The first of the year is a good time to step back and take stock of our lives. The New Year seems to give us permission to look at the big picture—our families, our relationships, our careers, dare I say—our dreams? We may ask ourselves questions like: “Am I doing what I truly love? Is my career feeding my life?” Maybe there’s just a nagging voice of discontent that pops into your mind while you’re furtively checking email at your daughter’s choir recital, or slumping over your keyboard to finish an email while your friends toast the New Year.
But here’s where it gets tough. What happens when the answer to that question is “No?”
“No—I’m not doing what I love.”
“No—I don’t have enough flexibility in my career to spend time with my family.”
“No—my work isn’t allowing me to be my best self.”
Whatever your story, I have two things to say to you. 1) You’re not alone and 2) change is possible.
But change is big and hard and scary. Change means giving up what is comfortable for what is unknown. Creating a fulfilling and flexible career for yourself, no matter the stage of life you’re in, is risky. But what about the risk of staying where you are?
Anais Nin once said, “and the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” I’d like to suggest that if this quote resonates with you, it’s time to take a closer look at what you’re doing to step toward what you want. Transitioning into a new career has many questions, but here’s a way to get started.
- Identify what you don’t want. What’s keeping you from stretching yourself to your full capacity?
- Start dreaming. What do you want? Dream big. Pick out a moment in your life when you felt truly aligned, when you felt full and engaged and purposeful. What were you doing? What qualities were you exhibiting? What would your life look like if you were in that space consistently?
- Talk to people. Making a decision to shift careers is a big one, and while it should be driven by your own goals and values, it should not be made in a vacuum. Start reaching out to people who do what inspires you. Ask questions and listen. Truly listen. Because by listening, you’ll find what drives them, what challenges they faced and whether or not this path is the right one for you.
- Plan for the Long Haul. Chances are, if you switch careers, you’ll have to be okay starting small. Be prepared to be a beginner again—and enjoying all the trappings of beginner-hood—lower paycheck, more hustling, a learning curve, new networks. You’ll no longer be able to float through your days without engaging your brain and your heart. (But isn’t that what you’re trying to escape?) You’ll have to be okay with starting somewhere and sticking to it so that grit and hustle you start with yield results that truly serve you and your life in the long run.
- Get started. Write yourself a letter—dated one year from today. Write your letter in the present tense. Reflect on the year as if you’ve already lived it. Give yourself the chance to describe what your life looks like, what you’re doing differently, how your relationships have changed, what your career looks like. Then get started living out that year.
My colleague, David Foster, recently wrote a blog post about finding his values, passion and purpose—which ultimately led him to becoming an EMyth Coach. For many of the coaches I have the pleasure of working with, the transition to becoming a business coach is one that has given them an opportunity to lead the life they dreamed of. I won’t reiterate what David says but I encourage you to go check it out. His story might just inspire you to try it out.