Are you living in a box? Is your career in a box?

Too many people live and work in a box of someone else’s choosing, often because they don’t know any better. Some people don’t even know they are in a box; they just acquiesce to others’ expectations and think this is all life has to offer. Others know they are in a box, but have no idea how to escape.

How do we get in a box?

We are conditioned by many influences in our life — our parents, teachers, friends, pastors, spouses, employers, etc. — to behave in certain ways. Much of the conditioning is positive, but sometimes we are conditioned to behave in ways that are contrary to our natural personality. Sometimes we are conditioned to behave in certain ways because of our gender, our nationality, or race.

A recent study in Scotland found that even career advisors put job seekers in boxes, frequently reinforcing gender and job stereotypes. What’s the lesson? You need to be in charge of defining who you are and what your best career fit is. Don’t let others put you in a box.

In his groundbreaking 1997 article The Brand Called You, Tom Peters’ wrote

“You’re branded, branded, branded, branded… We are CEOs of our own companies: Me Inc. To be in business today, our most important job is to be head marketer for the brand called You.”

Like it or not, you already have a brand. Everybody has a brand. Is it the brand you chose, or the brand someone else assigned to you?

How do we get out of a box?

Okay, so you find yourself in a box and want to get out, but you don’t know how.

The first and best place to start is to develop self-awareness of who you are and what you were created to do. You should be aware of your personality and behavioral preferences, your abilities and talents, and your passion.

Studies have shown that personality can be effective predictor of both job satisfaction and job performance effectiveness. When you understand your personality traits — your true nature — you can begin to identify the types of tasks and work environments that you are best suited for. While there are a number of good profile instruments on the market, such as DiSC and MBTI, I’ve found that CORE MAP is the most effective profile for identifying conditioned behavior patterns and revealing your true nature.

Developing self-awareness may take a lot of effort, but it is the essential first step to getting out of the box that others have put you in.