Career transitions are an emotional rollercoaster. We bravely put ourselves in line, wait for our turn, strap in, hold our breath as we inch toward the first free fall, and scream through all the loops and turns. But at some point the ride slows and we come to a stop. We may have tears streaming down our face, but our lips are curled up into a bright smile, our hearts have blown wide open, our minds are clear, and joy bubbles over as laughter. When we look around, we notice life has become a little brighter, perhaps because we are a little bolder.
I don’t know anyone who has ridden the career change coaster like a true zen master — cool, calm, collected, always trusting and never coming off the tracks. As someone who has strategized, forced, surrendered, cried, hustled and meditated her way through a major career transition and now has the privilege of coaching others in stepping into the work they are made for, it is with a bright smile on my face that I share a few perspectives and resources to help grease the tracks.
Expectations are Everything
Equanimity is a peaceful, balanced state that can be experienced irrespective of outside circumstances. The problem, in my experience, is that living in this state is like doing backflips on a balance beam — it takes years of practice and the slightest error can quickly put us on our behinds. The expectations we hold during this emotionally charged period are the make-or-break factor in this game. If we expect that everything will run smoothly, that we won’t ever second guess ourselves, that we can do it all alone, that everyone in our lives will support our decision, that we won’t change our mind a few times, that it will take exactly X amount of time and Y amount of money and Z amount of effort, well… we can kiss equanimity goodbye.
If we somehow gather the courage to set our expectations at a level commensurate with this dynamic challenge, we might just find a little peace… and maybe even joy. Expect to encounter surprises that accelerate your adventure and some that cause major delays. Expect that certainty will show up as soulful moments, not calculated formulas. Expect that it will take a village of elders and peers to keep you going. Expect both naysayers and cheerleaders. Expect that you will be editing your ideas along the way. Expect that it will take more time, money and energy than you budgeted, but that you will always find a way to make it work. Expect you will succeed (on your terms). Only then will equanimity show up for you in moments, and maybe even days.
Fast Forward Frequently
The version of you who has already made it through your transition must become the one you seek guidance and support from most. Make it a point to fast forward via visualization, journaling or meditation to meet your future self who can see clearly from the other side. Ask them for guidance, messages and details on what your new profession feels like — reminders to stay on course. Connecting deeply to the part of you that already is the person who has lived this journey will give you a greater sense of peace and equanimity than any other resource I have come across.
Meditation is Mandatory
Some of us meditate to collide with the divine. For those of us in the midst of the uncertainty and growing pains of professional transition, meditation is like an oxygen tank and warm blanket. It is a place to come to remember that we are safe and held despite the intense feeling of freefall. It is our harness. If you have a meditation practice, don’t stop. If you don’t have one, it is time to get one. Find a class (if you are an LA local check out Unplug Meditation, for beginners use the app Evenflow, and for an unending variety try Insight Timer), or just find a quiet place, sit on the ground, close your eyes and breathe.
Collide with Community
You might feel crazy for switching lanes in your career. It may feel like a major detour and at times you will believe you are utterly lost. Many people you love and admire will pass you by in luxury cars with car seats. You will want to U-turn back to the old way. What will keep you moving forward is identifying other cars on the road that are running a similar race. These cars have awesome people in them. They are your career switch community. They will keep you on pace, celebrate your wins that look like mole hills to most, and give you a jump when you inevitably breakdown along the way. They are essential. Go find them.
Trust Today and Tomorrow
It is important to spend time visioning where your career will ultimately lead you. This work will get you grounded and inspire a course of action.
In the middle of my rocky career transition (let’s just say it was equal parts trust-fall into the universe and a stressful scavenger hunt), I heard the great writer Anne Lamott speak at the leadership conference, Emerging Women Live. She shared this quote from E.L. Doctorow that gave me the first sense of peace I had experienced in months, “Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” She went on to explain that you don’t have to see exactly where you’re going. You don’t have to see straight to the destination because then you’ll pass all the fun stuff along the way. You just have to see two or three feet ahead of you. This was right up there with the best advice on writing, or life, that I have ever heard.
Changing up your professional life might just be the biggest risk you’ve ever taken. The natural tendency is to try to plan every step. Moreover, you will want someone to verify that you’ve got it all right and you will not trip and fall or downright fail. The truth is, we just have to trust our plan (and the universal plan) for just today and tomorrow. You’ve got this, two days at a time.
Finding equanimity on this wild ride is a tall order, but we can practice while we play. If nothing else, just don’t forget to breathe and trust that you will come out on the other side smiling.
Sarah Anassori is a Holistic Executive Coach on a mission to guide the next generation of heart-centered leaders to step into the work [and way of working] they were made for. Sarah seamlessly unites her years of traditional business experience with her passion for mindful living, personal innovation, and authentic leadership to bring a strategic + spiritual approach to career transitions. You can find her on Instagram, Facebook, and at sarahanassori.com.