2021: a year of (unplanned) change

2021: a year of (unplanned) change

All my life I have been a great believer in the power of planning. Having a goal or objective and working out the steps required to achieve that goal and then carrying out the steps which will lead to the desired outcome. You would think by this point I would have realised that in real life that is rarely the case and that the complexities of the world around me would interfere in some way but no, I still believe deep down that you plan and you execute. 

So I find myself slightly perplexed as I reflect on the last year and the changes that have happened in my life. There have been some pretty big ones – we moved house and recently I’ve made quite a dramatic job change. And the biggest surprise is that they were almost totally unplanned. I say almost because they were things that I’d thought about and were most definitely on the horizon it was more a case of a situation presenting itself and deciding to embrace the opportunity in front of me. 

The house move was something we knew was on the cards at some point but there was no specific plan. We just happened to keep looking occasionally and then happened to see something which we happened to go and look at and before you know it we’ve sold our house bought this one and moved in. It probably wasn’t the ideal way to go about it timing wise but to my horror nothing dreadful happened, despite it not being carefully planned. In fact, quite the opposite. I’m over the moon that we moved when we did and love our new home, and couldn’t be happier that we took the plunge, even if it has been, at times, pretty stressful and relentless. 

Changing my job was a bit more challenging for me to get my head around. I won’t bore you with the details but whilst I haven’t left the firm I work for I have moved into a very different type of job in a different division, leaving behind the 15 years worth of experience I had doing my previous role. Well, okay, so obviously I bring all of that experience with me but crucially I’ve let go of working towards a big promotion which had largely been my motivation for the last few years. That was hard. Not just because of the uncertainty of what might lay ahead but because I’m scared that people will judge me, will think that I gave up. 

The reality of the situation is that in this particular case there are many factors outside of my control and I was tired of measuring my success against a constantly moving yardstick. The problem with tethering your self worth to something controlled by someone else is that not achieving it brings an undeserved sense of failure which can be extremely damaging. Over the years I’ve carried so much frustration and anger towards things I could do nothing to change and I realised this needed to stop. 

One thing that made this shift possible for me was the work I did with a wonderful executive coach, who really helped me to understand my drivers and motivation and what is fundamentally important to me. Whilst the external validation of promotions and professional recognition are great what’s more important to me is feeling like I’m moving forward, learning and being challenged. That means using my brain to do new things, not staying in the same place waiting for someone to pat me on the back. Having realised this, however, I still couldn’t quite bring myself to actually look for another job. Luckily at what turned out to be just the right time, a totally unexpected opportunity presented itself to do something very different and so far, is ticking all the boxes of being interesting, challenging and intellectually satisfying.

What strikes me as I look back on the last year is that what has turned out to be probably a much better longer term move was not the result of meticulous multi-year planning but rather being open to change when it came along. I was, however, in a position to assess the opportunity because of the time I spent trying to work out what really mattered to me. If I hadn’t done that, it would have been much harder to evaluate whether this change would be aligned to what would make me feel fulfilled in the longer term. Honestly, this all comes as a bit of a surprise to me as it generally just really irritates me when people imply they just happened to be in the ‘right place at the right time’ and so on. 

I’m not trying to suggest that from now on I will be throwing caution to the wind and just ‘seeing what happens’ (good grief) but rather I feel more confident that as situations present themselves to me that I am in a good position to be able to assess and evaluate and react more intuitively from my own sense of direction. Let’s see what comes along in 2022. 

I did a six-month engagement with the wonderful Rob Yeo at RYLN Coaching rylncoaching.com

By Clair Grayston

person who writes stuff, makes stuff, plays stuff

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