A few weeks ago, I had an interesting discussion with a friend about dissonance. In the course of our conversation about boundaries and having the courage to say, “enough is enough,” the topic of dissonance came up and whether the presence of turbulence or dissonance in our lives was an indicator of something bigger and more important.
I think much of our socialization revolves around “going along to get along.” Because of this, anytime that we experience disequilibrium—that feeling that something isn’t right and that we’re in-between opposite polarities—we give in and try to quiet or tamp down that sense of unease. We ignore the “danger, danger” flashing red light because we’ve been taught to at every step in our development.
My advice to you is to embrace your dissonance! It’s trying to tell you something.
For a period of years after leaving an employer that still stands as my high-water mark for continuous employment, I bounced from job to job and new employer to employer. When I landed at the insurance giant in Portland in 2001, I was simply hoping to stay there long enough—four years—to get our son through college. I only made it until January, 2004, which wasn’t even three, before knowing it was time to bail.
This was a watershed moment for me, however.
Prior to my stint with Moscow Mutual, I was experiencing dissonance at every turn. I thought the answer was job-hopping. I hadn’t done the initial groundwork that reinvention requires.
I’m not sure why, but this insurance behemoth helped me realize that I’d gone on too long dancing to the tune of the “grass will be greener elsewhere” and it was time to turn the record over. This time I knew that going elsewhere in order to change my surroundings was a lie I had been telling myself.
The JBE is first and foremost about reinvention. As Toffler defines it (and I’m paraphrasing), reinvention is the process of “learning, unlearning, and relearning” that all of us must adopt, now more than ever. I call this “learning how to learn,” because that’s what it is.
This isn’t taught in school, the local synagogue or church, or learned by glad-handing down at the Rotary Club. Your employer really isn’t interested in your learning how to learn. If you knew how, you probably wouldn’t be there too much longer. That’s why he’s happy that you keep pulling the required lever and pushing the appropriate button until you’re no longer needed and then, you’ll be out on the street.
You see, if you are relying on others, like employers, politicians, a sugar daddy, or any other variation of a personal messiah to take care of you, then you are SOL, my friend. You are On Your Own, or what I like to call, YOYO. That’s our new paradigm in the 21st century.
This isn’t a screed about vulture capitalism and lack of opportunities in the marketplace; either. Personally, opportunities are where you make them. This is about recognizing that dissonance is your friend, and beginning to take steps towards learning what it’s trying to teach you. It’s also your springboard forward, towards whatever it is that you need to be moving towards..
Until you get to this point, any discussion about change and adopting new practices is a waste of time.
So,, how do you know you’re ready to begin your journey towards a brand new future? Here are a few signs you might be a candidate to climb aboard the reinvention train.
Your current approach isn’t working
Self-assessment has become an important tool in your toolbox
You no longer think the solution to your problems is finding a new job
You are anxious about where you are and where you are going next
You are at the place of letting go and beginning the difficult work of personal growth and change
There is no magic bullet or shortcut to reinvention. An apt analogy might be that it’s akin to the turning of a large ocean liner. You are actually working to “deprogram” yourself and move away from all the negative and harmful messaging you’ve taken in and invested belief in.
You’ve been going one way for so long that no matter how miserable it makes you feel, it’s at least something you know how to do. Even when there’s dissonance and even pain, familiarity provides a modicum of comfort, acting like a cheap sedative.
Being ready to move forward and embrace change comes when the same old same old no longer satisfies and you choose to push through dissonance and step on the train to your reinvention future.