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Why You Stay in a Career You Hate

Speaking and working with people every day who are in careers or jobs they dislike intensely, I’ve asked myself, “How did we get here?  How has it happened that so many thousands of people have become despondent, angry and disgruntled about what they do for a living?” 

Clearly, there are many factors at play here, including the rise of technology – that makes setting boundaries around our professional lives virtually impossible.  Further, in the past 30 years, we’ve become slaves to the almighty dollar, addicted to acquiring things we can’t afford, which keeps us working long and hard just to break even.  Additionally, many people jumped into certain jobs or fields early in their careers, only to discover 10 or 20 years later that they can’t find a way out.

But I believe there are even deeper reasons for this epidemic of people hating what they do each day for their living.  These reasons touch on underlying emotional, spiritual and behavioral conditions, and reveal a deep disconnection to what it means to live joyfully, authentically, and meaningfully.

I know some folks will debunk this post, claiming they have absolutely no choice in the matter, and that they’re stuck doing this work.  But I don’t see life that way.  I believe we always have new choices, new paths, new solutions available to us, if we can simply commit to creating a better life.

Based on the feedback I’ve received from hundreds of professionals here and abroad, I’ve observed the following eight core reasons why people hate their careers.  As I share these, know this – I’m not sitting in judgment of any of these; in fact, I’ve lived through each and every one of these conditions.

1)   You don’t know yourself

The vast majority of people I see in the workplace just don’t know themselves at all.  When asked, “What’s your top priority in life and in your career?  What would you give up anything for?” or “When you’re 90 looking back, what do you want to have done, been, and left behind? “  I get blank stares and mouths hanging open.  People don’t know themselves well or deeply anymore.  Why?  Perhaps because we don’t make time in our lives to get to know ourselves – we’re just too over-the-top busy.  Or perhaps the process of knowing oneself deeply is intimidating and scary.  Whatever the reason – if you don’t know who you are, at your core, and what you stand for and care about, how can you lead a life that aligns with your needs, values, and interests? (My free Career Path Self-Assessment will help you know yourself better, if you want to.)

2) You know yourself, but you make yourself wrong

In this situation, you know yourself and what you want, but you simply make yourself wrong.  You tell yourself, “Yeah, I want to change, but I’m wrong to feel that way.”  Or “I’m lucky to have a job, so I shouldn’t rock the boat” or “I have so much – I should just feel blessed and not complain.”  So many people (women in particular) doubt the validity of their feelings or repress their deepest longings because they think they’re wrong to have them.  Until you can make yourself “right,” you can’t find peace or joy.

3)  You’ve lost the courage to act

For many who know what they want, they’ve lost the courage to take hard action.  We’ve been seduced by some erroneous concept that life should be easy.  Where did we get that idea?  Making life change isn’t easy, but it’s so worth it, especially if you hate where you are today. It takes courage, grit, and commitment to bring about lasting change, and you can do it, but only if you decide to connect to your own internal power, courage and fortitude.

CLICK HERE TO READ THE FULL ARTICLE ON FORBES.COM 


Why do you stay in a career that makes you miserable?  Can you make a different choice?

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5 Key Steps to Your New Career in 2012

As a career coach, I spend a great deal of time reviewing the details of people’s lives and careers and making sense of the seeming randomness.  With clients who want a new career, I always begin by having them complete my Career Path Self-Assessment, an in-depth survey which leads them to deeply examine their early selves, their previous jobs, and a variety of other important information.  From this array of data, I uncover core life themes, roadblocks, unique skills and talents, and lost passions.  I put this all together to identify more fulfilling and exciting professional directions.

While it’s very helpful to have a great career coach, the reality is that you can do this on your own.  I’ve found after years of coaching that there are five core steps everyone can take to identify new career paths that will align more closely with who you are, and bring you more success and reward. 

Why should you take these steps? 
Because you have the right to love what you do and do what you love.  People like to claim that loving your work is a pipedream – but those who defend that view are wrong.  Enjoying your career and feeling there’s deep meaning and purpose in it is not just for a select, fortunate few.   It’s for anyone who believes in him/herself and takes the right kind of action.

CLICK HERE here to read my full article on Forbes about the top five most effective steps to take to figure yourself out and get on track to a more fulfilling career.

What did you love to do in your early years, and are you drawing on those skills, gifts and talents today?

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10 Key Ways That Being More Positive Enhances Your Career and Your Life

As a trained marriage and family therapist and career coach, I’ve researched for over eight years what makes some people highly successful interpersonally and in business, and others doomed to fail.

I’ve observed this: Being more positive in your behaviors and language makes room for far greater success, satisfaction and reward in your life (this goes for your marriage and family life too). 

In Marriage as In Life and Work

During my therapy training, I read a fascinating book called The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work.  In it, the author, leading relationship expert Dr. John Gottman, explains that there are particular types of negative interactions that, if allowed to run rampant, are so lethal to a relationship that he calls them the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.  These four horsemen “clip-clop into the heart of a marriage in the following order : criticism, contempt, defensiveness and stonewalling.”

