Before we get into the 3rd session I want to check in with you to see how you went with your activities for session 2 on Creating a well defined core. What were your wins, challenges and insights?
Take a moment to write your thoughts in your journal
By now I hope you’ve tried at least one of the bonus activities to get you out of your comfort zone. Being able to do that will be helpful when you start to apply the pivot process in your career. That’s all about getting out of your comfort zone!
Overview of this session
In session 3 we’re going to look at step 2 in the pivot process: Improving your alignment for greater success. It’s not enough to understand each part of your core. You need to make sure the 5 parts are in alignment if you want to pivot to your dream career. So this session will look at:
- Why alignment is vital to your career pivot
- The 10 warning signs that you’re out of alignment
- What causes you to get out of alignment
- How to measure your current degree of alignment
- The key to realigning your core
Remember to use the worksheet to record your answers or copy and paste the questions into your electronic journal. You’ll also find some bonus activities to help you fast track your progress.
Why alignment is vital to your career pivot
In the last session we looked at understanding your core and making sure each layer of it is strong. But that’s not enough to create a successful pivot. It is possible to have a strong core and still be out of alignment.
We all know that dancers have a reputation for good posture. It’s an outward sign that they’ve learnt how to keep their body in alignment but there is more to good alignment than simply standing up straight. In order for your core to be engaged and help you to pivot, all parts of your body need to have the correct alignment. That means everything from your head to your feet. If one of these areas is out of alignment then you will either fail to pivot or it will be really hard work.
To do a successful career pivot requires a similar type of alignment. You need to make sure that all 5 parts of your core are working together rather than in opposition. If you aren’t aligned you’ll find it hard to pivot to your dream career. If you are aligned the process will be far easier and less stressful. I’m yet to meet anyone who want’s it the other way around!
By now you know that I love exploring the definition of words to help explain my pivot process. When you look up the meaning of alignment you find two definitions:
“arrangement in a straight line or in correct relative positions”
“a position of agreement or alliance”
I think both meanings are relevant to a career pivot. When the different layers of your core are in the correct relative positions you get a much greater sense of flow. Your career starts to become easier, the aspects that once annoyed you become challenges to overcome and you see possibilities where before you only saw problems. The real power of your core isn’t just found in the individual layers. It’s how each layer of your core interacts with the others. That alliance of the layers creates synergy, which allows you to achieve greater results from less effort.
When you aren’t in alignment you’re pulled in different directions, wasting time and energy trying to pursue the many different options you have available. This can mean you to miss out on good opportunities or go after opportunities that are wrong for you. You often only know you’ve done that when it’s too late and the opportunity has passed or you realise it’s been wasted.
Consider these two questions and answer the ones that you can relate to:
- Can I think of a time in my career when I was pulled in two directions? What was the result?
- Have I ever experienced a situation where being aligned helped my career? What was the result?
Write your answers on the worksheet
The 10 warning signs that you’re out of alignment
I think the first step in fixing your alignment problem is realising you have a problem. If you’re living in denial, telling yourself “that’s just the way it is in my industry/occupation/organisation” then you will never turn your dream career into reality. Awareness is the key. Once you recognise the impact a lack of alignment is having you are far more likely to take the steps necessary to get back in alignment.
So here are my top 10 warning signs that you’re out of alignment.
1. Workaholism Being a workaholic is often a sign that you’re avoiding other parts of your life, which means you’re out of alignment. It’s become socially acceptable to be so busy at work you don’t have to spend time on other aspects of your life. There is nothing wrong with loving your work or working long hours but only if it’s part of a properly aligned life. Workaholics are all about work and whatever they achieve in their career will never be enough to satisfy the emptiness they feel on the inside. If all you do is work or think about work, you have a problem.
2. Unhealthy coping mechanisms Maybe you’ve turned to bad habits to help you cope with your lack of alignment. Your coping mechanism is probably a socially acceptable one like shopping, eating, drinking, binge watching or social media. Smoking used to be on this list, not so sure that’s still considered socially acceptable. What they all have in common is they distract you from your real issues. They are a sign something is wrong. Many put you on the hedonic treadmill where you have to keep the job you hate in order to pay for your unhealthy coping mechanism and so the cycle continues. Sometimes that acceptable coping mechanism escalates into a more dangerous form like drugs, anger issues, thrill seeking, infidelity or fraud.
