The stress of this situation and the fear of losing income holds many people back. If this is you, you may have some people simply telling you to go for it — “life’s too short” and others expressing their confusion and warning you of the risks – “don’t be stupid, why would you leave such a great job?”

It’s a very unique and personal situation, though, with many variables.

I’m a scientist, so I like to break decisions down into a process and consider the facts and figures. I also have a background in risk management… which will become apparent too! So, if you are in this situation, here are some critical questions to work through.

Why do you want to make the change? 
What will the new career or business give you that your current work doesn’t? Write it down and be as specific as possible. Challenge yourself on any assumptions.

How confident are you that your career move will be successful? 
I.e. that the expectation you expressed in the answer of Question 1 (perhaps greater satisfaction, meaning, flexibility, life balance…?) will be met. Try rating your confidence out of 10, and ask yourself how comfortable you are with the level of risk. If your level of comfort is low, consider how you could gain confidence. Options might include studying, part-time or voluntary work, connecting with relevant networks (online and offline), subscribing to relevant publications or interviewing people who work in the field to learn more about it. As you can see, there are lots of ways to immerse yourself and learn before committing to a major move.

What is the pay cut?
Be specific here. What’s the actual dollar figure? and what information/assumptions are you basing this on? Is there a way to make the shift but earn more than this? and what is the income potential overtime? i.e. could you work your way back to your current income (or higher) and how long would this take? It’s important to be really clear so you can carefully plan how to handle the loss of income and avoid financial stress.

What does this loss of income mean to you? 
What savings or compromises would you need to make and for how long? Be clear in your mind what the ‘real cost’ to you would be. Consider how you feel about making these changes. Would they be worth the pay-off?

Finally, you can put the pieces of the puzzle together for your personal situation. As I said, your circumstances and desires are unique so you need to consider each of these factors as they relate to you. Is the reward high enough? the risk of failure low enough? and the cost worth it? If so, then listen to those friends who say “Go for it!”. If not, ask yourself what needs to change. Perhaps it’s a matter of building up some savings, learning more about the new field or perhaps this process has got you thinking of a different option altogether.

In any case, the above questions will provide greater clarity and de-risk the process of following your passion.