When I tell people what I do for a living—help folks who don’t enjoy what they do for work figure out what they really want to do ‘when they grow up’—I get a variety of reactions. Some of the most common ones are:
“Where were you a couple of years ago? I SO could’ve used you!”
“Maybe I need to talk to you!”
“(Sigh) Yeah, I don’t really know what I want to do, but at this point, I just can’t change.”
I want to focus on this last category of people who seem to be saying to themselves, “Yeah, wow, that would be amazing, to do work that I truly enjoyed, but I can’t because… (of any number of reasons)”
“I’d like to do something different, but I can’t”
I pay close attention to this category because I think the people there are telling themselves the ‘I can’t’ story, and thinking one of two things:
Group 1: Maybe, just maybe, I could do something different, even though I’m not sure how I would go about it
Group 2: I definitely can’t do something different
As a coach, I can absolutely help the ‘maybe I could’ group. For them, it’s often a case of personal or professional confidence. Or maybe getting past some limiting beliefs that have been keeping them stuck. And coaching is perfect in those situations.
For the ‘I definitely can’t’ group, while I don’t think they would benefit from coaching, I do encourage them to think about their situation in a more empowering way.
A more empowering way to look at it
If you’re in this ‘I definitely can’t’ group, the sentiment I hear you expressing is that, sure, you’d love to pursue some other type of work you’d enjoy more, if only you didn’t have a particular set of obstacles standing in the way.
When you think of the saying “the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence,” it’s as if you’re thinking that your grass could be greener—maybe even as green as the grass belonging to your neighbor, who really enjoys her work—were it not for your set of circumstances.
Maybe your circumstances are that you’re putting your kids through school, and you feel that you need the money that your current job provides. Or maybe you have a lot of time invested where you work now, and you feel that changing jobs would represent a loss of money, or clout, or retirement benefits.
Maybe the things you’d lose if you changed to a job you enjoyed more are too valuable for you to lose at this point.
Your grass may be as green as you want it to be—and that’s great!
And you know what? If that’s the case, that’s OK. In fact, maybe you are doing exactly what you need to be doing. More importantly, you’re doing what you WANT to be doing, and that’s great.
Because your work life isn’t just about the job description and the paycheck. It’s about that and everything else going on in your life.
And if you’re right, and your best course of action is really to stay the course with the job you have, then you’re probably much better off, not passively accepting that reality as something you’re stuck with, but instead celebrating and being grateful that you’re in the best possible situation doing what you want to do.
With this slight tweak, your position could change from one of longing for greener grass (“Oh, if only I didn’t have these obstacles, I could really do the work I want to do”) to one rooted in confidence and empowerment, (“I am all set, and I’m living and working exactly as I want to”).
Relax and enjoy your green grass
That sense of certainty and awareness is what I wish for all of us, whether I’m talking about coaching clients or not. My wish is that as many of us as possible are as aware as we can be, living our lives—both in and out of work—as intentionally as we can.
So to the people who react to my description of what I do as a coach with a sigh and a wistful ‘that would be nice to do other work, but I can’t’, and who are sure that they can’t do anything else, I would say:
Relax and enjoy your green grass—you may have inadvertently achieved that place of working and living at a peak level that many people strive for.