New Leaf Blog
What does ‘Zen’ even mean? Well, what I mean right now is to find a way to take the stress out of it. When any of us go through a transition in life, especially one that is as fundamental to our identity, lifestyle and income as a career change, stress naturally arises.
A bit of stress can be a good thing. It sharpens our senses and warns us of dangers.
But a lot of stress is disabling. Instead of learning from it (‘hmm, I am afraid of something? What is that? What do I need to do about it?) we shut down. And when we shut down we do nothing to remove the fear. We do nothing to improve our lives. And we are left with a sense of our own helplessness into the bargain.
If you have been sitting on your backside bemoaning your lot, feeling a nagging guilty feeling in your tummy that you ‘should’ do better then don’t worry – we all do that sometimes. But when you know, deep down, that it is time to come out of that and move into action, what then? How do you find that calm?
Why you may be stuck
So often we get stuck. We know what we don’t want. But we are not sure what we do want. And even if we think we know, we worry that it is actually the wrong thing. We worry that we will go through all the effort of changing only to find that we still don’t like our career. And then what?!
The thing is, the fundamental worry, that we will pick the wrong thing, is not a silly one. We might. After all, we have all made the wrong decision before, many times. To err is human, remember?
The problem is not that we might make a mistake, but that the consequence of that mistake is scary.
And the solution is to reduce the risk by either reducing the chance that you have made a wrong decision or reducing the consequences if you have. The best ideas are likely to come from your own clear eyed insight into what worries you. But here are some suggestions which may work for you, or may spark further ideas:
1. Try out your new career before making the move permanently. Become a volunteer or an intern. Or if you are starting your own business, try offering your product or service for free to friends. This won’t work for all careers, but if you think carefully about what you really want to try, chances are it will. Whether catering, producing art, giving advice, fundraising, organising events, managing a team – there are very few activities that you can’t find a way to do for free.
Once you have tried something, you will know more about how much you like it before you make a bigger commitment to it.
2. Look back at your own history. What do you already do, or used to do a lot, that you really enjoyed? What do you do now for free that you could build into a career? When you were a teenager, what was your favourite leisure activity? When you were at primary school what imaginary games did you invent the most?
Are you always designing buildings, creating little books, know the name and engine type of every vehicle that passed you on the road? Are you the person that your friends come to if they need a good listener or are you always putting on shows? What did you naturally do, before you got distracted by the need to earn a living?
There is less risk in choosing something you know you already love.
3. Identify whose voice is telling you that you can’t/shouldn’t/aren’t good enough. We all have an inner voice that keeps us from changing. Sometimes that voice is clearly associated with someone else, perhaps a parent, sibling or friend who tells us we can’t do what we want. Sometimes it is a voice we have learned to integrate into our own consciousness at an early age to protect us from risk. They are trying to protect us from making the wrong choice because it is not prestigious / won’t earn enough money / people will think we are crazy / is a waste of our talents / insert your own message here…
This voice may be out of date. Even if it is trying to protect us, perhaps it is from dangers that we are strong enough to deal with head on. Learn to identify the voice. Thank it for its concern. Then try something out anyway.
This reduces the risk that we are actually trying to lead someone else’s life, and not listening to what would really suit us.
4. Talk to other people who have done the job you are interested in. Listen carefully to the way they describe what they really do – not just the headlines, but the day to day. Ask them what frustrates them, as well as what they love. Ask them what motivates them. Are you finding yourself getting excited and empathising with the way they think, feel, act? When they talk about their frustrations, do they feel like they would drive you nuts, or are they a price worth paying if only you could also do their job?
There is nothing like talking to real people. Getting past the gloss is a great way to find out if you like the reality of this job, rather than what you imagine it is like. This reduces the risk that you will pick something because you don’t really know what it is like.
5. Make a change step by step. If you are starting a business, test the market. Go part time in your job, if you can, and make the transition gradually. Apply for new jobs while you already have a job – don’t wait until you have been made redundant. No-one says you have to jump into something new with both feet.
Making a change gradually, means you can always change direction as you learn more about yourself and the career you are aiming for. It reduces the consequences of making the wrong decision.
6. Study something relating to your new career. When you learn, you have the opportunity to research not only the work, but yourself. What are the pieces that you most want to find out more about? These are probably the areas you will be happiest working. And studying gives you great opportunities to connect with other people making a change as well.
