Q. I'm very good at what I do, but I've been in the same field for about three decades. Everything I read, think and do revolves around my career. I like what I do but feel like I'm stagnating. Do I have to change careers to feel creative again?
A. No, but you have to find out who you are when you aren't your job description.
If we like our work, it's tempting to throw ourselves body and soul into our profession. We can end up eating, sleeping and breathing our career. Even if we don't become workaholics, we begin to forget that we are more than our job.
When I work with mature clients who are talented and passionate about their work, I can see they feel more like a human doing than a human being. Right about 50, they start to wonder if there is more to life than work. Right about 50, the career they love starts to feel stale around the edges -- and so do they.
I ask these clients to remember who they were before they went to work. What did they daydream about when they were younger? What were their hobbies? When they were children and time stretched out luxuriously in front of them, how do they spend that time?
Next I ask them what hobbies or interests fell away when they traded their toys for a BlackBerry. They are surprised to notice that, even when they like their work, they've had to significantly narrow themselves to fit into their job description.
Career stagnation can create an extraordinary career opportunity, if we let it motivate us to bring more of ourselves to our work. The restlessness we feel and the distracting thoughts about roads not traveled can give us a second wind.
The truth is we know the science behind what we do for a living. Some of my clients complain they could nearly do their jobs in their sleep. The opportunity available when we notice our careers feel stale is for us to discover the art behind who we are and what we do.
Imagine being a dancer who has been part of performing troupe for a couple of decades. You'd know the steps down cold, right? You'd probably also find this knowledge predictable, unchallenging and boring. Now what if you suddenly had the chance to continue to dance but also to become the choreographer?
Use your restlessness to bring more of who you really are into your work and watch yourself evolve into an artist designing the richest and most rewarding years of your career. Take the risk to make up your own steps and watch yourself and your job blossom.
The last word(s)
Q. You've said in your column that the way we dress and our body language has a powerful influence on how people treat us. I'm brilliant at what I do. Isn't it possible for most people to get past their first impression and see who we really are?
A. No, most people are not psychic and will see your suit, not your soul.
(C) 2009 Tribune Media Services, Inc.