Using the flip side of life to find your right work

How to use negative life experiences to uncover the truth of your right work

Why does autobiographical writing help you discover and develop your right work? Writing stories from your life helps you understand your own life in terms of the forces that have defined and changed you over the years. The facts, people, and events of your life have formed a seamless web of meaning that help you answer the questions : Who am I? What am I trying to accomplish with my life?

I know it sounds strange but even negative life experiences help us uncover the truth of our right work. For example, I am particularly ashamed of a shoplifting episode during my teens. I got caught. However, I really enjoyed playing a different character in order to avoid incarceration.

I have a gift for story-telling. Sitting in a police station, I walked out without charges by weaving an elaborate lie a la Frank Abagnale Jr., played by Leonardo Dicaprio, in the movie Catch Me If You Can. Unlike him, the person I impersonated found me out and turned me in. I was charged and put on probation.

This was morally reprehensible, I agree, but when we are looking for clues to our right work, we should not neglect those negative experiences. Every event has a flip side. We need to strip away the moral fabric of these events because we often “sin out of our strengths.”

The examined life lets you see patterns of behavior. It lets you see lessons learned the hard way. You learn the value of failure, and the value of accomplishments. Your life is your stock in trade. Even if you think your life has been unimportant to the world, it’s important to you, and that’s what counts!

One of the Success Stories on my website features a natural promoter who has a knack for getting things started. As a college student, he jerry-rigged a payphone in his dorm to permit free long distance phone calls. It wasn’t legal, but it was enterprising.

He was always starting money-saving, or money-making ventures. But he lost interest once the crank was turning and required daily attention to details to keep things running smoothly. He was criticized his whole life for his very strength. The people around him who had a knack for managing had no talent for getting things started; but once a venture was started, they criticized him for not having their talent for managing. Those criticisms cut deeply into his self esteem until he understood the value of his talent.

The key here is to identify our natural skills and abilities. How we use those talents is another issue. We choose virtue or vice; we use our gifts in the service of good or bad. It is, of course, difficult to write about emotional events in our lives, especially painful ones. But when you are writing your autobiography, try to portray the events of your life with accurate and honest descriptions. Leave out the moral judgments.

Try it. Pick one negative event from your life, and write about it according to the following format :

1. A clear statement of the activity (in one sentence)

2. What caused you to get started in the activity?

3. Write a detailed story of what you did, how you did it, where, when, and with whom. Stick to the facts. Focus on the how not the why.

4. What parts gave you the most sense of satisfaction and fulfillment?

5. Was there some significant reason you stopped the activity?

In my book JobJoy : Finding Your Right Work through the Power of Your Personal Story, I provide a format for charting and writing your stories quickly and easily.

From your stories, I generate a JobJoy Report. This report gets to the essence of who and what you are in terms of work. Career decision-making becomes easy. It taps into the motivations of each individual.

I analyze your stories and prepare a comprehensive detailed report that will identify and define your Key Success Factors. This report answers the questions: What are the natural talents you use and consistently bring satisfaction to you when you are doing what you enjoy most and doing it well? What is the subject matter that you gravitate to without even trying? What circumstances or conditions have to exist in the job environment to bring out the best in you? How do you naturally build relationships with others?

From this analysis we can generate an Ideal Job Description and match it with specific opportunities in the real world of work.

Brain Food for Job Change

Science has learned a lot about how the brain works during the past 50 years. For example, the physical brain, made up of brain matter, blood vessels, nerves, neurons, and so on, can be repaired, even rewired, and circuits regenerated. The brain is capable of creating new structures that can make it more effective—an awesome wonder indeed!

The mind is our intellectual ability to use our physical brain. Yet, often the mind holds back the brain because it gets stuck in certain patterns that it likes to repeat over and over, repeating so often that the pattern becomes a structure or habit we cannot break.

For example, you enter an elevator with Muzak playing one of those 70s songs from the Carpenters, like “I’m on the Top of the World” for a dozen bars, before you exit. The next thing you know that song is humming in your mind for the rest of the day. You didn’t choose to get hooked on that song; you just kind of fell into it with no conscious choice on your part.

