Posts Tagged change
Traditionally, I start the new year off with a New Year’s resolution column, but I didn’t do it this year. Not that I don’t think resolutions aren’t important – it was a resolution that started this blog – it’s that very few people seem interested in those columns. Those that I’ve written rank near the bottom in page views by my readership. It seems that not many want to think about resolutions. Why’s that?
Resolutions reflect change, and that makes most of us very uncomfortable. Even though we know that we have room for growth, and most of want to grow, nearly all of us want to avoid the discomfort of change. This makes it difficult for us to even start the process of living up to our New Year’s resolutions. It’s like we’re standing at the base of a beautiful mountain that we’ve always wanted to climb, but fear of the journey keeps us from taking the first step.
I’ve found that the best way to motivate positive change is to project a year or so ahead. To follow the mountain analogy, picture yourself either at the top or nearing the top of the mountain. Then, picture yourself looking down at your former self who still hasn’t moved. While you might be sore and a little tired from the journey, your former self is in even worse condition – filled with envy and regret – seeing where he could have been if only he had started the journey.
Take that thought to your professional situation. Are you where you were last year, standing at the bottom of the mountain? Is it where you want to be? Is it where you want to be next year? For most of us, the answers to those questions are yes, no and no, but that reality is not easy to admit.
Every day, as a recruiter, I talk to people who are dishonest about their career satisfaction. Although employment surveys tell us that nearly half of all employees are considering a job change, few will admit to it and even fewer will pursue the change, because they don’t want to invite that discomfort into their lives. It’s a lot easier to stand at the bottom of the mountain and watch someone else put themselves through the discomfort of the climb. If they slip and fall, you can pat yourself on the back for standing still. The problem is: standing gets you nowhere.
We can choose comfort and regret or discomfort and growth in almost all aspects of our lives. For several years, I planned to join Toastmasters to work on my public speaking. Months and years passed with me standing at the bottom of the mountain before I sought out a club near my office. The pain of regret finally overtook the allure of comfort, and I decided to give up one lunch per week and the hours needed to prepare my speeches, in order to achieve the personal growth that I desired. Less than a year in, I was able to look down from that mountain and be thankful that I wasn’t still standing at the bottom.
Try that with something that you have been intending to do. Send a resume to that company you’ve admired for a position you’ve desired. Enroll in a college program that you know is key to your professional goals. Join a gym and start sculpting the body that you’ll be proud to see in the mirror. When next year comes, be standing ON the mountain, not at the bottom.
Note: This entry marks the sixth year of my commitment to writing a monthly blog. For 60 consecutive months, I’ve written at least one column, publishing it on the Monday closest to the 15th. I’ve truly enjoyed the exercise, and the encouragement that I get from readers keeps me banging away at the keyboard. Thanks for the support.
I’m cheap, and adversity doesn’t scare me. This means that I often choose dollars over comfort and convenience – a tendency that drives my wife nuts in a number of areas, like kitchen appliances. My coffee maker has been threatening to quit for nearly a year now, but I refuse to buy another one until this one has sputtered its last drop, and I still miss the dishwasher my wife replaced last year after she made an impassioned plea that included images of flooded floors.
Sometimes though, I accept imperfections that affect the quality of my life, when I don’t need to. This tendency is likely the result of dealing with less-than-ideal physical circumstances for a very long time. Living with a disability has conditioned me to focus on things within my control and to shrug off things that aren’t. Occasionally, I underestimate the control I have over the things I shrug off.
I recently saw a glaring example of this. For years, while the rest of my body was a deductible waiting to happen, I had tremendously healthy eyes and teeth. It has been a very long time since I’ve had anything other than a check-up at the dentist, and until just recently, my visits to the optometrist always culminated in reassurances that everything was working correctly.
I knew that I wasn’t seeing as clearly as I should, but I’m in my mid-40s, and those older than me consistently tell me that weaker vision is part of the aging process, so I shrugged off my failing vision as just another inconvenience to which I would need to adapt. As my eyes worsened, my glasses got in the way at least much as they helped. At first, I couldn’t read the newspaper while wearing glasses. Then, I couldn’t read the television screen or scoreboards at sporting events. My glasses rode on the top of my head as much as they did the bridge of my nose. I figured that was my future, but my wife pressed the issue, as she usually does, and convinced me to see the optometrist.