Studying gives you the excuse to ask questions, try things out and see what really works for you. You might even find that what you love is studying. This reduces the risk that you are going in the wrong direction, because you get to delve deep as you career change.
7.Don’t do it alone. People are social animals with a deep seated need to connect to others. Find other career changers to share a journey with and cheer each other on. Tell your best friends and get them to help. Get to know people at networking meetings or as you volunteer or study. Hire a coach or find a mentor.
Whatever you choose, talking things through with others can help you gain clarity, keep you motivated and recognise (at all those times when you forget) what you are really great at. This reduces the risk that you stay stuck and miss the chance to go for what you love.
Reducing the risks of career change
There are plenty of us who dream of getting out of our current job and into something we like better. Sometimes we don’t know what that is. Sometimes we know what we want but we are worried about how easily we can make the change. Sometimes we are concerned about the financial risk of making a change.
The truth is, it is not just paranoia that holds us back. Career change can involve real risk.
Of course, staying where we are can be just as risky – life it short, after all.
Watch this video to find out how to change your career in a way that reduces the risk and gives you the chance to explore what you are stepping into.
There are wonderful career change guides there to be found, if you only look. Here are some of my favourites, which have guided me on my own journey and which I really value. Enjoy!
Finding Your Own North Star – Martha Beck
Martha Beck is one of my favourite writers, about careers, life and coaching. She is brave, honest, intelligent and writes with real wit. This is one of her earliest books, and in many ways one of the most conventional. Nonetheless, it shows deep understanding of human beings and what they put in the way of their own ‘right life’.
What Color Is Your Parachute – Richard Nelson Bolles
This is a careers classic and justly a massive bestseller. Bolles updates, no re-writes, it every year to keep up with the latest developments in job hunting. With fun and insightful exercises to help you tap into your right-brain as well as your left, this book takes you from exploring what you want to the best ways to get it. Some of the ideas Bolles created have become mainstream career wisdom. It changed my life and it might change yours – but only if you actually do the exercises.
Wishcraft – Barbara Sher and www.barbarasher.com
Barbara Sher is one of the earliest career change experts, and this was one of the first career books I ever read. The book is in two sections – the wishing part, where you allow yourself to get clear on what you really want, and the crafting part where you make it happen. Barbara Sher understands that people do best with people. Her phrase ‘Isolation is a Dream Killer’ has stayed with me, as has her suggestion to hold ‘idea parties’ to develop your career.
This is only one of Barbara Sher’s books. She develops her ideas further in five other books including the wonderfully titled I Could Do Anything if I Only Knew What It Was. In this book she introduced the idea of ‘scanners’ – people who didn’t want to pick one career, but instead wanted a multi-faceted portfolio career. Barbara is insightful, engaging and fun to read. She also has a lot of free resources on her website, courses, talks and retreats, and a real passion for connecting with people., No Character and You’re Often In a Lousy Mood)
The Art of Non-Conformity – Chris Guillebeau www.chrisguillebeau.com
This book and website invites you to live life focused on freedom and independence. Guillebeau is a traveller, entrepreneur and blogger who believes in having experiences and creating meaning, rather than accumulating things. He also counts himself lucky and believes in giving money and time to make the world fairer. This is a man who lives what he believes. A philosophy after my own heart.
This website for career changers was founded by Richard Alderson to bring together people who wanted a career change with the resources that would help them. The site contains guides, blogs, stories from people who have made a change and a lot of coaches advice and guidance. I, and a couple of my friends, had the fortune to be involved in the early days, and they are coming from a genuine desire to unlock barriers and do what works for people.
Escape the City www.escapethecity.org
Escape the City is a website that supports people who want to find a new job, start a business or have an adventure. You set up your profile and then link to people who you want to support with their aspirations. You can ask questions, answer the questions of others and find people who might support you too. This is a site that understands that people find success by helping people.
Good People www.goodpeople.co.uk
A bit like Escape the City, but focused on charities, social enterprises and other civil society organisations, good people connects opportunities with people who are looking for opportunities. The site includes jobs, voluntary positions and requests for advice. The founder will be my interviewee in June, so watch this space…
If you haven’t already discovered TED talks, you are in for a treat. Each talk is no more than 20 minutes long and spoken by a real expert in the field. TED has become an international phenomenon and TEDx , externally organised TED events, have sprung up all over the world. My favourites include Sir Ken Robinson’s ‘Schools Kill Creativity’ and Brene Brown’s TEDx Houston talk ‘The Power of Vulnerability’, both of which have been watched by millions of people. OK, these are not specifically for career changers, but they are a call to live in line with what really matters to you.
