Have you ever felt guilty about wanting to quit your job? I have. Especially when I quit my full-time job to start my coaching business. "But they NEED me!" I said to friends and family. How could I DO this to them?
And now I work with good people who are in the same boat... Sometimes too good.
How is being a good person a problem, you ask?
Well it becomes a problem when that good person feels like they can't leave the job that isn't serving them anymore for one of these reasons:
I've also worked with good people who ultimately didn't want to leave their company, but because of Tall Poppy Syndrome they also weren't going for the positions they REALLY wanted within the company. Tall Poppy Syndrome is where people of high status are resented, attacked, cut down or criticized because they have been classified as superior to their peers. Aka, let's hate the popular, powerful, or rich because we're jealous (cut down the tall poppies!).
Have you ever had one of these thoughts pop through your mind?
What's been going on with these Good Person and Tall Poppy beliefs is that they have you between a rock and a hard place. If you stay, you're resigning yourself to playing it small, not living up to your potential, not being recognized, and not making the money you want.
If you go, you have practically decided that means you're a bad person. I mean, really: If you leave and didn't fix everything, what does that say about you? If you aren't 'enduring' your work anymore, what does that say about you? If you make a resume that highlights who you really are, and not just what you have been trained in, aren't you bragging?
See what I mean? I wouldn't leave my job either. It takes an incredibly brave person to finally admit the beliefs and fears that have been operating under the disguise of being a good person and consider acting on them.
Here's the thing: You ARE a good person. And you're a good employee. Even if you leave. Even if you don't fix everything. Even if you leave your team in the lurch. No, really. You will still be You, the Good Person, even if you're unemployed! But You the Good Person deserves to feel like a valued member or leader of a team and get recognized for it. Don't you agree? People ask for a lot more than that every day. You deserve to be met at the level you're contributing, not working for other's advancement! Let's not martyr ourselves and stagnate our personal growth under the guise of being a good person. You don't have to prove that you're a good person to anyone, even YOURSELF!
You already know you're a good person. Give yourself permission to be a good person who acts out of what's good for YOU, not your company. You'll never regret leaving a position that didn't serve your highest good. But you will regret years lost to inaction because you were 'too good' to do anything else.
I never regretted my decision to quit once I left (and neither will you), because I was finally taking care of ME. You're never a bad person for taking good care of yourself.
The amount of times that I look up from my life and go... “Whoa. This is my job? Cool!” still surprises me. Right now I'm sitting at a cafe waiting for a near stranger to come and meet me to put their life plans at least somewhat in my hands. I find this totally awe-inspiring. The fact that this person (and each of my clients) has chosen vulnerability at this level is so humbling.
Here's what's going on under the surface in a typical first session:
Client arrives, wondering if this was a good idea or, alternatively, super excited to get started, and often not even knowing what I look like (I find them).
We talk about what they did since our phone consult, the homework I assigned. This, too, is amazing, that this person is putting their trust in me enough to do what I suggest.
The homework brings up issues and concerns. These can be very surface-level, or more core. The client decides how much they want to share with me as the sessions progress. I make observations about what may be limiting them or keeping them from success, but it's not therapy. We don't dwell on the past or spend much time wondering why things are the way they are. We systematically uncover their passions and purpose. We focus on moving forward with intention.
Then they start to make progress on their dreams. Often quite a lot of progress, which brings up more issues. What if I'm not successful? What if I don't get the dream job it took me the last two months/my whole life to figure out? What if my family doesn't support my choice to start a business? This is big stuff!
And the client presses on (with some encouragement, of course). And they start to see results. Their life starts to change, which is also scary. Change, even when it's what you've always wanted, can be unsettling. Routines change. Incomes change. The way you relate to yourself (typically with greater self-esteem and purpose) changes. It's... different. Exciting. Weird.
And I get to be there, for the whole thing. Amazing, right?
So here I am, at another cafe, waiting to embark on another exciting journey of vulnerability with someone.
He has no idea in what high esteem I hold him. And we haven't even met yet.
I have tremendous empathy for clients who contact me after a long career in an area that took a ton of work to get into. Nurses, executive directors, senior decision makers at corporations... So many years of schooling or strategic moves, only to “arrive” and dislike where they are.
These people are typically very eager to set up a consult, but not as eager for coaching. Why? Because agreeing to coaching is akin to admitting that all that work didn't get them where they thought it would. It's heartbreaking. For some, the consult ends our relationship, because it's obvious that by working together we would eventually move them into something they like better. Which sounds good, but also means giving up what isn't working.
