It started to happen in those ‘in-between’ years of my late thirties. I was not young, not yet middle-aged, climbing the ladder, ambitious and high achieving. Corporate life was hard, but I felt the payoffs were satisfactory – good money, status and intellectual challenge.

 

But the voice whispered at me from time to time. It wondered why I wasn’t fulfilled. Why true satisfaction alluded me.

 

My trajectory didn’t waver. The next goal would be accomplished; the next role, pay rise, promotion. It satisfied my ambition and the voice was silenced. For a while, at least.

After a tough few years, on the cusp of burnout, I took a job to escape another. Instead of joy and excitement for a new challenge, I felt flat; indifferent. I continued to ignore the voice and couldn’t understand why I felt the way I did.

 

Instead, I approached things as I always had – problem solving, working hard, long hours. I worked with amazing, talented and hilarious colleagues. We were in the thick of it together, but I still felt the disconnect no matter how hard I worked.

 

Then the pandemic came. The hours were longer, the work harder and don’t even get me started on the home schooling shit show, but I was forced to listen. The voice returned in the quiet evenings. After the flurry and panic of the initial days locked away, I felt relief – and wondered if that was normal.

 

“What if you want something more, something different?” The questions came thick and fast. I wrestled with them. The answers weren’t so free flowing.

I remembered saying to a friend around that time that I thought my ambition had disappeared. It turns out I was ambitious for a different life and career. I was longing for time with my children, a slower pace, more personal fulfilment.

 

Wrapped up in my job was others’ expectations, status anxiety, deep-seated worry about financial security. Those all needed to be addressed before I could decide what I wanted, and it took time.

 

Everyone knows change is hard. But listening to my instincts was harder, and I wish I had been able to sooner.

If that sounds a bit like you as we emerge from a tough couple of years, try answering these three questions:

 

  • What would you do if you couldn’t fail?
  • What would you do if money was no object?
  • What’s the worst that could happen if you listen?
  • Take your time. Listen. Act when you’re ready.

This article was written by career coach, Claire Vivyan Roberts.