I Agree to Forsake All Other... Careers:
How Our Fear Of Commitment Prevents Us from Finding Our Unique Path
by Leslie Godwin, MFCC, Career &
"What if I invest all that time and money in becoming a physical
therapist, and then find out that's it's not the right career for me?"
Dolores asked me the other day. I said, "Do you feel that there's only one
perfect career for you, and that you're going to choose the wrong one?" She
looked at me as if I said something ridiculous. Then she smiled, and said,
"I guess I do worry about that."
Dolores is a bright, motivated 43 year-old woman whose daughter is heading to
college this summer. She's glad she stayed home to raise her daughter and now
she's excited that she'll be able to work outside the home. But she can't figure
out what she wants to do. Actually, she wants to do a lot of things. But she
doesn't know how to decide which to get serious about.
Dolores, like many clients I've seen over the years, has so many interests
that she's afraid to commit to one career path. You could say that she has too
much hope. She hopes that one career path will be perfect, and that she won't
feel any self-doubt along the way. But the more she hopes for a PERFECT career
path, the less able she is to get started on ANY path. So her hope is
handcuffing her. If she could give up hope of perfection and tackle the reality
of something she knows she enjoys, she'll be back in the present moment and able
to take action.
Dating Is a Good Place to Start
A lifelong marriage doesn't start with vows, but with lunch. We meet someone
with potential, and if he seems more interesting after lunch, things progress
from there. We have certain deal-breakers that can interrupt an otherwise
pleasant relationship - whether or not you each want children, strong religious
beliefs or lack of them, or if she leaves the cap off the tube of toothpaste.
The same thing happens when we pick a point to begin our career path. We
start with an idea that has some potential, and see if we are more interested,
or less, as we start down that path (including doing market research,
networking, and talking to experts in our chosen field.) We have deal-breakers
that shoot down an otherwise promising opportunity - whether you can have a
flexible schedule, if you have to tolerate unethical behavior, or if your boss
expects you to carry a pager 24 hours a day.
Commitment Happens in The Present ... The Future Is Still a Mystery
In a relationship, after you've gotten through a couple of holiday seasons with
someone, met his family, and seen him handle a crisis or two, and you love him
even more than when you first fell for him, it's time to make a decision. One
that's harder for men, but still anxiety provoking for women. Will you forsake
all others for a lifetime to be with this person? Will you allow the
relationship to grow and evolve in ways you can't anticipate when you exchange
rings and promise you'll stick together through the unpredictable?
A career path will also evolve in ways you can't imagine. Ask someone who
loves their job how they got where they are. Chances are, part of their story
involves being in the right place at the right time, not scheming but instead
simply being available and prepared to take the opportunity. And that
opportunity was there because years before, they took a leap of faith and gave
up all other paths to get started down THEIR path.
If you're stuck because you're afraid to commit to one path, or one niche in
your larger path, here are some ways to reduce your fear of choosing one and
giving up all other possibilities.
1. Start with a 'good enough' idea. Don't wait for the 'perfect' place to
start...there isn't one.
2. The first steps are the hardest...you need to build up momentum. Don't
tell everyone what you're planning, or you'll waste too much energy defending a
decision YOU'RE not even sure about yet. (You don't bring your girlfriend home
to meet your parents on your second date...wait until you know your new path a
little bit to introduce it to family and friends who will be critical out of
their desire to 'protect' you.)
3. If you notice that you're afraid to commit to one career path (or one
specialty area within your path) ask yourself if your fantasy about a perfect
future is getting in the way of trying out something good enough. Or are you
worried that you'll invest too much in the wrong area, and have to start all
over? Try to get a glimpse of what is triggering your anxiety.
'Til Retirement Do Us Part
If you can draw out your hidden, illogical reasons for not committing, you can
consciously choose to override those fears. Then, forsaking all other careers in
order to follow your true path will probably lead to a long and satisfying
Leslie Godwin, MFCC is a Career & Life-Transition Coach,
Writer, and Speaker. She publishes a free email newsletter on career and life
transition. For information, email firstname.lastname@example.org
and mention that you'd like to be on the email newsletter list.