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The paradox of progress

Published:Wednesday | June 27, 2012 | 12:00 AM

Why your work life sucks and what to do about it

Glenford Smith, career writer

Do you want to earn more money? Are you among the multiple tens of thousands who are desperate to find a job - just something to help you stop depending upon other people?

What about career advancement? Do you panic at the thought of getting a well-deserved promotion, out of fear of being incompetent?

Do you want to move your life and career forward, yet feel stuck? Do you feel as if you are spinning your wheels and going around in circles? Then you may be a victim of what I call the paradox of progress.

The great American inventor Charles F. Kettering captured this paradox well in his famous quote, "The world hates change, yet it is the only thing that has brought progress."

One witty politician is supposed to have said, "I'm 100 per cent for progress. It's all this change I'm against."

The paradox of progress is that people want progress but fear and resist change intensely. It's a paradox we all experience daily. If your work life isn't what you desire, that's the reason. You're resistant to the very changes that will produce what you desire.

If you want to earn more money, you may have to change your work habits, increase your knowledge, skills and expertise, and may even need to change jobs or industries.

To achieve some career goals you've set, you may need to live somewhere else or associate with some other people. But this is easier said than done.

A huge part of the reason is your psychology, how your brain is wired. Humans have a built-in mechanism which psychologists call the 'homeostatic impulse'.

This refers to the unconscious tendency to remain consistent with what you've said and done in the past. It's what accounts for the irresistible tendency in humans to remain stuck in their comfort zone, even when it has become very uncomfortable for them to do so.

Your brain associates change with danger. Any attempt to change your life - even for the better - triggers a fear response which drives you back to what you're used to.

L. Bateman pointed out the problem with this is, "If you keep on doing what you've always done, you will keep on getting what you've always got." And Albert Einstein concurred: "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result."

What this means is that to change your work life, you have to change your work life. It requires courage, self-discipline and self-belief to progress in your career, but you can do it. Whatever changes you have to make to improve your situation, see it as the price of success.

Confront your fears. Give up procrastination. Bust out of your comfort zone. Try some new things; change your work habits.

Reflect on the many changes you made in the past and how they are benefiting you today. To grow your income, get a better position, and improve your work life are all possible. You just need to practise being comfortable with the discomfort of change.

Glenford Smith is a motivational speaker and success strategist. He is the author of a new book, 'From Problems to Power: How to Win Over Worry and Turn Your Obstacles into Opportunities'. Email