Reframing “Giving Up”
But how could I leave what I've been pouring my blood, sweat and tears into? You ask. How could I do that? Yes, when framed this way it sounds like you'll have to betray yourself to get what you want- a career you love, that treats you better than the one you have. But who wants to betray themselves to get there?
Is this you? You haven't been happy in your job for a long time. You've tried every avenue to “make it better” from switching managers to changing your team. You end most days drained, no matter how many moves you make in the same company or field. You feel like there must be something better out there for you, but don't know what it is. And you certainly don't have the energy to figure it out at the end of another stressful day. When the weekend comes you just want to forget about work and try to get things done and enjoy what little time off you get.
So forget it! It's not worth stressing out about, right?
And then Monday happens....
And you're still unhappy.
What would it take to give yourself permission to get off the hamster wheel of unhappiness, even though it feels like you're going against years of effort?
What if you admitted that what's broken can't always be fixed?
First, let's acknowledge that you did a phenomenal job surviving and sometimes thriving in a very difficult environment. The bad managers, the total lack of recognition, the backwards culture or unrealistic workload.... You made it through that. You did what you could to make the job work for you. For most of us there is nothing else you could've done to change the structures that were imposed upon you. So first of all, I recognize you for all of the recognition you should've gotten and didn't. I know how undervalued you've been.
Second, know that you went through all of that for so long because you had great intentions. You wanted to provide for yourself and your family. You were hoping to help people, or build a great team, or do something meaningful with your time there. That's admirable, and some aspects of your goals did come to fruition, or you would've left a long time ago. Even if it just paid the bills, or gave you a new friend, the job did serve a purpose. You didn't simply waste all that time.
Now, it helps to ask yourself what you need your job to do for you that it isn't doing and can't do. Did you need it to give you a sense of purpose? Did you need the community of coworkers? What is it that you were hoping would happen and simply hasn't?
Whatever your answer, it's valid. It's okay to want that thing and look for alternatives when you aren't getting it. It doesn't mean you are abandoning your efforts, your team, or anything else. You are simply admitting the truth-- which is that you deserve to feel better with the waking hours you have.
Once you get very honest with yourself about what isn't working and accepting that it's okay to want more (otherwise you wouldn't be so frustrated by your work), your first step is to allow time to not necessarily know what's next, but consider the possibility that it could be much better than what you've been doing.
You Don't Have to Have all the Answers
If your first inclination is to ask “But what could be better?” You are in the majority. Most people need to know what's next to even consider leaving what they have. We need to feel safe to make big choices.
You don't have to have all the answers. You simply allow the idea that something else could serve you better... and that leaving where you've been struggling for so long isn't giving up-- it's opening up to what's next.
So what if you didn't have to figure it out all by yourself? What if your approach to finding your purpose work or dream job wasn't anything like the stress of your current job? Working with someone who is on YOUR team for once can be extremely freeing. Someone who provides the exact structure, information, and even connections that it takes to change career paths. Someone who knows that this isn't a process of giving up-- it's a process of lovingly letting go.
This is very different than simply “giving up.” We both know you aren't a quitter. You did try to make this job work for you. You aren't the type to walk out without giving notice in some kind of dramatic “F-you” to management. But you deserve better than this, and it might be time to lovingly let go.
If you're ready to create some space to consider the possibility of something better, let's talk. It's free, fun, and freeing.
I ask people to create vision statements all the time. For some, it's really fun and easy-- they know exactly what they want and they just haven't gotten there yet. For others, they take the assignment, look at it, have no idea what to write, and that's the end of it.
Sometimes life comes at us with such big waves of challenge or disappointment that we are simply reacting to the waves in an effort to stay afloat. Sometimes normal, daily life is overwhelming enough that the idea of dreaming up an alternative reality feels completely ridiculous.
If you are mired in the deep dark pit of 'everything sucks', this is for you.
So. Everything sucks. I'm sorry to hear that. Let's start there.
Maybe you have been out of work for over a year, or are about to get divorced, or have a health challenge that is overwhelming. That sucks. Sometimes clients come to me with all three of those things going on, or worse. I've noticed that those who are still able to actively seek a better future have something that others don't. They have faith that something else is possible. They don't know how, but they know this too shall pass... someday.
