Have you ever felt like the universe is giving you signs?
What do you do then?
Well, first off: Don’t ignore the signs like I did.
Several years ago, I took a brief sabbatical from my (corporate) job. I was feeling a bit rundown, working on overdrive and having a general feeling of malaise.
Energized by a good friend who quit work to do something different, I too, threw off the bow lines and sailed off to the unknown. I didn’t have a plan. Or rather, the plan was not to have any so that I could be open to discovering new experiences. (You could probably guess where this is heading.)
A couple of months into the new-found bliss, I started feeling antsy. Couldn’t find a good answer to the nagging question “what’s next?” and feeling uncomfortable talking to people without a solid plan and sounding like a flake.
So guess what I did? I went right back where I came from.
You can write the ending to this story.
In no time, I was back feeling the same way I was before I took time off. Way worse, in fact.
I suppose it’s like going on a starvation diet and then resuming regular eating without any real plans to change the eating habits—the weight you gain back is double whatever you may have lost, to begin with.
As much as I felt like I wasted that opportunity to make improvements in my life, I also learned to recognize the signs that the universe (or my gut) may be giving me.
Here are five things I would do differently if I could have a do-over.
Truly understand what’s making you unhappy
Changing geographies (e.g., switching jobs, joining a new company) sometimes help… but often it doesn’t. Especially when what you may be missing is still inside you.
In any situation, get to the bottom of “what doesn’t work here” so as not to inadvertently find yourself in the same spot again (and again).
Figure out what makes you sing
You know what? This is often harder than figuring out what makes you unhappy.
Think about it. It’s easy to make a list of the things you don’t like in your current situation. Now, stop and think about the things that you would like to have in your world instead? What’s the profile of the new job or new company that you would like to join? What’s a day in your desired new life like?
If you get this, it will point you towards the right direction when it’s time to make the switch.
Creative use of freedom
Freedom is such a beautiful word; would you know what to do with it if you were suddenly free?
Playing golf all day may be great for a few days, but it will get old soon enough, and you will feel the pull to do something productive. Make a rough plan for taking advantage of freedom creatively.
Lean into the discomfort
Breaking into new spaces can get very uncomfortable real fast. Going against assumptions and long-held beliefs. Questioning what makes you YOU and discarding other definitions of self-identity that you may have put in place.
Growing pains. Find a way to get comfortable with them; they’re inevitable on the road to change.
“Stay away from the buffet when you’re starting on a diet.”
Change is hard enough as it is, no need to add to the level of difficulty.
Going back to places that offered the same familiar things will tempt you to go back or to stay put wherever you are. Not exactly the kind of thing you need if you were looking to make changes in your life or work.
What you’re used to is always going to be easier than something new.
So, do yourself a favor and minimize the temptation to revert. Instead, aim to fill your days with new experiences that will help you discover where you might prefer to be next.