The current pandemic has led many people to wonder about changing careers; an not surprisingly so. Here are a few simple principles to consider when deciding on career reinvention, that can guide aspiring career-changers through the process during these hard times.
This has certainly been a year of paradoxes. During those initial stages of hearing about the emergence of this virus, along with the other natural disasters that had occurred e.g. the Australian bush fires , the Indonesian flash floods, the volcano in the Philippians, the locusts in Asia-East-Africa-India-Middle East and the earthquakes that rocked China-India-Iran-Russia-Turkey-the Caribbean, left me feeling a little like a reprimanded child being sent to her room for an extended time out. Except, it felt like we were all being sent to our rooms by a really angry mother who was just done talking, when the virus hit.
I really likened the various levels of lockdown around the world to that.
I remember when raising my own children, I would talk and shout and yell and eventually my patience and sense of humour would fail and they would be sent to their rooms. Like all parents who has raised more than one child will attest; there is always one child who is more defiant and more stubborn and less compliant that the others. This is kind of how I have viewed what the world has experienced this 2020.
As with all families, big and small we have seen the varying levels of compliance and petulance [globally]. We have seen some come out of their rooms to resume life, only to fall back into miscreant behaviour and sent right back. We have seen the school yard bullies grab and refocus our attention for their own purposes, and we have headed the call for help from those less fortunate among us.
Frustration levels have inched up as fatigue sets in [doesn’t that sound a bit like the holiday season at your house]. We love our family but sometimes they leave us wondering if the same blood runs through their veins as does ours. Sometimes their thinking and attitude and behaviour gives us pause to wonder who these people are and how they can think the way they do?
So here we are! 2020 has rattled us all in ways we could never have imagined could happen. The foundation of our lives has been called into question and many of us have found ourselves reflecting on the things that are important to us and digging deep to find levels of resilience we were not sure existed.
For some of us this year has been filled with opportunity for others adversity. I think and really want to believe that either way we have all learnt lessons about ourselves and others that we would otherwise not have learnt. So, I would invite you to reflect on those lessons and not let them be in vain – we owe it to ourselves and to those who have gone before us.
As we prepare to bid farewell to this year I invite you to reflect with me on some of the lessons I have learnt and perhaps you had similar lessons.
We are not in charge: probably a lesson we all learn at some point in our life, and probably know intuitively, yet somehow we live our lives contrary to this. When mother nature loses her sense of humour and snarls and father time stands back and lets her – we the children of the universe need to take a minute to heed these parents.
None of our orientations matter when we face ourselves: Our money or lack thereof, sexuality, religion, political affiliations or any other differentiator we have come to believe separates us, means nothing when we face our own mortality. Death is the ultimate leveller, and it is a solo journey we must all travel.
Everything is about the perspective we have: If you were asked five years ago “where you thought you would be today” – I can guarantee you got it wrong; we all did. All our plans, hopes, dreams & aspirations for what this year would be like have all been upended. Reprioritization was the order of the day, and for some this was viewed through the lens of opportunity for a do-over and for others it was viewed through the lens of catastrophe and loss. Whichever lens you used to view the world, ultimately, some things will have changed for you and now the view you have is very different from what it was in January.
Gratitude keeps a positive attitude: Trials and tribulations we know are part of life. However, when our lives are thrown into disarray and we have no-one to lash out to or blame for the circumstances we find ourselves in. When those meaningless rants about whose fault it is, falls on deaf ears and we realise that no matter how many times we wag our finger at “those people” who brought this to our shores, we eventually stop and recognise that “we are were we are” and no about of ranting is going to change that. In these moments we learn that there are those who have lost so much more than we have, and still they smile and face their days with grace and gratitude – so what is our problem anyway?
Reflection keeps us real: For many of us, reflection is very difficult because through the humdrum of our busy lives we just never learnt how to do this in any meaningful way. No matter how you take time to reflect ,whether it is in the shower, on a run/walk, through journaling or any other space, take some undisturbed time to just think about you and your day that is either ahead of you or behind you. Reflect on the good moments and the moments of frustration. Reflect on what brought a smile to face or the contribution you made to someone less fortunate than yourself and remember how that felt. Then go and repeat that – for it is in those moments of service to humanity that we feel most alive and most valued.
Remember who you are: Being true to who we are and what we believe is often our greatest struggle. We get caught up in the priorities of life, work, raising a family, launching a career. Our lives hurtle by and we look at our children and wonder when they grew up. You know you were there but somehow the passing years have faded into a blur of activities. One day you stop and realise that those cuddly, sweet smelling little bundles are all grown up; and you are that many years older; and for the life of you, you cannot remember when or how it all happened. Take time to ask those tough questions – Did I use my time wisely? What is stopping me from achieving my goals? What went well today? What did I learn today ? What did I teach today? Do I have negative emotions today – what are those and Why?
Truly think about these before you answer.
Learn and grow: I used to tell my students “We are always a student and sometimes a teacher” especially when they were feeling either despondent at not being able to grasp a skill I was teaching or when they were helping someone else practice a new skill. You see I have found that we should strive to learn 1 new thing everyday, no matter how random or arbitrary it may seem. Learning helps us to stretch our thinking and expand our curiosity and when we are curious we learn best. Wisdom is not reserved for the select few but rather is something we can all give ourselves by reflecting on doing things better, giving ourselves insight and learning how to be better and live more fulfilling lives.
Become who you needed: This was a tough one for me but incredibly valuable when I finally got it. We often spend many years agonising about relationships that did not go quite as we had hoped for. We lash out at parents or siblings or any other family members for what they did or did not do for us. We resent teachers who told us what we would or would not achieve. Then one day we realise that we are not that person anymore. We have achieved, we have the relationships we want, and the anger we harboured towards family members has dissolved, often into some form of tolerance or perhaps indifference. ON reflection we realise that we became the person we needed when we were growing up and we find we make very different decisions, which are often contrary to the ones we were raised on. Be proud of those changes because you are consciously making different decisions which serve you better. Self-awareness is a thing.
