Q I have many ideas about a career change I would like to have in the near future and projects I would like to begin. I get very excited when I think about them and buy books to help me. It’s also fun to tell my friends some of the things that I am interested in doing. However, as I look back on the last 10 years, I have noticed that most of my dreams have not been realized. I still have the same career. I am in my mid-40s and am starting to face my lack of focus and follow through. There are days when I feel I will never change and other days when the world looks very bright with lots of possibilities. How do I make a real change?

A This is a challenging syndrome that is not uncommon. You are speaking of a few issues here. First, you refer to the natural inertia that all of us face in beginning something new or making a significant change in our lives. Human nature has natural resistance; we gravitate toward the familiar and comfortable. We fear the unknown, and therefore avoid risks and new possibilities. The longer we wait to create what we want, the deeper the obstacles feel. Second, you seem to enjoy living in a set of ideas rather than grounding yourself by choosing one or two projects and then doing the work to create them. Some people get a lot of juice and excitement out of dreaming up fantastic plans, but they don’t really enjoy getting grounded and actualizing their intentions. Lastly, committing, taking action, and completing something requires a level of personal will and agency. You have to own your own capacity and power and have enough autonomy to make something happen.

Begin by being clear about which of your ideas you would most like to bring to fruition. Set a date as to when you would like to make a decision about beginning your project of choice. Then, start narrowing it down by focusing on what you have enough abilities and resources to be able to complete. Ask yourself three questions: 1) What is comfortable about beginning your project? 2) What is not comfortable about beginning your project? 3) What is exciting and meaningful about starting and completing your project?Answering these questions will help you gain greater awareness about your interests and obstacles.

The next step is to commit to one endeavor and to let the closest and most supportive people in your life know that you are beginning this journey. Speaking an intention to another person or group makes it more real; they can affirm and support you. Additionally, we all do better when we are accountable to others.

Then break down your project into several little steps. This will make it less daunting and more fun. You can have 10-minute tasks, such as a phone call, or three hour tasks of buying supplies, writing, or building something. Writing down your plan and keeping a time table will make you more organized. It will act as a guide when you get off track. Each time you accomplish any piece of the project, stop and acknowledge it. Reward yourself with a treat. This will make it more fun and positive.

As you move through obstacles, you will change as a person. You will feel your will, determination, and desire to create and contribute. This will be enjoyable and rewarding, as well as disorienting and maybe even scary. However, feeling the fear, and doing it anyway, is ultimately where growth and success lie.

Alzak Amlani, Ph.D., is a counseling psychologist in the Bay Area. 650-325-8393. www.wholenesstherapy.com

 

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