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Beware: Thinking Hurts

The great philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “Beware when the great God lets loose a thinker on this planet. Then all things are at risk.”

I love this quote. To me, it really pinpoints why many people are afraid of thoughtfully confronting issues in their lives. They don’t want to take the risk—to find out what they already “know” no longer applies.

In order to really open your mind, to see the true opportunities in the world and confront the reality of what you’re facing, you have to be willing to risk it all, to let go of your current beliefs, understandings, and views. Honest, deep reflection will call all of these things into question. Holding too tightly to any of them will only stifle your growth and inhibit your thinking.

For some, this is a scary notion. They’ll do anything to avoid the discomfort of such a confrontation. They’ll hide from their true feelings and ignore their rising discontent. They’d rather live in their stable, unshakable fantasy world than open their eyes and start over, from the beginning, like a city rising from the ruins.

In the book Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior, authors Ori and Rom Brafman refer to the concept of “commitment”—the natural inclination to hold on to previously held beliefs. It’s sometimes so strong that we make completely irrational decisions just to support the ideas we’re already mentally, physically and emotionally attached to.

“…whether we’ve invested our time and money in a particular project or poured our energy into a doomed relationship, it’s difficult to let go even when things clearly aren’t working.”

I see this play out in different ways all the time in my work as a career coach.

  • People avoid confronting career issues because they’re afraid of feeling like they’ve made a mistake or wasted their time. They feel like they’re too far along on the current path, too deeply invested, to make changes.
  • People avoid making decisions because they’re afraid of change and how their choices might “rock the boat” for themselves and others.
  • People fail to see opportunities because they’re stuck in limited thought patterns and old, obstructive beliefs.
  • People are hesitant to deeply explore their professional dreams because it goes against how they were raised and the way they’ve been living.

Here’s the scary, wonderful truth as I see it: In order to grow and have any hope of achieving your hearts deepest desires, you have to be willing to risk everything. You have to realize that what you know today will inevitably be proven false tomorrow. Such is the way of the world. Be okay with it. Accept that the more you think about things, the less you’ll know. And be confident that no road, be it physical or mental, is too far traveled to turn back and take a different exit.

Engage your brain and take a risk.

Give yourself permission to throw it all away and start over.

Confront the questions in your life with an open mind, an open heart and an understanding that, from beneath devastation, greatness grows.

The real risk is settling, standing still and allowing yourself to be irrationally tied to something that stifles your greatness.

Photo Credit: Ashley rose (Flickr)

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2 Responses to “Beware: Thinking Hurts”

  1. Jason Crain says:

    And just when I was getting cozy here, you make me question it all over again.

  2. Nailah says:

    Ooooh, good post! I think this definitely applies to life in general and not just careers. It’s always so easy to get comfy with the way things are and not want to risk starting down a new path. Always important to remember you can shake things up if necessary.

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