Wherever You Go, There You Are

I recently had very similar discussions with a current client and a prospective client.  They both know they need to change something in their careers.  One has a strong sense of what she’d like to do next, and the other just knows she doesn’t want to continue in her field anymore.  What they share in common is a desire to change from within, as opposed to looking externally for the magic pill that will make all their challenges go away.  They recognize that this is the key to making lasting and positive change.  One expressed that she knew she could jump from job to job, but if she didn’t change her attitudes and perceptions of the world, she would continue to be unhappy in every new job she would find.  The other wanted to be sure she did her transition the right way.  In other words, she also wanted to make sure that her change wasn’t only on the surface and wasn’t just going to bring along the same problems into her new career.

These are two wise women!

When I first wrote 10 Reasons Your Dentist Probably Hates You Too, most people responded with excitement and support, but there were some who judged me.  One blogger in particular decided to capitalize on the popularity of my post and turn it into a deep, meaningful message about loving dentistry.  Instead, his post reeked of judgment.  The post is no longer available, as I’m assuming the self-righteous tone of his article isn’t exactly what Spear Education wants to represent.  As any good, snarky blogger would do, I wrote an equally judgmental response to him.  You can read it here.  You should read it because it shares an important message I talk about over and over.  To give you a taste of his overall message, his last sentence was:

Any profession worth being a part of is going to come with its own set of challenges, as I suspect this former dentist is going to find with her next endeavor. As I always say, wherever you go, you take yourself with you.

I can see the wisdom in his words.  I get it. I’ll even go as far as saying that he’s right about the importance of working on yourself.  But in his delivery, I also sense a desire for me to experience challenges in my new career, just to prove that it’s me, not dentistry.  This tone reminds me of the cult-like defensiveness that a few dentists feel when one of us goes against the grain.  He was wrong to make assumptions about me.  He had no idea what I had been through or how I had arrived at that place.  He had no idea that to get there, I had already spent years of soul-searching that included therapy and career coaching.

Why am I bringing this up again?  Well, these recent conversations with these women reminded me of this.  The attitude he displayed was that if you don’t love dentistry, there is something wrong with you.  And of course, whatever that thing is will always be wrong with you.  This is the problem I discussed in Can Coming Out of the Closet Change the World?  This attitude is what makes people feel like they have to hide, and this is what keeps people stuck.  In his case, he questioned what was wrong with me.  And this is why I fought back.

The fear of being judged by our peers is just a side note.  The real point here is that in order to create change, it DOES have to come from within. This man knew nothing about me.  Contrary to what he implied about me, learning about who I am and developing a more constructive view of my world was precisely what allowed me to move forward.  Believe me.  I was worried that my problems would follow me everywhere.  My biggest fear was that I would never be happy in any job moving forward.  When you’re conditioned to believe that you’re leaving the greatest career on the planet, you can’t see how anything else could make you happy.  That fear drove me to work on my attitudes and my view of the world.  It made me break myself down and analyze my character so that I could break free from my self-imposed limitations.

And it worked.

I think a part of us wishes that we can just change or leave, and it will be that simple, but that rarely works.  Without primarily changing yourself, one of 2 things happens.  Either we change our external circumstances, and as Mr. Blogger suggests we take ourselves with us.  We continue to blame the external triggers and miss the chance to take responsibility for our own beliefs.  Or we don’t change at all.  We don’t change because that thing that is holding us back isn’t outside of us.  It’s within us, and that is precisely what keeps us stuck.

As I think about these two wise women and what they want, I trust that no matter what, each one will launch herself in the right direction.

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10 thoughts on “Wherever You Go, There You Are

  1. That is so true to how how I felt. Having been unhappy in one career it’s easy to think you will be unhappy in your next career choice and this makes it even harder to change careers.
    As I always say. You really are spot on with your observations and your advice you can now offer having experienced these feelings first hand.

  2. I’m not part of the cult, so I hope my comment will make the cut! That’s an interesting story about the blogger and his comments. I also find it interesting how so many have such words of wisdom for something they’ve never personally experienced, kinda like all-superior parenting advice from someone who’s never been a parent.

