Why is it that when we imagine going after the career we desire most we conjure up an image of the worst possible outcome? We imagine a bleak future where the pursuit of a dream ends in utter failure and we end up hopeless and penniless, living in a van down by the river. Or under a bridge somewhere. Or wandering the streets like a vagabond.
One of my coaching mentors, Martha Beck likes to call these imagined scenarios “bag lady fears”. They go something like this:
I can’t possibly think about quitting my job to pursue something else because that will inevitably fail and I’ll lose all of my money AND my house AND my car and I’ll be forced to live out of a shopping cart on the street corner where all of the people I know will point and laugh at me on their way to work.
Almost anyone who has ever considered a career change has imagined a ridiculous scenario something like this. Crazy, right?
What’s your version of the bag lady story? Maybe you picture your partner leaving you because you don’t bring home the bacon anymore. Maybe it’s your kids having to wear shabby clothes to school because you can’t afford nice ones. Maybe it’s your future self as a penniless old person living off food stamps. Or maybe it really is you losing your house and moving into a van down by the river.
What kind of crazy stories are you telling yourself when you think about going after your dream career? Think about your own bag lady story – the most extreme dystopian future you’ve ever imagined for yourself.
Now, imagine having a conversation with your best friend. She is miserable in her work and wants to make a change. Would you tell her that her future will end up just like the worst-case scenario story you’ve told yourself? I didn’t think so. Why? Because that’s not going to happen.
Pull yourself together, man.
You are an intelligent and talented person. You are not going to up and quit your job tomorrow without putting some kind of plan in place. Yes, there is some risk involved, but you’re a smart cookie and you would never let it come to that. Stop the horror stories, already.
Don’t let any irrational fears of living in a van down by the river stop you from pursuing the happiness you deserve.