A surprising root cause of career confusion
What happens when someone stays in a work role or environment that’s a bad fit? They don’t thrive. The more time and energy invested, the more they lose clarity, conviction or enthusiasm for their future.
There ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone.
They wilt. They grow more slowly. They may not bloom.
Of course there are those who will shape the role or environment to suit them. But there are limits, and if it’s really a bad fit, no amount of finagling will do it.
Why do people stay? They say fear of change, not knowing what they want, lack of purpose, living on automatic, money… It can be a lot of things, but what’s actually going on is often deeper and more intimate: They forget who they are and what they’re about. Or they’ve never known.
When we ignore or override patterns in our experiences long-term, we become ships without a captain. Lacking a personal navigation system, we’re underutilized, impressionable, and/or performance is faked/forced.
Not always, but often, the thing that’s really in the way is a healthy sense of self worth.
Self worth is foundational for valuing our own internal experience and assuming we deserve to do the things that feel rewarding, that we want. I don’t mean rewarding as in hedonistic (although the same principal can apply, this is a different topic).
I mean rewarding as in fulfilling. The most fulfilling work experiences leverage our interests, strengths and talents but also reflect core values, and make an impact that feels meaningful and meaningfully positive. It’s these experiences that leave us feeling plugged in and expanded — with or without accolades. Not to say we won’t succeed or be recognized, but these pursuits feel worth it for their own sake. The Greeks called this eudaimonia, for “good spirit.” Today we tend to call it purpose.
Taking the time to pay attention to ourselves and our experiences keeps us on track towards a sense of greater purpose, regardless of traditions or trends. It’s easy to get swept up in an achievement oriented, image and consumer-driven culture — particularly when we don’t have a strong base. We disconnect from our deepest selves and forget how to lead our lives as free agents, if we ever knew. It’s no wonder so many people are confused or pursue paths that are less than true to them. They crave purpose, meaning, soulfulness, heart opening, and aren’t quite sure how to find it, when all along it’s been inside of them. Self disconnection is endemic. COVID has been a widespread wake up call.
And when the confused careerist wakes up to the fact that something’s off or missing? Often they assume working less is the answer, while the core problem remains untouched.
Where there is clarity, conviction and a deep connection to self, others and the world, we are energized and want to take action. We want to make an impact. We want to be grow and be challenged. We don’t just want to make “fuck you” money and retire to the beach. And this is exactly what people end up wanting when their identities, motivations and/or natural strengths don’t align with what occupies the majority of their waking hours.
It’s no small feat to reconnect to the deeper truths of our experiences, much less the values and/or needs they reflect, when we have spent a lifetime valuing and trusting what’s external.
Self-worth is not a “nice to have” or irrelevant for career pathing. It’s foundational for work that is true to ourselves, genuinely rewarding and impactful, and not setting the bar too low. Work that reflects what’s in our hearts and inspires us to strive for greatness. Work we would feel better doing than not, regardless of fame, fortune or failure. Healthy sense self-worth and self-belief are solid ground for realizing we are so much more than our selves, and acting on that in a way that’s clear-minded, and committed. A way that makes intuitive and emotional sense.
If you’re feeling lost, it could “just” be COVID aftermath but it might also be that you’ve been unconsciously compromising yourself in small or big ways. Small compromises compound, and big compromises eventually blow up in our face. Confused careerists often have a habit of compromising or disconnecting from themselves that is invisible to them day to day. It’s water they swim in. They can’t see it.
It’s a solvable “problem” — and positive self-talk, going on vacation, bubble baths or blowing our minds with plant medicine alone (as some examples) will rarely fix it, unless our escape route of choice happens to relate to our vocational path.
As cliche as it sounds, we don’t need a definitive end goal to make good choices when we implicitly know who we are and what we care about. Getting up close and personal with the fabric of our experiences — trusting we and the rewards are well worth it — creates a cozy and empowering cocoon for clarity and positive change.
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