You know the feeling. You aren’t unhappy, but you aren’t ecstatic. You don’t dread going to work, but you linger longer than usual on that second (or third) cup of coffee before you head to the office. You wouldn’t say you are bored, but something is definitely off.
Your instincts tell you to shake things up and get out of this rut.
Expand Your Comfort Zone: Steps for Change
We are all, to some extent, creatures of habit, but sometimes habit is the thing that’s weighing you down. If you know intuitively that it’s time to do something different with your practice or your career, then it probably makes sense to alter your routine. Do you need to develop a new practice area, retire an old standby, find a new position, get a different office? Any of these changes will likely require doing something different. Here are some ways to get started in making a change.
Do the background work. You don’t want to start a new area of practice — or retire an old one — on a whim.
- Make sure that you do ample research on new areas of interest, and calculate the financial and relationship costs of letting go of an existing area.
- Be realistic in your thinking. Understand that it requires time to ramp up anything new, so get clear about what you need to do beforehand to keep resources coming in.
- Know the size of the change you want to make. Is this a tweak, or an all-hands-on-deck change in direction? The bigger the move, the more you need to prepare, and the longer it will take to be productive in your new direction. Plan accordingly.
Give yourself some time, but keep moving. Change is hard, but unless you devote a certain amount of time to working on your new direction, you will be in the same place a year from now.
- Calendar specific hours each week to focus on your new opportunity. Your calendar is probably already full, so just accept that you will have to give something up to get something else.
- Start from the desired end date and plan in reverse. If you know that you want to be somewhere else in, say, six months, then put the desired outcome on the appropriate day on your calendar and plan backward to today. It will give you a more realistic perspective on the steps you must take to get there by the predetermined date.
Get your network re-energized. Having friends and other professionals with whom you can talk about needed change is a must.
- Focus on trusted advisors who are not competitors and who are willing to keep your considerations confidential.
- Seek referrals to people who have made significant changes — particularly those who didn’t seek exactly the shift you are going for.
- Ask for advice, input and detailed information about what worked for them, what was difficult and how they kept the momentum going.
If you are going to get out of your comfort zone, you have to embrace the accompanying discomfort. Any time you start something new, or abandon the familiar, you have to anticipate feelings of awkwardness and anxiety.
Just remember that discomfort is a necessary part of change and that, ultimately, it can be energizing. That said? Get started!
Wendy Werner is a career and executive coach and practice management consultant for lawyers and professional services firms, as well as an award-winning photographer. She writes the Careers column for the ABA’s Law Practice magazine. Wendy has a master’s degree in Personnel Administration and Counseling from Indiana University, and served as Assistant Dean of Career Services at Saint Louis University School of Law. Find her at Werner Associates, LLC.