Leaking pipe or irrigation system: This was another incredibly illuminating moment for me. I always considered myself a fixer and proudly so. Always working from the premise that things are broken and therefore in need of fixing. Peoples’ thinking , their decision making, their capacity for progression. This was, for many years my job – to help people make informed decisions about their career and their future. I likened this to a water pipe and consistently felt as though I was fixing leaks along this pipe and I felt exhausted. I could no longer rally the emotional capacity to continue doing this. Then, one day, I was invited to consider an alternative view – I was invited to consider that perhaps this life was in fact not a water pipe that needed fixing but rather an irrigation pipe that needed to have the holes in it, to allow the water to drip/spray out. It took a minute to consider this and after a short time of consideration and recalibration I felt the relief. In that moment I realised that not all things need to be fixed and more importantly not all things that appear broken are broken.
2020 is rapidly coming to an end and as I reflect on the year that has past and share my lessons with you I wonder as I am sure you do too what 2021 holds in store for us.
I foresee a year of opportunity ahead for those who chose to see the opportunities, which for now may lie hidden. We have been given a chance to reflect and recalibrate and evaluate the things that are most important to us – our loved ones, the time we have to live, learn and serve humanity, the opportunity to be kind and generous to those who are in need of it. We have an opportunity to heal our world and repair the damage we (humans) have done to oceans, rivers, lakes, forests, air and all other areas of our environment. We have the chance to look into the mirror and realise that this world will flourish without us here, so maybe it’s time to dial back our arrogance and realise we are guests on this earth and start behaving as such.
Mother nature and Father time remain our loving universal parents BUT we have not been reprieved of our wrong doings.
What have you learnt from this year and what do you foresee the year ahead being for you?
Career limiting habits (CLHs) are, repeated behaviours that keep us from greater success or enjoyment in our careers. These apply really to all aspects of our life. Research has shown that most of us are aware of our career limiting habits but have not made much progress in addressing them.
What are self limiting Behaviours in the context of our careers
This behaviour is when you hear that little voice start talking to you out of doing great things.
Self-limiting beliefs in your career includes thinking
you are too inexperienced for a job, or a promotion opportunity
believing you shouldn’t take a risk because you’ll fail,
thinking it is too late to change careers or find the job/career of your dreams
thinking or believing you don’t need more money because you are comfortable.
Self-Limiting Behaviours & Beliefs That Hinder Your Career Success
- Seeking perfection. There is no perfection in life. The highest we can aim for is excellence.
- Pleasing everyone. This is humanly impossible. While you can certainly please some people some of the time, you cannot please everyone all of the time.
- Controlling people and things. This is not a fun nor a healthy way of living.
If you want success to find you attractive and be associated with you. You need to avoid doing these 7 things.
- Procrastination – an automatic, negative, problem habit of needlessly postponing and delaying a timely and relevant activity until another day or time. This is often a result of being afraid of failing at the tasks that they need to complete. or even start.
There are four main types of avoidance archetypes, or procrastinators: the performer, the self-deprecator, the over-booker, and the novelty seeker. Figuring out which group you’re in can help you break out of your procrastination patterns
- Fear of Failure – when we allow fear to stop us doing the things that can move us forward to achieve our goals.
This fear often stems from childhood, perfectionism, ego and over-personalization, and a lack of confidence. At the root of failure and the fear of failure is shame, which is a very unpleasant emotion associated with feeling like one is a bad person, or has a flawed or defective self. It also brings up fears of what others will think of us post-failure.
- Ignorance – can appear in three different types: factual ignorance (absence of knowledge of some fact), object ignorance (unacquaintance with some object), and technical ignorance (absence of knowledge of how to do something). Ignorance can kill you! Lack of knowledge, stupidity and deception of yourself and others are all life denying and can destroy happiness and meaning in your life.
- Lack of Purpose –We need to have a purpose in our lives. Purpose gives us direction, it motivates us, it gives reason for our existence. It also helps make decisions, both minor and major. Discovering one’s “purpose” in life essentially boils down to finding those one or two things that are bigger than yourself, and bigger than those around you. It’s not about some great achievement, but merely finding a way to spend your limited amount of time well.
- Lack of Courage – You need courage to begin something. … Courage is the secret sauce that allows you to act despite your fears. Courage gives you the ability to put aside your fear of failure and take the first steps. Courage helps you overcome the fear of rejection and engage your stakeholders.
- Fault Finding – to criticize someone or something, often after deliberately looking for mistakes. When we find fault with others, we tell ourselves that there is not much work to be done regarding our own shortcomings.
Faultfinders are almost always tell others, in one form or another, what he or she should be doing. When you make demands on other people, you send the message that you not only disagree with them, but that they have violated some standard. That is misleading.
Lack of Self-belief – An inability to believe in o ne-self due to Low self-esteem characterized by a lack of confidence and feeling badly about oneself. People with low self-esteem often feel unlovable, awkward, or incompetent.
If you need help removing any of your self Limiting Beliefs that are keeping you from the Success you know you can have then why not Book some time in my Calendar and lets chat and find our How I can help you Remove these limiting beliefs for good.
We often make up excuses to stay in jobs that make us unhappy, but regardless of what we tell ourselves, all of these stories boil down to FEAR. We want to debunk some of the myths we tell ourselves around staying in a bad job.
Do you feel stuck in a job you don’t like? We often make up excuses to stay in jobs that make us unhappy.
