Category: Psychology

What’s This Going to Cost Me?

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Being self-employed has been a real eye-opener, because it has allowed me to see things from both sides of a sales transaction. Similar to everyone else, being a consumer, I’m concerned about the cost of things. On the other hand, having to offer my services and figuring out what to charge has been challenging. As such, when people inquire into my services, most people will typically first ask, “What’s this going to cost me?” I completely understand this question as a consumer because we all need to know if we can afford a purchase. However, when it comes to coaching and  counselling services, I suggest that this is not the first question that you should be asking. The main question you should be asking when considering counselling services is, “Will this make my life better than what it already is?”

Scarcity versus Abundance

I firmly believe that people have many types of mindsets. One type of mindset is that of ‘abundance’ and the other is one of ‘scarcity’. I would argue that the majority of people have a scarcity mindset, which sees limitations instead of opportunities. Individuals with this way of thinking see shortages everywhere. Everything is something to hoard or fight over because there will never be enough. I believe that it was this mindset that was the main reason for the empty shelves of canned produce during the start of the COVID pandemic in 2020. There was also a shortage toilet paper and paper towels on the shelves as well. Interestingly, I could understand why people were concerned about food, but what was up with the toilet paper?! Luckily, everything did come back into balance when the media reassured people that there were no actual shortages.

Coincidently, the scarcity mindset is a strong reason for why people stay in jobs that they do not enjoy or have little satisfaction, along with possessing a strong negativity bias. Individuals will not leave their current jobs if they do not believe that they can achieve something more meaningful and fulfilling. Many people believe that there is a finite level of ‘good’ jobs in the market, and do not want to lose the job they already have. It is this perspective of ‘loss’ that is prevalent in the minds of people with a scarcity mindset. This can also lead to hoarding what they have. Instead of making investments, they are afraid of losing what they already possess. However, the most corrosive aspect of this mindset is being envious or jealous of other people’s successes. Instead of viewing other people as a great source of information and chances to gain benefit, they see other people’s achievements as ‘stealing’ their opportunities. In the end, it is a winner versus loser view of life. Unfortunately, these feelings and perspectives of scarcity dominate critical life and career choices. It is the main reason why potential clients first ask the question concerning cost. They are not convinced of the ‘benefits’ of my services and the knowledge I can share. For those who do not join me, they view it as a loss.

On the other hand, an abundance mindset is about believing there can always be more. People with this view believe that there are more experiences to try, more life to explore, more things to fall in love with, and more ways to turn bad situations into successes. In many ways it shares similar aspects to a growth mindset, where you and your capabilities are not carved in stone, they can be changed and developed. With regards to career, these individuals believe that there are other jobs that are as good or even better than what they already have. Even when they experience a career setback, they treat that failed opportunity or event as a stepping stone towards greater knowledge, new skills and exciting experiences. When they see the successes of other people, they understand that their accomplishments do not take away, diminish or degrade their own. They are able to celebrate competition and the achievements of others, because it is a source of inspiration and motivation, pushing them to become better.

No one falls exclusively and totally into either a mindset of abundance or scarcity. For many people, there can be a substantial overlap. However, being in high level state of scarcity when making important decisions can be detrimental and give you an extremely biased and slanted perspective. So, to generate and grow an abundant mindset, try the following:

1. Focus on Gratitude

To create an abundant life, you can’t feel jealous about what other people have, and be extremely negative and unappreciative about what you have. Change your focus to feelings of gratitude for what your have achieved and what you have acquired. Focus on the idea of expansion and growth. You have strengths, passions, gifts and talents.  Treat these with great appreciation, especially for the relationships and blessings in your life.

2. Celebrate Competition

Many people can see competition as negative, perceiving it as winning or losing, success or failure, and better or worse. This is the main reason that losing can leave people with feelings of jealousy, bitterness and sadness. However, there are many people who can use competition to become better. Many people can be aware of how others are performing and use that as motivation and incentive to work harder and develop skills. If you can leave your ego at the door, competition can be a great strategy to develop an abundant mindset.

