Episode #30 - You’re Allowed to Change Your Mind
Hey there, and welcome back to the podcast! Today I want to talk about giving yourself permission to change your mind. Particularly when it comes to your career. I want you to understand why it's important to normalize the idea, get comfortable with it and embrace it. Because knowing you can change your mind whenever you want can actually give you so much freedom and alleviate a lot of stress around making decisions about your career.
This is important because most of us in midlife were raised with the idea that success equals longevity. Meaning that the longer we stayed with something, the more we demonstrated our ability to be responsible, dependable, trustworthy, and committed. Right? For example, many of us were raised to find a job with a good company, climb that ladder to the top and then retire. And so many of us dutifully followed that plan, even when the market crashed in 1987 and companies started laying off long-term employees. Or even in 2000 and 2008, when the market hit another low and the gig economy, consultants and freelance workers began to become the norm in organizations. Even then, we Boomers and many Gen X'ers followed that same script. On the other hand, millennials don't seem to equate success with longevity.
In a report by Career Builder, they found that Boomers will stay in a role on average eight years and three months, Gen X for five years and two months, while Millennials and Gen Z won't stay in any one role for longer than about 2.5 years. So the idea of not being able to change your mind about your career decisions is clearly something those of us in midlife have a problem with, and that's why I want to address it today.
We've been conditioned to the idea of staying put and not changing our minds since childhood. Remember when you were dying to take gymnastics or play an instrument, or sports or whatever was your hobby of choice, and about a quarter or halfway through, you changed your mind and wanted to quit? It wasn't an option. Right? You were told that you had to stick with it, that you couldn't quit, and frankly, it didn't matter if you didn't like it anymore or weren't happy; once you start something, you have to see it through. You didn't want to be labeled a quitter or failure or deal with what others would think about you if you changed your mind.
Hell, it wasn't even acceptable for you to just change your mind unless you had a "good reason." Like not wanting to do it wasn't good enough. Not liking it or not being happy wasn't good enough. So we've been conditioned to stick it out and stay put no matter what. That's one of the reasons, so many women in midlife are miserable and in unfulfilling careers.
I played volleyball all four years in high school. I started playing in my senior year, but early on, I decided I didn't want to play anymore. I wanted to do something else; in fact, I wanted to be in a school musical because I love that kind of stuff, but I couldn't do both because of my practice and game schedule. So I quit the team. To everyone around me, it was a crazy decision. My coach called me a quitter, and some teammates stopped speaking to me because they felt I had let them down. They wondered how I could change my mind in what felt like the 4th quarter of the game. But it made sense to me, and that's all that really mattered. It actually was something that had been on my mind for a while, but I struggled with changing my mind. In the end, I tried out for that musical (it was a production of Oliver, by the way), and I landed a part with a solo. And I'm so happy I did it. It was such an amazing experience, and what a wonderful gift I gave to myself, all because I changed my mind.
You may have also received messages growing up that changing your mind is unacceptable. They may have been couched in phrases like you don't know what you like, or don't know what's best for you, or that sticking with things even though you don't like it builds character and prepares you for life. As a result, we grow up believing that joy, happiness, and fulfillment have nothing to do with our work or responsibilities. And these lessons we learned in childhood shaped our perspective and perception of what's possible for us in adulthood. Or really, what's realistic for us in adulthood.
So if you got the message to "tough it out" and "stick with it," the idea of being able to change your mind may feel foreign and unavailable to you. And if that's the case, making decisions may horrify you because you believe that once a decision is made, there's no going back.
But the truth is we can change our minds. AND…we can change our minds at any time. I mean, we change our minds as a society all the time. We change our minds on fashion and style (remember how women wore hats and gloves everywhere in the 40s), and we change our minds on medical practices and procedures (remember leeches and blood letting). We change our minds on technology (remember Blackberry's).
We change our minds as we grow, learn, and gain additional experience and information. Think about it; you've probably changed your mind more than once on your favorite food, drink, hairstyle, friends, relationships, marriages, and, yes, even your careers. Remember what you were doing at 20? My guess is you're not doing it now.
But because of the messages we received around changing our minds or the negative connotation around quitting, we've made it mean something more than it is. We've made it means something about who we are as a person or our decision-making capabilities or that we made some type of horrible mistake.
We create a problem where there is no problem. In our minds, we think we shouldn't want to change. We shouldn't have to change. We shouldn't want something else. We shouldn't want to go after another career. We should stay put because that's the responsible thing to do and changing our minds is wrong. So we should suck it up, stick it out, and stay put.
But what if there is NO problem. What if nothing has gone wrong. What if you didn't make a mistake. That's what I want you to see. That changing your mind just means you decided to make a different choice from the one you previously made. That's all.
What if you're allowed to be intentional about what you want to do in your life. That you can intentionally choose to stay or leave in every aspect of your life.
You get to weigh all of your options and make the best choice for you. That means if you said you would take a position, but something in your gut is telling you it's not the best move right now, you can change your mind.