I’ve seen these exact same harbingers of professional disaster in the workplace as well. Allowed to run unfettered, these Four Horsemen will certainly clip-clop into the heart of your career and professional life with a deadly thud.

Dr. Gottman discovered a formula he believes is provable and reliable – that to make your marriage successful, you must ensure that there are five times more positive, loving interactions than negative, painful interactions between you and your spouse. If you don’t adhere to this formula, serious unhappiness ensues.  And if you dip toward the 1:1 ratio consistently, he says you’re likely to end in divorce.  He can watch a couple discuss a problem or conflict for only a few minutes, and predict with eerie accuracy if they’ll eventually end in divorce.

Interestingly, I’ve seen the relevance of this positive-to-negative interaction formula in people’s careers and professional endeavors as well.  Those who are consistently more negative than positive in their communications and interactions suffer from an untimely demise of their career potential.

Why is Negativity So Destructive? 

Negativity limits, constrains and tears down.  Negativity also tends to escalate, and as it does, it strips away future opportunities for success, self-esteem, trust, confidence, and growth.

What Does Positivity Do Instead?

Being positive, on the other hand, has the opposite effect – it builds, repairs, and protects.  Using positive language and behaviors builds up support structures and creates new roads to solutions and success.  It paves the way for a deeper level of human connection, compassion, and creativity.

 In fact, I’ve found that concentrating your focus on being more positive as you engage in your professional endeavors achieves the following 10 powerful outcomes:

Being more positive:

1)      Helps you engage with others more effectively and gain support more easily for your ideas and initiatives

2)      Develops you as a role model and someone to “watch,” admire and learn from

3)      Gives you greater positive impact and influence on your culture, your environment and your colleagues (positive language and emotion are magnets)

4)      Boosts your “immunity” to negative outside occurrences  – you become more resilient and bounce back quicker

5)      Inspires others around you to find the courage to seek — and move toward — the positive

6)      Strengthens your ability to advocate effectively for yourself and others,  which in turn attracts more opportunity for all involved

7)      Paves the way for more collaborative success rather than crushing competition

8)      Builds your reputation as someone worthy of trust and support

9)      Helps you see possibility where others see only hopelessness

10)   Brings to light your achievements and accomplishments rather than highlighting your failures

In the end, positivity paves the way for growth, and growth breeds success. 

You might be thinking, “Sure, I know being positive is important, but I can’t seem to shift myself out of my negative thinking, especially with all this bad news around us today.” 

If this sounds like you, I’d ask you to think again.  We CAN change and modify – it’s called evolving.  We ARE able to shift ourselves away from negative, destructive and damaging negative patterns to more positive ones – in our relationships and in our work.  I know, because I’ve worked extremely hard to create these shifts in myself and in my career, and have seen countless others do the same, to great success. 

If you will make the commitment today to engage in more positive behaviors and thoughts in your life and work, I know you won’t regret it.

Your challenge:  This week, take a very close look at your communications and interactions at work.   What is the ratio of your positive communications to negative ones?  If the ratio is at least 5 (positive) to 1 (negative), kudos to you!  If not, there’s some important work to be done.

The Top Six Reasons People Want to Leave Their Careers

(Thrilled that this piece was published on Forbes.com last week!)

As a career and executive coach, I’ve spoken with hundreds of professionals who’ve shared some version of, “I really want to leave my job and change my career, but I’m not sure what to do or where to go from here.”

If I’ve heard this message once, I’ve heard it 1000 times now.  People spend years crafting careers that appear successful on the outside, only to find that at some point, usually in midlife, the career comes up short. It’s missing a vital component (or several) that turns the work into something dreaded – less than fulfilling, lacking in purpose, unstable, inauthentic, unsustainable, or a combination of all of the above.

I’ve personally lived this experienced as well – waking up at age 40 to depression, exhaustion, chronic illness, lack of ability to balance my family life and work, and feeling completely disengaged from the corporate professional identity I’d spent 18 years forging (see Breakdown Breakthrough for more).

Why are so many folks miserable in their work and long for change?

Here’s what I’ve found to be the top six reasons people are dissatisfied with their work and want out:

1. Balance: They find it impossible to balance work and outside/family life
2. Money: The money they earn isn’t enough to sustain them or their families
3. Skills: The skills and talents required for their work aren’t are a good fit
4. Respect: They feel chronically undervalued or mistreated
5. Meaning: They experience little positive meaning or purpose in their work
6. Struggle: It’s simply too hard to keep going with it

In short, they’re saying: “I don’t know what I want, but I know it’s not this.”

As the economy rallies, more and more employees are asking themselves, “Can I leave my job yet?”  But I’ve discovered that if the above challenges aren’t effectively addressed in some core way BEFORE you leave your current job or career, they’ll follow you wherever you go. 

If the above describes your experience, read on for some tips to help you create the change you want — away from feeling trapped, toward feeling more confident, courageous and committed to making positive career change today.

1) Commit Yourself to What You Want

A fulfilling, satisfying life is not going to just fall in your lap.  You have to claim it, and commit to getting it with concentrated, continual effort.  You have to work it. 

