I recently reconnected with hot yoga after a break of nearly 9 years. Hot Yoga involves doing 26 asanas (postures) in a 105 degree temperature in the yoga studio. It was tough and challenging. I was inspired by how it was in many ways a metaphor for how we can get stuck in our search for a more fulfilling career. It inspired some insights on how to move through these challenges. Each insight is followed by a reflection question that can help you move forward.
1. Keep your focus on your vision
“Your body flows in the direction of your sight”
In some of the challenging yoga asanas that involve balance, for instance the deep backbend, the instructor advised me to keep my gaze on where I wanted to go because my body would follow my eyes. This is a powerful lesson for thinking about your next career move. For many people, it’s easier to focus on where they are in their career, and what’s not working for them. Instead, you need to keep your focus on your ideal job and consider factors such as the skills you want to develop, the lifestyle that you want to have and the kind of impact you want to make.
The more clarity you have on your vision, the easier it will be on taking the next steps. Your vision will feed your action steps, you can create your resume with greater clarity on the skills you want to highlight, or make a list of your non-negotiables so you can be better prepared for your interview.
Question for reflection: what is your vision for your career?
2. Use the tools you have
“Our struggles push us to dig deep into our strengths.”
As the Yoga instructor took us through each posture and noted our silent struggles, she advised us to use the tools we already had to get through the posture e.g. the ability to focus, using the strength of our leg muscles we had toned, our upper body strength etc.
What struck me was that when we’re faced with a challenge, it’s easy to become hyper aware of our weaknesses. Because of our negativity bias, we focus on ways we are not meeting the challenge, where we are “failing”, what we can’t do, what we can’t control. We lose sight of what we do have, what resources and opportunities are available to us. One of my clients who is a CEO described a tense moment in his fundraising round when a lead investor pulled out support at a very late stage. He shared how harrowing the experience was because his start up came close to collapse. I asked him what strengths he leaned on at that moment. After thinking about it, he shared, “My networking skills. I set up dozens of investor meetings in the following couple of weeks, and this eventually led to being able to find a new investor in an insanely short amount of time.” So, leverage the tools, strengths and skills you already have to design your next career move.
Reflection question: What’s a strength you have that you can use to navigate the career search?
3. Let go of the “stuff” in your mind
“It’s not what you say out of your mouth that determines your life, it’s what you whisper to yourself that has the most power” - Robert Kiyosaki
The yoga instructor intuitively knew (probably from our grimaces) that we were each dealing with our own private struggles, and she advised us to “Let go of the “stuff” in your mind and be fully in your body.” Sometimes our biggest challenges aren’t other people, but our own minds’ chatter; the never-ending commentary of the inner critic. One reason we may feel stuck on the career search, is that we are “in our head” too much i.e. looping on our inner commentary that leads to analysis paralysis.
An example of inner commentary that could show up in the career search is thinking “I’m not just not good at that.” “No one will ever pay me to do what I love” “I won’t make enough.” “It’s probably too hard to make a career switch at this age.” These are limiting beliefs that diminish your list of career possibilities by dismissing them as improbable. They keep you stuck in the current job because you aren’t able to explore the possibilities.
There are a couple of ways to get out of this analysis paralysis. Firstly, connect with your body to become attuned to what is really going on. For instance, consider the feelings and sensations that come up when you consider a particular career option. The body indicates truthfully about how we feel, even if the mind can argue both sides of a possibility. What might this tell you about stepping forward in this career direction?
Another way we can let go of that chatter is by focusing on the present, the task at hand rather than getting distracted by imagined outcomes. Practicing mindfulness is a powerful way of getting out the loop of our inner commentary.
Reflection question: What are your limiting beliefs and how do they stop you from moving forward in finding a career you love?
4. Practice self-compassion
“This is a moment of suffering. Suffering is part of life. May I be kind to myself in this moment. May I give myself the compassion I need.” — Kristin Neff
Let’s face it. If you’re standing in a roomful of experienced yogis, it’s hard to not catch sight of strong, graceful postures and compare yourself. When I was really struggling at one point, I saw someone standing calm, focused and determined in their balancing posture. I realized however that comparison is the thief of joy. Focusing on someone else’s success meant that I missed out on how far I had come through my personal health issues to be able to sit through a grueling 90 minute workout. When we compare ourselves, we take a snapshot of the present and miss the context and challenges it took for someone to arrive at where they are. Comparison can diminish our confidence instead of building it up.
This often happens with my clients in their career search. They wonder why they aren’t doing as well as their colleagues or peers who seem to have “figured out” what they want. Rather than comparing, practice self-compassion by reflecting on your own journey and the challenges you had to face to be at the present moment. Be your own champion. Acknowledge your struggles and challenges, reflect on what you have learned from these challenges, forgive yourself and move forward. When clients express regret and guilt over previous choices in their career, I ask them to reflect on the lessons rather than the experience. Take what’s valuable for the next step in your career journey rather than dwelling on the experience.
Reflection question: How have you grown from your challenges?
5. Career struggles show us where we are, not who we are
“Where you are is not who you are. - Circumstances”
I used to be able to do a very strong Toe Stand pose (it involves sitting while balancing on your toe). But at this session, I nearly buckled because my knee didn’t feel strong. Rather than beating myself up, I reminded myself that this is where I am in yoga, not who I am as a yogi.
This is a big lesson for many of us because our career is in many ways an integral part of our identity. So when we are struggling with our careers, we slip into thinking that we are failures. Where we are in our careers is a culmination of many factors, some of which is beyond our control, and some of which is a result of our choice. The fact that we may be struggling with our careers is an indication of where we are today, rather than who we are today, which is much more than just our career. Once we realize it’s only a moment in time, we can focus on where we want to go and channel our efforts in that direction (see point 1 of this article).
Looking for a fulfilling job can test us and requires us to go deeper to uncover what is really resonant for us.The above tips can help unlock some insights to move forward one step at a time. It can also be really helpful to work with a career coach to have a sounding board for your insights, and also to have accountability to take the necessary action steps.
The career search, while not an easy process, can lead to both professional and personal growth, as one of my clients shared, “After eight vigorous sessions, I have a better idea of what drives me as a professional and I now have a strategy for completing my career transition thanks to the support and accountability from Sharanya. This truly has been a huge milestone in not only my career, but also my personal life.”
If you’re interested in doing a deep dive into the above questions, let’s connect and help you find a job you love.