Release the Good - Building a Positive Career Vision

I hear a lot about what people don’t like about their jobs and why they are thinking of leaving. Maybe you feel like you are not paid enough or that there is poor communication, weak leaders, and no chance for advancement. A lot of that is might be true. There’s no question that people can be frustrated by their current situation. You might even have friends or colleagues who will listen to you as you state your case for why you want to leave your job.

But here’s the secret – nobody cares. They may care about you, but they don’t want to hear the "woe is me" story of what’s wrong with where you are.   

When you spend time talking about negative things about your job, that’s what you pay attention to. I’m not saying that you can simply stop talking about it and all will be well. It’s important to notice when your current situation starts to go south. You have to pay attention to cultural fit, the quality of leaders, and all the other parts of your job. The challenge here is that if you spend too much time in negative mode, you may not find the creativity and energy to go after what you do want.  Too much time spent on negativity doesn’t get you closer to your dreams.  And when you talk about all the negative stuff, it impacts others. 

The trick is to observe what you dislike enough to know that you are dissatisfied. Then start to look for what you do want. It’s possible to shift from hate to great. Turn the bad parts about your current job to what you would like in a new job. 

Here a few tips to stop the negativity and, as Little Nicky would say, “Release the good!”

  1. Use negativity to build creative tension.

  2. Reframe the “Move From” to a “Move To”.

  3. Describe the island in the distance.

  4. Explore for the why that drives you.

  5. Seek support and encouragement.

Use Negativity to Build Creative Tension

Yes, I am going to start with the dictionary. Here is what is listed for creative tension: a situation where disagreement or discord ultimately gives rise to better ideas or outcomes. I learned about creative tension while reading Peter Senge’s The Fifth Discipline. He had the current reality and vision as two hands separated by an elastic band. The space between is the creative tension. 

To start building the tension, you need to get real about your current state. What is it exactly that you don’t like about the job? There is a big difference between “my boss sucks” and “my boss does not have one on ones and does not share positive reinforcement.” Get specific about what bothers you*. You might find that you have some general negative feelings, but there’s nothing specific. The job may not be so bad after all, so you can get out of your funk and re-engage. If you do find some specifics, then move on to step 2.

Reframe the “Move From” to a “Move To”

Take out a piece of paper and write down all the specific negatives on the left side of the page. Add a heading called “Moving From” on the top left. These are all things you don’t like about your current reality. Now add a heading to the right side called “Moving To.” For every negative, write one or two things you’d rather have in a new opportunity. Research on positive psychology suggests that people tend to move toward those things that give them energy and life – the positive is more powerful for change. Clarify what you do want.

Describe the island in the distance.

Now take your lists of positives and look for the themes. Maybe there are certain things you might want to look for in a future boss. Maybe you see trends that can lead you to a particular industry or company.  Think of your future opportunity as an island you are sailing towards. Spend time getting the general coordinates and then add specificity over time. The closer you get, the easier it will be to define. But start with the basics – size, location, culture, leadership, industry, role, and department.

Explore for the why that drives you.

Step back and look at the island you are describing. Ask yourself why on each of the basics. Why do you want a company with at least 1000 people? Is it because you like mature systems in place? What assumptions do you hold about a company that size? Why do you like that particular company? Is it the opportunity to work from home or do they simply have good marketing? Find out the why and it will help you sustain focus on the island.

Seek support and encouragement.

Now it’s time to seek out people in your community (network). Start to share the positive vision you are looking for. Help them understand why. Talk to your family or close friends and get their thoughts. They can be mirrors that let you see yourself from new angles.  They might help catch some assumptions you missed. Let them know you are thinking about making a change and ask for their support. These will be positively charged conversations that they will care about. They won’t be listening to you whine.


So take a little time to clarify the negative. And then release the good…

*For some people, this creates a lot of stress. Once the suspension of disbelief is snipped and you realize there is a lot you don’t like, it can be tough to put on a positive face in the office. Be careful with step 1 if you think it will hurt your performance. 

Do you get stuck in the negative? Do you know how to release the good? Share your tips for flipping the script and getting into the positive zone. 

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- Mike Sweeney,