Updated: Nov 17, 2022
Three reasons to stop feeling restless. And one good reason not to.
Two countries, fifteen houses, twelve jobs, three careers. So far.
You would be forgiven for thinking that this shows all the signs of someone who is restless. And you would possibly be right.
I hear (and read) a lot about people who are restless, who ‘wander’.
People - and especially women - who don’t seem to be able to settle. Forever looking for something. Forever moving on to the next challenge. Restless.
And I started to wonder if being restless is actually such a bad thing.
I found three reasons why you might want to stop wandering:
1. You’re blaming external circumstances for your restlessness
There could be a multitude of external circumstances why a job or a career is not the right fit for you.
No one will blame you for wanting out if you are working in a toxic work environment. Or if your boss’ attitude has undermined your self-confidence or even your mental health. Or your work is leading to feelings of burn-out.
However, sometimes women blame external circumstances for their restlessness and unhappiness. They hop from job to job, from company to company, to find the perfect job, in the ideal organisation, at the right location, with great working conditions, in the right team. In other words, the place where they will finally find true career happiness.
Only to find that this job is no better than the previous one. At which point they start looking around again!
Truth is, there is no ‘ideal’ company. Circumstances are never completely right (and even if they are they will change, as they inevitably do) and the grass is not always greener on the other side.
More importantly though, by blaming external circumstances you are giving away control of your career happiness! It is not the company you happen to work for or the external circumstances that determine how happy you are. First and foremost it is you!
2. Fear is holding you back
There are multiple ways in which fear can show up in your career:
Impostor Syndrome, where you can feel like a fraud, as someone who is not capable and can be found out. Any. Moment. Now.
Perfectionism, leading to you becoming paralysed if you are required to do something that you are not 100% confident in.
Fear of not conforming with social standards - fear of being seen as ‘too bossy’ or a feeling of having to turn into someone else to get ahead.
And conversely, the fear of success (and what would you do then?).
All leading to you running away, rather than embracing opportunities.
Sheryl Sandberg calls this ‘leaning in’. Rather than moving away from opportunities, she suggests that women should raise the expectations of what they can achieve, take responsibility for their career and move into leadership opportunities that they are currently shying away from and of course are perfectly capable of fulfilling.
Does any of this sound familiar? Are you running away from opportunities, instead of embracing them? Making a sideways move instead of the next step up? It might well be fear that is holding you back!
3. You don’t know your ‘why’
Lots of women work hard, are confident, clear on their abilities and are achieving great things. But they have never stopped to think ‘why’ they are doing what they are doing. What makes them tick. What makes it all worthwhile.
Which means that they continue to wander. From one thing to another, from one challenge to the next.
So, if this is you, what should you do?
All studies about happiness at work are clear: to make your career worthwhile, you need to know your purpose, your ‘why’, what feels meaningful to you. To stop wandering you need direction. Knowing what to do next become so much clearer if you know your 'why'.
So, what does ‘meaningful’ mean?
Meaningful is what feels meaningful.
And I am using the word ‘feels’, as it is not about what you think or what you know is the right thing to do (if you were able to think your way to meaningful work you would have done it already!). No, it is about what feels meaningful to you.
How do you go about this? By feeling what is happening in your body and by feeling your emotions when you consider different options. What energises you? And what drains you? What gets you excited? What gives you butterflies in your stomach? What makes you scared? These are all clues to what is important to you.
Use a journal. Practise mindfulness. Hire a coach to help you to start feeling your way to what meaningful work actually means for you.
'And what about me?', I can hear you think. ‘I’ve read all of the above, but none of this applies to me!’
If none of the above apply, you might well be a ‘Change Artist’.*
You are a Change Artist if you have accepted that you need change and variety. It means that you may have multiple causes that you want to pursue and lots of different things that you want to do. In other words: you don’t have just one ‘why’.
You are not running away from something. You’re not restless because you're afraid of something, or not clear on what feels right for you. It’s just that you don’t want to choose!
Being a Change Artist means that you choose not to choose and allows you to pursue what feels meaningful to you right now. And be perfectly OK with that!
So, who are you?
Do you want to find your ‘why’ and stop wandering?
Or are you a Change Artist and ready for your next challenge?
*Po Bronson, in his book 'What should I do with my life?', describes a ‘Change Artist’ as someone who chooses to jump around. Someone whose only constant is wanderlust and a need to stay in motion.
Tineke Tammes is an ICF credentialed Career Coach, who supports professional women in making successful transitions to careers of Freedom, Flexibility and Fulfilment! Besides that she is also a lifelong feminist, part-time portrait artist, never-only-read-one-book-at-any-time reader, and obsessive doodler. Oh, and she knows a bit about change management too.
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