I had an interesting conversation with someone last week who was struggling with this thought: “I can’t think about leaving my job, because I’ll never be able to get the kind of salary I’m getting now.”
I can relate – I was trapped by that fear for many years.
It’s not something that you want to talk about, either, because it combines some deep fears of financial insecurity with a fear that you’re just a money-focused idiot with no moral values at all.
So let’s first recognize that this is indeed the case. Like the fear of death, losing your financial security is something that’s deeply uncomfortable. But like death, it’s also immensely important to think about.
The most important key to unlocking my own handcuffs was when I had a discussion with my financial planner back in 2005. I found it particularly unhelpful to continue going around the circle: “How much money do I need in order to retire?” “It depends on your lifestyle, how much you plan to spend.” Finally, I gave him a scenario: “Suppose I were to leave my job tomorrow, take a year off to complete my education as a coach, and then build up an income which would be roughly half of what I’m getting now.” After crunching the numbers, his answer was simply: “Yes, you can make that work.”
This instantly helped me realize how much flexibility I had, and that I didn’t need to be tied to my job unless I wanted to.
Since that time, when my clients talk about the need to develop career options, I ask them to think through the scenario that they would lose their job tomorrow. That’s scary as hell. But once you move beyond the initial shock, you start to recognize that there’s useful options and choices to be made.
You also start to think about how much value your sanity and work satisfaction has in your life. For instance: How much would the reward have to be to cause you to commit armed robbery? OK, the first answer is that you’re an upright and moral person, and no amount of money would cause you to do that. But for $10 million? $100 million?
What holds you back? It’s a sense of values, of being able to live with yourself, and not wanting to take the risk of losing all you hold dear – losing contact and relationships with your loved ones.
So if your sense of values can keep you from going out and getting an obscene amount of money, clearly it’s very important to you. But if you’re violating those same values by staying in a job you hate, it’s really the same thing. You’re selling yourself for that money and the security it represents.
Some people start to recognize this when they lose their jobs, because all of a sudden the decision was made for them. So here’s the thought exercise for you:
Suppose you lose your job tomorrow. OK, it’s traumatic, it’s scary, and emotions will take over for the next week. But then what?
What will you do? Seriously? Will you try to find a job that’s identical to what you’re doing now? Will you go off and start that company you’ve been wondering about? Will you go back to school, and in what area? Will you talk with your partner about changing the structure of your family to permit a different kind of job?
If you can get beyond the fears, this will be the most important career discussion you’ll ever have with yourself. Guaranteed.
An important resource
This discussion today got me thinking about a movie I saw some years ago, The Magic Christian, starring Ringo Starr and Peter Sellers. It was a hilarious take on the question: What would you do if money was literally no barrier?
It’s a thought-provoking question, because it helps to bring out the true values you would like to have in your life. Who says we can’t have a little humor when we think about serious topics?
Here’s the Google Search for it. Check out the Youtube videos and go rent it.
|Carl Dierschow is a Certified Small Fish Business Coach and author of the career management guide, Mondays Stink! 23 Secrets to Rediscover Delight and Fulfillment in Your Work. He is a career coach for those going through interesting transitions, and works with small business owners who need to create breakthroughs in achieving their business goals. Find out more at www.Dierschow.com and www.SmallFish.us.If you are interested in individual career coaching, group coaching, or other resources which might help you with difficult choices, please contact Carl at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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I really liked this post Carl. Feeling trapped only because of the salary is a sad state of affairs, that I (like many people I am sure) can relate to as well. To explpore alternatives – I liked the approach of imagining you have lost your job already, and the opportunities that opens up. I truly feel that if you are doing what you love doing, then it wont feel like a “job” as such, and not only that, the money will come as well.