Leaving the security of a job, especially during tough economic times, is a frightening thought – but so is continuing to work in a place that leaves you unfulfilled and unsatisfied.
I want to debunk some of the myths we tell ourselves around staying in a bad job.
Myth: Things are tough, so I can’t make a career change right now.
Truth: Sometimes negative events can be a catalyst for positive change.
Whether you are experiencing tough times on a personal or global level, it can be difficult to think of adding a career change on top of those stresses. Sometimes however, tough times can reveal a new purpose or meaningful opportunity.
There are countless stories of people who have turned tragedy into something meaningful. It can be done. You just have to let yourself be open to the idea of change.
Right now we are all experiencing one of the most challenging periods in history. We have seen a downturn in the economy due to COVID-19. While it is true that fewer companies are hiring and there is more competition, the roles are still out there. There are companies that are innovating to adapt to the changing world. There are also companies who have seen an increase in demand during this time.
The key is making yourself stand out by highlighting your passions and skills. It may not be a quick or easy change, but don’t let fear be the thing that stops you from finding something better.
Myth: I’m just lucky to have a job.
Truth: It is possible to be grateful for a job, but still not love it.
As we see unemployment rise and more companies go through layoffs, it is normal to feel gratitude for what we do have. It is also a good thing. There are proven benefits to expressing gratitude and it is something that should be part of your daily routine.
But it is also okay to be grateful for what you have while admitting you long for something better. Accepting what is because you know it could be worse is twisting gratitude into an excuse to hold yourself back. Allow yourself to strive for more. Do you know what you want? Do you have a dream job?
Myth: I can’t afford to leave my job right now.
Truth: You don’t have to leave your job (yet) to start the career transformation process.
How to Handle Common Career Struggles
A career can be a source of great joy and great pain. If you relate more to the latter, chances are you have experienced one of these common career struggles. Fortunately, you do not have to continue suffering.
Do not settle in your career! If you are not happy, it is time for a career transition!
Here are some solutions to some of the obstacles most frequently faced by professionals.
Problem: You hate your job and/or chosen career path.
Solution: If you know you are not happy and have yet to take steps to remedy it, you typically fall into one of two scenarios:
- You are fearful of making a change. There are many stories we tell ourselves that can cause us to stifle our own success. “I’m not good enough.” “What if I fail?” “What if I make a change and it’s worse?” It is critical to recognize what story you are telling yourself so that you can start to isolate those thoughts and address them. Bringing your fears to the forefront of your consciousness is the first step in being able to overcome them. Once you recognize and acknowledge the fears, applying some simple but effective tools can render them powerless in holding you back.
- You do not know what will make you happy. You have recognized you are not happy, but you do not know what will bring you joy. This can be especially difficult when you have spent your entire career in one field. It is time to do some discovery work. Finding your purpose is a key place to start. Once you know your purpose, make a list of your strengths and passions. If you start to see some similarities between the lists, follow that path.
Problem: You are struggling to get to the next level in your career.
Solution: It is time to expand your network. You have got the experience and you need to highlight that to the right people – whether it is a decision maker or someone who can make a referral. They can be at your current company or at a potential new employer. Connecting with the right people can make all the difference. Expanding your network does not mean you have to attend in-person networking events, especially in the age of social distancing. There are great digital tools, such as LinkedIn and Shapr, that allow you to build relationships with other professionals. Find an authentic way to connect with others that is enjoyable to you.
Problem: You are not standing out to potential employers.
Solution: Most recruiters and hiring managers see hundreds of resumes for a single position. That number increases the more desirable the role and company are. Standing out is difficult, but possible. We recommend that every job seeker approach their career as if they were an entrepreneur building a company. Your career is your business. You must determine your product (your skillset), your unique selling proposition (your strengths and passions) and your target market (the companies YOU want to work for). Once you have defined your professional brand, you need to ensure that it is reflected everywhere – your resume, your cover letter, your online presence, and especially how you show up for interviews.
Now it is time to market yourself. You have to do more than just submit your resume to job posts and boards. Connect with the right people and make sure you are visible. Focus on your strengths and passions, especially if you do not have the requested experience.
If you need help defining and marketing your personal brand, we can help. Chat with one of our coaches here
It is time to transition in your career.
Career transitioning does not happen overnight. It is a process that takes time and commitment.
Deciding you want to find something better does not mean you have to quit your job tomorrow. It simply means you are ready to start the process of identifying what kind of career will bring you joy, and what kinds of companies will value who you are. THEN taking the steps to find them and go after them.
What can I do to find a career I love?
Ideal Careers offers several courses, for wherever you are in the process. If you are looking for total Career Transformation OR looking to Transition Into another Career, we offer programs, as well as coaching, to get you started. If you are already in process or looking to ease into career transitioning, we offer a single-modules that focuses on a particular area of making a career change. Book a chat with one of our advisors Its FREE.
Do not let fear hold you back from finding happiness and fulfilment in your career!
Your career plays a major role in your life. Settling and being complacent in this area can leave you feeling unfulfilled. Find the right solution for you at Ideal Careers.co.za
You get times like that don’t you? My current blame du jour are the retrogrades, that those in the know predicted would throw all unfinished business and all that has been emotionally papered over, into deep fractures.
Change is one of life’s inevitabilities and as much as we are digging the vintage vibe or doing the ostrich thing to the stuff we can’t bear; change is the only constant. We are all having to dig deep these days. Not just profoundly into our pockets but into our psyches too, to help mend and make do and get through in these volatile and uncertain times.
Redundancy, relationship crises, health issues and financial worries are becoming an increasing life burden for all of us. When the future is foggy, we struggle to find an anchor to keep us from feeling like we are drifting aimlessly and uncontrollably. We want black and white answers when those 50 rainbow shades offer an overwhelming and altogether unsexy prospect.
