“I’m really unlucky. I’ve got my third job in as many years, and I can’t seem to find one that would suit me. And I have terrible luck with managers. Most of them are jerks.” This is how one of my coaching clients, let’s call him Jake, started a conversation about a problem he was trying to solve. He felt unhappy at his job, changed a couple of companies, and it never got better. He thought he didn’t have a career and blamed everyone around him for his misfortunes and his miserable life.
The thing is. Jake has a great job. Working as a software developer in the current economy with a considerable demand he couldn’t be in a better area of work. He is paid well. He seems to be pretty good at what he does. Yet he doesn’t really feel that successful. His expectations are not aligned with his reality.
Jake would like to get a job in a new area of technology but none of the companies he worked for allowed him to move there as he is not qualified for that work. So he jumps around hoping that someone will give him that opportunity.
He was appalled when I mentioned that maybe he is not doing enough and that he is relying on others and hoping for the best. He expects that “others” will do something. It is his manager who needs to give him the opportunity.
He believes that he is doing enough by constantly changing jobs. In reality, he is playing a lottery, rather than doing something that he truly has under his control.
Jake, like many of us, has dreams but is not willing to put in the effort and take risks to make these dreams happen.
Know what you can control
Too often we are so set in our ways and so accustomed playing the victim role that we stop seeing what is and what is not under our control. Like in Jake’s example we feel that by changing a job we are in control while in fact, we are not.
Years ago, I felt that I needed to change something in my life. I was spending lots of time at work and didn’t have many hobbies. So I jumped at the opportunity to move to another country. The reasoning was simple, if I move to another country, it will dramatically disrupt my routine, so I will use it to change everything. I will have a better work-life balance, eat healthy, exercise, pick up a couple of hobbies.
Guess what. I moved to the Philippines, started doing a bit different job, met many new people. To a big extent cut ties with my old life. I changed everything in my life, yet nothing has really changed. I still spent all my time in the office, in fact, more than ever. I essentially behaved like a victim of my circumstances.
There was one thing I didn’t change. The one thing that was entirely under my control. I didn’t change the way I was thinking about life. I didn’t make the necessary sacrifices. I didn’t change my priorities. I didn’t change who I was. I was still me.
This applies to most of us. Changing jobs, moving to another country, or getting a new hairstyle doesn’t really change anything significant about you and the way you live and look at the world. If you were unhappy in your old job, chances are you bring that unhappiness to your new job too.
The real change that is entirely under your control is within you. It is your attitude, your priorities, your focus, your approach to life that holds the key to meaningful improvement in your life.
Understand what you are trying to change
If you want to change something understand what exactly you are trying to change and why. “I want to change my job,” is not the right answer. You really don’t want to change a job. By itself that is a meaningless endeavor. You want something deeper. Maybe you want to spend more time with your family as helping your children grow fills you with purpose. Maybe you know your strengths are not used in the work you do today. Maybe you see a big opportunity for helping others.
Whatever the real goal, make sure you understand it and consider different paths how to get there. You may discover that changing the job won’t really get you there. It may be just a placebo, so you feel like doing something to get there, while in reality, you need to do something completely different.
Work hard on the right things
Once you are really clear on what you want, then consider whether it is really a priority. We want many things in life, but we don’t give them priority and focus. So we never get to where we want to be.
Having too many parallel goals that may even be at odds with each other only ensures you fail at all of them. Pick a goal that is really important to you and put all your effort and focus on achieving it. If it is a really worthwhile goal, if it is vital to you then it deserves your undivided attention.
Give it all the effort, make sure you stick with it during ups and downs and be willing to get out of your comfort zone. There are no shortcuts if you want to achieve something significant. There will be sacrifices that you need to make. It will hurt. And that is fine.
Take a hit and make sacrifices
When it comes to career, we are often too afraid to make real change. We are trying to change things a little bit and then slide back to our old habits and jobs. If you genuinely want to change your career, it is important to you, and you know what you want, you need to be willing to shake things up and take some hits.
I had seen this many times when people tried to make significant changes to their careers. Those who succeeded had something in common. They gave it a lot of focus and effort. They worked extremely hard to master the new field. They worked for years. And all those years they usually took a pay cut as when changing careers you are going from being a master at one thing to being a student at something new.
It took a lot of courage. They made sacrifices. They took hit to their wallets. They spent hundreds and even thousands of hours learning a new craft. And they found their calling and became great at their new jobs and started an entirely new career.
During my career, I faced similar situations a couple of times when I was willing to take a step back only to get ready to take two steps forward. I was willing to make temporary sacrifices to achieve something I really wanted.
Most people fail to achieve their dreams because they are not willing to make the sacrifices that any meaningful achievement requires. We live in a world where we like quick fixes and workarounds. Unfortunately, nature and life don’t work like that. You can’t bend the laws of physics. You won’t find shortcuts to greatness.
In the end, it is all in your head. Whether you feel happy and satisfied with your job and your life is less about the actual job and more about your attitude towards it. You can decide to blame others, stay in your comfort zone, never do anything more than you are required, stay safe, and daydream about how life could be great. Or you can decide to take your life into your own hands, work hard, get uncomfortable, take risks, and fulfill your dreams.
Norwegian proverb says, “there is no such thing as bad weather, only a bad choice of clothes.” It summarizes my point beautifully. You have a lot of things in your life under your control. If only you chose to see the world with the right mindset. You can’t control the weather, so there is no point complaining about it. However, you can dress appropriately and enjoy whatever nature throws at you.
What are your thoughts on the topic? Why are so many people unhappy with their jobs and not able to fulfill their dreams? What are your dreams and how do you make them happen?
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