Updates from new blog at www.nextchapternewlife.com/blog/

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Career Change – Step 1 isn’t updating your resume’

I can't count the number of times I've heard people talk about "updating their resume" when thinking about making a career change. If you are one of those people out there putting the polish on your resume' as you are about to launch a job search for a new career- STOP. Your resume' is not the place where you start your work on a career change. If you are simply looking for the same or similar position in another company, go ahead. There is a big difference between looking for a job and making a career change. Sure, at some point the process is the same and you will need to have a spiffy resume' but it's not the place to get started in making a career shift.

When contemplating a career shift, you are in need of something that looks like a research project. You need to do the work to help point you in a different direction. Picking a career is as hard to do at 40 as it is at 18. The world is your oyster which is a great thing but how do you find the one with the pearl? The good news is: if you are older than 18 you have more work and life experience that will give you important insight into the process and decision making.

So, where do you start? There are multiple actions you can take initially and they primarily involve self examination. Among the first steps:

  • Tests or assessments – These are good to give you more information about yourself. These assessments will give you insight on things like interests, strengths and work orientation. If you pursue these, you have to know up front that they alone will not give you the "One Big Answer" about your future career. In fact, they may in many ways tell you things you already know about yourself. So why take them? Because it will give you a starting place, it will help distill down information about you that you need to have as you embark on making a decision about a career. With any research project, you collect data from numerous sources to help create the conclusion. Among but not limited on assessments: Meyers-Briggs, Strength Finder, VISTA cards, Color Q and Holland. Many of these are in books and online.


  • Self assessment – This is where you really self examine. What kinds of things do you like to do? Where do you currently excel? What do you gravitate to outside of your current job? What did you dream of doing when you were younger? Are there people you know who have fun sounding jobs? Are there causes you believe in?



  • More self assessment – Start looking for feedback. When your performance has been assessed, what strengths and weakness to you exhibit? If you were to ask a circle of friends and relatives, what kind of work do they think you would be good at? You'd be surprised at how insightful this exercise can be. They aren't encumbered with your history yet they know you and often have some great suggestions based on what they know about you.


  • Job search – many libraries and websites have all kinds of job titles. Some titles will make almost no sense but most of them will. Start looking these over to see what might jump out at you as something interesting. You can also go to job search websites and get vast amount of job titles and job content to help in this step. What is it about the ones you selected that sound worthwhile?



  • Compile and research – with your mounting list of insights you can now start synthesizing into some logical groupings. These groupings are becoming what will ultimately be your new career because the baseline is from things in your research that have attracted you in some way. Don't worry about "real" titles, but put logical elements together. You want to avoid putting basketball and surgery together, it makes no sense. You could put problem solving, math skills and detail orientation together. An important action in this step is to eliminate things. If you naturally are interested in specific job titles or elements, then focus on those. Your goal in this step is to create groupings or jobs that will become your future career.


  • Network and research – With your newly minted jobs (mind you that you may still not have official job titles), you now need to talk to people and do more research to finalize on what you are looking for. In this last and final step before working on your resume', you need to understand where this work is, titles it might be called, and any further qualifications you might need to land a job. You will know when this step is completed when you have a clear picture on what career you want to pursue. The other great thing about this step is it has just given you great input on where to start your job search, once you are ready to get started.

Hopefully, you see that when making a career change, you need to do some heavy lifting to move you toward something meaningful. It is way more than simply updating your resume'. Many people don't know what steps to take and muddle their way through life not happy with their career/job. The actions aren't hard or difficult and the outcome is well worth the effort.

A career change can be an exciting and fun step to take. Most people have more than 2 or 3 careers in their lifetime. Since you spend so much time in your life working, it's worth the time and effort to find something you will love.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Yes, I am from Kansas. Confessions of Dorothy

For some of you reading this blog, you already know that fact but for others of you, this may be news. As I grew up, there was the acknowledgement that there was Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz and she was from Kansas. That was about it. No big deal. Then I left Kansas. (Oh Toto, I don't think we're in Kansas anymore!)

For the first several years after I moved to Oregon, I had countless reactions when people found out about this factoid. I was gifted with t-shirts with Oz related graphics along with countless paraphernalia. My personal favorite was the day I was in the neighboring engineering group at work. They had what amounted to a Burma Shave series of signs: 1- Oh Toto! I don't think I'm in Kansas anymore! 2- If Dorothy isn't in Kansas, where is she? 3- Alive and well in marketing, one aisle over. I even had a group give me a "Witch-be-gone" kit which consisted of a spray water bottle, ruby slippers and instructions for knocking off a witch. I can soundly say that when many people make this connection, they have found countless minutes (which has turned into years) of joy and laughter. It pleases me to be the source of fun, even if I didn't invent it myself.

So, you may wonder, how did I end up with that name? Many people speculated that I was named after Judy Garland's character in the movie. That is not the case. My sister named me. When my mother went to the hospital to hatch me, my sister Jane stayed with my aunt and uncle. This would be: Aunt Dorothy and Uncle Gene. Ahhh, you're starting to get it. My mother had picked out the name Jean but couldn't figure out a second one to go with it. When Jane showed up at the hospital to check me out, my mother asked her what name she thought would go well with "Jean". Instant answer (as only a 5 year old does) "Dorothy-Gene". This was her affectionate moniker for the seamless team that was my aunt and uncle. Rolls right off the tongue, don't you think? I am named after my aunt AND my uncle. The Wizard of Oz simply wasn't given a thought.

