5 Tips to Find your Next Step in Life
Do you spend day in and day out feeling drained, unfulfilled and stressed?
Are you having physical symptoms such as headaches, trouble sleeping, heart palpitations and muscle aches? Is your anxiety keeping you from pursuing your passion or even exploring options to figure out what you might like to do differently in your life?
I was recently interviewed on the Safe for Work podcast with Liz Dolan and Rico Gagliano entitled Modern Elders and Making Age an Asset at Work. I guess at my age I am considered an “elder” to a good number in the workforce! What I shared was my career path and how I changed careers later in life to create a work environment that I love and that allows me to have the work-life balance that I need and want.
The job I was in was stressful and brought anxiety and health issues instead of joy and fulfillment. I’ve had many people ask me how and why I made a change I my life so I wanted to share some of my lessons learned.
Lesson #1: Pay attention to your body.
While occasional illness is a normal part of life, having persistent symptoms can be a sign of rising cortisol and stress. Our bodies cope as best they can with this constant fight or flight, but there comes a point when the pot boils over and you can’t contain the stress anymore.
When we get used to tolerating a certain amount of stress, it feels normal.
We get to a point where we don’t actively feel stressed. Sometimes our physical symptoms, such as headaches, stomachaches, pain, heart palpitations, and anxiety have to get louder and louder for us to pay attention. This may even lead to an appointment with your PCP or an ER visit.
It may take persistent or chronic health issues to cue you in that something in your life needs to be different. Once you decide you need a change, career or otherwise, it’s normal to want it right away, but looking for immediate gratification can often take you down the wrong path.
Lesson #2: Take your time.
You’ve decided to make a change and you’re ready! Be careful not to jump ship to the first thing that comes up. Be prepared for some exploration and ask yourself if you are acting out of fear. If you need to support your health and reduce your stress, find something temporary that is good enough for the time being, and will allow you to take the time you need to figure out your next more permanent step. Taking your time to explore also takes the pressure off and lessens some of the anxiety that comes with change.
Lesson #3: Talk to anyone you think is interesting.
A quick phone call, coffee, skype or a more formal informational interview can be helpful. Find out what people do, ask questions, and think about the parts of their jobs you like. People love to talk about their jobs! I was working in hospice and loved the medical side of things and helping people, but knew I didn’t want to be a nurse, for instance. The more people I talked to, the clearer my social work path became. By talking to people about what they do, the focus is on them. You can relax. This isn’t about finding the perfect fit, it’s about learning what others do and gathering information.
Lesson #4: Find support and use it!
Whether you’re changing jobs, cities, industries, or going back to school as I did, you are going to need support. Having someone cheering you on, picking up dinner, or helping with your kids makes all the difference. In addition, seeing a therapist or counselor can help you reduce your stress level with effective coping strategies, sort out the information you are gathering and balance all the pieces.
Lesson #5: Keep your eye on the goal and adjust as needed.
I’m part of the sandwich generation, caring for an aging parent while raising my own children. Sometimes the goal had to shift so I could tend to my family. It took me a little longer than I’d planned to finish school, but it happened. Staying flexible and adjusting your plan, allows you to minimize anxiety throughout the process. Check in on your expectations along the way. Is the expectation to start the new career or start it by a certain date? What’s realistic? Having unrealistic expectations can derail your efforts because you’ll spend more time comparing your progress to some unattainable ideal rather than focus on goals that are manageable.
It’s good to have goals, but remember they may need to shift to accommodate life.
If your stress level is through the roof and your physical health is beginning to suffer, it’s time to figure out what needs to change to bring balance back in your life. Contact me for a free consultation.
To listen to the Safe for Work podcast with Liz Dolan and Rico Gagliano entitled Modern Elders and Making Age an Asset at Work click below.