Changing Careers? How to Get Around the Three Major Mental Roadblocks to Success

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A part of you can't wait to dive into your new career -- but you're also smart enough to know that you can expect a few bumps along the road to success. By far, the biggest roadblocks exist between your own two ears!

Let's take a look at three common mental roadblocks and learn how to overcome them.

ROADBLOCK No. 1: Wishful Thinking

How many times have you wished you'd hit the lottery? Now, how many times have you actually won the lottery? Far too many people spend far too much time wishing when they should be dreaming.

So, what's the difference between wishing and dreaming?

Wishing is passive. We wish for things over which we have little or no control. We wish we were taller or thinner. We wish the waiter would hurry up. We wish our boss wasn't so [you fill in the blank].

The other thing about wishes is that they are often tinged with regrets about past decisions -- both big and small. We wish we'd ordered the fish instead of the chicken. We wish we'd taken the other job. We wish we hadn't let the love of our life get away.

Dreaming is different. For one, a dream is active. Unlike wishes, we can actually do something about a dream. After all, you don't "wish up" a plan, you dream one up!

You may not get everything you dream of getting, but two things are certain:

1. It doesn't take a single extra ounce of energy to dream big than it does to settle.

2. You've got a lot more to gain by shooting high than by shooting low.

ROADBLOCK No. 2: What If Everyone Thinks You're Crazy?

You've probably already thought about the people you can count on to support your plan to create a more meaningful work/life. But have you also taken stock of those you should make a point NOT to turn to?

Unless you come either from money or from a long line of pioneers, you may not get the support you want from your family. With the best of intentions, you may find your dream of quitting your job to pursue your dream career met with advice to "play it safe," reminders that "you're lucky to have a good job," or a lecture on the seemingly insurmountable odds standing between you and success.

No matter how old you are, or how much you deny it, family approval does matter. Which, of course, makes it all the more painful when the people we love fail to give us the emotional green light we so desperately seek.

Other people's fear, skepticism, and negativity can be as contagious as the flu. And unless you've built up your immune system, these dream stompers can knock you for a loop -- especially when they are right in your own family.

You have two choices. You can either continue to turn to these naysayers in hopes that they'll respond differently -- or, you can choose the saner path of acceptance.

Don't look for support from people whose life experiences have not prepared them to give it fully. Instead, take advantage of the support that really is available.

ROADBLOCK No. 3: Fear of Change

The closer you come to leaving the security of your 9-to-5 job (no matter how much you want out) the greater your level of excitement and trepidation (see "Word to the Wise," below).

Anyone who has ever ventured out of their safe little world will tell you they had doubts. But when it comes to making a major life change, not only is a certain amount of fear perfectly normal, it's actually helpful. For example, it's our healthy fears that keep us from jumping off cliffs. And the great thing about fear is that there are ways to get around it.

So, try laughing in the face of fear. Am I kidding? No. Ridiculing your fears is actually a very effective technique for banishing them -- because the mind rejects that which it considers absurd.

The trick is to turn your fears into a ridiculous event in your mind. That way, you allow your natural human reaction to absurdity to take over and dismiss them.

Try it yourself. Take your biggest fear and take it to extremes. Really exaggerate it. Let's say you're paralyzed by the fear of failure. Try picturing your entire family, all of your friends, your neighbors, everyone you went to high school with, even your boss, standing outside your cardboard-box home holding up signs that read: "We Told You So!"

Pretty ridiculous, right? When you realize that your worst-case fantasy is just that -- a fantasy -- what felt overwhelming will now feel much more manageable.

Another way to manage the fear of venturing out on your own is to start small. If the thought of just up and quitting your day job frightens you, start building your client base on the side. Begin with low-risk steps and gradually work your way up to the harder stuff.

Remember, courage is not a matter of losing your fear so you can take action; courage comes from taking action. And that, in turn, helps you overcome your fear. When you can act despite your fears, you will be rewarded many times over.

"Off the beaten career path" consultant, Valerie Young, abandoned her corporate cubicle to become the Dreamer in Residence at, offering free resources to help you discover your life mission and live it. Her career change tips have been cited The Wall Street Journal, USA Today Weekend, Redbook, Entrepreneur's Business Start Ups, and on-line at MSN, CareerBuilder, and An expert on the Impostor Syndrome, she's presented her How to Feel as Bright and Capable as Everyone Seems to Think You Are program to thousands of people.

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