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Tough Career Decisions: Look for Middle Ground

I think we, as a society, don’t give the fine art of compromise enough credit. We’re an “all or nothing” kind of people. We avoid the middle ground because it feels indecisive. It’s better to just pick a side; “go big or go home” as they say.

Many of us think in black and white, especially when facing tough career decisions. We only see two options; one is “good” and the other is “bad”. But of course, we don’t know for sure which is which. So, we go back and forth, hemming and hawing about which road to take, and the whole time, we’re ignoring our options in the middle.

When we limit our choices, we limit our ability to see the middle ground. We start truly believing that there is only black or white; grey no longer exists. We create an unnecessary limitation.

“Should I stay at this job I don’t like or quit and follow my dream to start my own business?”

“Should I ask for a raise in this tough economy or just settle for what I’ve got?”

“Should I accept the promotion, even though it’s not what I really want, or decline it?”

On the surface, these seem like rational choices. We look at them and think, “Well, you have a decision to make.” But inherent in each one is the idea that there are only two options. What if there are more?

What if, instead of quitting your job to start your own business, you cut your hours down a bit and started a business slowly?

What if, instead of asking for a raise, you proposed a new pay-for-performance program?

What if, instead of accepting or declining the promotion, you tailored it to better suit your career goals and countered the offer?

Next time you’re facing a tough career decision, take a few minutes to explore the other opportunities you may not be seeing. Don’t let limited thought patterns trap you in black and white, either/or choices. There are always more options. You just have to look a little closer to see them.

Photo Credit: 9eorge (Flickr)

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4 Responses to “Tough Career Decisions: Look for Middle Ground”

  1. Liz McGowen says:

    I often find myself working with clients who are in the middle of the either/or process, rather than thinking of the multitude of options that are beyond either/or. It’s amazing how receptive their employers, prospective employers, and clients (if they are self-employed) can be to a third alternative — it’s almost like a little treat for them to create, an “Oh, we could do that”. Thanks for the thoughtful post!

  2. Cheryl says:

    Great post! It’s so true… I often find that I limit myself to yes or no, black or white, in or out. I don’t think about all the other possible answers: perhaps, gray, or just open a window.

    It’s hard to think creatively when you get in the trenches of decision making. Learning from experience now, I work hard at remembering there are alternatives.

    My husband’s business is called Third Line Creative which has a meaning to it. It came from a book called Thinker Toys… Draw a big X on a piece of paper, and then put the paper at eye level looking at it horizontally all the while staring at the center. Sure enough, you’ll see a third line right through those two creating the X. That third possible option is there, you just have to look for it!

  3. […] spend a lot of time sharing information on how to love your career. I talk about making thoughtful decisions, establishing a path and actively managing your […]

  4. […] spend a lot of time sharing information on how to love your career. I talk about making thoughtful decisions, establishing a path and actively managing your […]

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