Working with career changers, I often hear questions that betray a lack of trust. Sometimes the person stuck in a career they don’t like does not trust that there will ever be a right fit. They might ask: “What if nothing I like pays enough?” or “What if I just don’t fit in, ever?” or “What if I made so many mistakes, I screwed my life forever?” or “What if I will have to forever choose between making money and doing what I love?”
Maybe you don’t trust other people. If you fall in this category, you might experience every job search as an uphill battle to convince someone to give you a chance. And every time they don’t, you feel more and more isolated and closed off when you go for an interview.
Or maybe you don’t trust yourself and you have an internal dialogue that you are not good enough, should not have picked that major, that job, that boss, and now you set yourself up for failure.
Or you don’t trust that things will be OK in the end: life has already been tough enough for you to give up any hope things will work out in the future.
All lack of trust is the same: whether you don’t trust yourself, other people or the universe, each “type” of lack of trust functions as a mirror for the others; in other words, when we don’t trust ourselves, we cannot trust others, nor the universe, etc. This is because we do not live in a vacuum: everything we do is part of a intricate web of relationships. Trust yourself more, and you’ll trust the universe and others more, or trust others more, and you’ll find yourself trusting yourself more, and so on.
But how do you regain this trust, once you lost it?
If you went through bad times, worked under a horrible boss, in a toxic workplace, felt unsupported, chose the wrong career, got stuck, have been underpaid for a while, felt rejected, or experienced any number of setbacks, you might feel you cannot trust that everything will be OK. And if you have a crappy family of origin, you might have gathered even more evidence of how untrustworthy everyone is, including God, or nature, or the universe! I get it. It can be tough after years of struggle to trust again.
And yet, you will not be able to get unstuck until you develop some trust in yourself, others and the broader community. Without trust we stay small, fearful, even bitter or resigned to our unhappiness. When we are closed off, we don’t allow ourselves to express what we need and want and we are not able to receive or take initiative. When we feel distrustful, we don’t shine at job interviews, and we end up settling for careers that don’t fulfill us, but that at least pay the bills. It is imperative we develop trust, and start living a more open and self expressed life. But how can we start, if we lost our way?
Start by asking yourself a very basic question: what do you believe in? In my experience, there lies the problem and the solution to the trust issues in your life. Generally speaking most people fall into one of three buckets when it comes to their beliefs in their place in the world and the forces outside of themselves.
1. There is no God and things happen for no reason – e.g. some people suck and you happen to be in their path, a hurricane strikes and for no reason whatsoever you are hit, etc. If you fall into this category, an effective approach to find power in your circumstances can be Existentialism. Existentialism is a philosophy that took shape during and after World War Two in France. Without going into a long history of philosophy, suffice to say for the purpose of this post that it rejected the idea of God, especially a God who is in charge of people’s destinies. Existentialists believed in a world that had inherently no purpose or order. But, you might say, that is depressing! Yes, that is, and existentialist philosophers acknowledged that – and they also put forward how to deal with such a world. They invited people to decide for themselves what was worth living for and the kind of world they wanted to live in, and then to go out and make it happen. In other words, if you feel the universe is a place of chaos and no purpose, finding your own purpose and choosing your life is what will help you find trust in yourself and others. This lecture is probably the most accessible and well known summary of existentialism, here’s one of my favorite quotes:
“But in reality and for the existentialist, there is no
love apart from the deeds of love; no potentiality of love other than that which is
manifested in loving; there is no genius other than that which is expressed in works
of art. …. What we mean to say is that a man is no other than a series of
undertakings, that he is the sum, the organization, the set of relations that constitute
these undertakings.” Jean Paul Sartre, 1946
What are your most cherished values? And what society would you like to live in? If there is no plan, nor divine intervention, it’s up to you to make it happen. Start in 2018. Lean into your beliefs and find strength and purpose in them. As you become active living from your core values, you will develop trust in your abilities, which will grow into trust in others and in feeling you have a place in the world – the one you make for yourself.
2. You believe there is a God and everything happens for a reason. God has a plan and divine intervention is possible. If you fall in this category, you might belong to one of many faiths. The best way to deal with life and career in this context is to deepen your faith, (re)connecting with you spiritual community, or finding a new community who can best support you in your spiritual path. Each faith has practices to deepen your relationship with God and you’ll want to lean on them to reconnect with your faith that things have a meaning/purpose, even though sometimes life is painful. Acceptance and compassion are key, not resignation and cynicism. Whatever your circumstances and talents, trust that you are also part of God’s purpose. There is enormous strength that comes from a genuine relationship with the divine, so if this is what calls you, respond by embracing the call in 2018. You will find that as you trust God, you will also be able to trust yourself and others more deeply.
3. You believe in a pantheistic, non-personal spirit, or in nature, or define yourself as “spiritual, but not religious.” You might believe that there is something we are all connected to, but it doesn’t decide things, or punish people, it is more like a pervading spirit, or just simply natural law. There are variations of this philosophy, but in general deepening your connection with nature, practicing meditation, and feeling more present will be most helpful to you in reconnecting to your core self. If you believe in the interdependence of all things, look for evidence of it every day: nothing in the world exists that is not needed by something else. This is why one species’s extinction or introduction in a different habitat provokes a host of unintended consequences. If this resonates with you, anchor your career search in the knowledge that nothing in nature is truly independent and not needed, so as you are part of nature, you too are needed, just the way you are. Your job is simply to find who or what needs you. Make 2018 the year you develop a deep feeling of trust and stop questioning whether you have a place in the world, as nothing exists which doesn’t have a place in it.
There are many more nuances and beliefs than the three I listed above, start with finding your place in one or all of those three “buckets” and then dig deeper. We often avoid this type of talk when dealing with our careers, and yet, our beliefs have a huge impact on the actions we take. When we heal our lack of trust, we are able to step into new situations and to go after our dreams. As 2017 comes to a close, take a few days to deeply contemplate your underlying beliefs, so that you can fully embrace or shed them, and anchor your future actions in your values, as we shift into 2018.