I recently lost 16 lbs in the space of 6 weeks. We live in a sit down culture
and much of my work is performed in a chair in front of clients and computers.
The middle-age pot belly is an inevitable result for many modern workers.
Because I am not an exercise machine or gym membership or fad diet kind of guy,
I looked for over a year before I finally found a belly fat burning program I
could live with.
I was conscious of the fact that most weight loss programs result in failure,
with a majority of individuals putting the weight back on and then some within
I believe this happens because most people approach weight loss as a problem to
be solved : `I want to lose weight but I don’t want to change my lifestyle
I meet many individuals who approach their career issues with the same
problem-solving attitude : `I’ve got a job I hate but it pays my bills and
provides a good salary and benefits, so how do I replace my income and benefits
if I quit my job?’
I’ve lost weight and I’ve changed careers, so I can speak personally to both
problems. Like most people, I try to solve a problem in order to avoid negative
consequences. So, when I read recently how excessive belly fat contributes to a
wide range of health issues during middle age and beyond, I decided to lose
weight in order to avoid those problems.
Similarly, many people come to me for career advice on how to avoid the negative
consequences of a bad jobfit. Often, they feel drained by their job, and want
to avoid the inevitable burnout or depression (now the #1 workplace
disability). Or, they have read the economic tea leaves and anticipate a
forthcoming layoff. Or, new technology being introduced into their workplace is
going to change their job duties in a negative way. Or, they don’t like their
boss or the people they work with. Or, their life situation has changed and
they need to move on.
Naturally, negative job conditions foster bad feelings, even intense emotional
conflict . Just by taking the action to visit with me and talk about these
issues can reduce the emotional conflict they feel. In the same way, once
people see they can lose weight by taking some kind of effective action, it
reduces the emotional conflict they feel about their weight issues.
To start the process of losing weight, we can join a gym, or buy a food portion
meal replacement program, or start a diet. Similarly, we can change careers by
going back to school, reconnecting with our LinkedIn network, or writing a
However, we are all human beings, and once we experience relief from bad
feelings, our motivation to change weakens and we feel less need to act.
It is very easy to backslide then into old eating habits. Or, it is easier to
go back to the same job or something similar thinking that something fundamental
But it hasn’t. If we keep eating the way we have always eaten, we put the
weight back on. If we go back to a job misfit, it’s only a matter of time
before the same issues rear their ugly heads once again.
To keep the weight off, we need to make some real lifestyle changes. To really
change careers, we have to make some hard choices and trade-offs for a new
When tougher choices are needed, when actions get harder to take, we think we
can make things happen by exerting self-control. We try to manipulate the
conflict to go away–with self-imposed incentives, rewards, punishments. If I
lose 5 lbs this week, I’ll go shopping for a new outfit. If I send out 3
resumes this week, I’ll buy a flat screen tv to force myself to send out another
3 next week because I’m going to need a new job to make the payments on my
Studies clearly show that this strategy of conflict manipulation does not
deliver long term success. When are motivation is driven by solving intense
emotional conflict, the relief is always temporary.
Emotional conflict leads us to act. Because we’ve acted, we feel better–even
if the situation hasn’t changed very much. Feeling better takes the pressure
off, which in turn reduces the emotional pressure we feel. Less emotional
conflict means there is less motivation to continue doing the things that
reduced the conflict in the first place. Since we feel better, there is no
pressing need to follow through with more actions. And the original behavior
This is why as many as 95% of dieters have put the weight back on within 12
months. And, while 95% of workers think about changing careers at least once a
week, only 5% ever act on that thought.
The only way off this merry-go-round of problem solving and conflict
manipulation is to create a clear picture–a vision if you will–for the outcome
you truly desire.
What I say to my clients is : Instead of trying to fix your bad job situation
(a problem orientation), let’s shift your focus to creating job joy (an outcome
Yes, it is important is to find a short term solution to a problem but
understand that nothing really changes…until it actually does. Lasting change
is the result of effective and efficient actions organized around what really
matters to you over the long term.
You can make the best short term choices in the world but if your motivation is
to fix a career problem you have now or might have in the near future, you’ll be
back to your old tricks within a few years.
No wonder so many people give up on losing weight or changing careers! They
don’t know why they can’t pull it off. They’re sincere about it. They know the
stakes are high. But each time they try, their short term success is scuttled
by circumstances beyond their control…or so it seems.
I’ve reached a plateau in my weight loss. To reach my ideal weight, I need to
make more changes in my eating and exercise habits. What motivates me to do so
is the picture I carry in my head of things I will do with my optimal health.
What really matters to me is being very healthy as I move through middle age.
Weight loss is just one part of that bigger vision.
Similarly, I carry around a written Vision statement of my career 20 years or so
down the road. What keeps me going today–taking what are often small, mundane,
routine actions–is focusing on what really, really matters to me further down
the career path.
That is why I wrote my new eBook, JobJoy : Finding Your Right Work Through the
Power of Your Personal Story. You already have everything you need to get out
of yhour career trap and into a better jobfit, one that combines vitality and
security for a better life.
It’s not rocket science. But it does take time, energy and money. However, the
Return on that Investment is priceless! Get started today!