How?  First, figure out what is the most important thing in the whole world to you.  What matters more than anything else?  (For more on this, see Ric Elias’ moving TED Talk on 3 Lessons I Learned As My Plane Crashed). 

Formulate this priority in terms of a “to be” statement such as “to be a great parent” or “to be a successful entrepreneur” or “to be a helper of others.”   Then commit yourself to honoring this priority.  Stop over-functioning (doing more than is necessary, more than is healthy, and more than is appropriate) in your life, your family, and work, and let go being perfect in the areas that don’t matter to you.

2) Refine Your Focus

Do you know exactly which talents and skills are easy and natural for you to use, that give your work a sense of purpose?  Do you know what type of work would represent an ideal fit? Are you in touch with your core values, standards of integrity and life goals? 

We have to understand our unique answers to these questions before we even contemplate making a major career change.  Why? Because if you don’t understand who you are and what you want uniquely, you’ll end up making career change based on the wrong reasons and incomplete information, and the new career will disappoint you once again.

Take my Career Path Assessment (CLICK HERE to access the free Assessment survey) and figure out what you want to do more of, less of, and never again. Then find a way (either in your existing job or in a new field or job) to tap your true and natural talents more frequently and deeply.

3) Access the Courage to Make Change

During the eight years I’ve been a career coach, I’ve literally met thousands of miserable, depressed professionals who share their story of misery, but then do nothing concrete about it.  I’ve analyzed why this is so – why so many people remain paralyzed in their misery – and I have some hypotheses as to what holds us back from life change (stay tuned for an upcoming blog post on that). 

But what I do know is that if you don’t take concrete action that is different in content and process from what you’ve done before, your life and career will not change.

In the end, you can’t solve a problem on the level it was created.

Whether you’re in your own business and it’s simply not working, or the job you’re in brings too much struggle every day, it’s time for change.  Let’s face it, most of us wait until there’s a full-blown crisis (read about the 12 “hidden” crises working women face) before we do something different.  I’ve personally lived through all 12 of the major crises professional women face, so I get it.  But I’m asking you NOT to make the same mistakes I did.  Get outside your own head, and get outside help to figure out what you really want, and how to get it.

So, what’s your top reason for wanting out of your line of work?  And are you ready to do something about it?

Are Your Values Keeping You From Earning More Money?

Last week, I had the immense pleasure of conducting a coaching training course for the CT Women’s Business Development Council.  I shared the day with an amazing, inspiring group of women who work throughout Connecticut and are heart-committed to helping others get on more solid ground with their finances.  (By the way, if you don’t know about the Women’s Business Development Council, do check them out!).

In the program, we conducted a number of role-play exercises illustrating the power of coaching, and one exercise truly took me by surprise.  In this exercise, each of us explored our intrinsic, heart-felt values – what we care about deeply and what we need in our lives to feel fulfilled and to craft a life worth living. 

After the exercise, we evaluated how these values are supporting us, and also how they may be clashing, in fact, with our desire and need to make more money, and to save and invest wisely. Fascinating discussion…

In doing the internal work of this exercise myself, I was reminded that I value the following traits very highly in my work:

1) Helping people make positive, lasting change (value: making a difference)
2) Authenticity and individuality (value: truth-telling)
3) Offering help and insights based on reality (value: realism)
4) Delivering programs informed by research (value: expertise/diligence)
4) Endeavoring to offer something of value that exceeds what my clients pay (value: service)

When I compare my values and behaviors to those of some other service providers, I see key differences.  A large number (not a majority perhaps, but many) consultants and providers these days seem to value making money over all else, by:

–  Using hard-hitting marketing promises to convince clients about what they can achieve (no matter how likely those outcomes are)
– Accepting clients who are desperate financially, but don’t have the ability to recoup the money they invest in the coach/consultant
– Encouraging clients to put out programs and materials that offer less than high value or strong content
– Making abundant success sound very easy and very accessible to all
– Talking about how they personally made their money, not what the client needs to do in these times to make their own money
– Using fear tactics to scare clients into thinking if they don’t hire the consultant/coach, they’ll fail

On the contrary, when I looked very closely at my own values as well as my outer behaviors, I realized that my intrinsic values have prompted actions that in some ways clashed with my desired outcome of inviting more money into my business. As an example, I tend to give far too much away for free and then feel resentful and angry, and I have a hard time honoring my own boundaries about the type of coaching projects I will and will not accept.

After a long, hard evaluation, I now understand that what I want to change is not my values, but the way in which I express them.  For instance, I’m focused more keenly on being of service to people who are in synch with me about what they value and the outcomes they wish to produce.  I’m also more committed to working with those who are happy and able to pay fairly for the time and support they receive. 

The ultimate goal, I think, is to honor your values fully, while engaging in conscious behaviors that are in alignment with who you really are and what you want in life.

It’s a very powerful exercise to understand exactly what you value, and explore how these values prompt unconscious behaviors that hold you back from achieving core goals such as greater financial success.  I’d recommend doing this exercise today!

Question for the day: What do you value deeply in your life and work?  And how might these values be (unconsciously) promoting behaviors that hold you back from creating a higher level of desired success. Please share what you discover!  

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