I don't ask those clients to put together a vision statement for their ideal life right away. There's nothing to write yet, because they are so mired in the yuckiness of right now. Instead, we talk about what IS working about life. What teeny, tiny, even meaningless thing might you be grateful for? Something you take for granted is a great place to start- like having a place to sleep indoors, or enough clothes to keep you warm. Did you eat enough today? What is working that you'd like to continue?
You may be tempted to write off these things as “things everyone has,” but we both know that isn't true. And you may be tempted not to count some things because they aren't as good as they used to be. But I know that just because I used to live somewhere warm and sunny doesn't take away from how awesome it is that I still have a place to live now.
Once you've identified some things to be grateful for, write them down. If you don't want to write, because you hate it and everything is stupid (been there), say them out loud. But find a way to recognize the things that are indeed working for you, because not everything is broken.
The things we place our attention on grow. I'm sure you've noticed this phenomena in the past, where if you worry about something, your concern gets worse. If you focus on what a great job your daughter did in math, the bill for tutoring becomes less important. Case in point:
Recently I stayed with my mother to help her when she needs to get up during the night. She's got some disabilities due to two brain surgeries. I'm a light sleeper and have a hard time going back to bed once I'm awoken. In the middle of the night she woke me up and needed some help. After I got her back to sleep, I went back my bed and laid there. I thought about how tired I would be the next day, and how much harder things were going to be without my usual energy. I wished things were different for her and for my family. And I laid there quietly hoping to fall asleep, alone, wondering when I'd hear her stir again, knowing it could be several more times. But then something great happened.
As I laid there I noticed the silence in the house. And how nice it was to be somewhere so peaceful. I noticed how warm I was in the bed, and how lucky I was to have my own bed at her home, in addition to my own at my home. I felt lucky that my mom was alive and loved me, and that I was able to spend this time with her. I laid there some more, and I started smiling. I no longer cared about how the morning would feel, or my to-do list, or how frustrating this whole situation is. I couldn't focus on that anymore, because my gratitude had grown to the point that it was all I cared about.
I eventually fell back asleep, and when I woke up, I was tired, yes. But I was so grateful.
What can you reframe today? What might you be thankful for, despite its challenges? I would love to hear about it. The more we focus on what's working, the greater our capacity to create more positive energy.
This time of year is hard for so many, but you aren't alone in that, and I know you can find something to be grateful for. And for those of you who aren't struggling right now but feel like there is more to life you'd like to start manifesting... I hope to see you at the Vision Boarding Meetup next week.
I'm going to share a secret with you about career coaching. It's rarely just about a career shift. Much of the work that ends up being done is more about a shift in belief about what is possible for each person than about simple skills assessments. Some people have no idea what they want to do, and others have a clear idea of what but no idea how. But no matter how many people I work with, a common theme arises in many of them: the feeling that they are not enough.
After a few sessions of career coaching when people are starting to get really clear on what it is that they really want to devote each day to, fears and beliefs start popping up about why they shouldn't make the change. For some, it's an idea of a logistical limitation, such as being too old, or needing to go back to school when they have no money. For others though, it's a much deeper idea that they simply don't deserve to be happy. This is incredibly common, and none of these wonderful people would tell you that they don't deserve to be happy. On the contrary, they would tell you that the reason they hired a coach was because they were unhappy and were trying to get happy. Sounds reasonable... until you dig a little deeper.
Do you tell yourself you can't do what you love?
A person who tells themselves that they can't be/do/have something has usually decided one of the following things.... while secretly believing something else entirely. Is this you?
The Good News
Here's the good news: If you discover (or already knew) that some part of you believes you aren't worth it, whatever 'it' is for you, there is a lot you can do to change that belief. I'll break down what's going on with each of these beliefs next. What if you could believe something else about yourself?
1) “It's too hard” (Secret beliefs: I'm not worth it/I'm not good enough to bother trying/I'm destined to fail/ I'm lazy).
Reality check: Every transition is hard. Deciding to do something completely different than what you've been doing for years is daunting. But ask yourself which is worse- staying in the situation that isn't working, or doing the work it will take to finally be where you want to be? What is getting unstuck worth to you? What if you got some help and didn't have to pull it off alone?
2) “It's too expensive to get the degree that would land me the job I'd love” (Secret beliefs: I'm not worth it or life is meant to be just okay, not great)
Reality check: Degrees in America are expensive, yes. Have you done the math yet to see what your return on investment would be? Let's say you spend $50,000 to go back to school, but your new career pays $10,000 more per year than your current one. You'll have paid off the school debt in 5 years, and then make $10,000 extra each year after that which you couldn't have made before. Even if it took you a year to find a job in the new field, you'd still come out ahead as long as you plan to work another 7 years or more.