Meet Up Groups www.meetup.com
I am a big advocate of connecting with people and helping each other out, despite not being an extrovert. I have had to learn that networking is not about the hard sell, but about finding people you want to help, and helping them. Meet up groups are a fantastic way to get to know like minded people, for fun or for a specific purpose. There are thousands of them now, and once you are registered, the site will suggest others. A great way to not do stuff alone.
I Am Networking www.iamenterprises.co.uk
For people who want to make charity or social enterprise connections, I Am runs monthly networking events that are genuinely open and friendly. Make yourself known to Julian or Debbie and they will point you towards people who might be good to connect to.
What are your favourite career change resources? Add them below in the comments box so we can all make use of them.
I have written before about the importance of connecting with people before you apply for a job. This technique is amazingly powerful, despite being very simple. You just contact someone who already works in the field and ask them questions.
Yes, just questions. You don’t try to sell yourself, ask for a job or anything that might feel icky to you or to them. You just ask questions.
The thing is, people LOVE to help. They don’t like to feel pressured. They don’t like to feel manipulated or sold to. But they do love to give you the benefit of their own experience, tell their story and make things easier for you.
Of course, some of the people you are likely to want to talk to are busy. Very busy. And some of those people will be getting contacted regularly with people asking if they will be their mentor, come and speak to their group, give them some of their time. So you may get turned down.
Some people will turn you down. But some won’t. And probably, more of them won’t than you think, as long as you approach them in the right way.
Here are my top tips for approaching the kind of people you might want to talk to:
1. Don’t just go for the top of the tree. Find the people that are actually doing the job you want to do and start there. After all, who better to get an insight from.
2. Get an introduction if you can. Ask around to see if anyone knows people you can talk to. You can use Linked In or Twitter for this too, although you may find your existing human network is even more helpful.
3. If you don’t have an introduction, or even if you do, find some other connection. Perhaps an event you have both been to, or an interest you have in common. Mention it when you first contact them, so you are more than just a random name.
4. Start with an email, then follow up with a call. A lot of people send that first email, but don’t follow up. The follow up is actually the most important part of the process. An email is a good way to introduce yourself, but people connect far better with a voice to relate to.
5. Be clear about what you are asking for, and stick to it. Want 20 minutes of their time? Then don’t over-run. You can always arrange to talk again in future if you need longer.
None of this seems that hard. But people sometimes stumble at the very first hurdle. What if you are not sure what to say or how to introduce yourself? Well, it is your lucky day. I have included a real email template that you can use to make that first introduction. Adapt it to your own needs. In fact, feel free to change all of it, if you want to. Just don’t let inaction hold you back.
My colleague [insert name] suggested that you might be a good person to speak to / I heard you speak at [event name] / [or insert another way that you have a connection with them]. I wondered if you might be willing to spare 15 minutes of your time to help me.
My name is [name] and I currently work in [your role]. I am exploring the possibility of a career change into [their field] because I am particularly interested in / motivated by [your reason].
Though I have experience of [something relevant you can already do that they also do], I am still new to [something that you want to know more about]. I want to make sure I really understand [what it is you want to learn about] from someone who has insight into what it is really like [doing this job] from the inside.
Please would you let me know what would suit you. I don’t want to take too much of your precious time. I am happy to take you for a coffee, or if it is more convenient, just to give you a call.
Many thanks in anticipation
It is such a deeply ingrained trick that even some HR professionals and recruitment consultants believe it to be true, despite all the evidence. Don’t be an April Fool. Watch my video and find out what we have been told all our lives about how to apply for a job that is just plain wrong.
Intrigued? Click on the link below to watch.
Research shows that 80% of people don’t enjoy their career and have other dreams, but don’t take the risk to make them a reality.
I use the word risk on purpose, because fear is the main reason we stop ourselves having what we really want. Fear that we won’t make it. Fear that when we get there, our dream won’t be as good as we imagined. Fear that it will, but that we are selfish or arrogant for having such a good life. Fear of what other people might think. Fear of not having enough money or security. You name it, we can be afraid of it.
And yet, one of my greatest fears is that I will live a life without meaning. I am afraid that when I die I will not have not used my time and abilities to make the world a better place. It sounds corny, but it is a deeply held fear.
