“We are dying from over-thinking. We are slowly killing ourselves by thinking about everything. Think. Think. Think. You can never trust the human mind anyway. It’s a death trap”
– Anthony Hopkins
Most people have a vague idea about the type of career or lifestyle change they’d like to make (even if they never share them with anyone else).
Some have aspirations for a completely new career. Some want a change in lifestyle and live in warmer climate or maybe in the countryside for a slower pace of life. Some dream of starting a small business or enjoying the flexibility of working part-time and enjoying a better work-life balance.
Despite these aspirations and very good intentions, most people never get their ideas off ground as they simply overthink things.
This over-thinking and over-planning usually results in overwhelm.
Which means they become paralyzed with indecision and do absolutely nothing. Over time the fear of change sets in and they become stuck until some major external event (e.g. redundancy, a health issue, a divorce or financial challenge) forces them to re-examine what it is they truly want.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Any major change process is never ever a linear, step by step process. By it’s very nature, ‘change’ has uncertainty and unpredictability built in. Which is precisely why it’s scary.
So whilst you can’t ‘plan’ such a change process in a linear, objective fashion, there is a more subjective methodology that will get you there much faster:
1. Have a broad direction in mind
Rather than rigid goals and detailed plans – start with a broad objective or direction.
“I’d like a career which allows me to do something meaningful and makes a difference”
“I want to have a challenging role AND spend time with my kids as they grow up”
“I want to relocate to xyz City or Country”
“I want to live near the sea and work from my own beach house” (Full disclosure: this last quote is from me!)
2. Focus on the next step
What’s the next instinctive step you can take to move you in the right direction?
It could be updating your CV or resume. It could be emailing a friend who has the kind of lifestyle or career you want. Or booking some informational interviews with people in the types of careers you’re drawn into.
Or simply dedicating a Sunday afternoon on your own, away from distractions to simply think about what it is you truly want.
3. Trust your instincts
When you pursue something that you truly want, your gut instinct and intuition will usually be guiding you.
But to tap into your intuition, you need to:
a) Learn to slow down, tune into your intuition and listen much more to yourself
b) Begin trusting your intuition. By letting your instinct direct your actions – even though it may not seem rational and in line with a “logical and sensible plan”.
4. Let go of the outcome
The more you stay focused and attached rigidly on an end goal – the harder it becomes to get there and the further it seems to move away (a bit like the horizon)
So yes, have a direction. But don’t obsess over it. The more you become detached emotionally from the end goal and simply stay in the moment and go with the flow – the faster you get to where you want to be.
And guess what – very often you don’t end up in a place you thought you were heading. It’s often a different career or lifestyle you found along the way – something you’d never considered. But you’d have never discovered it unless you’d stepped outside your comfort zone and avoided having a rigid plan.
5. Be flexible and go with the flow
It’s not exactly what your parents taught you – or what the old career planning books advised you (i.e. “decide on a goal. Create a plan. Then break down the plan in a step by step fashion…”)
In today’s ever changing world, such an approach no longer works.
Instead, learning to “go with the flow” and adapt based on your surroundings is key is one of the most important skills you’ll need – not only to thrive , but simply to survive.
6. Expect that everything will work out just fine
Regardless of whether you’re religious, spiritual or otherwise – it’s important that you trust and have faith that things will work out.
It’s that faith and belief which will make all the difference when you’re on an unknown path to an unknown destination and things get scary.
Some of you reading this will think the above points seem a little ‘fluffy’ or ‘whacky’. Some of you will think I’ve been smoking something funny and maybe lost the plot!
But it’s actually the people telling you to follow old style step-by-step career plans that have lost the plot.
And that’s why going through such a change process is so difficult emotionally. Because friends, family and colleagues will be the very first ones to question your judgment (and sometimes your sanity too).
Which at times will lead to you start questioning your own judgement and abilities. too.
So when you do get those pangs of self-doubt, please come back and read this article again.
Better still, go and listen to some people far wiser than me:
a) As a starter, watch this brilliant speech from Steve Jobs talking about how “the dots join up backwards in your career” – and the importance of listening to your heart and going with the flow. It worked for him as he built Apple into the most valuable company in the world. So why it can’t work for you?
b) Go and read the work of Dan Pink, the New York Times best-selling author who has written and spoken extensively about the changing work place and how we can no longer “plan” like we used to in the past.
Dan is not a fluffy type of guy.
He’s is a very logical thinker who uses facts, figures and case studies to prove that linear career planning no longer works. He has clear evidence to show that the people who thrive in the modern world of work are the ones who do NOT over-plan their careers or lifestyles.
So stop over-thinking and stop over-planning yours. Focus on the next steps, trust your instincts whilst keeping yourself open to new ideas and options which may arise.
Do this and you’ll see plenty of excitement, adventure, opportunities (and maybe the odd fall) in the road ahead.
You simply just need to get out of your head and get out onto that road to experience the thrills and spills of the journey.
Just take that next step and, who knows, I may well see you at the beach at some point!