Are you a professional athlete or entertainer? Did you sign a five-year contract, making switching your career or leaving your employer virtually impossible? I’m guessing not. You likely have the option to leave your job anytime you want to pursue a more rewarding career.
Although you may have the freedom to leave your employer, there are factors beyond your paycheck determining if, and when, you can make a move. Maybe you have a mortgage, a family, and bills that need to be paid. Maybe drastic change seems like an option for others, but not for you.
Over the years, I have found that people who believe they are at the mercy of their paycheck tend to be stuck in one of five ruts. Do you recognize any of these scenarios?
Scenario 1: The Dying Dream. You started out with big plans, but now you’re working a job you don’t like, pushing through to see whether that next promotion or upward career move solves your unease. You want to do something different, but it’s so hard to turn your back on all the seniority and skills you have built up . . . even if your career wasn’t ever your first choice, and even if you’ve never really let go of your original dreams.
Scenario 2: Stuck in Debt. At the time, it really seemed like you needed that new kitchen, boat, or vacation. Maybe the payment increase looked minimal at first, but now, too much debt is weighing you down. You’ve debated blowing the whole thing up in bankruptcy and starting over, but you’ve opted to do things the right way, to put in more years of hard work and slowly burn down your debt.
Scenario 3: Disappearing Dinero. You’re making an excellent salary, more than ever before, yet the money disappears every month (even if you earn well into six figures), and you feel forced to keep making more of it. Maybe you’ve tried to get your spending habits under control before—or worse, you attempted the painful process of creating and following a budget—but you gave up. (It’s shocking how easy it is to spend money and forget what you bought. Did you really need it if you can’t remember buying it?) Now, even with raises and bonuses, the money still disappears before you can really make it count.
Scenario 4: Unhelpful Financial Help. Maybe you tried to get a handle on your money before by reading a few books or even hiring an advisor. But it either didn’t help, or it made things worse. Many folks have been burned by financial “advice.” The financial advisor industry is rife with pirates who will take your money and feed you advice they found lying on the floor (or in an email from management, who wants them to sell you certain products).
Scenario 5: Stuck under Sunk Costs. Many of my clients think they have too much already invested in the path they have chosen for it to make sense to shift now. This belief is called the sunk cost fallacy, where we continue a behavior because of a previous investment of time, money, or effort. When you convince yourself that going in a different direction doesn’t make sense because you’ve “put too much into this,” it’s hard to conceive of how different (and awesome) life could be if you made a radical change. Thinking you are indebted to your efforts of the past will only keep you stuck and unhappy, sinking more time and costs into the fallacy.
These are just some of the lies we tell ourselves to keep us in the race. Maybe you recognize your own familiar refrain. But as it turns out, the only thing stopping us from climbing out is our own fear.
If you do see yourself in any of these situations, something needs to change. Your future depends on it.