Testdrive Your Dreamjob in Paris (5) By Peter de Kuster Overcoming Your Fears. Julia Child at Le Cordon Bleu This travel guide of Paris will tell you how to make a Testdrive in Your Dream Job. When I read about people who made their money doing what they love ten years ago I would think like ‘that’s great but how do I make this happen for me?” I was impassioned by my idea – but too scared to do anything about it. Perhaps that’s how you’re feeling now: I know that what I needed more than anything then was help getting past my fear. I needed someone to tell me that; 1. Going after my dream job didn’t require the daredevil leap that I thought it did; 2. What it did require was a series of small, incremental steps; and 3. Those steps could be fun rather than scary If someone had told me these things back then I might have been skeptical – but I also might have been willing to give it a try. I might have started my Testdrive my Dreamjob years sooner.
You are probably skeptical too. The idea of giving up the security of a “real” job – with a real paycheck and real benefits – is pretty scary no matter how you cut it, and imagining even the most exciting dream job doesn’t do much to mitigate that fear. The only way to do that is to address those fears head – on. So let’s do that right now – because the sooner you get mobilized, step by incremental step, the sooner you’ll make that dream job real. In the years since I started with The Hero’s Journey (my dream job) I’ve talked to many people who gave up “security” to start their dream jobs, and I’ve discover that most people had an experience similar to mine. They spent years thinking about making the switch before finally taking action. Like me, they had found their fear insurmountable. They had a million reasons for not doing it: kids in school, mortgages and tuitions to pay, an impending promotion, not the right time… Every reason was completely legitimate, but somehow, at a certain point, those reasons ceased to matter. Sometimes the reasons actually went away (the kids graduated, the mortgage got paid off), but just as often the underlying situations didn’t change. What changed was something inside the people. They had crossed a line. They had moved from a place where they were making rational arguments for not pursuing their dream to making an emotional choice to do so. And once that line was crossed, there was no turning back. So what gets us to that line?
If you, too, are wishing for your dream job but are immobilized with fear; how can you get to that line yourself? Let’s take a moment to look at your nemesis, fear. When it comes to fear, we are little better than rats. Brain research shows that we are wired to instant gratification over long – term gain. Much as we want our dream jobs, our brain’s circuitry pushes us to stay with the secure jobs and situations we already have. In other words, now we want our steady paycheck and benefits; in the future we’ll risk pursuing the job of our dreams. And as if our own physiology weren’t obstacle enough, there are plenty of other factors that encourage us to stay where we are. Money, family, loss of identity, fear of exposing the “real you”, the “fraud factor” (that voice in our heads that says “you mean you really think you can succeed at that”?) are all steely – gripped forces that work to keep us where we are.
But they don’t always keep us where we are. Despite the fact that everyone faces those hurdles, some people manage to surmount them and move forward toward their dreams. People with nothing in the bank quit their jobs and open successful businesses. Sole earners with families to support move cross country to work at starting wages to their career of choice. People who have spent years building respect and credentials in their profession leave it all and go back to square one in another. And people who are terrified to expose the dream they’ve sheltered inside for decades manage to give up the career that was “expected” and take up a very different kind of work they love. How do they do it? What enables them to put aside their fear and take the risk?
Behavioral economists, who look at how people make choices are well aware of the fact that we tend to choose the thing that feels most desirable in the present, and postpone a harder or riskier choice until the future. Fortunately, they’ve also noted ways that people work around that. One solution is to precommit , that is, to take an action that requires you to make that more difficult choice now. Precommitment is also an excellent strategy for circumventing fear. Book directly a Testdrive Your Dream Job before you can talk yourself out of it. A precommitment to something that feels scary. That way, when the time comes, when your brain’s limbic system urges you to put off the Testdrive your Dream Job, you would no longer have the option. Throughout the dream job process there are many ways you can precommit to circumvent your fear: schedule a Testdrive your Dream Job three months in the future because that far away it won’t seem so scary: register now even though it won’t start until the fall (same reason); commit to a bank loan or a lease or a business partner even if those actions scare you silly. Don’t commit if on every level you question the decision but do commit if in your heart you know your course is right and I’t only fear that is making you hesitate.
