Sometimes when I look at my career path it looks like the Great Ocean Road, full of widening vistas, extraordinary scenery and sudden pulse-racing curves.
People say you never know what’s around the corner, but with this road, it’s all corners. One moment it’s wide blue sky and sea, the next towering dark cliffs.
When you look around you find you have just travelled around a hairpin bend and what seemed like a long drive has taken you a very short distance from where you started.
Whether we are working for ourselves, by ourselves, or as part of a team, we all experience the need to look back and measure how far we have travelled, so as to appreciate and recognise all the effort it has taken to complete a project, move others along a timeline, or even just establish a relationship.
I find it imperative to keep recognising that all the energy I am expending has taken me somewhere, and find it dispiriting, at times, to take the bird’s eye view and discover that the distance covered from the original starting point has been quite small.
That’s where other ways of gauging the degree of development are crucial to keep your confidence level up.
Money is not the only measure. While it is one important and concrete way of seeing a result, it is not the only one.
Reflect. Give yourself time to look back. Meaningful targets can help, but there are so many unforeseen challenges that come up.
Allow yourself some space to mull over these and what you learnt from them.
Learning is the key to adaptability, and although it may be hard to see it as a performance outcome, applying that learning will have real value when the next challenge comes along.
Acknowledge the creativity, skill and new aptitude you have for managing that you didn’t have before.
This is where making the journey visible can help. Tracking sheets, pictures, blogs that record your journey, graphs, infographics – all or any of these give you a visual record of where you have been and where you are now.
Especially if you are constantly reinventing your service to meet a changing demand, these kinds of reminders about how agile you have had to be can help you see why it might look to others that you haven’t accomplished a great deal.
Only you can know exactly what it took to get to just this spot.
Which brings me to the central and hardest point – don’t compare yourself to others.
Your journey is unique, no matter how it looks from the outside, and others may have experienced fewer or more sudden reversals and twists in the road. No way of telling.
The journey is different for each of us. Keep your eyes on the distant prize on the horizon, and your focus on the road ahead, and acknowledge yourself for navigating the journey with aplomb.
You can help us (and help yourself)
Small and medium businesses and startups have never needed credible, independent journalism and information more than now.
That’s our job at SmartCompany: to keep you informed with the news, interviews and analysis you need to manage your way through this unprecedented crisis.
Now, there’s a way you can help us keep doing this: by becoming a SmartCompany supporter.
Even a small contribution will help us to keep doing the journalism that keeps Australia’s entrepreneurs informed.