Mental illness, suicide and depression have been everywhere on broadcast and online media in the last week due to the tragic deaths of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain. The reality of changing careers by choice or by force can put many of us on a shaky limb with our mental wellbeing. Let’s address some of the reasons why and some factors that can help steady the course of big changes.
Money + Uncertainty + Identity Crisis = Troubled Times
In my experience, money is the first factor that shakes one’s stability in the career transition journey. Even people with ample savings or the ability to start retirement (although not their preference) get anxious about finances when facing a change in job or direction.
Add uncertainty which in and of itself can set people off. Then throw in the identity crisis which creeps in from even considering giving up a role that has defined for decades, and you have a fertile breeding ground for emotional disruption. Change, for most people, is no picnic. But, that doesn’t have to be a deterrent to making one.
Richard came to work with me recently after being let go from a high paying job. He had enough money to retire if he had to, but he wanted a few more years of earning a top income to feel more secure. The opportunities, however, were not showing up and the truth was, we discovered, he had no motivation to pursue them. He was feeling down.
The lack of motivation was due to really wanting to do something more fulfilling, but he didn’t see any way for his interests to equate to any salary remotely close to what he was making. The result? Complete paralysis.
Through the Now What?® Life Story process Richard began to see what he wanted to weave back into his life. However, his mood did not automatically improve. He still found more reasons to doubt a happy outcome than to believe in one, and he couldn’t see beyond his doubt. Music and songwriting was a long-gone passion that he wanted back in his life, but he knew he was not going to be a more than-middle-aged rock star so just as quickly as some excitement showed up, his spirits were quickly dampened.
Before one particular session, I had an intuitive inkling to mention to Richard an idea about an artistic space where music recording, lessons, and performances could all take place. As soon as I did, the light bulbs started going off! One thing led to another, and as I write this he is exploring a few opportunities to do something along these lines. Some already existed and others he would need to raise some funds for (which he can certainly do)! He also took on another creative project or two , and his spirits are lifting tremendously.
Richard and his wife decided to downsize their home to make their finances more comfortable. And, as sometimes happens, an opportunity to do some of his old work without a stressful full-time job showed up as well. Things are still in flux, but the darkness has dissipated. There is a light at the end of the tunnel.
How do you do this yourself?
First, don’t go down the path of thinking that he has money and you don’t. I’ve seen results like this without financial freedom. Secondly, decide which “wolf to feed.”* Do you want to keep dwelling in dread or do you want to invest in possibilities – things that just may work out?
Like all my clients, once clear on some possible angles, Richard took small step after small step to talk to people, network, ask questions, and follow the leads where they took him. You can do this too.
Here are a few tips:
● Take extra good care of yourself—sleep, drink plenty of water, eat right, take walks, whatever is right for you, do it.
● Gather support—don’t go at it alone. Engage someone to hold you accountable, have cheerleaders, join a group of like-minded folks and make it happen together.
● Maintain rituals– the things in your life that work and comfort you and do more of them, whether it’s journaling, exercising, weekly dinner with particular people, etc.
● Take small steps—Small steps are more easily attainable, they get you moving forward, and when they bear fruit, they encourage you to take more.
To keep emotions and fears from eating you up, to navigate the lack of structure that comes from being out of work, and to stay mentally fit, try some of the above. If you’re suffering or feel afraid of your own feelings, please do get help. Here are some helpful resources for those in need.
National Institute of Mental Health 1-866-615-6464
Richie had a high-powered job in the financial industry. He’d been “between things” for three years when he came to coach with me. He was stuck in circular thinking that left him with only one choice that tortured him. He kept looking for another job in the same field, although there was no traction. He saw no other way. In his mind, nothing else was possible, and he felt powerless to change that.
Except . . .
Truth be told, Richie wanted to get back to his roots as a musician and lead a more creative life. He wasn’t willing to start living off his retirement savings (although he could), and the odds of becoming a rock star were slim. He declared it a dead end.
However . . .
Before one of our sessions, in my mind’s eye, I imagined a studio space where lessons, recording, small performances and a jovial musical play space could all coexist. I shared that with Richie and sparks flew. He knew people he could talk to, and off he went! What he found was that such places already existed, and that some of his contacts were open to investing in something like this.
