People turn down career opportunities because of these EEKs. In some cases, it makes total sense—especially if you have a transition in your personal life that involves EEKs. That’s a lot of EEKs to handle, and if you try to handle too many at once, you may not successfully transition yourself, your team, or your family through any of them.
But you have to be careful that the EEKs don’t become the loudest voice in your head when examining potential career opportunities. Inertia is a powerful force, and if you start to turn down opportunities in one area of your life during a transition in another area, it could become habit. The next thing you know, you’re saying no to other opportunities because you’re used to saying no. You’ve accepted the EEK as a permanent negative well beyond the transition that caused the EEK in the first place. You opt for comfort and familiarity, versus challenge and growth.
You see, the EEK factor has a good side. It has powerful side. It has a potential side. The EEK drives you to learn, grow, and develop. The EEK builds adrenaline. And that adrenaline is part of what makes you succeed. In my younger days, I used to teach and perform dance. I remember being told (and telling my students) that the nervous energy is what makes a powerful performance. Without it, you’re just performing the steps. With it, you’re conveying emotion and transforming a stage into a story.
At work, the EEK factor is what drives you to wake up a little earlier to get a deliverable knocked out before you wake the kids up for school. It’s what drives you to reach out to your contacts and learn about a new skill, market segment, or industry. The EEK factor is what helps you deliver a powerful performance to your teams, customers, and other key stakeholders. If you don’t have the EEK factor pushing you, you could be “just performing the steps” at work.
When I was approached with this opportunity at work, I had a choice—I could choose the familiar, safe, and “EEKless” route, or I could define a new path. The EEKless way was very tempting—I had a team that was amazing, I knew the subject well, and I had invested 10 years into this area of the business. I had just gotten my family through a major life transition. My life was calm. But I realized something—I was bored. In avoiding the EEKs, I lost the adrenaline. So, instead of heading towards the EEKless path, I walked right into the EEK.
And I love it.
So how can you determine if an EEK is something you should run towards or run away from? Here are some tips:
- Define the EEK: Reflect on what exactly makes you say EEK. Is it because it’s something new and you’d have a steep learning curve, or is it because the essence of the task is the last thing in the world you’d want to do. If it’s the latter, run away. If it’s the former…
- Determine if the EEK opportunity would help you grow: Think through what the end result will be if you manage through this EEK. Will you have a new skill that can help you career (and maybe even your family)? Will you have a broader network? Will you have the sense of satisfaction that comes from delivering something successfully? All of these are opportunities for personal growth if you overcome the original hesitation that the EEK caused you.
- Determine if now is the right time to take on another EEK: Timing is everything. If the EEK is something you can manage through, that’s great. If it’s the EEK that will put you over the edge, then it’s not great. You have to decide if now’s the right time to follow the EEK.
- Make the decision. And don’t beat yourself up over it. Whether you decide to take on an EEK or pass over one doesn’t really matter. Great leaders make decisions and then execute on them. This doesn’t mean that you don’t reflect on it and assess later, when you live the results of it and have more information than you did when you made the decision. But it does mean that you can’t beat yourself up for it and “re-make” the same decision every day. Later, when you have more information, when other factors and EEKs have changed, you can drive towards a different EEK. Or maybe the original EEK opportunity will still be there. But in either case, congratulate yourself for making the decision and move on.
Life is always changing, and change can be uncomfortable. But it can also be awesome. Don’t let the EEKs hold you back—overcome them.