Make Career Choices Easier With This Journaling Exercise
I’m the most indecisive person you’ll meet. I have trouble figuring what to eat, which book to read, and if I’m buying a new pair of shoes it will take me months to decide.
So when it comes to career, I’ve been the most indecisive person anyone in my social group has known. Ask any of my friends and family and they’ll tell you how tired they are of hearing me discuss all my ideas of what I might pursue.
With this struggle came anxiety. Because while I was in the decision phase, I was losing time. Time I could have spent becoming a master at my career.
A lot of the advice I read told me to just decide. I was told that successful people jump right in and pay no mind to failure. Successful people use their gut whereas I was using my head. Whether this was true or not, this advice didn’t make taking action any easier.
Decisions, Decisions . . .
During the deciding phase there’s a number of things happening. In our minds we’re trying to simulate what the experience will be like. We’re trying to figure out the next steps and predict how our future selves will feel. That’s a lot of stuff going on in your head.
When we try and think our way through all our decisions, we end up in a cycle that will leave us frustrated and anxious.
Finally out of the deciding phase
At some point I stumbled upon an exercise that broke me out of this cycle. It was inspired by the Stoic idea that one should live out their fears in order to overcome them. This makes complete sense, because there is no running away from your fears. You can ignore them on the surface, but deep down they’re driving our decisions (or indecisions).
Most advice people give never covers the points that the exercise will. It will save you time because within 15 minutes you’ll have an idea of what to do next. And doing it will be much easier.
The exercise is called Fear Setting. I came across it in The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss.
I was originally going to go through the exercise with you here but I realized Ferriss has the exercise on his blog and as the creator he will be able to explain it better than I can. To start the exercise, go here. (The exercise is at the very bottom of the blog article and has 7 numbered questions.)
My Experience With Fear Setting
What I’ll provide is my experience with the fear setting exercise. I took a picture of my journal where I first did the exercise in 2017. You’ll also notice that my version was a little different—I may have pulled it from a different source or just read it wrong. Regardless, it was helpful to say the least.
As you can see I was trying to decide if I should try to go into the medical field as a physician assistant or into teaching. I had substitute taught in the past but my bachelors degree was in Kinesiology, so I was considering the medical field. I did the fear setting exercise for each path.
You’ll see that I actually didn’t fill out the entirety of the teaching section, I think as I was writing I realized I wanted to try the medical route.
I ended up seeing what the medical field was like by getting a job as a medical scribe in an emergency room. A couple months in I realized it wasn't for me, and it took me another four months to change jobs again.
Zig Zigler always said that fear is actually an acronym. False Evidence Appearing Real. And the Fear Setting exercise helps us see the “evidence” for what is truly is—anxiety about an event that if it were to occur, it wouldn’t be as catastrophic as we think.
This exercise is recommended for pretty much any decision you’re trying to make: should you travel the world, change jobs, enter into a relationship, go to a bootcamp, move states—anything.
After doing the exercise you'll be much more clear on the actual risks to reward, and you'll have a plan for the worst-case scenario (which usually isn't as bad as we think).
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