Advice from the Skillful Doctor: Career Changes

Question: I am lucky to be a physically healthy person with a wonderful family, but I hate my job.  Unfortunately, I really feel trapped in my career; I’m in my 40’s and have never done anything else, so I don’t have any other skills. The negativity I feel towards my job has started making it hard for me to enjoy the good things in my life.  I have such regret for not pursuing something else when I had the chance and know that it was a big mistake for me to follow this career path in the first place.  Is there anything I can do to feel better about this?

Answer: First, I advise you to reconsider the “mistake” you made when choosing a career path.  What have you been able to learn about yourself from your experiences in this job?  If you are able to learn from what you think is a mistake, then it is not really a mistake in the end.  The ancient Romans understood this concept when they wrote about a Felix Culpa, which in Latin means “happy error.” Often, these sorts of mistakes lead to the greatest discoveries. At this point, I would simply recommend that you take an inventory of your creative potential, looking back at your interests over the past 30 years or so, particularly at the time before your committed yourself to your current work. Next, I would suggest that you begin to formulate a new vision for your life, without any determination just yet as to how practical that might be. Ultimately, you should find a suitable guide or source to identify a practice of “letting go” and slowly develop the courage to move out and up.

In his book, Stumbling on Happiness, psychologist Daniel Gilbert points out that “the average American moves more than six times, changes jobs more than ten times, and marries more than once, which suggests that most of us are making more than a few poor choices.”  However, we do not need an expert to point out this obvious fact. In life, many of the best lessons do not come by emulating excellence as by learning from the pattern of people’s errors, including our own. Ultimately, however, to pull ourselves back on course, we need the courage to make change.

path flowersStatistics reveal that less than 45% of Americans are satisfied with their jobs and unemployment continues to soar.  Whether it means reinventing yourself within your field, changing career paths entirely or broadening your concept of “work,” I understand how essential it is to find meaningful work.  And thus, for the upcoming Labor Day Weekend installment of The Skillful Living Room, I will be discussing this issue with Cathleen O’Conner and Robin Queen.  I hope you can join us: Saturday, September 4th at 12pm EDT on Business Talk Radio or visit the archives after it airs by clicking here.

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