Your mind was exposed to what in music is called “the hook.” A hook is a musical phrase that is structured in such a way, that as it begins to end, it throws itself back to the beginning, and begins all over again.

After hearing a dozen bars of “I’m on the Top of the World”, your mind is trying to resolve the unfinished bars, the ones you didn’t hear. That’s why you can’t get it out of your head, unless you consciously play the song, or sing the song, and finish it so that the tension is resolved, allowing your mind to move onto something else.

Similarly, our minds can get stuck with a belief, or attitude, or habit related to our work. If you hate your job, and want to quit or change careers, your mind will focus on that tension.

If a hook is constructed in your mind in the following manner: I hate my job but if I quit I will become poor, or lose my pension, or lose face with family and friends–then your mind will get stuck on that one track.

The hook is a fear of negative consequences. Your mind plays that tune over and over in your mind and all you can hear are the negative consequences that might result from quitting your job.

While your physical brain is ready, willing, and able to add new and better wiring, your mind wants to play the same old song: “I hate my job but I fear poverty.” This is the tape that plays over and over again in your mind.

The key is to give your mind different material to focus on. It’s the only way to break the endless loop. Most people don’t realize that their mind works as a simple tension-resolution system. It’s always looking for a tension to resolve.

That’s why we are susceptible to Muzak. Trapped in an elevator, most of us are exposed to the musical hook and we exit the elevator before our minds have time to resolve the tension.

If you give our mind junk food to work with, then the outcome will be junk: the “garbage in, garbage out” feedback loop.

The mind will work to resolve any tension that it considers. Be kind to your mind. Give it some stimulating tension to resolve. Whatever you focus on is what it will try to resolve.

Instead of focusing on negative consequences that might happen if you quit or lost your job, which plays like an endless loop in your mind—trust the fact, that your brain is wired to find a new and better structure for you.

Your brain is an awesome wonder. Give it good material to work with. Develop a vision of what you really want in terms of work. Then focus on that.

Think about your current reality; not the negative stuff that is holding you back but the stuff you already have that supports you attaining your vision, such as relevant experience, training, contacts, collateral, and so on.

In your mind, think of an elastic band and stretch it out. Now picture your current reality at one end of that elastic band, and the kind of work you want at the other end. Then let your mind do what it wants to do anyway, which is to resolve that tension.

This is the beginning of a successful career transition.

Of course, there are actions to take, strategies to employ, tactics to use, but now your mind is working with you instead of against you.

Blow Your Horn

Job search studies regularly show that it is not the best qualified candidate who gets the job most of the time. Instead, it is the strongest communicator. Why?

We live in a storytelling culture. We learn about each other and the world around us through story. Think of all the time you spend reading newspapers, magazine, blogs, or watching tv, DVDs, movies, or listening to radio, audiobooks, or podcasts. We are immersed in story.

A resume, a job search, an interview, a negotiation are each just another narrative, a chance to tell your story. Strong communicators have a gift for storytelling. Who is the most popular person at a party, wedding, dinner, or special event.? The one who tells the best jokes, the most interesting stories, the fascinating anecdotes. We are storytellers and listeners first and foremost.

A successful career transition or a job search requires some storytelling competence, not for its own sake, but for the sake of the listener, i.e. your next employer or client. A story does not exist in a vacuum. It is part of a social or cultural context. Here is how story fits into your job search.

Every organization has goals and objectives. They hire managers to achieve those goals. Managers, in turn, hire staff to do the work under their direction and guidance. These managers have the power to hire (and fire) individuals. In fact, over 40% of jobs are created for individuals who meet face-to-face with a manager outside of a formal job interview process. When you understand why, you can dramatically increase your chances of getting job offers.

Does the universe line up to facilitate the achievement of those organizational goals quickly and easily? Not likely. We live in a world of adversity. Defensemen seemed to be strategically positioned to knock down our best efforts to score a goal. In the world of work, these defensemen often show up as serious problems, formidable challenges, impact issues, pressure points, and a range of other social and economic variables difficult to control.