So, the buzzword to hold on to is Resilience.
Simply put, it is the ability to dig deep within ourselves to find that reserve of energy and resolve we need to help us through the tough times. Resilience is a skill and it can be practiced just like practicing to play a musical instrument or a sport.
Easier said than done for many, especially when you feel like jelly and you find yourself on shaky ground. Where is that strength you need to draw upon?
It is right there at the core of your being. You must have faith in your own instincts and abilities which will help guide you along the way. Digging deep into hitherto unknown reserves of self is what Japanese author Haruki Murakami writes about in his book on spirituality, philosophy and marathons What I Talk About When I Talk About Running.
Keeping the goal in mind and consistently reminding yourself that things will get better; as you take baby steps each day towards it. Coaching is great for this. Ordinarily we seldom, if ever, need to dig that deep for our everyday lives. It is however, worth creating systems which you can turn to when you feel the ground shaking and your nerve is heading for the Exit with someone else’s coat.
Here are a few coaching tips to help consolidate Resilience.
- Maintain good relationships with your family and friends. Accept their help in times of stress. Offer help to those who are less fortunate than you are – and YES there are always others in a worse situation than you are. Give generously and earnestly, especially when you feel you have little to give. We feel at our best when we are able to help those less able than ourselves. The smallest act of kindness done in earnest will open the door of abundance.
- Try to look at the big picture of life and avoid viewing difficult times as insurmountable. Take small steps toward your goals and take one day at a time. Avoid the pitfall of trying to solve tomorrow’s problems today. Deal with what you can deal with today, do it well – tomorrow is not guaranteed. Stay focused on what you can manage today, right here, right now. Remember there are things you can control and there are things you cannot. So do what you can do, manage what you can manage and keep moving forward.
- Accept that change is a part of life and acceptance of what is – is key. Keep working toward your goals every day, and keep asking yourself “What can I do today to move in the direction I need to go in? Small consistent acts in the right directly get results.
- Maintain a positive view of life and visualize what you want. When we feel like our resolve is fading, often times our energy levels tend to wax and wane as well. It is critical at these points to take care of yourself. Eat well, sleep and exercise to keep yourself healthy – even if you only do a quarter of what you would normally do. This is especially important during times of stress. There will always be an obstacle or hurdle that we will need to navigate in our lives. Learn to navigate these hurdles with confidence in your own abilities is key. Fear and anxiety will always rear their heads – it’s perfectly okay to recognise that you are fearful or anxious. The trick however is to not allow it to paralyse you into inaction.
- Make the Decision to Prevail. This too shall pass. As the Good times come and go so too, do the Bad times. Nothing is permanent – as sure as day follows night these periods of volatility and uncertainty will pass.
Being resilient does not mean that we do not experience difficulty or distress, emotional pain or sadness. Resilience involves the behaviours, thoughts and actions that we can learn and develop to navigate the emotional distress. Learn and practice self-compassion and recognize that everyone suffers. Being gentle and kind to yourself is a much more effective road to healing. If your best friend were going through a rough time you would be kind and gentle with them; NOW go and do the same thing for yourself.
Another sure-fire way of developing some psyche superglue is to hire a coach. Book your 30-minute trial telephone session today by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org
During these unprecedented times we all need a little help. Here are a few packages which may tickle your fancy and provide some help along the way to redefining your normal.. If any of these sound like something you may be interested in doing click here to connect with me and we can schedule a FREE consultation session with no obligation.
If this is not what you are looking for let me know how I may be of Service and we can tailor make a packed to suite your unique needs.
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The past week has been an interesting one, filled with both joy and sorrow. As is want to happen the new week arrived in all its magnificence and serendipitously, I found these Four Stories that gave me pause to reflect. These are old familiar stories and you have probably read them before with slightly different people and contexts however the lessons remain the same.
Story #1: All the Difference in The World
Every Sunday morning I take a light jog around a park near my home. There’s a lake located in one corner of the park. Each time I jog by this lake, I see the same elderly woman sitting at the water’s edge with a small metal cage sitting beside her.
This past Sunday my curiosity got the best of me, so I stopped jogging and walked over to her. As I got closer, I realized that the metal cage was in fact a small trap. There were three turtles, unharmed, slowly walking around the base of the trap. She had a fourth turtle in her lap that she was carefully scrubbing with a spongy brush.
“Hello,” I said. “I see you here every Sunday morning. If you don’t mind my nosiness, I’d love to know what you’re doing with these turtles.”
She smiled. “I’m cleaning off their shells,” she replied. “Anything on a turtle’s shell, like algae or scum, reduces the turtle’s ability to absorb heat and impedes its ability to swim. It can also corrode and weaken the shell over time.”
“Wow! That’s really nice of you!” I exclaimed.
She went on: “I spend a couple of hours each Sunday morning, relaxing by this lake and helping these little guys out. It’s my own strange way of making a difference.”
“But don’t most freshwater turtles live their whole lives with algae and scum hanging from their shells?” I asked.
“Yep, sadly, they do,” she replied.
I scratched my head. “Well then, don’t you think your time could be better spent? I mean, I think your efforts are kind and all, but there are freshwater turtles living in lakes all around the world. And 99% of these turtles don’t have kind people like you to help them clean off their shells. So, no offense… but how exactly are your localized efforts here truly making a difference?”
The woman giggled aloud. She then looked down at the turtle in her lap, scrubbed off the last piece of algae from its shell, and said, “Sweetie, if this little guy could talk, he’d tell you I just made all the difference in the world.”
The moral: You can change the world – maybe not all at once, but one person, one animal, and one good deed at a time. Wake up every morning and pretend like what you do makes a difference. It does. (Read 29 Gifts.)
