Over the course of business, career and personal life we all come to stages when we are dissatisfied, want growth or desire change. Decisions made at these times can have a profound effect on the course of one’s life.

We call these “Choice Points” because you have a choice in how you respond or capitalize on them. Awareness of how decisions in one area of your life affects all other areas can be complex. At a Choice Point you can move forward fully aligned, with confidence, or you can be reactive and become sidelined, resulting in a lifetime of consequences you may not want. You can settle for less, never knowing “what if,” or you can take control and strategically plan how you respond to the choice point so you build toward a better outcome. The internal or external circumstances leading to a career choice point are less important than how you approach it.

Standing Still: A Proactive Start

Instead of exiting a job dramatically, seeking a promotion with lots of over-zealous activity, or starting a new venture flailing about trying everything that the media says you should do, start by Standing Still. Standing Still is taking a breath, taking the discontent as opportunity to become more self-aware so you assess fully, listen to what the discontent is telling you and then, from that centered place opening to new possibilities that are right for you.

If you scramble and make change in a state of anxiety or desperation, the chances of your new life or work being truly satisfying are slim. If you make a desperate move it’s like treading water or losing ground. Instead, thoughtfully create steps that actually lead where you want to go. If you do nothing, you’ll be right where you are now.

Standing Still is taking a breath, taking discontent as an opportunity to become more self-aware.

Below are 5 suggestions to help you be proactive vs reactive to achieve the lasting change you desire. These suggestions are powerful and empowering.

They may seem counter-intuitive to many. Some employers, co-workers or family and friends may be up-in-arms at what I know works. I’m not suggesting you stop doing a good job at work. In fact, to the contrary, be professional, fulfill your responsibilities, but do it with self-awareness.

You may also be frustrated with the suggestion to slow down, stand still and do what I’m suggesting, in the eagerness to quickly get out of discontent. If you focus on these suggestions you may find yourself curious rather than frustrated.

Over the years these observations unearthed a common sense, as together my clients and I mapped the path that led each individual from where they were in their discontent to where they wanted to be. From looking for something “new” or “different,” “better use of my talents” or simply “a more rewarding work-life” (less often financially and more often emotionally, intellectually or relationship rewarding) to the deeper qualities, needs, self-expressive circumstances and supportive relationships that would truly nourish their work and thus, whole lives.

1. Listening to Discontent in a New Way

Learning to listen in a new way—from your elevated self, raising expectations of yourself, taking the time to get to know yourself, committing to become your best self—is the invitation of life. Discontent is just one of the messengers.

Learning to listen in a new way means listening from the inside, not outside.

It means listening inside, not outside. Listening not as a potential employer or business evaluator, but for the threads of unique creativity or excitement, the creative application of expertise and know-how, the ideas, time and energy that brought others profit, but did not necessarily rewarding the individual with more acknowledgement or career growth. When appropriate, this allows my coaching clients and I to see and hear what is important in a new way.

2. Preserve Your Time

To explore your discontent and do something new or different in your work-life, you will need to carve out some time. I know. You feel you have NO TIME. However, time is THE top commodity for all professionals; it’s the top commodity for any real and satisfying change. So be open to new ways you might manage your time wisely and preserve some for yourself.

I cannot specify just how much time you’re going to need for the particular career or life changes you desire or are working on. I simply encourage you to keep an open mind as you observe how you give away your time and you discover what kind of time boundaries you need to set.

Observe yourself with the aim to build in small changes necessary to make your career transition.

Now before you panic, and before I give you an example of preserving your TIME I want to talk about the 2nd secret which is conserving Your Energy. These two are often linked.

Here’s how it works.

3. Conserve Your Energy

Transformation—which is making those changes stick so they are deep and long-lasting—requires emotional and psychic energy. This kind of energy makes people think they are “doing nothing” or ”wasting time” but it’s often more draining than lots of busywork. Lasting change requires time.

Now no one else can see the energy required, but you’re going to need it. You are going to need time and space to think and envision, to sleep, dream, and rest. Probably while you keep your current work-life and figure out what you really need.

Change requires time. Transformation—which is making those changes stick so they are deep and long-lasting—requires emotional and psychic energy.

So start by noticing every place you give without being directly asked for help, or every time you over give when less is what’s required. People who are discontent are often over-achievers, giving more to others and neglecting their own needs. Like some of my clients who have practiced these suggestions, you are probably a great problem-solver, giver, fixer, and everyone around you lets you do it. You have to figure out if that’s what you want to be known for, if that’s what your identity is founded on.

4. Preserve Your Creativity

Conscious professionals use their creative ideas wisely. If you are discontent in your current work-life, it’s important that you learn when and how to share your creative ideas, innovations, solutions or insights.

I suspect that you have a deep-seated creativity that you simply take for granted. You may even be saying, “No Jan that’s not me,” but if we did a work-life overview (which I encourage you to do by the way) you’d probably list many ways in which you applied your creativity—again to helping others achieve their goals.

Right now you are discontented. I’m not suggesting you be withholding, simple make better choices about what you share. Preserve your ideas, solutions and creativity so you can learn from it as it bubbles up, so you find a good new home or outlet for it where it is truly welcomed, appreciated and rewarded.

5. Conserve Your Expertise

Maybe you don’t value or even think about the value of your expertise. Again expertise is a valuable commodity to be shared at appropriate times with the people who truly see and reward your contributions—versus squandering or hijacking them.

You’re probably like my clients many of whom give it away, they are not compensated for it; thus others don’t value you, they take you for granted, you end up resentful.

Many of those in management or director level positions make huge amounts of money for others and are not rewarded themselves. Some even practically run companies without being brought on as partners. They are greatly undervalued.

The challenge is to not give away all your “Goodies!” Your challenge is to do what is required—while you figure out what you really want to do—but to not give away all your goodies!

Write down all the ways you have freely helped others and note the cost benefit to them (it may be a person or a company) and the cost drain or loss to you (how were you compensated or taken for granted?)

Your expertise is valuable and can make you financially profitable if you put yourself first to figure out your new direction. From that place of clarity you will be a wise and valued contributor, leading in your work and life.

To successfully meet the pressures of today requires you, your life, and career to be seamlessly interconnected. We’ll partner with you during these times so you confidently land on the best possible outcome that connects your immediate choices with the whole-life future you envision. So you achieve more, with greater ease. So you move further and faster than ever before.

Dr. Jan Hoistad