I have the honor of working with many high performing, high potential individuals who are always striving to reach the next level in their careers. What is quite common amongst these people (and most high achievers) is that they are typically very forward- looking and asses their current success based on how far away they are from their “next level” or that next goal. I have heard this described as the “elusive carrot” syndrome and I think it is a great depiction of what is going on. As that carrot (which represents what we are trying to achieve) is dangling out in front of us, it always seems one step ahead of us and just out of our reach. As long as we assess our progress against that elusive carrot, it can feel like we are never getting anywhere.
But, if we take a look behind us, the picture is quite different. I recently did this with a client who is striving to reach a vice-president role inside his company. He has not yet gotten there so feels like he is not making progress in his career goals. Yet, when he looked back six months, he realized he had finished his master’s degree, hired 12 new people on his team, successfully implemented several new programs across his company as well as completed a senior leadership development program inside his company which, not only gave him exposure to the CEO and executive team, but allowed him to present to the company board. All of these things were clear indicators of his progress toward his goal. However, by only looking ahead at the “elusive carrot”, he was unable to see just how far he’d come and all the successes he had achieved.
I am all for being forward-thinking and focusing on achieving goals. In fact, I’d much rather do that than look behind me; however, every so often, it is really important to take a look back six months or one year to see how far you’ve come. It might even reposition your perspective on that “elusive carrot” you are striving to reach.