Career Progress an Inside-out Journey

29. Mindfulness & Leaderhsip

Having a vision/career direction is Necessary But Not Enough

Having a career direction that is informed by one’s passion, a deep interest to share one’s gifts and talents with the world and in the process honor her/his intrinsic needs and values is necessary but not enough. Without the clarity around the career direction that is product of an inner self-discovery, one climbs the metaphoric career ladder for a few years only to find themselves on the top of the wrong wall.

Career coaching can create much clarity around the direction of the passion which is deeply rooted in one’s organic blue print. Yet, the vision by itself does not necessitate achieving the career goal. Having a career direction is important but not enough as a calling that feels like destiny, the emerging truth within us, may also be resisted. The moment one becomes clear on the direction of their career goal, the volume of the discouraging ‘background noise’ increases by a few notches; it may go something like this:

“Who do you think you are? If that idea was good enough it would have already been implemented.”

“That is an easy one anyone can do it, is nothing special.”

“That entrepreneurship idea not going to take off, you don’t have enough, money/support/knowledge/you are too old/too young … ”

Making Progress

It is important to realize when faced with such noise, that it is a sign of progress. It means one has climbed or reached the threshold of a new territory, a new horizon. Moving forward or backing up is determined by how much independence and healthy space from the ‘background noise’ we can muster.

Unawareness guarantees retreat

The problem is not that we have a busy mind that values survival and safety over and above self-actualization and urges caution, pulling back or even total surrender of our vision. The problem is we are fused and identified with this speedy mind and its voice. We don’t own that voice, it owns us.

We don’t own that voice, it owns us.

The self-defeating mantra, the doubts and images of failure and danger that rehearse themselves in our head over and over again invite in fear and anxiousness – the amygdala hijack – which is inherently uncomfortable. It is meant to be uncomfortable to force pull us back to safety, never mind that threats may be imaginary and self-manufactured. The felt body contractions that fear and worry spring up are real enough that we often don’t second guess it, we retreat either immediately or gradually (it is only end of Feb as I am writing this, honestly, how is your new year resolution working for you? I really hope that it is blossoming and yet again if it is not, you are not the only one).

It Gets Personal

The breaking straw comes when the speedy mind adds the next layer of judgment – it gets personal by mounting self-criticism:

“Oh common you already have so many years of experience … you should NOT be feeling so stressed. What is WRONG with you?”

“You are not strong enough. If you were strong you would not feel this way.”

“Something is wrong with you.”

“You are not good.”

To find respite from the onslaught of inner-attack and physical contractions, we inevitably shrink from our vision. That is when the self-criticism subsides – but only momentarily. That is until it soon makes a grand comeback:

“What a shame you quit, it could have worked.”

“You did not give it a chance. You are not strong/committed … like John or Mary.”

Awaring and Witnessing Practice

While unawareness and loosing ourselves in the speedy-mind ultimately holds us back, the practice of awareness (awaring) and wakefulness ‘wakes us down’ to the default mind activity down below the surface. The play of arising noise, thoughts, and strong emotions or even physical contractions as they flower, mature and wither away. We simply sit witness without wanting to push them away or getting entangled in them.

The wisdom inherent in awareness knows to want to get rid of these messengers (emotions, physical contractions) is same as strengthening them. It knows while getting rid of an undesired outcome or a thing outside may be at times possible, but the inner world of thoughts and emotions work differently – “What we resist internally – persists indefinitely”.

What we resist internally – persists indefinitely

By taking up an observing/witnessing posture we initiate a self-transforming movement.  Such impersonal witnessing is the beginning of freedom from the mental chatter, the mischief, the tormentor within. Through this process the very energy that initially held us back, is gradually transformed to the bricks and mortars that makes moving forward possible. While previously we would retreat, with wakefulness we journey in. Even though we may still feel overwhelmed, doubtful … we first acknowledge and accept ourselves for how we feel but don’t shrink or retreat.


The next time you experience discomfort or physical contractedness, to build your ‘awaring- muscles’ welcome them and get curious by asking:

-What is this contraction trying to tell me?

-What does it want?

-When, where else did I feel this way?

-What thoughts and images were going through “my” mind just before I felt this way?

To defuse and disentagle by creating healthy boundary ask:

-Who is witnessing these thoughts, image, contractions?

-For whom these experiences are arising?

* It is important to not try to answer these two questions. Instead to intently observe the experience within when they are asked.

Finally, to move towards your vision (career …) ask:

-If all went well, what would success look like?

-What one small action/step toward that success can I take right now?

-Where will I be in 3-5 years from now if I persist?

The outer-journey and inner-journey are intimately interwoven much like the two sides of the same coin. To progress outwardly we need to venture-in inwardly.

You may also find the below posts relevant:

Follow the Gold, Money Will Come

Purpose Driven Work

How to Find My Career Path