Today’s post is devoted to one of the most common barriers to getting out of work hell and into a career you love: The belief that because you are not a college kid, you’re supposed to have it “all figured out.”
And if you don’t have it all figured out, something is wrong and you’re not allowed to move forward until you get it fixed. In a particularly rough moment for one of my clients recently, I asked her what her truth was... what she really, really wanted. She replied:
I don’t want to be in this career anymore. I want to start over. But I can’t. Starting over is not the adult, responsible thing to do. Grown-ups don’t just switch jobs because they’re unhappy. Grown-ups make smart choices and think about finances first.
Grown-ups don’t just start over.
Wrong, wrong, wrong. Who ever thought it was a good idea to let 19 year-olds pick their major? Who thought it was a brilliant idea to give a sophomore in high school a career test that would define their lives until retirement? My career (which is amazing and perfect for me) didn’t even exist when I was in high school, at least not in its current form.
The idea that you’re supposed to pick a major in college, get a related job, and stay in that career until you retire or die is a complete myth.
The truth is that staying on one career path is a choice, not a necessity.
Staying on one career path for your entire life is a completely valid choice, but it’s okay if it’s not the right choice for you. There is no law saying that you’re a terrible, irresponsible, selfish, disloyal weirdo who can’t get it together because you made a choice at 19 (or 25, or 40) that is no longer serving you and aligning with your life. It’s super normal to believe that if you’re 30 and don’t know what you’re doing next, you’re defective. That’s what society teaches us is correct, so that’s what we’ve learned. Unfortunately, this lesson…well, it’s garbage. It’s just not true.
HERE'S THE TRUTH:
Reality Check #1: Most people don’t get it right the first time. Or ten.
There’s not an instruction manual for figuring out life. Yes, there are some proven things that tend to get good results (like paying your bills and showing up to work sober), but you truly may have needed to go through some shit to figure out what you are actually meant for. This is annoying, but it’s no reason to throw in the towel and settle for a mediocre life. Check out this infographic for proof.
Reality Check #2: You are not the person you were when you started this career path and/or job.
Um, why would you be? You are not a stagnant, complacent sheep. You never have been. You are a dynamic mover and shaker. Of course you’re going to change! It’s completely reasonable to want your career to fit your lifestyle and identity, and it’s completely reasonable to go through lifestyle and identity changes. Think about where you were 5 years ago. Now think about 10 years ago. Who were you then? What were your family and relationships like? What was important to you? What didn’t you know then? All of this stuff is going to continue to evolve, and it’s okay to make career transitions that keep up.
Reality Check #3: committing to happiness and fulfillment is an extremely responsible, adult, and unselfish pursuit.
Think of it this way: how productive are you at work when you hate being there? How great of a mom, partner, friend, colleague, employee, manager are you when you’re exhausted and miserable? Not very, right? The happier you are, the more fulfilled, relaxed, and lit up you are, the better work you do. Ponder this as it relates to your own work. It’s true, right? When you care about what you’re doing and you get to do it in a way that feels good, you actually get more done. And you have more success. And more energy and love to bring home to the people who matter. So how true is it that investing in a career change that will light you up is somehow childish and dumb? Making mistakes (especially career mistakes) doesn’t make you irresponsible, dumb, and immature. Refusing to making intentional transitions that have the potential to make you happy? THAT is irresponsible and immature.
Reality Check #4: other people may not get it. And that is okay.
Life would be so much easier if everyone agreed with you all the time and enthusiastically supported 100% of your life decisions, right? Maybe. But the reality is that you only control you. Seriously. You could make THE choice that your parent or partner or boss wants, and it still may not win you their approval. You are the only person who has to live your life, so make sure YOU are okay with your choices. Obviously, if you’re partnered or have kids, your choices could affect other people, and that needs to be taken into consideration and handled delicately...but your choices don’t have to be ALL about other people. There’s a huge difference between doing something to honor and protect someone you care about and doing something to get someone’s love and approval. When you actively, intentionally choose to change or grow, some people won’t get it. And that’s okay. The goal is to be so in love with your decisions that it doesn’t really matter if anyone else is.
YOU WEREN'T BORN TO SUFFER IN A CAREER YOU HATE AND THEN DIE.
That’s not who you are, and you know it. Remind yourself. I’ll remind you, too. You know this truth on some level, so what do you really need to do to fully embrace it?
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