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  • This is a guest post by the brilliant Dr Nic Hooper.

    Let me tell you about the last few days of my life.


    Day 1

    On Thursday morning I travelled to the University of Chester to give an invited talk about my work on Relational Frame Theory (RFT) and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT).

    Day 2

    On Friday, in a number of productive meetings, I built research collaborations with brilliant people in the Psychology Department at Chester.

    Day 3

    On Saturday morning I drove to the BBC studios in Bristol to give a radio interview about ACT.

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    In the world of academia, this is about as rock n roll as it gets. And I couldn’t deny that these days have been exciting, even exhilarating at times. But the story is not that simple.


    Day 1

    Before the invited talk these were my thoughts; ‘they aren’t going to understand me’, ‘they are going to think I’m unqualified to give a presentation to them’ and ‘I’m going to make myself look stupid’. Then whilst giving the talk, I saw empty faces in the audience and my mind continued to tell me that I was screwing it all up.

    After the talk, I went over it again and again in my mind. But I was tired so decided to get some sleep. Just as I laid my head on the pillow I had an email inviting me to do my first radio interview. I accepted. Needless to say that I didn’t sleep that afternoon. I spent 3 hours panicking. All of the thoughts, discomfort and anxiety returned but double in strength.

    Day 2

    On Friday, the meetings with Dr. Nick Hulbert Williams, Dr. Lee Hulbert Williams and Dr. Kevin Hochard went very well; I could not think more highly of these researchers. But the thoughts were still there; ‘how can I possibly be of any use to you guys?’

    Day 3

    I woke up on Saturday morning, once again sleep deprived. I walked the dogs. I didn’t eat breakfast. I drove to the studios. And all along I was plagued with the same thoughts and feelings – ‘who am I to speak on the radio about these things?’ and ‘I’m not smart enough to do this topic justice’.


    A long time ago, whilst sat on a porch in Mississippi, Dr. Kelly Wilson told me that ‘values and vulnerabilities are poured from the same vessel’. At the time I didn’t really get it. Now I do.

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    When we move towards the things we care about, it is likely that negative thoughts and uncomfortable feelings are going to come along for the ride. The past few days have been tough because, although I have acted in value consistent ways, I have had to engage in aversive activities (public speaking) and my mind has been there every step of the way to remind me that I’m not good enough.

    Its seems to me that many important steps in our lives might involve doing something aversive and experiencing all of the negative thoughts and feelings that go with it. If you value your career, you will have to do interviews. If you are social phobic but want a University degree, you will have to work in groups. And if you want a relationship, you will have to experience the discomfort that comes with first dates.

    Values and Vulnerabilities go together. It would have been easy to turn down the opportunities of the past few days but then I would have moved no closer to my values. Avoidance is reinforcing because it allows us to reduce our contact with discomfort. But when avoidance of discomfort is our main priority, we are imprisoned by it.

    Below is a link to the radio interview I did. By doing it I made myself feel more vulnerable than ever before. For example, you will not be able to hear my legs uncontrollably shaking under the table that I was sat at. However, I also took a larger step towards some specific values than I ever have. My gut feeling tells me that next time I do a radio interview it will be easier. And if it isn’t, then I’ll do the interview anyway.

    (It would be great if readers could take the time to offer me constructive advice on how to improve. I am on from about 1 hour and 7 minutes in and I am on air for about 20 minutes. It will be held on this BBC webpage for 1 month. Note; there is about a 6-minute period in the middle where I don’t speak!)



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  • Hello Lana!

    What were you doing prior to coming to The Career Psychologist?LanaNovak

    I was working as an Art Director in advertising for over 10 years. I then had my daughter and suddenly my work/career outlook changed completely.

    Why did you originally come to The Career Psychologist?

    After having my daughter I realised that I did not want to work in an office full time. I tried changing my schedule to 4 days a week but my employer wasn’t very supportive. Having a child brought my long-running discontent with my work to the front of my mind and I decided to quit my job and try to figure out what I actually wanted to do and what I could fit into my new life.

