Google “I hate my job,” “How to write a business plan,” or “How can I make my cubicle feel less like a grey-walled hell,” and pretty soon your Facebook feed will be filled with
“How to Get 100,000 Subscribers Overnight!”
“Start Your Online Business and Quit Your Job Next Week!”
or my personal favourite: any variation on “I Just Made 250,000 This Morning (or insert other entrepreneurial miracle here) – Learn My Secret / Here’s How You Can Too / Any variation on Copy What I Did And You’ll Be Successful Too!”
It’s easy to get sucked in to the hype. I know: I spent the better part of an entire year listening to free webinars and downloading All The Things and joining All The Lists so that I could get a slice of the success pie that apparently everyone was eating.
Can I tell you something?
None of this shit works.
No really: starting a new career, finding your passion, building a business – whatever manifestation alignment might arrive in when it comes to your work life, is complex business. Literally.
In the world of complex adaptive systems theory, simple problems are problems that are linear in nature – X causes Y. X always causes Y; Z doesn’t come in there and fuck up your plans; it’s simple. Baking a cake is classified as a simple problem. There’s a set of instructions and just about anyone could look at them and make a cake (moooostly). Next up are complicated problems. With complicated problems, there might be some expertise required to get from X to Y, but with some know-how, it can be done. Building a rocket ship might be an example. And then we have complex problems. Complex problems are unpredictable, and we can apply expertise and knowledge and recipes to them but they might still go all pear-shaped (or, on the flip side, we can apply no effort to them and they could turn out amazingly well). Example: raising kids (enough said).
When it comes to finding alignment in your career, the same concept applies. There are a great many variables that have nothing to do with you and that are somewhat out of your control.
And even the things that seem within the purview of your control might offer unexpected complexity.
One of my clients, lets call her Francesca (the dramatic name was chosen at her request), was deep in the throes of growing her business. We had been coaching together for a while, and she called me saying that she needed to have another session, and fast! She had multiple projects on the go, one particularly looming deadline, and felt like she wasn’t doing *enough* social media and blogging. When we got on our call she kept saying,
“I think I just need a really good to-do list. I need to set aside some time to get this done…maybe I can wake up at 5a.m. everyday? Maybe I need to take a week off. Can you help me come up with a plan for how to get all this done on time?”
I listened patiently, smiling, and then said
I mean, of course I could – I am the freakin’ QUEEN of making plans and getting shit done – but that wasn’t going to do Francesca a lick of good.
Because what I was hearing in the subtext of her words was: I am not enough. I don’t have enough time. I cannot rest. I am so tired. I can’t see my furniture for the piles of laundry. This is no fun anymore. Do I really want to do this?
Had we created a schedule and a killer to-do list, Francesca would have hung up our call feeling pretty happy, pleased with herself and me, and then she would have emailed me a week later saying that she just couldn’t seem to get anything done and she feels really guilty and what’s WRONG with her?
This is where complexity comes in. Because if we were all manifesting career alignment in a vacuum, we probably could follow a simple series of steps and achieve somewhat consistent results. Perhaps. But there’s one major complicating factor: YOU.
In the context of finding a career that is meaningful and interesting and feels really good to you, YOU are the common denominator. And if you have deeply rooted stories about your enoughness, about money, about success (and who doesn’t, right?) then you are going to find yourself knee-deep in the complexity of who you need to be to find career alignment, not what you need to do.
This is the concept that’s at the heart of the kind of coaching I do. It’s called Developmental Coaching, and differs from what we might call Transactional Coaching, which is, quite frankly, not technically coaching at all but rather teaching or mentorship. Though I do dearly love to help people create to-do lists and engage in goal-setting ass-kickery, I am much more interested in helping them to explore the more deeply rooted concepts of how they want to feel in their work when they’re accomplishing their goals, what might stop them from getting the to-do lists done, and who they want to be within the context of their work lives.
This is the work that will truly support shift and alignment. And it needs to be explored, because it – in other words you – will always be a part of your success equation, and if you don’t begin to look at who you are when you show up in your work, your equation will never quite add up.
And so. There may well be 378,490 steps to take as you’re creating the career that you love. The 10 steps were never going to work anyway, and so you’ll suffer less when you see this as a beautiful process that will unfold as you do.