Sometimes in life, there comes a moment when circumstances for change are forced upon you. Events such as redundancy, divorce, illness or the death of a loved one will generally upset the delicate balance in your life and bring about changes that you may not be ready for. Some people manage to make the best out of it and actually benefit from the change; others wallow in despair, longing for what they have lost, and have great difficulty in getting back on their feet. Which category you fit into depends upon your attitude and perception of the situation.
One thing is certain: the trend today is that it’s never too late to reinvent yourself. In a blog post entitled “On Changing Careers”, Dick Bolles – whose best-selling book What Colour is your Parachute sold over ten million copies – points out that you’re never too old to change your career and rethink yourself anew. And why not – the conditions have probably never been better. The Internet has brought information and knowledge to our fingertips and connects us in ways that make some traditional networks obsolete. This provides new conditions and, therefore, new opportunities. The challenge is daring to explore them!
Many people are simply afraid to make the move; some may be forced to do so by their circumstances, whilst others may feel that it’s time for a change or may just be curious. Whatever your personal situation is, I’d like to share my 1–2–3 process with you, in the hope that it will help you in your decision-making. We’ll start with our coin because, as the saying goes: “there are two sides to every coin”, and it’s always worth looking at both sides.
1. The “other side”
Whether positive or negative, one side of the coin will be easier to see than the other, depending on the situation and your personality. After all, if you want to see the other side of a coin lying on the table, you will have to put in some effort by flipping it. Whether you see the advantages or disadvantages first is not relevant; the fact remains that you will have to put in some effort if you want to see the other side. So, whether you get carried away by the euphoria or depressed by the events, you should sit down and take the time to look at the other side.
Take a piece of paper and make a list of advantages on one side and disadvantages on the other. For some, this exercise might be difficult as they may be blinded by the situation. If this is the case, you can always enlist some family members or good friends to help you out; they may be impartial to your situation and see things you may have missed.
2. Who am I today?
Now that you have a more balanced picture of the situation, you should be ready for the next step: turning the situation to your advantage. The first step here is to develop a good picture of your own strengths and weaknesses in today’s context. Most people have been conditioned by years of traditional and institutional beliefs that attitudes and behaviours should be corrected and that people should be shoehorned into an idea of perfection. However, research has shown that it is much more productive to focus on developing people’s strengths and providing opportunities where they can thrive. For employees, this is much more positive and rewarding because it is easier for them. It also allows them to shine, which helps boost their self-confidence.
Regardless of your self-image, I find that the best way of developing a true picture of yourself is to start with the Johari Window.
The Johari Window – named after its inventors, Joseph Luft and Harrington Ingham – is a communication model used to improve understanding between individuals. It is often used in team-building sessions and in self-help groups. It is a structured way of mapping out your strengths and weaknesses. It also involves dialogue with others and an element of introspection – both of which are necessary in creating an honest picture. The key to success in this exercise is to treat feedback as a gift given to you. No matter if it’s negative or positive, feedback helps you paint your picture, and you are free to interpret it as you wish. There is almost always a kernel of truth behind every piece of feedback, even the most negative. It’s up to you to interpret it and pull the right conclusions from it. Besides, by taking this attitude, you won’t be so easily offended by the person giving you feedback.
3. Building the “big picture” puzzle
As the subtitle says, this is where you piece it all together. But before you jump into brainstorming and the elaboration of your opportunities, there is one more conditioning step you need to go through.
As we are constantly bombarded by messages, our brains handle information based on the filters we have developed around our beliefs and context. This causes us to process information without really thinking about it. How many of us have family members or friends who keep trying to “sell us” on the benefits of what they do, but we never consider it because we categorically believe it is not for us. The point here is not about that particular person or idea; it’s about the need to reset your compass and consider all options. I believe in the interaction of people and the notion that we each have a message to convey when we meet and interact. Our task is to find out what that message is. Could it be possible that you have unconsciously ignored certain messages recently? This is why it’s worth reflecting precisely about this point by making a list of potential messages you may have missed but which would be useful to consider.
Now you are armed and ready to put your picture puzzle together. You have analysed your situation, you have a good grasp of your strengths and weaknesses and you have raised your awareness of what the world around you has to offer. You now need to put the pieces together by making connections between the three elements and developing your hypotheses and options.
A good way to round up the exercise is to map your ideas/options in the following matrix:
This will help you choose the right options!
Francis Lambert – Zabok, 4 February 2013