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Career blogs
8-08-2023

Do you dream with the brakes on?

Last month I gave two workshops at a PhD/postdoc career event at Leiden University. Most of the participants said they had no idea what they wanted to do next. But when I probed a bit further, I learned that a lot of the participants secretly had an idea or dream about a field of work, a next job, a contribution they wanted to make. I also noticed a distinct pattern in their responses.

First they hesitantly or tentatively shared a dream or a desire:
• I would like to….
• I really would love to…
• It would be great if I could….
• I sometimes think about…..

Immediately followed by … BUT that is impossible because…
• I don’t have the right skills
• I don’t speak Dutch
• I don’t have a background/PhD in that field
• I don’t want to move
• I am loyal to my boss

Every one of the participants felt they were lacking something to be able to pursue this dream or idea. Or they felt this dream was not compatible with other criteria they had for their next job (e.g. security, limited travel time etc.)

They ended up feeling stuck and said they had no idea what they wanted.

Sound familiar?

Do you have a dream, a desire, an inkling of something you would like to do as your next step? Maybe a different role, a different field of work, a different work environment. But you feel this is not possible for you. So you feel stuck. And you don’t know what else you would like to do for a career.

Actually, the problem is not that you have no ideas about your next career step or next job. The problem is that you do have an idea or dream, but you immediately hit the brakes as soon as you think or dream about it and dismiss the idea as impossible.

But did you really explore this idea, did some research on it, so you could test your assumptions that this is not possible? When I asked the participants in the workshops, if they had taken some action to explore this idea further (besides only in their heads). They told me no. They had all reached this conclusion without doing some proper research first.

How would it be if you gave yourself permission to explore this idea, this dream, this inkling you have a bit further? To dive into this field you are dreaming about to learn more about jobs, possibilities there are in that field of work. Really doing some research instead of assuming this is not possible for you?

When you don’t go out there and do some exploring, you will be right that what you dream about is not possible! When you have already told your mind it is impossible, your mind will not look for possibilities or ways in which it could be possible. You will only see evidence that you cannot pursue this dream or desire. If you tell yourself it is impossible and don’t do any research on it you will not find anything to prove you wrong.

It is like standing outside a room. There is a nameplate on the door that tells you this is the room you dreamed about, the thing you desire. The door is ajar. But instead of peeking in, you tell yourself this room is not for you. So, you shut the door without even looking in, without exploring what it looks like inside, without finding out what people and possibilities are inside. What if you gave yourself permission to open that door a little bit and allow yourself to peek in and explore what is behind that door?

What if you gave yourself permission to learn more about this field of work, this type of job in an open way.
Just to learn, just to satisfy your curiosity?


When you feel stuck in finding your next job. Do these two things:
1. Loosen the brakes by giving yourself permission to explore the things your dreaming about, your wild idea.
So you can make an informed assessment about what is and is not possible. Conduct desk research and field research as well! So read about it and talk to people who work in this field or type of job.

2. Help your brain see new possibilities by setting it up in the right way.
Instead of telling yourself this is not possible for you. Tell your brain “ This is possible, but I just cannot see it yet. “ Then your brain will start looking for possibilities while you are exploring instead of looking for proof it is not possible.

When you take these two steps, then for certain you will learn there is more possible than you can see right now!


About the author
Dr. Samula Mescher is an international coach and trainer for scientists / driven professionals. Want to know more? Go to her website www.samulamescher.nl or find her on social media: LinkedIn, Instagram or Facebook.

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