Although we’re approaching New Year, it’s not quite time for an “Out with the old and in with the new” post. Still, I’ve found myself thinking of the different ways the need for change shows up for people.

It can be a complex recipe of feelings, as Herminia Ibarra notes in her guide to career change. 

…we slowly awaken to a desire for change with some mixture of fear, excitement, apprehension, longing, self-doubt, anger, and dread….

“Am I doing what is right for me, and should I change direction?” is one of the most pressing questions in the midcareer professional’s mind today.

Herminia Ibarra – Working Identity: Unconventional Strategies for Reinventing Your Career

You may wrestle with a concrete alternative to your current work – maybe whether to make your life-long passionate hobby into a livelihood, or to accept an ‘invitation to chat’ from a rival in your present industry or not. You could feel unhappy with your current work but struggle to envision any realistic alternatives. Or perhaps you wonder about trading in the stable job to join a start-up or go into business for yourself.

For some of us, any thoughts about work change fit into a broader question of personal change. We sense that we’ve outgrown (or need to) not just our current work but our current selves. We’ve noticed the depressing predictability of our shortcomings and unhelpful patterns of behavior (that manifest in work and elsewhere). And although we don’t know exactly how to start, we feel called to finally do something about them.

This broader urge perhaps recognizes (after several changes of external work factors?) that without internal change, that “same old self” will turn up in any new setting. And then how different can the outcome be?

Unanimously, no matter their backgrounds, every client felt stuck – stuck in bad habits, damaging behaviours, predictable and problematic patterns – and it made them feel lonely, isolated, and hopeless.

Dr. Nicole LePera – How to Do The Work

It can be that work is going well, but at the expense of other areas of our lives. Our physical or mental health may be creaking under the demands of the character we play at work. Or our relationships may be under-nourished or strained as we spend the best of ourselves in our professions.

In this world there are only two tragedies.  One is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it.

Oscar Wilde

It could even be that everything is going well. Work is humming. We’re at the top of our games. Yet, even as we sip the most recent celebratory champagne, we wonder, “Is this all there is?”

About a third of my cases are suffering from no clinically definable neurosis, but from the senselessness and emptiness of their lives. This can be described as the general neurosis of our time.

Carl Jung – Man in Search of a Soul

The longing some feel could be clearly labeled as one for purpose, for a sense that theirs is a life lived well and toward an aim they choose, understand and identify with. Granted, “our times” are no longer Jung’s, but based on many of my discussions, the search for meaning is very much alive today.

As the year’s end approaches, what change are you feeling?

This question isn’t aimed at accentuating the negative but at celebrating the human drive for growth, for expansion, for fullness. The felt need for change is one of the most important elements behind change itself. 

Of course, I can’t overlook the reality that some don’t choose change but have it thrust upon them, and even if in the long run it’s for the best, it can be both scary and difficult when it hits. My thoughts and heart go out to you.

In all of the above cases, help is available! Reach out to friends and family, to mentors and colleagues, to counsellors and guides.

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