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Doing work that is not satisfying reflects a basic conflict you have with yourself. You may think your career causes the conflict, and that if you change careers, the conflict will go away. But you cannot pick the right career without first starting to resolve the conflict in your mind.
The conflict caused you to pick the wrong career to begin with, and now causes work dissatisfaction. If you don’t start with your own self-conflict, dissatisfaction will just show up in whatever you choose next. Then you will have another reason to be upset with yourself.
This basic principle holds true for personal relationships, too ó if you just change partners, the same problems are reproduced in the new relationship. The truth is, conflict you have with work is the same conflict you have with family, friends and relatives. Self-conflict takes many forms, but there is only one underlying cause: how you relate to you in your mind.
Over time, self-conflict may also show up as physical symptoms. Mental health, physical health and work satisfaction are intertwined. Anyone who believes career dissatisfaction is determined by outside factors, however, will also find external explanations for health problems and interpersonal misunderstandings.
A conflict with work expresses a hidden conflict. When we are young, we tend to see our problems as imposed, and solved, by external means. Explanations may range, for example, from environmental (“a bad job market”) to circumstantial (“a bad boss”). We strive to attain the highest income and best career possible to overcome these adversities.
But this strategy must inevitably break down since it locates the reasons for conflict outside yourself. Beneath appearances, there is only one problem, and it is the relationship of you with you. Understanding this principle requires some insight and maturity, techniques that contradict external and superficial points of view.
Individuals don’t ordinarily attain a more contemplative attitude toward life before the age of thirty-something. Until then, you think your career is created by economic opportunities, influential connections, quality of higher education, family background, good fortune and hard work.
But the truth is, your purpose in life arises totally from an inner quest.
“Know thyself” was the motto that Socrates learned from the Oracle at Delphi. It is ancient wisdom, true today as it was in ancient Greece. At some point in your life, you must make the decision to find your true self. Otherwise, you are destined to live with a false self, interpersonal conflicts and career dissatisfaction.
Career reassessment typically comes in mid-life when failures in outer solutions trigger the classic “mid-life, psycho-social crisis.” Almost everyone is challenged to find purpose in life by the time their days on earth are half numbered. Making this decision initiates a major turning point in the course of your life.
Traditionally we think only of ministers and doctors as having a calling, but in reality, everyone has a calling. Initially people are scared by the idea of an inward quest and fear they will fail. Self-conflict that appears in the form of external obstacles is the main reason callings are not pursued.
If your current job bothers you a lot, for example, you may be so irritated that you can’t see any alternative. Many people choose to ignore the quest of their calling, and try to live in a rational material world, using only their goal-oriented left brain or they reside in an imaginary emotional world of self-doubt, using only their right brain.
A meaningful career choice arises from the resource of your own integrated mind and from nowhere else. All the skills and knowledge necessary to enact your life purpose are directly and fully possessed within you psychologically. Once a career has been identified from an internal source, it cannot be wrong, discounted by others or pursued half-heartedly.
Prevailing wisdom about career change sees it exclusively as a logical problem of how to adapt your aptitudes and personality to corporate needs. This approach implies that the economy is rational, and that you are not, unless you conform.
More traditional approaches to career counseling overlook the psychological and spiritual foundation to career choice and change outlined in this article. Where and how you chose to use your skills and knowledge in life are ultimately and always a question of inner values and your relationship to yourself.
Robert Garrison’s company based in Rowan County is called The Garrison Group, which offers import/export support, help in obtaining capital and mentoring/consulting services. Contact him at rgarrison@thegarrisongrp.com.

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