How to Plan for the Future: 2 Ways to Let Go of Mastery

Why are some women ill-equipped for the future? How can they plan for the future?

In How Women Rise, Sally Helgesen and Marshall Goldsmith explain the women’s tendency to focus so much on the present that they neglect to plan for the future. Thankfully, they have a few solutions to help combat this tendency.

Discover how to plan for the future, one step at a time.

Inability to Prepare for the Future

Perfectionist women often want to achieve mastery at their current positions to feel and be seen by others as capable. However, spending so much time being perfect at their current position often prevents them from spending time planning and acquiring the skills necessary to progress to the next step in their careers. 

(Shortform note: In High Performance Habits, Brendan Bouchard explains that there are two types of internal forces that drive people. Perfectionist women may end up hyper-focusing on their current role over their future goals because they’re motivated by both of these internal forces—likely to an unhealthy level. First is the force of identity—people driven by this force tie their self-worth to their performance and therefore strive for high achievement so they feel good enough. Second is the force of obsession—people driven by this force believe the only way to achieve excellence is to spend hours gaining mastery over a topic.)

Further, some women are so focused on mastery and their personal performance that they neglect to build their social network. As we learned previously, having strong connections is crucial for career advancement

(Shortform note: Failing to build a social network at work can disadvantage you; however, socializing too much, or in the wrong ways, in an attempt to build your network can also cause issues. Experts make a few suggestions to ensure you’re socializing effectively. First, make sure you’re using work-appropriate language. Your desire to build a connection might encourage you to be too informal—don’t fall into this trap and leave a bad impression. Further, make sure you’re socializing at the appropriate times—during breaks, before meetings, while passing someone in the hallway—not during work time where you may cause a distraction.)

Inability to Prepare for the Future: Solutions

The authors recommend a few solutions to let go of mastery so you can focus on the future.

1. Understand that mastery is only one type of power. Women crave mastery because they want to be powerful and valuable, but the authors explain that mastery alone isn’t enough to achieve this. There are three other types of power: contacts, charisma, and position. Useful contacts can help you accomplish goals and make progress, charisma will influence others to see you as credible, and your position in the company hierarchy dictates your authority.

(Shortform note: While the authors specify four types of power, other experts report nine types. In addition to expertise, contacts (“connection power”), charisma, and position (“legitimate power”), leaders can have five additional types of power. Coercive power is gained through threat or force. Referent power is gained by being a strong role model. Informational power is gained by knowing things that others don’t. Reward power is gained when you can influence people’s behavior by providing rewards. Moral power is gained when you can influence people’s behavior through your beliefs and actions.)

2. Focus on building useful contacts immediately. Identify people in your organization who can help you develop the skills and relationships that will help you achieve your career goals. This can be peers who support and encourage you or higher-ups who serve as mentors and advocates. The more contacts you have, the more valuable you’ll be—you’ll be seen as sociable and able to help others build their social network by connecting them with your contacts. 

(Shortform note: Experts agree on the importance of prioritizing networking and offer a few tips to help you do so. For example, rather than communicating with coworkers over email, invite them for lunch where you can talk face-to-face. Introverted people may struggle more than others to build contacts—if you feel uncomfortable or dislike communication, push yourself out of your comfort zone by holding a conversation for a few more minutes than you’d like.)

How to Plan for the Future: 2 Ways to Let Go of Mastery

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Here's what you'll find in our full How Women Rise summary:

  • The limiting mindset many women develop that stunts their careers
  • The four thought patterns that women need to break free from
  • Why striving for perfectionism is asking for failure

Katie Doll

Somehow, Katie was able to pull off her childhood dream of creating a career around books after graduating with a degree in English and a concentration in Creative Writing. Her preferred genre of books has changed drastically over the years, from fantasy/dystopian young-adult to moving novels and non-fiction books on the human experience. Katie especially enjoys reading and writing about all things television, good and bad.

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