My older daughter triumphantly declared that she is going to be a doctor. Half expecting that my younger daughter would say she wants to be a doctor too, I was pleasantly surprised there was a twist to that story. My youngest was going to be a vet.
Then, just as suddenly as the spark lit, it flickered. My 5 year-old hesitated. She started to become upset. Maybe she didn’t want to be a doctor after all? Maybe she would be an artist? Or could she be an artist AND a doctor? In her hesitation I saw a wish to not have to decide…she was afraid to limit herself to one choice. What if she made the wrong one?
I reassured her that those were both great options, and yes, if she wanted to, she could do both. She had lots of time to decide, and while it was ok to feel scared, she shouldn’t let that get her stuck. She just needed to explore to learn what was most exciting for her.
I feel that it is my job as a parent to not only help my kids discover their interests and passions, but also help them acquire the social and emotional tools to turn their dreams into reality. The fickleness of a 5 year-old will pass and one day my daughter will settle on a career. But, I predict that either before or after she makes her choice, there will be periods when she feels uncertain, stuck, or paralyzed about what to do with her life. And at those forks in the road, the outcome will largely depend on how she handles her doubts and indecisions.
As a career coach who works with people in transition, I am used to dealing with this state of emotional paralysis. Change is scary, especially when you don’t have a clear goal in mind. Although I’ve worked with people with different personalities at different stages of transition, virtually everyone at one point or another has some fear that blocks them from moving forward. Many are afraid to take a wrong step and to make a ‘mistake’.
Recently, I participated in a webinar ran by a fellow career coach entitled “How To Make a Change When You Don’t Know What You Want To Do”. It seemed like a misnomer at first, because I thought as typical wisdom goes, it’s much easier to make a change when you can clearly articulate what you are moving towards.
But her message was not about getting clarity but about taking action. It ‘s not that it isn’t important to get clarity. It is. But for those of us who struggle to define our next role, she counseled, it was better to do something, even fearing failure, rather than do nothing at all. She then laid out a plan on how to network when you weren’t sure exactly what to say.
I enjoyed the webinar because of the perspective it offered. It was a good reminder of what we often forget as adults. With our need to get things right, we can forget that making mistakes is a necessary part of the learning process.
When we remember that we can discover a lot more when put our fears aside, as we often remind our kids, we get closer to our dreams. We will all make mistakes – that’s for certain – and it will not be the end of the road but the beginning.