Despite the origins of my name, I finally figured out how to get people to remember me. It only took 50+ years. Now when I introduce myself, I follow it up at some point with: And Yes, I was born and raised in Kansas. Yes, I have ruby slippers and Yes, my husband thinks he's Toto.

I love the association because I have found many lessons in the story. The lessons: - Have a path and a goal – Love your friends – Love your family – Strive to continuously improve yourself – Be hopeful – Sing and skip – Know you are capable of doing more than you realize – When you've been through a tornado, braid your hair. I am Dorothy from Kansas and I continously live in the land of Ahhhhssss.

PS: I don't think it would have gone quite as well if I had been named Scarlet O'Hara, do you?


Saturday, December 5, 2009

Life Lesson: Eliminate barriers for your life dream

An important life skill you need to maintain or develop is how to eliminate barriers to your life dreams. As I see it, there are two primary reasons to do this: 1- You are as empowered as you allow yourself to be. Empowerment allows a person to remain victim-free and confident that no matter what, you can move forward. 2- It keeps you introspective and in a problem solving mode. Introspective simply means you think about your own actions (or non-actions) and their impact on your life and others. I combine introspection with problem solving here because it is a skill that you need your entire life. Chances are with being introspective; you will need to create solutions so you can move forward with your life.

What are the barriers you might face with regard to pursuing your dreams? We produce most of our barriers. As you have heard, we can be our own worst enemy and this is certainly one way we do it. We don't always realize it since it can be so much of who we are. If our dream is to help feed people in an impoverished country, we may have a voice inside telling us we can't do it. That voice can rationalize multiple fairly logical sounding reasons. That voice more often than not, is the barrier I'm talking about. The voice is your more primal, survivor instinct telling you not to jump over a cliff. It stands to reason then, that if the voice is right about the cliff, it must be right about the dream. Not so.

I do acknowledge that there are other possible barriers that get created along the path to your dream. The same skills and outlook are needed no matter where the barrier comes from. I've seen people have issues crop up not of their own creation and allow that issue to totally derail them. I'm always sad to see this happen for the person, especially when I know it doesn't have to stop them. It's times like this where having a finely honed problem solving skill ready to pull out is great so you can look for alternative solutions. There are very few things presented to us in life that only have one path forward. In fact, if you were to give 10 people the same goal, chances are very high that you would get 10 different paths to that goal.

Are you stuck going forward on your dream? Not sure how to get from here to there? Time to open up your personal tool kit, gather your resources and get going. You can eliminate barriers by going around them, over them, through them or another way. Let me know how it goes.

Career Change – Are you afraid to move in this economy?

The buzz right now is that everyone is holding on to their current jobs with a death grip due to the grim economy. The overarching belief is that there are no jobs out there and for the ones that do exist, there are too many people applying. Let's say some of that is true. What is also true is that there are job openings. People move, get promoted or something continues to pull people out of their jobs every day. There are jobs. Maybe not as many and maybe the competition for the ones that come available are stiff BUT there are jobs that need to be filled. One thing is also true; you won't get any of them if you don't try.

If you have arrived at a point where you think it is time to make your next strategic career move, you should not let the state of the economy stop you. Don't create barriers where there are none. The challenge will be greater than in previous years but if you're prepared for those challenges, go for it. Let's look at what some of these challenges might be:

Job Posting Site– You hear stories of 200 people applying for one job at a local nursery for a nursery stock tender. In this environment, you can count on stiff competition for any posted job. The key here is "posted job". While it is one way to find out what openings exist, you and millions are looking at that same posting. Looking for a job this way is the lowest priority in a job search because it is the way millions of others are searching and applying. It is hard to land a new position this way due to the volume of other applicants and it is hard to stand out in a big crowd. It can be done and you should pursue it, you just need to calibrate your expectations appropriately.

Recruiters- You also need some insight into the life of a recruiter. They receive thousands of resumes each day. They will often use their computer software to sort out all kinds of criteria to help narrow down the huge pile that has come in. This is a buyer's market also. They don't need to talk to you, give informational interviews or much of anything they used to do a few years ago. Right now, they want to process the paper as quickly as possible, narrow it down to a few that look hot and screen them. With tight budgets, geographic consideration is also a big selection criterion. They may not want to fly applicants or relocate new hires, so be aware that geography is now playing a role in how an applicant is being screened.

The perfect match – Because the use of resume' handling software has become so prevalent these days, there is such a thing as the perfect match. If a hiring manager has determined 9 key skills and experience, the software will prioritize the resume's that have the highest number of matches. With a large volume, it is now possible to have resume' selected that hit 100% of the criteria, thus leaving out perfectly good candidates who are "close".

This is starting to sounds like an increasingly impossible set of barriers. This environment is challenging for sure but not impossible if your plan takes these things into account. Let's look at the key actions a person can take.

Make use of your contact and network – More than 80% of all job openings never make it to any kind of posting. Only the seriously hard to fill positions go out publicly for the most part. That means you must find those positions through the use of "who you know". This has been and continues to be the number one way to find an ideal spot. It's good because to some degree, it's prescreened for you. Your network will be reluctant to send you into a snakepit workplace. They would have to face you later and simply don't want to feel guilty. Also, they will refer when they feel confident with both sides, you and the other being a good fit. Don't feel bad if some people you know simply don't refer, they probably are the same ones that don't fix up their friends with blind dates. Some people just don't want to do it. BUT, some do!

