“I was laid off at 55 years old. I’m too old for anyone else to hire me. So I retired – I didn’t have a choice.”
“I have a mortgage to pay. I have to keep working – I don’t have the luxury of being able to go back to school or change careers. I don’t have a choice.”
I don’t agree with either of the statements that these two people made. I believe you always have a choice. You might not like the consequences of any of the choices you are facing, but there is always a choice. Sometimes it is very scary to choose change. It is a leap into the unknown. What if you fail? What if you have to declare bankruptcy? What if your friends or family laugh at you? It might happen. But you don’t know. What you do know is that you are not happy with the easiest option. And if I am choosing between certain unhappiness and uncertainty, I hope that I will always choose uncertainty.
With my clients, this is how I begin when they are presenting what seems to them to be an unsolvable problem:
- What is your current situation? What do you wish was different?
- What is getting in the way of changing your situation? (not enough money, time, or skills; too old; etc.)
- What would your life look like if you didn’t have that barrier getting in the way?
Then I challenge their thinking. If they say they are too old, I ask if they know anyone that changed careers when they were older than they are now, and I give them examples of people I know that did just that. With age comes experience, and the kind of knowledge that you don’t have when you are twenty. If they say that they don’t have enough time, I ask them if they’d be willing to give up something that they are spending time on now to work towards their dream. If they say that they don’t have enough money, we brainstorm to create options around how to earn more or spend less. If they say they don’t have the skills, I suggest they interview someone who is doing it now and ask them what skills are needed and where to get them. Although some jobs require many years of university training, most jobs don’t.
The next time you catch yourself saying, “I don’t have a choice”, ask yourself, “is that really true? Or do I just not like the consequence if I choose to do something different?”