Can You Take a Leap of Faith?
A short story . . .
I have a client who is weighing an important decision about a career change. He has worked hard for many years in a company where he has frequently felt under-valued by top leadership and unable to get support and buy-in for strategic changes he believes would help the people doing the work of the business. An opportunity has come up that he’s excited about, AND, the choice to pursue it is not straightforward. The salary for the new position is considerably lower than what he now earns, and the total benefits package would not make up the money difference in a significant way. A move to another city with a higher cost of living would also be required. It would be doable, AND, he would be uprooting himself from the life he has created. His ties within the community are deep. I’ve watched him gather data and explore the financial implications of taking the new position, and the jury is still out on what he will decide. It’s a tough call for him to make. Watching him and listening to him sort through the pros and cons of staying with the job and the company that he knows versus taking the risk of making a transition in employment makes me think about hard it can be to make a personal or professional change.
Weighing the choices. . .
I think about how to help him as he weighs his choices. I ask questions and hold up a reflective mirror that supports all of what he thinks and feels about the risks and opportunities that this change presents. What my client is going through is pretty much the universal experience that comes with considering any important change. It’s scary and exhilarating, often simultaneously. What I have shared with him may help you.
- We think it would be easier to make a change if we could know the outcome of the choices we are weighing or see a picture of what the end result of a change will be. This is unlikely to happen.
- Sometimes we outgrow the life we are living and feel hobbled by our past choices – kind of like wearing a size 7 shoe on a foot that is now a size 8. We can still fit into that shoe (that life), but we walk (live) with a noticeable limp and it hurts us.
- Even when we are tired, bored or unhappy, some of us hold on a long time to what we are used to. Fear of the unknown keeps us holding on longer.
- We are troubled by uncertainty and exert control at every opportunity, hoping control will bring us safety and security. Life rarely works out the way we have planned it.
- When asked what we want, we don’t know! In that place of not knowing, we feel stuck, uncomfortable and indecisive.
Our choices bring change, but there are no guarantees. . .
Remember that no choice you make today has to be your last one. We cannot say what the end result will be. What we can do is be brave and step on out there into the ambiguity and the unknown, trusting that with each choice and change we make, we are gathering information that can inform and guide our NEXT choice and our NEXT change. The future is always calling.
Our choices bring change which is ongoing. . .
- Identifying what you don’t want can help you clarify what you do want. Start there.
- Pushing against your own natural resistance to change will likely make it stronger. Lightening up and relaxing with uncertainty takes some of the pressure off. Notice what happens with you and your life when you stop trying to arrange and control so many outcomes.
- When you feel overwhelmed by the immensity of a choice or decision you are facing, focus instead on changing something you can definitely do something about RIGHT NOW. Try cleaning out the garage, a closet, a drawer, rake the yard, plant some flowers, prune the trees and hedges, take a class on something that interests you, join a club, start a new health habit. . . Working on transforming one thing, or making something be different tends to create energy to change something else.
- Stop trying to force things. Instead, put an action that matters to you into motion and be curious about where it will lead.
- Deliberately choosing to temporarily set aside a decision can be helpful. If you can, give yourself at least two weeks to lay down whatever the decision is that you are struggling with. Unless there is an urgent health or safety risk in waiting, those two weeks of letting your decision “marinate” may free you up to step forward and make the change you are weighing.
Our choices create our future — (try thinking of it as one very big adventure you are on)
What will my client choose to do about the career change choice he is considering? Not sure yet, but here’s what I left him with last time we talked. At the end of your life, don’t be one of the people who regrets what you did not do or changes that you did not make. Be brave as you make your choices. Work to bring about the future you dream of. It’s OK to be afraid of how things might turn out, AND, don’t let the uncertainty and unknown outcome stop you. With every change we make, we weigh our choices, but in the end, moving forward into what’s unknown will require a leap of faith.