Monday, 26 March 2012

How You're Putting Obstacles in Your Own Path
I was speaking to a client the other day, who had been fired from his latest job and was seriously considering leaving the entire teaching industry to pursue his true dream of being a freelance film maker, or perhaps to travel instead. He asked whether I had time to talk later, and then he said an interesting thing;

"I'll be busy this afternoon, I'm applying for some more (teaching) jobs."

My answer, according to him, changed his perspective. Now, it might seem like an obvious thing to ask, but it isn't always as clear when it's you in that situation:

"If you want to get out of teaching, why are you still applying for teaching jobs?"

Well... he didn't know. Perhaps it was out of habit - he had been applying for teaching jobs for so long that he hadn't noticed an inconsistency between his words and his actions. Perhaps he was afraid that his filming career would fail, and so sought the comfort of a "safety net" - the one thing that he already knew that he could do, something comfortable that would bring a consistent income. But, every time he had started a new teaching job, his dreams and plans had to be put on hold. Without realising it, perhaps he was trying to prevent himself from progressing; trying to throw obstacles into his own path.

It definitely wasn't the first time I'd seen somebody do that. A lot of my clients have started dreaming about their ultimate life - whether it's setting up their own business, changing career paths or travelling the world. When they start talking about those things, their eyes light up, they smile without realising it and their gestures become a lot more animated. They glow. And then, something takes over, a grey cloud sneaks into their voice and their eyes, and they say "Or I could just apply for a different job (in the exact same field I'm in now)". 

When we've been in a certain job for a long time, it's hard to see a way out. We convince ourselves that we're too old, that we can't afford to take a few months off a stable income, that it's a silly dream anyway. It seems so much easier to stay in our cocoon, to stick with what we know. And of course, all the experience on our CVs will help, and we know that we can do that job, at least. Sure, we might not enjoy it - we might hate it - but it's what you're good at, right?

In my client's case, he didn't even realise what he was doing, but every time he applied for a job that he didn't want, he diverted valuable time and energy from what he really wanted to do - building his film portfolio and promoting himself as a freelancer. But freelance work can be scary - you have to sell yourself, network, build a client base, and no two months will bring the same (or a guaranteed minimum) income. But it was what he wanted to do - the thing that animated him when he talked about it, the thing that gave him his glow. And of course, once I saw his actual portfolio and realised that he had been pursuing this dream on the side for years, it became clear that this was something he was really passionate about.

So, how about you? Do you keep applying to jobs that you don't really want? Are you spending all that time on trying to get a promotion, when deep down you want to run away and do something completely different? How much time and energy are you investing in something that you aren't passionate about? What are you avoiding? It might be time to sit down and ask yourself why you're putting obstacles in your own path. Are you afraid that it won't work out? Do people around you make you believe that it's best to stick to what you know, even when what you know is a job you hate? Wouldn't you prefer to glow when you talk about what you do, to know form the bottom of your soul that it's what you are meant to be doing?

It's never too late, and you're never too old. Look at how much time you're investing into applying for those jobs you don't want, or into that training course you never really wanted to sign up for in the first place. If you took that same time and energy and channelled it into your dream, how much more powerful would it be? You would suddenly have time to research, network, travel, do what you need to do to get where you want to be. It's hard to build a successful business when you're only giving a tiny percentage of yourself to it, after all.

After our conversation, my client came up with the answer himself. I really felt a spark of excitement when he said, of his own volition, "Instead of applying for all those jobs, I could spend the time working on my portfolio - does that make sense?" He's now planning on pushing his film company and expanding his client base, with the idea of getting to travel, too - perhaps as a videographer on a cruise ship. How exciting! 

So - what idea excites you? What makes your eyes light up when you talk about it? It can be hard to break out of your comfort zone, I know, but just remember that every day you spend telling yourself it's too late to change paths is one day you could have spent working toward your dream. But it's your choice, too - you can do something that makes you glow, or you can spend your life throwing obstacles in your own way because you're afraid that this scary, different thing might not be as easy as your current job. Well, great things aren't (always) supposed to fall into our laps from above - they take time and energy, and if we really want them then we don't mind putting that time and energy in. 

How much more time and energy would you have to give if you stopped putting obstacles in your own path?

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  1. What if you don't know your dream, or what makes you excited, or what lights you up?

  2. Have a look at my free e-book :) - the idea is to help you find out!