Embrace the Discomfort in Not Knowing Your Purpose Work

We are a culture of needing to know. Our society constantly asks us to know where we are going. What are our goals? What is our job title? What do we want for our future? Where did we come from? What did we learn?

A career transition, specifically to create purpose work, can create anxiety and discomfort. My advice is to go toward those feelings rather than away from them. Go toward the not knowing. The more you resist the not knowing the more the feelings of discomfort will persist. It will be a game of trying to create distraction rather than experience learning.

When I was going through my transition many moons ago, I recognized after a dear friend pointed it out how much I was avoiding feeling the discomfort. I was distracting myself by traveling, shopping, and focusing on others. What I was really doing was avoiding the feelings of not knowing where I was headed or what my future held for me.

Now, over a decade later and having coached 100s of people, I know that the NOT KNOWING is part of the journey and must be embraced to reach the breakthrough. There is always a breakdown before the breakthrough can happen.

When you are going toward purpose-driven work mid-career, you need to unlearn and re-member yourself. You need to have some discomfort before the comfort returns. It is the ebb and flow of life. If you need evidence look at nature to be your teacher. The trees drop their trees in Fall, stay naked in the Winter, blossom in the Spring, and show off their beauty in the Summer.

Here is the map I see with people in career transition:

  1. A whisper comes in of “I want more, I could do more.”
  2. A fear arises, “but how will I make a change?”
  3. A feeling of being stuck, “I want more, but I can’t make the change.”
  4. A dose of courage arises.
  5. Reaching out for help and/or naming it out loud.
  6. But, “what is it I want to do?” OR I have too many ideas.
  7. The DISCOMFORT of not knowing with a big dose of INNER CRITIC.
  8. Staying with the not knowing, allowing those feelings have space.
  9. Taking action.

There is a beautiful saying in the 12 step world. DO NOT GIVE UP BEFORE THE MIRACLE!

Here are my suggestions for dealing with the NOT KNOWING.

  • Get support.
  • Keep your support close.
  • Create space to have your feelings.
  • Do NOT believe your feelings.
  • Take action, baby steps preferably, no matter what.
  • Look for evidence that change is possible.


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