Giving up control can give you more

It’s not unusual for me to talk to clients who feel stuck. Perhaps they’ve picked a career direction and invested a huge amount of time and energy (and money) into it but it hasn’t taken them where they wanted to go or, worse, they’ve ended up in the career equivalent of a cul-de-sac.

I recently read about multiple career-trier Lauretta Ihonor. She tried five careers (with four degrees) before finding one she loved. It’s an extreme example and I’m not suggesting you try it, but one point really stood out. 


Lauretta’s three-step plan to work out your life’s calling is Admit Defeat, Stand Still and Do Something Radical. She wrote: 

Real transformational change only happens when you give up control. This is often the hardest step of the process.

It is hard. Giving up control can be very difficult. I know I find it hard and experience with my clients mirrors that. But why? Well, some of us like control, or need control. For others, they feel they’ve invested so much in the direction they’ve gone in, how could they possibly let go?

The idea of relinquishing your grip on your career is enough to deter many people from change. It’s also my experience that ‘giving up everything you’ve worked for’ is perceived as failure. An equally powerful deterrent. 

But the coaching maxim ‘do what you’ve always done, get what you’ve always got’ couldn’t be truer. If you want something to change, you have to change something.

But how? What if it doesn’t work? What if you make the wrong choice? I accept those are possibilities but what if it does work? 

What if you do make the right choice – or choices? You won’t ever know until you try…and that’s where opening yourself to change or at least entertaining the idea of it is a vital first step.

Coach and psychologist Dr Amy Johnson is an expert in change and has published extensively on why giving up control is the way to make it happen. She says:

Control is a result of being attached to a specific outcome—an outcome we’re sure is best for us, as if we always know what’s best.

Do we know? Perhaps we do (or think we do) but only in the situation we are currently occupying. 

But are you so sure or accepting of your situation that you are blinkered, unable to see alternatives? Are you letting opportunities pass you by because they don’t fit your existing career plan or your idea of what success looks like for you? 

Are you happy in your career comfort zone?

Loretta Ihonour proposes that we stop thinking we have it all planned and that things will work as they should because we have a plan. 

Being open to new things, open to possibilities, not being too afraid to jump – or fail – is what moves us forward and makes us far happier than rigid, close adherence to a five-year plan.

Behavioural scientist and motivational speaker, Steve Maraboli advocates for us to learn to let go of control because he says control is an illusion and we were never in control anyway. Is control a myth? I’m not sure it is but I do think control is often rooted in fear. 

What are we really afraid of? What people think? That we’ll get it wrong? By lasering in on the root of our fear we can work out the way forward, creating a roadmap that is both aspirational and realistic. We can also put things in perspective by differentiating between real fears and imagined ones. 

Quitting your current job to pursue a new direction with limited savings and a large mortgage presents a real fear, one to be managed carefully but not all fears are as clear cut. By asking ourselves ‘what’s the worst that can happen?’ we get to the heart of the issue and pinpoint what’s stopping us from making a change.

What else could you achieve if you stepped outside of your career comfort zone? 

If we trust that things will work out, if we have faith in our abilities and conviction then we can give up control and be open to change and the possibilities it brings.

If you’d like help to do that, someone to be by your side guiding and supporting you to make a change then why not get in touch for a session of Career Therapy? What’s the worst that could happen?

Linkedin Louise Newton
Photo by Daniele Franchi on Unsplash

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