So for me, the signs that you are living what Thoreau called ‘a life of quiet desperation’ are warnings indeed. But warnings that contain within them clues that can help us all find the fulfilment and purpose that we are craving.
Take a look and see if you recognise any of them in yourself. And if you do, just ask, what am I going to do about it? What am I going to do to make sure I live the life I am really capable of?
You get excited and inspired when you hear about someone who has taken risks and made a real difference in their life, but you don’t take action yourself.
The people who inspire you are like beacons. They prove to us that it is possible to succeed. They provide a pathway to follow, when the path seems unclear.
We can learn a lot about what is important to use by looking at the people we are most interested in. What is it about them that lifts our hearts? Spend a moment to notice. Then find a way, however big or small, to build that into your own life.
Warning no. 2
You tell yourself that there is nothing you can do because there is a recession on.
Change is challenging at any time. But people who make things happen during the toughest periods learn to be resilient and resourceful. If you can make it now, just what will you be capable of when times are good.
It is true that many career changes are more challenging in a recession. But this warning is often used as an excuse for not living the life that you want right now.
There will always be a reason to delay. There are always more reasons not to.
Warning no. 3
You tell yourself that changing career is just too risky.
We all live with risk all the time. Even staying where you are involves risk.
The way to deal with this is threefold:
- Check whether the risks are real, or based on unreal fears.
- Create a life where you are set up to give yourself the security you really need. Find ways to manage the risks. Pay off debt or put aside some savings. Develop your skills so you are more employable. This strategy gives you security whatever you decide to do with your life.
- Make changes you can accommodate, even if you fail. Do your research. Meet people in the field you want to move to. Make a plan. Find ways to make the change gradually.
Warning no. 4
You have a rant about how ‘unlucky’ you are not having the chance to make a difference
If you are reading this you are wealthy enough to have internet access, educated enough to read and interested enough in changing your life to have got down to warning no. 4. It is true that luck plays a part in everyone’s life. But you are already amongst some of the luckiest people in the world.
Now it is time to make more of your own luck. Delve into what you have learned from the toughest experiences in your life. Listen to your gut when it tells you what difference you would most like to make in the world. Think about what you can do, rather than what you can’t. Now just go and do it.
Warning no. 5
You tell yourself that you don’t have the time to make a career change
Do you have the time not to? Life is short.
Time is one of the two most common excuses for not changing career (the other being money). But if single mothers with kids and a job can do it, you can do it. You just need one important thing: to decide, really decide, that you are going to.
It is true that you cannot do everything in life. But you can do one or two of the things at the top of your list. It is up to you. Is this at the top?
Warning no. 6
You know that too many of your decisions are being driven by fear, but you just can’t help yourself
Fear is probably the most powerful emotion that most of us have. For long-standing survival reasons, fear doesn’t often operate consciously. Instead it triggers responses that keep us doing what we have always done.
The more we can make our fears conscious and get help overcoming them, the more we build our courage muscles. And the more we build our courage muscles, the more we have choices in our lives to do what really matters.
Start practising with tiny steps that allow you to look fear in the eye and tell it that you will be fine.
Warning no. 7
You used to have fun, have dreams, have vision: but now you just to what you need to, to get through the day
Does it feel like you are existing, rather than living? This warning sign is like the mother of all the others. You know if applies to you in all or part of your life.
What do you you need to do about it? Find ways to rediscover that fun, those dreams, that vision. Listen to yourself to hear what is important. And find ways to make it true for yourself. Even if those ways are small – take a moment to do a creative project, go for a walk in the sunshine, reconnect with an old friend – make sure you do the things that bring you back to life regularly.
Warning no. 8
Whenever you use any of the excuses above, you have a quiet sinking feeling in your gut. Yes, that is the ‘quiet desperation’ making itself heard, quietly.
It is time to stop telling yourself that it is OK, if it isn’t. You know, you always know, if you are putting off the things that matter most. Start by listening to yourself. And see what you learn about who you really are.
What are the warning signs in your own life? How have you overcome them, or how do you plan to? Are there others I have missed? Post a comment below to let me know what you think.
Networking. It is one of those words that horrifies us, right? It conjures up images of ‘working the room,’ business cards in your hand and a fixed smile on your face as you ‘sell yourself’ to people who have never heard of you.
If this is your image of networking, you have got it completely back to front.
