(3 Minute Read)
Imagine the following unlikely situation, that for some reason an over-zealous recruiter told you that your life depended on securing a highly competitive, high paying job in the next 3 weeks. For the sake of the example, imagine that there was absolutely no way you could get out of the contract and that the only way you could save your life was to do what they said.
In a frenzy, you would be out trying everything in your power to achieve the task. You would personally be visiting company headquarters, researching late into the night, sending off hundreds of emails, attending networking events and scrolling through endless job adverts. You would constantly be on the phone ringing up old friends, teachers, bosses, colleagues, your cousin’s friend’s sister that you heard has started working for that big advertising agency. You would have a hundred ideas and when you ran out you would ask for help to think of more.
There would be no end to your creativity and resourcefulness.
We all know that when we have to do something it is far more likely that it will get done, and this example is admittedly extreme. But what is interesting about this exercise is that it demonstrates our extraordinary untapped potential to be resourceful. Whenever I have asked somebody this question, we end up with an extensive list like the one above. Most of the time the ideas are either completely new, or ones that have been quickly dismissed in the past.
Of course some people are blessed by being within a network of powerful people and have a lot of obvious resources at their disposal. This makes the rest of us feel like we just do not have many options. However, I would argue that having a genuine lack of options is one of the very last things that gets in our way. It seems like we are falling at a much earlier hurdle.
What Is Stopping Us From Being Resourceful?
I usually follow the ‘life depends on it’ exercise by asking what might be getting in the way of pursuing some of the options on the (now extensive) list. From the responses that I have heard, I have begun to notice two ‘reasons’ why people are limiting themselves.
The first is this (somewhat British) attitude of ‘I couldn’t possibly do that’, or ‘I don’t want to bother them’. This fear of intrusion and anxiety around being a nuisance holds us back from even considering (let alone pursuing) the options we have. What is interesting about the ‘life depends on it’ exercise is suddenly all those fears are no longer important. So even though the fears may be present, there is no room for allowing them to stop you. The result is a free reign on our thinking and an outpouring of ideas.
The second reason is surrounding an assumption that the world is governed by a very particular set of rules. We assume that there are only a few ways of doing things which means there is no room for creativity or deviation. Perhaps this mindset is a hangover from the single-track nature of education, but certainly one of the most liberating (if not terrifying) realisations is that in the ‘real world’ there are a thousand ways to do things. And yet, people are limiting themselves from thinking creatively and resourcefully because of an assumption about ‘the way things are’.
The most important point here is that these fears and assumptions don’t just stop us from taking action, they stop us from even thinking. Before we have even begun to collate options, we are already discounting creative and potentially fruitful ideas. The cliché ‘dare to dream’ comes to mind.
How Can We Be More Resourceful?
Perhaps it is unrealistic to go into the ‘frenzy’ of the job seeker fearing for their life, but there is definitely something we can learn from them. We learn that we have a real untapped potential to be resourceful, and that what holds us back are fears and assumptions we make about the world. These kinds of thoughts don’t just prevent us from taking action, they also stem our creativity to begin with.
When life next calls for a bit of resourcefulness, consider the following 3 actions:
- Ask yourself: ‘what would I do if my life depended on it?’
- Challenge your assumptions and fears, are they really true?
- Notice when your mind comes up with reasons that limit your thinking (and think regardless!)
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this subject, feel free to message me or leave a comment.
Chloë Garland – Founder of Quarter-Life (Early-Career Coaching)