The other day, I had a craving for Japanese food.
Having lived in New York most of my life, I’m used to variety and lots of options to choose from when it comes to food. Now that I live in Clearwater, Florida, I find my choices of Japanese restaurants a bit on the short side.
I checked Google and compared menus of nearby restaurants. After a while, I gave up frustrated and simply picked one that looked “good enough” even though it did not fully satisfy my craving.
When we don’t see enough options, we tend to settle and inevitably get stuck.
Same thing happens at work.
One of the reasons we get stuck in a job we no longer want or a career that we’ve outgrown is that we don’t see enough options in front of us.
More specifically, we don’t see options outside of the thing that we do or the place where we work.
What happens is that we inadvertently put on blinders—like horses with their blinkers—so that all we recognize are opportunities inside the company (or the industry) where we work.
We analyze the job we have and see what kind of career path it offers within the company. We look to other folks —colleagues who have the same background as we have—and see how they’re moving up or transitioning to other roles. We check out peers within the industry and see what kind of career moves they are making.
We ask ourselves whether we even want what they have. (Gasp!) Or if we’re willing to do what they did. (Ugh!)
Don’t get me wrong. These are all good starts.
The problem is when we limit our available options to only these examples. The problem is when none of those examples get us excited about our careers. When all the examples sound like same old same old.
That’s when we end up stuck with the job (or career) we have because what else is there?
When we don’t see enough doable options, we get stuck.
The other thing that gets us stuck is when we are way too quick to dismiss options because we think they won’t apply to us.
We all have filters. And using these filters is just natural and necessary even. Otherwise, we’d have no way of excluding things that don’t make sense for us. We’d just be running around pursuing everything. Nobody wants that!
The problem starts when we dismiss an option too quickly because it doesn’t sound doable. “We can’t possibly!”
We hear about someone else’s career story—someone who’s done something that sounds a bit unique or risky—and we shrug our shoulders and dismiss it outright.
We say things like, “Well, good for him but that won’t work for me because…”
Or, “Hmmm, sounds interesting but my situation is different because…”
Before we give ourselves the chance to explore and God forbid, dream a little, we dismiss these other options immediately.
No wonder we’re stuck. We can’t see a way out or a way forward.
Being curious is the cure.
I know that when we work, work, work in our 9-5 (oh, who are we kidding, 8-6 more like), and all we talk to are the people who are in the same grind that we’re in, it’s a challenge to see beyond our four walls and find new ideas. Right?
So the solution to this limited view is to expand what we’re seeing by deliberately looking out for other options. It’s about getting curious about what else is out there. It’s about checking out what else are other people doing.
And there’s good reason to cultivate the habit of looking outside our proverbial four walls.
The world we’re in is changing at break-neck speed. There are new companies in new industries with new kinds of work being created all the time.
What used to be impossible are now entirely within reach.
What you need to do is find your thing. Find the thing that excites you, strikes your fire, speaks to your strengths, makes you want to raise your hand and say “Yes, me!”
I was lucky. For 15 years, I was a management consultant, which meant I had access to all kinds of clients, i.e. different companies in different industries and different people doing all kinds of different work. I had plenty of “other examples.”
But even then, those examples are all of a certain kind of path. The corporate career path. I had zero models for artistic pursuits or entrepreneurial projects, etc. And I didn’t make time to find them either. Because, Good Lord, when would I have had the time!
So, believe me. I get it.
How to feed your curiousity when you have little time
The truth is, you don’t need a lot of time to expand your horizons a bit and see what’s out there.
Even 30 minutes a day will help. You just need to be deliberate about how you use those 30 minutes. (i.e., Not mindlessly scrolling through your Facebook feed and watching cat videos!)
On the show, I interview men and women who have found a way to #breakfree and find a new path forward for themselves. We talk about why they did it, how they did it, what made it difficult, what helped them out.
These stories are examples. Options. Models. Possibilities. Idea-generators. Seeds.
And all you need is 25 to 40 minutes to listen. That’s your subway ride. Or your bus ride. Or your drive to and from work. Easy, right?
It’s not that someone’s career story is the exact same thing you’d want to do (although that could happen).
Rather, it’s the idea in you that his or her story sparks.
Here are a few examples, the latest 3 SBP episodes of idea sparklers:
Episode 10: Alethea Fitzpatrick was enjoying a successful career in architecture until she became a new mom. Suddenly, she found herself pushed to find a new way to make a living while staying true to the kind of mother she wanted to be.
Episode 11: Tim DeBellis’ philosophy of maximizing life experiences helped him execute career maneuvers, from aeronautics engineering to management consulting to coffee-shop owner/operator to real estate professional.
Episode 12: When faced with a major career decision following the 2008 market crash, Lara Dalch looked to her lifetime interest in healthy living to guide her next career move.
I hope you’ll subscribe to the Second Breaks Podcast on iTunes and make a habit of listening to these stories. These seeds and idea generators.
But most importantly, I hope you remove your blinders and begin to see the possibilities beyond your proverbial four walls.