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What You Can Learn When You Stop Fearing Change

You're having a career crisis.

Maybe you're in a dead-end job, or you're feeling uninspired by your 9-to-5, or you're perpetually worried that you might be pushed out by downsizing. Work woes can make it seem like your whole world is out of whack — but you don't have to succumb to that feeling. "Somebody made up this thing called a 'career path' where you just climb up the ladder, straight as a stick, and then — bam! — Florida!" says Blanke. "But I'm not sure that's such a great arrangement. Veering off course can be just what you need to unearth an entire new set of options for yourself."

One way to explore those options is to create your own think tank. "I have a client who was laid off from her job in the banking industry," says Blanke. "She gathered her good friends and former colleagues and asked them to tell her what they think her unique talents and attributes are." The point of this exercise, Blanke says, isn't to suddenly decide that you're going to become a pastry chef or head off to law school, but to brainstorm about your distinctive passions and skills. It shifts your perspective from, What should I do? to There's a world of possibilities out there."

You're worried about terrorism, your safety, and the state of the world.

rollercoaster.jpg"Here's a situation where we pretend to know the end of the story before we finish the book," says Blanke. "We really burden ourselves by imagining the worst possible things that could happen to us, but that serves no purpose beyond making ourselves afraid." Fear, says Blanke, stands for "False Evidence Appearing Real" — meaning that we let our worries eat at us to the point where we believe that the worst-case scenarios are our realities.

The problem with this mind-set (besides, of course, feeling anxious and on edge 24/7) is that it blinds you to all the good things that happen every day. The antidote: "Develop the fine art of editing in your life," advises Blanke. "Get up every morning and ask yourself, What kind of news am I going to let into my world today? What am I going to listen to? What am I going to talk about?" This doesn't mean that you stick your head in the sand — obviously, it's important to stay informed — but that you keep a watchful eye on the kind of information you feed your mind. Do you fixate on negative stories? Do your conversations run pessimistic? If you tend to concentrate on the negative, see if you can pare down your daily doom-and-gloom intake (read one fewer bad-economy forecast in favor of something more helpful, like a smart money management story) so that you can open yourself up to more hope and optimism.

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