That means if you started a new position and two months in, you realize, even after all your research and due diligence, it's really not the right place for you, you can change your mind.
That means if you say you want to quit your job and later decide you want to stay, you can change your mind even though you told everyone you know you want to leave.
That also means if you earned multiple degrees and spent 20 years in a career that no longer fulfills you and now you want out and do something new, you can change your mind.
I've worked with clients in each of these scenarios. It's not uncommon for clients to come to me because they feel unhappy and conflicted about whether or not they want to stay in their current role or career. But after going through the discovery phase of the program, they gain greater clarity around who they are and what they want, gain skills on how to manage their mind, and gain more confidence and find their voice, and then as a result of all of that, they begin to feel different about their current job. They start to show up differently, are treated differently, and then they change their minds and decide to stay.
Or they may have thought they wanted to start a new business, but a recruiter called with an incredible offer, and again after learning more about who they are and the vision they have for their lives, they change their minds and pursue the offer.
Now what's interesting to me is that sometimes when that happens, I watch my clients get filled with shame or guilt about coming to me with one idea of where they wanted to go and then changing their minds. They wonder if they're settling or letting fear take over. They're looking for a problem, when there is no problem…they just changed their mind. After gaining more understanding of self and learning new strategies and tools, they realized that maybe it wasn't the job or career; it was them. Once they learn to manage their stress and anxiety, or stop feeling like a victim and start owning their agency, where they currently are, isn't that bad.
In fact, one of my clients went from wanting to quit her job to getting a 6-figure retention bonus, all because she got clearer on what she wanted and changed her mind.
My program is called the Career Rebel Academy, and some women read that to mean that they have to do something radical or have to change careers to be a part of this program. But what I tell women, what the Career Rebel Academy is all about, is about you finding clarity around the career and life you want. To overcome any of the limiting beliefs that will keep you from a career and life you love. If that means discovering something new and making a pivot or transition, that's fabulous, but that can also mean staying put or remaining on your current career path; that's equally fabulous. The key is having the clarity to make career decisions that are right for you. And guess what, if you decide to stay and then change your mind in six months and decide that now's the time to leave, that's ok too, because you're making intentional, thoughtful choices about what you want to do. As I say, it's about putting you in the driver's seat.
The more you can allow yourself the freedom to experiment, try new things, grow, learn, gain awareness and change your mind; as a result, the less stressed you'll be about exploring different options and making a decision. You also won't feel trapped by your choices because you think there's no way out.
Listen, even if you think, "but I made a decision based on clarity, and now I'm still changing my mind," that's ok too. Whether it's a gut feeling or you got your hands on some new intel, you're allowed to change your mind. It's not a problem; there's no flaw in you or your decision-making abilities; you simply decided to change your mind.
In episode 28, I talked about how to regret-proof your decisions. I gave you some suggestions there, but I want to share that episode 29, running career pilot studies, and this episode on allowing yourself to change your mind are two additional steps to regret-proofing your career decisions. When you look at every decision as an intentional choice made with the information at hand, even if you decide to make a different choice, it's still an intentional decision made with the information at hand. So you can call it changing your mind, or you can just call it decision-making.
Whether deciding to change your outfit for an event or changing your decision around a recent career choice, there's nothing wrong; you're not being flaky; it's all ok; it's all your choice.
There will probably be some uneasiness or discomfort, but that's just because your brain is bringing up all of those old messages about changing your mind or quitting. Don't be alarmed. There's also the possibility that you're closing out one chapter and embarking on a new one, and it's ok for there to be some sadness or grief around letting go of something that's served you well.
I am going to do an episode on embracing discomfort. It's something I'm constantly learning how to do and embracing as I continue to grow and develop. The more I see it as what's supposed to happen and as a natural part of my journey, as opposed to this horrible thing I'm going through or why me, the better able I am to level up in my life, to experience even more joy, and to be open to even greater opportunities. I want to share that with you and how shifting your perspective on discomfort can really change your life.
So, as usual, if you want support figuring out what's next for you and how to make decisions that are right for you without the fear that you'll be trapped by that decision or can't change your mind, then I want you to join me the Career Rebel Academy. We'll work deeply together over six months and figure out what's important to you, what's right for you, and what the next chapter of your life looks like. Even if you decide to stay put, you'll do it in a new and different way. So I'd love for you to join us at www.carolparkerwalsh.com/career-rebel-academy and use this summer as a jumpstart for figuring out what you want from the rest of the year.
Alright, Rebels, that's all I have for you today, and that's a wrap on Season 3. We're going to take a little break, and then we'll see you back again in August for Season 4.
In the interim, check out the show notes for links to some freebies and upcoming events, and make sure you're getting my newsletter, the Sunday Brunch, which comes out obviously every Sunday. It's a digital newsletter for the professional career woman in midlife. It keeps you in the know of the latest information and career trends for your professional and personal well-being. You can also follow me on your favorite social media channels. I'm most active on LinkedIn, Instagram (come by and say hi), as well as Pinterest, and YouTube.
Until next time, Rebels, I want you to have an amazingly rebellious week and summer!