Throughout the past ten years of career success coaching, I’ve become deeply committed to “scaling transformation” – finding new ways to help not just a handful of people each month, but thousands, and assist them in figuring out what they really want to do with their careers or businesses, and making it a reality.
I’ve learned that bringing about large scale transformation requires helping people complete the puzzle of their lives, assembling the pieces together so that they can honor all that has happened to them from birth on, and leverage exactly who they are and amplify those talents and abilities. When done right, the puzzle is truly beautiful – it becomes a unique, powerful and thrilling picture of why they’re on this planet now and what they’re longing to create and achieve.
The challenge to this, however, is unearthing exactly what holds them back from a happier life and more a satisfying professional focus, and offering practical, tailored, and realistic steps to get them unstuck. Another deeper challenge is helping individuals modify what’s necessary in their mindset and behavior to become more confident, courageous and capable of pursuing the direction of their dreams.
As a start, I’ve launched a 16-week online course, the Amazing Career Project, and we’re in Week 6 right now, with 75 courageous and committed members. What I’m seeing with members of this course validates everything I’ve learned in my 30-year career (and through my own career walls and reinventions) about why we stay stuck and miserable, and why so many millions of people won’t budge out of their unhappiness, ever.
I’ve observed six personal blocks that lead straight to a career wall. These six personal blocks are:
1. Messages and experiences from your past keep you stuck.
Literally every single person I’ve worked with in some capacity (that’s over 10,000 people now) has had things happen in their lives that have ground them to a halt at some point. Whether it’s an abusive father, a controlling spouse, an alcoholic mother, a tragedy that shaped them, negative messages they received from authority figures or trauma from a painful work experience — everyone on this planet seems to have had extremely challenging experiences that altered them. The question then isn’t “Have you had deep challenges?” but “How have you processed these experiences and what have you interpreted about life and about yourself from them?” Most of us, sadly, don’t learn the right lessons from our experiences and come away feeling crushed, “less than” and defeated by these events.
Tip: If the lessons you’ve learned from your challenges suppress, limit and exhaust you, they’re the wrong lessons.
2. You don’t really believe that you’re worth more than this unhappiness.
Another personal block is a deep lack of a sense of worthiness. Women upon women I’ve worked with have shared that they really don’t feel worthy of an amazing life, and more than that, they don’t feel worthy of putting their needs and desires first.
The reality is that takes a good deal of time, effort, commitment (and in many cases an investment of money and resources) to build a fabulous life. If everyone else in your life is getting your love, energy and nurturing except you, you’ll never move forward. You’ll just never make it happen for yourself if you’re the last person on the planet who is getting your attention.
Tip: Start putting yourself first for a change and address your own needs and desires if you want an amazing career.
3. You don’t understand how to differentiate between the “essence” of what you want vs. the right “form.”
In my Career Path Self-Assessment survey (which offers deep and revealing clues as to where you’re stuck), I see over and over that what people fantasize about in terms of new careers are actually NOT the right roles for them because they don’t fit other key criteria necessary for success. For instance, they dream about being a:
- Therapist or social worker
- Restaurant owner
- Dancer (or singer, actor, voiceover artist, painter, etc.)
- Non-profit founder
- Massage therapist
- Travel writer
Most people know nothing about the professional identity of their fantasy careers, and they‘re not able to distinguish between endeavors that will truly make them happy as a paying profession vs. hobbies that will bring them joy. For instance, launching a startup sounds glamorous, but it takes so much more work, grit and risk-tolerance than people understand.
They fantasize about these jobs because of the “essence” they believe these roles represent, such as helping others, moving the needle on an important cause, teaching and inspiring others, healing, etc. These are great goals in life, certainly, and meaningful ones, but not every dream of ours is the right professional direction for us.
We can find ways to bring the desired essence into our lives a million different ways other than assuming the professional identities listed above. You have to be able to figure out the right “form” (job and role) that will not only give you the essence of what you want, but also will fit your personality, your values and approach to living along with all the other needs and desires you have (including financial, spiritual and behavioral needs).
Tip: Look at your list of fantasy jobs. Identify the “essence” that these represent, then brainstorm 10 different ways to bring that essence into your life.
4. You don’t recognize that you’re depressed.
Additionally, so many people in unhappy careers are actually depressed. When you’re depressed, you don’t have the capacity to envision a happier direction, or find the energy to make it a reality. Or, often you’re looking for a quick fix or a magic bullet to feel better, and more fulfilled. So many of the people I’ve spoken to this year who desperately want a new career are struggling with some form of depression, and they’re not alone. Nearly one in 12 Americans suffer from depression. Almost 8% of Americans aged 12 and older were moderately to severely depressed during 2009 to 2012 but only slightly more than one third of those suffering from severe depression seek treatment.
To know if this is you, read this list of symptoms. If these represent your state and your experience right now, it’s time for therapeutic support to help you navigate through your depression and feel better. (Visit the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy and find a therapist near you.)
Tip: As a trained therapist I can tell you that depression is real and not something to be ignored. Don’t just sweep it under the rug. Get help to feel better. And if traditional talk therapy doesn’t move you forward, explore alternative approaches to healing.
5. You don’t know how to leverage what you know and use that to launch to next level.
A fabulous career is created by leveraging all that you are, know and experienced. It’s not about running from pain and suppressing what you hate, or pretending it doesn’t exist. It requires that you marry up all the skills, talents, capabilities and passions you have, and find a new direction that will make great use of these abilities. When you’re looking for the best direction that will make you thrilled to be alive, start with a fearless inventory of who you are and what you have to offer the world.
Tip: The happiest careers use all that you are and all that you’ve learned. Don’t leap off the cliff trying to be someone you’re not.
6. You want everything right now, and aren’t willing to do the real, hard work of building a fabulous life.
Finally, I’ve seen thousands of people who want it all – an enormous salary, great flexibility, total control of their time, a fabulous lifestyle, and great meaning in their work, yet aren’t willing to change anything about themselves or their lives to get it. They want all the joys and passion of a calling, along with the stability and financial security of a job. Forget that.
Do you “deserve” everything you want? Yes, but you can’t have everything you want if you’re not committed to doing the work on yourself, and in the world, to make it a reality.
If you’re unhappy with your life now, but won’t change yourself, then nothing in your life will ever change.
Tip: If you think your new career will heal all that has gone wrong before and all that hurts in your life, you’re asking too much of a career. Your career is a natural outgrowth of all that you are, not a replacement for it. If you desperately want more happiness in your work, you first have to access more happiness in yourself, despite what’s around you.