Why You Must Choose Change Over Inertia

Weigh the potential pain of a job change against the cumulative ache of inertia.

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Have you ever wondered why so many people who are unhappy with their work are so resistant to actually changing it?

One reason is that change is often fraught with uncertainty, which can make it seem scary and potentially painful. As wired as humans are to minimize pain, they choose the dull ache of their current situation over the pain potential of change.

Imagine you're unhappy with your work and you're fantasizing about a new career. You put your two options on a scale to weigh them against each other. On the one hand, you can stay with the familiar discomfort of a job you don't like. On the other hand, you can choose the potential pain and fear of making a significant change.

If you're choosing to minimize the pain, which one do you choose? Most people look at it and say, "Well, duh. Another day of this job I don't like hurts a whole lot less than that whole change thing. Looks like I'm staying put."

The trouble is: That's not the whole picture. Because when you choose to stay with work you don't like, you don't just choose a day's discomfort, or a week's. You choose the cumulative weight of the discomfort you're going to feel each and every day until you finally leave, retire, or die.

Now put those two options back on the scale—the cumulative effect of the years you spend unhappy with your work vs. the short-term pain of change. Which one seems heavier now? Does it make sense to stay put just to try to avoid the pain of change?

After years as a professional malcontent, Curt Rosengren discovered the power of passion. As a speaker, author, and coach, Rosengren helps people create careers that energize and inspire them. His book 101 Ways to Get Wild About Work and his E-book The Occupational Adventure Guide offer people tools for turning dreams into reality. Rosengren's blog, The M.A.P. Maker, explores how to craft a life of meaning, abundance, and passion.

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