I don’t think there is anyone who hasn’t at some point felt stalled in their career or in relationships or simply with the everyday stuff we call life. Is there something that you really want but keep putting off because doing it the “right” way just feels too overwhelming? Or maybe the pieces you need aren’t all there yet.
So you wait. And you wait some more. And time passes. Every once in a while you think about doing this thing. Maybe you talk about it with friends. Again. And then again. Or even spend time visualizing it all magically falling into place. And more time passes.
The whole is not always greater than the parts
I write this with many years of first-hand experience waiting for a lightning bolt to come from the sky to tell me EXACTLY what it is that I should be doing that would bring me career happiness.
But the thing is that sometimes the ultimate perfect solution (the “whole”) just can’t be gotten to from where you are now. Sometimes you simply have to start adding the magical parts that will eventually get you there.
It took me years of trying things – some I liked more than others – to have enough puzzle pieces to figure out that my real skill and joy comes from helping others with their careers – whether they’re already in them and need help navigating choppy waters, or they are searching for the next step … or they just need support and comfort while going through the process.
But I only got there by taking my best guesses along the way, and experiencing the very things that would get me to my own personal answer. Something I would never have discovered without going through the very things I help people with now!
Until you have enough data, you really can’t rush the solution. But you also can’t ever get to your answer by just standing (or sitting) still and waiting.
But I want it NOW!
I know. Believe me. I was there. I just couldn’t believe that I was not able to think very hard about what I wanted and come up with my dream job. But as much effort as I put into trying to will an answer to come to me just by thinking and talking about it with friends, it just wouldn’t come.
Now I want to make sure that you know the time and effort you spend thinking and talking about the possibilities is NOT wasted. It’s an important part of the process. But at some point, you have to start taking action that is not just in your head.
And that takes more time. And a willingness to trust that somehow, once you start for real, you will get there. Even if the “there” turns out to be something you just can’t imagine now. Like my own journey to career coaching. I didn’t even know that existed when I began my search!
How do I begin?
You make a commitment to yourself that you will start TODAY … and be patient with yourself and the world out there that doesn’t always support you or move at a pace we would like.
If you have the money, a good career coach can help get you there. But make sure that the person is someone whom you feel comfortable with and whose method is one that helps you find YOUR answer, and not an answer that they come up with for you based on the few weeks they’ve known you.
But you can also get started on your own. This article offers some good starting steps:
Try things on for size
It’s important to start trying things on for size. The things that call to you most. The things that you may not even think are “right” (as coaching felt to me for so many years), but still for some reason get you excited when you think about it. Or simply things that you’ve done maybe as parts of jobs or when volunteering or long ago at school that you really enjoyed.
You don’t have to quit your job and go full force into every single job or career possibility – as I admit I often did. Then again, in my case, it helped me learn invaluable coaching skills like getting jobs even with a non-linear job history, and how it feels to be unsure about what your next steps are – and yet still move forward.
But you can start to try things on even while in a job by volunteering, taking on freelance work, starting a small business on the side, taking classes, finding groups of like-minded people online or in person, researching the things that call most and teaching yourself things related to that field, etc.
And then eventually it’s time to try something that you think might be better. Each step in a direction that calls you more than where you are now is helping you put your own career puzzle together, even if it doesn’t have all the answers. Each piece can get you closer.
What if I fail?
Count on it. Maybe even more than once. Not that I’m wishing you failure, but most of the truly successful people in life have dared to take on things that might fail. No matter what their friends or family or even the media said about them. And often they actually did fail. And then moved on.
How else can you get to where you really want to go? The small boundaries of safe and socially-approved haven’t worked so far. So maybe it’s time to let yourself risk failing to break through to something truly new for yourself.
I remember being interviewed by an SVP of a major company when I was finishing grad school. He asked me if I’d ever failed at anything. I said “no”, thinking that was a good thing. He smiled and said “Too bad. We learn so much from failure. And mostly we learn how to move on and use it to succeed.” I’ve never forgotten that.
A few final thoughts
I know new things are exciting to think about, but often scary as we take our first few steps toward them. It’s normal.
The best advice I can give you is to have faith in yourself that somehow you will find a way. And that even if things go wrong – including discovering that the path(s) you try are not what you want – use them to learn from.
Each step, even “wrong” ones, can provide positive new allies, knowledge, and skills. And especially use them to teach yourself how to recover and grow stronger. Resilience is our greatest career ally!
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