    What was your experience of The Career Psychologist?

    Booking the Career Psychologist was the best money I’ve ever spent. I immediately liked Nimita and found her easy to speak to and work with. She helped me really delve into my current situation, my past decisions and how to move on. I have learned more about myself than I thought possible and really got down to the bottom of what was bothering me about my work life and why. The exercises provided are an invaluable tool for learning about yourself and force you to be really honest about likes and dislikes – something the corporate world likes to beat out of you! I learned what makes me tick, how I like to work and the ingredients that make up a happy and content life for me.

    What are you doing now?

    I am working as a freelance Art Director to make ends meet and am doing a course in surface pattern design, which I have found to be my passion. I have returned to my creative roots and it feels great. Hopefully, the pattern design side of things will start to generate an income soon so I can do that full time.

    How do you feel about the future?

    I feel optimistic and happy. Nervous at times as I’m starting something on my own but I wouldn’t go back – I just keep pulling out Nimita’s handy sheet of tips and get myself back on track. The process at the Career Psychologist has led me to something I care about and want to make work, something that doesn’t drain the life out of me!

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  • by Nimita Shah


    ‘Isolation is a dream killer’ – Barbara Shear.

    I can count on one hand the number of people in my life I considered as part of my very own ‘career change dream team’ when I decided to walk away from a soul crushing job in the corporate world. In hindsight I realise just how fundamental my cheerleaders were for me to make a meaningful shift. When I needed it most, they provided words of encouragement, a boost of energy and motivation, and even a reality check when I couldn’t see past my own blind spots! But most importantly, my dream team rooted for me relentlessly when I was starting to lose faith in my path; sometimes because of my own doubts and fears but especially when the words of naysayers would penetrate deeper than the optimists.

    Now, when I work with clients who desperately want to change career, I am convinced that having your own dream team really can mean the difference between having the courage to take the leap of faith to pursue a meaningful path versus remaining stuck and unfulfilled at work. On a psychological level, we are hard wired to respond to a cheering squad from the moment we are born. Consider a baby on the brink of learning to walk, from crawling to taking their first albeit, wobbly step; the parents are incessantly cheering them on and encouraging their every milestone (however small it may be). This type of reinforcement is a form of cheerleading and it encourages us to continue making strides throughout our lives.

    A dream team is a vital part of any game plan, and career change is no exception. Whether it is a health related goal to stop smoking, exercising to lose weight or even to run a marathon! Your very own dream team can lead to permanent behaviour change so you can continue to reach for the sky and achieve your wildest dreams. So who do you have on your bench cheering you on? If it is only a few people or perhaps no one at the moment then don’t worry as there are always ways to identify your supporters and cultivate your very own dream team.

    Picking your dream team

    The people that you live with are key because of their vicinity, your family/relatives, friends and co-workers tend to be next for enlisting support. However consider expanding your support network by utilising the internet. In the age of social media, there is a group or forum out there for almost everything and you will even find there are people in similar situations as yourself. Consider using useful sites such as Meetup.com or Ning.com to build an online community to make connections. You can even find groups local to you, where you can attend meetings and see if there is support for you there.

    Celebrate your triumphs (however small)

    You don’t need to have extravagant celebrations, but it is important to reward yourself each time you achieve a short term goal. Reinforcing the behaviour psychologically will make it more likely that it will continue.

    Finally, whilst creating a dream team is important, don’t forget that you can also be your own head cheerleader too!


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  • Hi Natashia!

    What were you doing prior to coming to The Career Psychologist?Natashia

    I  worked in HR pretty much my entire career for a host of interesting businesses from Ministry of Sound to John Lewis. I recruited 100’s of talented people, designed many training courses, advised countless managers on HR practice but felt that something was missing.  I always admired entrepreneurs but was never brave enough to venture on my own. The classic ‘fear of the unknown’ led to 5 years of not making a decision…

    Why did you originally come to The Career Psychologist?