Just when a manager thinks they have everything stabilized and under control, life throws another spanner into the works. For example, employees die, retire, go on stress leave, go back to school, go on the mommy track, go to court, or go to another part of the country. There is a regular churn rate among staff in every organization. That is why there are always jobs; any good manager is always looking for good people because they always need new employees to cover the regular turnover of about 25% per year.

The key is to listen first to a manager, listen for the problems, challenges, and other obstacles getting in the way of their organization’s goals and objectives. Understanding their story is the first step to telling your own story with power and purpose. As every good storyteller knows, first know your audience.

If you take the time to listen, then orient your story for the needs of your audience, you will build rapport and establish top of the mind awareness in the manager. He or she will not soon forget you. And, when they need you, they will hire you.

Let me illustrate with a story about Tony. I helped him transition from a hi-tech career as a product manager to a new career working with NGOs. As part of his transition, he visited different organizations and spoke with managers, including the CEO at the Digital Opportunity Trust. They had a good discussion but she did not respond to a follow up. Tony moved on with further education and landed a job with another NGO.

As a result of some volunteer work, one of Tony’s colleagues crossed paths with that CEO, and mentioned Tony’s achievements. The CEO remembered their previous meeting, and requested another. They met again and had an engaging discussion about international development. There was no job opportunities at the time with DOT but Tony asked her to keep him in mind if things should change.

Well, a few years later, things did change, as the Trust grew and expanded its core executive team. They called Tony, he applied, was interviewed, and hired into his “dream job“ as Senior Director, Global Operations.

One of the reasons I put so much emphasis on having my clients write out their stories about enjoyable events and achievements is to help them build a vocabulary of success, a portfolio of stories. Communicating your stories with clarity and confidence is one of the best things you can do in a job search situation.

Tony changed his career by revisiting his personal story, mining it for his authentic talents and motivations, so that he had a new story to tell, one that communicated a new message.

He did not blow his horn in a loud or obnoxious fashion to gain attention; he listened to the music playing around him and added his own voice to the melody. Now, he will travel the world with job joy, doing what he loves and matters most to him.

Break out of Zombieland!

Zombie movies point out how our human inclination to go through the motions of life at work and in relationships are eating us alive. Take courage and smite that zombie on the nose!

Thirty years ago, I got hooked on George Romero’s Dead movies, starting with Night of the Living Dead. And I enjoyed the 2004 spoof Shaun of the Dead. Now, the sub-genre lives on through the new movie, Zombieland.

Some critics consider these Dead movies to be a fitting metaphor for our times—the idea that zombies return from the dead to eat the living! It is entertaining to see how this idea is channeled through the creative talents of regular folks, such as one of my clients, Morris R., who helps organize a local Zombie walk each year in October. See if you can spot him in the video—he’s the one in the black suit with the red tie and dangling eyeball!

Zombie walks recreate key scenes and ideas from zombie movies. For example, as the credits roll at the beginning of Shaun of the Dead, your eyes follow the camera panning right through scenes of regular people moving supermarket trolleys, working behind tills, waiting at the bus stop, or mindlessly listening to street music, all staring and acting zombie-like. At the end of the movie, when the zombies have taken over, the camera does the same thing again, underscoring the point that nothing has REALLY changed—zombies now and forever!

Every time I see such scenes, I am reminded of clients who come to me in a state of calamity, including a local teacher who was desperate to find a better job fit. He said, “I come alive in summer. The rest of the year I am dead, a walking zombie, going through the motions of life.”

The living in these zombie movies are often characterized as people living in various states of limitation—making them easy targets for the Undead. Some are physically handicapped, others suffer from poverty, while others are stuck in institutions, or trapped in specific social settings, such as a mall or a amusement park. Others manage to escape a gruesome fate, but only for a short time, before their fears, beliefs, doubts or assumptions put them in the path of the flesh-eaters. In the end, they all fall victim to the insatiable appetites of zombies.

Limitations are part of the reality we don’t like. How much easier life would be if we could remove the barriers to career advancement and shoot forward into success! In Zombieland, the main characters literally shoot their way through the barriers posed by the Undead.

Many of us simply surrender to the circumstances in which we find ourselves. If zombies surround us, why fight them, it’s easier to join them. Today, the number one workplace disability is depression. Millions of workers in North America cope with job stress and dissatisfaction by popping pills that have zombie-like side effects.

