Unexpected events and uncertain times can disturb or invite.
They jolt us out of our comfort zone disturbing our equanimity. They also provide us with the opportunity to take stock of our careers and lives – to ask searching questions about what is important and what matters most.
Perhaps you might also be asking yourself what you really want your future career to look, sound and be like.
Possibly amidst these thoughts and periods of deep introspection about your career and life generally, you are bunkered down in survival mode, trying to cope financially, psychologically, and keeping relationships on an even keel. So maybe rethinking your career during a pandemic is unwise in some respects.
Yet, it is in times of uncertainty that the universe speaks to us and invites us to contemplate our lives from a new perspective.
Deep down, we know what is not working for us and what we want and need to do to grow and change. I dare say that some of you may have been restless in your job, position or career for some time but are so entrenched in the ‘rhythm of your life’, that change seems impossible, or at the very least – too hard.
It’s many years ago now since I had to reinvent my career and life completely. I felt a bit like ‘The dog on the nail’ in the story below and still do on occasions.
One day a man was walking down the street on his way to work. As he walked, all the dogs in the street would bark at him as he passed by.
However, there was one dog that remained on the front porch whimpering and whining – the sort of sounds dogs make when they are in pain. The next day as he walked to work, the same thing happened. All the other dogs would run to the gate and give their usual bark except that one dog.
The man couldn’t figure it out. After a week of the same daily occurrence, he decided to find out what was going on. So he went and knocked on the door and asked the guy, “Sir, is this your dog?” The owner said, “Yes, that’s my dog, why do you ask?”
“I just wondered what was wrong with him,” replied the man. “He’s been sitting here whimpering and whining all week.”
The owner replied, “Well, he’s actually sitting on a nail.” The man, incredulous, responded, “What, your dog is sitting on a nail! Why doesn’t he get off?” “Well, it just doesn’t hurt him enough.”
Maybe, like the dog, you are sitting on a nail, but it’s not hurting enough, or you are too frightened to get off. Maybe the fear of change is too great for you. It doesn’t really matter what the nail is – personal, career or business, the reality is that it is preventing you from moving on with your life and career productively and proactively. You get stuck and procrastinate. And in this process your dreams get lost.
I have been deeply saddened to see so many people ‘stuck’ in their careers and jobs and seemingly powerless to get off the ‘nail’ they have been enduring for so long. For some, it’s the silent but nagging voice that keeps saying: “I don’t want to be here anymore” or “Is this what I want to do for the rest of my life?”
Maybe these thoughts and whispers are strongly competing for your attention even during this pandemic.
You may be in a position or role that does not offer you meaningful work, you have no sense of belonging to the organisation as you feel that you are neither appreciated nor valued. The lack of alignment of personal Purpose and Values with those of the organisation seems to be tolerated because of the fear and uncertainty that goes with trying to make a change.
I know of people who have been physically sick every day prior to going to work. Others I know are really good at what they do but have lost their mojo. What’s your situation? Perhaps your energy levels are depleted for a number of reasons and it’s time you reignited your career, but you feel powerless to change your life around.
The most frustrating part is that you probably have some very important career goals which, if implemented, would take you on the growth path you really want and envision. You know where you want to be within the next 6 months, 1 year and 2 years from now. You may have even set goals to achieve your career plan but ‘busyness’, procrastination and fear have got in the way (yet again!) and you regretfully find yourself like the dog on the nail.
Perhaps you have been thinking about starting your own business but don’t have the confidence to have a go. Fear has wrapped its tentacles around your heart and mind, strangling the entrepreneurial spirit that is struggling for breath and life.
If you are in this situation, my informed guess is that your ‘career nails’ are impacting on your personal life too. A lack of physical fitness, low mojo, strained relationships, intellectual stagnation, a disorganised lifestyle and difficulty in forming habits and keeping goals are often symptomatic of career dissatisfaction (and of course vice versa).
Anxiety and depression also tend to be increasingly present during these times, compounded by a lack of purpose, meaning and general well-being.
The scenarios above are just the tip of the iceberg really. The reality is that you probably want to make changes in your career and personal life but that you just don’t know how.
Getting started is the key!
Here are two suggestions you can undertake immediately to get you started …
1. Be brutally honest with yourself
The Dog on the Nail story is an invitation for you to be brutally honest with yourself. It’s another way of taking stock of your life and to help you to face up to what is holding you back, slowing you down or getting in the way of your vision for your life, career or business. This is a time when you really can set a goal to turn your life around in the context of whatever ‘nail’ you are sitting on. It will be a defining moment for you.
Reflect upon these questions in relation to the ‘nail/s’ you are currently sitting on.
- How big, sharp and painful are they?
- How often do you notice them?What impact are they having on your life and career?
- Do you notice any regrets by being stuck?
- What impact are they having on others, especially your significant other, colleagues and clients?
- Why do you think getting off these ‘nails’ is so hard?
- When you think about the ‘nails’ you are on, what do you notice about your energy?
- What is the biggest ‘nail’ you are on right now?
- How would your life or career be different if you got off the largest and deepest nail?
2. Seek professional support and guidance
When it comes to your career, are you like the dog sitting on the nail?
The dog may have been able to see where he wanted to be, other than on the nail, but on his own could not manage the change! He was afraid and lacking in confidence in his own ability. He had got too used to the status quo. The pain of staying the same was less than the pain of change, in his view.
Lots of people are like that too! They need a little help to get them going once they have counted the cost, and realised they want something different. That is why an on-going coaching program, a support group, a buddy, a mentor or a personal coach is so important.
Threatening times generally prompt conservative behaviour which is the opposite of what is required to make a career move or transition. Whilst the timing for a career move may not be ideal right now, it’s a great time to carefully plan and strategise one. You are responsible for your progress, but you do not have to go it alone!
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Dr Edward Gifford
ON-PURPOSE PARTNERS | EXECUTIVE CAREER MOVE
p 1300 629 344 | m 0416 260 448