Expand your network – if a career move is on the horizon, it's time to cast the net a bit broader. Figure out some groups you can hook up with that will be rich in potential job contacts. Look in Meetup on the internet, tons of great groups. Also, look into social networking like LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook, easy and convenient.

Look in unique places- on an airplane, coffee shop or church.

Plan your resume' – It is no longer possible to have just one all purpose resume'. Because of resume' search software, you must create resume's rich in key words. So if there is a few different related positions, create a different one for each position.

Set your expectations – Once you make a decision to move, it is a bit like stopping a freight train. You want to move right now. In this environment, you need to be a marathon runner. You need to pace yourself and set your expectations appropriately that this will take a while. You need to plan for a few dips and bumps which means you need to push through them and keep your eye on the goal.

Don't let the economic environment stop you from pursuing your dream job. There are millions of jobs and people are hiring every day. Your job is to understand the hiring situation, put your plan together and start working on it, today.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Mid Life Renewal played out on TV

If anyone has been watching the TV program "Numb3rs" this season and probably the last two, there has been a significant life change going on for one of the support players. Don't worry, you don't have to have watched it to understand the observations I'm about to make.

The quick back drop. Dr. Larry Fleinhardt is a professor and friend to the key character who shares in his math genius. The key character's math skills are the heart of the program premise. Larry is brilliant and also very introspective about his place in the universe. He is single and solidly in his middle age. A couple of seasons ago, he applied for and joined in one of the space shuttle missions. It was the first in a series of surprising actions by this character. Prior to his space shuttle assignment, he gave up his place to live and began living in the basement of the university. When he returned, he was a changed person. Larry went off to live in a Buddhist temple with total silence. Next, he was been selected to work in Switzerland on the super collider, looking for the "God molecule". He has now resigned this prestigious role and has tenured his resignation as professor, only he is still showing up at work. In the meantime, Larry has decided to scorn technology and speaks of the pureness of a simple life. The last we saw of Larry he was driving to Las Vegas with tickets to 5 possible destinations in search of his own meaning. Clearly, Larry is making a substantial mid life renewal.

I thought looking at what is going on with Larry was a great way to illustrate what happens to many of us at one point or another in our life. Usually that point is in our mid life, give or take a decade. So, what is going on with Larry (or us)?

Larry has had a great career. He has earned a lot of visibility, credibility and notoriety. He is a rock star of mathematicians. Larry (or us) is starting the process of shifting who he is. He is going through an internal change and transition. As a result, he is rethinking everything in his life. While he loves his friends and appreciates his own contribution, he is now realizing there are other things, other experiences or points of view he wants to have. His big issue is, he just doesn't know what that is. He has been experimenting with the possibilities such as going to space. When he returns, he isn't prepared for the huge transition of moving back to his previous existence, it's disappointing and somewhat pointless. He thought he would find the answers "out there". The good news with Larry is he has been patient with himself. He is experimenting with his life and willing to accept whatever outcome. He will find his answer because he is open, patient and optimistic that his answer exists.

I should point out that Larry is also very uncomfortable with the space he is in. All transition comes with the inevitable discomfort of confusion and disenfranchisement. When you don't know who you are it drains your confidence and clarity. All too often, we try to shake this feeling off by destructive means like drugs, alcohol or instant gratification. Even if we don't react that way, we tend to be inpatient with ourselves and try to ignore this important passage in our lives. This is analogous to the birthing process. It's not a piece of cake for mother or child. The end result, however, is well worth the discomfort.

Why does this take place? There is never one simple answer to something as complex as we are. Among the catalyst are "completions". All careers have a peak and a person realizes they are done. They have nothing more to contribute. When children leave the nest, it signifies a completion of parenting. Life events like divorce and death will sometimes set a person into a rethink mode. In addition to completions are emotionally stirring events like having a religious experience or falling in love. All of these things plus our maturity and insight go into the mix of what sets us into redefining who we are.

What lesson have we learned from Larry? As I see it they are: 1- be patient with yourself, know you will be uncomfortable for a while 2- try and experiment with new things, you never know what new passion you will discover 3- be self accepting, even when you change everyday 4- maintain a sense of humor 5- don't eliminate your friends, even if you have to lose contact for a while.

My pearl of wisdom: Be a Larry when the time comes. Quote from Larry to a friend: "You could move in with me but I don't live anywhere."

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Personal Change: Does Logic Play a role?

It is important to look at the role logic plays in making personal change. If you look around you for a moment, you see TV, signs, articles and people flinging logic around with the clear intent of making someone change something. You can see it in anti-smoking campaigns. Those guys are spending the millions they were forced to spend on anti-smoking when they lost the various class action lawsuits. They wouldn't be spending millions if it didn't work, right? Not really. Smoking rates are going up, not down.

If logic worked to make us make change, we would all be non-smoking, slim and fit darlings already. Yet, I find it fascinating how many of us think that if we can just get this serious nugget of logic in front of the unknowing or uneducated that miraculously, they will see the beauty of that pure logic and change. You can also see this working with people that have the most to lose: death threats from heart disease. I recently read that close to 70% of people with serious heart disease ignore the lifestyle counseling from their own doctors. They know they have to eat right, exercise, lose weight and shape up or die, but that huge group ignore the counseling. They keep doing all the things that got them knocking on death's door and you would think that would be enough to inspire anyone to straighten up. Logic, while beautiful, is not enough to make most of us change anything.

