Why is it that when we think of making a meaningful career change, going after a dream job, or starting a business we immediately think of all the reasons why we would fail?
When I was going through my career change journey I was flooded by feelings of self-doubt. I knew I wanted to be a coach but my inner critic came up with all kinds of reasons why I would never be successful. It said, "You'll never make it as a coach. Who would hire you? You're not good enough." The negative self-talk was on repeat in my head like an evil broken record player. I found myself in what I call the "cycle of stuck" where I dreamed of a more fulfilling career, came up with reasons why I would fail, avoided taking any action and remained stuck.
I'm guessing you might be going through your own version of the cycle of stuck. Maybe your inner critic is telling you that it's too late to change careers, that you'll never make any money doing what you love, or that it's too risky to leave your job in this economy. In this article I want to share how being aware of your fears and focusing on taking small steps can help you overcome your fears and get out of the cycle of stuck.
Anticipating Danger Is Our Default
When it comes to career change we are stepping into unknown territory. In order to make ourselves feel safe, we naturally look out for danger around every corner. And while it is smart to anticipate and prepare for challenges, we shouldn't let the fear of failure stop us from getting started.
When I began thinking about making a career change, I imagined how hard it would be to build a successful coaching practice and that my decision would make me look bad in the eyes of family and friends. In retrospect, it seems absurd to worry about failing at something that I hadn't even started yet but it points to the power of our fears and its ability to stop us from making personally meaningful changes in our careers. So how can we overcome the habit of over analyzing and avoiding taking action?
focus on the present, not the future
Every career change journey is a series of small steps that finally leads to your dream career. Rather than get caught up in the drama of an imaginary future where you end up broke and homeless, focus on the next logical step in your journey.
When I decided to change careers from lawyer to career coach, my first step wasn't to leave my full-time job as a lawyer and start a coaching business. That would have been scary and foolish. Instead, my first step was to sign up for a coaching certification program to learn the skills of coaching. From there, I offered free coaching to anyone who would let me practice on them. Over time I got better as a coach and eventually began to earn a living as a coach.
My experience of going through a career change was more like a transition than a risky leap of faith. I recommend the same transition strategy for you. Your next step isn't to do something drastic like quit your job or liquidate your 401K. More than likely your next step is to gather more information, talk to someone in your new field of interest, or take a class on the topic. When you shift your focus away from an imagined failure and instead focus on the next logical step in your journey you avoid getting paralyzed by fear and are able to move forward towards your career goals.
If you find yourself procrastinating or otherwise avoiding taking action because of a fear of failure, take a moment to question the credibility of your fears. Are they real or assumed? If they are assumptions then you owe it to yourself to do the real work of taking an action step towards your dream career and evaluate any perceived risks based on the actions that you take and not the assumptions that you make.
Focus on what you can do today to move forward. Is there a conversation you can have, a book you can read, or a class you can take that will move you further along your career journey. Let each small step inform your next decision and continue to move in a direction that feels right to you.
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