Story #2: The Weight of the Glass
Once upon a time a psychology professor walked around on a stage while teaching stress management principles to an auditorium filled with students. As she raised a glass of water, everyone expected they’d be asked the typical “glass half empty or glass half full” question. Instead, with a smile on her face, the professor asked, “How heavy is this glass of water I’m holding?”
Students shouted out answers ranging from eight ounces to a couple pounds.
She replied, “From my perspective, the absolute weight of this glass doesn’t matter. It all depends on how long I hold it. If I hold it for a minute or two, it’s fairly light. If I hold it for an hour straight, its weight might make my arm ache a little. If I hold it for a day straight, my arm will likely cramp up and feel completely numb and paralyzed, forcing me to drop the glass to the floor. In each case, the weight of the glass doesn’t change, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it feels to me.”
As the class shook their heads in agreement, she continued, “Your stresses and worries in life are very much like this glass of water. Think about them for a while and nothing happens. Think about them a bit longer and you begin to ache a little. Think about them all day long, and you will feel completely numb and paralyzed – incapable of doing anything else until you drop them.”
The moral: It’s important to remember to let go of your stresses and worries. No matter what happens during the day, as early in the evening as you can, put all your burdens down. Don’t carry them through the night and into the next day with you. If you still feel the weight of yesterday’s stress, it’s a strong sign that it’s time to put the glass down. (Angel and I discuss this process of letting go in the Adversity and Self-Love chapters of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)
Story #3: Shark Bait
During a research experiment a marine biologist placed a shark into a large holding tank and then released several small bait fish into the tank.
As you would expect, the shark quickly swam around the tank, attacked and ate the smaller fish.
The marine biologist then inserted a strong piece of clear fiberglass into the tank, creating two separate partitions. She then put the shark on one side of the fiberglass and a new set of bait fish on the other.
Again, the shark quickly attacked. This time, however, the shark slammed into the fiberglass divider and bounced off. Undeterred, the shark kept repeating this behavior every few minutes to no avail. Meanwhile, the bait fish swam around unharmed in the second partition. Eventually, about an hour into the experiment, the shark gave up.
This experiment was repeated several dozen times over the next few weeks. Each time, the shark got less aggressive and made fewer attempts to attack the bait fish, until eventually the shark got tired of hitting the fiberglass divider and simply stopped attacking altogether.
The marine biologist then removed the fiberglass divider, but the shark didn’t attack. The shark was trained to believe a barrier existed between it and the bait fish, so the bait fish swam wherever they wished, free from harm.
The moral: Many of us, after experiencing setbacks and failures, emotionally give up and stop trying. Like the shark in the story, we believe that because we were unsuccessful in the past, we will always be unsuccessful. In other words, we continue to see a barrier in our heads, even when no ‘real’ barrier exists between where we are and where we want to go. (Read The Road Less Traveled.)
Story #4: Being and Breathing
One warm evening many years ago…
After spending nearly every waking minute with Angel for eight straight days, I knew that I had to tell her just one thing. So late at night, just before she fell asleep, I whispered it in her ear. She smiled – the kind of smile that makes me smile back –and she said, “When I’m seventy-five and I think about my life and what it was like to be young, I hope that I can remember this very moment.”
A few seconds later she closed her eyes and fell asleep. The room was peaceful – almost silent. All I could hear was the soft purr of her breathing. I stayed awake thinking about the time we’d spent together and all the choices in our lives that made this moment possible. And at some point, I realized that it didn’t matter what we’d done or where we’d gone. Nor did the future hold any significance.
All that mattered was the serenity of the moment.
Just being with her and breathing with her.
The moral: We must not allow the clock, the calendar, and external pressures to rule our lives and blind us to the fact that each individual moment of our lives is a beautiful mystery and a miracle – especially those moments we spend in the presence of a loved one.
How do you think differently today, than you once did? What life experience or realization brought on a significant change in your way of thinking? Please leave a comment below and share your story with us.
This is Part 1 of 2
Goal-setting seems like a smart thing to do in a career change. However, this might actually be exactly what is keeping you stuck. Renata explains why big targets can be a false friend. Here is what she recommends doing to start making progress towards that Ideal Career instead.
Let me tell you a short story
A little while ago I was doing a cupboard purge something I had not done in a while.
I found a black hard cover notebook. I immediately recognise this old faithful companion that contain hundreds of lines of my handwriting and doodles, in different colours of ink and pencil.
Journal entries, to-do lists, thoughts I had jotted down. Pages and pages of confused, frustrated outpourings about my work, my life, my future. I took a moment to read those words and I was transported back to that year in a deeply visceral way that I haven’t felt for a long time. The desperate awkwardness of feeling like a fundamental misfit in a career and a life that was not for mine. The sense of being caged in and stuck, trapped by the very life choices I myself had made in the years before. The dark emptiness ahead of me when I tried to imagine what else I could do.
As I flipped through the pages of that old book one page in particular hit me hard.
It was a list of goals.
Big, ambitious, hopeful goals. The only kind I had, back then.
And then next to them, in a different pen, clearly written later in a fit of irritation, a series of scrawled, pointy, sarcastic flippant questions…
- “Have three reasonable career options I’m truly excited about.” LOVELY. HOW, EXACTLY?
- “Start a side line income to make extra cash” WHICH YOU’LL DO IN WHAT SPARE TIME?
- “Have ($6000) saved by June.” WHAT FOR, GENIUS?
- “Hand in my notice by September” YEAH, RIGHT!!
Reading the contents of that page was like watching a snippet of the perpetual state of the inside of my head – the never-ending back-and-forth of a hopeful, fierce optimist and an angry, hurt cynic.
I made a lot of lists like that.