3) “I'm afraid to put myself out there” (Secret beliefs: I'm a fraud, others will find that out because clearly I'm not good enough to be considered an expert in ____).
Reality check: We are all frauds. We're all pretending to be something we're not, which is 'professional.' You are just you, a person born into this bizarre system of work, who really is just a person. You are playing a role, like everyone else. The key is play a role you love. When you love what you do, you do it believably. And you won't have to fake it.
4) “The time it would take me to make the transition isn't worth it” (Secret beliefs: I will fail/ Even though there are 20 years left of my working life, the 3 years it will take me to get certified to do X or to build a business I love doesn't make up for the 3 years it took to get there.)
Reality check: Those 3 years will go by fast, especially knowing you are headed toward a dream. You'll arrive at the new job/lifestyle and go, 'why didn't I let myself have this sooner?'
5) “If life isn't hard/an uphill battle, I'm doing something wrong.” This one almost always comes up with my more religious clients. But many people have a belief that “Nothing good comes easy,” “Suffering is noble,” and all manner of other beliefs that life should be some kind of test of our strength.
Reality check: If you truly believed that life was meant to be a test of strength, you'd never let yourself do anything you love. But you allowed yourself to join a softball league or marry someone you love, or buy a house to be comfortable. So do you really believe that you should punish yourself? Is that what God wants for you?
6) Final test: Make an appointment for a massage. Go ahead, do it. No? You don't want to spend the money on yourself? Your self-care and relaxation isn't worth it? There's your answer.
Reality check: Some people will allow themselves a large win, like going after a business idea that excites them. But then they won't do the little things that would make day to day life feel manageable, like book a massage or leave one weekend day free to recharge. Where do you find yourself not taking care of you? Aren't you worth caring about? If you're not sure, what would your doctor, best friend, spouse, or child say?
Ultimately most of us won't make a change until the pain of not changing becomes so unbearable that we are forced to act. Don't be that person. You're worth it now.
You know what the most interesting thing about being a life purpose and career coach is? Watching the many ways people create to run away from their passions. It's absolutely fascinating. I once had a client who planned a very cool home staging business. We created her website, came up with her target market, how she planned to help them, had her branding done, did all of the research to choose appropriate pricing and services... and then she never launched.
At the time, she was working in a job she hated in a dark basement. She knew she needed to get out of there, but something was holding her back.
Was the Twin Cities home staging industry already too saturated? No, we researched that.
Did she lack the time or resources to start the business? No, she had a flexible schedule and didn't need a lot of money for start-up capital.
So what gives? I'll tell you. She got eaten by the What If Monster.
You know the one. This monster that randomly shows up and starts eating your rational mind. The one that quietly asks “What if no one hires you?” and then sends you into a panic. Yeah, that one. She got eaten by the What If Monster and never finished her coaching package.
Now, I have many tools to deal with the What If Monster, but she left before we could use them. This is highly unusual, but her Monster was unusually strong.
I guarantee you that right now, somewhere in your brain, there is a teeny, tiny What If Monster lurking in the shadows. The more you feed him, the bigger he'll be. He has many names: Self-Sabotage, Negative Nancy, Indecision, Analysis Paralysis, etc. Your particular brand of What If Monster will have its own name.
I have another client who likes to think of the worst-case scenario a lot, because he feels like he's prepared for anything that way. He wants to change careers, and is worried that no one will hire him and he'll end up destitute in the street. This is a guy who is normally very confident, skilled, and has a fabulous resume as well as personality. In reality, he has nothing to worry about. But his What If Monster tells him he has a LOT to be worried about, and if he doesn't worry, that means he doesn't care. Tricky! Now he can't stop worrying, or else that would mean he's stopped caring!
Worry does not equal caring. But many of us tell ourselves that.
Worry does not mean failure is certain. But again, many of us hear those concerns and then act on them instead of seeing them for what they are: garden-variety self-sabotage.
Self-sabotage isn't actually something to be concerned about. It's extremely normal. But it needs babysitting. Yes, your mind is a five year old who, like every five year old, cannot be left alone.
Believing in your fears more than you believe in yourself is equivalent to leaving a five year old in the house alone all day. He has now destroyed the house.
