William Shakespeare, Richard III
This is a time when the ambitious goals we set last month begin to give way to last year’s familiar rhythms and rituals — and when the enthusiasm and commitment to New Year’s resolutions start to fade into dissolutions.
As career coaches, we witness firsthand the annual onslaught of good intentions that accompany each new year. Like gyms and diet clubs, we’re overrun by an unhappily employed workforce hell-bent on making this the year that they once-and-for-all find the career of their dreams.
Sadly for many, their dreams won’t see the light of Ground Hog Day. That’s because career reinvention takes time — and time is something most of us don’t have in surplus. We can easily push our career aspirations to the back burner and allow day-to-day obligations to drive our agenda. Perhaps David Lee Roth summed it up best:
“The bad news is: we have lost our way. The good news is: we’re way ahead of schedule!”
If you try to schedule your career discovery like it’s some sort of project — like painting the kitchen or repairing the leaky faucet in the bathroom — you’ll never find the time. Something will always intervene. The truth is, you’re never going to have any more time than you have right now.
If you’re ready to start and stay on the path toward meaningful work, here are six practices that can help:.
Take a disciplined approach. A structured process that works for you is much more likely to “stick.” If you keep a calendar, add career tasks to it — and honor them as you would any other commitment. Put your attention and effort toward those things over which you have control — and let the other stuff go.
Manage your stress and emotions. Begin with a daily regimen of self-care. Sure, your life requires you to assume many roles (parent, spouse, partner, friend, colleague), but you can’t perform well in any of these if you’re not taking care of yourself. Pay attention to what you need and want.
Develop actionable goals and plans. Break the process down into a series of small, but measurable action steps. Even one hour a week spent on specific career actions — reading about trends, exploring new fields, talking with others — will produce results over time.
Trust the process. Wherever you are in your journey, keep things moving, even if your progress is agonizingly slow. Like many other things in life, this journey has a timing of its own, much of which is not in our control. Stay true to the process and let it guide you forward.
Keep a positive attitude. Meaningful work is not always attainable in the immediate or short term. You can “choose” to see what you’re currently doing as menial or meaningful, remaining mindful that your choices lead to results and consequences. Develop a habit of regular affirmation. Regularly communicate your values and strengths — both to yourself and others.
Allow for moments of inspiration and awe. Whatever your thoughts on religion and spirituality, take some time every day for silence, meditation, or reflection. By allowing your sense of the divine, your quest for meaningful work deepens. The journey can be as meaningful as the destination.
A final reminder: stay focused on the goal. One of our most beloved 20th century philosophers, Yogi Berra, wisely stated “If you don’t know where you’re going … you might not get there.” Yogi inspires us to keep our eyes on the prize.
While it’s true that people who explicitly make resolutions are 10 times more likely to attain their goals than people who don’t explicitly make resolutions, you need more than an annual pledge if you expect to find the career of your dreams.
John Steinbeck, The Winter of Our Discontent