My last eyeglass prescription was just two and a half years ago, and before that, I was able to go nearly ten years without changing the prescription. It just didn’t feel right, but I also knew that my vision was becoming an increasing inconvenience, so I relented and agreed to the appointment. A week or so later, when I looked through the new lenses for the first time, it was like someone shined a bright spotlight on everything I had been missing. I went hunting a few days later, and saw turkeys that others could only see through binoculars. I realized, in dramatic fashion, that I had been needlessly denying myself a better, crisper view of the world.
How often do we do the same thing with other facets of our lives? Do we accept and excuse negative attitudes from ourselves and those around us, when we could be trying to spread optimism? Do we let coworkers, managers, friends, family or spouses treat us in disrespectful or demeaning ways? Do we accept less from ourselves than we should? Do we miss the chance to say: I should be doing better, and I deserve better?
It cost me less than $200 and a lunch hour to start seeing the world and all of its bright, vibrant potential, the way God intended. What would it cost you to improve your view?
Many of us will never reach our full potential because we’re afraid to change. We stay in jobs that are going nowhere, and in relationships that are unfulfilling. We continue habits that we know jeopardize our health and happiness. We wall off personal development with excuses. We spurn opportunities to grow. All because we’re afraid to change.
Change evokes anxiety. Routine is comforting. It’s why you are you more relaxed at home in your recliner than trying to make a connecting flight on a snowy day. You might hate your job, but you know where to park and when to leave to beat traffic. That girlfriend who doesn’t like your friends, family or hobbies? At least you don’t have to worry about finding a date on a Saturday night.
Fear of change can paralyze us, and we’re not always in the optimal spot when it does.
As the owner of a recruiting company, I see fear of change almost daily. Our mission is to find highly qualified talent for our clients, which means that highly qualified talent has to change jobs. Employment surveys tell us that most people are considering a professional change, but that very few follow through, and our experience confirms this. Fear of change often stands in the way of a career transition.
Our initial contact with a prospective candidate is designed to allow us to understand his motivations, i.e. How happy is he with his role, his work/life balance, his boss, his income, his career path? Does he daydream of something better, and if so, what does that look like? If he is perfectly content or won’t admit that he isn’t, the conversation ends there, but it rarely does. Most people are looking for something better. Actually moving toward something better is not as easy.
Many candidates discover a new tolerance of their job and their employer in the latter stages of accepting a new position. All of the pain we uncovered in the initial conversation begins to seem manageable, especially when compared to the POTENTIAL pain of change.
All too often, we focus on potential negatives, rather than potential positives. We then compare a rosy version of our current status to potential negatives, rather than potential positives of a change. When evaluating a new job, instead of the promise of career advancement, we focus on the fear that maybe we won’t like the new boss. Instead of dreaming about where the career move could put us in five years, we create nightmare scenarios of job loss. Maybe our career path is stalled, but our current job has predictability and stability. Isn’t it possible that the new job could have all of this?
You have to have faith to make a change. Most times, we don’t need, and won’t have the precision of a bridge-builder or brain surgeon when contemplating change. We have to accept risk and a certain lack of information with most change. Most change doesn’t come with guarantees.
You have to have courage to make a change. I still remember my first time on the high diving board at the pool when I was a kid. It was a lot higher and scarier than I thought it would be, and I was extremely tempted to back down, even though I knew my friends would taunt me mercilessly. I jumped, because I told myself that I would jump – that jumping was something I wanted to do and yearned to do. I didn’t want to let fear take that excitement from me.
You have to have commitment to make a change. Many experience regret right after making a change. Most experience a temptation to go back. I see this at my gym at the beginning of every year. January starts with an influx of new members, because deciding to add exercise to your daily routine is fairly easy. Getting to the gym is easy too, at least at the beginning, so the gym is still fairly full in February. By March, however, mostly only the gym regulars remain. It takes commitment to overcome the urge to give up, while you struggle with the unfamiliarity and uncertainty of change.
The end of the year is a great time to consider change. In a few short weeks, we’ll be given a new year to make the changes we’ve always thought about. Are you ready to make this the year of positive change?
For a unique perspective on change, view a video of a Jim Carrey graduation speech.
“So many of us choose our path out of fear disguised as practicality.” – Jim Carrey – http://www.mobiledia.com/news/199433.html