How I drummed up the courage to change course despite having no clear path to follow.
Blog originally posted for HiyaPurpose and can be found at https://www.hiyapurpose.com/blog
"Never quit a job unless you have something else lined up… " words that would haunt me every morning before work as I tragically sobbed in the shower. How irresponsible, reckless and just plain stupid can you be to blindly leap from the safety of a regular income at an industry-leading company into the jaws of the unknown. But sadly (or fortunately… still trying to navigate that one), I found myself in an ill-fated position where I had worked myself into a complete state of anxious delirium, mentally incapable of soldiering on with my daily tasks, and it was my own body who pushed me out the door in the end.
We spend over 1/3 of our waking lives at work, so if you aren't happy it's crippling. The negative energy that engulfs you manages to seep into all facets of your life, suffocating every thought and snuffing out any potential moments of joy in entirely un-work-related situations… not to mention the strain that it can place on relationships. And while my experience may have been at the extreme end of discontent, I am certainly not alone, as according to a recent Gallup survey only 15% of employees are actively engaged at work. Crikey.
For me, the absence of purpose meant that every day was a mission. I had worked in an industry for 7 years, preceded by 5 years of study; and despite performing well while continuing to receive amazing opportunities, I was unable to fathom a future. I enjoyed my colleagues, earned a salary that allowed me to sustain a healthy life-style and maintained a reasonably good work-life balance… but I still felt empty. I was struggling to engage with day to day activities and I grew continually disillusioned with the product. So here I am, a month on, jobless, with no current feasible leads, but funnily enough hugely relaxed about the whole thing.
So, if you happen to find yourself in a similar situation, I have four tips to overcome stagnation.
1. Make peace with your fears… what's the worst that could happen?
We all catastrophise. But there's nothing like an end to your monthly income to let your darkest fears run wild. So, I started with a large sheet of butcher's paper, and articulated all the worst possible things that could happen if I quit my job with limited certainty on direction. As it turned out – it wasn't as calamitous as I had fantasised – my fears ranging from fiscal to deep rooted sub-conscious paralysing distress. To name but a few:
A) What if I've made a huge mistake and my current job isn't even that bad?!?... The reality is I could always return to my industry or origin in a few months-time, reassured by the knowledge that I had at least addressed my 12 year inner monologue…
B) Financially it was bonkers… or was it? I am fortunate enough that I wouldn't starve or find myself without shelter if I took a ‘sensible' amount of time off. And if all else failed I could do some temporary work placements, which might actually help with uncovering hidden interests or talents…
C) Pride. I was convinced I would be failing if I “gave up on years of hard work.” I had to really talk myself around this one… I came to the realisation that I wasn't throwing away the foundations of a great education, work ethic and invaluable skills that I could transfer into innumerable roles, I could only build on it.
Best case scenario I would be able to find something more fulfilling that I was happy to spring up out of bed for. This shift in mind set was game-changing for me. I no longer panicked or felt anxious about my future, I could finally see the wood through the trees.
2. Talk, talk, talk…
Sure, everyone always tells you to just get out there and talk to other people about what they do, but if you are anything like me this was a TERRIFYING prospect. I just didn't know where to begin, and my self-confidence was beginning to take a dive. I couldn't fathom wasting people's time when I had no inner clarity. Where does one begin when your core compass doesn't know which way is up? But someone very wisely helped me overcome this fear by breaking it down into a digestible task to get the ball rolling and eliminate the panic from what seems like a mountain of a mission:
Step 1 : Write down 5 things that you love about your current job and 5 things you dislike.
Step 2 : Talk to at least 10 friends in a range of industries and address the same questions as above.
This exercise will give you an excellent understanding about where your interests might align (or diverge… equally as beneficial).
Step 3 : Cast the net wider beyond your friendship circle. People are always willing to have a conversation about what they do or offer some advice. Hopefully step 2 will have allowed you to build confidence and understanding of self.
This process might not answer all your questions; however, it has been a useful exercise in eliminating some industries or expose me to new ideas I hadn't considered would be suitable for me.
3. Try something different…
And I mean anything… This week I’ve found myself hanging out at a start-up, which gives me the opportunity to understand the brave new world of people ‘flying by the seat of their pants’. I am totally unsure about what my value-add is just yet but I’m absolutely loving being exposed to a completely alternate work life and environment (set in the buzz of a co-working space), surrounded by a dynamic range of trans-industry skill sets.
For a while I’d been considering enrolling in a User Experience course, now I have exposure to two incredible web-developers understanding their day-to-day tasks and work life. I’m now convinced that it isn’t something I want to do… (so thank-god I didn’t sign up to that twelve-week-not-so-cheap-course). I’ve helped the marketing team develop ideas and research possible marketing campaigns. Even just spending quality time during a brainstorming session has given me huge insight into the inner-cogs of an advertising guru, allowing me to reflect on my own strategic thinking capabilities. I’ve tagged along to job interviews and sales pitches with the founder, watching how the passion of an idea determinedly motivates. A few months-ago I would have been terrified at the idea of blindly walking into an environment where I was essentially interning with a limited understanding of where or what my skills could offer.
As Susan Jeffers, the author of Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway, says ‘the only way to get rid of the fear of doing something is to go out and do it’. The experience has been endlessly invaluable for me and I couldn’t recommend more highly just going out there and doing it, no matter what ‘it’ is.
4. Don't be afraid…
Being afraid to take a risk in life stops you short of reaching your potential. But in an age of endless opportunity it is quite challenging to navigate which risks to take and where to direct your energy. I stayed on my path longer than I should have as I was afraid of not knowing what on earth I should be pursuing - it wouldn't be the end of the world if I kept going, but I wouldn't have been exercising my privilege of choice and opportunity. It was time for me to take responsibility and embrace fear rather than being swept along by the tide.
Right now, I'm focusing all my energy on discovery, and I couldn't be happier. I am surprisingly no longer paralysed by fear or concerned about what my future looks. I am enjoying the journey, comforted by the knowledge that I've made a significant shift towards determining my purpose – I am in the best place for me right now, with space to make choices. So, get out there, volunteer, take a risk, try something different. You'll never know what you are missing out on until you experience it.
So shuck it... the world really is your oyster…