We’ve come to live in a virtually instantaneous world. Technology has sped up interactions between people and the delivery of items and services, and created within us a need for instant gratification.
In our communications we have become used to getting instant responses to our instant messaging interactions; for our entertainment we now prefer watching several episodes of a series all at once, rather than waiting to watch one episode each week.
This culture of instantaneous results has become entrenched in our expectations – we now expect similar levels of immediacy in all aspects of our lives, from our romantic liaisons to our careers.
Unfortunately, life’s not actually like that, as much as it may feel that way in this fast-paced, hyper connected world in which we live.
There are still many areas of life where the wheels turn more slowly. One such area is your career. Unless you’re some kind of prodigy who graduated from university with a doctorate at the age of 15, you are going to find that your career is a long and winding journey, requiring dedication, effort and, above all, the right mental approach.
You need to gear yourself up for the long run, and realise that you are going to have to work your way through the various stages of your chosen career – it’s not going to happen for you all at once.
There is a well-worn cliché that applies here – after all, clichés have become that because they have proven to be repeatedly true. It’s this: a journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.
Almost all successful executives will tell you that the way they fulfilled their career ambitions was to approach their careers one step at a time. They didn’t come out of university expecting to become managers immediately. They understood that getting to the top of a mountain unavoidably means starting right at the bottom, and putting one foot in front of the other to reach the summit.
This is the approach you should take to your career. By all means, set goals for what you want to achieve, and the positions you want to hold. Just realise that right now you need to concentrate on the immediate steps that are right in front of you. A very good way to do this is to remind yourself daily that your next step is simply to do ‘the next right thing’ that lies in your path. Whether it is delivering on a small task, or taking a course to supplement your education and advance your career – it’s all about doing things step by step.
There’s a very good and simple reason why the career journey is so long. It is an aspect of life, like becoming a good parent or going on a banting diet, where it takes a long time to accumulate the knowledge, experience and ability required to succeed. It’s very rare that one is immediately good at something this complex.
We need to put in the hours, show dedication, and constantly learn and develop if we are to reach our goals. Often we need to practise enough before we can take the next step.
So the best approach you can take to your career is to combine patience with perseverance, refuse to compromise on your ambitions, and realise that you need to commit to a long-term process.
That way you’ll not only reach your goals and reap the rewards, but you’ll have the satisfaction of always being able to say that you are investing meaningfully in your life journey.