    I decided to see Rob for coaching after reading about his personal career transition during a very dark time. I was working on a huge change project, felt completely stuck and totally helpless to make any change. I loved Rob’s blog and felt that his methodology (ACT) and rigorous approach would suit me well.

    What was your experience of The Career Psychologist?

    Working with Rob was by far the most rewarding experience I have ever had with regard to thinking about my career and life in general. In 3 sessions, we did a lot of work on what’s truly important to me, did loads of exercises on how I would face my demons with acceptance and worked together on a plan of action. I have worked with coaches before but Rob is in a league of his own. I felt he was100% committed to helping me move forward, really authentic and the fact that his methods are based on science gave me the confidence to believe in the work we were doing together.

    What are you doing now?

    3 years on and I’ve set up my own businesses www.thepeopleteam.org helping small, creative, businesses with everything HR. Our mission is to help small businesses make their work environments a place where people choose to work, contribute and stay.  We take the hassle of HR administration away from the founders / managers, reduce risk by providing expert employee legal advice and cut costs by helping small businesses hire the right people to help their businesses succeed for a fraction of the cost of using a recruitment agent .

    How do you feel about the future?

    Whilst I still am fearful, I’ve learnt to move forward in spite of this and all the psychological stuff that held me back before has a lot less power over me. I can only thank Rob for this so would say that my whole life has changed as a result of working with Rob, not just my career!

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  • I think this looks great – Escape to the Woods with my friends over at Escape the City.

    If you are looking to kickstart a career change…I would definitely think about going.

    Esc to Woods




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  • Every now and again I come across something that reinvigorates me and makes me determined to redouble what we’re trying to do at The Career Psychologist.  This video is one of those things.

    The thing about difficult career decisions is that they are a ‘hard choice’ in the sense that there is (probably) no right or wrong answer.  (Our process is designed to weed out the ‘wrong’ choice, but more often than not clients are left with choices that still feel difficult to make using reason alone).

    This, Ruth Chang argues, is what makes them so hard…and so liberating.  After all, if we there were only choices between the ‘right’ choice and the ‘wrong’ choice then life would be very dull and there would be no real choice at all.

    Now what does this remind me of?  This, in essence, is the ACT approach to values:

    “A choice is a selection among alternatives that may be made with reasons but not for reasons….”

    Values are choices.  They are freely made; free in the sense of there being no coercion, no ‘having to’ driving the choice.  In this way values help us construct ourselves around something we choose, as opposed to something we drift into or ‘should’ be doing.

    Ultimately values are a way of asserting ourselves during our few precious moments on earth.  Our chance to say ‘this is what I stood for’.

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  • This short video explains Experiential Avoidance, how it relates to career paralysis…and what we can do to counteract it.

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  • GOLDFISH-800-x-400

    If you are anything like me, every now and then you catch yourself falling into the emotionally laden trap of comparing yourself to others. For example:

    Speak to a friend who you perceive as highly successful? You are failing in comparison.

    Come across a really nifty gadget at this year’s Ideal Home Show? Why didn’t you think of that?

    Read about Mariah Carey. You have never received a diamond bracelet!

    If I think about it long enough (and even sometimes if I don’t), I can usually find someone who performs better or has more than me. I then feel pretty bad about myself, after all ‘to compare is to despair’ as the saying goes. Yet I am constantly reminded how blessed I am in my own life in more ways than one. So why do we do it? Why do we fall into the ever alluring trap of comparing ourselves to others? According to Social Comparison Theory, we do it in order to make accurate evaluations of ourselves. One way to evaluate how we are doing is to get information from those around us. We feel pressure when other people land that high paying job, get a promotion or when they start their own business. In fact we make many decisions usually by comparing with others. Career decisions are no exception.