We can also react to negative situations with flight or fight. We might run from the zombies or beat them off…but then what? Being creatures of habit, it is too easy to backslide into our previous zombie-like existence—the exact point made in Shaun of the Dead.

Paul Tillich, a 20th C. philosopher, said “Courage is the affirmation of one’s essential nature.” When we have the courage to really live, we find joy, for as Tillich says, “Joy is the emotional expression of the courageous ‘YES to one’s own true being.” This takes courage in a world where choices have trade-offs.

Making hard choices is the essence of the hero’s story in any movie, including the Dead ones. How do you start being less fearful? How do you keep from falling back in the same old decision patterns? In my experience, the only way out of the career trap is through it.

It takes courage to honor the ambiguity that accompanies any transition process. We oscillate between hope and fear when we go from childhood to adolescence; from a student to a worker; from a single to a married person; from a childless adult to a parent–they all require some faith in the process of life.

This is the choice : life or zombieland.

If you’re stuck in zombieland, you need to break out. Now is the time to explore options with an emboldened heart and an open mind.

The zombie movies remind us that our fears sometimes force us to retreat to what is familiar. We keep doing what we’ve always done. Habitual behavior creates a comfort zone. You may not enjoy your job duties but at least they are familiar. Better the zombie you know than the zombie you don’t know.

Now is the time to rise up and smite that zombie on the nose. Choose life! Break out of Zombieland today!

Stop horsing around and focus on strengths!

I recently worked with a young woman who has an unusual gift for understanding horse behavior. I’ll call her Lisa (not her real name.) She only discovered this talent in the last few years when she took up the hobby of horseback riding.

But her natural talent for reading the character of a horse quickly and accurately was so obvious to the owner of the stables where she rides that she was given a job to work with the “problem” horses there.

This teenage girl struggles to finish high school and has no aptitude for the hard sciences that are pre-requisites for acceptance into veterinary school which her family considers to be the only career option open to her.

She came to me feeling depressed and discouraged about her career prospects.

However, when she talked about her part-time work at the stables, her passion for horse behavior was obvious. Clearly, such work energizes her. Her aptitude for empathizing with horses, for communicating with them in a way that helps change behavior is a very valuable talent in the world of horses.

It got me thinking about the work done by The Gallup Organization over the past decade (http://www.gallup.com). Gallup delivers in-depth insights on public opinion polling, societal issues, education, management, and human
talent. They found that focusing on strengths brings about real business results.

“There’s always a greater return on investment when people focus on strengths – when they focus on what’s right instead of what’s wrong.” Gallup also found that when professionals can do what they do best, their organizations have lower turnover and higher customer satisfaction. These results lead to bottom-line success.

Lisa is at her first career crossroads in life. Should she nurture and develop her unusual gift into a career? If you believe in a God of some sort, you might think God created horses and loves them, and God created Lisa and loves her, and might have put her here to take care of horses. But how on earth do you make a career out of that?

Yes, it might be easier for Lisa to finish school and get a regular job as a teacher, or nurse, or computer programmer, even though she shows no aptitude in these areas. According to conventional reasoning, this lack of aptitude should pose no real hindrance to her career choices because she’s young, she can apply herself, and probably grit her teeth and get through some kind of training program that qualifies her for a good job.

By doing so, she’d be doing what most people do when choosing a career, according to Gallup. It seems that our culture is focused on pinpointing weaknesses and overcoming them. But imagine what life would be like if we
focused more on our strengths and less on what we think we need to do in order to achieve job security.

Gallup suggests that it is much better to use your natural strengths and motivations to excel in a field that will recognize and reward you for what you do naturally and effortlessly is the shortest route to excellence…and our economy rewards excellence of any kind.

Horses are big business in certain parts of North America. And there are many people who make a very good living in that field, people who are not veterinarians. I provided Lisa with a list of resources to research the many different opportunities in the field.

As I mentioned above, she showed a flair for communicating and informing others through explaining. She likes to meet with others to discuss horse behavior. She may want to look at a role requiring these talents.

For example, there may be horse-related professional associations, or industry groups, and administrative organizations that employ Education Officers, Information Officers, Licensing Agents, and other people who have to explain complex issues and matters to members, insurance reps, inspectors, as well as the general public.

Career choices have consequences, and often involve trade-offs. In order to attain career mastery and job security, The Gallup Organization says you will need to understand your unique patterns. You will need to become an expert at finding, describing, applying, practicing and refining your
strengths.

Lisa has a bright future with horses ahead of her (or not), depending on the choices she makes now. It may not be easy for her to find her niche in the world of horses but it certainly is possible.

Gallup explains that individuals have the greatest opportunity for success doing what they do best, rather than focusing on areas where they start from scratch.

“We found that when people report that they have the opportunity to do what they do best, they are more likely to stay with their company.” This doesn’t mean, of course, that professionals should ignore their weaknesses completely. But it does mean that they can bring more value to organizations by learning how to identify and use their strengths.

In order to determine our best jobfit, each of us would benefit from a rigorous and in-depth analysis of stories about times in our lives when we are doing what we enjoy most and doing it well.

In a sense, you need to know if you are suited to “sell the boat” or “build the boat” or “sail the boat” or ³maintain the boat.² Even if you are a “boat builder,” then what kind of a boat builder are you? what is unique about you? what separates you from other boat builders?

I am happy to report that Lisa, who only a few years ago was failing high school, has started on scholarship a Bachelor of Science at a university that has a strong reputation for animal sciences.

“An unexamined life is not worth living,” goes the old saying from Socrates. The passage of time may have dulled the sharp edges of this profound and provocative statement but not it’s significance. Self-knowledge is the key to success. A rigorous and disciplined examination of your life, your goals
and your personal values will reap a huge bounty of riches.

Three Myths of Job Change

Three Myths of Career Change

Myth #1: Passion and Work Are Not Compatible

In fact, research shows the opposite to be true. Most successful
people are those who have learned to follow their passion. The
problem is that many of us were taught to be rational when we make
career decisions. So we buried our passion.

In order to get this point across at my seminars, I often draw a picture of a cart in front of a horse (and not a very good picture because drawing is not one of my natural talents). I show how most of us load up our cart with a toolbox of hard skills (e.g. architectural drawing, computer programming, public speaking, whatever). Our careers to date are often characterized by the cart dragging the horse–it being the symbol of the very things that fill us with energy, drive, strength, vitality—-passion. Career transition is about putting the horse in front of the cart where it belongs!

Think about your own career path. Maybe you were passionate about writing when you were younger, but made the rational choice to go into nursing. Maybe you were passionate about designing buildings, cars, planes…but decided accounting would be a “smarter” choice. (By the way, if nursing or accounting is your passion, and you followed it, congratulations.)

When we are passionate about our work, we are able to excel because we are tapping into our natural strengths and abilities. When we enjoy and are fully engaged in our work, our self-esteem is higher, and we are able to perform at a higher level.

On the other hand, when we are unable or unwilling to connect emotionally to our daily tasks, we are less likely to be successful. In fact, our performance will more often than not be characterized by mediocrity, just good enough to get by–nobody’s going to fire us but neither will we light any fires and win major promotions or awards.

Myth #2: The Way to Be Successful is to Pick a Career in Order
to Make Enough Money to Someday Quit and Do What You
Really Want to Do

Over the years, I have met many individuals who committed their time and energy to finding the holy grail, be it the next great network marketing scheme, or a hot stock, or “guaranteed” investment plan. And, occassionally, one of them gets lucky (or crooked enough) to win a lottery to keep the (unreal) hope alive for others.

Again, studies confirm that this isn’t what successful people do.
They, instead, are so absorbed in their career they work long hours,
think about their work constantly, talk about it to their partners and
friends. Please don’t confuse this passion with workaholism. Passionate people have that “fire in the belly.” In other words, their commitment to their work is unwavering. Workaholics often have energy but they don’t appear authentic in their work. They seem to be driven, going through the motions, trying hard to please with their performance.