Why do we keep shoveling out logic like a cure for the common cold? There are numerous things that go into that mix. Key among them is: we lack the skills to infuse motivation to change in others or ourselves. Making a change, whether it is flossing your teeth or changing jobs, has its challenges. Notice I said challenges. Making change is not impossible but it is a process that follows known characteristics and if you don't understand the process, you're left to "logic it out". For some reason, there is little education done on this subject and change happens our entire life. I liken it to ignoring the obvious. For the most part, we are left on our own to muddle through making changes, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't.

Understand that logic does have its place with making a change. It is not the thing that will emotionally move you forward or cause you to take action. Logic's role is in the process of change, the thing that helps you plan, sort out issues and clear your mind. Logic, when left on its own won't motivate you.

Where does this revelation leave us? First, stop trying to use logic to convince others to change. We aren't prone to taking advice to begin with and logic really doesn't do the trick. Besides, if you're trying to change someone else, you're probably irritating. Second, there is information in the form of books, workshops and classes on making and mastering change and then of course, there is the occasional expert on change (ahem, cough) you can work with.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Personal Change Resistance: It’s getting a bad rap


There is an interesting myth that our culture supports; that we resist change. It's interesting but it's also untrue. You may be sitting there thinking "is she out of her mind?" Let me quickly show you my point. You have been making change your whole life. You changed from a child to an adult, you changed schools, moved, and changed friends. The list goes on. As an adult, you have even more change happening to you, some of it you caused and some of it "happened" to you. As you know, change is the only constant in our life, so it washes over us all the time. Change happens.

This leaves us to ponder the questions: If we have so much change happening to us, why do we think we resist it? Why are some changes so hard to make or accept? These are all good questions. Let's examine what change resistance is.

Our tendency is to turn our behavior into a habit. As humans, we benefit greatly from habits. It means we can perform numerous tasks with very little conscious effort. In other words, we don't have to think about things too much. The best illustration of this is when you drive home and suddenly realize you don't remember most of the drive. The drive home is a habit. You don't have to think about how to operate the car or what streets you have to turn on. These habits allow us to more or less go on auto-pilot mentally which reduces the amount of energy we spend on the various tasks of living. If you have ever had a day filled with learning something new, you know just how exhausting that can be. That is how each day of your life would be if you didn't have habits to help you.

An important thing to also understand about a habit is that it takes at least 21 days of repeated behavior to either make or break a habit. Three weeks doesn't sound like much until you try doing it. That means if you want to start exercising regularly, you're looking at about a month before it STARTs to become a habit. If you have ever been to a gym at the first of the year, you would notice a huge influx of people. By February about half of those same people are there. So changing or substituting a behavior means you have to know up front, it will take a while before it becomes routine and therefore easier to do consistently.

A strange aspect to habits is the unconscious aspect to it. That means that we aren't thinking too much about what we're doing, so if it turns out you're a jerk, you probably don't notice it. That's nice for you, not so nice for those around you. That means if you have had a deep and meaningful conversation with your spouse about some crummy behavior, there are worlds of issues creating the "resistance". First, they probably have no idea what the issue is. Second, even if you get them to agree to change, they have to figure out what to substitute. Third, if they figure out a suitable substitute the challenge will be for them to continue to do it long enough to create a new habit or behavior. Real change is possible, but it has its challenges. Let me tell you the refreshing part of this. Most of the people you run into that are jerks (including your boss), don't really realize it. That means, they aren't acting like a jerk to make your life horrible, they are simply doing things unconsciously. The refreshing part of this: it's not about you.

Now that you understand the role habit plays, let's look at how it makes you feel. Because a habit allows you to unconsciously conduct a large part of your life, it allows you to feel comfortable. We are creatures of comfort and we will go to great lengths to maintain that comfort. That means that if we can avoid having to do things consciously, we will. We will only voluntarily make changes when a situation has gotten to a point where we are uncomfortable enough with whatever the issue is, that we then take action. You can logic your way to thinking about a change but if you don't feel uncomfortable enough, you won't make the change. You can look at the no smoking movement. We are putting out all kinds of information about why you shouldn't smoke. Pure logic. The smoking rate continues to grow. If logic worked, none of us would be smoking, overweight or out of shape. Some of us are left to conclude, then, that if we "know" something and don't make a change that we must be resistant. Logic alone won't make most of us uncomfortable.

Change happens to us and is something we do to ourselves all the time for the rest of our lives. We really aren't resistant to it; we tend to avoid paying attention to it. We're dealing with habits, which are hard to change. There is a big difference between being resistant to something and simply breaking a habit. Being resistant is largely an attitude. You can modify your attitude much easier than modifying a habit. Lest I depress you, let me leave you with a few quick thoughts. Breaking a habit or making a change, is a process, so it can be done. You will need to do some planning and set your expectations about the amount of time it might take. Also, we tend to not retain or internalize how to apply one change to others in our life but the minute we do, we become its master.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Discover your passion through your natural creativity

We often find our passions through our creative instincts. We all have them, you know. As children we dance to our own beat, sing our own songs, build our own play worlds, and draw our own designs in the sand. As adults we can recapture those creative instincts by relaxing our minds to new possibilities.