    It seems then, that social comparisons are a pervasive, albeit natural thing we humans do. Yet we are often told to avoid or stop comparing ourselves to others; this in itself is a difficult and near impossible thing to do!  I would even argue that it’s not necessarily wise advice in all situations. For example, comparisons can be a valuable source of motivation and growth, especially if we believe we can learn and improve by looking at others. But it all falls down the moment we devalue our own self worth by feeling inferior, consumed with envy and jealousy, spiralling into a frenzy of self-doubt, low self-confidence and depression. Even comparing ourselves to those that are less fortunate can come at a price. Feeling superior at the expense of someone else’s misfortune can halt our own need to challenge ourselves to do better and it can exacerbate mean-spirited competiveness, instead of collaboration. Furthermore, we are no longer comparing ourselves to  people in our own immediate vicinity anymore, with the upsurge in social media and twenty four seven access to the web, we now have even more people than ever to compare against!

    So what does this all mean? Well I doubt most of us are ever going to stop comparing ourselves with others. But it is important to keep in mind that it is likely to be an imperfect comparison because the information we are using to compare against is inaccurate. We don’t always see the entire picture, what people portray to the outside world is likely to be an edited version of their reality. Research suggests that people are less likely to reveal negative emotions than positive emotions. For example, how often do people respond with ‘I feel like a failure at work, I am scared that I am not spending enough time with my children and I think I am losing my mind’ when asked how they are doing? Not very often. So if you find yourself comparing yourself to someone else, pause and take a moment to ask yourself if you have all the information.

    We humans are notorious for being hard on ourselves; we ruminate about how imperfect we are in comparison to the next person. We want to be more successful, better looking, and richer and so on then someone else. Yet it consumes our energy, time and leads us further away from pursuing our own values and a life of meaning constructed on our own terms. What do YOU want to accomplish? What kind of person do YOU want to be? What do YOU want to stand for in life? What do YOU want people to remember about YOU? If you can imagine looking back on yourself at the end of your life and what you have achieved, try to base it on your own barometer upon which you will compare. So if like me, you catch yourself comparing to others (and it will happen), compassionately acknowledge the value in learning from the talent of others, and refocus your energy into being the imperfectly perfect, best version of YOU.

    A reflection from Tales of Hasidim by Martin Bubber:

    Rabbi Zusya said: “In the coming world they will not ask me:

    ‘Why were you not Moses?’

    Instead, they will ask me:

    ‘Why were you not Zusya?’”

    Written by Nimita Shah (This blog was first featured in the online Womanthology magazine).

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  • Five years on after making my career change, I felt fear. Fear that I am not working hard enough. Fear that maybe I am not doing the right thing and wasting time. Fear that I am not good enough or achieving as much as the next person. And yet this is the life I have chosen!

    After feeling stuck for so long in a career where it felt like a part of my soul was dying every day, I decided to go back to university and study Psychology. I was petrified but it also felt liberating to do something simply because I liked it without thinking about where it would take me. A few years later, I am fortunately able to combine my love of Psychology with the science of career decision making. Yes life is definitely better, but to say it is a stroll in the park now is a lie.

    I get to do what I love but by moving in a direction I really value means I also open myself up to what I really fear. Because I care so much about pursuing a meaningful path, by definition I am scared by it too, it represents my highest hopes and my darkest fears! Oh the humanity!

    The truth is that you can live a life where you do avoid difficult emotions like fear, or you can choose to move towards something that you really value. If you want to live a fearless life, be prepared to stay in your comfort zone or worse still, stuck like I was. Both options can be painful but the latter makes the experience of fear worthwhile with a sense of meaning. I have come to realise that to pursue a life of meaning, we must be willing to have the fear. Like the flipside of a coin, I can’t have one without the other.

    Fear is here, ultimately I believe, to protect us. Our minds did not evolve to ensure our happiness; it evolved to scan the environment for mortal danger constantly. Is that a bear I see in the distance or a blueberry bush? Our minds evolved to detect the bear to ensure our survival; after all you can have lunch many times but actually be lunch once!

