“And suddenly you know: It's time to start something new and trust the magic of beginnings.” – Meister Eckhart
Let's face it. Making change is hard. Jumping into something new professionally almost always evokes a mix of both excitement and nervousness. If you know you’re ready for a change, it’s easier to make a switch, but it’s often still not easy. Think back to the first days of your current job, or when you first started working, or your most recent first date, or going off to college, or even your first day of school. So much is new and unfamiliar. You feel like all eyes are on you, and you’re hyper-sensitive to the importance of making a good first impression. You have to ask the most basic of questions. You're more reliant on your past experience and gut instincts, because you know less, at least initially, about how to handle the new situations put in front of you. You’re out of your comfort zone. You feel – and are, to a certain extent – more vulnerable.
For all of these reasons, new beginnings can be intimidating, but they can also be rewarding. They drive a combination of psychological responses. They can help you get unstuck, break old habits, and gain a sense of renewal. Because you know little about your new environment, you’re emotionally more open to change, both in yourself and in how you experience the world around you. You form new habits, ones that could be good (like being less jaded about work) or bad (like doing too much partying when you first started college).
For some people, these psychological responses are terrifying. As a consequence, they tend to stay in work (and life) situations too long. They choose the familiar over the unknown. This phenomenon is likely the origin of the saying, “Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t,” an expression that goes back at least 500 years. If you fall into this category of people, you need to recognize it in yourself. While it’s easier for you to stick with what you know, it can be limiting and in some cases toxic. It’s important for you to create mechanisms that trigger an objective assessment of your current state, such as carving out time periodically to ask yourself,
- Is my current situation still making me happy?
- Is it fulfilling and providing meaning to me?
- Is it aligned with how I want to live my life?
- Does it play to my strengths and allow me to be the best version of myself?
- If I were faced with the decision to take my current job again, would I?
- And for all of these questions, why or why not?
Other people have quite the opposite response. They thrive on the excitement of new beginnings. For them, it creates a rush, and as a result they are constantly changing jobs, pursuing multiple opportunities, starting new hobbies, or jumping into new relationships. For them, the “grass is always (or often) greener on the other side.” If you feel you fall into this category, you should ask yourself a different set of questions, such as,
- What’s missing for me now that I’m chasing in a new situation?
- Do I have a reasonable chance of finding what I’m seeking?
- Am I confident that it will make me happier and more fulfilled?
- Am I likely to be more successful?
- Am I comfortable with what I am going to have to give up to make this change?
- And, again, why or why not?
Overall, it’s important to be open to the opportunities enabled by new beginnings but thoughtful about them as well. Be clear on what you’re giving up and what you’re getting – both the good and the bad. Make a list of pros and cons if that’s helpful. Develop a plan for managing through the changes involved, talk about them with friends and family, and give yourself and those around you the time and space to adjust to these changes. Be purposeful about the new habits you want to form and those you want to break. Leave your current situation in a dignified fashion – don’t “burn bridges,” so to speak. You might change your mind later, and you never know who in your current world might re-emerge later in your life. If you do decide to make a change, do so with confidence and conviction. Believe in yourself, and remember that we all make changes in our professional and personal lives, and we all go through those periods of unfamiliarity. Best of luck to you, and thanks for reading!
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