Do you show up for work every day feeling like you’re living the wrong life? Are you pretending to care about what you do all day, only to come home exhausted from the charade? Does your work require you to always be on, without time to actually enjoy the life you’re funding?
Many of my clients come to me at these very moments. They’re stuck, lost and not sure how to move forward.
They have 15 (or more) years experience in a skill they no longer want to use.
They’re so depleted that they no longer know what they’re good at OR what they enjoy doing.
They’re hooked into a lifestyle tied to their current salary.
They’re worried that leaving this "good on paper" job or company will look like a failure.
It’s not exactly the set of circumstances that opens the door to new possibilities and creative ideas. These clients often appear in my office after a health issue has taken hold—pneumonia, a debilitating fall or injury, chronic pain or even panic attacks. After resisting their intuition and ignoring their discontent, their bodies spring into action to wake them from their paralysis. They finally see it. It’s time to make a change.
If this sounds like you, know that there is a way out. You have more options than you realize. Take the following first steps to get unstuck.
1. Identify the fear.
What are you afraid will happen if you make a change? And what will not happen? Make a list of your fears so you can take a closer look at what is preventing you from taking action. You can also begin speaking with friends, colleagues and professionals who can work with you to see if there’s truly any evidence to validate those fears. It’s both unsettling and liberating to discover that the worries that have been holding you back for years are not grounded in reality.
2. Create space.
In order to begin moving forward, I recommend setting new boundaries in your current role. For some this means committing to leave at 6 PM daily and for others it’s sealing the laptop shut over the weekend and on vacations. Still for others, if they have the financial means, it’s making a clean break to take some time off. In this newfound space you can move toward things you want to learn—take classes or workshops—or do the things that bring you joy. You can take time to reflect on the things that you do well or the moments throughout your career that ignited you. You can tend to your body with exercise, rest and simply being you without the expectations of figuring out who that is every minute and constantly making meaning.
3. Deploy your A-Team.
Who are the people in your circle transforming their lives, their companies and their industries? Who was it that pushed you out of the nest before you felt ready to deliver the presentation? Sure, you were bruised, but you practiced, you nailed it and you learned what was possible. Find those people. Let them know that you’re ready for a change and that even though you don’t know what it is yet, you will reach out to them for support from time to time. If you don’t have any of those people in your life, it might be a clue as to why you’re so stuck. Look for inspiration from books, podcasts and TED Talks, then slowly work your way into networking and connecting with bold-thinking people who will support your seemingly crazy ideas and provide feedback on how to make them seem less crazy to you.
When you acknowledge you’re in a mid-career crisis, I recommend you do not use it to add the pressure to find immediate answers. Answers rarely show up as soon as you realize you need them. It’s a process that, as with anything, you can choose to internally market as torture or see as fun and enlightening. During my career transition from digital marketing to coaching, I set up a minimum of one networking meeting a week with people who were working on interesting projects that could potentially never intersect with what I was doing, but the inspiration, connection and flurry of possibilities carried me through the rest of the week (and my multiyear transition) with energy to spare.