An acquaintance of mine has been complaining about her job for five years. She says it’s “soul-sucking”.
Her stomach hurts every day when she goes to work.
Still, it’s the job she knows. It pays the bills. The benefits are good.
She says she “must leave” every time I see her, and yet she stays stuck, sad, while the years of her life go by.
Earlier this week, a talented young woman told me she’d been invited to apply for a position at a company.
“That’s great”, I said. “What happened?”
“Did you send in your resume and cover letter?”
“No. I don’t know why.”
“Do you want to work for this company?”
“How long ago were you invited to apply?”
“Four weeks ago. Is it too late? I don’t know why I didn’t do it.”
I’ve been thinking about these two women a great deal this week.
Thinking about why they (meaning all of us) dream about the kind of life or career we want but don’t take steps to create it.
We’ve all felt it; knowing it’s time to move forward and yet being afraid to go try something new or even take any action to get there.
It’s fear, of course. Stepping into the unknown is scary; even scarier sometimes than a situation that makes you miserable.
But, I think it’s something more than just fear.
We all have dreams and goals and the “if only” desires. We cherish and hold on to the idea of this dream job or life. We keep it secretly in our heart and mind.
Our dream is safe there.
If we dare to act on it, then what?
I asked a group of students: “Why would you not apply for a job you were invited to pursue? Why would you stay in a position that made you miserable?”
The answers: “Fear of failing”, “Rejection”, “Not good enough”, “Too hard”. “…having to overcome obstacles and challenges”, “Change”, ” It will ruin the dream.”
We fear our heart’s desire will be stomped on or ruined.
So, we freeze. Better to hold on to the dream that gives us some comfort and make up excuses about why we didn’t pursue it. Not to mention, the dream possibly requires hard work, some risks.
I know what this feeling is like, the fear of making a major change or taking a chance on something you really want. It can feel like you are about to jump off a cliff.
I certainly felt that when I left my “safe” home at NBC10 to go off to teach, write and speak. It wasn’t without some risk, but it was absolutely necessary to create a new life; I wanted more than the “safety”.
If you are in this situation now, I will tell you what I tell my students:
1. Don’t project too much into the future. What if, what if, what if sends our thoughts into a rabbit hole. Focus on one step at a time.
2. Dare yourself to take small steps toward something you want. Write them down. What is your path forward? Take a class? Go back to school? Update your resume and LinkedIn? Find a mentor? Is there a move to be made within the company where you work? Change doesn’t always require turning everything upside down.
3. Create a list of reasonable requirements. The ones you’ll need to move forward and meet your responsibilities: salary, location, benefits.
4. Remind yourself you can’t have your dream job if you don’t pursue it. You must take small attainable action steps toward it.
5. Find your biggest fans who will support you and cheer you on. The people who will keep you accountable, tell you to keep going and help you come up with a game plan.
6. Dare to try new things. Simple things to practice getting outside your comfort zone on a regular basis. I promise it will give you more confidence to move forward with your big goals.
If you are rejected or told no, that’s not the end of your dream.
The “dream” may need to be refined. It might change for the better. You might need to take a different path or learn more.
I can’t tell you how many people told me “No” in my life and career, the failures, mistakes…on my way to creating a life and career I wanted numerous times over.
Ask anyone you consider successful. They will tell you the same. None of it could have happened if they kept all their dreams in their head and heart and never acted on them.
When you think about everything you’ve ever achieved, it’s because you tapped into your courage to do something you’d never done before. You took some risks and said “no” to your fear.
You deserve to love your life.
You deserve to have work that makes you feel valued and good. Your dream deserves some respect, some plan of action, a way to go from your head and heart to make it a reality.