How often do you find yourself just going through the motions in your life? In other words, are you leaving what happens to chance? You’re heading in a direction but you’re not really sure where it’s taking you. But, you keep heading that way because it’s what you’ve always done. It might even be because someone expects you to. However, deep inside you want things to change. It might be a change in career, or in other aspects of your life.
You may be hanging out with the same people because you always have. It feels safe, but you’re not feeling supported by them in the way you want.
You may be staying in a job that no longer satisfies you, but you’re afraid to look into other options. It’s safer to stick with the devil you know. There is comfort in that, even though you’re not happy.
You may have just learned that your company is downsizing and you’re about to be laid off. What will you do now?
Is it time to explore a new direction? Does the status-quo feel more like a rut to you?
Easier said than done, you say? Change is scary. Making meaningful change can take you way outside your comfort zone. What if it doesn’t work out?
We often think about big life changes when we turn the calendar and a new year begins. You might think about starting fresh, making resolutions. And, if you’re anything like me, you want to make those changes mean something. You want to make them count and improve on what is.
Stepping Out in Faith
Think about these questions:
–What if you knew you could not fail? Would you be willing to try something new?
–What if it was your idea? Would you be motivated in new directions?
Stepping out of your comfort zone can be frightening and a bit nerve-wracking. That fear can keep you paralyzed. You’ll never know how uplifting and empowering it can be on the other side of that fear unless you try something new.
Opening up to new ideas, having faith in yourself that you can do anything you put your mind to, and exploring new options can build confidence and offer new perspectives. Change may not feel so daunting when you approach it with a plan in mind.
Taking Small Steps that Make a Big Difference
You may be one of those who want to make a career change or changes in your life, but you just don’t know what to do, never mind what to do first. Just thinking about those changes feels overwhelming. How can you head in a different direction if you don’t know what the first step could be?
Setting small, realistic, and achievable commitments to move in a different direction is a great way to get started. Then breaking down those commitments into bite-sized goals is the surest way to make significant progress. One step at a time.
A Life-Change Example
Too much is going on and you need to simplify your life. That’s a big goal and there are many aspects of your life that you could simplify. Relationships with friends, finances, or work habits. It helps to start with things that are “closer to home” to practice the art of simplification.
You could start with simplifying, or decluttering at home. Break it down into bite-size projects, like this:
–Sort clothes & shoes
–Make three piles: Keep, Donate, Discard
–Put spring/summer clothes in storage; leave fall/winter clothes in the closet
2—Organize kitchen cabinets & pantry:
–Remove anything not used in the past year; donate or discard
–Reorganize to use space efficiently
3—Sort linen closets
–Donate or discard
4—Organize office space
–Shred unnecessary personal documents
–File papers; create electronic files where possible
–Remove or toss all unneeded
5-Repeat for all personal spaces to feel more organized and in control.
Creating a list like this helps you to plan smaller tasks that can be done in short chunks of time, over time. Set a time frame to complete these tasks. Cross each one off your list as you get it done. Celebrate the accomplishment.
Making a list and checking tasks off can be very motivating. You can see what you’ve accomplished and this creates the momentum you need to keep going in that direction. Not only have you simplified and decluttered, but you may also have gained space. This can help you to feel more in control of your surroundings, which can lead to feeling more in control of your life. And, you’ve honed a strategy of “bite-sizing” a goal that can now be applied in other areas of your life or career.
A Career Change Example
You’ve been in your job for years and feel like you’re going nowhere. The salary and benefits are too good to leave, yet you’re not happy or motivated. Career change decisions are hard.
But, you decide it’s time to set a big goal and figure out what to do about a career change. You might break it down like this:
–Talk with peers to see what might interest you in another area of your company
–Update your resume; include all your skills, accomplishments, awards
–Research and contact recruiters who specialize in your fields of interest
–Engage a career coach who can help you assess what might suit your experience, skills, and interests
–From those options, research to find people who are doing what you want to do within those fields
–Connect and request a 15-minute exploratory chat to learn what is required to excel in that field
–Evaluate your findings
–Select one or two top ideas to take to the next phase
–Research all companies that fit the criteria of your top one or two options
–Reach out to your connections. They might know people working at those companies; request an introduction
–Connect with the people to whom you’re introduced; request an exploratory conversation
–Evaluate your findings, and select the top company that fits your new chosen career path
4—Set Wheels in Motion
–Consistently follow-up and follow-through
–Set your sights on the position(s) that match your new criteria
–Seek out hiring managers for those positions; engage them
–Continually evaluate new information and adjust your strategy accordingly
–Be persistent in your pursuit of the new career path that excites you
Following a plan like this can take some time. Conducting self-assessments to identify your hidden skills, values, and interests can be hugely beneficial and open up new possibilities you never thought about. Putting things in motion on a path like this, taking small steps at a time and giving yourself time to do it thoroughly, can keep your focus on the career-change goal without overwhelming you in the process.
Whether you have a life or career goal to tackle, having a coach or accountability partner on your team can make an enormous difference. You’ll have a sounding board, an advisor, and a devil’s advocate all rolled into one.
As you work with this strategy of bite-sizing giant goals, you will find that these manageable steps will take you in a new direction that feels right. You will be making clear and intentional choices along the way, putting you in control with confidence.
This approach will result in you making good progress toward meaningful change. It will likely also take you out of your comfort zone—perhaps a good measure beyond what feels good. Stretch with it. When you stretch more than you can reach, your comfort zone stretches with you. When you do something you’ve never tried before and you succeed, that becomes a new skill. As you practice and get more proficient, it becomes a part of your new comfort zone—which is much bigger than before.
Do you see how this works? And if it doesn’t work out the way you planned, you will have learned something valuable. That learning will inform your next move.
So, the next time you think about making a change in career or life direction and it scares or overwhelms you, think about it differently. What if you couldn’t fail? What if it was your idea?
Break the big scary thoughts into small manageable ones, then break them down again. Take small steps and keep moving forward. Soon that change in direction will feel right, and you’ll be able to tackle some of the other changes that you’d like to make now that you’ve mastered the technique.
Here’s to taking small steps that lead to big meaningful change.
Take the First Step
Whether it’s a career change or something in your life that needs attention, it can be intimidating and it might even flip your world upside down. Understanding how change can impact you and lead you into a life transition can be helpful at a time like this. When you can turn chaos into calm, you build confidence and resilience and learn to live a life guided by your own values and vision. If you’re not sure how to do that on your own, I’m here to help. My free book is a great starting point From Darkness to Light: Learning to Adapt to Change and Move Through Transition.
Maria: well laid out article. Good examples, especially in the career change suggestions.