The negative, self-doubting, sabotaging thoughts truly aren't you. If you allow yourself to identify with them, they have won. Staying positive and rational in the face of doubts, doing research on your goal, having support, and all the other smart things we do every day to keep our homes and families safe is the equivalent to hiring a babysitter for your mind.
The What If Monster will show up without you asking. It doesn't take any effort on your part to summon him. But you do have to be intentional about summoning the thoughts that keep him away. We all have to find what works for us- be it affirmations posted around the house, finding an accountability partner, taking baby steps towards your goal to make it less scary, etc.
The things you think that get you excited and happy- that's you. The things you think in response to it that make you sad, scared, or indecisive- that's not you. You owe those thoughts nothing. Well, perhaps a 'thanks for trying to protect me, but no thanks.'
You have the power, and the right, to reverse your thoughts in any moment. You are stronger and much, much more important than your What If Monster. He's not even paying rent to live in your head! The audacity! Kick him out, little by little, every day. At the very least-- hire a babysitter.
Most people know Beyoncé as the fearless megastar known for her killer vocals and sexy dance moves. But who you're actually singing along to is Sasha Fierce, Beyoncé's alter-ego.
Many people don't know that Beyoncé is actually kind of shy, and she needed an alter-ego to help her become the superstar she is today. So she developed another version of herself-- the confident, booty-shaking diva version, Sasha Fierce. Beyoncé wants to stay home with her babies and drink tea. Sasha Fierce wants to shine her megawatt light all over the universe in a glittery unitard. Beyoncé wants to watch Netflix and snuggle with Jay-Z. Sasha Fierce wants to twerk up and down the stage at the world's largest outdoor music festival while bringing awareness to the plight of girls around the world. See how Beyoncé needed some help to share her gifts?
Lately I've been working with more and more people who are either returning to work after an absence or wanting to shift gears after a long and successful career in an area they no longer find interesting. It doesn't seem to matter if they are male or female, laid off or currently employed. What I'm noticing is a tendency to undervalue their own experience and talent in the face of an intimidating change. This leads them to write their resume and speak in interviews from a timid, underwhelming perspective that convinces no one to give them a job.
When you're job hunting, the feeling of scarcity and competition is very real. It seems like the other 412 people who applied for the position you want got there first, know exactly what to say, and their resume is a sparkly diamond of relevant experience. Meanwhile, it's easy to feel like no one is even going to look at your resume, because HR is actually a robot trained to look for key words. So why even bother? Well I'll tell you why you should bother. Because you are both Beyoncé and Sasha Fierce, you just haven't identified your sexy, confident, job-dominating alter-ego yet. But you will. Here's how.
You have this person in your corner all the time. They are your secret weapon of confidence and aplomb. You don't have to worry about maintaining your composure in an interview when Graham the CEO is doing the talking. Graham speaks with all of your experience, and way more power. Ms. Stella Moneybags isn't going to apply to a bunch of jobs that are beneath you simply because she CAN. What's that? She's going for the gold because she knows you two DESERVE it. You aren't asking your alter-ego to look for jobs you aren't qualified for-- you're telling her to find the jobs that she knows you are capable of, but haven't allowed yourself to apply, or haven't allowed yourself to apply for WELL, in a way that shows off your talents.
It may sound ridiculous, but it works. If you are lacking confidence and faith that your job is out there, it may be time to play pretend. “Fake it till you make it” isn't faking it when you have that person inside of you. You ARE that confident person, you simply misplaced him or her. So strut your stuff, Sasha Fierce. People are waiting for your brilliance.
“You can't always get what you want/
But if you try sometimes well you just might find/
You get what you need.” -The Rolling Stones
You finally found your dream job, applied, went through 3 rounds of interviews... and didn't get it. You set up a crowdfunding page for your sustainable well-building project and only raised $10. You were passed up for the promotion you know you deserve, twice. Similar to a lost love, a lost dream can be devastating. Here's how to get over the dream that got away.
Step 1: Name the dream that died.
What was it you wanted that didn't work out?
Example: I wanted to manage my division at my company.
Step 2: Ask yourself, Why was that important to you?
Example: Because I like managing people and I wanted to stay here but make more money.
Step 3: Repeat the same question, “Why is that important to you,” for all of your next answers (minimum of 4 times, until you have no more reasons. Do not judge your answers). Go!
Why is that important to you?
Because I enjoy teamwork and making decisions and I have seniority here.
Why is that important to you?
