March 23, 2016 — Whether you refer to it as your quarter- or mid-life crisis, boredom with your current role, or stagnation in your company, it is important to know when it's time to adjust, pivot, or begin something new in your professional world. Career complacency can sneak up on you or quietly brew day by day. In order to avoid finding yourself unfulfilled, dissatisfied, or simply burned out in your current position, ask yourself five questions:
If "X" didn't matter, what would you do? Let X equal money, your significant other, your parents, children, student loans, or whatever else might be keeping you in your current role. This is not to say your X is unimportant or easily overcome. Instead, it is a question to help you understand your highest pursuits, as well as your greatest challenges (and let's be honest, sometimes your greatest excuses) for not taking the plunge. Determine your significant challenges, as well as your deepest ambitions.
What did you want to do when you were young? Children are amazingly honest and transparent. Not yet influenced by external (adult) rules, assumptions, and expectations, the dreams of children are some of the most authentic. When I was in sixth grade, I wanted to go to Stanford and swim in the Olympics. Did I do either of those? Not quite, but I did incorporate the core components of these goals by attending a great university and running as a student athlete. To this day, continuous learning and exercise are essential factors that guide my life decisions. Find your honest self.
How do you spend your free time? Free time is precious. Are you spending it watching The Kardashians? Are you researching higher-education programs? Are you honing a personal passion? Are you volunteering for a cause you truly care about? Life is short. Carefully curate your free time—fill it by investing in meaningful pursuits and people, not simply indulging in frivolous activities.
What was your favorite class in school? Whether it is in high school or college, education provides a great opportunity to explore subjects and concepts we wouldn't otherwise have access to. What topics were most interesting to you? Consider how your current role allows you to (or not to) explore those deeper. We are at our best when we are learning new concepts that we are excited about. Discover and pursue ideas that intrigue you.
Who are your career idols and why? Identify characteristics of individuals that you admire and want to emulate. It is important to understand how you can incorporate those traits in your personal and professional work. You may not be able to change your role right now, but you can alter the way you approach your position that will set you up for future success. Channel your best self in your current position.
Self-reflection can open our eyes to understanding our attitude and perspective to our current position and future roles. Set yourself up for success by taking a proactive approach to owning and navigating your career.