Yesterday, I was listening to a podcast with a famous host who was reflecting back on life. I don’t remember all of the details, but there was one particular thing that stuck out.
The host talked about working hard on her stellar career for years, chasing dreams and taking risks. She had done it because it was what she was supposed to do. It paid well and she lived a comfortable life. But, underneath it all, she wasn’t actually happy. She convinced herself that what she was doing was right and ignored any signs to the contrary.
Eventually, she woke up from the fog and began to take things in a new direction. What she really wanted in life and her original dream no longer aligned.
As those types of transitions typically are, it was difficult for her. She had to stop and think about what she really wanted, and that was scary. She worried about what other people thought of her. For a long time, she wished she could have her life back the way it was. Back before she thought about what it was she wanted.
In the long run though, she was happy she made a choice to update her path and ultimately to find the place she was meant to be.
Her story made an impression on me. Many of the people I work with have similar experiences.
So often, someone will ask me, “What industry do you specialize in?” They’re trying to get a better understanding of my coaching practice. They want to know if I only work with sales people or IT folks or in a particular sector, such as healthcare.
Interestingly, the answer really is that I typically work with people who want to find something different. And, they don’t always know what different looks like – at least not yet. They had a moment like the podcast host where they realized they weren’t happy — and they got determined to fix it.
Finding a new direction in life can be one of the scariest things we do from a career perspective. We often lose our old identity as “manager” or “director” or whatever our fancy title was. The status we have earned over the years hangs in the balance.
Often, we even have to take a pretty significant pay cut. Starting can involve starting at the bottom. And, of course colleagues, relatives, and friends are quick to make judgements — and to tell you about them.
The other thing that’s tough is that figuring out what exactly it is you want (after so many years of ignoring yourself). It takes time. Many people expect a quick fix. You know, they want to have things to be figured out in a month or two. In reality, it’s not unusual for this sort of transition to take a year or two.
I can only imagine that this is a similar feeling to getting a divorce. A number of my married friends romanticize about what it would be like to be single right now. But, when you talk to those who are single, you realize that it’s not as fun as it looks.
In the end, the most important thing is the practice of listening to yourself. The sooner you pay attention to what it is you really want, the sooner you’ll figure things out. Continuing to push these thoughts out of your mind only makes a transition harder later.
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