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I Agree to Forsake All Other... Careers:
How Our Fear Of Commitment Prevents Us from Finding Our Unique Path

by Leslie Godwin, MFCC, Career & Life-Transition Coach

"What if I invest all that time and money in becoming a physical therapist, and then find out that's it's not the right career for me?" Dolores asked me the other day. I said, "Do you feel that there's only one perfect career for you, and that you're going to choose the wrong one?" She looked at me as if I said something ridiculous. Then she smiled, and said, "I guess I do worry about that."

Dolores is a bright, motivated 43 year-old woman whose daughter is heading to college this summer. She's glad she stayed home to raise her daughter and now she's excited that she'll be able to work outside the home. But she can't figure out what she wants to do. Actually, she wants to do a lot of things. But she doesn't know how to decide which to get serious about.

Dolores, like many clients I've seen over the years, has so many interests that she's afraid to commit to one career path. You could say that she has too much hope. She hopes that one career path will be perfect, and that she won't feel any self-doubt along the way. But the more she hopes for a PERFECT career path, the less able she is to get started on ANY path. So her hope is handcuffing her. If she could give up hope of perfection and tackle the reality of something she knows she enjoys, she'll be back in the present moment and able to take action.

Dating Is a Good Place to Start
A lifelong marriage doesn't start with vows, but with lunch. We meet someone with potential, and if he seems more interesting after lunch, things progress from there. We have certain deal-breakers that can interrupt an otherwise pleasant relationship - whether or not you each want children, strong religious beliefs or lack of them, or if she leaves the cap off the tube of toothpaste.

The same thing happens when we pick a point to begin our career path. We start with an idea that has some potential, and see if we are more interested, or less, as we start down that path (including doing market research, networking, and talking to experts in our chosen field.) We have deal-breakers that shoot down an otherwise promising opportunity - whether you can have a flexible schedule, if you have to tolerate unethical behavior, or if your boss expects you to carry a pager 24 hours a day.

Commitment Happens in The Present ... The Future Is Still a Mystery
In a relationship, after you've gotten through a couple of holiday seasons with someone, met his family, and seen him handle a crisis or two, and you love him even more than when you first fell for him, it's time to make a decision. One that's harder for men, but still anxiety provoking for women. Will you forsake all others for a lifetime to be with this person? Will you allow the relationship to grow and evolve in ways you can't anticipate when you exchange rings and promise you'll stick together through the unpredictable?

A career path will also evolve in ways you can't imagine. Ask someone who loves their job how they got where they are. Chances are, part of their story involves being in the right place at the right time, not scheming but instead simply being available and prepared to take the opportunity. And that opportunity was there because years before, they took a leap of faith and gave up all other paths to get started down THEIR path.

If you're stuck because you're afraid to commit to one path, or one niche in your larger path, here are some ways to reduce your fear of choosing one and giving up all other possibilities.


1. Start with a 'good enough' idea. Don't wait for the 'perfect' place to start...there isn't one.

2. The first steps are the need to build up momentum. Don't tell everyone what you're planning, or you'll waste too much energy defending a decision YOU'RE not even sure about yet. (You don't bring your girlfriend home to meet your parents on your second date...wait until you know your new path a little bit to introduce it to family and friends who will be critical out of their desire to 'protect' you.)

3. If you notice that you're afraid to commit to one career path (or one specialty area within your path) ask yourself if your fantasy about a perfect future is getting in the way of trying out something good enough. Or are you worried that you'll invest too much in the wrong area, and have to start all over? Try to get a glimpse of what is triggering your anxiety.

'Til Retirement Do Us Part
If you can draw out your hidden, illogical reasons for not committing, you can consciously choose to override those fears. Then, forsaking all other careers in order to follow your true path will probably lead to a long and satisfying relationship.

Leslie Godwin, MFCC is a Career & Life-Transition Coach, Writer, and Speaker. She publishes a free email newsletter on career and life transition. For information, email and mention that you'd like to be on the email newsletter list.


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