Abandon the Career Hamster Wheel and Empower Your Field of Possibility
The pursuit of a "successful career" can take many forms. The traditional and more established path involves going to the right school, getting a great internship, starting a prestigious job, getting promoted…rinse and repeat. Zooming out for some perspective paints the picture of people on individualized, shiny, well-furnished hamster wheels, running at full speed toward an unspecified, but highly-desired, goal.
It is hardly a surprise that there are so many people in high-achieving corporate environments on hamster wheels. Yet, too few make a change, either because they are exactly where they want to be or because of something preventing them from making a change.
Is it really a problem to be on a career hamster wheel?
The short answer is: absolutely not, as long as it is a conscious choice (i.e. you understand that you are repeating past patterns, are aware that you won't reach the goal you're running toward, and know that you can create a different life).
Most of the time, it isn't a conscious choice, but rather a function of years of intentional and unintentional conditioning. A few questions to consider in order to see if this is an empowered choice:
- Purpose: Do you feel fulfilled? Are you able to recognize and celebrate successes? Do you define yourself with your resume or with all parts of your life?
- Goals: Do you know what you're running toward? If yes, are you okay with never reaching it? Are the goals that you are chasing yours or someone else's?
- Plans: Do you consider getting off this path a "failure?" That it's for people who are "not good enough?" Do you always compare how you stack up versus your peers? Are you aware of what your next ten career steps should be at any point?
- Wellbeing: Are you permanently in a state of exhaustion and overwhelm? Are your mental and emotional health where you want them to be?
If living on a hamster wheel was not your intention, then what's holding you back from making a change? Three common obstacles include:
- Inability to imagine an alternative.
- Difficulty finding the exit.
- Fear of taking the leap.
What is the alternative?
Staying with the metaphor, the alternative to a hamster wheel is getting on the field - a place that is full of possibility, where you can go in any direction, and where you decide on the destination based on what you want.
While the hamster wheel is about speed, the field is about freedom and choice. You may end up in the same place you were when on the hamster wheel, but making it a conscious choice makes it feel fulfilling.
Of course, there are real constraints, such as socio-economic and financial realities, among others, but these do not change the fact that alternatives exist. This could look like is letting go of a finance and consulting career in order to become a full-time coach, in pursuit of passion for people development.
[Related: Create Your Own Version of Success]
Where is the exit?
Getting off the wheel can be challenging, but like everything, it becomes easier if you take it one step at a time.
You start with slowing down, as jumping off a fast-moving vehicle is a sure way to crash. Next is prioritizing self-awareness and introspection to figure out where you want to go. Lastly, start building the foundation that you can step on, which comprises of support structures, resources, and information.
This, of course, is not the only way to exit, as you need to find what works best for you. But covering these three steps makes it easier.
How do you get the courage to leap?
Each person has their own drivers that provide the support for the leap. You get the courage by tapping into your own motivators as your springboard.
One of the more powerful motivators is getting obsessed with your destination. If you have truly defined a goal that you love, then the fear of taking the leap is nothing compared to the fear of staying passively on the edge. The rest is mitigating risks and remembering that you are strong enough to deal with anything that comes your way, like you have all your career.
If you find yourself running in circles and thinking there is a better alternative, slow down, look around, get off the hamster wheel, and start building your future career. Fulfillment is on the other side of designing a career with intention based on what you care about.
Diana Damyanova is a former quant turned strategy and management consultant with experience in a variety of industries, most recently financial services. After ten years in corporate, she left that world to start her own growth and performance coaching practice where she helps professionals be satisfied achievers.
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Diana Damyanova Coaching
Diana is a former quant, turned strategy and management consultant with experience in variety of industries, most recently financial services. After 10 years in corporate, Diana left that world to start her own Growth and Performance coaching practice where she helps people be Satisfied Achievers Continue Reading
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