Beware cognitive distortions when trying to 'do something different' with your career

Perception is reality.

Some of us are naturally optimistic and some are pessimistic. Of course we’re all both at times

Stepping away from a familiar job to pursue a big career change or to start our own business can come with large doses of uncertainty.

We don’t know how things are going to turn out and it’s only human for us sometimes to feel doubtful and insecure about our plans. Frustratingly though, it is precisely when we are ‘doing something different’ with our careers that we most need to banish worry and doubt and adopt resilience and optimism.

“Cognitive distortions” are ways in which our thoughts persuade us of things that aren’t true. And, in turn, these thoughts make us sad or worried… leading to more negative thoughts, and so on.

This can continue until we’re desperately wishing we were back in our old  jobs, safe and miserable, rather than out there trying to build a life on our own terms (facing what – if we listen to all the negative thoughts – we have now convinced ourselves is a certain disaster!).

Recognise any of the following?

After 4 years of building Escape the City we’re pretty intimately familiar with the following thought distortions…

  • All or nothing thinking – predicting extreme success/failure, nothing in between
  • Overgeneralisation – one negative occurrence represents everything in our lives
  • Discounting the positive – we insist that positive experiences “don’t count”
  • Fortune telling – without knowing we predict that things will turn out badly

Other cognitive distortions include mind reading, exaggeration, emotional reasoning, “should statements”, negative labelling, and personalisation and blame.

[Have a look for yourself ->> List borrowed from David D. Burns from The Feeling Good Handbook.]

The trick…

The trick is to notice the thinking mistake and return to what we are doing in that particular moment. Perhaps we can even label the thought “Not Useful” before moving on.

This practice is at the heart of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy – which is a fancy term for becoming aware of how our thoughts affect our emotions and feelings.

If we (all of us) are going to build a life on our own terms we are going to have to get in the habit of noticing these thought patterns and gently discarding them.

Successfully ‘doing something different’ with our careers relies on getting our heads around this.

Further reading:


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