11/15/2009 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Making the Move: From Paralysis to Action in Leaving Your Job (Or Anything)

So you've realized that you hate your current job. You're committed to leaving. And you have drawn up the list of why the current job is bad and a move would be good. But you still can't make that move and you're daunted by the task of doing something. Why is this happening and what else can you do about this?

Firstly, to move, your brain has to have a movement plan. But this movement plan has many components to it: all those lists that you drew up, that commitment that you declared, the dissonance that you accepted (see previous article) have all been fed to your brain. This is great material to have in an action plan, but it is often not enough. Your brain also has to deal with inputs from your anxiety centers, for example, telling it that future anxiety should be avoided? But how do you do this when the whole idea of taking a new job has risk involved? The risk centers of your brain feed the anxiety centers, which then feed your action centers and there are conflicting commands from different commanders. Your left brain-the analytical part of you-directs you logically toward your action, but your right brain may get turned off because all that "intuitive" stuff gets you afraid because you can't back it up. So what can you do to fight this internal conflict and how does this work?

There are many different ways to do this and many of these will be discussed in a workshop that you can read about at To illustrate how powerful knowledge of the brain is, consider this one suggestion: use imagery to bring yourself closer to action.

So, you may already know this. But how can brain science help you make this more likely? Firstly, it tells us why? Many experiments have shown us that when we see an action, like a person moving their arms, it stimulates the arm movement parts of our own brains. It starts the brain training session. Even when a person has a stroke that damages the part of the brain that causes movement of that arm, seeing a movement can cause blood to flow to associated areas that may then take over the function of arm movement. Furthermore, if you imagine that movement, you can actually cause parts of your brain to adapt to perform arm movement. So strong is the effect of imagining, that it can increase brain activation, brining you closer and closer to action. Images are also more powerful than words in decreasing anxiety, and actually imagining what you want may allow you to challenge the anxiety of moving forward.

Also, a study has shown that professional dancers can stimulate their right brains to be more synchronized during imagining improvisational dance than non-professionals, suggesting that after practice and expertise is acquired, imagining can also be applied to improve brain function. Another question that arises is: does it matter if you imagine in the first person or third person? What if you imagined seeing yourself walk out of the office of your current job as if you were in a movie versus imaging so strongly that you did not see yourself but immersed yourself in that office and just saw the door as you were opening it to leave. A recent brain imaging study showed that the latter, imagining in the first person is more likely to get you to action because it activates the left motor cortex (movement part of the brain) more than seeing yourself as if you were in a movie.

If you were coaching yourself or someone else to move to action then, simply saying, "imagine that you were doing that" may not be the best that you can do. You might have to be more specific: like imagine being there yourself, now and seeing the door rather than yourself.

There are many more aspects of imagery or visualization that are important to know and knowledge of the brain can take us to a more accurate place to increase the probability of actions for ourselves. Next week we will examine this is a little more detail

If you are interested in understanding applications of brain science to personal or professional career or other changes, you may consider the workshop: The Neuroscience of Change and Transformation: Executive Coaching Tools for Embracing a New Era (