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In every job there are moments, months, or even years that can be frustrating and stressful. I certainly have experienced my share of that. The natural instinct when this happens is to start questioning if this really is the job you want any more. Life is short, shouldn’t you be spending your time, energy, and passion on things that you love and find rewarding?
On one hand, I agree with that statement and in many ways creating a life you love is a key focus of this blog. But I do not think an external change can solve all of your problems. So when I notice myself looking for an external change, like a new job, to fix something, that is a BIG FLASHING SIGN. It means that there is something I need to fix internally first. Usually what this fix looks like is an intentional transformation of the things that I “hate” into something I love before I take steps to actually move away from it.
Let’s talk about the why of this:
- You are the same person wherever you go. Many struggles in work are based on a pattern of behavior. Do you take on too many projects at once and then struggle with feeling extremely overwhelmed and stressed? Do you let the complaints of co-workers affect your mood? Do you hate confrontation and so feel uncomfortable when there are disagreements in meetings? Guess what? These things are going to happen in any organization. Yes, culture and leadership have a major impact, but if you’re expecting YOUR reaction to these situations to be different just because you’re in a different office, you will be disappointed.
- Learning to overcome some of those patterns of behavior will help set you up to be successful elsewhere. This is the hard work of deep growth. You likely won’t realize its impact until much later on. Learning to overcome difficult situations is valuable for two reasons. The first reason is that you learn to change the specific behavior that you need to grow in. In one of my examples above, that might mean examining why you are uncomfortable with confrontation and doing some internal work (like using CBT) to modify that negative feeling. The second reason is that you learn that situations and feelings aren’t fixed; you actually can change your circumstances and make things better, even if no one else changes.
- There is an energy and confidence that comes from being fulfilled in your work that will attract more opportunities than the energy of dissatisfaction. This shows up as: someone observing your work and recommending you to someone else; internal motivation to begin a learning opportunity that then may unexpectedly open doors to other opportunities; more confidence in a job interview; and many other ways.
It’s not just luck that I have had a number of jobs that I’ve really loved. I have followed this advice myself and it has always worked for me. It constantly amazes me how something I learned at a really difficult time in the past pops up again to be extremely helpful in my current job.
This doesn’t mean that I quietly suffer and suck it up when I am unhappy. It means that I dig into that unhappiness and start taking smaller steps that are in my control to change my situation. If I’ve been feeling bored, that might mean setting some goals or proposing I take on some new projects. If I’m overwhelmed that may mean becoming more disciplined with my productivity system or delegating some work. I might still decide that it is time to make a change in my career, but I’m not going to make that decision from a place of unhappiness and discontent. Instead, I’m going to fix those problems first and then make a decision from that higher place.
The hardest part of this is that you often have to say goodbye to something really good to move onto the next really great thing for you. I have left jobs that I loved that in a different world I could have kept doing for years. This is still hard for me and I do have pains of regret sometimes but I trust the process and that I am doing what I need to be doing as part of my growth journey.
I should note quickly that I am far from perfect at this. The shiny pennies and “if onlys” of external change lure me as well. But at least in my career, I have been able to center myself back into this advice the majority of the time.
This same advice can apply for where you live, your relationship, or even your haircut! Really this advice applies to any significant decision that involves making an external change. Make your moves from a place of strength, and that strength will propel you forward to the next thing.
Take action! Even if you are currently happy in your job, imagine for a minute what it would be like to love it. What is one thing you can do today to get you closer to that?