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Carve a way ahead

By Jim Bright
Mycareer: Opinion

Success is a matter of how you approach it, writes Jim Bright.

It is difficult to enjoy a merry new year when we are besieged by messages from smug, self-made, self-proclaimed "successes" who bully us into copying what they believe is their receipt for success. Yes, OK, OK, I get it: set goals because they work (no, they don't - not always, not often, in fact); you must really want success (not necessarily); and follow your passion (don't try it, you might get arrested for stalking).

If these folks were so successful and happy, why didn't they continue to do whatever they were doing, instead of queue outside the nearest TV studio as though it were opening time at the methadone clinic?

Most of us are more gentle folk who want peaceable lives, who aspire to get ahead, increase our children's education opportunities, manage our health, keep up with the rent or mortgage, care for our family, community and environment, and get that job or promotion. These are not lofty ideals associated with nonsense notions such as "peak performance". (What is that, anyway? Working in a cap?)

So what are the magic ingredients for getting ahead? If I believed I had the whole answer, I would be shouting it on telly. There are almost infinite quiet acts and thoughts that can contribute to getting ahead. Some come under "preparation"; others come under "opportunity".

The problem with the goal and planning freaks is they put most of their money on preparation and frequently overlook opportunity. That doesn't mean preparation is not valuable; it is. In career terms, now is the time for the resume makeover, and to consider the bigger picture of what you would like to contribute to this world in your privileged time upon it. At the same time, this very moment is a good time to consider the opportunities around you. While some might literally fall into your lap, they tend to be at strip clubs. More commonly, opportunities have to be found, created, chiselled out, unearthed and, most importantly, recognised.

Increasing our opportunity awareness is a very powerful way of helping us get ahead, and it is relatively straightforward to develop. Here are eight starting points for your new-year workout.

Make an effort to be more flexible Stretch your thinking and behaviour to allow you to do different things, or things differently, and tolerate others doing the same. You might find a better way of doing things.

Be curious Ask "Why?" and "Why not?" Follow your curiosity; take an interest.

Risk failing at something When the consequences will not be catastrophic, do something in which success is not guaranteed.

Try sticking at other things you value Recognise when you are getting frustrated and the voices in your head are telling you to give up, and learn to keep going.

Don't rely on a grand plan, but keep thinking of new plans Think about your situation, then draw up eight different plans to change it. Learning how to plan will help you take advantage of situations when the time comes.

Reflect on your strengths Every one of us is good at something, so do not underestimate yourself.

Believe that you are a lucky person Count your blessings and expect good luck.

Believe that things can be better Not only does optimism predict success in a range of endeavours but, whatever the outcome, you'll have had more pleasant experiences along the way.

Jim Bright is a professor of career education and development at ACU and a partner at Bright and Associates. Email: Twitter: @TheFactoryPod.

Published: 19 January 2013

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