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Tips For Adulthood: Five Signs You Need To Change Jobs

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On occasional Wednesdays, I offer tips for adulthood.

I ran into a former colleague at a party recently. He told me that despite having a prestigious and well-paying job in the private sector, he felt that he needed to move on from his current job because he’s been wearing a “costume” to work for the past two years.

I could completely relate. At various points in my professional life, I have felt that I had to don a costume every day when I went to work because my job was not an authentic reflection of who I was or wanted to be.

One of the great things about the “new old age” is that we’re all living longer, offering us many more opportunities to envision mid-life as a time of self-realization, productivity and growth. So if you’re wrestling with whether or not it might be time for you to shift gears, here are five tell-tale signs you might want to act on that instinct:

You feel like you’re wearing a costume to work. See above. Note that this doesn’t mean that you have to hate your job. The first time I experienced the “costume” syndrome – back when I was an academic – there were aspects of my job I loved, including the amazingly talented and intelligent colleagues I worked with on a daily basis. But if it feels increasingly like you are pretending to be someone you aren’t at work – and the energy from that performance is exhausting you – then you need to think about how to channel that energy into a job search that can bring greater meaning and fulfillment.

You envy other people’s jobs. My husband and I have an expression for that feeling you get when you order something at a restaurant and then immediately regret it as soon as your dinner partner’s plate arrives. We call it “order envy.” Order Envy applies in the work world as well. I once ran into a friend who told me that he couldn’t wait for “Monday to start,” because there was so much to look forward to in his work week. At the time, I was experiencing something more like “Sunday Dread” about the five days that were to follow, so his cheerful enthusiasm felt like a knife through my soul. If you feel envy right now rather than relief that you don’t have that “Monday feeling,” you know that you are ready to look for a new job.

You feel suffocated when you get a promotion. A younger friend with whom I used to work invited me to coffee recently. She said that she needed some urgent career advice. Turns out, she’d just been given a promotion. “But isn’t that a good thing?,” I asked, naively. “No, it’s awful. I feel absolutely suffocated. Like because they’ve offered me more money and a better title, I can never leave now.” I, too, have experienced the “golden handcuffs” syndrome at points in my life. It was beautifully rendered in an episode of Friends where Chandler gets a promotion because he’s so good at his job and they want to give him an inducement to stay in the team. But instead of being thrilled, all he wants to do is to run for the door. Pay attention to those feelings; don’t ignore them. It’s a huge sign that you feel stuck in your job and need to emancipate yourself.

You look at job listings, even though you just started your job. Another dead give away. Of course, it’s possible that you only took your current job as a temporary measure. But if you’ve recently started a job that you convinced yourself was right for you, then you should be investing 100% in learning everything you can about that new job: how the company is structured…what’s actually required of your post…getting to know your new colleagues…the technology that’s used…the organizational culture, etc. etc. If, instead, you find yourself still out there wondering “What if?”, you’re doing the wrong thing.

You immediately apply for a short-term assignment outside your department. I work at a large, global organization that invests heavily in its employees’ professional development. Part of this is achieved through what’s called an “attachment scheme,” which is basically a way to enable people from different parts of the organization to work elsewhere on a short-term basis in order to learn new skills or deepen others. It’s a wonderful scheme – and really does facilitate life-long learning inside the workplace. (Other companies do something similar through short-term international assignments.) But I’ve noticed that some of the people who try and take advantage of the attachment scheme in my company have barely been there long enough to learn the job they were hired for in the first place. To me, that is a sign that they really need to change jobs.

How about you? What things have you experienced or observed over the years that told you that it was time to move on?

