The eternal question - am I doing the right thing; am I going in the right direction?

How do you know when to make a change in your career? How can you work out if you're doing the right thing? Incubation is the time of realignment in your life - don't rush it, but do get active.

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I’m just back from six weeks of travel, three of which was coaching in Nepal. What an experience - I was so impressed with the young women I met there and the speed with which they set up their lives. 

The urgency for change is inevitably high when a young woman is expected to be married and looking after her in-laws by the age of 28, as well as working and raising kids. With all that to face so early on in life, the question of where you are going becomes really important. There isn’t time for mistakes or changes because by the time you’re married the stage is set. 

In the West, however there is time to have another go and try out something completely different. When I interviewed people for my book, The Psychology of Success, I found that the ones who got most out of their lives went with the occupation that excited them most at the time. They didn’t just carry on when the shine had worn off, they looked out for the next opportunity. They worked really hard at each job, but never limited themselves to one option. 

It’s easy to feel limited

I can write that quite calmly, but I know how easy it is to feel urgent for change while believing you have no choice, even when you know you’re in the wrong place. 

It’s also easy to feel the limitation of skill and training. Having spent years learning a specific skill, it’s a real challenge to say ‘I got it wrong; I don’t want to do this anymore.’

However, if you see yourself as having the option for more than one career, then the pressure to get it right first time reduces. Whatever you long to do now – do it. And be ready to change if your enthusiasm wanes.    


Dissatisfaction  is a real spur to action. Feeling urgent or frustrated makes you think and review - just like those young women in Nepal. Without that, you'll stay in your comfort zone - after all, who bothers to analyse happiness - we just go with it! 

So if you’re unsure or dissatisfied with your career or life right now, it could be the best thing to happen to you. And it probably means you're in incubation. 

Incubation is the time full of confusion that precedes any major change. You don’t know what you need to do, you just know something isn’t right. Not knowing can feel really uncomfortable, but you’ll be reviewing where you are in your career; contemplating options; looking for opportunities. You’ll also be exploring your deepest values, desires and dreams. 

Adjust your thinking and see incubation as it truly is – caterpillar to butterfly – and the doors will start to open. 

Take hold of your incubation phase

You’ll get through incubation more effectively and quicker if you’re active about your internal change. Contemplate the following questions, then let them rest in the back of your mind as you go about your day:

  • Consider your present situation: what you enjoy and don’t enjoy and how it’s affecting your life. Get into detail and see where you have the option for change. Work on the basis that the only person you can guarantee changing is yourself and think about how you might improve or adjust your situation.
  • Think about how might you be part of the problem. Is there something you’ve wanted to do but don’t believe will be accepted; something you’ve wanted to say, but haven’t had the courage; an idea that you believe will benefit your work, but you’ve kept it to yourself. If so, how do you stop yourself taking action and what’s the worst that could happen if you take a risk?  
  • What in your life does excite you – and I don’t mean watching the latest TV drama or going out with your partner! Think about the articles on Facebook or Twitter that always grab your attention; the friends you envy because of the work they do;  the course you’ve always wanted to take, but didn’t think you were bright enough. 
  • Read my article on Core Talent and define the red thread that runs through everything you’ve done and everything that floats your boat. As you consider other options, measure against your core talent and make sure it will let you use it fully.
  • Review your attitude to risk. Are you willing to try something new and different? How would it challenge you and would that be good or disastrous? Define your parameters – what will you accept and what is beyond the pale – and take that into account when you consider new options. 

When you stop yourself doing something you believe to be right you have to deaden your energy, so it’s possible you are the problem and not the situation. Taking the action you’ve been avoiding could free you up for something new and better without the need for major changes. 

These all give you clues about where your real interest lies at this point in time. Take each one that comes to mind and give serious thought to how you might get more involved. As you think about actually doing something, you’ll soon recognise whether this is a pipe dream or a real option. If your energy remains high and you come up with ideas for how to do it, keep it on your agenda and go exploring more. 

Get active

It’s easy to feel pressured into action, but if you focus your energy internally at the outset you’re less likely to make the mistake of rushing to the ‘less worse’ option. Get active with your incubation. Find out more about yourself and you be surprised where you end up. 

If you have questions about your process, write and let me know. We can tackle it together. 

Post your questions in the comments section below, ask us on the Psychologies Facebook and Twitter page or email I’ll be posting regularly, answering your questions.

Judith Leary Joyce

Great Companies Consulting

In 1996 I made the shift into business, taking my knowledge of Gestalt Psychology into the realm of Executive Coaching, Facilitation and Leadership/ Management Development. In 2001 I worked on the 100 Best Companies to Work For list, then went on to write my first book Becoming an Employer of Choice which was followed by Inspirational Manager and The Psychology of Success. Since then I have worked with organisations across the sectors from large corporates through to young start ups, public sector and charities. Now it’s time to help you have a love affair with your work and get exactly what you want from your career. To find out more about my work and coaching go to