Working Through Decision Discomfort

For the past 30 years, I have been asking people to tell me exactly why they’re working the career they’re in. Most times, they’ll chuckle and want to tell me a story about how one thing led to another. Roke (ro-key) is one of those people. Last week, my furnace needed fixing and Roke arrived to make the repairs. As he worked, I asked him how he got into the business.

“Twenty years ago,” he explained, “I graduated with a degree in computer science and went to work for a firm that hosts on-line conferences. But after a while, I got tired of sitting behind a desk. Besides, they were laying people off because of the recession. So, I started thinking about what I really wanted to do. I enjoy working with my hands and the local community college was offering courses in heating and cooling repair. It took me about a year to get trained. But now I make an even better living and the job is more secure. People may not need conferencing. But they will always need furnace repairs.”

What can we take away from this story? First, very few people are strategic in their initial career decisions. (Think about yourself, for instance.) Second, a good portion of the workforce are in positions they don’t enjoy. Gallup puts that number at more than 60%. Third, most of us are open to a better opportunity if someone persuades us in the right way. Fourth, the big thing that keeps us from taking this leap is our self-talk about stepping to the unknown.

In every decision of significance, we have to manage our emotional discomfort as we take action. Changing where we work and what we do is a great example of this. Whether it’s choosing a career, committing to a long-term relationship, making a large purchase, or making a job change, fear of the unknown will always have to be overcome.

Those who make the best decisions take time to clarify the objective, collect their resources, consider their options, choose the best of those options and then reflect on the outcome. That way, they’ve learned how to manage the discomfort when making the next big decision. Someone should write about book about this. Wait! Someone already has. It’s called Figure It Out! and you can get your copy by clicking on the link.

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