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“Lucky! Lucky!” they called out.

Apparently, you will be lucky if you buy a caged bird and set it free when visiting temples in Luang Prabang in Laos. That’s what the ladies say as you start the long climb up Phousi hill.

At the top we saw so many empty cages hanging in the trees, we could only presume they had been put there by people who had set their captives free.

But here’s the thing. The cycle is endless, as the birds fly back to their owners. This is their pattern. I imagine they don’t know what else to do.

And it can be like this for us sometimes too, can’t it. We want that freedom for our careers, we want to change our habits, our patterns, our behaviour.

But, when it comes to it, there can be a number of things which hold us back, or get in the way. It may be that we find a change too hard and turn around back into the cage. Or it may be that we never leave and choose to stay in the comfort and security of the cage. We tell ourselves it is quite a nice cage, with a nice salary or journey to work perhaps, but it is a cage nonetheless.

How can we prepare to leave the cage and thrive?

When we want to leave our cages of limited career ambition, what can we do? Here are some things that have helped coaching clients I have worked with:

  • Allow your awareness to emerge. Take time to recognise the cage. Accept it is there. Recognise that it is your time to move on.
  • Accept the current situation. Own it, and your part in it. Acknowledge that your cage is too small, and it is time to move on, or even that it someone else’s cage for you (parents, managers, teachers, friends). It could be their idea of what you should do with your life, or a cage that no longer serves you in some other way.
  • Prepare. Work out what your goal is, what you want to do next. Research, make connections, communicate. Enquire as to what is possible, ask for support and find out what options can help get you there.
  • Act. Step out. It is obviously going to feel very scary stepping out (or flying out) without knowing if you can do it or where to go. Perhaps you can use your strengths and other innate abilities to help.

Yes, you may drop down and need to pick yourself up. This is like a bird learning to fly, or a baby learning to walk. If you can call on your belief that it is possible it will help.

If I can support you with that awareness, acceptance preparation and action, let me know. A growing line of work for me is helping individual managers expand their career into something they truly want.

Also, can you help me? In the last three years I have worked in Uganda, Russia, Ukraine and seven other countries in Eastern and Western Europe. I have come back from SE Asia with an even stronger desire to do more work abroad, to be working multiculturally with global teams and projects. Can you help me expand my UK cage? Your ideas, connections and support would be strongly welcomed.

Gill How has a passion for International Leadership Development and Executive Education. She is a National Training Award Winner and a Master Executive Coach.  She loves to work with leaders, managers and professionals, to develop their awareness and skills, to enhance their work with their teams, their performance and results. If she can add value to your team, whether you are an L&D Director or a Leadership Development consultancy,and would like a conversation get in touch.

Photo credits: Martin How

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Gill How

Helping leaders grow, step up and deliver outstanding results

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