Image: Mask Carnival Venice Italy by Skeeze via Pixabay

 

Friday Pix: Recommended Reading For The Weekend

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On occasional Fridays, I point you towards some recommended reading around the blogosphere:

a. Regardless of your politics, this is a truly inspiring – and funny! – animation explaining the origin of President Obama’s “Fired Up! Ready to Go!” slogan.

b. At the other end of the spectrum, everyone will enjoy this hilarious video of real people reacting to (real) online dating messages.

c. John Seabrook’s account of his relationship to drinking in The New Yorker is absolutely beautiful.

d. I’ve only been to Germany a handful of times, but I loved this list of German faux pas. Watch out for that red man!

e. Nathaniel Edward Davis compiles a list of things he pretends that he’s read. Allen Ginsberg. Check.

f. I’m a huge fan of this new wellness website aimed at men – OlderBeast. Check out the post on how to eat natural peanut butter. Love it!

g. Finally, I was thrilled to be featured over on Sixty and Me with a guest post on five signs that you need an encore career.

Have a great weekend!

Image: Aditif makanan via Wikipedia

Tips For Adulthood: Five Ways Sibling Relationships Affect Your Development

SiblingsI was watching a high school production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat last month when I was suddenly overcome by a desire to leap out of my seat, jump on stage and start belting out “Any Dream Will Do” with the title character. 

And I suddenly thought: Who on this planet can possibly relate to this impulse to shed my middle aged composure and burst out in song?

And the answer was: my sister. She and I were raised on musical theater, have been to countless Broadway shows, and often communicate with one another via lyrics from our favorite show tunes. 

Sure enough, the next day – as soon as I told her (via email) where I’d been the night before – she responded with a choice lyric from Joseph…to which I replied in kind. 

We all know that sibling relationships are vitally important in shaping who we are and how we behave. Still, I find that I can’t read enough about the precise ways in which sibling dynamics (or the lack thereof) affect our development into adulthood.

Read the rest of this post over at Better After 50:

Image: Siblings via Wikimedia Commons

How Mindfulness Apps Energized My Morning Routine

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mindfulnessThere are few things I feel strongly enough about in life to champion their virtues to others: The New Yorker. My favorite films about politics. Pop Tarts for grown-ups. But of late, I’ve found that I’ve become an evangelist for something I would never have thought likely: mindfulness apps.

For those not in the know, “mindfulness” is one of the oldest forms of meditation and is rooted in the idea of being consciously aware of being “present” — both in yourself and in the world around you. It isn’t about ignoring your thoughts, but about acknowledging and accepting them (non-judgmentally), while focusing on what you are doing in that moment.

That can all sound very groovy and post-modern, but it’s actually a fairly profound change to how most of us approach our average emotional state, which (I’ll speak personally here) often veers from rampant introspection to frenzied existential flight. While the idea of being more present in our daily lives sounds like something Megan Draper might have given a spin on the verge of the 1970s, a mindfulness practice is very 2015, and I’m glad it is.

Read the rest of this post over at Thrive Global

Image: JohnHain via Pixabay

Friday Pix: Recommended Reading For The Weekend

White_House_DCOn occasional Fridays, I point you towards some recommended reading around the blogosphere

a. Tired of hearing about everyone else’s New Year’s Resolutions? Me too. But I really liked this list of five ways to make positive change in 2017 from Next Avenue, especially #5: slow down.

b. And speaking of positive thinking, I’m thrilled to be a contributor to Thrive Global. Over the holidays, they featured two of my posts: one on five self-help books that changed my life and one on swimming (and adulthood!).

c. As we wind down the Obama presidency, check out this fascinating account of what it’s really like to work in the White House, by those who did it.

d. Whatever your politics, you will also want to watch a final address from Obama’s anger translator.

e. Wordsmiths will love this tool, the wordmapper, which tells you who says what (i.e., “supper” vs “dinner”) in which regions of the U.S.

f. And, finally, those of us who would not so secretly love to move to Scandanavia should all learn these Swedish words. My personal favorite? Ghosta.

Have a great weekend!

