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4 Secrets to Career-Change Happiness

Annie Favreau

Career changes can feel like total chaos. Even if you have a solid game plan in place, you're bound to have uncertain moments where you feel like you're groping around in the dark. "In our quest for a more fulfilling career, uncertainty can be, at best, motivational," writes business psychologist Sharon Peake, "but, at worst, it's totally disabling--leaving you in a state of confusion and worry."

Yet even in the midst of major transition, you can find contentment and calm. Try these four secrets to get your happy back during a career change:

1. Start your day with intention. To bring more clarity into your day, spend one minute each morning to figure out your motivating purpose for the day. As life coach Susan Minarik writes, "Our intentions identify our direction and provide criteria for the choices that we'll make. More than that, an intention is an energizing force, carrying us toward the results we want to achieve."

You might focus on an action-based intention, like a specific goal you want to achieve that day (see secret No. 2), or an attitude-based intention (like being positive, grateful, etc.) to carry with you throughout the day. Focus on a singular intention to streamline your thoughts and actions.

2. Set and celebrate small goals. During a career transition, simply meeting a goal or overcoming a small challenge can make you feel more satisfied and in-control. To stay motivated, break your work into SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, time-bound) goals that you can achieve within a day or two. And when you hit a new target, don't just breeze by the celebration period--acknowledge or reward yourself for a good job done.

3. Help other people. A study from the University of Chicago reported that the happiest workers are in careers that revolve around helping other people. You may not be transitioning into a job that's directly about service--like nursing or teaching--but everyone can find more ways to be helpful in day-to-day life.

Whether you come to the rescue of a struggling colleague, meet up to share tips with other career changers, or use the "how can I help you?" mentality to expand your network, challenge yourself to give back. This might seem counter-intuitive ("I need every last ounce of energy to focus on my career change!") but helping others can give you a major attitude boost.

4. Get moving (literally). It's so easy to let your workout slip off the bottom of your To Do list. But it pays to prioritize a sweat session.

Study after study has shown that getting your heart rate up can do miracles for your mood. Even mild exercise (like a 20-minute walk) can spike your endorphin and serotonin levels. This can lower your stress, increase your ability to concentrate, and act as a natural anti-depressant. Pretty good for a no-cost activity, right?

If you're still having trouble justifying the time, make your workout do double-duty: Try taking a spin class with friends you wouldn't otherwise have time to meet or holding a walking meeting with a career mentor. Bottom line: Keep on the move to push through the tough work of a career change.

How are you bringing more happiness into your career change?

Annie Favreau is the managing editor for Inside Jobs--a site that helps career changers and choosers discover strong career options + find the right education to make it happen. Follow her on Twitter @InsideJobs.

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