Image: Markus Spiske
Can't bring yourself to take action on your career change? Feeling fearful, overthinking, procrastinating, and staying stuck as a result? Sounds like Resistance is at play. Here, Natasha explains the three places Resistance might show up in your shift, and the four key elements you need to overcome it.
You're full of information, advice, ideas – you've been reading article after article, book after book, website after website, for weeks.
Ideas, hunches, possibilities, are flying around in your mind, leaving you dizzy almost to the point of exhaustion.
You know it's time to stop analysing and start to act.
But you can't seem to begin.
It's like being stuck in a negative magnetic charge – one part of you straining forward, while another part of you is rooted to the floor.
Welcome to Resistance.
Resistance takes infinite forms – procrastination, deliberation, fear, uncertainty, self-doubt – and is, as writer Steven Pressfield so eloquently explains, our greatest compass and guide toward fulfilment.
“Remember our rule of thumb: The more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.
“Resistance is experienced as fear; the degree of fear equates to the strength of Resistance. Therefore the more fear we feel about a specific enterprise, the more certain we can be that that enterprise is important to us and to the growth of our soul. That's why we feel so much Resistance. If it meant nothing to us, there'd be no Resistance.” – Steven Pressfield
You've felt it countless times before.
You've probably even felt it simply at the suggestion of an idea.
- The thought of reaching out to someone who inspires you to request an informational interview.
- The possibility of turning your hunch about your future career into a real-life experiment.
- The idea of 'coming out' about your career change to your friends and family.
In career change, there are three levels of focus that elicit resistance
1. The Distant Train
This is the big one.
The question of making a career change at all. It feels huge, and heavy.
It feels far away, too – you feel resistance to it even though you're not in immediate danger. It's just this looming sense of Something Big Coming.
Are you doing the right thing, or are you nuts to consider flipping the script like this? Are you prepared? Is it really what you want? It's a consistent, low-level, distant hum in the background of your life.
2. The Diving Board
These are things that you could be doing in order to move your career change forward in a fairly significant way.
It might be something like sharing your first portfolio as an artist. It might be putting your new business website live. It might be trying to get into the social world of the industry you're interested in. They're big enough to feel scary, but they're not on the same level as 'Change My Whole Career'.
These potential actions feel like you're on a high-dive board; they elicit that heart-in-your-throat, slightly panicky, thrilling, shut-your-eyes feeling. You can put them off for a long time, knees bending and straightening again, getting ready to jump but not quite doing it…
It's much closer, more intense than the Distant Train. It feels like there's more at stake in the moment that you're thinking about it.
3. The Dishes
The little nitty gritty tasks that add up over time.
Baby steps. Sometimes, the boring steps. They're not as sexy as Diving Boards, but they're important nonetheless.
You know that, but you still can't seem to get yourself to do them.
Sending an email to someone you admire. Writing the copy for the website you might put out later. Asking your friends and family for help. Small tasks that you feel resistance to in the same way as you might feel resistance to cleaning your apartment. And yet, these are the building blocks that build up and up.
The three levels feed into one another
The Dishes form the building blocks that make Diving Board moments possible. And with each Diving Board, the sound of the Distant Train gets closer and closer.
It's easy to focus on the big, dramatic resistance of the Distant Train – to concentrate on limiting beliefs and finance and confidence. A lot of what you'll find written online about changing career and the mindset that goes with it is focused on that stuff, too.
But actually, none of those things are things you're faced with right here, in this single moment. They're theoretical challenges. They're future-proofing fears. And that battle is 99% of the time happening in your head, not in the real world.
So what are the keys to dealing with Resistance to the Dishes and the Diving Board?
1. Purpose / possibility
Why are you thinking about doing this?
What's in it for you?
What could be possible once it's done?
When you're focused only on the task at hand – on the 'must' – you deprive yourself of the energy that comes from desire.
Whether you're tackling a big, game-changing task or a little nudge forward along the career change path, find a way to stay connected to the 'why' of your actions.
