HARNESS THE POWER OF THE STOCKDALE PARADOX TO ENDURE A CAREER CHANGE.
You’re not imagining it. Career change - planned or unplanned – can be a cruel experience and push us to the limits of our own endurance. It can make us question our values, decisions and actions. It can undermine the self-belief that we need at the very moment we need it most and eviscerate our sense of self-worth.
And yes – it’s even more challenging during a pandemic that has resulted in widespread job loss and a wounded economy.
You’re not imagining it.
In times like this, it’s easy to opt for unadulterated optimism, unfiltered pessimism, or rapidly see-sawing between those poles.
It’s easy to fall under the spell of excitement as you finally track down that dream job, only to be shattered if it doesn’t work out. Similarly, it’s easy to look at the state of the economy, or the difference in skills required for a job and those you have, and simply allow the negative self-talk to freeze you in your tracks.
As it turns out, none of these are particularly beneficial approaches.
Instead, you must have complete faith that you will prevail in the end, and the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality.
This is called the Stockdale Paradox – named for Admiral James Stockdale, a U.S. fighter pilot who was shot down during the Vietnam War and who spent over 7 years being tortured as a POW. When interviewed by Jim Collins for Collins’ seminal work Good to Great, Stockdale told Collins that the prisoners who fared the worst during captivity were the optimists.
[T]hey were the ones who said, 'We're going to be out by Christmas.'
And Christmas would come, and Christmas would go. Then they'd say,
'We're going to be out by Easter.' And Easter would come, and Easter
would go. And then Thanksgiving, and then it would be Christmas again.
And they died of a broken heart.
Whilst a career transition may not be imprisonment and torture, this paradox may hold the key to maintaining your equilibrium during this liminal time.
As it turns out, calling upon optimism and realism in equal measures may be the key to success. You need to call upon that positive energy to be able to set your goals and keep making progress. You also have to be candid with yourself about your situation and what may or may not be possible – even if only to identify those areas that need to be enhanced.
It can be a long, arduous process, and it takes practice finding that balance.
Just remember – you’re not imagining it.