I love to play the "what if I could" game. It allows me the freedom to think without limits. What if I could write a book? What if I could have a million dollars? Maybe if I wrote a book, I'd have a million dollars. What if I could plan a vacation or host a dinner party? What if I could fix a car or fix a computer or raise my own vegetables? What if I could manage a household or manage a group of employees? What if I could help the elderly or tutor children?

Of course, the answer to all of my "what if I coulds" are a resounding "yes". I can do pretty much anything, if I decide it is important enough to me. Whatever I decide to do always takes some level of creativity on my part. To think and to act is by nature using creativity. The more we think and act, the more creative we become. So if you ever think you have no creativity, just recall a time when you thought of something and you did it. We all have. We are all creative. We are humans, the only species given the creative ability to build a wonderful life beyond the drive for food and shelter.

Now get out there, no matter how old, how rich, or how fit you are, and play the "what if I could" game. Dare to show off your creativity. Dare to follow your passion.

Love and Joy, Ruth Colter


NOTE FROM DOROTHY: I wanted to let the blog readers know that from time to time, I will be posting articles written by people other than myself but the content reflects what is consistent with Next Chapter New Life direction. Enjoy.

Friday, June 19, 2009

How do I know if I’m ready to retire?

This question isn't really about the financial aspects as much as it's about the emotional or personal side of this equation. It's not the side that gets talked about too much, but retirement is much more than a question of money.

Clearly, you need to ensure you do have a financial plan for the day you decide to take the retirement plunge. Assuming you have some idea of the financial situation in your life, let's look at the other, more personal side.

The quick answer to the question is: Not if you don't have a plan for the personal side of your life. Many people mistakenly think that the day of not working will be a glorious day. What's not to like about not working? Actually, plenty. Up to this point in your life, your work has been the one, if not the primary source, of meaning and purpose. If you unplug from something that vital in your life, you have virtually unplugged yourself from life support. I'm not saying you have to keep working, but I am saying that you can only play so much golf and watch just so much daytime TV before you start feeling totally worthless about yourself.

There is not one aspect of your life that is not impacted or affected by retirement. It's a huge social impact as it will impact your relationships with friends from work and probably your spouse or significant other, family and other non work friends. It impacts how you define yourself and how you find meaning. It means that you need to find something to spark your interest and imagination. You may expand doing some of the things you only got to do periodically when you worked. You will also find new things to do (hopefully). Your financial situation may be such that you need to continue to bring in some income for a while, so what might that work be? Even if the finances aren't an issue, you may decide to work but in a different setting. Many people heading into retirement think about moving to be closer to family or in a geography that better suits them. Then there's the issue of your health and fitness. You might have ignored that while working, but your excuse will be going away. You have to work at staying healthy as you age. Are you getting the drift yet? There are a lot of things to think about. There are things you need to spend time thinking and planning for. This isn't a 2 week vacation. This is probably 30 years (give or take a bit). 30 years of your life is well worth the effort.

If you're sitting there doing a self assessment and you've come to the conclusion that all your ducks are in order both financially and in your personal life, then the answer is: don't wait. This will be the first time in your life that you have the freedom to really choose what kind of life you really want to have. So, don't delay, your life is waiting for you.


FREE assessment – Overwhelmed with too many issues? Not sure what to tackle first?

You may feel like a deer in the headlights, stuck, frozen and not moving forward. Many of us get to a point in our life where we know there is something more but are unclear how to get the answer. Take the free NEW LIFE assessment and get answers. Once you have taken this assessment, I will meet with you to review your results and advise you on next steps. It's your life, take charge of it.

Dorothy Tannahill-Moran
Life Coach and Change Agent

Click here for the NEW LIFE assessment http://www.ChangeWorksSystem.com/mydashboard/tabid/55/ctl/campaignoptin/mid/362/practcampaignguid/b50ac3cb-72e6-49ef-86d8-8ccd8b69fce4/default.aspx

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


Too many people are simply bored with their life. The boredom can create a downward spiral. The spiral can include depression, listlessness, hopelessness and many other negative feelings. Perhaps the biggest issue for a person in this situation is a sense that they don't know what to do and so they do nothing. I call this the "deer in the headlights" effect. When faced with life (as in your life) too many people stop in their tracks, frozen with fear of making that first step.

I'd like to present 8 critical skills that you need to develop now and keep finely tuned. These skills will help you avoid the negative spiral and keep you out of the traffic.

Skill #1: Dream about the future

You don't need to sleep in order to dream. Spend time thinking BIG about your future life. If you have an unfulfilled dream from childhood, re-examine it as a place to start. What exists in your mind but is so exciting it scares you?

Skill #2: Eliminate barriers for your life dream

More than likely, you're your own barrier. What is holding you back? I know of a thirty something that regrets not going to college. She thinks she's too old to do it now. That is the kind of barrier I'm talking about. I have a friend that at 50+ is the "old man" in his political science department. He's getting his Doctorate. No barrier there.

Skill #3: Attain purpose and meaning

Over 40 sometime, we start seeking purpose in new ways. Earlier in life, purpose was creating and establishing elements of life such as: spouse, children, house and career. Now that many of those are in place the purpose shifts. Purpose can be found in giving yourself and surrounding yourself with those things that nurture you. Explore. Find your purpose.

