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Excerpt from "Transformation: The Four Keys to Thriving in Times of Change"

Bonue Chapter: The Four Keys to Transformation in Career

by Armand M. Diaz, M.A.

With the economic downturn that began in 2008, many people have experienced great change in their work lives. Layoffs, downsizing, and a general sense of contraction and limitation have seemingly infected every aspect of work, and you probably feel the strain whether or not you still have your job. Many people who have held onto their jobs now do the work of their departed coworkers, usually with no additional pay. Finding a new job can be tough in a down economy, as many of us know. The going gets even rougher when unemployment benefits run out.

It would seem to be a surprise then, that many people who have lost their jobs tell me that they wouldn’t want to return. Sure, they could use the money and probably would go back if the opportunity arose, but they are kind of hoping it doesn’t. Those people who still have their jobs often feel that they are working harder and longer hours, with no end in sight - a kind of career treadmill that burns enthusiasm and patience rather than calories.

Yet I am not too surprised. The truth is that many of us have found that we have “outgrown” our careers. We have evolved past their potential, and they have become a burden to us. There is nothing too shocking about this, as far as I can see. For the last several decades, we have been in a rapidly changing world that has opened up all kinds of opportunities for knowledge and experience on an unprecedented level. People in DeMoines, Iowa, can take yoga classes that originated in India, and folks in Cleveland can read good translations of esoteric Tibetan texts as easily as their local newspaper. Our personal evolutionary potential has never been higher. The social changes that began in the 1960s have met up with the technology of aircrafts and the internet to create a whole new world that each of can explore.

For most of us, however, work has not kept up with the rest of our lives. Work environments still run on a very limited model, one that was developed during the Industrial Revolution. Because of that, you may be working in a corporate office on Madison Avenue, a top-flight hospital, or a five-star restaurant, but in many respects you are still in a 19th century factory. Many work environments are clearly fear-based, for example. Management is afraid that employees won’t do the work if they are not in some way forced to do so. Employees are afraid they will lose their jobs or have their benefits cut. Productivity is the Holy Grail of most work settings, although the constant demand that everyone be more productive leads to a kind of constant dissatisfaction.

Even if you have your career in a more progressive environment (maybe you work for yourself), you can still outgrow your career. After all, most people get started on a career path early in life when the goal is simply to get a seat at the table. Most of us are young and eager to make some money. If a little prestige comes with the job or profession, so much the better. If there is room for advancement, that’s better still. It can take some time to recognize that while the work you are doing pays you money and prestige, it doesn’t really fit too well with who you are as a person. Now that we are all exposed to so many possibilities and can see so many alternative ways to live our lives, that can cause quite a strain. As we develop in other areas of life, such as our spirituality, the games that get played at work become more and more tiresome.

In my book, Transformation: The Four Keys to Thriving in Times of Change, I describe the four basic patters that characterize change in any area of life. With so many people concerned about career now, it makes sense to spend a little time exploring how these four keys to transformation can play out in the area of work. While the brief descriptions I give here will only give you a taste of the transformative key, you should be able to recognize the pattern that applies to you if you are going through career changes.

The four keys are named for the four outer planets of our solar system, and they reflect the way astrologers think about change in regard to these planets. You don’t need to know any astrology or believe that it has any value, however, to recognize that these four templates for change are common variations for almost all the significant transitions we encounter. You’ll be able to figure out which one applies to your situation and can take the lessons to be learned and apply the strategies for dealing with that transformation key.

The first transformation key is Uranian. This key is all about sudden changes and surprises. If you are experiencing Uranian change, you might go to work one day and find the company has been taken over, or you might be suddenly fired. Whether or not you could have or should have seen these changes coming, you didn’t, and you are hit blind-side by them. If you don’t lose your job, it changes so much that it is as if you have another position. Being moved to a new job isn’t necessarily Uranian, but if it comes as a shock, then this is the key that is operating in your career life. Don’t expect that the first shock is the last one, though. Like an earthquake, aftershocks are common. Trying to get settled too quickly is not only difficult, it is probably a mistake.