But if you are working to just make money and you are postponing enjoying your work for some later date, you will be unable to maintain that type of commitment over a long period of time. Workaholics burn out. Passionate people make it look easy. They have made an important discovery – that the journey itself is even more important than the goal.

Myth #3: You Need to Be Sure What You Want to Do Before You
Start Doing Something

This belief holds people back from making any moves at all. People
who have successfully changed their career began by experimenting;
trying out new opportunities part-time, on a small scale, beginning
weekend projects, volunteering, taking night classes or going back to
school. They found a way to “stick their toe in the water.”

I did this myself. While I had a full-time job in the government, I did some assessments to determine my right work. After reviewing several recommendations to become a career counselor, I checked out the industry and identified a niche that harmonized with my talents and preferences. Then I started seeing clients during lunch hours and after work to validate my plan. Then I created a financial cushion for myself in anticipation of a worse case scenario when I made the final jump to a new career.

When you begin exploring, you actually begin to experience your possible future and what it might feel and look like. You can then make adjustments
in your course as you gain more experience and your direction
becomes clearer.

The reason is simple. For years, you have been molded by what you do. Therefore, you need to actually start doing something else. If you are the kind of person (like me) that likes to do extensive research, make lists, take assessment tests, and research potential companies before making a move, do it.

Gathering information can be useful. Don’t forget, however, that you need to
begin taking steps to try out what you are learning.

This is the hardest part of any career transition. You need to be exploring options with an open mind. It is by doing this research and exploring that the “right job” will appear. People tend to want to skip this part of the process but in my view it is the most important. Forget about what family, friends, books say in terms of educational qualifications and salary levels. It’s way too early in the process to be thinking about those things.

The whole point is to do the research, which includes talking to people,
in order to find the thing that will get you excited. You don’t start
with an “aha!” experience then go out and try to find it. You go out looking for the “aha!” experience. Yes, career transition is a systematic and proven process. But be open to surprise, to coincidence, to chance encounter.

Career transition is not rocket science but it is something you’ve never really done before, so you need to learn new skills and apply those skills. You must put your assumptions aside and proceed with an open mind. One phone call, one click on the web, one chance encounter can propel you into a new opportunity. It might sometimes feel dispiriting but if you start today, you will be much closer now than you were 2 weeks ago and, if you persist, in 2 weeks you’ll be further ahead than you are now!

Just this week a client said to me, “Ten years ago, my friends told me to go into Psychology, I was a natural. I said to myself, ‘No, that’s another 7 years of school.’ But if I’d done it, I wouldn’t be here regretting that decision 10 years ago.” The ten years go by, whether you follow your heart or not.

Career transition does not follow a straight line and no two transitions are the same. It can happen in a matter of months, or it can take 2-4 years. Sometimes, it is smooth sailing, and sometimes it is a case of three steps forward and two steps back.

By waiting until your plan is perfect, you increase the chance that no moves will be taken. So, begin the search for where your passions lie. Get a proper assessment done, such as the JobJoy Assessment Report.

Don’t let career change myths keep you stuck. By changing some of your beliefs about your transition, you will actually change the direction of your journey. Happy trails!

Your Career is Not a Problem to be Solved

 

One of the things I’ve noticed during the past 15 years of assisting individuals through career transitions is that successful transitions have a creative orientation.  What I mean by that is the distinction between a problem-solving mentality and a creating mentality.

 

Many people don’t like their jobs, and want to change.  For them, career transition is about taking action to get rid of something they don’t want, i.e. the problem, the unwanted situation, the conflict.  

 

There’s a reason for this.  Our scientific-engineering-driven society is all about problem-solving. It’s easy to talk about what needs fixing because so much does. But the mobilization of people through problems is always temporary. It works best during a crisis, like times of war. People who may not usually agree with each other can quickly join together for what seems to be a vital cause.

 

Crisis is often what motivates people who want to change jobs.  What gets them started on changing their careers is the intensity of their career pain. Once they take action, even if the action doesn’t work particularly well, there is less intensity of the problem. That leads to less future action, because the motivation to act has weakened.  In their minds, they have fixed the problem of pain because it is less intense.

