Say you want to leave your finance career in New York for a marketing position in Los Angeles.
Fear and self-doubt strike.
You convince yourself to stop “dreaming” and let go of your “unrealistic” vision.
It’s “more stable” and “practical” to remain where you are, they say.
You know your desired destination, but often the steps to get there can be too much to process.
As a result, more often than not we end up doing nothing.
When you’re itching to make a major life change, taking the first step can be the toughest part.
We tend to procrastinate on ambitious goals because just thinking about the effort it’ll take to make our desired outcome a reality can be overwhelming.
Start with these three steps to help you take action on a major transition.
1. Evaluate what makes you tick
You want to have a firm understanding of where you want to go so you don’t start climbing up a ladder only to realize that it’s leaning against the wrong wall.
When we lack passion at work, the effects inevitably spill over into other areas of life.
As such, if you derive energy and fulfillment from helping others and crave human contact, a career that involves number crunching all day may simply not be for you (even if you are capable of crunching numbers with impressive precision)!
Even if you know that your current situation won’t fulfil you, you may hit the all-too-common stumbling block of accepting that you’ll need to “throw away” the significant time and money you invested in a law or finance degree, for example.
Perhaps you wanted to live up to your parents’ expectations instead of following your gut as a teenager, and now you’re miserable.
When we’re feeling down at work, occasionally we simply need a shift in perspective, but you should also take time to reflect on what you truly want without external pressure or influence.
If the thought of this exercise alone makes you feel uncomfortable, it could be because you are masking how you really feel about your situation.
In school, we don’t learn how to evaluate the root causes of our feelings or forge our own paths: as William Deresiewicz puts it, we’re trained to be “Excellent Sheep.”
Instead of trying to mask your symptoms (anxiety, fear, boredom, restlessness), dig deeper by building structure into thinking about what makes you tick.
This approach will help you to finally break through the barriers to pursuing your true goals instead of hopping from job to job only to end up miserable yet again without understanding why.
To start your reflection, take the 16 Personalities test based on the Myers-Briggs assessment, which can provide pointed insights on suitable career types and work environments for you. The results might surprise you!
The Enneagram is another effective tool that paints an (often unusually accurate) picture of what motivates you and the types of environments you’ll thrive best in.
2. Break down your goal into manageable component parts
Break down your major goal into small, actionable steps.
It’s a simple piece of advice that works.
On his podcast On Purpose, Jay Shetty uses the acronym FEAR to explain what causes us to procrastinate: Failure, Expectations, Abilities, and Regret.
“The root of fear is self-doubt,” he says. “Wherever you have self-doubt, you procrastinate. You can try and focus as much as you want, but if you don’t remove self-doubt, you will still procrastinate.”
This trend applies whether you are questioning your abilities, your talents, your skills, or your network.
The reassuring thing is that “you don’t have to remove self-doubt before you start. When you start, you naturally remove self-doubt,” Shetty explains.
“This is the mistake we make. We think we have to be ready before we start, not realizing that starting is being ready.”– Jay Shetty
Ask yourself what that one small thing you can do now is that will get you closer to your end goal.
To gain traction, you need a series of small wins that will keep the momentum going.
In our example, you can:
- Research open marketing positions with your company based in LA
- Prepare your resume
- Write one cover letter
- Submit one application
- Reach out to one LA-based recruiter on LinkedIn
By taking these proactive steps and celebrating your wins, you’ll be so much closer to actions points much further down the line such as:
- Booking a plane ticket to LA
- Scheduling three apartment viewings for next week
If you are currently in a role that is draining your energy and frustrating your ability to make a change, breaking down your goals into smaller baby steps to help you get started is even more essential.
3. Start making your jump
Once you have decided where you want to be and determined your next action steps, it’s time to start building up the courage and motivation to actually get there!
We’re all for pursuing your dreams, but we also acknowledge that even the best thought-out plans tend not to play out as expected.
A solid strategy can help you avoid disappointment and maximize your odds of success – especially when making a move that may be considered somewhat risky.
Mike Lewis, author of When to Jump: If The Job You Have Isn’t The Life You Want, left a lucrative career at Bain Capital to pursue his dream of being a professional squash player.
Before making his jump, he interviewed people who have taken similar leaps before and compiled their stories and advice into a book.
When to Jump outlines the four steps in the “jump curve,” which Lewis identified as a common thread in his interviews:
- Listen to the Little Voice
- Make a Plan
- Let Yourself Be Lucky
- Don’t Look Back
In the book, you’ll glean practical steps you can take to ensure that your jump is as stress-free as possible and goes smoothly from a financial perspective – whether your jump is moving to a new city, entering a new sector, or launching a new business.
“A jump may be uncertain, but planned right, it doesn’t have a massive downside.
“The people you meet, the story you’ll have, the lessons you will have learned, make it an experience worth pursuing, regardless of what happens.”– Mike Lewis
For Lewis, the “worst-case scenario didn’t seem nearly as scary as the alternative: waking up every morning for the next fifty years wondering what might have been.”
By following the steps above, you’ll firmly position yourself to finally make the change you’ve been thinking about into a reality.
What are you waiting for? Get your resume ready, and go for it!