Friends of mine moved from New York City to suburban - almost rural - Reading, Pennsylvania. The company announced it was closing its New York plant, and if he wanted to keep his job, my friend would have to move. After a year in Reading, however, the company once again announced it was closing down a part of its operation, and my friend was faced with being out of work. When the dust settled, he had gone from an office job in Manhattan to a factory job in Pennsylvania, although with the same salary. His wife, also undergoing Uranian change, never found a job in Pennsylvania that could compare to her New York position, and pretty much took the opportunity to stay at home and raise her children. They both did a complete turnaround in the area of career, and their lives were very different than they had been.

In a Uranian period another friend of mine left a career in New York’s advertising industry to open a bar in Spain with another friend. The first bar had to close, and it took almost a year after they had originally left New York before they were up and running in Majorca.

A physician friend of mine was the Chief Medical Officer at a nursing home for twenty-four years. She always described the place as being her home, and her coworkers as her family. When the facility was taken over by a big health care chain, she was soon fired. One Tuesday evening at five o’clock she was told to leave the premises within the hour, and she was not given the opportunity to say goodbye to anyone. It took her a very long time to get oriented to the changes, and she went through a long process of redefining herself.

Each of these examples show something of how we experience Uranian times. The first change is usually sudden and abrupt. We may make a decision, or it may be made for us, but there won’t be a long time to think about it. Then comes a time when we are “out of the nest.” We might be flying for the first time, feeling free (that’s more like a bird out of a cage) or we might be fearfully looking for another nest. Either way, taking some time to be up in the air is probably the best decision to make. Since you’ve been removed from the constraints, take the opportunity to look around and see how things feel to you.

Don’t grab for the fist bit of security you can find. Very often it won’t last, anyway. But even if it does, Uranian change is about experimenting. Try something new. No, it probably won’t work out like you’d expect, and maybe not as you’d like. But the alternative is to put yourself back in the box too quickly, sort of like those convicts who manage to get arrested on their second day out of jail because they’re too used to life on the inside. Uranian change acquaints us with the irony that our comfort zones are often also our prisons. Since you’ve left your comfort zone, try to spend as much time as you can before you find another one. At best, you may find your true calling as you experiment and try out the things you are drawn to. At worst, you’ll discover that you can change your career identity and that you are more than the way you have been defining yourself.

The next transformation key is Neptunian. While Uranian change hits you over the head, Neptunian transitions can be either rapid or glacially slow. The essence of this key is in our feelings, and the star that we are following. Sometimes we find a new lode star to pursue, and set off like the three wise men. At other times, we discover that the light we followed for so long is fading, and we have to wait for another to emerge.

Neptunian change is about switching guiding myths. A guiding myth is a story that inspires you and serves as a model for your career. If you’re in real estate, maybe Donald Trump’s life serves as your guiding myth. If you’re an actress, it could be Meryl Streep. Your guiding myth may come from a television show, like the woman who organized her therapy practice to model the television series L.A. Law. You could be aiming for the next Food Network show as you work at a local restaurant. We all use guiding myths to tell us who we are and who we want to be.

Sometimes, a new guiding myth sails into your life and begins to rearrange everything. You were comfortable at work until one day when the company’s owner showed up in her Mercedes, and you decided you want to be the person stepping out of the luxury car. A woman I know was a successful restaurant owner for more than a decade when she decided she wanted to be a writer.

Of course, part of getting a new guiding myth is the fading of the old one. There was a time when owning a restaurant was the shining star on the woman’s horizon. Our old guiding myth has to fade away before a new one can take over. The problem is, sometimes the old myth fades for a year or more before the new one starts to glow, and that can be a very difficult time. Often there is a sense that life has become very routine, that work is no longer exciting and really not in concert with our true selves anymore, if it ever was. Money, power, and prestige may be the goals we are moving towards with a new myth, or they may be the ones we are moving away from as our myth fades. When we are in the in between stage, we are adrift at sea without a guiding myth, and like a sailor in a deep fog without compass or stars, we aren’t sure we’ll ever find the way to shore.

A waiter I know was working for about five years in a bistro-type restaurant. After a while it was pretty obvious that the place was in need of a facelift, and clientele was declining. Eventually, the owner announced that in a month the place was going to close for three weeks and turn into a Mexican restaurant. There were vague reassurances about how everyone would be rehired, but no one was convinced. About eight weeks later, the place did close - for more than a month. During those eight weeks, all the waiters and staff went through the motions, but without any enthusiasm, a typical Neptunian time.