About ten days ago, I was a guest speaker at I am Enterprises Third Sector career change evening http://iamenterprises.co.uk/. A member of the audience asked a question from exactly that perspective, clearly full of trepidation about how to have enough confidence to march up to a complete stranger and ask for a job.
Start with the people you already know
My suggestion was the opposite of conventional networking. Instead of starting with people you don’t know, start with the people you do.
You probably know hundreds of people – family, friends, colleagues, your kids friend’s parents…
And amongst those, there are probably people who either work in or have connections in the field you are interested in.
Well, perhaps they do, but you don’t know it. After all, why would someone suddenly tell you out of the blue that they are good friends with the guy who runs a children’s charity, or that they studied with the woman who is head of fundraising at a social enterprise for homeless immigrants? They probably wouldn’t unless they knew you were interested and wanted to know.
You are closer to knowing the right person than you think
Even if you don’t know anyone with the right connections, you might know someone who knows someone who does. A famous piece of research had people deliver a parcel to someone they didn’t know by only passing it by hand to people they did know. Most of the parcels arrived. And most of them took no more than six connections to get there – hence the phrase ‘Six Degrees of Separation’
But what I think is more astonishing is that each person did not need to know all the connections for it to work. All they did was get as close as they could. So they would pass it to someone in a cloer region, who would pass it to someone in the town, who would… you get the idea.
Getting connected to people you want to speak to can be surprisingly simple. Here are my top tips for starting with who you know:
1. Hold a party with a purpose
Invite between 4 and 10 of your closest friends and family. Choose people who have a ‘can do’ attitude, not those who might puncture the atmosphere and leave you flat. When you invite people, let them know there is a purpose to the evening: to develop your career.
Tell them what work you want to get into, and ask them for any connections they have in this field. Get them to introduce you, or at least get their permission to use your name when you get in touch.
2. Ask for advice, not a job
When you follow up your connections, do the things that work, not the things that turn people off. So, start by being clear how much of their time you are asking for – 20 or 30mins is about right.
Be prepared with a list of questions so you don’t waffle. Tell them about yourself and what you are looking for, but don’t ‘sell’ yourself or ask for a job. Right now you are building a relationship. People like to offer advice and help. Let them.
Be a little sceptical about some advice. For example, lots of people in the third sector tell you the best way to get a job is to volunteer first. Volunteering is great. But I think you will find a huge number of people get their first job in the sector without volunteering. Try asking about your contact’s own experience of getting their first role.
3. Ask your Connections for More Connections
Make your final question, ‘Is there anyone else you could introduce me to that might help me?’ Keep meeting people and asking for help and advice. Build on your questions from the previous time. You might ask something like ‘I have found out that I need some voluntary experience – do you have any specific roles and organisations you recommend?’
4. Follow up with a thank you and a request to stay in contact
This is ever easier to do with email and social media. Linked In is a great way to stay connected. Pick the connections that you most chimed with – the people who you felt kindred feeling with – and make an effort to stay in touch.
But don’t just sit on that Linked In connection. Find ways to stay in touch. Send them something that might be helpful to them – an article they might be interested to read, for example. And let them know what difference the advice they gave you has made to them. This is a delicate balance. You don’t want to become a stalker, but you do want to stay in touch. Make sure you are sensitive about their reaction. But don’t assume they don’t want to hear from you either.
5. Say ‘Yes’ to opportunities whenever you can
You never know what will come of your actions. So say yes whenever you can. When you knock on doors, sometimes none of them seem like they will open. And then, like buses, three come along at once. So, keep knocking, keep saying yes and keep learning.
Remember, this is meant to be getting you in touch with the work that makes you come alive. If, along the way, you do things that make you feel fake, you are further than ever from achieving that. Go for human connection and authenticity. Talk with people who you like.
After all, there is nothing authentic about hiding out at home, alone and purposeless.
Well, it has certainly been busy since the last time I wrote. Long standing newsletter readers may remember that I said my theme for this year is ‘breakthrough’. And I have been opening myself up to opportunities and ideas in my business, home life and how well I serve all of you, my readers and clients.
This has led to a wealth of resources I want to share with you. The first ones are coming this week, and more will be on their way next week. The theme for this weeks resources is ‘compassion’.
Compassion is such a driving force for people who work in the third sector. In fact, I believe it is a true driving force for everyone who is willing to truly open themselves to it. Because compassion is about being so open and empathetic that it is impossible to stand and watch without being moved to act. Impossible even if acting in this way involves personal sacrifice.
