Wednesday, 26 August 2009


One of the main challenges faced by our Career clients is getting through the homework. Although self reflection is tough, there's no substitute for doing this, and a substantial portion of this must be done alone. But almost without exception, people put the work off.

Why is this? An article at Psychology Today helps explain.

When people procrastinate it's often because the task they're facing (avoiding) is difficult, and this creates bad feelings like anxiety . Putting off the task at hand is an effective way of avoiding this mood and psychologists have called this "giving in to feel good" (Tice & Bratslavsky, 2000). We give in to the impulse to walk away from the task in hand in order to feel good right now, and we do feel better which reinforces our behaviour.

I should point out at this stage that our clients are the brave ones. Many people hate their career yet do not even find the courage to address the problem so there are levels of procrastination!

Of course, the short-term gain of procrastination has long-term costs. For a start, it's been shown that the last-minute efforts that become necessary when we put off the task usually mean a sub-standard job overall (although not always, and this is a classic reward to the procrastinator and very memorable). More importantly, as Tice and Bratslavsky explain, "the final and overall level of negative affect is likely to be even greater than if the person has worked on the task all along". But a task like a career decision can be postponed indefinitely. We can literally waste our lives because the moment is never quite right to change it.

The message of Tice & Baumeister's research is clear. Putting off a task to control immediate mood results in problems later. They demonstrate this across a number of domains as I noted earlier, including eating, drinking, smoking, gambling, shopping and procrastination. When we give primacy to addressing our emotional distress, we usually do so at the cost of self-regulatory failure. They summarize this key idea with,

"People will engage in behaviors that may be self-destructive (gambling, excessive shopping, overeating, smoking, procrastinating) if the behaviors make them feel better in the short term. Thus, emotion regulation may have a special place in the field of self-control, because emotion regulation takes precedence over other self-control behaviors and even undermines other self-control efforts" (p. 154).

The message to each of us should be clear as well. If we focus on our feelings in the short term, we'll undermine ourselves in the long run.

In fact, we may spend a lifetime rationalizing it to ourselves: 'I don't feel like it', 'I need to feel better in order to act' etc.

No you don't.

In fact, your feelings will follow your behaviours. Progress on a task will improve your mood.

For now, the message is, don't give in to feeling good, get going instead - don't delay!

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Songs for Career Change

Had a great response to the songs for career change post, mainly by e-mail.

In response, I've started Bloom Psychology's first Spotify playlist. You can hear it here.

If you don't have Spotify you can get it here.

This one's a generic Bloom Psychology one (made by me and Tom), but we'll soon have Playlists for different types of mood and task.

Go take a listen! Plus, if you have suggestions for songs either mail me, add it to the Comments or add it to the Spotify playlist.

Favourite Music And Career Change

A tangent from the previous post on music for career change, but I've just written a new exercise for one of our career decision making handbooks.

The premise begins with identifying a client's favourite ever song. Then the exercise asks them to examine why this music is important to them - is it lyrics, the melody, the association with times past? Once this is established, we ask them to consider what this says about their life and career in particular.

It's going down well, but with sometimes surprising results. As an illustration, my own effort identified Wish You Were Here by Pink Floyd and (perhaps bizarrely), Anchorage by Michelle Shocked. Latterly it would be Hast thou considered the tetrapod by Mountain Goats.

I had never really considered why they resonated so much before, but thinking about it, it is to do with loss, combined with a certain defiance too. Even Wish you were here is not a desolate song.

I realised that I'd probably always feel a sense of loss, but that I would always prevail. Defiance is how I am built. I will wriggle up on dry land.

It's funny but this gave me a kind of cold but solid comfort, and from nowhere, energy and hope.

Sunday, 23 August 2009

The meaning of pale green things

I have always liked The Sunset Tree by The Mountain Goats. Until today, I just thought it was nice, pleasant music. Mainly, it just passed me by though the song Pale Green Things made it onto my ipod shuffle once, as it was nice and relaxing to run to.

Thing is, I read the inside sleeve today, and then read the lyrics on the internet.

Funny how that transforms everything. It's now on a loop on my CD player. Suddenly electrifying.

As Ben Zander understands - it's meaning that changes everything. Our emotional connection with stimuli depends on the meaning of them to our lives. This is about comprehension in context - we are natural meaning makers. And yet, when it comes to work, so many of us are happy with work that has no meaning and live with the rising discomfort that accompanies it.

Experiences mean nothing without us understanding our role in them. Sure, it might be pleasant but it won't be meaningful. I'll never listen to The Sunset Tree in the same way again because it's meaningul to me now. But in the same way no one should settle for work that has no meaning, or it is life itself that will pass them by.

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

A Bloom response to the credit crunch: love

One of the best ways not to get caught in the trap of negative equity is not to buy at the top of the market. Given that no one - admit it - has any idea about markets, a more realistic way is to so love the place you live that you don't want to move any time soon. Buying for love is also a pretty good guarantee that someone else will love it too, a good insurance against falling markets.

