Career choice: is this paralysing or liberating?

“CHOOSING has become the dilemma we face repeatedly throughout our working lives”

Many of our coaching clients come to us when they face career choices. They are sometimes paralysed about making the right choice, confused about the various options, or afraid of leaving behind well-known contexts.

The famous question: “where do you see yourself in 5 years from now?” becomes a big white page with many question marks:

  • Will this work for me?
  • What will others think about it?
  • Will I succeed?
  • What if I fail? What if this is the wrong choice?
  • Am I closing doors here?

It also opens up the floor to many “should” stories in their heads of how a career should be, how they should behave, what skills they should have, what they should have achieved at this stage… that are setting a bar that might not be true to themselves and who they are.

Quite paralysing then in a way! I might be wrong and not succeed so why do it indeed! Better not taking a decision at all!


According to the psychologist, Barry Schwartz, we now have too much choice and are not good at dealing with it. We reach a tipping point where having an abundance of options becomes an overload. “At this point, choice no longer liberates but debilitates. It might even be said to tyrannize.”[1] Moreover, when there are too many options, we often end up less satisfied with the result of the choice than if we had fewer options. The explanation for this paradox is that we can always imagine having made a better choice.

Sounds like a lose-lose exercise then?? Here are 2 suggestions from Schwartz:

  1. Try to limit the considered options,
  2. Learn to satisfy more and maximize less

In other words, be happy with the “good enough” option and gain some insights from the experience instead of waiting for the perfect move.

You never lose, you only win or learn!


What also works is to demystify the word “choice” itself. Make it plural: choices rather than frightening “The” choice. Take it as one of the numerous small steps you do on your personal journey. Some will go forward, some backwards, the importance lies in what you learn from each step. Roman Krznaric [2] advised :

act first and reflect later”.

That’s a good philosophy for your professional life, your choices will then be nourished by real life experience and not theoretical assumptions.


When it comes to career choices, it also involves quite some introspection to understand your own definition of “career success”. What are your main values, motives, and needs to feel satisfied and productive at work? What are those intrinsically motivating activities that give more energy than they drain? Our Career Fitness Profiler is a great way to understand your own career drivers.

While doing that, take the time to unpack all the conventions and self-restrictions to find out what you truly want, what is truly exciting about making a change. Choices will become more obvious then, they will be calling you!

Take a broad perspective on your life, not only your working life, other important parts of your life matter to make these choices more sustainable.

And finally, don’t believe that once a choice has been made you will find a fit for life, instead, prepare yourself to reassess regularly your situation, values, and needs, and check them against the labor market reality and needs. We are in a dynamic work environment and so is your personal life! So sustaining employability and motivation will require a dynamic approach.




[1] Barry Schwartz – The paradox of Choice



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