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How to Make a Career Transition

Overcoming Fear and Inhabiting Your Emerging Self

The sense that something needs to change in your career can creep up on you. For some, it may take years. It might begin as a kind of itch, or even a flirt with something different, but can develop into a deep sense of restlessness and dissatisfaction. The greatest challenge is that, even in the context of significant pain, making a change can feel very risky or terrifying. As a result, many of us won’t make any change.

Why is this so? How is it that we can become incredibly disenchanted with the way things are, but find it so difficult to change our situation?

Let’s begin with stating the obvious. Maintaining the status quo does bring benefits. At least it’s KNOWN and FAMILIAR. The edge of pain associated with thoughts of potentially awful future scenarios can be lessened by thinking of ourselves as just staying the course“I mean, it’s not good; but, hell, is it as bad as it really could be?”

Most of us can imagine pretty bad things, and thinking about changing from our familiar life to something unfamiliar is a powerful trigger to do just that. After all, it does feel like awful things are somewhat LESS likely to happen if we just keep going. – “If I can just put aside my doubts about where I am now and hang in there, things won’t be SO bad.”

And while that reasoning might be reasonably sound, it shouldn’t be the end of the conversation. Speaking about what seem like the benefits of maintaining the status quo is important, but it is only one part of the process when considering a career transition.

Start to dream

Another part of the process is looking into your dreams and noticing how they are different to what you have now. Does that sound simple? Well, it might be simple, but it’s usually not easy. Our fears of making change tend to create significant tension around dreaming a new future. Have you been meaning to get to that personal vision and values stuff, but found you have been just too busy?  –  “It’s not complicated, but wow, why can’t I make myself simply sit down and focus on it?”

It’s not because you are too busy, and it’s not because you have other things to do which are just too important. It’s because sitting down and reflecting on your future can be SCARY.

Here’s the thing – it can take courage to begin to dream.

As I once heard Bob Anderson, author of Mastering Leadership, say: “There is no safe way to grow”.

Here are some simple steps to help you dream and, importantly, to remember what you dreamed.

  1. Relax

Most of us are chronically adrenalised. What I mean by that is that most of us have elevated levels of flight and fight hormones circulating in our bodies, and we are simply not relaxed. We are highly strung, maybe a little short tempered, impatient and close to exhausted. That state is no state in which to dream.

Here’s a little trick to help you relax. Sit quietly and imagine your breath is going in and out of your chest, right over your heart. That’s right, just sit, listen to your breath, and imagine the flow in and out is happening right out of your chest. Try it now! It’s not difficult, but it’s a great way to help bring your heart rate down a little, and make its rhythm more coherent; that is, more regular and more even.

  1. Dream

Once you have really relaxed for a little while, it’s time to dream. Here are some questions that you might lightly hold and let trigger your imagination. What is important to me now? What kinds of things might fill a terrific day at work? How might that day feel? What is making me feel that way?

  1. Write it down

Simple as that. Write down what you saw, heard or felt in your dreaming. These headings can be very helpful.

  • What did I see in my dream? List three things.
  • What did I hear others say in my dream? What might I have said to myself?
  • What did it feel like in my dream? List three elevated emotions.

What comes after the dreaming?

You may have noticed that the YOU in your dreams is different to the YOU in your current, familiar situation. The YOU in your dreams is not constrained in the way you are; is often bolder, is less afraid and is more loving of life. The YOU in your dreams is a bigger version of the YOU that you are now living with.  Actually, the YOU in your dreams is who you really are. Your dreams are an expression of the emerging you. Your dreams are unique to you, and the emerging you is also unlike anybody else.

But how can I realise my dreams when I’m still ME?

I want to tell you that the familiar you is not the one to inhabit your dreams, and it’s not the one to make them come true. The familiar you is working hard to bring to you what you have right now.

If you want to make your dreams come true, then it’s time to inhabit your emerging self, before anything else can change in your life. Who is your emerging self? Can you inhabit your emerging self now? How well do you know your emerging self?

How are her feelings different to your usual and familiar usual? What beliefs guide his behaviours? What kind of thoughts predominate her mind? What patterns of behaviour are evident?

Do you recall the movie Avatar? I loved that movie when I saw it for the first time all those years ago. Actually, I watched it 3 days ago and still loved it! I see an interesting connection between that movie and the way we transform into our emerging selves.

Remember the Avatar drivers? Sam Worthington played the young marine who learned how to drive the amazing Avatar body. The 9-foot tall, highly athletic figure of an Avatar was a dream come true for the paraplegic marine. He would place himself in his “pod” and then, in his mind, completely inhabit the Avatar. He moved, felt and thought just as an Avatar did. In due course, he became the Avatar!

Sure, the story is a fairy tale, but it does speak to the process of changing into our emerging selves. We spend time inhabiting that self, feeling like that self, thinking like that self and, in due course, that SELF becomes our usual self. And that self naturally creates the world in which we desire to live. That self can bring our dreams to reality.

As we inhabit our emerging self, with new eyes to see the opportunities that are around us, and new ability to take action, we have a far more powerful capacity to move decisively in the direction of our dreams.

So, how does all this relate to career transition?

It boils down to this. Career transitions can be very difficult because, while we might be dissatisfied with our current lot, we usually have fear about changing it. Not only that, often we don’t know what we really want or dream for and, even if we do, our usual and familiar self is simply unable to create that dream. Our usual self has served us very nicely in creating exactly what we have now. We need our emerging selves to create our dreams.

Therefore, I recommend these important steps.

First, dream. But remember, you can’t dream unless you are relaxed. Follow the three-step process described above to avoid the frustration of trying to dream while you are actually in partial fight and flight mode.

Second, get to know the self that inhabits those dreams. This is your emerging self, and it’s much closer to who you really are. Get to know this self by reflecting on what they think, feel and believe that is different to your usual self. Write down a few important distinctions about this important emerging person. Then, actually begin to think, feel and act that way.

Next, take new action. Don’t do it out of fear, but rather let your emerging self be the guide on what you need to do and when.

Finally, I didn’t mention this before but I do recommend getting a coach. I do believe that a skilled coach is an essential partner in creating a successful career transition. Very few of us are able to navigate this journey without the help of someone who is skilled, and who deeply respects us. Very often we miss the signals our emerging self is giving us, but a coach can help us see those signals, and integrate them into our life.

If you would like to talk to us about getting a coach, just let us know.

Thanks for reading.

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