Making decisions in your career can be a daunting task.
In fact, there is not always a straightforward answer on what you should do next. No matter what career decisions you may be facing, cultivating clarity will help you overcome a phase of indecision and stuckness. So, to help you cultivate clarity, I want to share my number 1 tip on how to overcome career indecision.
In the dictionary, the definition of clarity is, ”the state of being clear”, which (surprise, surprise) isn’t straightforward at all! There’s no greater frustration than feeling stuck and finding out that clarity is an elusive state to reach.
Being indecisive in your career can be especially challenging because it is such a major part of our lives. With over 90,000 hours spent at work in an average person’s lifetime, it makes sense that you want to make the best career decision possible for yourself.
This pressure leads to an overwhelming fear of making the “wrong” decision.
In Barry Schwartz’s book “The Paradox of Choice”, he highlights the concept of choice overload and how it leads to self-doubt, unrealistically high expectations, and self-blame for any and all failures. Ultimately, having too many choices and experiencing constant indecision can be detrimental to your psychological and emotional well being. Additionally, leading with fear and binary thinking, it’s no wonder we struggle with making confident vital career decisions.
As a coach, I’ve encountered hundreds of people in every stage of career clarity and change. I ask many who have a strong sense of what they want to do for their work, how they came to clarity. Their responses follow a consistent theme- a version of “I knew it was time to change my job, I explored different options, and discovered I enjoyed doing this thing. Ultimately, I got a feeling and I just knew this was the right choice for me”.
What I’m discovering is that clarity is a state evoked by feeling rather than logic. While we are programmed to believe that choosing a career is a logical decision, this is not the case. Logic can only utilize some data points like salary, title, and prestige. If these were the only variables to consider, all of us would happily choose positions with the best salary, title, and company. But, it’s not that simple. In fact, studies show that emotions drive 80% of our decisions while practicality and logic drive only 20%. Even decisions that seem logical are ultimately driven by how we feel about it.
Making an aligned and fulfilling career decision is both a logical and emotional decision, with an emphasis on the emotional.
This is why your pro/con charts aren’t enough- it only gives you a portion of the information you need to make confident decisions. The return on thinking and analyzing our way to an answer diminishes rapidly once the thought process turns into an internal argument pitting rows of unrelated pros and cons to see which one wins out. For example, this is why we are torn between a high paying job that we are miserable in and starting a business that’s high risk but could be potentially fulfilling. Logically, there is no clear and one-size-fits-all answer. By over utilizing logic, we overthink, over-analyze, and retreat into a state of indecision, doubt, and overwhelm. Sound familiar?
My number 1 tip for you is that career decisions require not only your logical left brain, but also your creative, right brain to help create an inspiring vision of what you want to work towards.
When we are inspired by our vision and goals, we feel motivated, creative, solution-oriented, and resourceful. We are likely to actively explore options and take action with the intention of learning and aligning. We walk in with curiosity rather than fear and expectation. We are willing to put ourselves out there to test assumptions, gain knowledge, and be honest about what our true priorities and motivations are.
When we emotionally connect with and pursue our own unique definition of success, we cultivate confidence in our ability to make self-honoring decisions.
If you are in a state of indecision, start with this assessment:
Make a list of all the activities you do when you research or think about your next career step. How many of those activities are spent in logical mode, trying to think your way to an answer? And, how many of those activities are spent in creative mode, understanding your core, exploring, and connecting with your vision? Most likely, you may see an imbalance.
Shift your approach by incorporating both analytical exercises and creative exercises and activities. Analytical exercises that engage your left brain include SWOT analysis, pro/con charts, decision trees, doing informational interviews, identifying your top 3 priorities, and considering the direction of the market. Creative exercises that engage your right brain include things like visualization, re-counting your top peak experiences, working through limiting beliefs, identifying your core values, exploring and learning new skills, doing hands-on career pilots, and creative career planning exercises .
Career indecision is something you can shift out of by getting out of your head and taking balanced action. With a more balanced approach, you can gather emotional and logical insights and make an aligned decision. At the end of the day, there is no right or wrong choice, just what is best for you based on what your values, vision, and priorities are now. Leading with possibility rather than fear, we move towards clarity.