Often when I describe the process of dream job seeking, people will say “Well, I couldn’t do that because I’m not the right kind of entrepreneurial person” as if there were a certain personality type that is capable of making the switch. I know what they mean. They have the idea that the type of person who can successfully pursue a dream job is someone who is exceptionally gutsy (or perhaps foolhardy); is very decisive and assertive; has a high tolerance for risk and ambiguity; and has a history of creating opportunities and trying new things. I suppose if I hadn’t seen so many different types of people successfully create their dream jobs, I would assume the same thing, but I’ve known many heroes and heroines in the past and present to know that isn’t so. People who create their dream job seem to come in all personality configurations; some are so assertive that they resemble bulldogs, while others seem very timid. Some have a history of starting new ventures and others have worked entire careers in the same job. Some rattle off decisions with heroic force; others deliberate until the last possible moment – and then change their minds! Whatever you imagine the right personality type to be, I am sure I can find you a successful hero and heroine who turns your stereotype on its head.
But that’s not to say that successful dream job seekers don’t have anything in common. They do. The more people I talk to, the more I see certain stories that most of them share. Regardless of their proclivity toward risk or their life of assertiveness they have similar stories about life and themselves that make it easier for them to proceed. 1. A Clear Story. Successful heroes and heroines in a dream job have a clear story of what they want to do. It may be a particular job, it may be a life style and a location (I want to work in Italy). Though the level of specificity varies for every person; they share a clear mental story of themselves doing that work. The clarity of their story acts like a magnet pulling them forward. When they meet obstacles along the way that magnetic story tallies them and keeps them moving toward it. 2. Optimism . In addition to having a clear story, successful heroes and heroines believe that their story will pan out. Otherwise, they wouldn’t do it! Some have a general confidence in their own abilities based on a history of success; others believe that this particular venture is primed to success. They know that failure is possible (and occasionally can ‘t stop that fear from creeping in) but most of the time they anticipate success as if that were the far more likely option.
3. Comfort with failure. When they do consider failure they don’t become terrified. Their story is “What’s the worse that can happen? Whatever it is, we’ll deal with it”. They imagine a period of difficulty and adjustment after the failure, and then life moving forward positively once again. 3. Heroism. Over and over, in different words successful heroes and heroines express the same story. I would rather try and fail than know I didn’t try.”. “I would be so disappointed in myself later if I hadn’t given it a try”. It is a recurring story: what pushes them past the fear is the knowledge that by not trying they will be letting themselves down. Not everyone who makes the switch has every one of these stories, but the people who successfully undertake dream careers seem to have most of them. Together, these stories make a legendary package that seems to make it easier for people to move out of their comfort zone and try something new.
But even these attributes don’t fully explain why some people switch and others don’t. Something is still missing from the equation. And that missing something, I believe, is queesting. People who make the switch have reached a point in their lives at which they simply have no choice. The call for a quest is reached. It is no longer a matter of wanting to make a change. They have to.
I’m the perfect example. How many years did I stay with a job for which I really had no passion? How many exit opportunities did I pass up before a nearly death experience was the push I needed? It took me so long because all those years, unhappy as I was my fear was greater than my unhappiness. But then suddenly something switched when I divorced one day and nearly died three days later due to a almost anyeurism. That constellation of events pushed me over the line to a point where the unhappiness fear equation inverted; to a place where my unhappiness became greater than my fear. And in that moment my desire – no, my need – to pursue my dream became unshakable. Even the financial crises could deter me. This is exactly what I’ve learned in the stories of heroes and heroines from the past and present in Paris. Eventually the pain of not acting outweighs our fear of making a change. It simply becomes too uncomfortable to stay. That is the point at which we accept the risk of change.
And that is a magic moment – because the moment we cross that line, things that previously felt like insurmountable fears begin to look more like manageable hurdles. Now, on your way to work you find yourself dreaming up ways to overcome them. Instead of wishing there were a way that you could move forward with the dream, you find yourself thinking about how you’re going to do it. Instead of imagining some vague, open – ended timeline you start fixing your actions to concrete dates when you know you will be able to act. An enormous internal shift has taken place, and now even major fears as money, family, identity; and exposing the ‘real you’ begin to lose their insurmountable quality. As if a Jaguar has begun rolling inside you, from that moment on, you steadily gather momentum.