others whose skills complement mine. I am taking more steps at work to initiate and plan tasks, and soliciting feedback on how to think through the logistics.
Sometimes I over-commit myself and don’t finish all my work on time. I am excellent at prioritizing my time, energy and resources. I have crystal clarity on what I say “yes” to and what I say “no” to. I am not afraid to say “no” or delegate tasks when necessary.
I am afraid that no matter what job I take, I might be disappointed. The bigger disappointment is not shooting high enough at critical junctures. I can move-on from any disappointment and do better the next time.
I tend to aim too high, and my expectations can be unrealistic. I can’t aim high enough because I can always push myself farther. I don’t want to feel like I’m “coasting.” If I don’t aim high, I’ll be underutilized and unfulfilled at work.
Down deep, I don’t really believe that I deserve success and fulfillment. If I don’t deserve success and fulfillment, who does? I am a smart, hard worker and a great team player. I relish being part of something bigger than myself that will be highly gratifying.
I am concerned that I might not survive a misstep in my career. I can survive a misstep and should not operate from a place of fear. It is normal and human to make mistakes; this is how I learn and grow.
If I secure a great work situation, I am afraid it won’t last. I work for myself no matter what company I’m with and no matter what job I have. So, trying to make any job last “forever” is not how to look at the future. I will put a strong network together, nurture it, and always keep an eye out for the next opportunity that fits my goals.
I don’t always trust myself. In the grand scheme of life, I make things happen for myself. Only I am qualified to promote my professional agenda. I will trust my impeccable instincts to navigate the changing business landscape.
I am overly ambitious, which sometimes causes problems in my career. I am realistic about what I can and should achieve. I move my career steadily forward in a deliberate, strategic manner.
I tend to be impulsive and react too quickly. I take my time to think things through and then respond calmly, intelligently and thoughtfully. This garners the respect and admiration of my co-workers.
You can probably guess the last part of this exercise. I told Ashley that to achieve her goals, she would need to memorize the entire right-side column of her document to keep the new items fresh in her mind and “on the tip of her tongue.” From that moment on, she would need to be vigilant about the way she thought and the words she spoke. Ashley understood that it would take discipline and determination to “catch herself” each time she fell back into old patterns and replace them with the options in her new “script.”
Ashley took-on the challenge and worked hard to be very conscious and deliberate about her thoughts and her words. Within only a few weeks, things started to improve in Ashley’s career. Her entire job search picked-up momentum, and her job interviews went much better. After receiving several job offers, Ashley ultimately landed an exciting opportunity in another city and relocated with her family. She has been in that role for a few years now, and she reports that “it’s going great!”
Ashley’s case may have been a bit more extreme or intense than some, but I believe that we could all use a bit of “Script Flipping.” I recommend that you pay closer attention to the “tapes” that are playing in your own head and update them to be more adaptive, healthy and productive. Like Ashley, this exercise could very well yield dramatic improvements for you – not just in your job search and career management, but potentially in every facet of your life!
Copyright © 2018, Career Potential, LLC. Reprinted by permission of Ford R. Myers, a nationally-known Career Expert and author of "Get The Job You Want, Even When No One’s Hiring." Download your free career success gifts now at http://www.careerbookbonuses.com.
Ford R. Myers is an award-winning career coach and President of Career Potential, LLC. He is author of the best-seller, Get The Job You Want, Even When No One’s Hiring. Ford’s firm helps clients take charge of their careers, create the work they love, and earn what they deserve! He has held senior consulting positions at three of the nation’s largest career service firms. Ford’s articles and interviews have appeared in hundreds of magazines, newspapers, television and radio networks. He has also conducted presentations at many companies, associations and universities. Learn more at www.CareerPotential.com or contact Ford directly at 1-800-972-6588.
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