I have asked many clients to rank their career choices. It’s amusing that they don’t hesitate when doing this, no matter how confused they seem. They know what they want.
Intriguingly, they often cross off the top option first and focus a lot of energy on the least satisfying option on the list. “I have a job offer right now. It’s probably the last thing I want to do but having a job is better than nothing or getting retrenched.”
What leads competent and intellectual individuals to kill the most preferred option and flirt with a lackluster one? It is not hunger but the fear of hunger that leads us to eat anything available – toxic, no nutrition, bad food choices. This mindset is the mindset of scarcity in famine, although we live in abundance. The fundamental belief is “I will not get what I want.”
When we tell ourselves this over and over again, we subconsciously sabotage getting what we want. It is the first item to be crossed from the list. Because “I won’t get it.” “I don’t deserve it.” “The good things won’t happen to me.”
So it will be what you imagined.
The weight of an “important” career decision
Career choices are hard to make because it touches everything, many of which are at high stake: stability, identity, family, relationship, and sense of belonging. These things we hold in our hearts seem to be so volatile – they risk being disturbed or turned upside down by one career decision.
So here is an assumption we make: a career decision has the power to impact many things. This assumption seriously undermines your capability to improvise, salvage a bad situation, and optimize any circumstances.
A job with a “demanding” tag does not necessarily take all your personal life and relationship out of you – if you decide to give a boundary to it or leave it when it becomes out of control. A new startup with a high chance of failure may not become a failure – if you decide to live your aspiration of entrepreneurship – success there is defined by the capability to learn from failure.
Too often we carry a heavyweight of decision making as if the outcome is solely determined by the decision. What if there isn’t destiny? What if the future is indeed what we make it to become? Or perhaps we should believe in fate. Because if there is one, then how we choose ceases to matter. Life will traverse its path, and we can and should just let go of all the anxiety and live the moment.
Either way, the choice is not in the one we are making: which career path to go for. The real choice is about choosing how we see life and what actions we take after making that choice.
Can we relieve some of that weight that loads our future selves?
Have trust in the powerful, resourceful, intelligent future self who will navigate, improvise and make the best of every situation.
The responsibility of our present self
To not assume full responsibility for the outcome is not to become irresponsible in decision-making. The way we should take responsibility in decision-making is: to acknowledge our true desire for life and clear any biases that arise from fantasy or fear.
There’s a 1% chance of getting retrenched if you stay where you are. And yet, getting retrenched seems to be all you can associate with this option. What makes it so? And what about the other possibilities, e.g., you work out an ideal job with your boss or organization? And what about the in-between scenarios like you find a good place, though imperfect?
To see the other possibilities is not to deny that this 1% of risk exists or not to give it extra weight because it is detrimental and something we can’t afford very well. To see the other possibilities is not to lose sight of what we want and what we can create than to be a victim of circumstances.
It is our responsibility, then, to exercise practical optimism.
The role of courage
To be optimistic means to have hope despite all the chances things won’t be perfect. It is also to let go of the fear of imperfection, and the need to control the outcome.
And then we ask, how can I let go of fear? In the choice by Dr. Edith Eger, “Love and Fear cannot exist at the same time.”
When we are in touch with love and purpose, fear can no longer hold its fort. It will continue to exist but will be insignificant in the face of what we believe and are set out to achieve.
There are true desires we yearn. The desire to live our values than the expectation of others. The desire to grow, learn, and become instead of being confined. The desire to return light to ourselves when stuck in a toxic environment for too long. The desire to blossom not only in career but also in life. The desire to be free so we can love, create, and do things only we can do in our unique ways.
These desires are not often heard. They are kept in places where no rational calculation can reach. A life decision is not the same as a business decision. Equally grasping with uncertainty, you have truth in you when deciding for yourself.
All you need to do is to listen to it.