How does one settle one’s mind from how life worked out vs how you thought it would go?

I have hit the point in my career that I have to wait for people to retire to advance in my company.  I grew up thinking I would career climb.  However working in a wide flat org structure has created the situation where I cannot advance.  Work / life balance is overall good.  40 hours a week, 10-20 min commute, 2 weeks off in the winter + 2 weeks leave.  Okay medical and a decent old fashioned real pension plan (Top 3 years * 2% * Years worked).

So I’m looking at 25 more years at the same position.  I know that is the way it is for many but I’m trying to settle my mind to it.  Honestly I was working and focused on work + getting a second masters.  Now that that focus is done I’m feeling scared for my son’s future and feeling a failure/trapped. 

We have our son in a Catholic School for k-8, but don’t have a good solution for High School. 

I never expected to stay in the state.  I expected to move to the West Coast. 

My wife is fine wherever she can find work and is doing great.  I’m feeling trapped with a house, a concern about my son’s future and trying to build a good life for my family. 

Thoughts of worry and feeling a failure has had me really mentally messed up. 

How does one settle one’s mind from how life worked out vs how you thought it would go?

How does one quite one’s mind?

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David, you have this cognitive dissonance, combined with something else. Perhaps depression? It sounds as though you are at a point where you must make a decision. This will be much easier after you decide. I strongly, very strongly, urge you to see a psychologist for a few sessions: the fastest way to gain peace with this, according to research, is by seeing a professional.

Regardless of if you do see one or not, you need to be a bit more pro-active. You need to gather research information so you can make the most informed decision you can make. First, check out what moving to a new job would be like. Research all the factors. What would it take to change out?

Next, weigh out your options. There's going to be pros and cons with either decision (to stay or to move on). Really evaluate them, factoring in how it will affect you and how it will affect family. Remember, children are only with you temporarily.

Next, consider timing. After the kids are gone, you will still have, roughly, 30 to 40 more years of life to enter a new career. Many humans have found that a second career after the first one ends is very, very rewarding (and less pressure). Evaluate whether self-sacrifice now and self-gratification later is something you wish to do. Evaluate if you even need to do this.

Regardless of what you choose, you will need to allow yourself a bit of mourning. There was a life you had built up for yourself. It's totally OK to give yourself some time to grieve and say goodbye to whatever future you choose not to do. Saying goodbye to a life is always difficult. But ignoring that grieving period, and pretending you do not need to grieve it, will draw it out and make it worse. It's like a dog biting you: your natural inclination is to pull away from what is causing the pain. However, reality is that you need to push further into the animal to get the critter to release. Emotional pain is the same way. Rather than pulling away, perhaps let yourself feel it fully, honor that emotion. Give it the respect you should (again, it's a life you are mourning).

Then move on to the excitement of whatever you choose. Go ahead and allow yourself to enjoy the newness of whatever you decide (or enjoy the continuation). Fully explore the full emotional satisfaction and peace that comes from the new decision. Don't feel guilty about enjoying it. It's totally OK to enjoy something that you didn't think you wanted back then.

Oh, and remember this Truth: it is totally unreasonable and even irrational to think that your 18 or 20 year-old self had enough wisdom to plan out what it would be doing for the next 40 to 50 years or even 80 years. It's inconceivable to hold a human to the life plan he created when he was young and inexperienced in the world. You didn't have the understanding or the foreknowledge to know what your needs and wants would be in the future. It's totally OK if your life is now what your 18 year-old self thought it would be. For your 18 year-old self had radically different goals than your 4 year-old self. And your middle-adult self may have radically different goals, circumstances, etc. than your 18 year-old self did.

Thank you for such a deep and well thought out reply.

I am working my way through Spontaneous Happiness by Dr Weil.  I've long used stress and anger to get through hard times such as engineering.  I'm now working on learning joy or trying to.

I may just look up a professional also. 

How about a different company?

That requires moving out of the town / state.

How about a different career?

U so stoopied. Heh.

It requires moving out of state.   And..?

I think you're asking the wrong question.  Don't ask yourself how to cope with being stuck for the rest of your life ... ask yourself how to get unstuck.  Don't settle your mind.  Focus it.

When I was just breaking into the real world, I longed for stability and security -- a stable 9-to-5, a good paycheck, a reasonable retirement, a daily grind I could tolerate, etc.  As I've gotten older, I've realized that stability eventually becomes stagnance ... and, men tend to be less satisfied with that than they think they will be.  And, growth beyond the merely stable requires letting go of some of the stability to reach for something better.  Reward often requires measured, thoughtful risk-taking.

So, don't ponder how to embrace 'settling for'.  Figure out the next steps, figure out how to mitigate the risk, put a plan on paper ... then, purposefully let go of the wall and swim for the next adventure.  Whether that's a new State, a new company, a new job, a new business venture, or whatever.

Don't sacrifice growth for stability.  You're dwelling on something better for a reason.


"You can either be a man of action or a man of excuses. Right now, you seem like the latter."

You need to be a Mexican; not a Mexican't

I realize that it does seem like excuses.  For me it is a matter of weighing options carefully and finding a way to trust my decision in either direction.  How to settle the what ifs.

Moving towns would be required due to no other similar / better job in the town.

The scary is making choices for your family.  Its one thing to risk prosperity of yourself, but the prosperity of your beloved and the starting prosperity of your child add a lot of stress. 
Its quieting the what ifs.  Do you stay or do you go?  I look around and many choose to stay.  Perhaps they just have filling connections that keep them here?  Perhaps I'm missing something?  Perhaps perhaps perhaps.....

If you really have the one best job in town (or the one best job that you could get in town) then my concern would be around what happens if that job were to suddenly disappear? 


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