There are two important parts to your brain that play a critical role in your ability to change careers. The first is your frontal lobe. This is the place of reason, options, possibility and belief in opportunity. The second is the amygdala, which is where fear and “fight or flight” reactions hang out.
When the brain is confronted with something it fears, your amygdala gets activated. The amygdala’s job is to keep you safe, and career changing is not safe to the brain. Since the brain senses something risky afoot, it will do anything to sabotage you. The amygdala might activate some of your old behavior patters or it might engage you in a way of thinking that counter act your desire for change.
Just as important, the amygdala will shut down the frontal lobe, which, in turn, shuts down your sense of reason, logic, and possibility. Imagine someone starts to scream at you and get in your face. Do you stop and think “what course of action should I take?” No. You react based on your need to survive. The same thing can happen when you start to take actions towards a career change.
Here you are thinking, “I’m really unhappy at my job and I should really make a change.” DING—amygdala gets activated and you stop the conversation or come up with reasons why you can’t do it or just don’t take action on the thought. Now imagine you get a bit further along and decide you want to make a change. You start to search the internet for possible new careers and DING—amygdala gets activated and tells you how overwhelming and confusing it is. You can’t possibly make choices and figure it all out.
Remember, what happens when your amygdala gets activated? Your frontal lobe starts to deactivate and logic and possibility shut down.
I see this type of behavior with my clients every day. Whether they can articulate the fear or just tell me that they are unable to move through a certain part of the process. I know the brain is trying to “keep them safe” from the scary unknowns. Even though they desire a change, it is safe and comfortable where they are.
One helpful tool in career changing is to understand how your brain is sabotaging you, what you can do to counteract it and, eventually rewire it to allow you to make the desired change.
Stay posted for Part Two for some tips on brain rewiring.
Rebecca Dallek is a Career and Leadership Coach, who works with female professionals to achieve professional satisfaction.