And in this fortnight I have encountered several powerful examples of this:
1. Last Thursday I went to the ‘coming of age party’ for OneWorld.net click here – the charity that my Mum, Anuradha Vittachi, and Stepdad, Peter Armstrong, founded 18 years ago. So as the charity reaches ‘adulthood,’ they are retiring. They showed a video of what they had achieved in the last 18 years. At the beginning was film of them presenting to a group of journalists and media experts and teaching them what hypertext was and what a difference it would make to how content was presented and discovered!
Can you believe that was only 18 years ago?
These two people are role models for me. They opened their hearts and dedicated themselves to changing the world, fighting for international justice and for people to have the chance to speak for themselves. And they did that by constantly innovating, struggling with delayed or undelivered funding and remaining committed to the values they believed in. By doing this they remained at the forefront of people who understood how technology and communication could improve the lives of the poorest people in the world.
2. On Friday 18th Jan, I interviewed Annys Darkwa, founder and Managing Director of Vision Housing. She is one of the most genuinely compassionate social entrepreneurs I have had the privilege to speak to.
Compassion is not a soft emotion. Her story is one of determination and persistence, refusing to take ‘no’ for an answer. This determination was born out of a deep insight into the needs of people coming out of prison, an insight strengthened by her own experience of that very situation. Annys is a demonstration of how compassion can be feisty and active, as well as empathetic and generous.
Haven’t listened yet? I strongly suggest you do. I defy you not to be inspired by Annys and what she has achieved. Click here and enter the password newleafexclusive.
3. On Monday I did my teleseminar for the social enterprise course that I am launching. My theme for this call was social entrepreneurs and what makes them successful. I suggest that it is three things, and… yes, you’ve guessed it, compassion was number 1.
Of course, the extent to which we are so deeply moved varies, but I believe all our ideas come from an insight into a problem we want to solve. And our deepest commitment to solving it comes from the ideas that most deeply move us.
So many of us find that the things that are toughest in our lives are also the things that are the most motivating. Given that this is the case I am sharing the link to this teleseminar with all of you - whether you are planning to start a social enterprise, find a job in a charity or have some other career that you find meaningful.
I hope it will help you to think about the meaning of compassion for you – where it resides in you and what evokes it in your life.
Click here to find the recording on the social enterprise course page, then scroll down below the video and click to listen to the teleseminar.
And once you have thought about compassion and what it means to you, leave a comment. Ask yourself what do you already care about so much that you make sacrifices for it. And what do you care about this much, but have held back from committing to – perhaps because it is just too close to the bone or feels too risky?
Share your thoughts – and get a compassionate response from me in return.
Devi Clark coaches purposeful people who want to make a meaningful difference in the world through their work. Devi has ten years of experience and is a qualified careers adviser and small business coach. She provides management consultancy and business planning for charities and social enterprises. She uses this wide ranging experience in the third sector to help others find work that they love and which supports them financially. Devi is author of the forthcoming book, The Outsider’s Journey: from Misfit to Pioneer.
“I feel so much clearer in my mind about what I want to do. My mind had started wandering off track as ultimately I think it was fear stopping me from going for what I really wanted and knew was right. The questions you asked got me to give answers I didn’t even know I had inside, although they have been there for years and years.”
Louise, coaching client and teleseminar participant
The desire for danger
I just came off a call with my coach. The result of the call was a surprise to me. But like all good coaching sessions also not a surprise deep down. It turns out that I really want more danger in my life. Not something that I had realised or expected, but when I got there in the coaching session it felt really right.
A lot of people know about the thrill-seeking side of themselves. They like to try sky-diving, bungee jumping or ice-climbing. For others, including me, these ideas hold little appeal.
It turns out that the things that feel dangerous for me are about doing new things that I don’t already know how to do. I deeply want to do them because without learning and stretching myself I feel sanitised and dead. But when I do them I get a slightly sick but alive feeling inside me.
Is there such a thing as too much safety?
We all have a multi-faceted relationship with risk. Of course we try to minimise it, to keep ourselves safe. But too much safety can be stifling. The Stepford Wives are an extreme example that illustrates what I mean.
Taking a risk is necessary to grow, to learn, to experience the richness of the world. And yet, our modern culture emphasises safety so much (often for good reasons) that I believe many of us have lost the sense of what a bit of danger can bring us.
