This is Part 2 of an earlier contribution from Career and Leadership Coach, Rebecca Dallek.
Most mid-lifers will remember the commercial put out by Nancy Regan’s “Just say no” campaign. It showed a “normal” brain and then showed an egg cracked on a hot pan and said “this is your brain on drugs.”
At that time Scientists believed the only way to the change the brain was through surgery, injury, or harm by medications and drugs.
Let’s start by saying I’m no neuroscientist. I’ve read, attended lectures and talked to experts enough to know that your brain plays a huge role in your career change or lack of change, for that matter.
What qualities do career changers possess? They are usually risk takers, they are willing to go out on a limb, experience failure and have the grit to keep going, they leave the house in pursuit of something.
Notice that I didn’t say they were smart, outgoing, witty, magnetic, well-educated or rich.
All of the qualities I described for career changers are not necessarily innate. They can easily be developed and honed through experience and repetition.
This is where the brain comes into play. Scientists used to believe that that brain was static. Our synapses were in place and set for life by the time we reached our adult years. Attempting to change behavior or routines were really about overcoming our brain.
In the last decade, neuroscientists have learned that, in fact, the brain is highly pliable. Through experiences and repetition, we can change the brain wiring which can lead to changes in behavior, motivations, thoughts and outcomes. This is known as brain plasticity.
What does brain plasticity have to do with career change? Like any behavior change, we need to understand what our brain is doing (or not doing) in order to re-wire it. Below are some tips for career changers to help you to re-wire your brain.
- Know thy brain. Understand what mechanisms the brain is enlisting to keep you safe so you can counteract them.
- Get Resonant. Focus on the vision and why you desire this change. Why does it matter to you and how you will feel if you take the leap?
- Disagree with your Brain. Argue with the part of your brain that is keeping you “safe” and stopping you from taking action. Tell it that you are going to be okay and don’t mind trying this one time.
- Take Action Anyway. Determine an action you need to take (and have not taken to date) and agree to take the action one time. This may include emailing someone, meeting a person for coffee or general networking. Do it despite what story your brain is telling you.
- Survive the Experience. Take the action and ask yourself how you survived it? Was it as bad as you thought it would be? No? Now your brain has proof that it was not harmful.
- Repeat. Now take the action two more times to get your brain used to the experience. Repetition makes the experience less scary over time.
- Reward. Give yourself a reward for making progress. If your brain can re-associate a scary experience with a positive one, it will be much more willing to let you try the experience again.
Rebecca Dallek is a Career and Leadership Coach, who works with female professionals to achieve professional satisfaction.