By Megan Clifford & Celia Porod
"I already sold my house."
That was my response to my partner at work when he asked if there was anything that would change my mind. I had done it. I had resigned from my job of 11 years.
The house was sold and there was no turning back. I was an emotional mess, crying one minute and excited the next, bracing myself for the unknown adventure ahead. I was on a quest for a better life (whatever that meant). I just knew I could not sustain my current career path and maintain a strong relationship with my kids and husband.
Even a great new opportunity, near top-rated public schools in a Home Alone-esque Chicagoland neighborhood, did not keep me from questioning my decision to switch jobs and move my family. There were so many reasons not to resign, not to move, not to make a change.
Although this decision was unlike any other I had made before, there was something very familiar about it. It was another moment that found me confronting a worrisome series of what ifs. What if the kids hate their new schools? What if the new job doesn't work out? What if we get there to only find ourselves wishing we were back in the city where we spent 20 years of our lives? Through this process, I recognized that if I was going to jump in head first, I needed to think of more positive possibilities and visualize a better life ahead.
An overwhelming amount of research addresses the topic of women's decision-making, risk-taking, confidence, and motivation in relation to their careers. The research has made evident that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to making decisions and taking risks. Talking yourself into something may require both acknowledging that your historical thought patterns often focus on the negatives (the why nots), and a willingness to change your cognitive behaviors to embrace new opportunities and possibilities.
So the question becomes, why are we so good at talking ourselves out of things but not very good at talking ourselves into them? All too often, we are willing to list out the many reasons why we should not do something, such as take on a new role at work, without giving much thought to potential benefits.
I vividly recall being considered for promotion to a senior executive role and being pregnant. I thought of every reason not to move up on the corporate ladder: I'm having a baby soon and I don't know what that will bring; I do not have as much experience as other people in the role; I'm not sure I can do what they need me to do. My inner voice said, "Why do this?" instead of "Why not?" Thank goodness a mentor knocked some sense into me and said, "If it is as bad as you make the role out to be in your mind, you can always ask for a demotion or quit!"
Of course, there are times in your career that the opportunity in front of you may be a clear and distinct "no" based on your life circumstances. Not every opportunity is worth jumping into with two feet first, but there are some decisions worth giving yourself a little mental nudge for, recognizing that if you only focus on the negatives, chances are you may miss out on some great opportunities. When you are on the fence, it is key to consider the good that might come out of an opportunity and how it could positively impact your professional growth and personal development.
In order to successfully "talk ourselves into things," we need to be willing to change our behavior when new opportunities present themselves. To reframe your thoughts when you find yourself on the fence, consider this advice:
1. Counter your negative thoughts with positive alternatives.
Every decision you make in life will have both positives and negatives; however, it is easier for us to pass up an opportunity based on a negative cycle of thinking. When a negative thought pops into your head, acknowledge it and take time to counter that thought with a positive one.
2. Draw a line in the sand.
Making career decisions can be daunting, especially if you look at it as an "all or nothing" decision. Drawing a line in the sand (e.g., I am going to take the promotion, but will reevaluate whether I still wish to say with the company in one year), builds a healthy flexibility into your long-term planning that may increase your willingness to say "yes" to opportunities.
3. Keep perspective.
The decision you make today does not need to be what you decide for the rest of your life. Think of it as a phase or next step in a long timeline of events. Do not put more pressure on yourself than needed.
4. Lean on your support network.
Who can you confide in? Who will hug you when you are breaking down and questioning your abilities? Who encourages you to go for it, and who will be there when you take on an opportunity and enter uncharted territory? Find these people, stay close to them, and thank them for their friendship, love, and support. You will need it along the way.
P.S. - The job transition and family move worked out better than I ever could have imagined!
This post originally appeared on Savvy, a pocket recruiter for busy, professional women.