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November 6, 2012
Change is Good; Only You Can Make It
 
Autumn is my favorite season. I appreciate the progression of it all, the evolution that takes place: leaves turning, kids back to school, the excitement of holidays to come. This year, to top it all off, MEC has recently undergone a powerful and modern rebranding that has been inspiring to see and even better to be a part of. 

But change can be overwhelming. Most dread getting out of a comfort zone, entering the unknown, exerting the effort to think and explore. Some feel trapped, as if they have no other options. Others just seem to prefer judging a situation rather than solving for it.

There are times when change is not just necessary, but imperative. How do you know when it’s time for a change in your career? How do you start preparing?

Some of the truest triggers are quite simple: Happiness versus sadness; energy versus complacency; work/life integration versus imbalance. While triggers can vary, typically there’s one obstacle to change that looms large: fear. Fear is natural and makes change difficult, but it’s far from impossible to overcome. Another obstacle is lack of focus: you know you’re unhappy and need to make a change, but the mix of your own ideas and your friends’ and family’s suggestions may cloud your vision. In this instance, it’s much easier to back away from a solution or follow what others recommend.

The first step to meaningful change is the harsh realization that no one can make you happy except you. People can suggest that change is necessary to better one’s situation, but until that person knows it, until that person decides it’s time and he or she wants change to happen, nothing will happen. Mindset is the most critical step to ushering change. Without the sincere commitment to evolve oneself, it is rare that you will ultimately be happy with the end result. It’s a mindset not only of commitment, but of growth as well. Evolve into a better individual as a result of action. Focus on getting better, not on getting by.

Once you are in a committed frame of mind, fully ready for change, how should you approach it? Remember this simple question and let the response pave the way: What do YOU want?

Define happiness on your terms. What makes you happy? What are you passionate about? What frustrates you? If you can’t answer these questions, it’s highly likely you’re unsure of what you’re truly seeking. If you can’t define success, you’re not ready to make a change. Inner reflection is key to establishing a purpose. Without that purpose, wheels spin, directions muddy, circles are run, and you go nowhere.
 
Run to something, not from something. The main crux of change cannot simply be hating one’s current job and needing to “get out,” although when in the heat of the moment, that’s a very attractive option. Getting angry leads to losing some control over a situation, potentially not thinking as rationally as one could. Crystallizing your responses to the questions above is critical. Without guideposts to meet, one simply runs risking a rash decision or worse, running into a similar situation further down the line.
 
Learn from your mistakes. It is futile to keep repeating how negative your situation seems to be. When it occurs constantly, whether across one or different jobs, that’s basically a colossal waste of time. If you’re continually mad or bored, do something about it. What bores you? Better yet, what energizes you? Be cognizant of what you find troublesome to ensure it doesn’t enter into the next stage of your career. Learn from your mistakes and apply that learning to new challenges.
 
Take reality checks and see the bigger picture. It’s easy to think that because you are organized, you should start your own closet organizing business. Wouldn’t that be great? No boss, no rules, just going to people’s houses and organizing closets. And maybe that will end up to be a fruitful career choice, but hold on and stay grounded. Remember the responses to the questions above. Do you have the mindset, the skills and desire to navigate this path? Beware of embarking down roads without understanding your full picture and having no purpose; it will only result in discouraging you from what may make you truly happy.
 
Here’s the reality: if you’re unhappy, then only YOU can begin to change. Fear is understandable when it comes to breaking out of a comfort zone, but ultimately you cannot shy from it: change is necessary at one time or another and can be good. Constant complaining and worrying propels you nowhere. Get in a committed frame of mind, have a clear purpose, and then set upon a course of action to better yourself. It starts with and is up to you.

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Christine Stack joined the media agency MEC in 2011 as Senior Partner, Director-Talent Acquisition; in that role, she is responsible for the creation, development, and delivery of strategies to attract and retain senior-level talent at the agency across North America. She is also a key member of MEC’s Talent executive committee. 
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