 

The cycle is always the same: more intensity leads to action which lessens the intensity which leads to less future action.  In fact, what often happens is that the person stays in the same job, or gets a similar job, because the intensity of the career pain has diminished ergo problem solved!

 

This is not a bad thing per se. There is nothing wrong with improvising, hoping one thing leads to another well enough that you fall into the situations you would hope for. It is simply a less reliable approach.

 

What is more likely to happen is more reaction to circumstances, a kind of running on a treadmill where every action brings you back to where you started.

 

If the prevailing circumstances drive us, then we have one of two limited choices: to react or to respond. In either case, the circumstances are in charge and we simply react to them…over and over again.

 

We spend a lot of time “fixing” problems driven by circumstances. It is easy to organize around problems. You don’t have to think. The problem (the circumstances) drive motivation, focus, and even the types of action you would take.

 

And yet nothing really changes. Solving all your problems doesn’t mean you will have what you want. The underlying structural problems remain.  We might have a new job title, a bigger paycheque, and we put on a brave face that we’ve really got it together…but our soul continues to shrivel up and die! 

 

Even though people make superficial changes, the underlying issues eat away, and often manifest into stress disorders or more serious illnesses.  Personal health is a place where the difference between a problem mentality and an outcome mentality is enormous.

 

The traditional medical approach is to problem solve.  After all, much of modern medicine was developed on battlefields over the past 200 years, and we have a lot to be thankful for in terms of modern medical procedures and pain control protocols.

 

However, our medical system today is not over-burdened by gunshot wounds.  Instead, it is collapsing under the weight of so-called “lifestyle” illnesses.

 

Modern medicine is learning that health is a holistic issue that involves not only the physical dimension of an individual but emotional, psychological, even spiritual aspects of life. You can’t use problem solving to build anything long term. 

 

Taking action to get rid of something is the opposite of taking action to give birth to something.

 

This creative orientation was clearly outlined by Robert Fritz in his ground-breaking book, The Path of Least Resistance, when he introduced a powerful organizing principle in creating our lives–structural tension.

 

Your career is not a problem to be solved. It is a creation in process. This tension comes from knowing the end result you want to create, and knowing where we are in reality at any given moment. Tension is formed by the difference or contrast between our desired state and our actual state, and this tension is dynamic, a positive force.

 

I have seen many of my successful clients hold this structural tension as they make their next moves. They have a clear picture of their right work.  They look at their current reality objectively and accurately (easier said than done because of the negative circumstances they often live with).

 

When they know the very next step they are about to take in the context of the overall outcome they want to create, suddenly the energy they need is there in abundance. They become creative and focused. They move with momentum. They do not have to get “pumped up” because they are already on the move. 

 

Of course, the creative process begins with the question, “What do I want to create?” Without the end in mind, you are left to drift in and out of problem-solving.

 

Individuals that make successful career transitions have a clear end in mind. That is why a career assessment is so crucial to a successful transition.  If you leave your current job, where would you go, what would you do there?  Answering these two questions with some clarity gets the ball rolling.

 

The outcome doesn’t need to be all that clear at the outset to set the process in motion, just clear enough that you know what you want to create.

 

This, then, makes the question of your starting point immediately relevant: where am I now in relationship to where I want to be? 

 

Career transition is not a “to do” list followed mindlessly. Every move is related to the final outcome, and occurs within the context of structural tension

 

There is always a next move. Our lives are in motion, even when they seem to be standing still. The question is, to what degree can we determine the next move, and will it lead us where we want to go? 

 

Contrast that with not knowing the next move. When people do not have a picture of what they really want in terms of their career, they often need to force themselves into action.

 

They feel blocked or feel like they are running in a circle, with the same old thoughts, same old ideas, same old same old. Just because the underlying structure you may be in leads to lethargy, doesn’t mean you have a block or a psychological condition. You are simply in the wrong structure.

 

Change the structure, the so-called “block” goes away, and your creative juices become alive again. 

 

Without an organizing principle, it is hard to organize. And it is easy to make explicit what otherwise would have been implicit, the outcome you want to create. 

 

Once structural tension is established, the next step is the next step. I’m here, and my next move on the path to the overall accomplishment of my goal is just right over there.