Because I'm a natural leader and I thrive off of creating a plan and delegating tasks.
Why is that important to you?
Because I'm kind of type A and really enjoy getting things done on a large scale.
Why is that important to you?
Because it's so satisfying to see my ideas come to fruition and also help my company win at the same time.
Why is that important to you?
Because I get to feel creative and accomplished when that happens. Plus other people see me in a positive light.
Why is that important to you?
Because I want to be recognized for my talents and I like feeling accomplished.
Why is that important to you?
Because it feels good! Because that's just who I am? I don't know!
Great! When you get to this point, where you no longer know exactly why, or the answer is simply “That's just who I am” or “it feels good,” you've reached the end of your questioning. Yes, these are things you already knew about yourself. You knew you were a leader, and kind of type A, and that you enjoy getting things done on a large scale.
But see how you first thought you wanted the management job because you like managing people, teamwork, and making decisions? But by the end, the root cause of your desire to be a manager was more about feeling creative and accomplished, as well as being seen positively by others. Getting to the root cause of why you wanted something that didn't work out is very instructive. You'll see why in a moment.
The death of a dream is extremely disappointing, especially if you had it in your mind that you were next in line for the job, or this position was “tailor-made” for you, or because someone at the top gave you the impression that you “had this in the bag.” Now there is no bag. It feels unfair-- you're right back where you started! It's natural to have a mourning period. When you're all done mourning what you thought was yours, it's time to take your kick-ass skills and apply them to something else. There is a reason you didn't get that job, and it's because something better is waiting for you. Maybe you weren't dreaming big enough before, or maybe you dreamed so big that you didn't realize you were actually under qualified and need one more position under your belt to bridge the gap. And that stepping-stone position could turn out to be the best thing that ever happened to you.
It's time to consider other ways to use your talents.
So given that you like feeling accomplished, want to be recognized for your talents, and like seeing your ideas come to fruition (insert your own answers), what else could you do that allows you to be who you are and do the work you love, in a different way?
i.e.: I could apply for the same position at another company, I could go for the same role in a different department, I could stay where I am and start an initiative that gives me the opportunity to see my ideas come to fruition that also might get me recognized, I could manage a project outside of work where I get to create the whole thing and manage it (like a fundraiser for my friend's medical bills).
Before we do our final step, let's use a different example of a dream that died but whose talents will rise from the ashes.
Step 1: Name the dream that died.
What was it you wanted that didn't work out?
Example: I wanted to build 1,000 wells in rural Rwanda but crowdfunding didn't pan out and I didn't get the grants I needed.
Step 2: Ask yourself WHY this dream was important to you. In this case, building 1,000 wells in Rwanda.
To prevent needless disease, and because I feel it's important to help people live healthy lives.
Step 3: Repeat the same question, “Why is that important to you,” for all of your next answers (minimum of 4 times, until you have no more reasons. Do not judge your answers). Go!
Because it's not fair for some of us never have to worry about water, while others live somewhere without clean water.
Why is that important to you?
Because I think people who have more resources should help those with less.
Because I have the power to prevent suffering.
Because I CAN. Justice is what fuels me. It's who I am.
Ah, there's your final answer.
Step 4: Now given that you're fueled by justice and preventing suffering through better health, what else could you do?
Example answers: I could work for an NGO that does similar work and already has the resources, I could look for corporate sponsorship or throw a fundraiser to get the money to build the wells, I could look for a company closer to home that builds wells and work for them, I could work for food or water justice in another region that requires less start up costs. If you don't have enough options ask a friend for help with ideas.
Step 5: Choose your favorite option and make a goal. This goal is your new dream.
So you hate 3 out of 4 of your ideas. The 4th is okay, but not as exciting as your original dream that didn't work out. What could you do to make it more exciting? This is your new dream, not some second-rate back up plan. Make it fun! Inspiring! Worth working toward!
I'm sorry you didn't get what you wanted. It sucks, it really does. And you are totally normal for needing time to get over it. But.... you know what I'm gonna say, right? When a door closes, a window opens. It helps if you look around for the window rather than pulling on a door that's glued shut while telling yourself that “it's going to open some day, I swear!”
When the dream isn't working out, refocus on how you wanted to feel when you accomplished your goal, not what exactly you wanted to do. Your mission isn't in the how you do something, or even the what you do. It's in how life makes you and those around you FEEL. If you think for a second that you don't make choices based on your feelings, you may want to take another look at your reasons for doing things. Even a noble purpose like saving lives comes from a feeling, a desire to help (which is a feeling), or a desire to not be an entitled first-worlder.