Skills #4 Empowered to choose life direction

Our future is more than the circumstances of our past. There are only 2 things you don't have a choice over: death and taxes. Like the gal previously mentioned, she can choose what comes next. It's your life, take charge of it.

Skill #5: Continuously learn new things

The benefits of learning are numerous. The primary benefit for you will be all the new opportunities that will open up. The possibilities are unlimited. You could learn a new skill, about new places, interests or attitudes. Basically, you will continue to grow. If you aren't growing, you aren't thriving.

Skill #6: Recognize what's possible

Somewhere in our life we start shrinking the possibilities. Remember when you thought you could do pretty much anything? I went to a lecture by Dr. Wayne Dwyer and listened to a young man play improvisational drums. He had no hands. He didn't let that fact shrink him. He looked AND FOUND what was possible.

Skill #7: Learn from mistakes

Failure is a good thing IF you learn something in the process. It's also good because it means you are striving toward something important. Failure can also be an attitude. I've read that Thomas Edison "failed" 10,000 times. He never considered himself a failure. He looked at these results as 10,000 chances to improve his work. If you haven't failed recently, give it a try.

Skill #8: Cultivate meaningful relationships of trust and respect.

We find nourishment from others in our life. We are social creatures that need to give and receive of ourselves to others. Think of this concept like fabric. Fabric has many threads, going in different directions. The sum of the parts is stronger than any one thread.

How developed are these skills for you? It's easier to stay excited about your life than to pull yourself out of the ho-hums. Make this easy on yourself- get these skills and keep them tuned like an expensive sports car.


Bored with life? No direction? Want something better? Take the free NEW LIFE assessment and get some answers.

Click here for the: NEW LIFE assessment

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Midlife Personal Change – coming at you bigger and faster

Yuk! We seem to hate change. We avoid it and at least hope we go through it super fast. I think of this like swallowing cough syrup. If you do it quickly it won't be as bad. I would hope you could think of it as a fact of life and something to build a skill for.

I'd like to adjust your thinking about change especially if you are in your middle years of life. As we know, change is the only constant we have in life. Despite this fact of life, we do little to understand it or to pass on any wisdom about the process. By the time we hit our middle years, the changes we tend to go through start coming at us faster than earlier in our life. They also tend to be more impactful.

Let's look at what is taking place in our middle years. By this point in our life, we have hit most of the major milestones such as going to school, launching a career, getting married, having kids and buying a house. There tends to be an order to how these things take place in our life. At some point, after all these events have taken place, you get hit with a new wave of events like divorce, empty nest, career completion (more on that later), death of loved ones, moving of you or loved ones, retirement, health issues, aging and loss of various bodily functions like your eyesight. This list could be thought of negatively. It doesn't have to be.

Just to make things more complicated in this timeframe we often express our lack of wisdom on change or inability to manage the process of one change, by creating more changes. An example of this is evident at the completion of our career. We start getting restless with our work; need to make a change, so we get divorced. This is the description of misdirected transition management. When we start getting those first internal signals of dissatisfaction, we get dissatisfied with many things all at once. What is prompting the issue becomes blurry. Instead of working through the process, or examining ourselves, we can focus our transition efforts on the wrong thing. We make the wrong change, the issue remains.

I'd like to hit the pause button for a moment on the term "career completion". Careers are taken for granted. We give great consideration and discussion to launching a career. We might have more than one in our life time, but we don't talk too much about the process for when one comes to completion. Our process in not deliberate or well thought out, we just let it happen. We might get laid off and use that to restart a new one or we might stick it out much longer than we should. While I think our professional athletes get paid way too much, I admire the deliberation and forethought that goes into their thought process for completion of their careers. We hear "I want to go out on top". Why don't the rest of us do that? When we don't give career completion any advanced thought, there comes a point for most of us where we do become dissatisfied with what our work is. It happens because we have mastered it and have got out of it about all we can.

The transition around work is not to be underestimated. Work, for most of us, is the thing that gives our life meaning and purpose, even if it is to simply pay the rent. We have an internal need to feel productive. I really think it's almost instinctive. Because of the huge role it plays in our life, we hold on to it in ways that drive and define the rest of our lives whether or not it's a negative role. It may sound like I'm undervaluing the role of our relationships I'm not. I am trying to help you understand that our work can drive us a great deal. When our regard for our work changes, it will impact the rest of our lives.

There are three major things you can do to help yourself manage your transition.

  • Simply understand and acknowledge the emotional readjustment that comes with change. It's uncomfortable for a while. Being creatures of comfort, we try to avoid being uncomfortable. Don't avoid it, be with it. This feeling will go away, it will flit in and out of your days until eventually it goes away entirely. The discomfort can also take many forms. You can feel uncertain about your decision, you may question your judgment, you may feel sad, and you may also feel excited. The discomfort has two sides to it. Also, don't rush it. You will go through it now or later, but you will go through it. Best to do it now.
  • Learn from your transitions and use your wisdom going forward. Ask yourself the good questions: what did I do that worked well the last time? What didn't work and I should avoid? What are some positive, productive actions I can take to smooth this transition? When will I take that action? Process the change, talk to trusted people.
  • Sit down and think through some actions you can take that will help ease your transition. Taking action will not only help you but it will provide some control over your situation. Make sure the action is useful and related to the change taking place.