Years ago, I worked at a hospital that was under constant threat of being closed. Although I left three years before the place actually shut down, already there was a sense of loss and pointlessness to everyone’s daily routine, despite the fact that there were plenty of patients who needed attention.

In practical terms, because there are two basic variations on Neptunian career change, there are two strategies for managing it. If you have new myth to follow, go for it. You may not become a billionaire or win a Grammy Award, but you might. And if you do succeed in making your biggest dream come true, it might be less than you imagined. But in any case, take the ride. The experience will be invaluable, and you will lose an important piece of yourself if you don’t try. On the other hand, if you are experiencing the fading of your old myth, and life is starting to feel tired, the strategy is to go inside and discover what it is you really want. If could be that it isn’t about work at all, and it is really other areas of your life that need to grow and develop. Or you could be blocking your dreams. It will take some inner work, maybe a bit of therapy or a spiritual orientation, but you will find what you are looking for eventually.

Neptunian change can create great anxiety, because there is always a bit of doubt about the future. We set sail and see the land receding off in the distance, not sure that we will find the farther shore. It can be a bit scary and melancholy to realize that we are no longer attracted to our old lives. But it is better to set sail into a sea of uncertainty than to spend our lives on the dock, waving goodbye to others.

The next key to transformation belongs to Pluto. In mythology, Pluto is the god of the underworld, and Plutonian change can sometimes feel like a trip to hell (and back!), as this transformation key sounds a dark, minor tone. It’s about losing power and control, often at the hands of a “monster” that can haunt your career like a zombie - refusing to die. A few examples might help to give you a flavor of this kind of change as it affects work.

Elena and Jose were running a business in a run-down but up-and-coming section of Brooklyn. They were doing well, with affordable rent and a good regular clientele. Then it was announced that a developer was planning to build a huge project involving a professional sports team, a mall, business space, and an apartment complex. The city would be helping out by buying up land under eminent domain laws, and Elena and Jose’s business was in a building that was in the footprint of the development. They certainly felt like they were beneath the feet of Godzilla, as their landlords quickly sold the building and their business had to move to another location. After a decade in one location, they lasted less than two years in the next.

Julie enjoyed going to work each day in her office in a major fashion company. She was successful and had already had two promotions in the four years she was working with the corporation. Then Beverly was hired to work in the same department, and things began changing very rapidly. Although Beverly was officially in a lower position, she began to usurp power. Julie also noticed that things weren’t going that smoothly for her. Coworkers began to be abrupt and unreliable where Julie was concerned, and projects were left uncompleted in such a way that Julie wound up looking incompetent. Eventually, Julie began to fight back, employing underhanded techniques similar to Beverly. Ironically, Beverly responded by calling Julie out on these in public, making her look worse in the eyes of her coworkers and her superiors. Before long, Julie hated her job and dreaded going to work. When a round of layoffs came up, she was more or less relieved to find that she had been excessed. She took the money she had saved and travelled before going to nursing school.

Tony was a teacher in suburban high school, with a good record after eighteen years of service. One of his students wasn’t doing too well in his class, which was nothing unusual in itself. On a hot June day, this student came into his class in very short shorts and a halter top, complaining that the principle had said that students should be dressed appropriately for school. “Well,” said Tony, “If you’re going to dress like that, you’re inviting trouble.” Two days later, Tony was explaining himself to the superintendent of schools. A month later he was awaiting his disciplinary hearing. In September, he was working in a non-teaching position. By the end of the year, he had accepted early retirement, and was beginning to look to see what else he could do.

In each of these cases, the people involved met up with a monster that “attacked” their careers. Unlike Uranian change where one is set free, Plutonian changes lock us in for a battle with an unrelenting force. Often Plutonian changes come when we encounter city hall, a merciless bank, or some other impersonal force, although as Julie’s story demonstrates the zombie we meet may be very personal indeed.

