‘I am in a trouble’. The Story Screenshot.
Murry: “I was searching for jobs yesterday and found a position that I think will be right for me.”
Ally: “That’s so exciting! What is the role?”
Murry: “It’s a business analyst in a big corporate firm. So, my job would be to dig deeper into the company’s data to suggest improvements for current processes.”
Ally: “Wait for a minute. Are you kidding me? Isn’t that the same position that you had a while back but ran away from, as you found yourself getting bored and frustrated? Why do you want to be back again?”
Murry: “Well, that’s true. It didn’t really make me happy but I liked the corporate environment. It was great to regularly attend professional conferences and to hang around with the team, so I thought I might give it a go again. The role is just a job, I can enjoy my life outside of it.”
Ally: “This what I am gathering from this: you want to slave your soul for a few years again for a chance to enjoy a couple of professional events? Have you thought about some other less self-torturing alternatives to network? Is this the only thing that drives you wanting to work a job, that previously left you mentally drained?
Murry: “Well, you are right that I can visit industry events anyway. I reckon what makes me really uncomfortable is thinking that I have invested so many years to become a good business analyst yet my recent Masters is in a completely different field.”
Ally: “But you completed your Masters in another subject that you truly like! You also love creative writing and your strength is clearly in dealing with people rather than data. Look, I am seriously curious: why do you want to make your life miserable instead of giving yourself a chance to do something different this time?”
Murry: “It is true, I am keen on the new subject that I studied but completely changing my profession?! I think it might be too late. And what if I don’t become successful in a new field? I reckon falling scares me even more than to feel bored again…”
‘Why we behave this way?’ Behavioural Science in Layman terms
Finding a career path that makes us happy and successful isn’t easy and the journey itself is very challenging. Those four words ‘What do you do?’ are actually terrifying because we want to sound impressive and look good in others eyes. There is nothing wrong with the need to be liked and respected. It is also great to share successful professional stories with others that might be very inspiring. The problem begins if we end up making career choices predominantly based on hidden triggers to impress others for the sake of a fleeting rush of validation or to ‘fit’ in a certain societal box. There are a few of well-known tendencies found by Behavioural science that can provide us with a fake feeling of temporary happiness
One of the interesting dangers that can affect people to stick to the jobs they don’t like is the fact that no one likes to fail. Fear of failure can elicit follow up unpleasant feelings such as disappointment, anger, frustration, sadness, and regret. The best friend of fear of failure is fear of shame. This creeps on the core of our self-esteem, identity, and feelings of emotional well-being making us feel bad about who we are if we don’t achieve certain criteria.
Moving on through our conversation, Murry’s phrase ‘I have invested so many years in it’was a curious example of another behavioural pattern that is hard to deal with. It is well known as sunk cost fallacy and, in simple terms; it is a tendency to focus on the past cost, such as our time and resources, rather than the future opportunities. We are often too concerned with what we “paid” for something rather than what we will get out of it in the future. This results in poor backward-thinking decision making. One of the most frequent examples is sticking to toxic relationships but not giving them up because we have already put in X-amount of years of effort. We end up convincing ourselves that we have to make it work out no matter how much struggle there is. In this situation, we tend to be determined to recover our investment by holding onto it, because it is harder to be brave to accept that it is no longer working.
‘Is there a magic pill to help?’ Practical peaks and tips.
You can get the basic idea on how to deal with the fear of failure from this post. What I am going to focus on in this article is a few useful insights that I personally tried and found useful to beat the sunk cost effect. You can try to apply at least one of them to yourself if you realise that your future decisions might have a toxic sunk cost root from the past.
- Trust your own vision. Remember that other people mostly try influencing you to continue what you are doing using their own reality projections. You might be pushing yourself too hard because you don’t want to disappoint others. This is a real catch so try to allocate regular (monthly, weekly) reflective time slots to clarify your own values and preferences bringing yourself back, if you started following other people’s expectations.
- Allow yourself to make mistakes. Try shifting your attitude from hiding your mistakes to actively exposing them to yourself. For example, a weekly written report to yourself admitting your mistakes could be torture at first, but once you get used to it, it can be a great skill to take criticism in your stride. This will help to recognise the costs involved in sticking to the old approach instead of focusing on the sunk costs.
- Detach yourself emotionally from your past decisions. Be especially careful with decisions that worked at some point in the past, as this is not a guarantee that they will serve your future purposes again. An interesting technique that I found useful is to neutralise my mind from the past (“zero-based thinking”). It requires some imagination to play a trick with the mind pretending that you just woke up with a sort of amnesia. Imagine yourself in your current challenging situation but without any knowledge of how you got there. This technique helps to focus on the current situation, instead of clinging to past decisions that would blind your ability to look for new alternative solutions.
‘Did this help?’Sometimes later.
This is one of our most successful stories so far because Murry took the advice on board and saved his soul from a vicious circle of potential slavery in the business analyst job. He also found it fascinating to be able to help others with their confusions in life, relaying what I told him to his friends. At the moment he is studying counseling and is looking forward to converging his passions, previous experience, and new skills together as a package to equip people with the guidance to overcome challenging situations and move forward.
Murry is trying to escape his career misery which is being trapped by a business analyst role.