Working with clients at different ages and stages of life and work, I see the different relationships each of us has to our work. We bring different attitudes to our work. Work provides each of us with different experiences of meaning and purpose. Our individual identities are influenced and shaped by our work and careers. We discover and apply different capacities to how we work.
Regardless of the age and stage of career and life, two prominent and overlapping themes emerge from the conversations I have with clients: our expectations of work and the multiple decisions we grapple with in terms of careers.
Different expectations, different experiences of work
When we are young adults, we are faced with choices and decisions about our education, about career and training paths. We are focused on what we want to take on, what we want to develop within ourselves and how we can expand our capacities. We contemplate what we might want to learn, what issues we are interested in, and how we could contribute to the world. Our hopes and expectations about work and career also influence our decisions.
When we are older, we may be navigating possible career transitions or abrupt changes to our professions. We may be experiencing work-related stress and burnout or contemplating what retirement will mean and what it will look like. At this stage we become more aware of the identities work gives us, what we can comfortably and realistically modify or let go of in our lives, and what changes we can accept, integrate and move forward with.
Whether we are young or old, our own expectations and the pressure upon us to make the right decision can often be overwhelming and can easily lead to avoidance, feeling stuck or dissatisfied, and not wanting to be personally and solely responsible for any decision.
Blocks to decision-making
It is important to have a conversation about our expectations and our individual sticking points, or blocks to decision-making. We can start by asking ourselves:
- Are we overwhelmed by the number of choices we have?
- Are we fearful of experiencing change in our lives?
- Are we resistant to letting go of an identity we have through our work?
- Are we apprehensive about selecting one choice from many and uncomfortable with the risk of a wrong choice?
- Do our expectations match the realities of our lives and our capacities?
- Do we feel we are not making personal decisions about work and career but making decisions based on others’ expectations of us - parents, spouses, peer group?
The practice of staying present
As always, the practice of being present in our lives fosters a deeper understanding of our personal expectations of work and our unique anatomy of decision-making. This practice includes:
- Giving ourselves space and time for reflection. Self-reflection – the ability to place our actions, thoughts and feelings in context – is a practiced skill and helps us to integrate and process our experiences, and to ponder their meaning, value or purpose. These reflective discoveries and deepened awareness can then be integrated into our day to day lives and thus strengthen our decision-making muscles and facilitate our choosing a course of action within the realities and contexts of our lives.
- Being attentive to, engaged with and connected to our internal (personal) experiencing as well as the experiences we have with the world around us. When we are more mindful of our feelings, thoughts and behaviors, we deepen and strengthen our self-awareness. This information helps us to build an internal trust and to rely upon our capacities.
- Being decisively active in creating and constructing our lives. This is a mutually reinforcing process of participating in the world, integrating our experiences, and giving unique and individual shape to all that we do and strive towards. This active creating also includes understanding the attitudes we adopt, the positions we take. It includes our ability to weigh the unique choices we may or may not have and ultimately to make and accept our decisions, right or wrong.
For more information on how an integrative and existential approach to career counseling can help you successfully navigate a career transition or develop a resilient and meaningful career path please contact Britt-Mari at firstname.lastname@example.org