The woods smelled fresh. Sun was shining through the leaves making the ground have that dappled look. I could hear some kids playing somewhere over to my left. Our dogs were playing and darting in and out of the underbrush. The person I was walking with was telling me her story.
How she always worked hard. How she worked overtime. How she offered to do more. How she never charged them for those overtime hours. She had been a successful management consultant before she made a career switch ten years ago to a profession that tapped more into her creativity. She was telling me how once, when she asked the owner of the firm if she could help with anything, she was asked to gather all the samples from the whole building and put them back in the sample cupboard. How she felt unseen. Unheard. Because she was ready to help him with his expansion plans. Use her consulting background to look at potential new client areas. Instead she went all over the building, collecting the samples.
She also told me how that made her double down. ‘I just needed to do more, THEN they would see’.
Then a classic thing happened: a more junior person joined the firm and was promoted to partner. She was gutted. And she left.
This was not the first time that this had happened. With ‘this’ I mean that she wanted something, doubled down and when it didn’t work, she left. This is what we call a loop. Let me explain that for a minute. A loop starts with a belief. That belief leads to an action. And that action leads to certain results. Which reaffirm the belief. And round and round you go.
In the case of my walking companion: she believes that if her superiors see how hard she works, she will be rewarded for that. She believes that being upfront about what it is that you want is ‘aggressive’ and should be avoided. She believes that working harder and longer is a differentiator. She believes that a career switch makes her less eligible than her peers. That was leading to her doubling down. To not saying what she wanted. To just get on with it. The results: none; so she left. And then that same loop would start in another company.
Now, the beauty of a loop is that it is circular. You can intervene on the belief part, the action part, or the outcome part. Some loops are your best friends. In this case, this loop was not helping her. We call that a limiting loop. Now before we get all booohooooo about this loop and shove it out the door: loops have helped you in the past. They were formed by your past. A loop of making yourself small, working harder and not speaking up is one we see a lot in people that would fall under the category ‘diverse’. Because that is how they were brought up. So that loop kept you safe for a long time. The question I had for my fellow dog walker, and for you is:
Is that loop is still serving you. Or if it is time to make a change?