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Navigating "Career Fear"? Let Purpose Be Your GPS

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The inimitable Yogi Berra advised, "When you come to a fork in the road, take it." If only making a career choice was that simple. Yet there is a way you can reliably and consistently choose the most fulfilling career path -- know your purpose.

As I mentioned in last week's post, if you have reached the mid-point of your career you've begun taking stock of how you got here and where you're heading. It's a natural transition point; you have reached a professional crossroads and, for many, that's a stressful place to be.

We tend to spend this time searching for answers in an attempt to make the "right" career move, all the while wishing some intuitive sense of direction would guide us in charting the way forward. As if the lack of internal navigation wasn't bad enough, the multitude of options and choices we are presented with can leave us feeling overwhelmed and stuck.

The Delusion of Choice

Countless studies on choice abundance conclude that having more options doesn't equate to having better options, nor does it lead us to being more satisfied with the choices we make. Psychologist Barry Schwartz, in his witty and powerfully insightful TED talk, made crystal clear that having too many choices leads to a sort of mental paralysis. Our fear of making the wrong decision leads us to believe (falsely) that whatever decisions we make we will have to live with forever.

What's more, when we do make a choice we tend to suffer from "buyer's remorse." In other words, because we can imagine making a different choice we can (and do) envision choosing "better". This diminishes our sense of satisfaction with whatever choice we make, even if it's a great one!

Over the course of our careers nearly all of us have come face to face with the fear of making the "wrong" choice. It's an aspect of what I call "career fear" and it's debilitating as hell. It can strike when we consider looking for a new job, debate starting our own company, are faced with multiple job offers, or when we're confronted by the dreaded question, "Is this really what I want to be doing?"

Fear not!

You already possess the means to find your way to a fulfilling, enlivening career. It is your internal compass and it's called purpose.

Finding Your Way

Humans don't come preloaded with a reason for being. Instead we create our purpose out of that which we are passionately committed to. Of course we don't tend to recognize that fact, just as we don't see that our lives are really one big opportunity to choose. To choose what we care about, what we are committed to, and what kind of impact we want to make.

At Present Possibility we refer to purpose as your compass, because we believe that it serves as a kind of true north; a point of reference that provides its carrier with consistent clarity irrespective of their circumstances. Identifying our unique purpose cuts though the noise that clouds our judgment and complicates our ability to make big decisions. It enables us to clearly see the path to that which we want most in our careers, families, or any other aspect of our life.

Navigating according to your purpose provides you with a clear sense of direction and a lasting feeling of satisfaction. So if you find yourself gripped by the "fear" go sit down and write out your answers the following questions:

1) What are you doing when you're at your best (e.g. most happy, most lit up, most engaged)?

2) What matters most to you?

3) What kind of impact do you want to make with your life? (e.g. for your family, on your
community, etc.)

Keep this handy and the next time you find yourself lost among the options and opportunities, the "coulds" and "shoulds", consult this list. From it you will get your bearings and find your way forward.