It is no wonder that a job, once a perfect fit with your talents and interests, ultimately becomes boring, or a career loses its power to take you where you want to go. Nor is it a surprise that in even the most rewarding and successful work life many people come to points where—often unexpectedly—they find themselves in transition.
Sometimes the transition seems to rise up from inside—a wave of boredom directed at things they used to find interesting or a mistrust of things they used to believe in wholeheartedly; at other times, the transition is precipitated by external changes—either in their personal lives or in the organizations where they work. Either way, people usually try to put things back the way they used to be. If the transition is significant, however, that isn’t likely to work. In our culture, there are forces that stand in the way of this normal, cyclical pattern of development. We place a high value on monetary success and professional prestige, and that encourages people to set (and then keep trying to reach) distant and elevated goals. This emphasis on success often stands in the way of people’s doing what really interests them and makes them happy. The elevated and distant goal of success is often rationalized by the idea that, even if the goal is not reached, its height insures that even falling short of it will lead to substantial achievement. For all but a very few, however, “aiming high” in that way guarantees an ultimate day of reckoning (and what a profound transition that is!) in which they will have to come to terms with having “failed.” “Aiming high” also means that the pay-off is so far away that your life may not provide you with the steady diet of meaning and gratification that comes from doing work that fits and expresses who you really are. And the emphasis on financial success not only dissuades people from careers and lives that they might have found very satisfying but also teaches them that their own imaginings and longings—those haunting feelings that they weren’t meant to spend their lives doing what they’re doing at the moment—are inherently untrustworthy guides. This sense (even though it is a misleading one) haunts them at each successive transition point, not only where they must once again establish a direction and tap into a renewed source of energy but also where they are bedeviled by the sense that they don’t really know what they want or need.
– Transitions: Making Sense Of Life’s Changes by William Bridges