For those of you who golf, what happens when you grip a golf club too tightly? Typically it doesn’t do good things for your game, your score or your psyche! Even if you are not a golfer, having too tight of a grip on most situations – either consciously or subconsciously – does not benefit us. It certainly doesn’t benefit us when we are making decisions about a career or leadership challenge.

Golfing metaphor

Gripping too tightly was a topic I recently spoke to a client about.

Many of you know that I often ask clients to use metaphors to describe how they are feeling. My client’s metaphor for her current job search was described this way:

“It feels like I am gripping my golf club too tightly and shanking the ball to the right. Then I’m getting frustrated and on my next swing… I grip the club even tighter trying to get myself out of this situation! The problem is, by gripping it tighter, my situation gets worse. When I loosen up my swing, the ball heads straight toward where it needs to go.”

Sound familiar to some of you? It certainly does to me, especially with my own leadership challenges at my company.

Reactions to a career or leadership challenge

Why do we hold on so tightly?

There are several reasons that we begin to tighten our grip on our situation. I’ll mention a few below.

Control of your career challenge

We feel a lack of control about the situation at hand and seek to exert some control over it to feel better. We look to anything to reduce those feelings of fear and being out of control, so we tighten our grip on something that is available to us, something that we have control over. We think that will make us feel more in control. Unfortunately, by doing this, we often unintentionally introduce more problems into the situation. On top of that, we still don’t feel better about the lack of control. Instead, release your tight grip, get used to the lack of control and open your eyes to a better way to influence the situation.

Doubling down on doing to solve a leadership challenge

Oftentimes, we feel like taking actions and more actions and more actions will solve our challenge. We don’t take the time to come up for air, walk away from the situation, give ourselves some space to think about the situation and allow ideas to come to us. We double down on actions trying to force a solution to our challenge. When we find ourselves caught up in that loop of trying to make something work, it’s a good reminder to take a pause, walk away, and give the situation the space it needs. Then we can go back to the problem with a fresh perspective.

Trying to Prove Our Inner Critic Wrong

Oh, the Inner Critic – the voice in our head that tells us we can’t do something, aren’t ready for something, aren’t good enough, aren’t the right people for the job, etc. That voice can get pretty loud and we can get caught up in the Inner Critic’s trap. When we approach a career or leadership challenge for the purpose of proving the inner critic wrong, we can get blinded to the best way to handle the challenge. We find ourselves caught up and will take the actions to prove the voice wrong, however, they aren’t always the right actions. We have to work on quieting that voice, so we can have a clear perspective of how we want to address the challenge.

When you are faced with a career challenge or a leadership challenge, make sure to check in with yourself to see how tightly you are gripping the situation. It happens subconsciously. We begin to tighten and tighten and tighten, and it is up to us to consciously check-in with our grip to see if we need to ease up.