I remember how painful and pointless those felt, once their initial balm wore off.
Unrealistic, hollow-feeling goals, created mostly because I didn’t know what else to do.
They sounded nice, but I rarely did much about them.
It wasn’t a question of what I wanted on a grand scale.
It was the specifics I had no clue about. I still did not know the steps to take to get there.
Goals are not very helpful in the day-to-day logistics of a career change.
YES goals can feel productive, and make yo feel good in the beginning. Perhaps these goals even feel good the day after you write them down.
But beyond that initial feel-good sensation you have initially it can actually have the opposite effect on you making any meaningful change.
Fulfilment isn’t SMART
Anyone who has ever done any goal-setting has come into contact with the idea of SMART goals at some point:
We are told Goals must be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-based.
This is Fair enough however finding fulfilling work is not quite so neat.
Setting SMART goals is an organisational task – finding the logical pieces, breaking them into chunks, and putting them together in a way that leads you forward, step by step.
Finding fulfilling work however feels more like trying to jump off a jellyfish into an ocean you are not convinced actually exists.
You do not really know where you are going, so being specific i.t.o goals setting is laughable.
You are not sure how exactly to measure fulfilment (beyond ‘Makes me want to poke myself in the eye / Doesn’t make me want to poke myself in the eye’), so that’s a shaky one too.
You do not even completely believe it’s possible, so how can it be achievable or realistic?
And time-based… if ONLY a deadline could fix this mess.
So sitting down to write some goals for your career change… eerr if it feels ridiculous, that’s probably because it is, a little.
Extrinsic motivation is not effective
Imagine you have set yourself a goal to lose 10 kilos.
You start going to the gym every day, because someone told you that gym exercise gets faster weight-loss results than anything else.
You hate the gym. You hate the smell of the changing rooms, you hate the perky gym bunny types who take up all the machines, you hate the music they play, and you hate running towards your own reflection in a mirror for half an hour and traveling precisely nowhere.
You start taking a salad and a Thermos of cabbage soup to work every day. You hate salad. You hate cabbage soup. You are starting to hate your life.
But you would love to loose those 10 kilos.
So you put up with it. You eat the soup, holding your nose and visualising your life once you’ve hit your goal. You endure the gym, wishing you could just hit your goal and never have to go back there again.
What are the chances of you hitting your 10-kilo target – and, more importantly, maintaining it afterward? I would say Pretty low, no?
Goals that do not inspire you or give you that “hell yeah” feeling or rely on extrinsic motivation such as an external, tangible result or outcome you need to achieve will not be achieved.
These goals feel heavy, looming over you menacingly until you have hit them. The process of working toward them often doesn’t feel enjoyable and takes a lot of effort despite the rewards at the end.
So you’re less likely to take the steps you need to take to achieve them.
Extrinsic motivation has repeatedly been shown to be less effective than Intrinsic motivation, which is driven by enjoying the activity itself.
Extrinsic motivation: “If I walk five miles today, I can have that piece of chocolate cake.”
Intrinsic motivation: “I love dancing – I’m going to dance in the kitchen just because it feels great.”
Extrinsic motivation: “If I spend the next month learning about the political system in Uzbekistan I’ll look really smart at the university dinner party.”
Intrinsic motivation: “How DOES the inside of my remote control work? This is fascinating…”
In other words, given the choice between rewards or enjoyment, you are far more likely to do things you enjoy.
So, ironically, you are more likely to lose 10 kilos by throwing the scales in the bin and going dancing every weekend than you are by trying to haul yourself to the gym every day if going to the gym is not your thing.
In your career change, you are more likely to find fulfilling work (albeit counter-intuitively) by doing things you enjoy than you are by setting yourself a goal to change career.
Pressure encourages procrastination
There is a fair amount of pressure involved in goal-setting.
Either you hit your goal, or you don’t.
There is no room for the grey area on the way.
And if you don’t hit it, you’ve ‘failed’. Unpleasant. Scary. Dunce hat. Ugh.
Procrastination is based in fear. Fear of failure, fear of success, fear of change: all fears that grow from an attachment to a specific outcome… otherwise known as ‘a goal’.
In career change, this often looks like vacillation, over-thinking, endlessly weighing up options, researching things to death…
What if you get it wrong? What if you don’t hit your target? What if it never happens?
High stakes creates high tension – and the higher the tension, the less likely you are to act.
So if you have set yourself a goal and you are getting stuck in procrastination-whirlpools, this might be why.
You are not the boss of everything
Unfortunate, but true.
No matter how hard you try, or how much effort you put in to achieving a goal, sometimes the world just gets in the way. Life happens.
Maybe you twist an ankle and can’t train for the marathon.
Maybe the taxman slings you an unexpected curveball and your savings goal hits the deck.
Maybe your company withdraws its plans to offer a round of voluntary redundancies next month, like you were expecting.
Maybe your kid gets sick and you spend your week curled up on the bathroom floor mopping brows and blowing noses and you don’t get your LinkedIn profile up to date like you said you would.
These moments hurt. Partly because they throw a spanner in the works and we have to deal with the possibility of failure.
Partly because it forces you to realise that you can’t control results.
You can ONLY control what you do, but not what happens next.
- You can create a perfectly written LinkedIn profile, but you can’t control whether or not people will read it.
- You can reach out to someone you admire, but you can’t control whether or not they will respond.
- You can go to an event you have never been to before, but you can’t control whether or not it will spark a new career idea.
Trying to consistently hit your goals when you are only responsible for part of the process is a pretty heavy expectation.
Don’t just set goals, build habits.
Looking back at my notebook, I’m pretty proud to say that I have achieved pretty much all l the goals I set back then and am working on achieving the new ones I have set.
