1. The Trigger
Something happens which stops you in your tracks:
• Major changes at work which make you think… “Is this what I really want?”
• A major health problem (for you or a family member)
• The death of a close friend or family member
• A divorce or major a relationship break-up
• Financial difficulties
• Extended travel or volunteering activities that make you question what you’re doing with your life
• External factors that move you (e.g. 9/11, the tsunami in Asia, earthquake in Haiti)
Tip: Remember, everything happens for a reason. Some of the worst things that happen to you will teach you the biggest lessons. Sounds very clichéd – but in years to come, you’ll know them to be true.
2. The Reaction
You’re angry, upset and in denial.
Some days you’re relieved and pleased, but then the next day you feel down again.
You get the ‘3am sweats’ – waking up in the middle of the night with that sickly knot in the pit of your stomach.
Tip: Remember that it’s perfectly normal to be ‘all over the place’ – there’s nothing wrong with you. It’s just the process you go through as you shift from one stage in your career and life to the next. The 3am sweats are a signal that it’s time for change.
3. The Withdrawal
Your confidence is low, you feel pretty unsociable, much quieter than normal and simply want to withdraw and hibernate.
As you withdraw, you may indulge in a few vices to make yourself feel better on a day-to-day basis. Which means you may drink more, smoke more, eat more sugary junk food , watch more junk TV, shop more and gamble more. But it’s completely normal when you’re going through change.
Tip: Give yourself permission to withdraw and spend time with yourself. Educate people around you to give you space and time to reflect to ‘just be’ (e.g. get them to read this article).
Slow down, take good care of yourself. Politely say “no” to invitations and new projects.
Read, reflect and journal to capture any insights and ideas which come to mind. Think about what you want and what’s most important to you in the next chapter of your life.
When you give yourself time and space, you’ll start getting insights and ideas about what you really want from the next phase of your career and life. You’ll come across chance conversations, chance meetings and read random articles that start pointing you in a certain direction (this could well be one of those random articles that you were ‘meant’ to read).
4. The Research and Planning Phase
The insights you gain from the withdrawal stages start giving you clues about what you want from the next phase in your career and life. You start researching and becoming more outgoing once again.
You start waking up in the middle of the night again. But instead of the knot in your stomach, you’re waking up excited about an idea or insight and want to grab a pen and pad before you lose the inspiration. You suddenly have a spring in your step, your eyes light up and your family and friends feel relieved to ‘have you back’.
Tip: When making a change, the dots join up backwards, not forwards. So don’t over-plan or over-think things at this phase. For now, forget what’s “realistic” – trust your intuition, be open-minded and explore options and ideas you’re drawn to. The precise ideas, contacts and insights come from getting ‘out there’, not from sitting at home creating plans.
5. The Next Chapter
You’ve made decisions, developed a plan and are now well into the next phase of your career. It may be a new job, new career, new business – or simply a new outlook or adjustments of your priorities in life.
You’re excited and enthused: you’ve well and truly turned the page in the next chapter of your career.
This is the process of reinvention we all go through when moving to the next chapter of our careers and lives. The triggered event was just that – a trigger or catalyst to get you moving. To force you to make some decisions and take some actions which deep down you wanted to go for but had been resisting.
So if you’re faced with a major ‘trigger’ situation right now, remember that these things often happen for a reason. Whilst you may be in shock and a little scared, follow some of the tips above and have faith that, in time, things will turn out fine.
If you’re stuck in the ‘reaction’ or ‘withdrawal’ phases – remember, there’s nothing wrong with you. You simply need to go through those phases to come out the other side. So hang in there.
And if you’re in the ‘planning and research’ or ‘next chapter’ phases – enjoy the journey!
So which stage are you at?