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What's stopping you from making the change?


I’ve noticed a phenomenon within quite a few of my potential clients. They tell me that they want to transform their careers and to create a career they love. But all of their actions are leading them to the same path that they’ve always been on.

Are they suffering from Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity: “doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results?” I suspect not. These are intelligent, sane people. But it’s got me thinking about why some people are more open to making a change than others.

This week, I’m going to take a quick dive into two areas which I think are at play with these clients: attitude to risk and status quo bias.

Attitude to Risk

I definitely err towards being a risk taker. I’ve always loved to tinker with the status quo. What makes me that way?

In StrengthsProfile, one of my top strengths is Optimism meaning I expect things to turn out for the best, and one of my weaknesses is Adherence which is following the rules. In DISC behavioural profiling, my C (Compliance) is low which means that I’m more inclined to take risks.

My life experiences have taught me to live in the moment and grab opportunity. And my personal life circumstances give me the freedom to take risks in the knowledge that I’m not exposing anyone else to the consequences (well, only my husband but he’s amenable to my behaviour!).

It’s not surprising, then, that I’ve been experimental and embraced change in my career. In my “employed” career, I followed several different paths – HR consultant, exec recruiter, managing director, business development, to name a few. And I trained as a coach and set up my own business with relatively little to go on other than my gut instinct that it was the right thing to do and would work out for the best.

And it’s turned out well.

Whilst I encourage you to take a more scientific and structured approach to creating a career you love, I understand that some people are more inclined than others to be experimental and trust their gut instinct.

Your own personal attitude to risk taking will be based upon similar factors such as your personality, behavioural preferences, strengths and personal circumstances. This is why I always encourage my clients to start with a phase of self-discovery. Once you understand your own attitude to risk and what factors it’s based upon, you can really start to leverage those factors to make a change rather than let them get in the way.

Status Quo Bias

Status Quo Bias is a change blocker for so many people. It comes into play when you prefer things to stay the same by doing nothing or you stick to a decision because you’ve already made it. It is linked to loss aversion which is the concept that people are more willing to take risks to avoid a loss rather than to make a gain

Status Quo Bias can be driven by different things:

  • Previously make commitments: are you unwilling to make a change for fear of letting someone down?
  • Sunk cost fallacy: are you reluctant to change career when you’ve spent 15 years climbing the corporate ladder?
  • Fear of losing control: are you afraid of the unknown and how it might feel to follow a path that you can’t quite see?
  • Regret avoidance: we have more regret for bad outcomes that are the result of new actions than those which are the result of doing nothing.

In coaching, these are similar to what we would call limiting beliefs which are generally considered to be unhelpful. If you believe that you are prone to status quo bias, I would love you to challenge your thinking. Here are some questions to get you started:

  • Who am I really letting down here?
  • Who would be adversely impacted by me making a change?
  • What is the cost of not making a change?
  • What strengths and skills have I learned that can be applied in a new environment?
  • What’s the worst that can happen?
  • What’s the best that could happen?

What to do now

If you want to make a change but are finding it difficult to move towards it:

  • Take a journey of self-discovery: take a look at any psychometrics or profiles that you have access to and analyse how your own unique traits can move you towards making that change.
  • Take a look at the status quo bias drivers: do any of them resonate with you? What can do you do to overcome them?
  • Ask yourself the coaching questions above? Find your own challenging questions.
  • Work with a coach. Apologies if this last point feels self-serving but a coach can help you with this stuff – you just need to commit to doing the work required.

Finally, I’d like to reference Samuelson & Zeckhauser, 1988 and Kahneman & Tversky, 1979 for their work on loss aversion and status quo bias. There’s some extra reading for you if you’re interested!

As ever, I love talking about this stuff so feel free to get in touch if you'd like to book a discovery call.

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