Which one was the dead end? The new road or being stalled on the old road? The final destination is not wrapped up yet, but the momentum has been carrying Richie to new possibilities that will pay him. Not at finance industry rates, but likely enough to leave his savings intact for now.
So now, I challenge you, dear reader.
How powerless are you? Are you truly powerless or are you simply unwilling to jump into the wave of uncertainty? Like the old Robert Frost quote says: “The only way out is through.” The only way to know is to dive in. Explore, make inroads, and assess from inside an idea. It’s so much easier to discover from this vantage point rather than from the outside where it’s protected in a glass cloche that makes it impossible to touch.
As I say in “Now What?,” you don’t have to decide. Life will tell you if you’re wrong. Explore a path. If it gains traction, it has merit. Finances will, of course, be a factor, but you have to be honest with yourself. You may not WANT to begin touching your retirement, or you may not WANT to invest in yourself to get on your feet in a new endeavor, but if you CAN, why keep pursuing the path that hurts you mentally, emotionally and spiritually?
For those who can’t even fathom the thought of living without immediate income, this does not mean the end of the road for you. It means that you will want to include aspects of the newfound direction in whatever you do next. It means that you are back in touch with your “Life Blueprint,” or your unique way of contributing to the world that will bring you the most satisfaction. It MUST be included in some way.
It’s not what you do for a living that will make you happy. It’s who your job allows you to be.
Let us know how we can support you to make it happen. We’re here cheering you on!
Being coached in front of an audience is not an easy task for anyone. I get it, but that doesn’t cause me as the coach to take mercy on anyone who volunteered for the task. After a weekend of leading a seminar and coaching live, it was once again drummed home to me how often and easily we betray ourselves.
I do it too. Make a joke, tell a story about my woe or otherwise deflect—all ways to avoid pain or face the truth. During this seminar, the person in the “hot seat” was insistent on sharing the drama of the wrongdoing done to her instead of recognizing next step was right in front of her.
Dariah was performing a role within a corporation that spoke to her passion for diversity and empowering women. She reported loving her work, feeling alive and finding meaning in the task at hand. BUT (and there is always a BIG BUT) she had been forced off the upwardly mobile executive track and that was causing her to feel marginalized. Furthermore, she took that to mean she didn’t matter. She could not get over the loss of the chance of reaching a high executive level, and so was ready to walk away in order to prove her merit.
When she addressed me in front of the group, she did what I have seen countless people do: get silly and self-deprecating as she explained her scenario and answered the coaching questions with more rhetoric about what had been done to her. True or not, that was not the issue. What mattered was whether she cared to move forward or not. She claimed she did.
She wasn’t happy with me for interrupting her story. I did so anyway. I refocused her attention away from the problem and reminded her of what she said: “I love what I do. I feel alive.” She had also said she wanted to do more of it on a larger scale.
Her demeanor, partly due to being shocked out of her anxiety, became serious, focused and centered. I made her repeat what she had said. When she did, she suddenly had a lot more options. She could keep the role where she was (if she could get over her “should” about being on an executive track); she could look for a better one doing the same thing elsewhere as an executive in HR around diversity and inclusion; or she could even create a new role/department at her current company.
She went from justifying her story of being “stuck” and “helpless” to very powerfully grounding herself in what was already true: She loved what she was doing and wanted to have even a bigger impact with it. Drama, anxiety, executive track be darned! She was doing exactly what she wanted to be doing!!!! Now, she could move forward with the intent to grow the impact she could make. She could leverage what she was doing to reach more people and maybe even attain the title and recognition she craved. She was getting paid well to do what she was doing, but perhaps she could even be paid more. Now she knew who she was, what she wanted and how she could go about getting it. She was more passionate than ever about the mission she was on to make a difference.
Do you play this game with yourself? Do you get wrapped up in how you’ve been wronged or how things aren’t going as you think they should so that you miss all the good stuff right under your nose? I know I do sometimes. We can all be blind to the pitfalls we choose to stay stuck in.
JUST STOP! It’s not cute. Or funny. Or totally true.
