This post is the second in the series on career change.
Nobody likes change.
We prefer things to be stable. We prefer things that have been around for a while. Even if those things aren’t very good for us.
“The devil you know is better than the devil you don’t,” as the saying goes.
It’s no surprise that uncertainty is the big culprit here.
When we don’t know what might happen, when we can’t give ourselves reasonable assurance that everything will turn out okay, most of us choose to stay with the status quo.
Even if we’re not happy with that status quo.
Often, we have to be nudged—sometimes pushed hard—to make a change in our lives.
Between 2008-2010, when countless number of people were laid off from their stable jobs across all industries, thousands found new careers as a result—careers that they probably wouldn’t have found or seriously considered had they not been literally pushed out the door of their current world.
For decades, I’ve been studying change and the conditions for change in companies and for individuals and I’ve come to realize that most people do not instigate change unless:
a) it’s required, or
b) the pain of staying in their status quo is more than their perceived pain of a change.
This is one of the main reasons why men and women continue to bear jobs they hate, choosing to remain there instead of looking for something that could make their work lives better.
The perceived pain of looking for a new job is greater than the pain of working in a job they hate.
Unless that equation is reversed—unless the pain of staying put overshadows the pain of moving on—it is unlikely that they will do something about their job situation.
We may not always be aware of it but we sometimes ignore the signs that may be pointing us toward a needed change. We discount their meanings and prevent them from penetrating our consciousness, lest we become fully aware of them and their implications.
Because the moment we admit to ourselves that we are unhappy, or that we want something else, the question that arises next is, “What now?”
And that’s a difficult question to address. Whatever the answer may be, it will either involve change or an admission that we don’t want to change.
So instead, we refuse to acknowledge the moment. We do everything to diminish its significance. We tell ourselves stories to explain our emerging feelings so that we can look away and not have to address them head-on.
Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing ever happened. —Winston Churchill
In time, the moment passes and things revert to normal until, like a wave, it hits us again. And the cycle starts over.
Okay, let’s be practical here. We can’t possibly be analyzing every single moment, every ebb and flow that happens to us, or we would go insane.
Life always presents difficult situations and challenges. On any given day, there may be moments when you feel like you just want to throw in the towel, quit, and raise cattle somewhere in the mountains where everything is peaceful and no one bothers you.
Some moments are fleeting, and some carry more weight.
So, how do you know if the moment you’re currently experiencing is one that you should be paying attention to?
How can you tell which signs may have significant implications for you? How do you know if this is the one that signals a change?
Here are some questions you can ask to analyze your current situation:
- How do you really feel about the situation? Don’t worry about the politically correct or polite way of thinking about it. What’s your body telling you? What’s your gut/brain/heart telling you?
- Can the situation be resolved—or made better—in a manner that is satisfactory to you? How might it be resolved? What would you have to do (or give up, or compromise) in order for it be resolved? Are you willing to do those things
- If the situation were to disappear (be resolved or become irrelevant completely, would you be happy in your present circumstance? Or would something else still “eat” at you? What is that something all about?
- With respect to this situation, what action could you take that would make you the proudest of yourself?
- A year or two from now, how do you think you will feel about the situation? Take your best guess.
As regards the timing question, we often already know the answer ourselves. We just need a bit of white space to listen to our thoughts and recognize that all things point to a needed change. You cannot wait to feel ready. Hardly anyone feels they’re ready. You cannot wait to know all the steps before you make your move or you’ll be waiting for a very long time. The time is right when you say it is.