I’ve started reading a book by Matt Haig called The Midnight Library. It’s about regret. The main character Nora has access to The Book of Regrets. Here she can see all the regrets she’s had over the years. She has the opportunity to test out different versions of her life as it could have been if she’d made different decisions. There are infinite possibilities. Maybe she’d kept up her swimming, maybe she’d treated her brother differently, maybe she’d pursued a music career.
Although I’ve only read the first few chapters, I’m already discovering that the life you thought might been better, having made different or better decisions, isn’t necessarily the case. Things might not have actually worked out better another way.
“It can drive you insane, thinking of all the other lives we don’t live.”
I’ll find out what the overriding moral of the story is when I get to the end. But for now what I’m taking from it is that there’s not too much point regretting the past – without doing something about it now. Day dreaming about time travel and doing things differently won’t change anything. But, we can start doing what we’ve always dreamed of, now. Maybe in a smaller, simpler way.
Or, remind ourselves that we’ve kept ourselves small. Or listened to others instead of to ourselves in the past. And that from now on we’ll be listening more closely to ourselves.
If you’d like my support with your career change, you can book a package of 3 x 1-hour coaching sessions with me. I’ll help you make a plan to move forwards. Find me on LinkedIn or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you’re feeling blah about career change or life in general, I’d recommend reading this article from the New York Times about ‘languishing’.
A friend brought it to my attention as we were discussing this strange feeling so many of us seem to be experiencing at the moment:
“Languishing is a sense of stagnation and emptiness. It feels as if you’re muddling through your days, looking at your life through a foggy windshield. And it might be the dominant emotion of 2021.”
It’s been a tough old time. And we’re still in this strange hinterland of not being locked down, being able to be out and about more, maybe even socialising and seeing people we love…and yet, we’re not there yet.
Travel isn’t ok, allowed, or easy. New variants pop up to give us the fear once again. Vaccinations are happening – but being vaccinated doesn’t suddenly make everything ok.
And so, we’re struggling. We’re OK. But not great. Not full of energy, plans or joy. Motivation is a tricky one. Somehow so many of us are just about managing to go through the motions.
But anything that requires energy and effort, like looking for a new job, or starting to explore new possibilities, just seems so hard right now.
Small wins and flow
The article recommends focusing on small goals as a way to counteract this feeling. And getting into a flow state, where time passes without your awareness of it because you’re fully absorbed in doing something.
I guess getting into a flow state means making sure you spend a bit of time each day doing something you love, and that makes you feel good.
For me this means going for a walk and listening to a podcast. I forget everything, I focus on moving forwards and taking in what I’m listening to.
Or it means watching a great tv show.
Or having a good chat with a family member or friend.
That’s all pretty doable. And as for the small wins?
Something that has helped me for over a year now, thanks to a little book given to me by a friend, is to write at the end of each day, a few things that made me smile.
It could be remembering how pretty the flowers looked in the park this morning. An funny exchange with a colleague. A text from a friend which feels like a hug. A particularly delicious snack. Lying on the sofa after work and doing nothing for a bit.
The amazing thing is that it brings awareness to your day. Something happens and you make a mental note that this will be one of your wins of the day. And causes you to pause, take it in, reflect, and move on.
Then at the end of the day, even if it has seemed pretty so-so and uneventful, you sit and reflect and realise there were a few brilliant moments. Moments of beauty, of connection, of contentment. Of gratitude.
We’re all languishing. It’s to be expected. I’m trying to remind myself that it won’t always be this way. And in the meantime, focus on the small wins. The great moments.
If you feel like gently getting things moving and would like my help and support with your career change, you can book a package of 3 x 1-hour sessions with me. You can book your sessions weekly, fortnightly or monthly. I’ll help you unpick where you’re feeling stuck, and make a plan to move forwards. Find me on LinkedIn or email me at email@example.com.
I‘m currently reading Michelle Obama’s book Becoming. It’s taken me several attempts to get into it but now that I’m at the point where she’s finished her studies, entered the world of work and has met Barack – I’m loving it. And I’m pleased to discover that during Michelle’s pre-politics life she went through a major career change. We learn how she felt about it and how she went about making it happen.
She starts off her working life as a hot-shot lawyer, flourishing and doing really well. But over time she begins to wonder if it’s really right for her. She realises that community work might be more her thing.
“I was feeling another twinge, a quiet nudge toward what might be a whole different future from the one I’d planned for.” – Michelle Obama, Becoming
It’s amazing to see that someone like Michelle Obama might have gone through the same issues with career and identity that I and many, many others have done too. That feeling that the path you’ve chosen isn’t actually quite right for you. Wanting to do work that feels more you. In her case, work that would directly help people rather than working in some far away office doing work for work’s sake.
She talks about how she went about finding her next career. It’s solid career change advice; rather than seeking out the next job immediately, she tries to broaden her view of what is out there. She puts herself in front of people who might be able to help her, talking to them, taking advice, gathering information:
“The point was less to find a job than to widen my understanding of what was possible and how others had gone about it. I was realizing that the next phase of my journey would not simply unfold on its own, that my fancy academic degrees weren’t going to automatically lead me to fulfilling work.” – Michelle Obama, Becoming
She spoke to people who were out there doing interesting things and enjoying their work. She asked about opportunities, asked what a lawyer could do if they didn’t want to continue with legal work. Eventually, through meeting with acquaintances and seeking and learning from them, she is offered and accepts a job at Chicago city hall, as assistant to the mayor.
You can take career transition inspiration from anywhere. Knowing that someone else has been through a similar situation to you is comforting and can be motivating. It’s not just you. It’s not because there’s something wrong with you or that you just aren’t cut out to work. You just haven’t found the right thing yet.
Things change, your values change, your situation changes. And so your work needs to change.
Take inspiration from Michelle O – start talking to people, find out what they do, who they know, ask questions. You never know where it might lead you.
Lots of things have come up this week (thing’s I’ve read, conversations, social media posts) which make me more and more convinced that having a healthy dollop of self-belief is pretty much all you need to accomplish anything you want in life.
The people who are out there doing what they want – people I know, people I see from afar – all believe in their capabilities and are just getting on and doing it.
I’m also aware that so many of us are holding ourselves back – feeling under confident, confused, stuck, scared. And we could all be out there doing amazing things.
But something’s stopping us. Most likely it’s that little voice in our heads telling us that ‘we’re not enough’. Not experienced enough, not knowledgeable enough, not brave enough, not clever enough, not strong enough.
Because really – we’re all equipped to find a really great new job, we’re all equipped to start a small business. If you can read you can follow a guide, use Google, read a book, do a course, do whatever it takes. Work out what you need to do. The tools are there. It’s just the doing it that’s the hard part. Getting things moving.
How to you gain self-belief? How do you ‘improve’ it? I don’t really have the answer. But I have a sneaky suspicion it’s a muscle that you need to work. It’s something you can practise.
Read a book about confidence/self-belief/resilience and actually do the tasks they set. Listen to empowering speeches. Read the autobiography of someone you admire and learn from them. Practise getting better at making decisions – start small. Trust that you’ll make the right decision without asking everyone you know what they think first.
So start taking small steps towards whatever it is that you want to do. Tell yourself that if someone else has done it before, then you can do it too.