In today’s competitive environment, people cannot be stagnant within their lives – cannot do only what has been assigned or is expected – if they hope to taste success, fulfillment, recognition or growth. Looking back (instead of ahead), remaining content with the present (rather than building upon the present as a step into the future), and doing what works (as opposed to seeking what might work better) are signs of terminal stagnation. Being more afraid to move towards a new opportunity than remaining in an unrewarding situation is also a sign of stagnation. We must not simply LOOK ahead if we want to enjoy or experience change – we must act intentionally if we expect to move from comfortable reality towards a land of undefined (and often unlimited) possibility.
There are several pitfalls that limit our potential – that minimize our ability to bring dreams to reality. Recognizing these traps (and taking action to avoid their clutches) can help free us from a self-imposed prison that might easily become a state of sheltered (and often stagnant) reality. To ensure success, consider and be aware of these precursors of failure:
• Those content with what they have – with their status, position, relationships or potential – are often content with the skills or knowledge they possess. To move forward we must continually upgrade and apply our abilities – refusing to accept “what is” as an end but rather as a means to “what might be.” What was once necessary to maintain a life-long job is no longer sufficient in today’s world. A secretary needs word processing proficiency. Many production workers need to run automated machinery or understand statistical process controls. An HR Professional must maintain his or her knowledge of legislation impacting the workforce to insure compliance. A homeowner must understand the demand for energy when rewiring his or her home or the circuitry will not withstand the demands placed upon it by our reliance on electronics. Individuals who “fail to know” typically fail to grow.
• Those who are comfortable living and working at a steady, unhurried pace often confuse being efficient with being effective…or worse, keeping busy with being productive. An e-mail may be efficient, but a conversation could more effectively resolve an issue without extended “replies and clarifications.” Leaving a note as to where you are might be efficient but calling someone to give a personal explanation can be much more effective. Placing a call without leaving a message necessitates the return of a call to clarify an issue. A person may appear busy but unless a concrete objective is accomplished – a sense of urgency linked to the completion of a stated Organizational Goal – the activity is no more meaningful than dust in the wind. Effective people make sure that every investment of time and/or energy has a direct and measurable impact on their – or their organizations – ability to conduct business.
• Those who are content with who they are and what they might contribute often believe they are irreplaceable. In the workplace, when an employee feels that nobody could EVER do what he or she does, that employee has probably limited what he or she could ever accomplish. If nobody else can do your job, then you will never have time to do anything other than your assigned tasks. Individuals who believe they are “critical” to the Organization within their limited and specialized role do not typically grow – they simply reinforce stagnation and the acceptance of mediocrity. If nobody else can do the things you do, you will never be able to seek new horizons or accept new responsibilities. It is difficult to be important to anyone else when one becomes so self-absorbed and self-important that the views, opinions or thoughts of another do not matter.
• No one person knows all the answers because, singularly, we cannot begin to know all the questions. To avoid failure one must always be open to new ideas, techniques, and ways of doing things (particularly if we wish to grow). Innovation and resolution-based problem solving comes from applying new ways of doing things to accomplish existing tasks. One can truly contribute ONLY after identifying the limitations of current systems, policies and procedures, asking questions as to how they might be improved then moving forward towards the adoption of more effective resolutions. People who know all the questions are often more valuable than those who feel they know all the answers
• Individuals destined to fail often assume all credit and seek recognition for positive results with which they are associated – deferring or shifting the blame upon others for each failure. People recognizing and acknowledging the ideas and actions of those who make things happen – and assume the blame if things go wrong – will win loyalty, be recognized as leaders, and become vital contributors to the activities around them. When one assigns the responsibility AND holds an individual accountable for results, providing the opportunity to rectify mistakes should they occur, ownership is clearly established. Think about how much we could accomplish in life IF ONLY we did not care who received the credit!
As you take time to plan where you are going, think about how you are going to get there by maintaining a positive perspective along the way. Learning from the failure of others is often easier but acknowledging and moving forward from our own is somehow much more effective. In order to succeed we must identify and nurture “the possible” rather than accepting and hiding within “the probable.”