If you want change, you need to want something new

Photo by Christian Lue on Unsplash

I’ve had several conversations in the last few months around people wanting some sort of change. People growing tired of their job, or wanting to change their lifestyle following the shifts we’ve found during the pandemic. Perhaps some other life event has prompted an individual to make changes in their life – health, relationship or some epiphany from time away in self reflection.

When we want to change something, it can often be hard to figure out what we want to change. The easy part is to say that whatever we have right now is not working for us, and that we need to shift this into another thing. But the harder part is deciding what this new thing we want to do should be.

For people who are looking to change career, often the prompt is some level of disgruntlement with work. The focus can quickly become on how bad everything is right now, and therefore the change is needed to fix things. Change in of itself becomes the solution, whatever that change might be.

Whilst this is perhaps a good starting point, most of the time it is not enough to want change for change sake. For most of us, we require finding a new direction we want to pursue, else we will get totally lost in the millions of directions we could go. Since the world has so many different possibilities, it is incredibly easy to feel overwhelmed by the options. This feeling is particularly strong when we feel surrounded by people who look like they all know what they are doing.

Concretely, I’ve had conversations with people who want to leave their workplace and do something new. Unfortunately they have no idea what that new thing might be. Considering the amount of time and energy required to move sectors or into a new career, it makes it tough to actually succeed without being clear where you might want to go. Whilst throwing a job application to a new role isn’t so strenuous, to actually succeed through doing all the additional activities – extra research, practice interviews, even a short course – can be too much for someone who’s heart isn’t really into such an opportunity.

It’s for this reason we see many disgruntled staff members staying in an organisation far too long. When you have a conversation with people in this situation, they know they are unhappy but do not know what to do. The longer they linger on these thoughts, the more they become paralysed by fear. Suddenly the outside world seems too scary, and they rest in the comfort blanket of their situation, despite being miserable about it. I saw a lot of this in one of my previous workplaces. Despite people who actually left ending up much happier, many people stayed for years due to the comfort of familiarity.

For others, sometimes a change does occur. But it might not turn out exactly how they may expect – changing jobs often does not shift the underlying problem. A lawyer working in a law firm who then becomes burnt out does not solve the problem by moving to a law firm with the exact same culture. Soon this becomes a game of job hopping, with little to address the underlying problem that the individual isn’t really satisfied with the work itself nor the long hours culture.

Paradoxically, the process of learning what we like to do is often a game of trial and error. It is often a case of being exposed to new opportunities that we never even knew were possible. In the modern age, it is possible to live a nomadic life travelling around the world whilst running a business online, for example. And if that’s something you truly want, it is possible for you to create it for yourself.

Practically, the best way to learn more about the opportunities within life is to go out and speak with people. Connect with people on LinkedIn, or go to wherever interesting people congregate – it does not need to be a full-on networking event, but simply a place where you can learn more about the different things you can do in the world. Since dedicating more time to listening to different people, it is amazing the amount of different things people do, so there is certainly a whole world of opportunities out there that we likely did not even existed.

It does not need to always be about work either. You may hear about someone who does a hobby that you’ve always wanted to try, or has done something like moving to a new country. By truly listening to the stories of other people, we can expand our horizons to places we did not even know was possible.

For me, it was not enough to want to leave my previous job. I spent time disgruntled, and therefore expected the world around me to come up with solutions. I thought I could just go out and find a new role that would perfectly cater for my needs without really trying. Instead, I really needed to dedicate myself to making a change, and being dedicated to make that change happen instead of giving up a few months in.

I had to solve the underlying niggles that were in my mind, such as where I wanted to live and how I could find fulfillment whatever my job might be before I could truly commit to the idea of moving to a new country to get a job.

You don’t need to have it set in stone, and life may give you a new opportunity on the path to exploring what’s out there. For me, I had in my mind working something around technology, however ended up focusing on sustainability. Both are interesting subjects, but the latter I had not considered so much. So things can evolve.

So if you’re looking for a change, remember to take time to figuring out what you want to do now. It will greatly help you narrow down the different options, and will give you direction and enthusiasm for a new possibility.

What new thing do you want in your life? Comment below or drop me a message if you don’t want to share publicly!

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