Your dream didn't die. It's just transforming into something else, waiting for you to recognize its new shape. The best part is, you choose the shape. Happy dreaming!
Chances are, if you're living in the United States, you are operating on some level of depression. Maybe it's not a medical thing or brain chemical issue, but you aren't exactly happy every day. This is especially true if you are creative, sensitive, empathic or “woke”. You're dream job turned out to be a nightmare. You had some health issues and now the bills are piling up. You read about #pizzagate and worry if it's true. It's winter in g#&*%amn Minnesota and Prince is dead. Could be any of these things.
I was at the doctor today and was struck once again by how im-person-al the whole experience was. We treat the body and forget the soul inside. Unfortunately the medical system is a microcosm for how we operate in this society in general. We treat the body, we teach the brain, we feed ourselves with food-like substances and call it good.
You didn't choose any of this. You didn't come in to your earth experience saying, “Gee, I hope we're going to use the factory-style German school model from the 1800s!” or “I hope we trade time for money!” You didn't choose the 8-5, 6, whatever deadline-you're-on corporate expectation. That was already here. You didn't choose your white privilege or your experiences with racism or being disabled (well perhaps, if you believe in soul contracts, but that's another blog). And yet here you are, waking up every day, with strangers telling you to smile (if you're a woman) or to “be a man” (whatever that means). There is a code of what is an acceptable hobby (watching football at a bar, drinking alcohol, which you may love or hate, luck of the draw). There is a dominant paradigm. Chances are, it's bumming you out.
And then you have people telling you to “Live your bliss” and “Follow your passion”. Excuse me? I haven't even opened my mail in a week and you want me to follow my bliss? Don't you know it's tax season?? Many people aren't even able to HEAR what they want over the cacophony in their mind and the years of trying to simply deal with a culture that was created in another time, for another kind of person. We have evolved beyond our culture, and culture has not caught up. This makes us feel weird and alone. But we are not. We are perfectly human, lovable, sensitive, talented, curious people in a new era that we are here to help ascend.
You hear people say they feel like they were born at the wrong time, or like they just don't fit in, or maybe they say nothing and stay home for the 30th time in a row, because going out in these conditions is depressing. They'll never tell you that though, because we're all faking it for each other. We say we're not normal, we're weird, we even have to move to places like Portland and Austin to be okay with being weird. The “cool kids" at each high school number around 10-20, and they supposedly represent the norm, the ideal. But if only 20 kids are 'normal' at each school, what does that make the rest of us? The majority, that's what. We are the definition of the norm, because we DON'T conform to outdated standards of conduct, dress, or socialization.
You are just you. And you are perfect.
That can be hard to hear if you've been taught otherwise. Most of us have. But this is programming, nothing more. You have been programmed to believe that you are not enough. And let me remind you, you are exactly enough, or you wouldn't be here. You beat all the other sperm, you survived the hazing of middle school, random diseases, family issues, lost loves and probably a lot more. You are the product of all of this AND you are what was already there, under it all, before you landed head-first into this shitshow we call American life. Yes, you can feel depressed and still know how lucky you are to be here (that can also be depressing). You are allowed to feel and know and witness that everything is wrong. This does not mean that you are wrong.
This is the point where a lot of people give in to road rage (“Life sucks and so does the way you drive!”) and/or Netflix (“Life sucks so I'm going to ignore it!”) and let their dreams die. Fair enough, temporarily. Maybe you distract yourself with petty friend or lover drama or habits you think you can't change. Okay.
Drama is caused by the belief that life happens to you. The great distraction from the much, much larger issue of being in a culture that does not see you or recognize you for who you are. This has been painful on some level whether or not you realize it. It's not that society owes you something. But we have to recognize ourselves and help each other do the same. We are mirrors and creators of society, so it's important we recognize ourselves as the miracles we are. We all have something to offer. If you're still on earth, your job is not done.
I left my full-time job to pursue coaching because I knew I had more work to do, not less. I had my real work in this world to do. And it's hard. It's hard to not be part of the status quo and have medical insurance given to me and feel like I'm contributing to my retirement. I miss my work wife.