I found a way to visit amazing places met some truly amazing people and do work I am completely in love with.
That wouldn’t have happened without giving myself the space to dream ridiculously big and commit to consistently doing things I had no idea how to do BUT learnt that it was possible and I could them.
Read part 2 next
Staying mentally healthy as the country begins going back into workplaces.
Life as we knew it has changed and our reality is very different today than it was 100+ days ago. Many of us were in various stages of lockdown for extended periods of time. and even as many of the initial restrictions were lifted , many have still remained and will remain for the foreseeable future.
As we begin to emerge from what felt like hibernation for many, we are all to aware that life is very different and things will never go back to the way they were.
As we start to return to work, and our children return to school there is a lot to think about. Lockdown has affected us all in different ways, and it is normal to feel uncertain about what the future holds.
Many people feel confused, worried and apprehensive about going back to the workplace and even more feel anxious about sending children back to school. Amid this worry there is also the harsh realisation that indefinite lockdown is not sustainable and life still needs to carry on.
Organisations are considering a range of adjustments to the way work is done, to comply with government recommendations. These adjustments will depend on your job, and your individual circumstances.
Everyone’s situation is unique. However, as you return to work, there are some general principles that will give you the best chance of getting back to work and staying mentally healthy over the coming months.
Talk and connect
It is important to keep in touch with colleagues and your line manager. You don’t need to talk about work, but a quick check-in will help you feel connected. We have all been impacted by the coronavirus in different ways. You may have been bereaved, felt overwhelmed or isolated, or been unwell. If you share this with others they will be better able to help you in the months ahead.
Plan and prepare
Think about your job and your situation. Does anything need to change to help you do your job well? If you haven’t been told what to expect, ask what provisions have been made to create a safe work environment. It can be helpful to think through what will happen on the first day back:
- How will you get to work?
- Will anything be different as you enter the building?
- Who will be there?
- Will you need to do things differently to get your job done?
- Are you on a rotation schedule?
Have a return-to-work conversation with your line manager
If you have not received a return-to-work briefing from your line manager ask for one.
This is a chance to identify your work priorities and raise any concerns or questions that you have. If you have something important you want to talk about, make a note of it for when you have a briefing or perhaps drop your manager and email with your concerns. This is an unprecedented time for all of us and we are all trying to figure things out as we go along. NO one person has all the answers so raise your concerns and ask your questions – chances are you are not the only one who has the same concern.
Try not to panic and slip into a paranoid space
Take things one step at a time
The way we all work is likely to keep changing in the coming weeks and months so we will need to keep adjusting. Don’t expect everything to quickly return to normal. The life you knew and were familiar with prior to lockdown is gone and will very likely never return. We have a long journey ahead. We may never be able to go back to our old ways of working so this could give us an opportunity to do things very differently, and even better. Look out for yourself, look out for others and take one day at a time.
Monitor and review how you are getting on
It is important to have regular check-ins with yourself (How am I coping? Could I do more to help stay mentally healthy?) and check-ins with your team members and manager (How are we working? Is there anything we could do differently to work better together?). This way you can address issues as they come up and start to plan and prepare for the journey through COVID-19 together.
Be mindful of those who may have been directedly affected or infected by this virus. Be supportive and check-in if a team member has had to deal with the illness or loss of a family member due to COVID-19. many of those in essential services have has to deal with unimaginable conditions from and emotional and psychological perspective. Many of them have brought these traumas home and family have had to deal as best they could. so be gentle and be kind with those who are struggling you may not know what they have has to deal with on the home front.
Everyone is finding their own path and things might not always go to plan. It is important to be kind to yourself and to be kind to others as we all find our way. Returning to work is not always easy, but having support can make a huge difference. If you are finding it difficult, ask a trusted colleague or friend to help you work through the questions and identify some concrete actions that you, or they, can take to help you.
What is Resilience?
We all demonstrate resilience in some form or the other at some point in our life. This is a very ordinary and normal process we all go through when we need to rebuild our life.
Being resilient does not mean that we do not experience difficulty or distress, emotional pain or sadness. Quite the opposite the road to resilience is often paved with considerable emotional distress.
Resilience involves the behaviours, thoughts and actions that we can learn and develop to navigate the emotional distress.
We have all dealt with the death of a loved one, loss of a job, serious illness or some other traumatic event that has left an indelible mark on our life. These are all very challenging life experiences and many people react to these circumstance with a flood of strong emotions and a sense of uncertainty. Eventually though they adapt well over time to these life-changing situations and stressful conditions. What enable s them to do so? It is resilience – the ongoing process that requires time and effort and taking a number of steps to enhance and build their resilience.
Here are Six Strategies that can help you Build resilience
Change the narrative
When something bad happens, we tend to relive the event over and over in our heads. We step onto this merry-go-round and we rehash the pain the event has caused. This process is called rumination; it is the proverbial cognitive spinning of the wheels, and it doesn’t move us forward toward healing and growth.
The practice of Expressive Writing can move us forward by helping us gain new insights into the challenges in our lives. It involves free writing continuously for 20 minutes about an issue exploring your deepest thoughts and feelings around it. The goal is to get something down on paper. You do not necessarily want to create a memoir-like masterpiece.
Research conducted back in a 1988 study found that participants who did Expressive Writing for four days were healthier six weeks later and happier up to three months later compared t those who did not write or those who wrote about superficial things. The act of writing allows us to slow down our thinking and forces us to confront ideas one by one and give them structure, which may lead to new perspectives.
By doing this we are actually crafting our own life narrative and gaining a sense of control. We are also able to find the Finding Silver Linings which requires us to list at least three positive things about the experience or the lessons we learnt through this process. This helps us to become more engaged in our life post the event and increases our optimism over time. This in turn reduces our depression levels suggesting that looking on the bright side is something we have to practice regularly.
