I’ve been thinking lately about people unhappy in their careers but don’t want to make the leap to ones that are more fulfilling. I’ve also been thinking about my knee.
I injured my knee in a charity race last year and-seeing no significant issues-my physician recommended physical therapy. I met with a physical therapist who gave me a regimen of stretches and exercises that would get me running without pain again.
That was a year ago. I didn’t follow through with my plan and I sheepishly met with the physical therapist again to give it another go at it.
What the heck prevented me from doing the exercises? The question plagued me, but got me curious. The answers I came up with correspond with reasons why those dissatisfied with their careers tend to stick with them. Not unlike us physical therapy failures, “dissatisfied, yet comfortable” denizens of career drudgery share these characteristics:
A “small inconvenience:” The minor pain I experienced in my knee didn’t significantly hinder my daily activities, not unlike how the small inconveniences of an unfulfilling career don’t significantly hinder this group of workers. Their careers aren’t unbearable, but they also don’t produce passion. In both situations, neither party kept sight of the more fulfilling alternative so the pain-small, but bearable-continues until something has to be done.
Slow, incremental progress: The doctor made it clear to me that I shouldn’t expect to get better soon; it would take months before I would experience progress. Without the immediate payoff, I wasn’t motivated to prioritize my physical therapy. People dissatisfied with their careers get caught in the same trap: the timeline to transition to the career they love is too long (and often filled with obstacles). So they stay put and complacent, intimidated or put off by the lack of instant results.
Plummeting priority: The barrier of slow progress and only minor pain keeps the “desired state” from being a priority. I didn’t make it a point to create a schedule and stick to it to help my knee get better; it wasn’t a priority. Those stuck in career drudgery rationalize by saying “well, it’s not what I want to do, but it’s not that bad…” Without making what you want a priority-with no intention or action-it will never happen. And the pain will remain.
If you feel that you may be missing out on something special career-wise, or want to work through your feelings of disenchantment, reflect on the following questions:
What joy in your career are you currently missing out on?
What fears are keeping you from taking action?
What career dream have you never acted upon, and what would it take to act upon it?
What time will be the best time for you to make the career move you want, and why then?
Pain in any form isn’t good, especially if you are missing out on true joy because of it. I’m committed to rehabilitating my knee; I hope you that you rehabilitate your career.