So what are you to do when you encounter Plutonian change? The first thing you need to do is to recognize that as with other transformation keys, things are very likely to change. Resistance is futile, but resist anyway. Plutonian change offers you a possibility of rescuing yourself, but it will involve a fight. The secret is to fight cleanly, or at least as cleanly as possible. If you follow Julie’s lead and match treachery with treachery, you’re more than likely to be found out. Although Plutonian change is nothing like Neptunian transitions, you might focus on a figure like Gandhi or Martin Luther King, Jr. as an example of strength and resistance. Of course, if it is a matter of keeping a job you aren’t too happy with, such strength may be hard to come by - and not really worth the effort. That brings up the second part of the strategy - surrender. Whether you win or lose your battle, and whether it costs you your job or not, it will eventually be necessary to recognize that while you must do all you can, you do not have control of the final outcome. We have a great deal of free will and remarkable control over our lives, but no one wins all the time. In a sense, being brought into the struggle in the first place is the real thing we must surrender to, for that is where we really begin the process of transformation.

The final key to transformation that we are going to talk about is the Saturnian key. Saturnian change is less dramatic than the others, more matter-of-fact and down-to-earth. An expected layoff may come to your company, and you could find yourself on the unemployment line or shouldering the burden of your departed coworkers. Or you could get a promotion that comes with more work than compensation. Regardless of the specifics, Saturnian change is about responsibility and delayed gratification. You find yourself working hard with the reward somewhere vaguely out there in the future. All of the talk we hear about the daily grind, 9 to 5 life, and working for the weekend is a reflection of Saturnian feelings, as is the Monday morning blues.

Sarah was hired as a part-time administrative assistant, essentially doing secretarial work. Soon she was hired full-time, and so was working more hours, although at the same hourly wage. When changes to the company saw several middle-level managers depart, Sarah soon had greater responsibility and a small increase in pay. As restructuring continued, she became increasingly important to the company. Yet when she went to her superiors and asked for a salary that was commensurate with her value, she was reminded that she did not have a college degree - a requirement for any of the titles that would give her the kind of salary she was asking for. Sarah thought about trying to find another job, but she realized that she would encounter the same issues at any company. Although she recognized that it would put her plans on hold for a few years, she went back and finished college, working and going to school at the same time. When she finished, she did get offered a better job at the same company, but decided to go elsewhere instead. With her experience and her degree, she found a good job with better pay.

An almost inevitable feeling with Saturnian change is the sense that you are being tested. As with any test, you may or may not pass, and you have to wait and see what the outcome is. But there is something to be gained from persistence and patience. Over the long haul, you’ll find that there are rewards for the efforts you put out in the face of resistance. Some of the payoff will come in the form of external perks, but the greater part of the benefits are in the internal strength you develop. After you work your way through Saturnian change, you come to realize that you have the ability to handle difficult situations, that you are capable of more than you had realized. Yes, you will work your way to a better job, but you will also learn how to work yourself into a better position at any job. Saturnian change is about learning the rules of the game.

As you may have figured out, each of these transformation keys can be active in your life for a time, to be followed by another. Some people will even recognize that their entire career is characterized by one of them, although they may go through periods more in tune with the others. The important thing is to recognize the period you are in and work with it in the best way possible.

Avoid the pitfalls, if you can. With Uranian change, try to stay of the box and explore your freedom, rather than running to a new job on the rebound. With Neptunian change, accept that you don’t know where you are headed, but follow your dreams when you discover what they are, living through whatever doubt arises. Plutonian change may not leave you many options, but get in touch with your inner courage and persevere, avoiding the twin dangers of giving up and giving in to “the dark side.” Saturnian change also requires that you persevere, although in the face of delays and resistance rather than knock-down, drag-out battles.

In the last few years, many of us have had significant changes in career. Yet we’ve experienced those changes in different ways, some of us through Uranian change, others of us through Saturnian, Plutonian, or Neptunian change. Understanding the four keys to transformation can help you to see the underlying pattern in your own career changes, learning to avoid the pitfalls and make the most of the opportunities that go with that key.

While in one sense we are each going through our individual processes of transformation, in another sense, we are in the process of collectively reorganizing our attitudes towards work, and redefining what career is all about. Our individual journeys are part of this collective change, a deep transformation that encompasses all four keys.

Armand M. Diaz, M.A., helps clients make decisions that are in harmony with their greatest potential, offering a truly integral approach to astrology. Armand has practiced divination for more than twenty years, working with the I Ching and Tarot in addition to astrology. He has published in various astrological journals, including The Mountain Astrologer. His book, Transformation: The Four Keys to Thriving in Times of Change, is available through Amazon and Barnes & Noble as of May 12th. He can be reached at 917-216-1541 or armand@integralastrology.ne t, or though his website at www.integralastrology.net.

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