“When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.” Lao Tsu,
All transitions begin with an ending. Where your career is concerned, nothing will change until you step away and let go of old work patterns. Yes, you might change jobs, but this will nearly always be achieved by relying on those skills and experiences which have served you for so long. Nothing will change.
At some point, you have to make a choice; either scurry back to what you know or step over the precipice into a new existence. And yes, it is scary. Our natural instinct and nurtured sense of survival is to create order out of chaos; to force new structure into our lives and to move purposefully from one existence to another.
The recognition that you can choose to free yourself from your professional identity, shed it like a skin and emerge shining and new, is a process that creates both a tremendous amount of energy – and deep pools of anxiety. The energy drives you forward to explore your values, strengths and desires to create a new vocation. The anxiety holds you back – and will pull you under and imprison you in the “what is” rather than allowing you to emerge into a “what could be”.
As you yo-yo between these two states of mind your natural tendency will be to do something, anything that will introduce a new structure to the void that your career has become. Most often this means scurrying back to the familiar, the proven and the recognised; donning once more the mantel of your professional identity.
But, resisting personal growth incurs great psychological damage. Living your life to meet others expectations rather than authentically searching out and following your own path is the number one regret recorded by palliative nurse Bronnie Ware in her interviews of the terminally ill (The Top Five Regrets of the Dying, 2012, Hay House, UK). Conversely, freeing yourself from a professional identity defined by others and allow the unfolding of your own truthful vocational adventure can bring immense satisfaction and serenity.
So, as you step into the unknown, be prepared for the traps – all the layers of fear that will hold you back, all those voices saying that you cannot do what you believe in. Do not rush to create an answer just to silence those voices. Instead, take steps to marshal your resources for a period of upheaval in your vocational life; find a mentor, meet with like-minded career shifters, use affirmations, visualisations and other sources of inspiration. Instead of forcing a decision on yourself when the way forward is still obscure, focus on creating the positive energy needed to cope with the inner tension. Relax into the uncertainty and celebrate the changes it will bring.
Dare you create a space in your life to see what emerges?