by Annemarie Estess
I had a phone call the other day with a new client. A creative and accomplished lawyer looking thoughtfully at his next steps professionally and personally. When I asked him to boil down why he wants to work with a coach, his reply:
“In the back of my head, I’m constantly unsure about whether I’m in the right place. Work-wise and life-wise. What else is out there that might be a better fit? Where do I even begin to figure that out?”
His statement hit a familiar theme. He plainly voiced that rumbling-yet-vague urge for a ‘big change’. We recognize it well from working with 20-and-30-something clients as they contemplate pivotal transitions, and from considering such changes in our own lives.
Left ignored and unexplored, this rumble can breed more angst and headaches than actual change. It creates an off sense that something needs to be different, without knowing why, in which ways, or where the hell to start.
That vague yearning for big change often leaves us swinging between two extremes:
The fantasy of Change Everything! Fresh slate. ‘Better’ circumstances. Different self. Transforming the whole deal.
The default of Change Nothing. Too overwhelming. Too confusing. Don’t rock the boat. Deal with it later.
We can stay in this analytical suspension between Change Everything and Change Nothing for months, even years. Looking over at grass-is-greener scenarios, and then either consciously choosing to stay the course or, quite often, plopping our heads in the sand and avoiding the matter altogether. It makes sense that we default here; the risk and ambiguity of change, even dreamy change, is an unsettling state to face.
There are times when it’s right to swing for Changing Everything. Shaking up circumstances and lifestyle in a big way.
Or, the shake-up happens for us, due to any number of life curveballs we didn’t arrange into the plan.
At other times the allure of Changing Everything is a mirage. We long for a different set of circumstances – new place, new job, new partner, new team – to solve a deeper need or drive that is going unanswered in us.
Only you can ultimately know the type and scale of change you’re seeking. Wise mentors and bosses and family can only provide their best-intended guidance. Some of the advice and perspective will fit, some will not.
Which, by the way, is why coaching provides a unique type of thought partnership. It keeps the focus on helping you cultivate awareness of self, others, and situations, then strategize and make your decisions accordingly.
Navigating that question deserves to start by chilling out and laying some groundwork. Try beginning with these 3 practices:
Exploring big change is a process filled with healthy tension. It is not about ‘burning the house down’ today. It is simultaneously not about ignoring your instinct to evolve in important ways. It is an uncomfortable time of living with unanswered questions.
Until one day, the answers come.
The primary adjustment many of us need to make is to slow down our busy brains more regularly. To release the analytical overwhelm long enough to reconnect with our core senses. And to hold ourselves as the artist – not the bystander – in the process of leading dynamic and full lives.
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