An immensely talented and successful client is having trouble deciding on a new career. She knows exactly what she does not want to do, but when it comes to choosing a path, the world becomes a confusing and threatening place.
She recognizes that she has made choices for most of her life that pleased other people. Now, she has decided she will do what she wants to do.
Except when she tries to make that choice, it seems impossible. Nothing fits. There are too many choices. None is right.
The change monster
There is nothing so frightening as change. We tend to stay with what we know, even after it has become restrictive, unfulfilling, and even painful. We even quote people who have promoted this state:
- “Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t.” – Jack Heath
- “The scars of others should teach us caution.” – St. Jerome
- “Every step of life shows much caution is required.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Our friends and family members, ever protective, counsel us to stay with the secure job that makes us miserable, calling it perseverance rather than fear.
But we know the difference. We know our spirit is calling us to fly, and keeping $10,000 a year isn’t going to quiet the voice.
Then, the excuses tumble out: Our family is counting on our income. We haven’t saved enough for retirement. We want to take vacations every year. Where will the tuition come from? What if we fail? What if we never find another job? What if we lose the house? What if our family deserts us?
At that point, we hunker down and keep the job we have because doing anything else is way too scary.
Here’s the thing. We are almost never as frightened of leading a miserable, unfulfilling life as we are of venturing into something new. As a career coach, I’ve talked to countless more people who regret opportunities missed rather than security lost.
There is also inspiration from the other side of the fence:
- “You miss 100 percent of the shots you never take.”– Wayne Gretzky
- “The greatest mistake you can make in life is to be continually fearing you will make one.”– Elbert Hubbard
- “They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.”– Andy Warhol
What is stopping you?
When it comes to choosing a new job or career, if we are stuck in indecision, it may be more important to find out what is stopping us than to force change despite trepidation or to retreat back into our less than fulfilling job. Like a distant star, when we look closely at fear, it disappears.
Here are some questions to consider when indecision paralyzes us:
- What am I thinking about when I begin to feel worried or fearful?
- Is what I imagine a possibility? Can it actually happen?
- Imagine that awful thing happens. Then what? Would I recover?
- What other things might happen, good and bad?
- Do I have any way of accurately predicting any of them?
- Can I control these events?
What many of us find is that we are imagining catastrophes that aren’t in our control. Few of us can control the stock market, the weather, or our family. When we separate those fears out, we can often deal with the “real” ones, the ones we can do something about.
If after thinking about your fears, you are still unable to make a choice about your career direction, contact me today. I offer a coaching program called Career Exploration that may be able to help you move forward. Every single person who has completed the program has been able to make a decision for their career and make headway. You can, too.
Image courtesy Stuart Miles at freedigitalphotos.net.