A first step in making a career change is to work out where you want to get to. This is true whether you want to land your dream job, or want to start or grow your own business. But this may not be enough, on it’s own.
Create a vision of your future
Creating a vision is an important step towards your ideal future. It’s worth taking time to work out what you really really want. Sometimes that clarity can be enough to set you on the path to success.
But sometimes, identifying an ambitious goal can spark a sense of overwhelm. The gap between where you want to be and where you are now seems huge. How will you bridge the chasm?
Assess your current reality
The answer is to start with an objective assessment of where you are now. A vision of a desired future is an important element to achieving goals and can provide the pull to get you going. But it’s not enough on its own. You have to find the motivation to take action.
In her book “Rethinking Positive Thinking”, psychologist Garbriele Oettingen shares her research that indicates positive visualisation on it’s own can actually reduce your chances of success. You may feel so psychologically buoyed up by your happy thoughts that you lack the sense of urgency or internal motivation needed to actually do the work needed.
She suggests that once you have identified your end goal, you then actually face up to and imagine the reality of the obstacles or the internal stuggle that you will face along the way. Research shows that “mental contrasting” between your goal and the current situations will make it more likely that you will achieve what you want.
Creative tension leads to action
In “The Path of Least Resistance”, Robert Fritz differentiates between people who just dream about or imagine their desired future, and the creators who take action to turn their vision into reality. The gap between the vision of your dream job and the reality of what you have now provides the structural tension needed to take action.
So you need to be clear about where you are now, and what are the steps you need to take right now to move towards your goal. It doesn’t matter how small your first step is – the important thing is that you take it. And you need to be aware of what might get in the way, for example fear of rejection or the distractions of social media. Then make a plan for how you will move past this obstacle if it comes up. And then you take action. And then you take a next step. Build in some time for reflection, learning and planning after each step.
For example, if you want to write a book, it’s one thing to imagine your successful book launch, and all the wonderful ideas that you will be sharing. But you also need to consider what might get in the way of you sitting down day after day to get your words on paper. And then identify some specific strategies to help you overcome the resistance, moments of self-doubt and procrastination that hit almost every successful author along the way
Small steps up a mountain
Another example, if you’re considering self-employment after 30 years in corporate life, there may seem as though there’s a mountain to climb in terms of learning. But there are plenty of people who were in this position a few years ago. So a small step could just be to have a conversation with one or two of them.
You could book into a small business networking meeting, chat to a few people and find out what they do. Or if you feel nervous at the thought, overcome this by taking an even smaller step. You could contact the leader of a local networking group leader for a chat. They will soon let you know if pre-start ups are welcome at their events, and how to make the most of your visit.
Look back and celebrate
A final thought. It can be helpful to look back on goals you have achieved, and celebrate the steps you took that led you to where you are now. Remind yourself that goals are great, but action is awesome. You can do this!