3. Don’t Be a Lone Wolf, Learn from Others

Many people believe that their career journey is a solo activity, trying to achieve progress on their own. Once again, they see achievements in the light of competition, as winning and losing. However, no one achieves anything alone. Leaders have exceptional teams and remarkable people accomplish extraordinary milestones on the works of other great people. Get help and use the wisdom, experience, skills and knowledge of those around you. This is the true mindset of abundance, surrounding yourself with people who also have an abundance mentality. As they say, “No person is an island.”

4. Do More of What You Love

Spending time on activities that you love doing, prepares you to grow and challenge yourself at bigger opportunities. You can only confront and tackle new experiences when you view opportunities as exciting, energising and motivating. This is the abundant mindset. The most effective way to have a long-term boring, monotonous and stagnant career is to keep doing activities that you detest and loath. This leads you to a perspective of scarcity, because you will never desire or reach for anything better.

5. Ask, “How is this going to grow me?”

Change your key decision-making question from “What is this going to cost me?” to “How will this grow me and make me better?” When you ask a ‘cost’ question, you are actually asking if the ‘price is too high’. Unfortunately,

most people give up on a better future and bigger dreams when they think that cannot ‘afford’ it. They see limits: the cost for greater education is too high, the drive to work too long, or the numbers of hours of work too tedious and hard. However, great dreams and abundance are not achieved by factors that limit you, they are accomplished through greater risk taking, employing your greatest talents and stretching your potential. The only thing standing between you and greater abundancy is your limiting beliefs and asking the wrong questions.

Jeez! You’re So Negative!

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Intuitively, we all realize that change can be difficult, especially with our careers, and even more so during a career transition. Many people remain in stagnant jobs, not because they necessarily enjoy it or find it meaningful, but because of the salary, benefits and prestige that come with it. This is known as the “golden handcuffs”. You might be experiencing this yourself.

I have encountered many of these client situations because people reach a stage in their career, where it becomes difficult to leave. Money, power, and status are powerful incentives, while also providing a very tangible level of safety and security. When a person has attained a very high income or position within a company, these are very powerful motivators for him or her not to leave. In many ways staying can certainly make rational sense. Why leave a sure thing, for the unknown? Unfortunately, you will never attain a great, fulfilling, meaningful and rewarding career, if you stay in one that you dislike or even hate. You will not be able to reach true career joy, if there is no growth, and your truest and highest potential is never reached. 

There are countless examples of people having moderately successful jobs, who risked security to get to a more fulfilling, and even more profitable career. A very well-known individual who achieved this is Jeff Bezos. Bezos was a senior vice president at D.E. Shaw & Co., a wall-street based investment banking firm. Having been out of college, Bezos was 30 years old, and while he had a career that was very lucrative, he was personally unfulfilled. When Bezos told his boss at the investment firm that he was quitting to start Amazon, his boss told him, “You know what, Jeff, I think this is a good idea, but it would be a better idea for somebody who didn’t already have a good job.” As you know, Bezos never took his boss’s advice and is now worth an estimated $139 billion. Other famous people who took major career risks are Richard Branson, Vera Wang, Harrison Ford, Sylvester Stallone, Elon Musk, Sam Yagan and Sara Blakely.

What is the real origin of the golden handcuffs and where does our aversion to risk come from? In my opinion, a central aspect of it is our human inclination towards a ‘negativity bias’. Psychologists define negativity bias as our tendency to “attend to, learn from, and use negative information far more than positive information”. Several experts believe that this ‘bias’ has an adaptive evolutionary function. It evolved thousands of years ago, when our ancestors were exposed to immediate environmental threats. For example, at one time we needed to worry about dangerous predators. It has been suggested that over time, this bias plays a role in our early development. Infants don’t have extensive experience to draw on during early stages of their life. To adapt to this lack of experience, a child learns very early that he/she should avoid things that could be aversive or harmful. This gives the infant better chances for survival. Our negativity bias helps us avoid potentially harmful objects and events when we don’t know much about them. In a nutshell, it leaves us with an innate fear of the unknown.

