I have a client (we’ll call her Candace) who came to me with a conundrum that she felt was practically unsolvable.
The past 5 jobs she’s had have all turned out the same way … unfulfilling, uninspiring, and with bosses that are domineering and difficult to work with.
Each job begins and ends the same way: She lands in a new job because she got fed up with the terrible leadership and work environment at the old job. Eventually, she gets fed up with the new job, for the same reasons, and decides to try something different … only to have the cycle repeat itself once more.
Exasperated, she asked me, “Why does this keep happening to me??”
CAN YOU RELATE? I CAN.
Before I launch into how I responded to Candace, I want you to understand how ridiculously normal this question is.
How many of you feel like you’re banging your head against a brick wall, having the exact same circumstances show up again and again, with no idea of how to make it stop?
Stubborn patterns can show up in any way you can imagine.
For some people, it’s romantic relationships. You know the type … the guy or girl who is forever manifesting the same old drama, just with a new person.
For others, it’s health. There’s always that one person who’s telling everyone about the latest fad diet they’re trying … even though the last six they tried were a bust.
It can also show up with money, family, power, career … the possibilities are endless.
For me, it was always about my career and money.
No matter how many jobs I hopped to, I’d always end up in an eerily familiar scene: Getting way underpaid to do a job I didn’t enjoy at all, for a cause I couldn’t support, with people I couldn’t really connect with.
I’m sure you know what your particular “thing” is without having to think hard about it. Keep that in mind because …
HERE’S WHAT I TOLD CANDACE
“Why does this keep happening to me?” is the completely wrong question.
Instead, I asked Candace, “How about you start asking, ‘Why do I keep happening to this?’”
This stopped her in her tracks for a moment.
Because, like most everyone else, Candace came programmed to think of herself more at the mercy of the world instead of in control of what’s going on around her.
That’s why her first inclination when things went wrong at every job she’s had was to quit and move on. She presumed she had bad luck or that “this is just how things are in the corporate world” … but never that she might actually be the common denominator of each and every circumstance.
BUT THAT’S EXACTLY WHAT WAS HAPPENING
I asked Candace, “What if you keep re-creating the same crappy work environment and the same terrible leadership in order to challenge you in some way?
What if, because you keep quitting before you’ve dealt with the real problem, you keep getting chances to step up?”
When we started digging deeper, it became clear that Candace kept attracting the same domineering bosses because she was frightened of standing up for herself.
She would often just cave to what everyone else around her expected, scrambling to meet unrealistic demands, because she was afraid of setting boundaries and directly communicating her needs.
So I asked Candace to start setting boundaries and directly communicating her desires to her boss now, before jumping ship and looking for new opportunities. It was scary … for about 5 minutes.
And then, it was awesome.
Because once you realize that I am the common denominator of this pattern, and that I have the responsibility for evolving past it, and that I can take action to change it … the pattern starts to dissolve, often very quickly.
THAT MEANS THAT CANDACE’S NEXT JOB WONT SUCK
Candace still wants to move on to a new job, and that’s fine. The reason she wants to move on is finally a good one. It’s not because she’s running away from a crappy boss, but because she’s moving toward a subject area that she’s actually interested in and inspired by.
And I’ll bet that Candace’s next boss will be a good one, too, because she no longer needs a domineering boss to challenge her. She can stand up and communicate for herself just fine now.
The same was true for me, and can be true for you, too.
When I answered “Why do I keep happening to this?” for myself, I realized that I kept manifesting the same low-paying, unfulfilling jobs because I didn’t really believe (at the time) that anything else was possible.
I assumed “this is all there is,” and my reality matched my assumption. For a long time, I blocked any career possibility beyond low-paying and unfulfilling jobs, because I presumed (incorrectly) that I couldn’t have anything better.
WHAT ARE YOU BEING ASKED TO DO DIFFERENTLY?
Maybe the dramatic romantic relationships are asking you to finally deal with your insecurities and feelings of self-worth.
Maybe every failed diet is pleading with you to realize that until you stop feeling ashamed of your body, nothing will change.
Candace was being asked to stand up for herself and become the confident person that’s been there all along. I was being asked to think bigger about what was really possible for me and my career.
So, if every old pattern that shows up is really just an opportunity to evolve, then what are you being asked to do differently? Leave a comment to let us know!
Rachel (+ Kristen)