This article was originally posted on Mind Body Green.
Your stomach knots up just thinking about entering your office building each morning. You have a perpetual feeling that your current job is not the right fit.
But at the same time, you have no idea what you want to be doing instead (other than laying on your couch, numbing out to another Netflix binge session).
“Come on, you’re a grown up!” you tell yourself. “I should already have all of this all figured out by now,” you continue to rationalize.
So what’s the deal? Why haven’t you figured out your career?
Well, start here. Check out these reasons why you may not have found your career path just yet.
1. You’re staying inside your comfort zone.
That may feel good, but it is also keeps you from encountering new ideas and experiences that could give you insight into what to do next. Discovery and amazing experiences happen on the edge of your comfort zone.
Put yourself out there and do something uncomfortable for the sake of stretching your perceptions of your interests, capabilities, proclivities and so on. Join a new group, attend a lecture, volunteer. Just do something that broadens your horizons.
2. Your social circle is unsupportive.
Let’s face it: sometimes our friends and family aren’t always the most understanding or supportive of our new ideas. It isn’t that they don’t love us, in fact what looks like a lack of support is usually their way of protecting us from something they don’t understand or see the benefits of.
No, you don’t need to banish your sister or find a new circle to hang around, just be aware that your social environment plays a large role in your ability to see career possibilities. If your mom shoots down every idea you share, it might be time to find a more objective sounding board.
3. You bog yourself down with analysis instead of taking action.
Who doesn’t love to look inside to find all the answers? Sitting in deep thought and contemplation about your inner life and your dreams is important, but then you need to get out there and take action to get clear.
In other words: don’t just decide in your mind that you’re meant to be a veterinarian because you love animals. Instead, volunteer at a local shelter to see if you really want to work with animals. If you find you don’t, you’ll be happy you figured it out before diving into extra schooling. Step away from the online quizzes and step into the world to gain clarity.
4. You’re allowing negative thoughts to hold you back.
Our minds powerfully influence us. Your thoughts can give you all the confidence you need to try that new and scary thing, like going for a promotion. Or they can be the one thing holding you back, convincing you that you aren’t enough to write that book, start that new business, or make that career switch.
Just because you think a thought doesn’t make it true, so shake it off. Don’t let thoughts get in your way of trying something new. Try to give your brain examples of more helpful perspectives to boost your confidence.
5. You’re not willing to walk the path that will lead you to your desired outcome.
Making a change will involve discomfort, making mistakes, and dealing with doubts. This is normal and part of making any transition. You need to be willing to experience a few bumps and bruises en route to your career goal. If you aren’t, you’ll stay stuck where you are.
6. You avoid compromises and have unrealistic expectations.
You want it all: the new job title, high compensation and flexible work schedule, but doing so will mean you have to sacrifice money or enjoyment temporarily to achieve that goal.
Get past this hurdle by reminding yourself that the cost is temporary and is all leading to a higher path. Think about it, if you are actively working to achieve your goals, what are the chances you’ll stay in this job, industry, career for the rest of your working life? Not likely, so focus on the long tail benefits.
Not everyone grows up knowing they want to be a doctor or professor, especially if your desired career didn’t fall into the standard reading, writing, arithmetic, science categories. Don’t panic; know that it’s not too late to take a divergent path.
If you’re getting frustrated about not knowing where to take the first step, stop and become aware of the actions or surroundings that are keeping you from finding clarity.
Did any of these reasons resonate with you? Share your experience in the comments below!
This post speaks to my soul. Thank you.
Comment #2 stands out. Jim Rohn said “You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.” Whether it’s an understanding friend, a trustworthy colleague or an emotionally invested mentor, I think we all need people who want us to succeed and whom we can talk to and bounce ideas off.
My big take away from this post is comment #3. Being strongly introverted, parking any thoughts of an alternate path and taking physical action is perhaps the toughest step for me to take, especially when I don’t know where I’m heading.
I’m personally finding it extremely difficult to break the tightening cycle of frustration, fear, uncertainty and doubt that have consumed me for the last 4 or 5 years whilst trying to identify a different path. I feel lost. Constantly trying to find a way out is absolutely exhausting.
Glad the piece resonated! It can certainly be uncomfortable to get out of thinking mode and into action, but taking action (even imperfect action) is critical to moving forward.
Sorry to hear you’ve been struggling with your career direction for so long. I definitely get how tiring that can be. I have a book coming out in March that elaborates on the points made in this article and goes into more detail on how to get unstuck. Keep an eye out for it, or reach out if you’d like any one on one help.
Number 2, Over analysis is what holds me back. It feels like I just can’t make a decision or decipher what to choose. Most people chose careers on what they are good at. I am not sure what I am good at. If that the best approach to choosing a career?
Hi Ashley, Thanks for the comment! I assume you have some hunches about what you’re good at. See if you can find a smaller, real world step, like volunteering, to test out the things you think you’re good at. Your experience can then inform bigger decision. Yes, our strengths are generally a good place to rest our careers.
Makes total sense. In my case a few of those things conspire against taking productive action and I end up anxious and worried.I’m looking forward to the next email, thanks!!
Recognizing what’s going on can be a great first step Carolina! I hope you continue to find the e-course valuable.
All of this resonates! I think it’s great you’re focused on career clarity. That’s the important first step towards career happiness that most people I know (myself included) struggle with. I’m excited to learn more from your online courses.
Alison C. says
Happy to hear it Laura!
I’ve never read something that is so accurate as this to my career life. I always had this “desired outcome” but is scared to walk the path that leads there. I tend to analyze things too and gives up on taking action when I think I am going to fail even without trying. I am afraid to take risks. I always wanted my own business but am afraid to take risks. I always stay in my comfort zone too but sometimes, I try to get out of it to explore. I don’t want to voice out my insights with others as some would encourage me but still finds negative comments to tell me and that’s what I hate the most. It gets in my mind and I think about it a lot constantly. Thank you for sharing this. I will find ways to correct them and go to my desired outcome.
Chloe Irons says
1. You’re staying inside your comfort zone
I’m scared if I change my career, I’m throwing a lot of money away plus the network and reputation I’ve built along the way. Afraid of judgement from those people, afraid it won’t work out and shows they were all right.
Alison C. says
Thanks for the comment Chloe! Great job naming those fears. They are normal and there to help us be careful when we’re making a change. Keep looking for small (less scary) steps that move you forward in your process.