We know this about children. How often do people bemoan the fact that kids no longer play out on the streets on their own? Or that schools no longer allow conkers or peanut butter sandwiches because of the risk of injury or allergy?
Have we gone similarly too far with ourselves? Do you hold yourself back because of the fear of injury, emotional or physical. I know I do. And I also believe we over-play the scale of most of the risks we assess. Our brains are programmed to avoid losses more than to make gains.
Making a conscious re-assessment
I believe we are all bigger than we usually allow ourselves to be. Bigger than society expects us to be. We can easily live down to that expectation.
And most of the risks are smaller than our automatic fear sensors allow us to believe. Knowing that to be true, and knowing the emotional cost to me of too much safety, is making me re-assess what I want.
It turns out, when I write my list, that the things I want are fun, rather than worthy and dutiful. They get me out of the house and away from stuff I feel I ‘should’ be doing. They cost money rather than earning it. They take time, which I feel should be used to care for my children. They involve learning new things constantly and not feeling that I have to carry on doing the things I know just because I am good at them. They involve meeting people who will challenge my assumptions and teach me new ways of seeing.
And it turns out that the fear that is stopping me is not the obvious one – of making a fool of myself because I don’t know what I am doing, of being out of my comfort zone and in a risky situation. No. Even though that fear is there, it attracts me to these activities.
The fear that stops me is a completely different one. I am afraid that by doing this stuff I am selfish and lazy, shirking my responsibilities and burdening others with the work I should be doing.
I know that the expectation to ‘be sensible’ and not to be selfish holds a lot of people back. Does this resonate with you? If so, share below what you are willing to risk, because it makes you feel more yourself.
Already dropped your new year resolutions? If you have you are not alone. Perhaps this alternative way of goal setting may help you stay on track with your career change and whatever else you are going to tackle this year.
Free social enterprise start up videos
If you are thinking about starting your own social enterprise, these videos [www.mynewleaf.co.uk/socialenterprisecourse] can help get you thinking and planning around some of the key issues. Sign up to get them emailed to you. This is is not the same list as the NewLeaf newsletter, but is specially for social entrepreneurs. To watch the videos click here.
John Williams, author of ‘Screw Work, Let’s Play’
John William’s is the author of the bestselling book for career changers, Screw Work, Let’s Play, which been translated into eight languages. John runs career workshops, courses and one-to-one coaching for people who want to find work that they love. He also hosts a monthly, Scanner’s Night networking meeting in London for people who have multi-faceted interests and would be miserable if they had to do just one thing their whole lives.
In the interview John tells us:
- how to unlock the careers ‘brain-washing’ we get from school and society
- why getting into action is the best way to discover that you like to do
- how scanners like to work in different ways to ‘deep diver’ specialists
- the kind of careers that appeal to people who thrive on variety
- how to find ways of making money from unlikely sources
To listen to the interview click here and enter your password ‘newleafexclusive’
Later this month…..
Later this month I will be interviewing: Annys Darkwa, founder of the award winning social enterprise, Vision Housing. Annys is one of the most inspiring social entrepreneurs I have come across.
Annys, an ex-prisoner herself, saw people returning to prison repeatedly because it was so difficult for them to get back on their feet after they had been released. In particular, she saw that housing was core to the problem, as ex-offenders were left in unsuitable temporary accommodation or on the streets, and returned to crime to sustain themselves.
Despite living on benefits herself, Annys started Vision Housing in the back of a car in 2007. The organisation now covers the whole of London. They have a significant impact on the lives of the people they help, and reduce re-offending rates as a result. As their website www.visionhousing.org.uk says:
What we do is very simple:
- We re-locate them away from where they offend.
- We provide them with good quality accommodation.
- We can house on the day of release.
- We provide advice on benefits, and signpost them to training, education and employment.
- We help with addiction and mental health problems, and we support them for as long as the want or needs us.
- We also provide opportunities for clients to volunteer [link] with us and to help others.
- We offer NVQ training in advice and guidance with other organisations and a number have gone on to become full time employees.
I will be asking Annys:
- What made her believe she could make a difference, when she had no money or reputation?
- How did she get started, despite the barriers she faced?
- What actions or attitudes made the biggest difference?
- How did she choose who else to involve in the project and how did it help?
- What does she know now that she wishes she knew when she started?
- As she scales up the organisation, what changes has she had to make to the way she works?
- and more…
If you want to ask Annys a question, submit your question here by 17th January and I will put the best questions to her in the interview.