Thursday, December 20, 2012

Midlife Crisis: Is This What I Wanted To Do in My Life?

The opportunities, diversity and quick growth which an IT industry provides have pulled many of us to seek a profession in this industry. You're a graduate or post graduate by the age of around 21 or 24. By the age of 31-34, you have sailed through the rough and tough waters of project life cycle for around 10 years, gathering a rich experience in managing the risk, keeping the commitments, interacting with clients, managing team etc. Such a journey would have definitely exposed you to your own strengths and weaknesses and made you aware of your capabilities. On the other hand, during this same journey, you’re well paid, got lucrative opportunities, well connected with people, have travelled across the world and by 31-34 you’re almost settled with Car-Kapada-and- Makaan (Car – Cloth – Shelter), which reflects the economic security you possess. But, in spite of all these things, somewhere, deep inside, there is an unsatisfied soul voicing – “I don’t like this job!”, “Is this what I wanted to do in my life?” reflecting a gradual pile up of the dissatisfaction and frustration over a period of time.

Before dwelling deep into the matter, understand that the same voice is silent while the other basic needs are not met. To make it clearer, say tomorrow, god forbid not, you lose your job!! You'll immediately keep aside all these questions on dissatisfaction and jump start to search for the same job! And this is true for everyone, not only for you.

Every human being fulfils his/her needs in a specific priority. The following simple diagram shows Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, proposed by an American psychologist Abraham Maslow:

Glance through the diagram to get a fair idea of what is happening with in you. Revisiting the problem definition, it is clear that the bottom three levels of needs viz., Physiological, Safety and Love/belonging are quickly fulfilled, particularly in the span of around those 10 years from 21 to 31 or 24 to 34.

The crux of the problem lies at 4th level, the Esteem, which covers – self esteem, confidence, achievement, respect of others, and respect by others. In the job held, the needs of Esteem are also fulfilled, in full or partially. It all depends on whether you like your job or not. If you like your job, then you'll be looking out for expansion and further growth and if not, then you’re struggling here, at this 4th level in your life.

The dissatisfaction or dislike or frustration might have crept in because -

1. It is a monotonous work life and growth opportunities are quite distant (further demotivating – as it takes time to get to next roles as we grow in the career ladder). You might just need a break from this and need to spend time on a different kind of roles and responsibilities (in the same industry or business).

2. It is a monotonous work life and you have lost the touch with the creative and expressive part of your-self. You might just need an out let to express your-self through a hobby.

3. You really don’t like the job or the domain or the industry of the job and want to break free of it and pursue your aspirations. And to put you in abyss, you might not know what your aspirations are!!

Most of the time it is option # 3 of breaking free from the job or job domain or industry which seems to be the true desire of the heart. But, matching to the same count, most of the times this turns out to be a superficial feeling. However, since this also being an inner voice, it can’t be ruled out just like that.
These are soul searching, life changing questions and hence we get struck for long time in getting answers for them. It calls for patience, introspection and exploration. There is no one-fit-for-all solution to this problem as this is quite personal matter.  A gradual change in the routine by picking up the new responsibilities in office, spending time on hobby, joining hobby groups would help in great deal. You can in parallel start noticing the difference in your productivity and the sense of job satisfaction. Also, start noticing, whether you really wanted to break free of this job or job domain or industry or it was just break you wanted or a desire to express yourself (hobby)? But, in spite of all these attempts and exploration, if the inner voice persists, then indeed it is not superficial feeling.

By now, during this journey of exploring yourself, you would have narrowed down the problem definition to option # 3. At this juncture, if you say –“I definitely don’t like the current job, but, I don’t know what to do!”, you still have things to explore within and there are plenty of personality tests available which help you in identifying your innate structure and what kind of jobs are suitable for you.

Remember, a job is not selected just for fulfilling the Esteem needs. It should be fulfilling our Safety and Love/belonging needs at first. As I wrote before - “Say tomorrow, god forbid not - you lose your job!! You'll immediately keep aside all these questions on dissatisfaction and jump start to search for the same job!” So, let us accept the existing job happily and then explore our inner voice with patience. I wish you a very happy journey in this exploration of your-self.

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