Need help getting unstuck? Give us a call.
Here’s a funny reminder that our fears, though very real, can put us over the top.
A little lightness helps to get perspective.
That nagging feeling? What nagging feeling?
Oh! You mean that one?! The one where I really know I need to make a move or change something, and I just don’t?!
Yeah, that one.
The only way to make it stop is to do something about it.
It’s funny. If you don’t take action when you know you should, life will take care of it for you. You know you hate your job and need to move on but do nothing about it? Don’t act shocked and dismayed when you get let go. Or perhaps you really can’t stand a client, but endure it to get the paycheck and then something goes horribly wrong and you have to refund all their money? Yeah, you should not have ignored that.
I’m in one of those right now. I knew I had to leave an organization that sends me on the road to do small speaking engagements. I kept telling Kelly, my awesome righthand woman, that I’m leaving the group, but I didn’t pull the plug because I decided to wait until I finished one more commitment and get paid so I can give notice. Well, wouldn’t you know, they are weeks behind in paying me and it’s the first time EVER I’ve had trouble getting paid by them. It was time to go a year ago and I didn’t listen.
How many times have you done that?
Whether It’s changing jobs, leaving a relationship, or speaking a long-held truth to a friend (or family member), once you know the truth, it’s better to act on it. There really is no better time than the present.
You know the feeling. You’ve had it. That little nudge, that nagging boulder, whatever form it comes in is the impetus to gain awareness.
Slow down. Pay attention. What is this feeling?
Am I unhappy? Am I bored? Do I know what I need to ask for? What’s missing? Do I need to take radical action or does a small adjustment need to be made?
Do it. Don’t linger on it. Ask. Research. Discuss with trusted people. And ACT!
I put off my action because I didn’t want to disappoint the person who kindly brought me in to the organization. I needed to trust that is wasn’t right for me and take the risk of being judged for it. I wish I had not waited. But alas!
If you’re not sure what to do or even if you are perceiving your nudge as a call to change something, join me for our FREE Now What?® Community Call on WED. March 14th, 9pm eastern.
I have no tax advice for you. Nothing you should do to your lawn before the next season hits. Nor do I have anything to say about your frequent flier miles or doctor visits and insurance deductibles.
I DO however, have three must-do’s that will help you walk into a new year with more energy, peace, and hope.
REPAIR a Relationship
Nobody is perfect. Maybe there is someone you are on the outs with or someone who is holding a grudge against you. There is no better time than the present to address it. Think of the possibilities of a new year without the stress or aggravation of this energy drain.
Perhaps there is such a relationship, but a heart to heart is just not possible. In that case, forgiveness is the only option. Whether you can speak to the person about it or not, work on forgiving what they did to you. If they are mad about something you did, forgive them for withholding their friendship, love, or approval of you.
People behave within the limits of their own growth and experience. Forgive and move on.
Do it for yourself, not for them.
PURGE Unnecessary Things
It would be nice if we had the time to stop everything and de-clutter our homes and offices. But, assuming you don’t have that kind of time, the mandate here is to shed a few BIG physical items that have been in your way for longer than they should be.
Are you walking by a lean-to of unused golf clubs at the garage door? Do you have a closet full of clothes you don’t wear? Is your desk a mess?
Choose one big mess and clear it out.
Why bother? It’s one less thing to trip you up. It’s one more opportunity to see clearly.
PLAN Something Important Way In Advance
Have you ever dreamed of taking a month off? Taking a particular trip? Seeing a particular relative or friend or enjoying a holiday in a particular way but you’ve never gotten around to making it happen?
Well, that stops right now.
I once managed to take the entire month of August off. It took me a year and a half of advanced planning to make it happen. I blocked it out in the calendar, told people who relied on me for work that I’d be unavailable and made the plans to be in Vermont for a month with my family. One of the best things we’ve ever done without a doubt.
What can you do? Stop making excuses. Don’t worry about not having the money or time for whatever it is you’d like to do. Put it in the calendar way in advance and MAKE IT HAPPEN.
These three steps will help you to make the present more pleasant, usher in a new year with some clarity, and have something great to look forward to.
Enjoy the holiday season!