The Science of Limiting Yourself

We have only so much time to get our stuff done.

Our windows for reinvention open all the time. Sometimes they are huge windows:

  • when you are young, own nothing and nothing owns you
  • when your kids leave the nest
  • When you come into a little money and your options open

These are rare moments. For most of us, our windows of opportunity show themselves many times, but they’re small and short-lived. Our ability to take advantage of them depend on the elimination of self-limiting thought and behavior, which results in a guaranteed outcome – nothing.

I’m too old, you might say.

I don’t have the skills to change things up, you say.

I’ve got too many obligations to take a pay cut, you say.

I have talked to a group of people one-on-one in the past month who all have a similar dilemma –  they are educated, credentialed, qualified, bright and capable. They all share a problem – they can’t find work in their chosen field, and they hate it.

After considering the circumstances of these folks, I think I know why they are all doing something else for a living.

They do not want to leave the San Francisco bay area.

If you live here, or have visited, you know; this place is special. It’s one of the best places in America to live, hands down.

But by limiting themselves to one geographic region, they have excluded themselves automatically from hundreds of opportunities. This is self-limiting behavior that’s guaranteeing career frustration. There’s a big difference between “don’t want to” and “can’t.”

So they are getting the life they ask for, right?

I live 112 miles from my office. I have a brutal commute. I chose this commute because my new wife and her kids are not near my office. I had a choice a few months ago – not marry and build a nice life with three wonderful people, or stay close to the office and keep things convenient. I love my job at the university and don’t want to leave. It’s affording me opportunities that I might not be able to get anywhere else (now). So I chose to sacrifice convenience in favor of something better –  the chance to love some people who are more important than me. It was not easy, and it’s still not easy, but I decided sucking it up and being a road/rail warrior was worth it.

When we say we can’t do something, we need to be sure that’s a true statement.  Life limits us and tries to box us in. But we have a choice many times – we can work the system.

I am going to get my masters degree on the train, on my way to and from work. If I drove 112 miles every day I couldn’t study, do school work or much of anything. I would sit in crippling traffic, angry and resentful. I’d arrive at work exhausted. I’d make my family pay at the end of the day. That’s not good for me, and not fair to them.

My employer is getting the benefits of my crappy commute; I get work done on the train. I’m mobile. I’m connected. I can do my job and work on improving my career and life, which makes me more productive, more experienced and happier.

When my step kids graduate from high school, a mere seven years away, I will have accumulated skills, experience, and a degree.

I’ll be ready to consider what to do, when that big window opens. I only have this time – if I tread water I’m toast. Seven years is nothing. It’s going to fly by.

Time is flying by for all of us. What can we do today – now – that lays the foundation for our future?

Tomorrow – everybody is hiring all the time – and how you can get in a new job without stepping on anybody’s toes.

Picture of John ScottJohn Scott is a media studies instructor and the career services manager at the School of Multimedia Communications, Academy of Art University San Francisco. John’s book “Destination: Reinvention” is on sale in the Amazon bookstore. The hardcover edition is at Lulu. Audiobook available on Audible and iTunes. Follow John on Twitter@johnscottsf.






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