What Are You Running From?

Maybe it’s your job.  Or your boss.  Or the company you work for.  Whatever it is, all of us think about it at some point in our careers.  We convince ourselves that everything will be better once we escape our current situation.

When we run away we start marking time until retirement, that next bonus payment or vesting cycle; some future point in time when we will reach the imaginary finish line and our lives will all of a sudden improve.

If you’re unhappy in your current role, or even if you aren’t, it would be irresponsible not to think about the optimal circumstances for making a change.  There is a significant difference, however, between running from a bad situation versus running towards a better future.

If you’re running away, you’re focused on what’s behind you.  You’re looking over your shoulder, not truly focused on where you’re going.  All that matters is escaping your current situation because you believe anything would be better.

Here’s the problem:  if you don’t do the work to determine what better actually looks like, you are just as likely to end up in another bad situation.  It’s true for everyone, from people thinking about retirement to young executives unhappy with their current roles.  Getting away from that bad boss or client may improve your situation in the short term, but there’s a difference between finding happiness and making yourself less dissatisfied.

People who are running towards something have a clear view what awaits on the other side of the finish line.  They’ve done the hard internal work to learn from their current situation and identify what they need to be fulfilled.  Rather than just watching the calendar like a prisoner waiting for parole, they are following a plan.

When you are “running to” something you are expanding your network, learning new skills, acquiring new experience through volunteering or pursuing a side hustle.

This has been one of the key lessons of the pandemic.  How many stories have we read about people using the time away from the office to develop new habits, explore living in other areas or reassess their priorities. 

This lesson is especially true for those contemplating retirement.  The happiest people in retirement are those who exited their former careers with a clear sense of purpose for the next phase of their lives. 

This is why I’m a big believer that everyone should have some sort of side hustle.  For me, it’s writing.  When I’m not working I invest a good chunk of time on this blog and the book I’m trying to finish.  I have no expectations beyond enjoying the chance to express myself creatively and hopefully improve my skills along the way.  That only happens through doing.

For the record I’m as happy as I’ve been professionally in my current role.  Writing is not about running away from a bad situation but exploring a potential future I may want to run to someday when my days as a full time marketer are over.

Here’s the bottom line:  regardless of where you are in your career, satisfaction and fulfillment will only come when you stop focusing on the end and start imagining a new beginning.   

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