How to approach a career change with a sense of excitement and adventure

by | Feb 20, 2023 | Coaching Blog

“Smooth seas do not make skilful sailors.” (African proverb)

Life decisions are hard. Considering a career change is one of those decisions and it can be daunting. We’re hardwired to resist uncertainty, and this can lead to procrastination. Fear and anxiety can seize control of our attention and prevent us from making thoughtful, informed decisions about our own future. And, when we’re dealing with uncomfortable emotions like fear and anxiety, our default mode is to resist them. Our natural instinct is to try to sweep them under the carpet or hope they’ll go away. When we’re trapped by difficult thoughts and feelings the resistance causes us to move away from our values and what really matters.

Emotions drive our decision making every day, from the smallest decision such as what to eat for breakfast to big decisions about our lives and what we want for our future. Becoming aware of the emotions that drive us helps us to recognise and challenge unhelpful thought patterns and beliefs that hold us back. Psychologist, Susan David, calls this emotional agility. She argues that emotional agility enables us to be flexible and open-minded in our approach and learn from our setbacks rather than be defeated by them.

“You can never cross the ocean unless you have the courage to lose sight of the shore.” Christopher Columbus

Susan David says – when we make choices based on what we know to be true for ourselves, rather than being led by others telling us what is right or wrong, important or cool, we have the power to face almost any circumstance in a constructive way. As Michelle Obama once said, “I have learned that as long as I hold fast to my beliefs and values – and follow my own moral compass – then the only expectations I need to live up to are my own.”

If you’re frustrated and unhappy in your work, moving towards living a life aligned with your values might feel like a huge hurdle. But, not doing so may lead to even greater dissatisfaction in the long run.

We fear the unexpected, but we can train our minds to be flexible and adaptive – to thrive in change rather than resist change. To do this we need to reframe our thinking to approach a career change with a sense of excitement and adventure. We need to build the courage to lose sight of the shore.


The 6 steps to begin to thrive in change:

1. Try new things!

Break out of your default mode and begin experimenting. Think about what interests you, what ignites your passion and begin to test these out. This might be a short course, a webinar, or a new class. Don’t wait until you start to feel motivated! As you try new things, you will begin to feel inspired, and you never know where it will take you. You’ll gain confidence doing things that the previous you has never done before and if each day you take 1 small step, in a year’s time you’ll have taken 365 steps!

2. Enjoy the journey!

See your career change as an adventure, a journey you’re going on to find meaningful work. Knowing that it’s going to be a process of discovery rather than a sudden bombshell of an idea for a new career will take the pressure off. Fear and anxiety around the uncertainty of the future will be diminished and you can approach career change with openness and curiosity. Take one small step at a time. There’ll be mistakes but celebrate these mistakes along the way by learning from them, sharing them with others, and being proud of stepping out of your comfort zone.

3. Know your values.

Knowing your values will help guide you on your journey to fulfilment. Values help you harness greater levels of willpower and protect you from negatively comparing yourself to others. We all tend to overestimate the degree that other people notice or observe our appearance or actions and have an irrational fear of judgment. Set your own direction according to what matters to you.

Values-based decision-making will enable you to step towards a future that resonates deeply with who you really are and allow authenticity and integrity to flourish.

4. Distance yourself from negative thoughts.

When you create some space between yourself and stress, frustration or anxiety it will help you to regulate your reactions. It will also help you to view future difficult situations as challenges to rise to rather than threats. Name the emotion to reduce its salience.

5. Be playful!

By being playful and light-hearted in your approach to career change, you will feel a sense of excitement and adventure rather than feeling overwhelmed or stressed.  It will help you feel positive and optimistic about the future and therefore stay motivated.

6. Set process goals, not outcome goals.

The outcome of your journey to work that you find meaningful and fulfilling may well be a hazy vision of the future. Identifying processes that are within your control will help you to achieve the ultimate outcome that you desire. Planning the execution of your change in small steps will feel more manageable, will be fun rather than daunting and energising rather than deflating.

“Whatever you do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius and power and magic in it.” Johann Wolfgang von Goethe