Knowing when to move on is priceless

Professional counsellor and psychotherapist Katherine McGee on how she gave up a lifetime in fashion retail in the city without any regrets.

Katherine McGee

Katherine McGee

For 23 years I was passionate about my work in Marians, Galway. I mean, seriously loved it. Every time I walked onto the shop floor, I knew that was exactly where I wanted to be. I felt alive, vital and excited. I researched with anticipation (like a little kid about to get a present ) the latest trends and forecasts for the next fashion season.

It didn’t matter to me that as the years went by, many of the customer’s fashion needs — OK, nearly all of the needs — I had heard before. I could feel that each transaction was vitally important to the person in search of the perfect look, so finding the solution every time was the challenge, and just as vital as it was the first time. ‘Marians Galway’ was an incredible platform to share my passion and love for fashion!

Then something started to change. I gradually became aware it was time to do something different. There was no external trigger, just a feeling that I had shifted, not the workplace.

Could I have ignored that feeling and just kept on keeping on? Sure. But that would have been disrespectful. To myself, and most of all to the customers.

I began a professional course in counselling and psychotherapy, and still continued my work with Marians Fashions. When I graduated I knew it was time to make the transition. Was it hard to do? You bet it was. During the final year my mind kept saying, "Katherine, just keep doing what you’ve always done. Don’t change now; stay with what you know." It was frightening and scary, as all change is. But my heart knew it was time to go. So after 27 years, I finally made the transition from the world of fashion to the world of mental health. It wasn’t done in one big step, but in a series of small achievable, manageable and gradual little advances.

Experience change without regret

By taking the initiative to recognise I needed to move on, I’ve had the amazing experience of change without regret. Have I made mistakes along the way? Yes, and that doesn’t matter, because it’s been an adventure and one of the best things I’ve done. I’ve been challenged in new, unexpected ways. It can still be scary and frightening, but also invigorating and exciting. I can think of no more important career advice than to listen to your gut and own the power to control your future.

If you’re unhappy in your job, know why, without blaming anyone. It’s true you can’t give notice next week because there are bills to pay. I get it. But that is not an excuse to stay there forever. If your gut says so - you must move on. It might take months or years to figure out your next stage, and your next job. What matters is that you are not resigning yourself to a less than ideal situation. Can you do it? Well, the truth is if you want to be happy, really happy, you have to do it.

For me, now in private practice in Oranmore since 2008, the work is vital and deeply meaningful. I work with teens, adults and couples on a wide variety of life, work and business challenges. If change is the only option, know it IS possible, you have the power to take control of your future happiness. Work on educational tools, classes, and apps that will allow you to make the best decisions when it comes to work, money, life etc. Take time to become as strong and healthy as possible, because the transition will be an emotional, financial and physical rollercoaster. You’ll be scared but so excited to see what the future brings — I’m energised, enthusiastic and passionate about the changes I’ve made, and invigorated by the changes I see clients making in their lives every day and the joy and contentment those changes can bring.

Now, that’s all well and good but sometimes changing your physical circumstances isn't possible — or not possible soon enough, or you may want to make smaller changes to be happier. Often one or two small changes can impact our lives in a really positive way. The first place to start is by changing your perception, belief or opinion of the situation — in order to change your attitude.

Modern behavioral science agrees! American psychologist Albert Ellis, famous for developing rational emotive behaviour therapy, explained that "how" people react to events is determined largely by their "view" of the events, not the events themselves. For example have you noticed how every member in the family remembers and reacts to a particular incident in a different way? The good news is, and science confirms, we can take control of how we view and react to life’s events means we can choose our attitude to life.

Here are seven ways to start improving your attitude:

1. Admit to yourself that you're not happy.

You can't change anything if you aren't aware that something needs to be changed. Stop the cycle of wishing things were different and take control of your thoughts and reactions to events and people.

2. Realise optimism is a choice.

You’re not born with a positive or negative attitude. It’s something you become through your perspective of experiences. Very few situations are completely bad. Find three to five positives in any challenging situation and write them down so you can remember them.

3. Use positive words.

Use statements like, "I’m hopeful," or, "We will find a solution," throughout the day. The words you use have a major impact on your attitude and emotional outlook.

4. Hang out with friends who have a happy vibe.

Try surrounding yourself with friends that exude positive energy. Pay attention to the words they use when they talk about their day. You’ll very quickly see if they are a positive or negative influence.

5. Say a daily affirmation.

Find a quote that is meaningful to you and say it aloud every morning. Put it on a couple of sticky notes and place them on your bathroom mirror and on the car visor, so you get to see and say it often every day. "Something great is going to happen today," sends your energy in an expectant and positive direction. I know it sounds a bit "Zen", but it’s actually a very simple and effective way to retrain your subconscious mind — and advocated by both ancient and current scientific research.

6. Develop an attitude of gratitude.

Before sleep each night, name or write three things you are grateful for. They can be big things like health, work, family, or small things like someone’s smile, the comfort of your bed, praise from a colleague, sunshine.

7. Don’t allow your critical inner voice to run amok in your head!

You know that voice, “you’ll never get it right”, “you’re useless” and so on in the most negative and critical verbal attack on the self. We speak to ourselves in ways that we would never speak to any other person, harsh, critical words that are hurtful and drag us down. Don’t give space to that inner voice, set it aside gently and compliment yourself. Tell yourself something that you’re good at, or enjoy doing, etc…

You may not be able to change your immediate situation, but when you experience the positive effects of these small changes and see the domino effect on those around you, you’ll be encouraged to take the next step, whatever that may be for you.

Sometimes the next step is to work things through with a neutral professional, it’s not always easy to talk about change with family or friends.

If you went for therapy in the past, and had a negative experience, I strongly encourage you to try again with another therapist. It’s important to build a relationship with your therapist, much as you would build a trusting relationship with your GP to take care of your physical well-being. The psychotherapeutic relationship is just as important, as it relates to the care of your mental and emotional well-being.

We’re constantly challenged by the need for change. We can ignore it and stay in the ‘stuck’ place that’s familiar and comfortable. OR we can stretch ourselves; embrace the discomfort and make that change really happen. The Choice Is Yours…. Go on… take the first step today.

— Katherine McGee will commence a weekly column with the Galway Advertiser next week.

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