There is a parallel here with jobs. Dominic Lawson points out that the demographic timebomb - the fact that there won't be enough people to earn the money to pay all our pensions - will dwarf the impact of the credit crunch by about 10 to 1.

There is a solution to this one too. Find a job that so absorbs you and that so enhances your life that you don't need to retire. Working beyond retirement age is going to be a reality for most of us and in any case, it keeps us healthier and happier. And despite the recession, the opportunities for reinvention continue to abound.

The fact is both the opportunities and the need to find meaningful work have never been greater, so what are you waiting for?

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Lewisham College and the importance of a vision

Was inspired this evening by Ruth Silver, a Fellow of the brilliant RSA. She reminded me of the importance of a vision and outlines hers for Lewisham College here.

Although this is something I've thought about for a long time I've never written it down or shared it with anyone.

What we want to do is to reinvent the career decision making process.

We don't want to improve it. We don't want people to take a bit less notice of other peoples' well-meaning opinions, or feel a bit less obliged to follow a traditional path, or even to take a bit more notice of themselves and the world around them.

We want people to think about their purpose in life objectively (scientifically) and then design its creation. In the process, we want to abolish the gradual narrowing of aspiration that is traditional career advice. We want to destroy the received wisdom that in order to make a career you must first spend your time 'learning your trade', 'paying your dues' or travelling in the reverse direction to the one that makes your eyes shine. And above all, we want to argue against the idea that this is somehow the 'real world'. We want to make that laughable, which it is.

And we want to make this service available to all, irrespective of circumstance.

If this sounds zealous I don't care.

Better career decisions can transform the world. I see no higher purpose or cause. By having people do what they do best, we can transform lives. And they in turn can transform lives. The number of people I know whose jobs deaden them or who contemplate change within deadening parameters is huge. It is this I want to change and this which is our vision.

Effective career decision making is about finding work that matches who you are to the life you want to lead. That’s not a luxury or touchy feely. It’s the clearest, coldest reality there is.

CP 2.0

Saturday, 8 August 2009

What songs help through a career change?

In the quest to make our career change services ever more engaging, we've been thinking about music, and the role it can play in helping inspire people and drive them on.

Two of the most useful emotions or attitudes that I exprienced during my career change were defiance – for those long days when things get tough – and inspiration for those days where I was in the zone and just wanted to ride the crest of the wave.

These are some of the songs that helped me, but what would you add?

This Year by the Mountain Goats
Stronger by Tom Baxter
Stronger by Kanye West
Grace Under Ppressure by Elbow
My Way by Frank Sinatra
The Impossible Dream by Andy Williams
The Only Road I know by Keane
Against the Wind by Bob Seger
Hast Though Considered the Tetrapod? by the Mountain Goats

One Day Like This by Elbow
Ain’t Got no...I Got Life by Nina Simone
Don't Stop me Now by Queen
Empty Cans by The Streets
Amazing Grace by the Royal Scots Dragoon
Daydream Believer by the Monkees

Sunday, 2 August 2009

Reading for Career Change

We recommend our top inspirational books for making a career change – all of which fit neatly into any suitcase.

How to find the Work You Love – Laurence Boldt
This short, simple book does exactly what it says on the tin. Boldt is not a
psychologist, but most of the things he says are empirically backed. But the bonus is he writes really well and engagingly. Above all, you’re left with the feeling that not only is finding work you love desirable and possible, but it is in fact a necessity.

Bear Hunt: Earn Your Living by Doing What you Love ‐ M. McClean
An inspiring book of case studies of people who have discovered what they love doing and have achieved a way of making their living from it. McClean analyses how they have done this and pulls out lessons that can be applied to your own career journey.

What Color is Your Parachute – Richard Bolles
Look, it’s a bit corny at times, but this is a pretty good book if you want to change your career but don’t know how. Much of the advice is based on your own analysis of yourself so you sometimes feel it may lack objectivity. That said this book’s packed full of information and exercises and would be a pretty good start if you wanted to start your career change on the sun lounger.

Mindfield ‐ Lone Franks
The use of neuroscience in understanding human behaviour is increasing, as the 'neuro‐evolution' gathers pace. If you want to know more about the biology behind happiness and how to 'strengthen' it, how religious 'experience' can be triggered or why we spend the money on the things we do then Franks answers them convincingly in this engaging and fast‐paced book.

And if you want to think about the nature of travel:

The Art of Travel – Alain de Botton
De Botton explores why we seek to escape, why travel is so intoxicating and why it so frequently fails to live up to expectations. If you want to think differently about how and why we travel, this is the book for you.

We'd love to hear of any books that you've found to be particularly inspiring, thought provoking or useful. Just get in touch!