5 things to consider when you appear to have it all but are feeling unsatisfied…
Published on April 15, 2021
5 min read.
Photo by OSPAN ALI on Unsplash
It’s surprising how many of us hit a point in our careers when we feel like throwing our toys out of the pram and screaming what is the point!
But should you react like a toddler or should you simply shut-up and put up with it? In my experience, the best option is neither of these.
I recently joined a Facebook group of managers looking to support each other and the first post I came across made me sit up and decide to write this blog. The question raised by one of the group was:
Does anyone ever just want to walk away from everything? My job isn't even that hard, I've got it pretty good, I'm in school for BA, I'm doing all the right things, but it just feels like I'm trapped, and the big picture of life is slipping away. Am I just an ungrateful brat?
Replying to this question with a simple you got this! or follow your dreams! seemed so superficial. That's why I decided to put my thought down in writing in a slightly longer format…
Here are my 5 suggestions of things to consider when you are feeling disillusioned with where your career is heading.
1. You are not alone
Firstly, it’s normal to feel like this – most of us at some point question why we are doing what we do. But not everyone is ready, willing, and able to do something about it.
That is not to say everyone should be making big life-change decisions to prove they are brave or self-aware.
But taking the time to understand why you are not satisfied, deciding what you are prepared to do about it, and then taking action regardless of what others might say, requires a high level of Personal Leadership skill.
This is not a skill everyone has but is something you can improve with practice.
2. Get some perspective
Just because you are not happy today, doesn’t mean everything needs to change tomorrow.
We all go through phases where, for one reason or another, we are not feeling great about life. But understanding why this is, can really help you make some good choices.
Maybe there is a big event coming up and this is playing on your mind, or maybe there is a difficult conversation needed and this is eating at you. These situations will require some action from you, but it’s not a good idea to change your career because you have to give someone difficult feedback
But if you are feeling anxious and stressed every month because of something you constantly have to do in your job, maybe it is time to rethink.
If you are really struggling with making this decision, you could keep a journal (ideally handwritten) so you can look back after some time to see if there is a common thing triggering your unsettled feeling.
If you are not sure what to write, or if like me you feel jotting down random thoughts is not going to help, here is how I structure my thinking to get some perspective on my situation.
3. What will they think?
One of the blockers that often holds us back from making a decision or taking action is the opinion of others.
It can be very helpful to get the input of people we trust, but you can’t live your life through the values and beliefs of others.
Just because other people think you have an amazing career or are impressed that you are always jetting off to business meetings, doesn’t mean you have to stay in that situation.
A few years ago, I had an amazing career in a large corporate organisation. I travelled all over Europe and the world on a regular basis and had a top-level pay grade.
So when I decided to walk away from that and do my own thing, people were shocked.
Also, in a strange way, I felt like I was letting people down because I was not sticking with the career aspirations we are all taught from a young age.
But when the chips are down, this is your life and you need to live it that way you want; NOT how others think you should be.
4. What makes you happy?
Happiness is such a personal thing that I can’t (and wouldn't) begin to tell you what you want out of life.
When it comes to your career aspirations, there are so many choices open to us that it can be confusing trying to focus on what is really important.
I remember my first performance review with one of the best people I ever had the good fortune to work for. We went off-site so we could get our heads clear of the day-to-day work and we just sat and talked over a coffee.
He took out a piece of paper and asked what were my hopes and aspirations for the future.
With such an open question, I had no idea how to react. At this point, he drew three circles on the page. He explained that each one represents a key aspect of your life:
  • Financial Reward
  • Personal Growth
  • Family & Belonging
If you are neglecting one of these areas, or you are feeling overly challenged in one of them, you may begin to feel a conflict that you can't put into words but will slowly eat away at you.
The ideal situation is to balance each of the circles, so you feel fulfilled in all of them. When this happens, you are living your life with a good balance between the things you hold to be valuable. Life feels good.
5. Take appropriate action!
The enemy of appropriate action is a knee-jerk reaction. If you start shooting from the hip and hope to transform your career, you may get lucky. But the chances are you will hit a lot of things that were just fine and you could end up doing more damage than good.
Whenever I start feeling torn or unsatisfied, even though on paper I should be happy, I go back to the 3-circle model and take the time to look deeply at each of these key aspects of my life.
This is not meant to be some out-of-body, existential experience. But if you are feeling trapped or unfulfilled with your career, by taking the time to think about what it is you want out of life, and to understand how success in one area may be impacting other areas of your life, you can begin to remove some of the blockers I mentioned earlier:
  • You put things into perspective
  • You can rationalise the challenges from others
  • You are clear about what is missing
  • You are confident you’re taking the right actions for you.
Like I said at the beginning, this more than a simple Facebook post.
If you are feeling like the Manager from my Facebook group, feeling disillusioned with how your career feels right now, it is worth taking time to consider:
Which area of your life needs attention?
Will you decide or will you let others make your decision?
What are you going to do next?
There is no right or wrong answer. Make your decision, have the strength & determination to see it through, and don’t be afraid to ask for help.
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