I’m George Mcfly. The moment I realised this was the moment I knew something had to change. There was not going to be a flux capacitor, no time machine, no means of going back and my kids weren’t going to save me. The time I had wasted was gone and the value of the time I have left is rising inexorably.
As many of you will know, in the Back to the Future trilogy, George Mcfly is the the father of Marty Mcfly. George is a man paralysed by his own fears and inhibitions, afraid to take even the smallest of risks or stand up for himself, he lives an uninspired fearful existence. Fortunately for him, his son befriends an eccentric scientist who invents a time machine that enables them to travel back in time and ultimately create an alternative timeline for George that sees him pursue his dreams and live a a happy existence.
Like I said, on the balance of probability, I considered the possibility of my kids coming to rescue me in a time machine to be lower down the scale. So that left me with no choice – Action.
I had long had dreams of being a creative in some way but I was unclear on exactly what I wanted to do and was terrified of being found to be inadequate or not up to the job. I papered over these fears by disguising them with practical reasons not to do act.
Until Back to the Future appeared on my television and I saw George Mcfly looking back at me and recognised him as a cinematic reflection. What action did I take?
I started with a massive dose of honesty, then started building a bridge to a new life. I was not interested in a leap of faith, I wanted something more practical. Change would therefore not come as quickly as I might have liked but I had started and the wheels were in motion. Most people don’t even get that far. Just starting feels like a triumph and I can’t help but wonder how far I can actually go. Where will the road take me?
The dizzying reality of this process is now beginning to sink in, as this week I had the task of notifying colleagues of my intentions. This was difficult because I consider them friends and not just work colleagues. I also feel a sense of loyalty to them that my actions are about to betray.
I elected to speak to them individually rather than as a group because I had slightly different things that I wanted to say to each of them. I was perhaps a little surprised to find that the reactions I received ranged from disappointment and sadness to bewilderment and shock.
The range of reactions is driven by the fact that I work within a family business and have done so for around twenty years. Consequently, I’m sure people expected me to be there until the end; a lifer as they say. The truth is I expected to be that person myself and on the face of it I look happy in my work. However, I have long denied a sense that something was not quite right and as I said in my earlier posts, acknowledging this has been the key to making a change.
Having let people know, it’s a strange feeling to think that I am part of the companies past and present but I am no longer part of the future. That shift in tense represents a huge step into my new reality.
Its been a tough week. Self doubt has enveloped me on several occasions, leaving me convinced that I cannot be successful in my career change ambitions. I have found myself thinking – “I wish I was 25 again”, “how can I have the audacity to think that I can compete with people younger than me?”.
As these thoughts rattle, destructively through my brain, I am immediately convinced of the need to abort my plans. That voice in my head is so pursuasive, so utterly convincing that I cannot mount the counter argument. I am subservient to the superiority of its thesis.
Then I pause, walk away from myself, because I know my feelings will change.
Thankfully, it doesn’t take too long. And the catalyst? This weekends Wimbledon singles finals. A 37 year old in Venus Williams and a 35 year old Roger Federer. In the context of professional sport they are well into their twilight, yet there they are at the peak of their sport. What could be greater inspiration than that?
Does all change require conflict? After a lot of introspection, I realised that I couldn’t satisfy my ambitions or realise my potential if I continued to follow my current career path. However, I didn’t know this at first. The initial desire for change was driven by a personal conflict with a family member. How could I be sure that if I changed career I wasn’t just running, taking the easy way out of an awkward situation.
It seems clear to me that change is very often driven by conflict. The most obvious example of this is in war zones where once normal citizens flood across borders as refugees, desperate to better their lives and protect their children. As horrifically bleak as their plight is, the choice for them has becomes quite clear – initiate a change or risk death . In their minds, the risk of embarking on what promises to be an horrendous journey is significantly less than the risk of staying put. I may appear to be stating the obvious but with career change this calculation is not so clear cut. I recognised this and resolved to take time to think.
If your suffering at the hands of an unsupportive boss or colleague then the temptation is to run; to sprint towards something new, anything will do just to get away. The reason to change in these circumstances is completely valid but a complete change in career may not be necessary. Could you transfer to another department? Could you move to a competitor? Is there somebody you could raise your issues with?
