A client recently took on a major new project at work, and, while it was an exciting one he’d been wanting to launch for some time, I could gather from his language and tone that he had some concerns. He said things like, “I don’t know where to start” and “I’m not sure I know what I’m doing.”

There were tons of questions to be answered relating to marketing and branding, supply costs, which product to launch first, and the like, so it’s understandable that my client felt like he was being buried in an avalanche of tasks.

It’s easy to get stuck in that kind of overload at work, and from what I see, that’s what holds most people back from taking their careers to the next level. They can often see the projects that will give them the visibility and career boost they want, but when they start down that path, it feels so overwhelming that they end up sticking with the day-to-day work that’s more familiar and comfortable.

The most important step this client needed to take was to shift out of the overwhelm and into his leadership.

When faced with new opportunities, most of us tend to default to thoughts like “I don’t know where to start” or “I don’t know what I’m doing.” That’s natural. The problem comes when we believe these thoughts and they keep us feeling small, stuck, and wanting to play it safe.

When we can notice these thoughts and shift their tone, we can use them to uncover the facts of the situation. With this client, we started by looking at his “I don’t know” with curiosity. We looked at what was real about the “I don’t know” and what wasn’t quite true about it.  Inviting him to ask, “What DO I know?” and “What HAVE I done?” reminded him that he did have some information and experience to draw on in facing this new situation.  Then, exploring “What do I not know YET, and how can I find out?” helped to uncover next steps he could take to fill in the missing pieces.


The next time you’re faced with a new challenge and you hear your internal voice reacting in fear, insecurity, or overwhelm, take a step back and answer these questions:

  • What DO I know?
  • What HAVE I done?
  • What do I not know YET, and how can I find out?

Sometimes we’re so caught up in our own inner dialogue and habitual thought patterns that it takes an outsider to point it out. That’s just one way working with a coach can make all the difference. You get a chance to interrupt and shift those patterns you may be blind to seeing on your own. And, you have someone highly seasoned in your corner cheering you on.

In the next post, we’ll dive deeper into this topic and discover how to be more productive and distinguish which tasks are most worthy of our precious time.

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