Face your fears
The practices above are helpful for past struggles, ones that we have gained enough distance from to be able to get some perspective pn. What about those knee-shaking fears that we are experiencing in the here and now?
The Overcoming a Fear practice is designed to help with everyday fears that get in the way of life, such as the fear of public speaking, heights, or flying. We can’t talk ourselves out of such fears; instead, we have to tackle the emotions directly.
The first step is to slowly, and repeatedly, expose yourself to the thing that scares you—in small doses.
For example, people with a fear of public speaking might try talking more in meetings, then perhaps giving a toast at a small wedding. Over time, you can incrementally increase the challenge until you’re ready to nail that big speech.
This kind of “exposure therapy” helps us change the associations we have with a particular stimulus. If we have flown 100 times and the plane has never crashed, for example, our brain (and body) start to learn that it’s safe. Though the fear may never be fully extinguished, we will likely have greater courage to confront it.
Fears and adversity can make us feel alone; we wonder why we are the only ones feeling this way, and what exactly is wrong with us. In these situations, learning to practice self-compassion and recognizing that everyone suffers, can be a much gentler and more effective road to healing.
Self-compassion involves offering compassion to ourselves: confronting our own suffering with an attitude of warmth and kindness, without judgment. The Self-Compassion Break, is something you can do any time you start to feel overwhelmed by pain or stress. It has three steps, which correspond to the three aspects of self-compassion:
- Be mindful: Without judgment or analysis, notice what you are feeling. Name it and acknowledge it. Say, “This is a moment of suffering” or “This hurts” or “This is stress.”
- Remember that you are not alone: Everyone experiences these deep and painful human emotions, although the causes might be different. Say to yourself, “Suffering is a part of life” or “We have all felt this way at some point in our life” or “We all deal with some kind of struggle in our lives.”
- Be kind to yourself: Put your hands on your heart and say something like “I give myself compassion” or “I accept myself as I am” or “I will be patient with myself during this time.”
If being kind to yourself is a challenge which it can sometimes be. Consider how you would respond if your best friend were going through what you are going through. How would you respond and support your best friend; what would you say or do for your bestie? Now go and do that for yourself.
Once we start to develop a kinder attitude toward ourselves, we can crystallize that gentle voice into a Self-Compassionate Letter. Just as yo would write words of understanding, acceptance, and compassion towards your best friend write those same words to yourself in a letter.
In the letter, you might remind yourself that everyone struggles, and that you are not alone; if possible, you could also consider constructive ways to improve in the future.
As mindfulness gurus like to remind us, our most painful thoughts are usually about the past or the future: We regret and ruminate on things that went wrong, or we get anxious about things that will. When we pause and bring our attention to the present, we often find that things are…okay.
Practicing mindfulness brings us more and more into the present, and it offers techniques for dealing with negative emotions when they arise. That way, instead of getting carried away into fear, anger, or despair, we can work through them more deliberately.
Strong feelings tend to manifest physically, as tight chests or knotted stomachs, and relaxing the body is one way to begin dislodging them. There are thousands of meditations techniques and practices available.The Body Scan is one of the many you can use to focus on each body part in turn—head to toe—and can choose to let go of any areas of tension you discover. Being more aware of our bodies and the emotions we are feeling might also help us make healthier choices, trusting our gut when something feels wrong or avoiding commitments that will lead to exhaustion.
If holding a grudge is holding you back, research suggests that cultivating forgiveness could be beneficial to your mental and physical health. If you feel ready to begin, it can be a powerful practice.
Both Nine Steps to Forgiveness and Eight Essentials When Forgiving offer a list of guidelines to follow. In both cases, you begin by clearly acknowledging what happened, including how it feels and how it’s affecting your life right now. Then, you make a commitment to forgive, which means letting go of resentment and ill will for your own sake; forgiveness doesn’t mean letting the offender off the hook or even reconciling with them. Ultimately, you can try to find a positive opportunity for growth in the experience: Perhaps it alerted you to something you need, which you may have to look for elsewhere, or perhaps you can now understand other people’s suffering better.
If you are having trouble forgiving, Letting Go of Anger through Compassion is a five-minute forgiveness exercise that could help you get unstuck. Here, you spend a few minutes generating feelings of compassion toward your offender; s/he, too, is a human being who makes mistakes; s/he, too, has room for growth and healing. Be mindful and aware of your thoughts and feelings during this process, and notice any areas of resistance. Research suggests that letting go and forgiveness rather than ruminating on negative feelings or repressing them cultivates compassion, more empathy, positive emotions, and feelings of control.
That is an outcome that victims of wrongdoing deserve, no matter how we feel about the offenders.
Develop mental agility
It is possible, without too much effort , to literally switch the neural networks with which we process the experience of stress in order to respond to rather than react to any difficult situation or person. This quality of mental agility hinges on the ability to mentally “decenter” stressors in order to effectively manage them. “Decentering” stress is not denying or suppressing the fact that we feel stressed, rather, it is the process of being able to pause, to observe the experience from a neutral standpoint, and then to try to solve the problem. When we are able to cognitively take a step back from our experience and label our thoughts and emotions, we are effectively pivoting attention from the narrative network in our brains to the more observational parts of our brains. Being mentally agile, and decentering stress when it occurs, enables the core resilience skill of “response flexibility,” which renowned psychologist Linda Graham describes as “the ability to pause, step back, reflect, shift perspectives, create options and choose wisely.” We often tell our children who are upset to “use your words,” for example, and it turns out that stopping and labeling emotions has the effect of activating the thinking center of our brains, rather than the emotional center a valuable skill in demanding, high-performance workplaces everywhere.