Q: I just returned from vacation where I had a chance to think about how I want to live my life differently. I know that I want do something else in my career but I am not sure what. Do you have any advice on what I can do about this discontent that I am feeling?
A: Every year, we gain a clearer understanding that without positive change, decline is inevitable. Still it's easy to lose hope: barriers to change seem to be everywhere. We work in organizations that aren't much fun. We fail to gain work/life balance that is so important to us but so difficult to sustain. Looking ahead, the challenge is to recognize that what we are now tolerating can be reinvented.
Most people returning to work from a relaxing vacation, where they took stock of their life, question if they are on the right career path but don’t do anything about it. "I'll be happy when...." is the way many people think they are living their lives. A fortunate few decide not to languish in their present job and begin the process of engineering a mid-career correction. Here is how these very few do it.
They recognize that happiness is not something that happens to you. Happiness is inside you now. You are motivated from within as you discovered while on vacation. You only have to allow happiness to continue to surface after the vacation in your work and personal lives.
The formula for happiness is to know yourself, discover what you do best and understand that you get what you tolerate. In medicine, you look at how "well tolerated" a drug will be related to its side effects. At work and at home, many people evaluate new opportunities related to what can be well tolerated. Yet after life, most people don't want their tombstone to read, "She tolerated stuff for other people because they paid her." Especially, when we realize that we can make more money and have more fun doing work that engages our passions. Life is too short for doing work you don't enjoy.
That said, I don’t recommend that you immediately leave your job but do begin the career transition process to visualize where you want to be. The first step is to change the way you think about yourself. Since what we think, we become, it is important to convince ourselves that we can change, so we do change. Believing comes first, then change, not the other way around. This rethinking who we are helps us to begin to consciously separate ourselves from our current job and life.
As you become clearer on where you want to be, you begin to modify your career path to be more in line with who you have become. Clarity happens as you get to know more about who you are by engaging in self-learning exercises. You also speed up the career transformation process through taking some self-assessments to match your strengths, interests and personality with potential work choices.
Everyone should know the important things in their life---your family, your partner, your health and well-being, your children---anything that is so important to you that if it were lost, you would be devastated.
After you know what’s important to you, engage in selective reading and take a few personality and career self assessments to get to know you better. Here are some self-assessments in books that you can buy at your local or online bookseller:
Kevin W. McCarthy: The On-Purpose Business: Doing More of What You Do Best More Profitably
The results of practicing the new discoveries and habits you learn over time are that they become part of your new real self.
Often, with changes in your habits, come changes in your aspirations and dreams. Going through the discovery of uncovering an ideal vision of yourself motivates you to develop new abilities to create and sustain the new habits. That is, you see the person you want to be---living with the new habit. This becomes the source of the energy required to work at the difficult and often frustrating process of change.