Image: The White House via Wikimedia Commons

Friday Pix: Recommended Reading For The Weekend

On occasional Fridays, I point you towards some recommended reading around the blogosphere:

a. As an ex-political scientist, I thought that this piece in Slate on what political scientists got wrong about the 2016 election was spot on.

b. I was thrilled to learn about Arianna Huffington’s latest business endeavor, Thrive Global, a new website chock full of motivational essays, apps, training tools and more, whose tagline – “More Than Living: Thriving” – sounds just right to me. I will be contributing to Thrive as a writer but today I’m sharing a post I absolutely loved about deep reading.

c. As someone who blogs about adulthood, I’ve long been a fan of the website Full Grown People, that rare beast which dares to tackle long form personal essays online. Here’s a fantastic essay about what online dating is really like and how it doesn’t always have to be a trainwreck.

d. And for lighter fare, The Conversation UK had a great write up of the 2016 Bad Sex in Fiction Awards.

e. Finally, borrowing from my day job, this year’s winners of the World Bank’s CGAP Photography awards, depicting financial inclusion across the globe are absolutely breathtaking. Do check out the one labelled “Always with a Mother.”

Have a lovely weekend and a fantastic holiday season! See you in 2017!

Tips For Adulthood: Five Ways To Improve A Long Term Relationship

two gannetsOn occasional Wednesdays I offer tips for adulthood.

This week’s post goes to the heart of keeping a long-standing relationship going. If you’re in one – whether with a partner, a spouse or even a roommate – you know that over time, things can get a bit stale. You start having the same fights over and over. You start completing your partner’s sentences, in a way that breeds boredom rather than intimacy. You know – with agonizing specificity – exactly what the other person likes to eat for breakfast.

So it’s time to shake things up a bit. Change the routine. And also change the way you act towards the other person. You’ll be surprised how well it works. Here are five concrete suggestions for how to do this:

Read the rest of this post over on Better After 50….

Image: Northern Gannets by Al Wilson via Nature’s Pics Online 

Tips For Adulthood: Five Billy Joel Songs That Speak To Middle Age

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billy joelI’ve been listening to Billy Joel again. Yes, I say that loudly, proudly and unabashedly. If you grew up in the 1980s as I did, it’s pretty impossible *not* to be in love with Billy Joel. When “The Stranger” was released in 1977, it was all anyone listened to for several years.

My husband gets this. He’s the one who got me started on my new Billy Joel kick when, upon surfing the internet one day, he came across a series of videos where Billy not only performed a set of songs before a live audience, but also explained the meaning of the songs as he went through them. Side note to Billy Joel fans – (in case anyone who is *not* a Billy Joel fan has gotten this far into this blog post) – he doesn’t like Piano Man all that much…Sniff.

Particularly as I get older, I find that Billy Joel’s music speaks to me even more than it did back in junior high.To wit, five Billy Joel songs with particular resonance for middle age:

1. James – This song comes from one of Billy’s earlier albums, Turnstiles. It’s mostly a song about those early, intense friendships we have in childhood and adolescence that often dissipate as we grow up and choose different paths in life: “I went on the road. And you pursued an education…” I always feel incredibly sad when I hear the lyrics to this song, because it reminds me of the bittersweet, awkward feelings such relationships inspire, especially if you ever find yourself reunited with said friend and realize that you have very little in common anymore. But it’s also a song about regret, which is, for me anyway, one of the central emotions that we must learn to navigate in midlife. As Billy asks his erstwhile friend: “Do you like your life? Can you find release? Did you ever write your masterpiece?” Ouch. Most of us didn’t end up writing our masterpieces. But the song ends with some sage adulthood advice, encouraging James – and all of us – to follow our own dreams, not those set by others: “Do what’s good for you, or you’re not good for anybody.” So true.

2. New York State of Mind – Closely linked to regret is nostalgia, another inescapable feature of adulthood. I grew up in the tri-state New York area and while I’ve subsequently lived in many cities across many continents, there are a handful of Billy Joel songs that bring me right back to the place which, for me, will always be home: “I don’t care if it’s Chinatown or on Riverside…” For me, this song readily calls up the summer in college I spent living on Riverside Drive in an impossibly posh apartment one of my father’s friend managed to obtain for me and trying every bar in town…the numerous times my mother hauled all four of my siblings into the city to see previews of the original cast performances of shows like Evita, Annie and Sweeney Todd…the smell of pretzels mixed in with the city’s gritty streets. (Note to the super fans: if you want to see a truly miraculous Billy Joel moment, watch this video where he allows a very talented piano player from Vanderbilt University to spontaneously accompany him while he sings this song.)