3. Relationship issues If you’re out of alignment in your career then it’s likely you turn to your partner, family and friends for support .. and to vent! This can put a strain on your relationships especially if they try to give you advice about fixing your situation and you don’t take it. If you’re single and too focused on your career or are negative about it chances are you’re not going to make an attractive potential partner. Plus, your relationship with your manager and colleagues is likely to be less than ideal often because they are the direct cause of your career dissatisfaction.
4. Poor health It’s easy to see how the first few warning signs can lead to this one. If you work long hours and have a poor diet, don’t exercise or drink excessively your physical health will suffer. A lack of supportive relationships can lead to isolation, anxiety or depression impacting your mental health. There is more and more research being done that shows a direct link between all types of health issues and stress. Being out of alignment with your core values, beliefs and identity is a major stressor.
These are what I consider the big 4 warning signs. Now we start to get into the less severe signs. These are often the precursors to the big 4.
5. Sleep problems This can manifest in two ways. The first one is obvious: you can’t sleep. Needing to take drugs to sleep is not normal but many people think it is. It’s often because your mind is whirling with thoughts or you’re dreading the next day at work. However, many people don’t see the need for extra sleep as a warning sign. This often happens when you don’t want to face what’s going on in your life. When your sleep patterns deviate from what’s normal for you on a regular basis and can’t be explained by some other factor that’s a clear sign you are out of alignment.
6. Rumination The best definition I’ve come across for rumination is “the focused attention on the symptoms of your distress, and its possible causes and consequences, as opposed to its solutions”. In other words, over thinking or not being able to let things go. If you keep thinking about everything that annoyed you in your working week over the weekend, you have a problem. I’ll bet the thoughts going through your mind link back to you being out of alignment in some way.
7. Indecisiveness When you’re out of alignment making decisions becomes difficult because you aren’t operating based on your natural instincts. Instead, you’re trying to reconcile what you want to do with what you think you should do. Every decision becomes difficult. You end up making poor decisions or constantly changing your mind.
8. Mood fluctuations If your moods are unpredictable and can’t be explained by any medical conditions then this is a sure sign you are out of alignment. It could be big highs followed by big lows, shutting down your emotions and not reacting when you should or over the top responses, positive or negative, that aren’t appropriate to the situation. This is a sure sign that something is wrong.
9. Feeling guilty Ah, guilt. We use it to make ourselves do things or to make other people do what we want. It could be that you feel guilty that you’re not doing enough in your career or your personal life or both. It could be feeling guilty for your actions or inactions. Guilt is your mind’s way of saying you’ve done the wrong thing and violated your own moral code. Sounds like a lack of alignment to me.
10. Having regrets Regret makes you feel sad, repentant or disappointed over something you’ve done or failed to do. It’s that feeling of wanting to turn back time and do it over differently. Only you can’t. Some regret is normal but if you’re out of alignment you probably have more than your fair share of regrets.
Which of the warning signs do you have?
|Relationship issues||Mood fluctuations|
|Poor health||Feeling guilty|
|Sleep problems||Having regrets|
Consider these questions in relation to the table of warning signs:
- What about my career is causing this behaviour?
- Which part(s) of my core are out of alignment?
- How has this behaviour impacted my career?
Write your answers on the worksheet
What causes you to get out of alignment
I think we get out of alignment because too many of us are confused about who we really are and what we really think. Instead, we get caught up in what the world around us is telling us we should think. We listen to messages from parents, teachers, employers, friends, the government and the media. Sure, they might be well meaning but if they aren’t right for us we can find ourselves being hypnotised and go into sleep walking mode to cope. You think you’re in control of your actions but you aren’t. The hypnotist puts a suggestion in your head and you act when given the trigger word. For many of us when it comes to our careers those trigger words are status, salary and security.
