Ill-fitting jobs are powerful hiding spots

I hated hide-and-seek as a kid. Instead, I'd do things like, organize a membership-only girl's club with card-carrying members. Made the cards myself, with my eclectic sticker collection and super skinny Korean markers. Our most memorable enterprise? On Wednesdays at recess, we decided to hold a Secret Sanrio Marketplace. Every member brought items she no longer liked, to trade for something fresh. We'd hold meetings and I reminded everyone to bring their goodies but shhhh on Wednesday, okay?!?!?! Our market was active for 3 weeks before it got shut down "to prevent theft and fights." A note was sent home to my parents, blaming me for the whole thing -- totally guilty. I was 6 years old.

Today, one of my gigs is coaching and supporting after-school teachers at an elementary school in San Francisco. Very ironically, one of my favorite things to do: watch the games going on during recess. It's hilarious and slightly unsettling that tag, catch, and hide-and-seek are still as popular as ever. The range of behavior both tickles and worries me. 

The hiders

Oh, the dynamics! Some lightly-sketched profiles: 

  1. Frantic hiders can't tap into the strategy center in their brains, so they team up with
  2. Calm kid, who remembers "the good spots". 
  3. Sometimes, there will be a rogue kid that borks off and hides alone, in "the REALLY good spots". You may recall that if you choose this strategy, there's a clear tradeoff; you give up valuable group intel/resources because duh, winning. This drive causes the rogue kid to lose track of what's happening in the game, almost every time. 
  4. The majority of them though, have realized something important: hiding alone makes them feel disconnected and anxious. To cope, they form little tribes, usually in trios or pairs. That way, you aren't left behind like a rogue. The little tribes have a ton of fun. Do they get distracted from the objective? Most definitely. But for tribe hiders, that's not the point.

The kids love playing, because they love playing together.

The seeker

This kid can take on a variety of looks, ranging from Wandering Sad Ghost to Manic Despot. The seeker, like it or not, is alone like the rogue. You're alone thinking of how to shape the game, while everyone else is hunkered down somewhere, bonding and chit-chatting. It can get lonely. 

what this means for your career

In the rare times I did play hide-and-seek , hiding made me incredibly anxious, and time spent as the seeker felt scary.

I thought, "So... the choices are be a scared sitting duck or start searching, roaming all over, not knowing where to start?"

Neither option felt good. Just maybe, this drama is going on for you at work. Are you searching more fulfilling work, like, literally on Google? From age 20-27, I Googled and Googled in vain, just wanting a hint at what the hell I should do with my life. I got endless possibilities, because Internet and post-industrial revolution. I suffered a chronic, mild panic attack for most of that period. Years later, I realized why I got stuck:

1. Made lots of untested assumptions about why I was unhappy
2. Made ill-informed, ill-timed moves
3. Felt frustration
4. Got burnt out
5. Stayed stalled in a holding pattern
6. Felt THE WORST. 

Have you put your feelings and assumptions to the test? Only then do you have the information to explore a possible direction.

Slippery spot: I told myself that I might just be someone who settles and lots of people settle. That idea kept me stuck for 7 years.

If you've been stuck for even half as long as I was, you probably haven't fully addressed what thought patterns are keeping you in that painful place -- the pain comes and goes, right? Sometimes it's not that bad. Change nothing, if your goal is to have a "not that bad" life. Alternative: Record all your feelings and assumptions and test out whether they're true. 

For your ruckus-making 6-year-old self.