Creating a futureA lot of people these days are looking to build a better future for themselves – including a new career. However they frequently experience extended periods of indecision. One of my theories was that this was due to the fact that most people are not using their past as data in the search for new careers. But this may not be 100% correct.

When asked, many people declare that they are using data from their entire lives. However, when questioned, it turns out that the type of data described frequently has to do with emotional pain. Pain which has yet to be processed and resolved. And while this is incredibly important for building a better future, it is not helpful to the process of identify a new career path. In fact my preliminary research has indicated that it likely has the opposite effect. Because dealing with emotional pain is a long drawn out process. And people who combine the search for a new career with the search for a better life frequently get stuck for long periods of time; which effects both searches simultaneously.

But the good news is, resolving prior emotional pain doesn’t need to be completed before a new career path can be identified. So what to do?

When doing a life review, it is important be specific about the type of data needed at the present moment. To seek a change of career limit the data to information about skills, interests and preferences. Before including a piece of data in the result set ask yourself, “Will knowing this help me to decide on an effective career path?” If the answer is ‘no’ set it aside for later.

Let’s say you were forced to take piano lessons until leaving for college and hated every minute of it. Does this help you to figure a new career path? Well you are probably not about to become a musician. But then you doubtless already know that. However knowing exactly what aspect of playing an instrument that caused you to hate music might be important. Was it the constant practice? Would you have rather been out on the playing field? Dig deep. However the fact that you feel that your preferences were never taken into account or that you were not  allowed to have control over your life… important, but not useful to answering the question of a future career path.

A problem is human beings have a proven negativity bias. It has long been known that negative facts and memories1 have a greater effect on one’s psychological state and processes than do neutral or positive things. This makes it too easy to get bogged down in life traumas unrelated to the question at hand.

The Year of Rose Colored GlassesHowever forewarned is forearmed to a certain extent. So be aware of this bias and be sure to wear your rose colored glasses2; if only for the duration of the analysis.

In summation, when looking for a new career option is it important to use the data of your entire lifetime to provide clues to potential career paths. But remember these 3 caveats:

  • Be very clear about the question you are currently trying to answer
  • Have strong, specific filters in place for the type data to be included
  • Give positive and neutral data equal weight to the negative

It may still take a while to get the answer needed – and it probably should. But using this idea should lessen the duration of the period of indecision related to your career search.


1 unpleasant thoughts, emotions, harmful/traumatic events
2 since rose colored glasses are often considered as making you unrealistically optimistic, in this instance think of them as negativity canceling equipment.