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First to Last and Back Again

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Author: Dr. Teresa Evans | Category: Career Development | January 17, 2017

Have you ever had the experience in life where you have felt just a step or two in front of your colleagues? This might have occurred in high school, undergrad, or even in your career after diploma. The feeling like you have figured out the rules of the game just a bit before others and that you are moving a head of the pack can be exhilarating. Many professionals live for this. To be considered the top of your class, a thought leader in your field, or an award winner in your sport.

But, what happens when all of a sudden, after being a leader for so long, you are passed? Lapped on the track? Overtaken by others in your field of study? These are both feelings that we have to deal with as we progress through our professional lives. At times we are leaders and at other times we feel more like we a lagging behind those we once lead. If you find yourself in the situation remember the following:

1) Grace: The best of us are those who can learn to cope with these ups and downs and do it with grace. There is a certain grace that one must have in winning and in loosing in sports, this same attribute is necessary in your career. Be proud of those who succeed around you and don’t let your feelings of frustration show.

2) Push Even Harder: Just as in running a marathon, you must extend your energy to the finish line and push for the finish. When you begin to feel like you are no longer the leader in an area that you once where, do not give up! Rather, dive deeper into your area of expertise. Expand your horizons.

3) Positivity Attracts: if you can stay positive in the face of these events you will find that you will attract new opportunities. These opportunities could come in the flavor of new colleagues, experiences, or job aspirations. Whatever they are keep and open mind and shoot for the stars.

4) The eye of the beholder: We often have these feelings of falling short as a result of our own perception of our surroundings. These perceptions are not always accurate and more often than not the true reality is that we have not fallen behind at all. Rather, we are just striving to be even greater, stronger, or more efficient. Take a moment to see the situation through another’s eyes and you might realize that things are not what they seem to be.

5) This Too Shall Pass: My late grandfather and World War II veteran would always say to me, “This Too Shall Pass.” Well, this is a motto that I now live by in my professional and personal life. When you find yourself in a challenging situation it is humbling to remember that time will keep ticking and what seems like a major issue today will be something of the past very soon. Even though you might feel a few steps behind now remember that with time and continued work you can climb back to your position at the top. Most importantly, what seems like a serious problem in the moment should become less serious to you with every passing second as you continue to gain perspective about your situation.

This article was written by Dr. Teresa Evans, Director of Workforce and Career Development at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. 

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