For an experienced driver, changing lanes is a simple maneuver. But because we are so comfortable in the driver's seat, we may not always be as attentive to the rules of the road as we were when we first learned to drive. And we all know what can happen if we don't take the time to check our blind spot before gliding into an adjacent traffic lane. Changing career lanes can also hold unseen hazards if you don't check your blind spot.
Here are 10 things to consider that will increase your decision precision, even when you believe that visibility is clear.
1. All grass has weeds
After a difficult day, it's easy to think the grass may be greener on the other side. Every job has its frustrations, the lists are just different. So, don't fool yourself into thinking that change is the answer. It is an answer, but it may be the wrong answer.
2. Change is hard
If change is in your future, then don't fool yourself into thinking the transition will be easy. Transitions are hard. Transitions are stressful. They require a significant investment of time, emotional energy and intellectual focus. And did I mention planning? Be clear on what you're signing up for.
3. Values matter
It's not always easy to assess whether or not your values are in alignment with those of an organization. Value statements are words on paper, and words on paper are often just that - words on paper. One of the best ways to really understand what organizations value is to observe how they behave in the marketplace and, if you have an interview opportunity, up close and personal. But you also need to understand what is important to you. I mean really important. Spend time reflecting on what feeds your soul, your heart and your mind. That may sound a little 'fluffy,' but it is actually quite an important personal investment for assessing the fit between you and a potential employer or business partner.
4. Don't rush
Wherever possible, be in control of timing. Don't create false deadlines. Take your time to develop a plan, as well as a contingency plan. While planning is vitally important, it really is all about Plan B. It's about flexibility. It's about agility. Once you are comfortable with your plan, take it step by step.
5. Picture yourself
Do a little visualization. Daydream a little. Can you see yourself in that role, in that organization? If a move is required, can you see yourself in that city? Reflect on the first three points in this list. At a very basic, human level, how do you feel about the change? What are you most excited about; most concerned about? Are you experiencing the familiar 'butterflies' of anticipation or is there something disquieting about the change that is troubling you? And most important, be brutally honest with yourself as you reflect on these questions.
6. Weigh the risk
Here's where the analytical side of your brain steps back in. Once you've adequately indulged your emotional side, take a systematic and rational view of the change. Be pragmatic. Be logical. Recognizing that your decision can't be turned into a simple mathematical equation, it is helpful to quantify the risk where you can. And, of course, draw up a list of pros and cons.
7. Embrace the "F" word: Failure
Many people, including journalist and author Jane Pauley, have claimed versions of the saying "If you don't have something that you've failed at, maybe it means you weren't trying that hard." Keep in mind that despite checking your blind spot thoroughly, things may not turn out the way you envisioned. That's okay. You still have plenty of moves. You can adjust, pivot, rebound or retreat if necessary. But not doing something because of a fear of failure is also a defeat, and one without the advantage of a potential upside.
8. Get over it
Don't dwell. Whatever decisions you made in the past are in the past. Learn from them, but don't carry them around like baggage. They will weigh you down.
9. Own your decisions
And whatever decisions you make now and in the future, own them. Even if you feel your options are limited, you do control what you ultimately decide to do. Don't slide into default mode because a decision by default is unlikely to take you where you want to go.
10. Enjoy the journey
Finally, remember the wise words of Dr. Seuss: "You have brains in your head; you have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose."