You have reached an inflection point in your career. And now?

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Inflection points – life and now? moments — appear frequently in our professional and personal lives. They can result from difficulties, such as when we unexpectedly lose a job or are forced to deal with a chronic illness, or as a result of exciting new opportunities. Regardless of the catalyst, transition points can feel threatening. Research suggests that typical reactions range from avoiding the problem by withdrawing or postponing to instinctive pivots or looking for quick fixes.

Examining our initial reaction to destabilizing change invites us to explore the possibilities that exist beyond our initial impulse. It requires having the humility to recognize that even the most well-trained and talented among us can become uncertain, unstable, and reactive when operating in unfamiliar terrain. Developing a practice of pausing to regulate, rejuvenate and redirect before reacting can counteract the response to the threat and help us be more curious and creative in the face of and now? moments, even when we don’t know what’s coming next.

Nine months after returning from parental leave, Anne, who had built a successful management career in Silicon Valley, was considering whether to quit. She worked for a company that was proudly committed to supporting working parents, and she had a committed and active husband and mother who cared for children. Yet despite the support, the growing sense that thriving in one area meant neglecting the other left Anne feeling stuck: “I was afraid I couldn’t get back into the workforce — that I glorified the grass on the other. aside when, in reality, I might feel isolated, lonely, or stigmatized as “just a stay-at-home mom” in our Silicon Valley bubble. For Anne, the choice to stay or go was both obvious and impossible.

Ashley, a rising star in sales leadership at a global design company, faced a similar dilemma with a different set of priorities at play: stay in the job she loved or focus on a business full-time. entrepreneurial. “I started something with my mom and my sister,” she shared in a chat. “It was really a side concert, but I wanted it to become something more.” Ashley was conflicted. Commitments at the crossroads of her career, a passion project with high potential and a very active family life led her to struggle to find a way to give the best of herself in three areas at once.

For Anne and Ashley, competing priorities created a turning point that required more than just course correction or choosing a path. Instead, they stood on the threshold of uncharted territory with no map or compass to guide them.

Inflection points – life and now? moments — appear frequently in our professional and personal lives. They can stem from hardship, like when we unexpectedly lose a job or are forced to deal with a chronic illness, or as in Anne and Ashley’s cases, following exciting new opportunities. Whatever the catalyst, transition points can feel threatening, especially when our identity and self-direction are challenged. Research suggests that the typical disjunction reactions we feel when we find ourselves at an impasse and don’t know how to proceed range from avoiding the problem by backing off or postponing, to instinctive pivots or looking for quick fixes. .

Examining our initial reaction to destabilizing change invites us to explore the possibilities that exist beyond our initial impulse. It requires having the humility to recognize that even the most well-trained and talented among us can become uncertain, unstable and reactive when operating in unfamiliar terrain. Developing a practice of pausing to regulate, rejuvenate and redirect before reacting can counteract the response to the threat and help us be more curious and creative in the face of and now? moments, even when we don’t know what’s coming next.

Regulate

Feeling lost or uncertain can lead to emotional responses that prevent us from focusing creatively on the challenge at hand. Much research suggests that tempering our emotions in the face of interruptions and disruptions is both possible and beneficial if we have the resources to do so. Develop an intentional practice of rigorous self-awareness and self-regulation before a and now? moment can help us prepare by feeling less panicked and more in control before the inevitable happens.

Start by remembering the last time you faced instability. Maybe you’ve been passed over for a promotion, or you’ve been offered a fantastic opportunity at another company. Did you react emotionally? Avoid making a decision? Rushing to judgment without all the facts? Examining past behavior can help you identify where you might avoid risks or succumb to knee-jerk reactions in the future.

Resource

No matter how self-aware, well-regulated, and experienced we are, each transition point is unique. This is why plans and processes that work well in stable times often fail in times of uncertainty. Taking the time to assess the new landscape can help us shift our focus from the threat of the unknown to investigation as we enter uncharted territory.

It is essential to draw up a careful inventory of the resources available to respond well to the emerging situation, even when time is of the essence. This may include emotional resources, such as access to coaching or therapeutic services, material resources such as funding, or social resources through professional or personal networks. Identifying where these resources are abundant and noting where they are lacking can lead to concrete action (resource gathering) or serve as a creative prompt (how could we proceed without certain resources?) depending on the circumstances. Either way, the focus on identifying and gathering resources grounds us in action without requiring firm decisions before we’ve had time to orient ourselves in the new terrain.

Redirect

Deliberately creating a learning space at a point of disruption can help move from a problem-solving mindset to a discovery mindset as we step into uncharted territory. Although it may seem counter-intuitive to people who have been rewarded for their decision, engaging in a process of meaning-making – observing the contours of new terrain, clarifying where we are and where we hope to go, and identifying options and possibilities – rather than rushing to pivot or making firm choices can help us reorient ourselves in the midst of changing circumstances.

For some, that means capturing those observations on a wall full of post-it notes; for others, an electronic whiteboard, list or spreadsheet. The particular method is less important than committing to a fearless and thorough examination of relevant aspects of emerging circumstances as a way of integrating ideas and uncovering potential paths to follow in the wake of the what now? moment. These ultimately become the map and guide for navigating the new terrain, which can lead to more creative and context-appropriate responses.

To respond

Even in the most turbulent times, calming emotions and developing a practice of inquiry and exploration helps us move actively from impulsiveness to creative problem solving. Taking the time to regulate, rejuvenate and reorient can help us formulate new ways to approach uncertainty – ways that take into account the unique opportunities and challenges that exist in the given situation. It can also help spark a new perspective on who we are in times of change, how we respond, and how we might chart a new course, even when it’s uncomfortable.

For Anne, it meant choosing to quit her job and experience what it was like to be a mother first. Five years of exploration and experimentation later, she has no regrets. She is comfortable exploring who she is becoming, who is a visual artist. Ashley followed a different path. After engaging in a process of regulation, resourcing, and redirection, she responded by presenting her dilemma to her leadership team, and they worked together to incorporate her passion for community service into her position. Four years later, she is still working in the business she loves in a way that meets her desire for service and the needs of her young family. The stories of the two women underscore the paradox and potential of modern working life – walking in opposite directions, yet equally self-sufficient and content with the journey.

The key to navigating the unknown is to rethink our relationship with change and recognize that and now? moments can be an invitation to seek and explore rather than a threat. It means recognizing that new circumstances can cause us to freeze or react without thinking, and that our first impulse is something we can temper with mindfulness and practice. The steps we have suggested can help us view inflection points as opportunities to reflect on our commitments, review our priorities, and course-correct if necessary. Learning to do this is a professional and personal development imperative in times of uncertainty and change.

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