    Fear is not a bad thing in and of itself, but sometimes we forget its true evolutionary purpose. In order to pursue what really matters to us, it also means risking failure and taking steps into the unknown. And when we do that, guess what happens?! Yep – fear shows up. Right before any major good thing in my life, I was scared.

    When I walked away my soul crushing job – fear.

    When I decided to study Psychology – fear.

    Right before I speak at a presentation – fear.

    Writing my first blog entry – fear!

    So if you feel fear, nothing is wrong with you. And if you are feeling fear because you are in danger, then that is how you should feel, it is protecting you and keeping you alive! If we can use fear as fuel, it can act as a compass keeping us on our chosen path. So the real question is, are you willing to carry your deepest fears with you if meant you get to live your dreams?

    Written by Nimita Shah (This blog was first featured in the online Womanthology magazine).

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  • It has been a few months since I wrote a blog post.  I haven’t been able to come up with a ‘great idea’ for a blog post.  My mind tells me ‘Rob writes so well, better that he writes the blog’ or ‘others express things better than me, why try?’ or ‘I need to think of something amazing, and until I think of something amazing, I can’t write anything’ or ‘Something needs to emotionally move me, before I can write about it’ – So – I procrastinate, and procrastinate and experience more and more anxiety about writing blog posts for TCP.

    This is where values come in.  My values underpinning writing blog posts are:

    –          Connection (with myself and with the readers)

    –          Contribution (I want to make a difference)

    –          Self expression (I want to share me, the authentic me)

    What is not in here as a value is ‘being perfect’ or ‘being better than other writers’ – it is simply about me connecting with the readers of TCP, contributing to both the business and our readers, and a vehicle for self expression.

    As you can see – my mind comes up with a lot of reasons for not living my values.  It gets stuck in a number of ways:

    1)      It compares my writing, ideas and abilities, to others (in this case Rob’s).  This comparison serves to de-value me – make me ‘not ok’ somehow, or ‘not good enough’  Is it helpful? Not at all. Comparison usually puts us in a ‘better than’ or ‘less than’ position – and may stop us from truly discovering who we are – what our own unique strengths are. So notice when you are comparing yourself to others, and ask yourself ‘is this helpful’? If it is – great! If it isn’t, what might be more helpful, in this moment? What ‘action’ might help you move towards what is important to YOU, your values?

    2)      It gets stuck into the ‘if…then’ rule – that I can only take action if a certain number of conditions are met.  This can be the case in a number of areas in our life.  When I am more flexible I will join a yoga class. When I have found the perfect topic or idea for a blog post, I will write a blog entry.  Perhaps it is ‘action’ itself that results in experiences that move us forward, towards our values, towards a more meaningful career.  If we wait until we have the ‘perfect’ conditions – we will not take any action, and stay stuck .  So, I decided to just start writing – and this is what is flowing out.  Maybe action IS the first step?

    3)      When I move closer to my values – my mind gives me 100’s of reasons of why moving in that direction is not a good idea.  If I listen to my mind, I often ‘get stuck’ – I go around and around in circles.  Your mind will give you so many reasons why a particular career is ‘impossible’ before you even give yourself a chance.  We therefore discount so many options that might meet our criteria, before we have even explored the options.  My mind gave me lots of reasons I shouldn’t be writing this right now – yet here I am, writing this anyway, living my values, despite all the reasons my mind tells me not to.  What value are you going to live today despite what your mind says? What ACTION are you willing to take today, to move you forward?

    Taking action is sometimes the first step.  When I sat down to write this today, I did not know what was going to come out, I did not have a clear idea or picture or vision for this blog – I am not saying that having a vision isn’t important – what I am saying is, sometimes taking action can help us discover our vision, our values, our wants, our needs.  Perhaps action IS the first step?

    This post was written by Taslim Tharani