Ever found yourself eyeing a particular goal – something that feels really BIG and really different for your life or career? Did you go after it, or did you, like a client of mine, find yourself longing for it, but not making any change, instead settling for your current situation because you felt insecure and completely unqualified for that next step? Did you get hit with what I call the old “Once I’s,” meaning “Once I X (get a PhD, win the Pulitzer, etc), then I will Y (basically take any next step)?”

Here are 4 steps you can take right now to help you zero in on exactly what is holding you back. (Spoiler: it’s a confidence issue).

I recently worked with a client on exactly this, and here is what happened when she used this tool. Every 2-4 years, she would leave her job, only to take an identical one: same field, same position, same frustration. It would repeatedly be a completely lateral move, the only thing that would change would be the organization. The truth was she was a total rock star in what she did and was simply bored. The new organization and workplace culture was enough to satisfy the need for something to change, but only temporarily. She was just not challenged enough.

When she would try to consider and get clarity on what was the next right step for her however, she would quickly get filled with self-doubt. Her clarity on how to stretch into a new and more challenging role would get clouded with story after story she would tell herself about how she wasn’t yet ready, and that she still needed more credentials and expertise. This is what led to the cycle of lateral, instead of upward career steps.

When she came to work with me, she knew that something had to change, but didn’t know how. Working to reality-check her “once I, then I will” (her constant chasing of courses and skills to mitigate feeling like a fraud) was key. It allowed her to stop herself in her tracks and immediately reality check herself when negative thoughts came flooding in. This reality check enabled her to clearly see how she was stuck on a hamster wheel of self-doubt. And we all know where a hamster wheel goes: Nowhere. This self check-in was exactly what she need to see how ready she actually was to stretch herself professionally and move on from work she had outgrown.

My client and I worked on dreaming bigger about what was next, and together when she got confused by all the noise created by her self-doubt, I was able to hold her accountable with some clarifying reality testing. If you’re feeling confused about making a decision, and would like some help clearing the fog, grab this tool I give clients to cut through the self-doubt.

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