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  • Amina Aitsi-Selmi

Why changing career was the most scientific thing I’ve ever done

Ever procrastinated on a decision when you knew what you wanted to do but people around you were discouraging?

Groups self-reinforce norms, so if you want to step outside the norm, you’ll face resistance.

When I wanted to try a career out as an independent consultant and coach, I didn’t tell very many people because I was aware of what might happen (in terms of negative feedback) and I needed all my energy focused on walking the new path. I couldn’t afford to put any energy into dealing with doubt. Any hesitation might have thrown me off course or stopped me altogether. It was a pretty big leap!

Dreams start off as fragile seedlings that need protection from the elements, right?

If you are in a professional career, you will be familiar with the old adage that deviations from the prescribed career track are risky (few embraced international experience as valuable when I was contemplating going on a mission as a humanitarian doctor, for example). “You’re only as good as your last job” and “leaving the system will make it hard to come back”, etc.

In fact, I’m sure some people still see my decision as madness, for a number of valid reasons:

  • It took substantial effort and commitment training to become a doctor and highly skilled professional.

  • The security of a medical career (and the pension!) is second to none

  • The status and financial reward of being a doctor are both high

  • I was good at my job

  • I was passionate about health and public policy

  • The professional community and opportunities were extraordinary

  • The travel was great

  • Etc, etc.

But ultimately, I reached a point where staying would have been highly unscientific…

During my PhD, I studied inequalities in health with the person who is probably the foremost and most widely recognised expert on the topic. I was steeped in psychosocial theory of illness and health, and became a specialist on the wider factors that affect health. [See the famous (in public health terms) Dahlgren and Whitehead 1991 diagram below showing the full range of factors influencing your health].

Essentially, your health is only partially determined by your biological constitution and access to healthcare. A large proportion is determined by psychosocial factors including whether you live in a stable society with good basic services, and whether you’re engaged in meaningful work and meaningful relationships. The proportion of deaths attributable to social factors is generally estimated to be half or more of all deaths in developed countries.

My ultimate passion was to contribute to creating a healthier society…in the best way that I could.

Scientifically, this all gave rise to new hypotheses in my life (as you know, science is all about coming up with good hypotheses and testing them empirically). So:

  • Just because you’re good at something, doesn’t mean you have to do it (correlation does not imply causation!)

  • Just because people reward you for certain skills and behaviours doesn’t mean you should stick to them (#TheSuccessTrap)

  • Working with people to help them find their way to more meaningful work and relationships is good for their health

  • Doing work that is the most meaningful to me is good for my health

  • Uncertainty won’t kill me

  • Career possibilities exist outside my current profession

The empirical evidence in my life supported these hypotheses in the form of an increased frequency of positive experiences and more sustainable joy and wellbeing for me and those around me.

I don’t know how the story ends (who does?) but I’m willing to apply the scientific understanding that meaningful work and relationships lead to better health and wellbeing until it is no longer empirically valid for me and a new hypothesis emerges.

[I'll be sharing more about the steps I took to change career in a free webinar (see details below)]

So what hypotheses are you playing with?

  • What are achievement, job security and power correlated with for you? Happiness, safety, peace?

  • If you don’t feel your work is meaningful or joyful enough, where could you find that meaning and joy?

  • How can you bring more meaning and joy into your day-to-day work?

Real science happens outside the mind; where ideas meet the real world. Can you be your own genius scientist and investigate the happiness factors in your own life? Are you acting on your findings? Share with me your results!...

Wishing you a happy week,



Thinking of changing career and feel it’s impossible or too late? Worried about not making enough money?

Start thinking outside the box to create a career with more freedom, fulfilment and money and join a doctor and a lawyer on the 15th of January for a 60 minute FREE webinar.

During the webinar you’ll get practical advice from two people who have done it, identify the limitations that keep you stuck and see how the impossible is possible.

Through straight talking examples based on their experience you will:

  • learn two different approaches for a successful career leap

  • Understand the common thinking patterns that will hold you back (imposter syndrome; money mindset)

  • Daily practices for a success mindset after the leap

At the end, there’ll be an opportunity to ask questions and find out how coaching can support you in creating your dream career.


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