When I was a child, I had a great big yellow and green sandbox in the backyard. I had so much fun playing in it (except when my friend’s little brother used it like a personal litter box. That was gross.)
My friends and I would play in it for hours and hours. We would imagine cool things and then build them. We’d build sand castles with moats and elaborate racetracks with labyrinths with tunnels. We would also have treasure hunts for missing shovels, trucks, matchbox cars, and the like. Oh yes, and we’d take turns burying each other up to our necks in sand and pretend as if we were trapped underneath and needed to be rescued.
This is not unlike how many of us play out our respective careers. Over the years, I’ve noticed that many of us play out our lives as if we’re trapped in career quicksand. We used to have dreams, but somewhere along the way these became buried and lost. After awhile, we feel so helpless and beaten down that we don’t even look for our lost treasures or try to rise up out of the sand. We resign ourselves to the notion that we’ve been sentenced to hopelessly struggle in the same job year after year. Even though we’re suffering and unhappy, we don’t try anything new. Trying something new gets crossed off as an option.
Why is that? In the sandboxes of our adult lives, we become frustrated and tired of the struggle. We unknowingly relinquish responsibility for our own future. Instead, we resort to all manner of reasons including “I don’t have enough experience” or “It’s too late to go back to school” or “I’m too old to do something new at this point” or “I need my health benefits” or “There aren’t any opportunities out there.” It’s as if we’ve become unconsciously programmed to remain buried forever. While there may be a grain of truth to these justifications on the surface, beneath them lay all of our fears, doubts, anxieties, and worries. These keep us stuck with little hope but to wait to be rescued by someone (e.g. a boss, parent, mentor, or divine intervention).