Q: I've known for seven or eight years now that a change in my path would be a good thing. However, I've been through two lay-offs during difficult job markets and have been unable to make a complete transition. I want to make sure that I'm comfortable with my decision on my new path, and I am also preparing to return to school. Knowing what you want is one thing, but finding the right opportunity to do it is another. Do you also have suggestions for making the dream a reality and getting the right break?
— Danielle, age 38
A: Danielle, normally I would advise anyone looking to change paths to make sure that you really do want to go in a different direction. If you've known for seven or eight years that you need to make a change, however, it sounds like you've given it more than enough thought. It can sometimes seem like there is a daunting gap between the desire to change and acting on that desire. The first step is to stop thinking of it as a gap. Change is not a chasm we fall into with one step; it's a path. Take the first step along that path by committing to at least one action each week that will move you toward the life you want. That action can include building your financial security so that you have the cushion to be bolder. But every action you take should move you further toward your goal.
How can you overcome the very normal fear of change that almost all of us feel? There are two ways you can beat it: first, get excited. Visualize and concentrate on how excited you are by the new role you want to be in. Picture how energized and satisfied you will be when you are doing things that you truly love to do. Second, get specific. Specificity is the antidote to anxiety. If you plot out the specific steps that you need to take to achieve your goal and anticipate the specific details of your dream job, your anxiety will give way to impatience to get started on the path you've chosen.