How have we become so easily convinced? Well, all that time you spend watching flickering screens lowers your brainwaves to an “alpha state”, which makes your subconscious mind highly suggestible. Before you know it you’ve taken on board other people’s ideas and realigned your thinking about success so it no longer matches with your core. If you’re doing this program that tells me you’re no longer happy with that situation.
There are two main ways you get out of alignment:
Major career decisions Sometimes you have to make a major decision that can make or break our career. You know as you’re doing it that it will have a significant, ongoing impact on your career. That could include:
- Choosing a course of study
- Saying yes or no to a “once in a lifetime” opportunity
- Declining a promotion knowing you won’t get asked again
- Agreeing to do something that you know is ethnically wrong
- Moving interstate or overseas
- Taking a career break for study, travel or family reasons
- Being a “whistle blower” over an important issue
- Doing a report or presentation containing controversial material
Minor career decisions Rather than one major decision, it’s often a series of small decisions that create your alignment problem. That’s why you don’t notice it’s happening until you find yourself in trouble. It’s a decision here and a decision there that all add up and before you know it you feel like you’re living someone else’s idea of what a career should be.
Here are some examples of what I mean:
- Going along with a decision because you don’t want to rock the boat
- Not speaking up when you see behaviour you disagree with
- Taking a filler role that you never get around to leaving
- Staying in a role you know is wrong for you out of fear
- Taking a role when you know you won’t be staying long
- Working for a company with legal but questionable practices
- Pretending to be loyal to a company or leader when you’ve already decided to leave but just haven’t resigned
- Allowing colleagues or customers to get away with minor things because you don’t have the energy to fight back
- Delivering messages to staff or customers that you don’t agree with
- Going against company policy because you believe it’s wrong
- Taking advantage of a situation when you know you shouldn’t
- Being a spend thrift with company money
As you can see, many of these examples are subjective and open to interpretation. I’m not trying to be the moral police here. I simply want to challenge you to consider where you stand on common career scenarios. Remember this is about your core drivers, beliefs, values, identities and priorities. Maybe this list says something about mine. I know I’ve made career decisions that at the time I knew went against my core. I’ve also said no to opportunities because they went against my core.
You can probably justify many of these decisions in the name of following the rules, not wanting to cause yourself more stress or looking out for your own interests. I get it but now it’s time to identify what has led you to want to pivot from your current career to your dream career and I suspect some of these minor decisions are part of the reason.
Keep in mind you may have been unduly influenced by others when making these decisions. You may have made what everyone else thought was the right decision but it wasn’t right for you.
Start thinking about your own career decisions:
- What major or minor decisions have I made that have caused me to get out of alignment?
- When I look back why did I make those decisions?
- How did those decisions make me feel at the time?
- How do those decision make me feel now?
Write your answers on the worksheet
How to measure your current degree of alignment
When determining how aligned you are I recommend using a 3 step test I call the “Think/Say/Do” test. Here’s what I mean:
I attended a gala awards night. All dressed up I sat down at the table and met my companions for the evening. When I asked the man on my left about himself Jay launched into a passionate description of his successful but stressful international business. Over the next 15 minutes as our meal arrived he regularly checked his phone, apologising to me for his lack of attention explaining he had a client that needed him … on a Saturday night … so I chatted away to the other guests.
Later we continued our conversation and I asked him “so what do you do apart from your business?”. He thought long and hard about this question before looking me in the eye and with a serious expression said one word … nothing. He did nothing but work.
More food appears and some awards are given out then we chat again and this time he pulls out his phone and shows me a picture of his wife and 2 children under 10, telling me they are the important thing in his life and how he’s building his business so they can inherit it.
Jay is a well meaning, hard working guy but he has a lack of alignment between what he thinks, says and does. He thinks the most important thing in your life is your wife and children, he says they are to complete strangers like me but he’s created a world where what he does every day stops him from being with them.
So do you pass the Think/Say/Do test? Look back at what you think is in your core and compare that to what you say and what you do on a regular basis. Where are you aligned and out of alignment?
