I am in the middle of a professional dilemma and last night I’ve had a deep discussion on the topic with a close friend. He is faced with a similar situation and we exchanged points of view and advice. The alternative option is the more prestigious next career step – from a vertical professional ladder perspective – higher pay, more responsibilities and travel, operational team management. Presented like that, there is not much to contemplate, but as with every decision there are several other facets – people, family, work-life balance.
During the conversation, I thought of the decision-making process described by Neale Donald Walsch – he says that there are two basic forces at play behind each decision – fear and love. Which force motivated me to even consider the other professional option, being satisfied and happy with my current position. Turned out it’s not love; love of power, love of responsibility, or money. It was fear.
- Fear of whether I could maintain my marketability if I continue to turn down vertically higher.
- Fear of whether I would have a similar opportunity again.
- Comparison with my professional and personal circle – look where he is now and where I am, which – in essence – is also fear. Fear whether I am good enough compared with.
After I came to this striking realization, I decided to dig deeper into what’s keeping me on my current role. Maybe it’s fear as well – fear of change, fear of stepping out of my comfort zone, fear of the unknown. There, I found more love – love for the substance and structure of my work, my manager, my smart colleagues who teach me something new every day, the company and its values and corporate culture, for my work-life balance. I explored for fear as well, fear of change, which I expected to find as it’s frequent companion to most of my important life choices. As anticipated, I found it and got scared, again. What if the fear of change was steering my decision-making process? And then I got back to the love. I didn’t want to compare, but it turned out love was more than fear.
I decided to share this personal story, so I can show you that even someone who consults other people about their important career milestones, who is invested in the topic and has enough instruments in her toolbox to deal with similar situations, is not sheltered. Not sheltered from getting in the middle of a career opportunity – and even accepting it – out of fear.
I have many wonderful, smart, resourceful clients who are afraid to follow love. They follow fear instead and:
- Choose the more stable and secure option.
- Choose not to follow their dream. The dream that makes their eye sparkle and which they can describe in detail as if they had already put together the business plan.
- Choose to stay on the job market instead of going after the project all personality tests and coaching sessions show – and their friends tell them – they have the talent and the motivation for.
Fear is never a good advisor. Follow love. Love can take you places that have not been part of your successful career vision – vision you most probably crafted while growing up, getting an education, going through the professional motions, and comparing yourselves to others. These places might not be categorized as prestigious and might not label you as successful. But they are yours. You feel right, you do what you love, have enough time for your favorite people and activities, and you are balanced and at peace.
It’s easy to choose fear. It’s easy to choose what’s certain, prestigious or modern. It’s easy to compare and get bitter on account of other people’s accomplishments. As my friend said yesterday, we compare, but we don’t know the price they paid to be wherever they are – both the tangible and the symbolic price. Love choices are not always obvious but are always authentic. And if we would like to be the best version of ourselves, and not the best societal template, we follow love.
And fear? Fear we acknowledge, process and don’t allow to lead.