The great philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “Beware when the great God lets loose a thinker on this planet. Then all things are at risk.” I love this quote. To me, it really pinpoints why many people are afraid of thoughtfully confronting issues in their lives. They don’t want to take the risk—to find out what they already “know” no longer applies. In order to really open your mind, to see the true opportunities in the world and confront the reality of what you’re facing, you have to be willing to risk it all, to let go of your current beliefs, understandings, and views. Honest, deep reflection will call all of these things into question. Holding too tightly to any of them will only stifle your growth and inhibit your thinking. For some, this is a scary notion. They’ll do anything to avoid the discomfort of such a confrontation. They’ll hide from their true feelings and ignore their rising discontent. They’d rather live in their stable, unshakable fantasy world than open their eyes and start over, from the beginning, like a city rising from the ruins. In the book Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior, authors Ori and Rom Brafman refer to the concept of “commitment”—the natural inclination to hold on to previously held beliefs. It’s sometimes so strong that we make completely irrational decisions just to support the ideas we’re already mentally, physically and emotionally attached to.
“…whether we’ve invested our time and money in a particular project or poured our energy into a doomed relationship, it’s difficult to let go even when things clearly aren’t working.”I see this play out in different ways all the time in my work as a career coach.
- People avoid confronting career issues because they’re afraid of feeling like they’ve made a mistake or wasted their time. They feel like they’re too far along on the current career path, too deeply invested, to make changes.
- People avoid making decisions because they’re afraid of change and how their choices might “rock the boat” for themselves and others.
- People fail to see opportunities because they’re stuck in limited thought patterns and old, obstructive beliefs.
- People are hesitant to deeply explore their professional dreams because it goes against how they were raised and the way they’ve been living.