Change and transition that goes with it can present you with unbelievable opportunities. Change will happen with or without your permission. You have a choice about how you will react to it. You can choose to resist it and make it your enemy. You can make change a companion that is gifting you. Look forward to what it has to offer. Learn from the process, become skillful.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Midlife crisis – Is it real? Am I having one?

Once you hear the term "midlife crisis" it conjures up an image of a pot bellied, middle aged man with a new red sports car and a young blonde babe next to him, with whom he's having an affair. There are other back stories to that image like the fact that he's bored with life and has spent the last six months embarrassing his kids with his attempts at appearing cool and dressing like them. We've all heard about these kinds of things and to some degree, we've seen bits and pieces of it with people that we know. So, it must be real, right?

I personally have a problem (not a big one) with that term. It's cliché and it almost pokes fun at a phenomenon that occurs to all of us to varying degrees. The phenomena I'm talking about is that, at midlife, we make some changes. We've been doing that almost every decade but this one is different. The change is all encompassing as it hits all of our life. It makes us rethink the meaning of our work, the meaning of our life, and the value system we thought we had. We question our relationships, and we start, for the first time in our lives, to seriously think about how we to spend the rest of our life. It's a mid life change for sure. I'm not sure it's has to be a crisis. There are several experts that have studied the various changes we go through and the majorities talk about them in time periods closely aligned to decades. Obviously, as the imperfect creatures that we are, this is very approximate. We all differ.

The 20's is the first real decade of being an adult. We may have been finishing college, but were definitely launching what would turn out to be our first career or profession. That may make it sound like we all did the choosing. In many cases, "work happened" and it turned into a career, such that it is. We were busy discovering what being a "non kid" is like. We discovered numerous things and as a result were often very idealistic during this time. As we neared the end of this decade, our thoughts turned to love.

In our 30's, the reality of life set in. We have fell in love, got married, bought a house, had kids and acquired possessions. In this decade, we hit full speed on everything including our careers. With that we may have developed a keen sense of ambition and were often willing to do what it takes to get ahead.

In our 40's and starting into our 50's life takes a breather. This becomes a catalyst for rethinking our lives. At this point, a number of things that we were so driven to accomplish we have accomplished. The kids are leaving home, the house is almost paid for, you hate your boss or your job, and what you haven't yet bought you don't care to get anymore. The things that were once important to you, no longer are. It doesn't mean they never were important; it's just that they aren't now. It's just that you aren't who you used to be. For the first time in your life, you have actually looked to the future and you can actually see the end in sight. You have now solidly arrived at this midlife rethink, but you really don't know what to think. You can't figure out what is important. With this, my friend, the anxiety builds. This is not a pleasant experience because we are creatures of comfort. We will do almost anything to avoid discomfort. Introspective and creative people will take pause and use this confusing time to really ask themselves the tough questions about what is now important and what will give them new purpose going forward. The less introspective they will try to dump this discomfort like a bad date. What they don't know is that this is an internal process and only they can discover the answers. The answers are not new material possessions, new family, or a big bottle of scotch. This person is developing their own garden variety midlife crisis. It's a crisis. That confusion, the need to figure out what's important, will loom indefinitely until they answer the questions.

The moral to this little ditty is that if you are 39 and counting, you must carry the knowledge that this might happen to you. If you are 40+, you may already be there. Whenever it happens to you, you must relish this time as an opportunity to contemplate what your life ahead will be. Sure, it's hard work to figure out what you want to do when you grow up. It was when you were 18, and things haven't changed. But now, with experience and some maturity, you've got more in your toolkit to answer those questions. You must also acknowledge that this won't be comforting to you until you figure it out, but you will. Once you do pure excitement awaits you. You have to learn and grow. Read. Talk to people. Find your passion. Your passion won't find you.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

I can’t retire since: I have no friends outside of work. What will I do when I retire?

Working does bring with it a multitude of benefits aside from a paycheck and health insurance. Our work environment brings with it what I call "automatic friends". These are people that you see almost every day and with whom you have numerous things in common. The biggest is the business you work for. These friends supply numerous things in that setting such as: observations, and someone who looks forward to your arrival. Work friends can become so important to some of us that the environment can become "like a family". It's little wonder that retiring could totally mess up such a good thing.

When you are considering retirement, there are a number of life aspects like friendships, you need to think and plan on. The concern about losing this nurturing support system is a very real issue. It's an even bigger issue if you haven't put very much effort into making friendships outside of the work environment. Even if you have, it is still an aspect that will significantly change once you have given yourself the pink slip.

Many times people considering retirement or leaving a work situation mistakenly think that the friendship will just continue. The mistake is not the intent; it's not understanding the complexities that will ensure the relationship is maintained. Let's examine the various elements that must be considered.

  1. We often underestimate or don't even acknowledge the increase in time and effort required. When you work together, you don't have to make time in anyone's schedule – you're both already at work. You may not even "socialize" that much but simply the time spent interacting is conducive to building and expanding your regard for another person.
  2. We may miss the commonality that work created. There is an adage: We have friends for a reason, a season or a lifetime. Most friends fall into one of those categories. If the reason we formed our friendship was our work environment, what happens to the relationship when the one thing you had in common – isn't? Many times, people will put in an effort to maintain the friendship but over time it withers because the foundation that drew you together is now gone.
  3. When we work together, the work situation may cause you to not fully "see" the other person's character or personality. In other words, if you are in a funky work situation and you both help reinforce each other negatively, you certainly feel supported. What if the basic content of this person is negative anyway? Once the work situation is subtracted from your interactions, you may discover a fundamental aspect that is not so appealing.
  4. The other person may simply not be interested in pursuing a friendship outside of work.

