I recall a fable I read a few years ago called ‘The Shark and the Goldfish’ (John Gordon), which distinguished between the behaviour of a shark and a goldfish on their approach to life and survival. For the purpose of this article, I associate the goldfish with employee behaviour and the shark as a business owner’s behaviour. It was a thought-provoking fable of how our mindset affects our behaviours and outcomes.

As an employee, you are fed the work, just like a goldfish in a fishbowl being fed with food. You don’t have to go look for work each day, it is continuously fed to you. However, the shark has to hunt for his food out in the ocean, in the real world. As a business owner, you are similar to the shark, as you have to find your work or your business will go hungry. The exception being for those of you in sales who will fit in both descriptions.

“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime”(Chinese proverb)

There are some great messages in this fable, which made me sit back and think about how this relates to self-leadership in your career as an employee within an organisation.

As a coach to high achieving professionals, I see three main reasons why people choose to avoid taking the next big step in the progression of their career.

1. Circumstances will change

Maybe you are thinking of the position you have always wanted will open up soon, while you anticipate the future steps of the person currently it that role. Alternatively, maybe the next re-organisation will create an ideal role for you? If this sounds familiar, you are trying to forecast the future of circumstances outside your control.

2. Depending on others to make your career decisions

You may be depending on your line manager or organisation to open the path for the next step in your career. You are replying on what they believe is the next best step for you in your career? You are leaving others sit in the driving seat of your career.

3. Getting too comfortable

You know your job inside out, and you are achieving great results. Why would you change when this will involve a new learning curve in another role? You should be happy where you are, right? You are comfortable, yet you know you are able for so much more. At what point will the scale tip from being comfortable to being uncomfortable? If you are a high achiever, it will not be long before comfortable will start to get very uncomfortable as your satisfaction levels drop when you are not operating at your full potential.
So what’s next?

You may or may not know what is next for you in your career right now; however, taking the next step will be motivated by your answers to the following two questions:
• How much do you really want that next opportunity in your career?
• Is the discomfort of being dissatisfied greater than the discomfort of moving outside your comfort zone to get what you deserve in your career?

In order to shift from inaction to action, and claim your career vision, you need to start taking ownership for your career. Having the self-leadership to know WHY you have greater ambition in your career, knowing what you want, and how you are going to get there.

You need a game plan to achieve your career ambitions, rather than waiting for it to be handed to you. This is how I help my clients, starting with their WHY, and developing this forward to a career vision, enabling them with the strategy and influencing skills to make it happen.

While choosing to see your career as YOUR business…….are you choosing to be the Shark or the Goldfish? Staying comfortable may ultimately get quite uncomfortable.