3. Vienna -“Slow Down, you crazy child…you’re so ambitious for a juvenile...” Dear Lord, do I feel that this song was written for me. As someone who has lived much of her life at a gallop, I’ve had a very hard time learning that life is not a crew race, it’s more of a marathon. As Billy enjoins us: “Take the phone off the hook and disappear for a while.” So when I hear Billy sing this song, I always feel like it’s a sort of musical version of mindfulness practice.

4. I’ve Loved These Days. Another gem. This is ostensibly a song about people who’ve been overdoing it – living it to the hilt with drugs, sex and God knows what else – but knowing that very soon they’re going to need to stop their outrageous lifestyle and get real. (Sort of the Brideshead Revisited of pop music, if you will). But for me, it’s always been a song about break ups. About those terribly clear moments when you suddenly know that a relationship is over but you still want to squeeze whatever joy that you can out of the final hours/days/weeks together: “So, before we end, and then begin, we’ll drink a toast to how it’s been. A few more hours to be complete, a few more nights on satin sheets…” It’s a song about the inevitability of loss and recognizing that all good things must come to an end – another bittersweet reality of growing up. (n.b.: This was my high school’s senior prom theme, which makes it all the more touching.)

5. Allentown. An ode to all those middle-aged folks who once had a job and a company and a place in society where it all made sense. And now, their entire their lives have been upended (by globalization/by modernity/by the internet/by time/fill in the blank…) and they don’t know how to be anymore: “Well we’re waiting here in Allentown for the Pennsylvania we never found. For the promise our teachers gave, if we worked hard, if we behaved…” In the year of the angry white voter, this song could be ripped straight outta 2016.

How about you? Do you dare to own your secret passion for Billy Joel and, if so, which are your favourite tunes?

Image: Billy Joel by David Shankbone via Flickr

Friday Pix: Recommended Reading For The Weekend

On occasional Fridays, I point you towards some recommended reading around the blogosphere:

a. I’m big on regret as a central theme of adulthood. Here’s a handy list of 15 things you’ll regret when you’re older. Learning a second language is a biggie for many of my friends.

b. And as a big believer in mindfulness, I really enjoyed this detailed, step-by-step instruction on how to prepare a cup of tea…mindfully.

c. If you’re into data visualizations – and sewers – I thought this historical trip through London’s sewers by The Guardian was amazing.

d. I’m a huge Leonard Cohen fan and loved this posthumous tribute to Leonard Cohen in The New York Times. Even better is Cohen’s acceptance speech upon finally winning a Grammy.

e. Finally, whatever your political preferences, you’ll enjoy this BBC’s round up of Biden and Obama memes about the Trump Presidency.

Have a fantastic weekend everybody!

Friday Pix: Recommended Reading For The Weekend

On occasional Fridays, I point you towards some recommended reading around the blogosphere:

a. Regardless of how you feel about the outcome of this week’s U.S. Presidential election, Thomas Mallon’s fictional take on 2016 in The New Yorker is, hand’s down, the best thing I’ve read about this electoral season.

b. Also on the election, The Financial Times had a superb piece on how to re-visualize the U.S. electoral map, while the New York Times had a fantastic rendering of what swing states look like from space.

c. For all my expat friends out there, here’s a great piece from Global Geneva on what it’s like to be a trailing spouse.

d. And while we’re on the subject of marriage, Bloomberg explores the economics of dining as a couple. Personally? I favor autarky.

e. Finally, I thought I’d end with 15 brutally honest illustrations that sum up adulthood. This week, #9 about how long it really takes to get to Friday, has particular resonance.

 

And on that note, Happy Friday! Have a great weekend…