These considerations are not insurmountable but do require some advanced thought and planning. If you are within a horizon for leaving your work place, now is the time to start changing the context of your work relationships. You can initiate activities outside of the work environment to either replace what you have in common, or minimally, to test how well you relate to each other without work as a backdrop. If you spend time complaining about the boss, make a pact to go an extended period of time not complaining. This will not only make you feel better (because you aren't reinforcing something negative) but it will open up the relationship to better observe each other's real personalities. You could discover you have nothing to talk about. This is much better to understand now than after you leave.

While you are in the midst of reorienting your work friendships, it's advisable to simultaneously work on cultivating friendships outside of work. Again, this will require some thought, time and effort. Friendships are formed because you share interests, hobbies or philosophies. The best way to discover those potential buddies is to become involved in groups that align with your interests. As a working person you may not think that you can afford the time for this kind of diversion. If you are going to supplant your automatic work friends with new ones you will be better off starting the process before you leave.

There are numerous other actions you can think of to leverage the work friends you've made as well as making new friendships outside of the work environment. You may have a very real concern about the impact on your work friendships. The point to this is that you will be far better off thinking through this issue and working on it than just letting it happen or avoiding taking the next step.

Thursday, January 8, 2009


No wonder we find making changes so hard. Of all the possible changes you can think of, all affect some aspect of your social life. Our social life is not only important to us it is a vital part of who we are. I'm sure someone reading this might pooh-pooh that idea. Think about it for a minute. Unless you live in a mountain cave and come in contact with absolutely no one, you have social contact and most likely some of those contacts have meaning to your life.

Let's look at some various examples of what I mean about changing your social life. I tried to think of the most self focused change that can be made,, that had the least to do with someone else. I thought of plastic surgery. If you think about the context for doing plastic surgery, it does come across as a very "me" focused change. The doctor doing the surgery will interview you about your motivations. Key to the discussion is the notion that you aren't doing it to please someone else, but rather to feel better about yourself.

I hope you have the picture now. Assuming that is all true, chances are very high that people you come in contact with will possibly react to you differently afterward. Your friends and family will have their reactions to it. You will sport a new attitude about yourself and your interactions with others. Summary: you thought you were changing your body but you have also changed your social life, at least to some degree.

Now, plastic surgery is not something most of us can't relate to but I wanted to make a point about change and its social aspects. In our lifetime, most of us will go through common changes like getting married, having kids, changing jobs, moving, and retiring. All are changes that have positive attributes and all are changes that will remold the social fabric of your life. Certainly there are other "less positive" changes that will thrust social changes upon you such as: divorce, illness and death. Let me take one of these examples and expand on it again so you can relate to it more deeply.

You are making a job change. The list of concerns are numerous, even if you are making the change for good reasons like pay, job advancement, training or experience. Among the concerns you might have are:

  1. will I like my new boss (social)
  2. I will miss the friends I have at my current job (social)
  3. will I like the people I work with at the new job (social)
  4. can I perform my new job (not social)
  5. I will be in a learning curve and feel uncomfortable (not social)
  6. my routine will have to change (may be social as it might impact home life and after work activities).


In this situation, the motivation for making a job change could be social or purely objective like more pay. No matter the motivations your social life will change.

The place of work presents to all of us what I call "automatic friends". These people automatically share several common experiences. They are working for the same company and therefore impacted by the company's situation. They are doing similar or related work and probably work for the same boss. You eat together and over time you learn about each other lives. You also probably know that without the context of work, you probably would never see most of these people no matter how fond you might be of them. Yet without them in your life, they would be missed. You may also feel a sense of disloyalty for leaving them. There is another aspect not to be missed about the social aspect of change. I call it "tribal mentality".

Since I've made my point about change being social change, you then have to understand that you are a part of a group or a system. In this last example the group or system is the work group. When even one person within a system makes a change it becomes a change for everyone. As humans we don't really like change because it represents some level of discomfort. We will do almost anything to avoid being uncomfortable. The individuals in the "tribe" may be outwardly supportive but inwardly they are demanding that life remain the same. They have a habit and you're part of it. They will continue with the habit as long as they can. If you maintain contact with them after you leave, chances are they will see you as the person they knew in the old setting. They may attempt to interact with you as they did previously, yet it will be odd and out of place. Their behavior may cause you to question the decision to change. They will do everything they can to have you stay the same, not because it's in your best interest but because it's in theirs. Now, multiply that times the number of people in your group and you have "tribal mentality". It's definitely one big contributor to why change is hard to make. It's because we are but a thread in the social fabric of our life. It doesn't mean it can't be done. It does mean you have to understand it will be part of what will make it tough.

My hope in pointing this out to you is to help you understand that there are real but subjective elements to every change you go through. The best help with this aspect is simply to be educated. Knowing that these situations will occur and are very natural can be good to help you slog through. That knowledge won't necessarily make it go away or create less anxiety but will help you self manage your reaction to it. You must keep your eye on the goal. On the other side of change can be a new and exciting life.