I can see my panic from here

I have a client who is going through a career transition. Every time he even thinks about changing careers he panics. I don’t blame him. The task is daunting and there’s a lot of uncertainty and hard work ahead. As we talk, I realize that he has a pretty good grasp of where he needs to be six months from now, and while there’s a lot to do, it’s totally within his capability. So why the panic?

The plan is sound, he has the skills and the drive, he’s handled big tasks before. The vision of his new career is so rich and full and palpable. There’s no lack of desire or motivation. Why all the heavy breathing? It’s because next week isn’t clear. He can see the far shore, but not the bridge across. So often we plan and daydream about the destination, which is a necessary part of the journey of course, but not about the individual steps of getting there. My client is suffering from Hyperopia.

Unless you’re wandering the backroads on a motorcycle, it’s really necessary to know where you’re going. It’s good to have a complete vision of what you really want it to look like. But sooner or later you have to sit down and make a list of the steps to get there. Focusing too far into the future can cause a lot of strife. I can’t do X because I don’t have all the tools in place to get there. Six months away? That’s six months of hard labor. What’s next week? A week of hard labor. It’s doable. It’s something manageable.

When you find yourself panicking about a distant goal, remember to bring your focus in. What’s next? Keep one eye on the destination, sure, but don’t try to get there from here. Take the next step and then the one after. Six months from now the final step is only one step, instead of something intangible eighteen miles away.