Lately, I’ve been thinking about what’s best in one’s career: To stride or to stretch? I define striding as someone who does their job with relative ease but is still able to deliver a meaningful impact. Stretching is someone who is unafraid to be uncomfortable and challenge “their” norm and discover new capabilities, skills in the process. But to stride or to stretch — is this the right question I should be asking?
Looking back at my career, I have always held a high regard for those who took on opportunities and projects that boldly stretched themselves. But I naively thought that this was the requisite to be “perceived” successful and ultimately become a success in one’s profession. As I look back at this notion, I now know that that this is not entirely correct.
Years ago, a mentor told me that “as long as I feel stretched then I can be content that I’m pushing myself to the max.” I admired that and tried to embrace that mentality early on in my own career. This was one of the reasons why I went to Asia to live and work. A decision that has turned out to be a game-changer for me both professionally and personally. But, is this philosophy still salient for me years later mid-career?
Being Stretched Does Not Always Equal Success
As I reexamine this philosophy that being stretched equls success, I realize now that this mindset may no longer serve me well in my career as it did earlier on. Quite frankly, being stretched does not matter as one can be challenged in their job and consequently be incompetent at doing it effectively. On the flip side, someone who may be doing the same job for years and has hit a stride that makes her “almost” irreplaceable in her role. Perhaps this may be an extreme case but the point here is that we should be looking elsewhere to see how someone is doing in their role. Simply put, the question we should all be asking is are we performing well? And, if so, are we performing at the the highest level possible?
This is All that Matters to Me Now
At this stage, I try to focus on performing at a high level no matter if I’m an individual contributor or a people manager. This is not easy to do but at this stage in my career, I believe it is a requisite for me to function effectively and feel like I am creating value.
Questions that I ask myself include:
- Am I doing work that matters?
- Am I doing things that are meaningful to my job, my team, and/or my organization?
- Am I contributing to the growth of others?
- Am I thoughtfully driving results and outcomes in an efficient way?
- Am I driving things forward with a cause that people can rally behind?
- Am I challenging the norm in a constructive way?
From my perspective, these are are all examples of ways one can facilitate and nurture a high performance mindset in their day-to-day. It is not easy but with the right psychology, tactics, diet, and energy, achieving high performance can be attainable for anyone. And one does not have to be pushed to the brim to get there. Of course, when starting a new role there will be a learning curve that will necessitate you to be uncomfortable. This is inevitable when starting a new position but once you hit your stride, focus on maintaining a high performance mindset and I’m confident that it will benefit your career and the organization.