    Sometimes I can’t tell whether the “something is wrong with you” comments are a throwback to the lost era of doing the same thing for 50 years, or if it’s resistance in accepting not everyone loves what you love, which is somehow construed as a personal betrayal?

    While I have varied theories on what ‘love’ in your career actually means, it is true – wherever you go, there you are. I frankly reject this idea of business and personal being unrelated, or purely a matter of mustering enough will power, as if your mental and emotional well being has nothing to do with your professional success. But you/me/all of us have this incredible capacity to change and evolve over time, and we do. We must.

    Some people just choose to be proactive about it.

    1. Ritu, I believe that this “something is wrong with you” mentality is a product of both the idea that we should stick with the same thing for 50 years as well as the betrayal. In my observations the betrayal seems to be stronger. I don’t know what it is about people in general, but it seems we have this pack mentality. I get the concept that when I love something, I want other people to love it too. I suspect we can all relate to that. I believe that is the root of this. When we love something, we can’t understand that someone else doesn’t, and sometimes we even judge others for it. I don’t know… just my hunch.

      All great points you make. It’s all related.

  3. Dentistry and Audiology have a great deal in common! We work in jobs to help people who reall,y in truth, don’t really want our help, but need it badly. It fucks with our heads. (pardon the swearing but that’s what happens!)

  4. Fantastic post, since you have touched on many interrelated aspects of the exciting, yet scary and uncertain process of a career change (or any major life change, for that matter).

    Just some thoughts I had:

    1. Fairly soon I will be needing to purchase a new car (no, this is not the type of life change I’m talking about above!). The point is, there is a certain car I like. It is far below the level of anything that would be considered a “luxury car”. But I like the appearance, the gas mileage, and the low price. Simple as that — it’s what I like. Is there something wrong with me because I DON’T like or want the luxury car?? Even if both cars were of equal price, my choice would still be the same, because I know what I like and don’t like.

    Am I supposed to like dentistry because I spent a ton of money and time and effort to obtain my degree? Am I not allowed to change my mind after working in the field after a few — or many — years? Am I expected to try to convnce myself that it is my fault because I don’t like something? Are we all supposed to be driving the exact same car? What if I move into the city and decide I don’t need or want to drive anymore? But there must be something wrong wih me since I spent many hours and much effort in order to obtain that highly-touted Driver’s License so many years ago!

    2. I tend to believe that the amount of challenges (annoyances, set-backs) a person is willing to put up with in their career (or pursuit of something) depends on how much that person loves what they are doing. The less a person like something, the less they are willing to put up with. It’s a pretty elementary concept. Now that I have left dentistry, I am beginning to pursue something that has a ton of challenges, rejections, and uncertainties. I won’t even have an income from it, at first. But I absolutely LOVE it, and because of that, am willing to face and deal with all of the struggles that will inevitably come. Even though I consider myself to have provided excellent dental treatment to patients, I never felt the passion for it as I do for this new venture. So there was nothing “wrong” with me when I was practicing dentistry but didn’t immerse myself in a myriad of courses to supposedly improve my range of skills. It was not a fault of mine. It just happened to be based on how much I wanted to push myself deeper into something I didn’t have a love affair with.

    3. Yes, the two women you described were very wise. And there definitely is truth to the sentiment which is the title of this post. I have known people who have moved to different locations in the country because they “couldn’t have a lasting relationship”, “or couldn’t find any decent people to date”, etc., if they stayed in the same place. Funny, their problems seemed to follow them, no matter what their address was. So it is a valid point that a person take a good look inside of themselves to see why they want a career change. And yes, the answer may be that there needs to be a change in attitude prior to changing a career or direction, so as not to repeat earlier mistakes. But sometimes it is simply just a case of not liking something enough to stick with it. And that’s perfectly fine. I think that most often it is a combination of the two.

    1. Eric, thanks! If more of us can get used to the idea that we can still survive and still be happy living with less, we will become more empowered to change. I felt much more worried about money when I was making more of it in dentistry than I do now when I make less and am happier in life. It’s all just a state of mind!

      I completely agree with #2. When you love something (or even like it,) you’re willing to invest in it and stand behind it. When you’re not, you don’t, and it feeds itself.

      And of course, yes on #3. I believe that sometimes the attitude change comes after because we can’t see to change it while we are still in a rough spot.

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