Focusing our thinking on what we want is a prerequisite to mobilizing our efforts to achievement-oriented activities. Eliminating or avoiding an undesirable condition — a job problem, negative interpersonal dynamics, or avoiding an error — does not ensure that we will attain what we desire.
We can't assume that if we eliminate what we do not want that our future will better by default. To succeed requires that we focus on success. (This was likely the strategy recently employed by Karl's great-grandson, Nik Wallenda, when he successfully walked a high-wire stretched across the Little Colorado River Gorge on June 23.)
Take a page from the younger Wallenda and focus on success as an important principle to apply to your career. We cannot walk our "tightrope" successfully if we are overly concerned with failure. Negative thoughts will push our mental and physical efforts in the wrong direction, and we will ultimately become defensive and self-protective. That, in turn, will adversely impact our capacity to take risks, make tough decisions, and be creative and innovative.
Good golfers understand this principle. They're in the middle of the fairway. They have the hole in sight. They consider the wind direction, but they ignore the water and sand hazards and the out-of-bounds markers. To acknowledge them is to allow negative thoughts to intrude on their image of where they want to be: on the green, close to the pin.
Suarez is professor of practice in systems thinking and design and a fellow of the Center for Leadership, Innovation and Change at the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business. He also works with professionals as an executive coach.