Five Lies That Could Be Ruining Your Career (and your Life)

We humans are really great at telling ourselves stories. That voice we hear in our head recites some pretty interesting narratives so often and so frequently that we really start believing them after awhile. These stories we keep thinking turn into our beliefs about ourselves, others and the world in general. They actually create our reality. The thing is, they only create our own reality, and there are as many different realities in this world as there are human beings. And that’s good, because it means the reality we live in isn’t already fixed – our thoughts have the power to change it every minute of our lives.

Tambako The Jaguar / Flickr

Tambako The Jaguar / Flickr

Day to day, I meet a lot of people’s stories. They sound a lot like “I don’t like my job, but it pays the bills”, “‘ This ‘following your passion’ stuff is B.S. But you can’t make any money at it”, “I don’t really have a passion for anything. Maybe if I did, I would do something else, but what’s the point?”, or “I’ve got a family that is counting on me, so I have no choice but to stick with this job I hate for now”. My guess is that you’ve heard these stories too. Perhaps one of them is even yours.

Though these stories may seem like very true statements to some people, they are, in fact, lies. Lies people tell themselves that keep them in jobs and careers and relationships that are bad for them. How can you tell they’re lies? Because lies keep us in situations that are bad for us. When we’re telling our truth, it feels good – it feels right. But it’s often easier to have a victim mentality that the cards have been dealt and whatever you’ve ended up with is all you’ll ever have, or that you really have no options left, except terrible ones, and everybody knows it. The stories we tell often start out as protection for our ego; they make us feel better about bad situations by pretending that things are out of our control or someone else’s fault and there is just nothing we can do about it. But then they spiral into excuses and beliefs that have the potential to ruin us.

You may be thinking, “I don’t lie to myself! Everything about my situation is true!” If you want to know what stories you tell yourself, then take a good look at the state of your relationships, your home, your career, your health, your bank account — they are perfect indicators of the stories you believe. If your stories are true, then you are content with everything you see. If you’re lying to yourself, then what you see isn’t good enough for you. You’re disappointed in what you have and what you’re doing. Wherever you feel disheartened or dissatisfied, take it as a sign that your story is holding you back and could use some changing up. The best way to change our stories? Question them. Speak your story out loud and then ask yourself, “Is it true?” (Spoiler alert: it isn’t!) Chances are, you can think of a much truer, much better story to tell in its place.

So let’s practice.

The top five lies I hear from the professionals I coach go something like:

1) I haven’t found my passion / I don’t have a passion. Is that true? You cannot think of one thing that you love doing or being? Is there something you do better than most other people you know? If you had a free day all to yourself to do whatever you wanted in the world, could you think of something you might gravitate toward?

Change the story: Instead of “I haven’t found my passion”, replace with “There are many things I love doing”.

2) I can’t afford to leave the job I don’t like. Really? The only way on this earth that you have to earn money is the job you are in right now? Is there nothing you’re able to cut out of your current budget that would allow you to be more free? Can your body, your relationships, your long-term career aspirations afford for you to stay in the job you don’t like?

Change the story: Instead of “I can’t afford to leave the job I don’t like”, replace with “I can’t afford to stay in a job I don’t like.”

3) It’s too late to change direction now. Is that really true? How many years of life do you think you have left? Now multiply that by 8,765, which is the number of hours in each year. Is that really too little time for you to change direction? Malcolm Gladwell’s book, “Outliers”, tells us you can be great at what you do with some ability and 10,000 hours of practice. Never put off a goal because it will take too long — the time will pass anyway. Might as well spend it working toward a goal that makes life fun.

Change the story: Instead of “It’s too late…”, replace with “If I start today, the journey of 1,000 miles starts with the first step.”

4) Pursuing my own happiness is selfish. I have a family to think about. Seriously? There is a reason that the flight attendants tell you in case of a sudden loss of pressure in the cabin to put your oxygen mask on before helping others. How helpful are you to your family and friends when you’re gone, depleted, sick, resentful, or angry because you haven’t taken care of yourself? (Hint: you aren’t) How would your household be different if you were busy pursuing a life that serves you and honors who you are and what you have to give?

Change the story: Instead of “pursuing my dreams is selfish”, replace with “showing my children what living a fulfilled life looks like is the best way to enrich theirs.”

5) I hate my job now, but I will be happy as soon as I [get the promotion/finish the project/collect my bonus/get my degree]. Are you sure? This one thing is all that is holding you back from happiness and liking your job? How long do you think you’ll stop hating your job after you accomplish this magical goal that will make you happy? Happiness experts tell us it’s pretty temporary. I like The Dave Matthews Band take on this – “the future is no place to place your better days”. Happiness is a choice that you make. It isn’t a magical feeling that is bestowed upon us from some outside force.

Change the story: Instead of “I’ll be happy when….”, replace with “I could be happy now.”

We all have our stories. And if you’re wondering why your life isn’t turning out the way you planned, know that its only a story you tell yourself. It isn’t the Truth. Question your narrative about your situation and give yourself permission to believe in something better. It is the quickest and most effective way to change your life.


About the author – Theresa Sullivan

Theresa SullivanI believe strongly in the enormous potential created when capable, inspired people pursue their passions, so I founded Wayfinder Advisors to coach and encourage those individuals and groups on that journey.

I work with all age groups, from university students, recent college graduates and Millennials to Gen Xers who wish to apply their unique blend of beliefs, abilities and interests in their career to maximize their success. My role is to coach these individuals to identify their strengths and drivers and encourage and empower them to use them to better their lives, and by extension, the world.

I care about scaling these programs to reach as many interested people contemplating their careers with easy, practical and actionable procedures so that they can optimize their success in their professional and personal realms immediately. I am at work on a book, online courses and live engagements geared toward current college students and new graduates interested in achieving wild success in fields they love.

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