If you’re familiar at all with the tale of Don Quixote, you’ve probably heard that it’s a story in which the main character attacks windmills, imagining they are giants.
Since that famous story, many people have invented their own kinds of adversaries at work, relentlessly attacking the environment and hoping that somehow, someday, their job is going to expand and change in dramatic fashion. And when it does, they’ll be awash in fulfillment like they never experienced before.
So they just keep collecting one paycheck after another, holding out hope for that magical day to come. In the interim, they rage at windmills. The environment is bad. This or that leader is bad. A certain procedure is bad. If only certain things would change. If only everybody would listen.
You know these types of folks. In fact, maybe you’re exhibiting some of those behaviors yourself, hmm?
What Do You Do When You’re So Unfulfilled At Work?
First, let’s take a shot of honesty. If you really look in your heart of hearts and are true to your feelings, you’ll know whether or not you're ever going to be happy in this particular position. Can’t picture happiness under your current roof, no matter how hard you try? Fair enough. Then it’s time to move forward in a new direction.
However, that doesn’t mean to resign tomorrow. One potential idea: Use the hours after work to possibly pursue something that you're very, very passionate about.
Let’s say you’ve got the after-work hours of 6pm – 11pm free every night. If you use those hours for putting together a real plan of next steps, you’ll have a twin track career path where you’re not putting off tomorrow what you can do today. Little by little, if you can actually pursue the likelihood of a second career after hours, you don't have to quit your job immediately. There’s no reason to jump off a cliff without a parachute.
Instead, put some structure around your idea. Give it a test run in limited form. How does that feel? Fulfilling? Liberating? Good. Now how much more can you test to see if it’s going to be viable? The more you can experiment with the concept, the better position you’ll be in if and when you finally decide to give your two weeks’ notice.
Now for a gigantic step: Summon the courage by visualizing your future.
Remember the Charles Dickens character of Ebenezer Scrooge and how the Ghost of Christmas Future previewed what his life would amount to if he continued on the same path? It wasn’t a flattering picture, to say the least. Well, when you reach a point in your current job environment where it’s clear that things are never going to change how you’d like, it’s time to picture your own future using this process.
Take all the negative emotions and feelings you have about the job you’re in. Now picture yourself in the same job five years from now, bringing all of those feelings with you. How does that feel? What is it costing you and what are you missing out on?
Go 10 years into the future at the same job. What kind of energy do you have now? What’s it costing you physically, emotionally and financially?
Picture yourself at the same job 20 years from now. Are you more excited or depressed having been at the same job all this time without any change?
I think you know the answer. You can see what kind of “future you” there is when you do this exercise and I’ll bet you’re not thrilled with that version. If you feel pain, that might be the best pain you’ve ever felt because it can get you off the bench and into a commitment that changes how you see yourself as well as the kind of workplace you want to commit to.
This isn’t easy, by any means. You may have a little baby to feed and when you share your plans to leave a relatively stable job, your spouse may look at you like you’re crazy. But if you do summon that courage, it’s a crucial step that transforms you from someone who is raging at windmills and rationalizes staying in a job they hate into an inspiring figure who has decided to take full charge of their future.
I’ve always appreciated the motto, “Fortune favors the bold.” I wouldn’t have made some important strides in my own career without having the courage to do so.
Be honest with yourself, use your hours outside of work to develop a plan, test the idea and visualize all the baggage you might bring with you into the future if you’re at the same job by using Tony Robbins’ Dickens Process.
There’s still time to seize the opportunity and love what you do. Don’t waste it raging at windmills.
How about you? If you can share, what was your moment when you realized that things were never going to change? What did you do and where did you go from there? What kind of fulfillment did you find as a result?
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