As we enter the fourth quarter of yet another year, I’ve come to realize that I know many people who are currently going through a job change or, even more, a substantive career transition. Some are using this “between jobs” time to relax, spend time with family, travel and just take a life inventory of sorts. Others, however, are really struggling with not having a specific daily purpose.

Because so many of us define ourselves by our job and work activities, finding ourselves without the affirmation and direction that comes from collaborating with colleagues, partners and customers can be discouraging. So, in such times, especially as we near the yearend holiday season, how can one stay upbeat, focused and generally happy, despite the lack of professional clarity looking forward?

Jeff Haden’s Be Happier, 10 Things to Stop Doing Right Now reminded me that it really can be what we stop doing that leads to enhanced contentment. His 10 things are:

  1. Blaming
  2. Impressing
  3. Clinging
  4. Interrupting
  5. Whining
  6. Controlling
  7. Criticizing
  8. Preaching
  9. Dwelling
  10. Fearing

Of the 10 points that Jeff enumerates, I think that Clinging, Dwelling and Fearing are the three that are most confronting for leaders.

In terms of Clinging Jeff states, “When you’re afraid or insecure, you hold on tightly to what you know, even if what you know isn’t particularly good for you.” I’ve written about a very similar topic a few years back, but as today’s job market surely shows, “comfortable misery” persists. This is often what most of us struggle with first when in career transition. Staying in a job longer than we should is something many of us, in hindsight, would likely admit to.

I was having a conversation recently with a senior executive that had worked at one large software company for 20 years and had recently moved to a new, web technology company. He explained that in his view the first three years of any new job, the employee really benefits, learning and gaining domain expertise. The next three years the employer is the biggest beneficiary. The employee has hit his or her stride and is adding tremendous value to the company at that time. Anything beyond six years is a net zero and he admitted that staying in one place longer is a mistake.

With regard to Dwelling, Jeff writes, “When something bad happens to you, see that as a chance to learn something you didn’t know. When another person makes a mistake, see that as an opportunity to be kind, forgiving, and understanding. The past is just training; it doesn’t define you.” As I often speak about with friends that you can’t prevent negative things from happening, it’s how you react that matters and dwelling on the negative for an extended period of time will surely drag you down. For reference, I shared a tale about Oprah Winfrey that really demonstrates that you can only control your reaction to circumstances, rather than controlling the circumstances themselves.

Lastly, Jeff talks about Fearing. Personally, this one is the most difficult of the “Stop Doing” items to conquer. Jeff says, “it’s easier to hesitate, to wait for the right moment, to decide we need to think a little longer or do some more research or explore a few more alternatives. Meanwhile days, weeks, months, and even years pass us by. And so do our dreams.” If you don’t have someone in your village (see, “What’s Missing in Your Village”) to assist and push you just a bit, it’s time to find someone who will do just that. It is a cliché to say, life is short, but it’s also a stark reality. Don’t waste time being stuck in “analysis paralysis” while others move forward. Get up and get going.

Image: Courtesy dazeychic

Nina Nets it Out: Life is far too short to not try your best to face your fears and take action. Don’t allow the past to define you – use Jeff Hayden’s 10 step list to help you let go of what is “comfortable” in order to achieve both happiness and personal growth in a time of career transition.

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