Write your answers on the worksheet
Now we can look at your degree of alignment. In the ideal world all aspects of our core would be perfectly aligned all the time. I symbolise that using this model with one thick line representing the 5 layers of your core all so closely aligned you can’t separate them. This probably isn’t realistic.
The reality is that your alignment probably looks like the next model.
That’s because your core isn’t static, it’s constantly moving so it won’t always be in alignment every hour of every day. You can see the 5 layers and they are mostly overlapping. It’s a bit messy but it still works. You do your best to keep any of them from drifting too far away from the centre. When that starts to happen you notice it and take action to fix it.
If you don’t pay attention you can end up with a core that can look more like one of the models below. You either have very little alignment between all your core layers, you have one where one or more layers of your core are barely aligned or they are completely out of alignment. None of these situations are going to help you to pivot.
So how are the 5 aspects of your core currently aligned and how do you think they could realistically be aligned?
Draw your answers on the worksheet
The key to realigning your core
Some people think the solution to being aligned is having better work life balance. I hate that term. It implies work and life are two separate things. When you think that way you end up with a split personality, putting on masks for each character and only expressing parts of your authentic self at a time. That is not the way to have your dream career.
Instead of work life balance, think work life alignment so that who you are at work is the same as who you are in the rest of your life. That also means that you may be able to find ways to satisfy some aspects of your core outside your work. Today we are sold the idea that our career can be all fulfilling when that’s simply not true for most people.
Improving your alignment may require a significant mindset shift. When you see yourself in a certain way it can be hard to realign your thinking but until you do you won’t create your dream career.
This is especially true if you fear a career pivot will be seen as a failure. I think failure is going your whole life never pursuing your dream. Palliative Care Nurse Bronnie Ware agrees with me, having spent years with the dying she found that their number one regret was:
“I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me”
The good news is that you may have already done something in the past that has shifted your mindset. You can use that to help you see that it is possible to do it again. That shift doesn’t need to have been career related. It may have happened in a completely unrelated part of your life.
For me that mindset shift happened when I lived in Darwin for 3 years. I had many iconic NT experiences including visiting Kakadu, climbing Uluru and dodging crocodiles while fishing for Barramundi. But the experience that led to my mindset shift was none of those. Here’s how it happened:
My partner came home one day and announced he’d bought a Toyota Hilux Ute and it was a manual.
For years I had told myself I couldn’t drive a manual. Lots of people had tried to teach me. Not being able to do it caused me embarrassment in jobs when I had to announce I couldn’t take the company car because it was a manual. I just avoided it, but now I had no choice.
At the time it was just one of many adjustments I had to make living in Darwin but looking back it was a symbolic shift in my thinking. I realised if I could do that, what else could I do that I had thought was impossible? As a result I tried a lot of things, both personally and professionally, that I would never have tried in the past.
I find that the biggest shifts often happen from what seem like insignificant events to other people. They also happen when you aren’t looking for them and you often don’t know they’ve happened until you look back on them.
So now I want you to think about:
- How have I shifted my mindset in the past?
- What impact did that have on my life?
- What mindset shift do I need to make for my pivot to succeed?
Write your answers on the worksheet
Putting it all together
My goal in this session has been to help you understand the importance of alignment. Becoming aligned is not something you do once and then forget about it. Staying in alignment is an ongoing process. That’s why my final activity for you is to start tracking your alignment on a daily basis. At the end of each day ask yourself these questions:
- How aligned was I today?
- Where was I out of aligment?
- Why was I out of alignment?
You might want to draw a diagram to represent your alignment score for the day. Over time you’ll see how you’re improving and where you need to do more work.
In session 4 we’re going to look at Setting a new direction that works for you. Now that you’re in alignment it’s time to start thinking about where you could go next with your career. We’re going to take the thoughts you’ve written down and start applying them. So this session will look at:
- Getting clear on where you are now before you set a new direction
- 4 simple steps to help you identify your new direction
- Understanding the 16 different types of pivots you can choose from
- How to determine what type of pivot is right for you
Watch out for an email with a link to your materials that will arrive next week.