All of these options and more should be explored before a massive career change is made. You need to be as sure as you can be that what you are changing to is going to make you happier than you are now. You should ultimately feel that you are running to something not running from something.
Conflict may be the catalyst but something like a change in career should come from inside you like a thirst that has to be quenched. For me I feel a deep seated desire to try something that I buried away because I believed it was beyond me. The carnage of conflict had uncovered something that I had denied was there. The pull to move towards that path is now stronger than the push to run away. The only question now is have a got the courage to actually make the change?
I think big change requires a big thought process. It deserves respect. Particularly as the older you get the more unlikely you are to be able to make snap decisions. Having a wife, a husband, kids means you have a responsibility that can’t be ignored. I think it is this fact that makes change so scary and is the major reason why I buried my head in the sand for such a long time.
Eventually circumstances forced me to accept that change was required in some form. Once I had done that I was able to start thinking in greater detail about what that meant. I was able to provide some structure to the decision making process and devise a series of steps that I had to go through to develop my thinking and reach some sensible, thought out decisions.
The first step in the process is therefore accepting that some form of change is required. This will come easy to you if the level of your dissatisfaction is high. However, for me and many others who are plodding along, providing for themselves and their families, the need for change is harder to accept. The primary reason this is so difficult is fear. Fear of letting your family down, letting yourself down, fear of failure, to name just a few.
You potentially fall into this category if you find yourself thinking some of the following:
I should be grateful for what I have.
There are many other people far worse off than me.
If I could start again I would try…
I have to make the best of what I’ve got.
Now, there is nothing wrong with this thinking. For instance, understanding that there are people worse off than you is a very healthy thing. That is unless you are using such thoughts to supress the fact that you crave a better life; using the thoughts to talk yourself out of striving for something better. This then becomes an unhealthy situation, forcing you down a path that leads to regret, resentment and unfulfilled ambitions. You must overcome that fear and to do that you need to be honest with yourself.
So maybe the first step is honesty and the second step is acceptance. Only then can you start to move forward.
In my next post I’ll follow up on this and talk you through how I got to where I am now. In the meantime, take a look at this blog for inspiration. It’s certainly helped me. I particularly like the post entitled All you have is time.
I’m not desperately unhappy in my job. The people are great and the money is well above average. I could carry on, and with the right level of commitment I would have a very successful career to look back on after retirement.
Something, however, was missing- is missing. My life feels monotone, not full of colour like the flowers in the photograph above. I’d not really noticed it before; for many years I described myself as happy and would not have contemplated a change, but then personal circumstances conspired together to bring me a new sense of clarity. The void that I had been avoiding for so many years came sharply into focus.
What to do with this new found clarity? I buried my head in the sand and pretended the feelings weren’t there for six, maybe even 12 months until I decided that the creative forces I had suppressed since childhood needed to be confronted.
In my next post I will write about the process I went through to start making some serious decisions and provide some tips on how you can do the same. What motivates people to make a career change varies massively. Some people are at the end of their tether, seemingly trapped in a meaningless existence, others are more like me, simply sensing that something is not quite right. Whatever the circumstances, the tips and ideas I set out in my next post should help you massively.
I can’t disclose my name at the moment, but you can call me J, and I’m going to change me career at 40 years of age.
I can’t give you my name because not everybody knows about the change I’m making yet, except for the people closest to me. This nerve-wracking but very exciting change will officially happen a few weeks after my 40th birthday.
Where does this blog fit into that process? From a personal point of view, I would like it to form a record of my experiences; a way to reinforce the things that I am learning so that I can benefit most from my successes and failures.
More generally, my ultimate goal is that this blog acts as a resources for anybody that is either looking to make a career change at 40 and beyond or is in the process of making a career change. My hope is that it will be full of contributions and insights from people having these experiences both positive and negative so that we can plan the change in our careers with as much objective information as possible.
So please join me on this adventure by checking up on my posts and commenting.
For my next post I will be giving you a bit of background and explaining how reached the decision to change my career at 40 and beyond.