Choose a talisman (a photo, a trinket, a quotation, a symbol) that represents the outcome you're aiming for, and keep it in sight as much as possible. Next to your computer at work, on your desk at home, in your wallet… wherever you'll be most often reminded of why you're up to what you're up to.
Have your next three steps clear in your head. Once you've done this, what's the next thing you'll be able to do to move yourself forward? And the thing after that? What world of possibility are you opening up for yourself, by achieving this one task?
Next time you're procrastinating instead of doing what you should be / could be doing to make progress on your shift, practise a Joyful Announcement. Find a private spot, and imagine that the person you'd be most proud to tell that you've achieved this next step (your best friend, your partner, your parents) is in front of you. Out loud, tell them you've done it, and tell them why you're so excited to have done it, and tell them what's possible now that you've done it. You might feel foolish at first, but once you've practised it, you'll be dying to do it for real.
When you're feeling uninspired by the single task ahead of you, and resistance is starting to rise, find a way to reconnect with the bigger path you're on.
Our first Success Principle at Careershifters is “Don't do it alone”.
Whether it's encouraging you when you're low, keeping you accountable when you're trying to wiggle out of a task, or celebrating your successes with you, other people are an incredible tool for dissolving resistance.
It only takes one person in your corner to make a huge difference. Start with your best friend. From there, the more people you have on board, the faster you'll move.
Set up a weekly check-in with someone else to set your career change goals and keep you accountable. Whether it's a coffee with a friend or a Skype date with another career changer you met online, having someone to tackle the tough stuff with will make you infinitely more productive, and you'll have more fun, too.
Working towards launching a website for a new venture? Designing a class as a Shift Project? Pre-announce it, publicly. Announce the launch date on Facebook way ahead of time; message your contacts on LinkedIn; stick up posters on noticeboards around town. When the world is watching, you have to ship.
When it's just you against your resistance, it's hard to push through.
Gang up on it.
There's a dangerous myth floating around that the things that matter have to be unpleasant.
Even the language around achieving meaningful things is violent and full of friction.
“Fight for what you want.”
“Put your nose to the grindstone.” (Really? Your nose? On a grindstone?)
No wonder you're feeling resistance – this stuff sounds horrendous.
Yes, you're probably going to have to do things you wouldn't normally do. Yes, you're going to encounter nerves, and occasional boredom, and frequent challenges and obstacles along the way.
But if the journey to joy feels heavy and unpleasant, you're probably on the wrong road.
What's the path of least resistance that will still get you to a result you're inspired by and connected to?
If you're procrastinating and avoiding drafting an email for the past hour, (and you know if you'd just done it, it would have been done by now) make it into a Micro Shift. Set a timer and race to get as much as you can done in the next 15 minutes.
If you feel like you need a blog for your website but you hate sitting down and writing, let yourself off the hook. Don't force it if you're going to hate it – take your phone camera out into nature and start a YouTube channel instead. Find the path of least resistance.
If you're motivated by tick-boxes and progress trackers, set one up for EVERYTHING, and revel in the satisfaction of putting a big fat check mark against everything you achieve. If wine's more your celebration style, make a Winners' Date with a friend and push to do as much as you can to earn that glass.
There are no prizes for martyrdom. Don't suffer when you don't have to.
There's a specific feeling you get when you get your head down and push through something that you know will be worth it in the end.
It's a unique blend of grit and pleasure – a combination of a physical endorphin rush, fierce commitment and, if you're lucky, some flow.
New ideas, new insights, and previously unimaginable opportunities – they all exist just outside your comfort zone.
And to access them, sometimes you’re going to need to push.
Lean into the discomfort.
Show up, even when you don't feel like it.
As Steven Pressfield says: “The most important thing is simply to work. Nothing else matters except sitting down every day and trying.”
Every time you do, you're building muscles. Resilience, confidence, self-belief, courage… proof that you're capable of achieving, generating, and creating so much more than you thought you could.
And those realisations are priceless in navigating your way to fulfilling work.
What are you most feeling Resistance to in your career change? And what are you going to do to tame it? Let me know in the comments below.