18 Oct 2020
Could it be that conventional approaches to making big changes in life and work are flawed? How can we know in advance what we really want to do (and be) without trying different things?
Significant upheaval during a global pandemic has impacted on lives and livelihoods. Climate change can no longer be ignored. New solutions are needed to create better futures, new careers and ways of working.
We can stay stuck in a rut repeating the same patterns when it's time to move on. Here are some radical ways for turning lives around developed by Herminia Ibarra*.
1. Take action to discover new ways of working and being.
Avoid analysis and planning in advance. Instead, figure out what you want to do next by stepping outside your comfort zone to try some new things.
An explosion of remote working, webinars and online meetings has created unique opportunities to make new connections and try new ways of working.
Experiment with different pathways. Observe your behaviour and reactions to guide the next steps.
2. Stop trying to find your one authentic self.
Recognise we are made up of many possible selves. Our working identity is shaped by what we do, the company we keep and the stories we tell ourselves.
Now is the perfect time to reconnect with other selves - spending more time in nature, rediscovering a musical talent or getting better acquainted with people you admire.
During the testing phase you will gain real insights, adjust expectations and get closer to what you want to become.
3. Tolerate a messy transition moving between holding on and letting go.
As we move through the transition phase we get pulled in different directions, often taking two steps forward and one step back.
Your job may have disappeared as a result of the pandemic but your skills can be applied elsewhere. Some setbacks are inevitable before your find the right fit with your skills and abilities.
Transitions take longer than we expect as we reconfigure our new direction. Deeper changes for more satisfying lives and work only happen when we accept some turmoil and uncertainty during the transition.
4. Go for small wins and incremental gains that can lead to deeper changes.
Real transformation happens gradually from ongoing iterative practices over time that enhance our ability to let go of what is holding us back and embrace the new.
Small wins, like finding our first major client or investor, will give us the confidence to pursue a new business direction.
Resist the temptation to make hasty decisions that impact significantly on work and life.
5. Identify projects to test different types of work and styles of working.
Consider portfolio working on different projects, temporary assignments, volunteering or working on pet projects outside work. Enrol in courses and gain credentials that can open new doors. Take a sabbatical to gain different experiences and new insights.
Parallel working on different projects, which could include part-time work for an existing employer, can retain financial stability during a transition.
Making a career move or shifting to new ways of working can lead to fundamental changes - finding meaning and purpose, deciding how we want to work and who we want to work with, and rediscovering what really matters in life and work.
6. Shift connections. Seek out new people to guide and support your transition.
Identify role models and mentors. Explore diverse networks outside your regular social and professional circles. Often the people we know best tend to pigeonhole us. Weaker ties and new communities of practice are more likely to lead to new opportunities.
7. Use everyday occurrences to find meaning and reshape your story.
Unexpected events can provide real insights and windows of opportunity. Such events build self-awareness and help us develop a compelling story about the changes we are going through.
Practice telling and retelling your story so it resonates for you and others can see you in a different light.
8. Change happen in fits and starts. Seize opportunities when you can.
There are times when we are open to big changes and times when we are not. Our readiness could be spurred by a change in circumstances, a milestone birthday or a chance meeting.
More frequent changes and transitions in work and life are here to stay. Strategies like these can help us navigate through inevitable periods of turmoil and uncertainty.
* Adapted from “Working Identity – Unconventional Strategies for Reinventing Your Career” by Herminia Ibarra