Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Should I consider wild and wacky careers?

I'm working with a client who asked me whether she should be considering 'wild and wacky' careers as she goes through the process of thinking about what to do next in her life.

If I could answer only 'yes' or 'no' to this, I would say 'yes'. The reason being is that our brains have a default mode that is to a) think conservatively and b) to think in set patterns. I explore these ideas further here. So usually, we kill ideas before they can develop. But is this default mode always the right one?

The trouble with our default mode is that whenever clients think about their greatest achievements, and their proudest moments, they invariably conquered some seemingly insurmountable problem, or defied some deeply felt fear. The moments that make life most worth living are often the moments where we faced down one of our greatest fears, and surprised ourselves.

Our minds' safety first obsession is ideal for keeping us alive, but frankly, is much less good at making us feel fulfilled.

So unless we make a conscious decision to think differently about our lives, we tend to make an unconscious decision to think the way we always think. This generally means doing what we always do.

I am not suggesting actually doing some wild and wacky job necessarily, but I am suggesting that for once in our lives we think openly and creatively about what we would ideally like to do with our remaining time on earth. What would we do if there were no limits? What would we try if we had more than 1 life?

If these ideas are subsequently then discounted, fine. But they should be discounted using a set of criteria, consciously and freely derived, about what is most important to us.

Creativity relies on quantity, not quality. So I recommend identifying every option you can think of and considering each. Only by thinking in this way, uncritically and creatively, can we combat our natural tendency to think what we always think.

For more on this idea, I recommend Dan Gilbert's wonderful TED talk.

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