114. Which 'You' Is Running Your Life?
If there's one more common work problem than having trouble with the people there, it's making decisions about what to do next. Fortunately many career decisions are made for us. I say 'fortunately' because most of them wouldn't otherwise be made - most of us need a push to make a change. But why is it so difficult? A recent client, Raj, illustrated the problem perfectly. He worked for an environmental agency as a biologist. Mostly he liked it, the work was interesting, the pay was reasonably good and it was only twenty minutes down the road from where he lives. At least he liked it up until recently. His old boss recently retired and trouble arrived in the form of a new one, Elaine. Raj was very experienced at his work, he'd been at the agency for eight years, and during that time he'd arranged the lab the way he liked it, developed a well-functioning team and established some good networks. Life was unexciting, he admitted, but it worked. Elaine, though, had other ideas for Raj and his colleagues. She had come from another agency which she had changed completely during her three year sojourn there and was ready now for a new challenge. Her first priority was to restructure and, in the process, get rid of any 'dead wood'. They all had to send in their job descriptions and objectives for her scrutiny. She sat down with every member of staff and asked searching questions about how they spent their time. She introduced time sheets, lest they forgot. She wanted to modernise the agency, she said, make it 'fit for the twenty first century', the implication being that it wasn't. All this stirred up the sleepy backwater that was Raj's world considerably. Little else was talked about in the coffee room. People were worried. Would they have a job in three month's time and, if not, what on earth would they do? And even if they did keep their jobs, would they want to work in this new world anyway? Elaine decided that she wanted to merge some of the departments, to be more efficient. The more senior members of staff therefore had to apply for the 'new' jobs, which were smaller in number than before. More upset and consternation. Raj was one of those that had to apply. When he came to see me he was in a bad way. He didn't know what to worry about - his job, his career, his income, his future, his mortage, the interview, his projects, his team? 'What's the worst thing about all this?' I asked him. He stopped to think. I watched his face, mentally juggling choices in the air, looking up to the left while he thought, then up to the right, then down at his feet. Eventually I saw something dawn in his expression, he settled back in the chair and looked at me. 'The worst thing,' he said, 'is that I feel I don't matter. That everything I've done and built up is completely worthless to this woman. She doesn't give a damn.' That was an important moment for Raj. Once seen he started to feel better - Elaine was not, after all, the arbiter of his worth, she barely knew him. Over the next month or so he became much clearer about what he was and wasn't prepared to accept, and also began to look at other jobs. His wasn't the only job on the planet, he realised. When we next met he had just had his interview at work, and he'd just had an interview for another job. Both had gone remarkably well. 'I think I'll keep my job,' he said, 'Elaine seems to value what I do. And I think the other people will offer me their job as well.' He smiled ruefully. 'The question is, what shall I do?' 'What would be good about the new job?' I asked him. He had quite surprised himself at how keen he now felt about moving on. It would be a new challenge, he liked the people there, he could concentrate more on the part of his job that he especially liked and, best of all, he could walk away from a lot of sticky problems that had accumulated over the years in his current job. In the new job he would be able to leave work at a reasonable time and, joy of joys, have a life! He smiled for a few moments, then his face fell. 'But then I think Oh God,' he said, 'what a hassle it'll be to move. It's further away from where I live, I'd have to build up a new team, a new network, my work would be more difficult to start with, until I settled down, and what if it didn't work out? Why would I leave my current job where everything's familiar, where I can do the work with my eyes shut, where I have more prospect of advancement, and which is just down the road from my home? Why would I do that?' 'It sounds as though there are two people in there,' I said. He nodded in agreement and thought for a while. 'Yes,' he said, 'one is excited about change, the other is frankly petrified!' 'So which of these people would you like to be running your life?' I asked. I always like to look on the optimistic side of life, but I am realistic enough to know that life is a complex matter. Walt Disney Try this: Get in touch with the person in you who gets excited and optimistic and full of energy at the thought of something new, the person who loves an adventure. Given a free rein, what would that person do in your life? Now, letting that person go, get in touch with the one who wakes up at 3am in a cold sweat saying 'are you completely insane?!? Why would you want to take a risk like that?' What does this person want you to be doing in your life? Which one of these would you like to be running your life? If you're not quite comfortable with either, is there a third person in you, a rational and competent adult, who could mediate? Have an exciting, but not reckless, week! love Anita All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them. Walt Disney