If you are wishing for your dream job but are immobilized with fear, how can you go past that fear?
Let us take a moment to look at your nemesis, fear. When it comes to fear we are little better than rats. Brain research shows that we are wired to choose instant gratification over long – term gain. Much as we want our dream jobs, our brain’s circuitry pushes us to stay with the secure jobs we already have. In other words, now we want our steady paycheck, in the future we will risk pursuing the job of our dreams.
What causes us to favor the immediate over the long term? It is not simply impulsivity. It is caused by the interplay between our brain’s limbic and analytic systems. The limbic system, the seat of our feelings, controls our emotional response to situations. It functions a bit like an impatient child: strenuous, demanding and wanting immediate gratification. The analytic system, on the other hand, controls our thoughts, and more closely resembles an experienced lawyer, staying cool and rational even under stress. Whereas the limbic system places a premium on rewards in the present (it wants what it wants now) the analytic system values future rewards just as highly.
Apply this to leaving our current jobs and pursuing dream jobs and you can see how, in a sense, our brains are wired against us. Our analytic systems can do a stellar job acknowledging the long term benefits that come from working jobs we love, but our volatile, protect – me – now limbic system starts to hyperventilate at the idea of losing the secure job we have now. No wonder we have a hard time getting past our fear!
And as if our own physiology were not obstacle enough, there are plenty of other factors that encourage us to stay where we are. Money, family, loss of identity, fear of exposing the ‘ real you’ , the ‘fraud factor’ (that voice in our heads that says – you mean you think you can succeed at that??’) are all steely – gripped forces that work to keep us where we are.
But they don’t always keep us where we are. Despite the fact that everyone faces those hurdles, some people manage to surmount them and move forward toward their dreams. People with nothing in the bank quit their jobs and open successful businesses. Sole earners with families to support move cross country to work at starting wages in their career of choice. People who have spent years building respect and credentials in their profession chuck it all and go back to square one in another. And people who are terrified to expose the dream they have sheltered inside for decades manage to give up the career that was expected and take up the very different kind of work they love. How do they do it? What enables them to put aside their fear and take the risk?
Often when I describe The Heroine’s Journey – Testdrive Your Dreamjob, the process of dream job seeking, people will say, ‘ Well I could not do that because I am not the right kind of person” as if there were a certain personality type that is capable of making the switch. I know what they mean. They have the idea that the type of person who can successfully pursue a dream job is someone who is exceptionally gutsy (or perhaps foolhardy) is very decisive and assertive; has a high tolerance for risk and ambiguity and has a history of creating opportunities and trying new things.
Kind of Hemingway type.
I suppose if I had not seen so many different types of people successfully create their dream jobs I would assume the same thing. It is not so. Successful creative heroes seem to come in all personality configurations. Some are so assertive they resemble bulldogs, while others seem so timid you wonder how they are able to ask water in a a restaurant. Some have a history of starting new ventures and others have worked entire careers in the same job. Some rattle off decisions with force, others deliberate until the last possible moment – and then change their minds!. Whatever you imagine the right personality type to be, I am sure I can find you a rolemodel who turns your stereotype on its head.
But that is not to say that successful dream job seekers don’t have anything in common. They do. The more people who make their money doing what they love I talk to, the more I see certain stories they tell themselves that most of them share. Regardless of their proclivity toward risk or their level of assertiveness, they have similar ways of telling themselves stories about life and themselves that make it easier for them to proceed.
- A clear story. Successful creative heroes tend to have a clear image of what they want to to. It may be a particular job, it may be a type of work, it may be a lifestyle and a location. Though the level of specificity and detail varies with the creative professional what they share is a clear mental picture of themselves doing that kind of work. The clarity of the image acts like a magnet pulling them forward. When they meet obstacles along the way, that magnetic image rallies them and keeps them moving toward it.
- Optimism. In addition to having a clear vision, successful creative heroes believe that their vision will pan out. Otherwise, they would not do it!. Some have a general confidence in their own abilities based on a history of success; others believe that this particular venture is primed to succeed. They know that failure is possible (and occasionally can’t stop that fear from creeping in) but most of the time they anticipate success as if that were the far more likely option.
- Comfort with failure. When they do consider failure they don’t become terrified. Their attitude is ‘what is the worst that can happen?, whatever it is we will deal with it” They imagine a period of difficulty and adjustment after the failure, and then life moving forward positively once again.
- A high self – standard. Over and over, in different words, I hear creative heroes express the same sentiment: I would rather try and fail than know I did not try. I don’ t want to grow old and wonder ‘what if I had tried’? It is a recurring story: what pushes them past the fear is the knowledge that by not trying they will be letting themselves down.
Not everyone who makes the switch has everyone of these factor, but the people who successfully undertake dream careers seem to have most of them. Together, these attitudes make a package that seems to make it easier for people to move out of their comfort zone and try something new.
But even these attributes don’t fully explain why some people switch and others don’t. Something is still missing from the equation. And that missing something, I believe is urgency . People who make the switch have reached a point in their lives at which they simply have no choice. It is no longer a matter of wanting to make a change. They have to.
There is a moment when the pain of staying put outweighs the pain of making a change.
And that is a magic moment – because the moment we cross that line, things that previously felt like insurmountable fears begin to look more like manageable hurdles. Now on your way to work you find yourself dreaming up ways to overcome them.
Instead of wishing they were a way that you could move forward with the dream, you find yourself thinking about how you are going to do it. Instead of imagining some vague, open-ended timeline, you start fixing your actions to concrete dates when you know you will be able to act.
An enormous internal shift has taken place, and now even such major fears as money, family, identity and exposing the “real you” begin to lose their insurmountable quality. As if a locomotive has begun rolling inside you, from that moment on, you steadily gather momentum.
What Can I Expect?
Here’s an outline of The Heroine’s Journey in Paris: Testdrive your Dreamjob
- In the Footsteps of Julia Child
- Just Do It
- The Search for Mentors
- Questions to Ask
- Telling Your Story
- Finding the Right Mentor
- A Mentor of Your Own
- Doing the Testdrive
- Questions for the Mentor
- Choose a Cheerleader
- Should I Hire a Coach?
- Listening with your Heart
- Evaluating the Testdrive
- Not Your Dream Job After All?
Your Travel Guide
Story teller Peter de Kuster is the founder of The Heroine’s Journey en The Hero’s Journey and an accomplished speaker worldwide. His books and stories about the Hero’s Journey – making money doing what you love – have reached millions of creative professionals worldwide in the last decennium.