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What if it doesn't work? The 5 Minute Career Coach March Update
March 15, 2012

Helping Career Changers Around The World

March 2012 Update


But what if it doesn't work...then what?

worried womanAre you staying stuck because you are scared that a change of career may not work out? Are you exploring and researching ideas and yet somehow putting off making a final decision? Or maybe you are hanging on in there in a job that is not really right for you because you feel you have invested a lot of time in training and you are reluctant to 'throw it away'?

In all these cases, the spectre of having to admit that a choice has not worked out as you hoped is stopping you from taking action.

You are probably building up a picture of all the possible nightmare scenarios, imagining the worst of what might happen if you change direction - but these expectations are almost certainly based on limited and inaccurate information. And what about all the possible positive outcomes? Make sure you give both sides equal weight.

Managing setbacks
Now you may have experienced a failure of some other project in the past and be familiar with that sense of disappointment that can come with it. You may have found that you felt angry with yourself or perhaps defeated or overwhelmed. Having once faced a setback, you may be reluctant to go that path again. Perhaps you are uncertain of your ability to cope with it.

If you have faced failure, however small, the first step is to allow yourself to acknowledge the feelings you have about it. It is OK to feel disappointed, upset or angry. It is a good idea to discuss your experience with a sympathetic friend who will listen and enable you to express how you feel without judging you.

If you don't do this, those feelings can be stored up inside you and ambush you the next time you are facing a challenging situation and the fear you feel then has more to do with past experience than the current challenge.

It is also important to do a reality check about what has actually happened. You may feel that you are to blame but, let's face it, sometimes in life stuff just happens that is totally outside your control. So step back and ask yourself what part you played and then also be honest with yourself about the other contributing factors too. Only take responsibility for what is truly yours.

Life ain't perfect!
Another challenge in coming to terms with things that are not working out as you had hoped is the tendency to create unrealistically high expectations and in doing this we set ourselves up to feel a sense of failure even when the outcome was actually quite reasonable in the circumstances. We also put too much emphasis on a very specific outcome so that anything less than perfection is regarded as a disaster.

But life isn't that black and white, so when you are considering tackling a big change, take the time to consider a spectrum of possible outcomes, including 'perfection' at one end, but acknowledging that other 'less than perfect' outcomes will actually be quite acceptable

Moving on
If something is going pear shaped, by all means, allow yourself to feel bad for a while but then take back control, recognising that you are the only one who is really in charge of your own life and how you feel about what happens to you. Be kind to yourself. Support yourself as you would a friend. Regret is only natural, but check that it is based on the reality of the situation rather than getting stuck in self blame.

Wallowing in thoughts of what 'could have been' keeps you locked into the idea that there is still the perfect solution out there that you have missed because of some kind of failure on your part. In most cases, there are many much worse outcomes that have not come to pass and seeing these will put your situation into perspective.

Moving on involves you asking yourself 'how is it helping me to continue to go over all the might-have-beens?' and 'what is a more helpful attitude to adopt moving forward?'

Attempting change is always going to mean taking a risk and rising to a challenge. Make sure you don't let yourself be weighed down by previous experiences. Whatever has happened in the past has made you stronger and wiser and you can now build on that.

In the end, which is likely to be the bigger source of regret – staying put and wondering what might have been or taking a risk and then at least being able to say that you had given it a try?

Which option will allow you to continue to learn and grow? Surely that more than anything is the measure of a life well lived?

With very best wishes


Cherry Douglas
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