We Tend to Focus on the Negative

Unfortunately, our negativity bias makes us process information in a highly unbalanced and one-sided manner. Psychologists have noted that we perceive negative and positive occurrences differently, where negative events elicit more rapid and greater prominent responses than non-negative ones. As a result, the following can occur:

* We recall and think about insults more than compliments

* We respond more – emotionally and physically – to aversive (harmful) stimuli

* We tend to dwell on unpleasant or traumatic events more than pleasant ones

* We focus our attention more quickly on negative rather than positive information

Overcoming Negative Bias

1. Be Aware

When contemplating a career change the first step is to check in with yourself. Start to recognize any thoughts that are running chaotically through your mind. Be aware of both the helpful and unhelpful ones. It’s important to become more attuned to your own emotions. Are you experiencing negative emotions such as anxiety, frustration, nervousness or worry? Being more mindful and incorporating mindfulness strategies are good ways to deal with negative emotions. By employing practices such as meditation, reflection and other mindfulness interventions, you can start to observe your feelings and thoughts more objectively. When you are more aware, you can adapt your view of negative experiences or events by taking a more balanced and positive perspective on them, instead of catastrophizing. You will also be able to tackle these head on, challenging negative feelings and thoughts, replacing them with more useful ones. By examining your reactions to stressors and anxiety-provoking events, you will start to recognize patterns in your thinking.

2. Challenge Your Language and Thoughts

During stressful moments, you will need to learn how to slow down your mind, challenging the automatic thoughts that you might have. This will allow you to replace them with more rational and realistic thinking, leading to more effective behavior. What you say to yourself during your thoughts is termed ‘self-talk’, and it matters. When self-talk focuses on thriving, it can provide essential motivation. Positive self-talk can help a person broaden their perspective and attitudes, which is essential during immediate moments of change, and also for longer-term future events. Rather than narrowly focusing on negative thoughts and threats that can increase a person’s doubts, fears and insecurities, it can promote self-assurance, certainty and confidence. However, just as self-talk can be an asset, it can also be a detriment. Over time, giving into negative self-talk can take a toll on one’s confidence, fostering insecurity and limiting personal growth. Challenging your language and thoughts is vital to your success because positive self-talk can aid in reducing your anxiety and improve your self-confidence.

3. Mitigate Real Risk

A vital part of making a successful career transition is to recognize the difference between catastrophic thinking and perceiving real risks. Making a career transition can be challenging, as it takes time, energy, resources and opportunities, while having significant consequences. There are many impacts that can occur during and after a career transition that involve finances, lifestyle, time demands, status and social networks. However, there are many activities that can successfully mitigate the risks during a career change. These include doing extensive career research, initiating a side hustle, taking part-time education and growing networking opportunities. Making a career change involves identifying real risks and negative consequences, not ignoring them.

4. Remember Your Potential

When making career decisions many people forget or don’t believe in one thing: their potential. Many people make new career decisions based on their past. There is a tendency for individuals to examine their prior work experience, skills and interests, and identify new career opportunities through this singular view. Unfortunately, many people repeat activities over and over, hoping to find greater fulfilment but never finding it. As the saying goes, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.”

Higher career fulfilment is found in progressively advancing yourself, and this requires a future perspective. True success is forward looking, and it involves your potential. Your potential consists of your passions, talents, outstanding personality traits and core values. These attributes help you to reach and define your highest career potential. When you hold on to a negative bias, you will only be perceiving loss, danger and harm. To have an extremely rewarding and gratifying career it encompasses all of your potential. In the end, overcoming a negativity bias should not be about remaining stuck in past failures and perceiving unrealistic risks. Success is always about keeping in mind what all the amazing possibilities are waiting for you, to reach them.