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  • Michael Philp

It's never a good time (so do it anyway)

Updated: Jun 9, 2021

Have you been thinking about getting a new job?

Or starting a new business?

Or going back to study; starting a new hobby; starting to date again?

Have you ever thought "Now is not quite the right time" or "Once I've done a/b/c I'll be able to do x/y/z"? What's that hesitation about?

One of the most significant pieces of advice I've received came to me when I was looking to change jobs, as an early career psychologist. I felt indebted to the health service for taking me in as a new graduate, and several of my colleagues had recently left. I spoke with my manager outlining my concerns about leaving the service short, and that I would wait to when things had settled more. He told me - "it's never a good time to leave a job" and that the service would survive. Some 14 years later, I still think about that comment when I'm hesitating to make a decision. Because what is usually underneath that is a sense of anxiety and fear.

I'm just not sure if now's the right time

It's perfectly natural to feel anxious and fearful about a big change. When we get anxious, we try to look for certainty, to gain a sense of structure and security. In order to gain security, we look for structure by putting in timelines and deadlines, and other events that need to occur before the time is right. We might endlessly research whether now is the right time, looking for signs of certainty, for permission to make the jump. We might also be worrying about not being good enough. As a result, we tend to procrastinate - to fluff around the edges, under the guise of making ourselves more prepared - trying to improving the quality of our CV by changing the font from size 12 to size 11, and convincing ourselves that once this CV is tidied up, then we will apply for a new job.

Just ship it

Legendary marketer and thought leader Seth Godin has a phrase around shipping it, by which he means creating a product and putting it out to customers; but it also applies to doing anything of merit. He argues that if you spend time trying to perfect something, by the time you've made it perfect it's too late; someone else has shipped the same product. However, he states that it still needs to be good quality, that you can't merely "ship it" just to get it out - from a psychological point of view, that might also be a form of avoidance, a way of justifying to ourselves that we didn't get the job or continue at the gym because we didn't have the time. So we didn't fail, we just didn't have enough time. We feel better about ourselves by creating this cognitive dissonance. The reality is, we created an opportunity that we could avoid hurtful feelings if things don't go as well as we hoped, thereby avoiding deep seated beliefs of not being good enough.

Growth comes from the challenge

Growth and change comes from discomfort, and we need to get good at accepting those uncomfortable feelings. That if you want to do something or try a new activity where you are extending yourself, then the best indication is that feeling in your gut. But if you try to put everything at ease before you follow through, you'll miss your chance. Because, what is likely to happen is you won't put the same effort in. You'll get caught up in the details, or procrastinate and avoid following through. "I'll do it tomorrow". "I'll get a fresh start on Monday" and so on. Committing to something means following through and the pressure to rise up to the moment and grow. If you book in that course you've committed to do the pre-reading and show up. If you click 'apply' you've committed to submitting your CV. It also means it might not be the perfect time - but that moment rarely comes. So you should do it anyway.


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