finance career

If You Could Change One Thing About Your Career, What Would it Be?

Business & MBA Editor
Tammie Cagle is a writer, editor, entrepreneur, and certified academic life coach. Tammie received her bachelor’s degree from Texas A & M University-College Station and her MBA from Marylhurst University.

I read a question a few months ago by James Clear that I can’t get out of my head, “If someone took control of your life tomorrow, what’s the first thing they would change?”

It stopped me in my tracks. My next thought was:

“Wait! I am actually in control of my life. So, if I want something to change, I get to change it.”

I keep going back to this because sometimes I think we get caught up in the inertia of life and forget that our life is made up of our choices.

So, here is my question to you:

If you could change one thing about your career, what would it be?

I want you to ask yourself this question and allow yourself to answer it with no judgment. I am going to say it again because I think I need to. Ask yourself this question and answer it with NO JUDGEMENT. Allow yourself to be curious.

  • Do you want to work less?
  • Do you want to make more?
  • Do you want to have more responsibilities?
  • Do you want to change careers?

Here is the thing: some superficial desires might first bubble up. Some of them might sound like, I want to make a million dollars, or I want to work from the beach. Start with these desires and let them lead the way. Then, start asking why.

  • Why do you want to make more?
  • Why do you want to change careers?

My coach used to call this peeling the onion. Keep going until you find something that is resonating with you. What can you find that you have energy, passion, and motivation behind? Because to make a change, you have to have energy bigger than the payoff of doing nothing.

Ask questions and find your motivation. And motivation comes in many different flavors.

  • Conditional vs intrinsic motivation
  • Proactive vs reactive motivation
  • Self vs others motivation 

Keep in mind that there is no right or wrong motivation. They all have their place. Now, let’s dive in.

Conditional vs Intrinsic Motivation

Do you want to do something because you want to do the action (intrinsic) or because of what you get out of doing that thing (conditional)? For example, let’s say you want to attend school to get your MBA. Do you want to do that because you like school and you will enjoy the curriculum and experience (intrinsic)? Or do you want an MBA because it will allow you to get a better job with better benefits (conditional)?

Both can both be helpful. It is an interesting journey to try and find a balance between the two. When you have to finish your 20-page paper, what motivation will help you get through it?

Proactive vs Reactive Motivation

Are you working towards something or working away from another thing?

Let’s say you are in an online MBA class and have weekly discussion boards that you have to take part in. Are you doing the work because you want to deepen your understanding of a subject? Or are you doing it because you don’t want to fail the class?

There is no right or wrong answer here. They can both be helpful. The key is learning about yourself and using the information to help you move forward.

Self vs Others Motivation

Let’s say you want to become an accountant. Do you want to do it because you enjoy accounting and the challenge of the profession (self), or do you want to do it to help people (others)? Again, there is no right or wrong answer. Doing things for the sake of yourself can be exhilarating and fulfilling, but so can doing things for others. Is there a way you can find both motivations in your goals?

If you stay curious and keep asking yourself questions, you will be able to use this knowledge to help you manage change. What kind of habits can you build? What kind of changes can you make? It all starts with asking questions.