But, I know there is a task I came here to do this time around, and I'm just one of millions of people doing that task. I believe we all have our own life purpose, but it can look very similar to others'. The way in which you carry it out will be different, as will how it affects the world around you and at large. And of course when you allow yourself to step up to the plate. I'm here to let you know that your depression is your call for you to step up to the plate. Something is missing, and you know it. We can all point at the obvious, the ex we miss or a parent that passed away, Trump... But those things aren't our essence, as intensely as they may affect us. They aren't missing from our souls. The only thing missing is a purpose yet to be acknowledged and then acted upon.
There are parts of you that have never been seen, and therefore you feel they should be hidden. But those are most likely also the parts of you that would do the most good if allowed out to roam free. Case in point: everyone's paralyzing fear of public speaking. Why do most people fear it more than death? Why is that? What are we afraid people will think of us? Why do we give others the power to silence us, especially when none of those people asked for that power? Other people are not better than you. Their opinions of you do not change who you are. And yes, you have something to say.
There is one reason and one reason alone that we aren't all out living our purpose. Fear. The overwhelming programming and training we have received is to play it safe, to fit in, to do 'what's right'. To play roles we were given and forgot to take off. We have been controlled our entire lives, from what to wear when we were little to what classes we had to take to what industries make money and acceptable timelines for acceptable cultural goals, like marriage and buying a house. And the worst part is we were told we were free, the freest country in the world.
It's all a sham.
I'm not saying those things are all terrible. I had some great classes in school that were required. I did buy a house and I like being able to paint the walls whatever I want. But there is a cultural problem when I hear client after client tell me that they either 1) aren't good enough to do what they want or 2) Don't know what they want to do because they've never let themselves consider doing something they really want. We are controlled by the media, pop culture, TSA, religion, race and gender roles, what's available to eat in our neighborhood..... but the absolute worst is when we mind-control ourselves. It's not your fault; you've just been trained exceedingly well and it will take some time, courage, and guidance to snap out of it, peel back the layers, and still find your way in a society that relies upon money for survival. It's tough, I get it. That's why I guide people through it, cuz it ain't no walk in the park.
If you fit into the dominant paradigm, congratulations. I'm seriously happy for you. You will be so successful (until the great cultural Shift happens) and life will be relatively free from existential crisis. But if you don't fit in, just remember....
You are perfect. I love you. I see you. Stop hiding. We are creating the new dominant paradigm every day with our thoughts and actions and there is room for you here. Come over to the light. Let's make the new world together.
This is it guys. We get one shot at this thing called life. Even if you believe in reincarnation, you will not be living as the You that you are today. For some people, death feels incredibly distant and is simply not a good motivator. But some of us are acutely aware of how short life is.
When I was 18 I felt called to go solo travel in India. I was fresh out of high school, had gotten into college, but just couldn't go write more papers for other people's validation. I needed to know if I could survive halfway across the world in a culture I didn't understand, as a racial and religious minority. Basically I needed to try living for once. So I saved up for 6 months by injecting trees with fungicide and flew off shortly after my 19th birthday. My parents were scared, to put it mildly. They had good reason. India is not a very safe place for a young woman, no matter how resourceful she is. But I had to go-- I had to know who I was when I wasn't in my comfort zone.
Above: Me in New Delhi, November 1999
Amazing things happened on that trip, like meeting the Dalai Lama. Someday I hope to write about them. But today I'll focus on a not-so-amazing part, which was my attempted kidnapping.
I was a couple months in to the 6 month journey and things were going... okay. I had made it through an unfortunate volunteering experience where I cataloged books that were half-eaten by termites in the dark, surrounded by large rats. I had figured out how to use pit toilets, eat only with my right hand, speak some Hindi, and avoid accidentally marrying myself off, as I was offered dowries semi-regularly.
The random black outs were becoming familiar and so was people staring at me. But I never got used to the sexual harassment. It was above and beyond anything I had previously experienced, and I was surprised by it, erroneously assuming that Indians would be more respectful of women since they are more religious on average than Americans. I was young, okay?
I was riding a train across Rajasthan in the middle of the night. It was a long journey and I had foolishly not packed enough snacks. Partway through I bought a samosa from a vendor on the train. Shortly thereafter I got sick, and if you've ever uncontrollably vomited in a moving vehicle you know it's the last place you want to be. I held out for as long as I could, getting off the train several stops early in Jaipur, a major city, so I knew the station would be busy even in the middle of the night. I was so weak I parked myself near a garbage can and planned to wait for the sunrise to look for somewhere to stay.
Shortly after sitting down, a member of the Indian army meandered over, drunk, talking about how he loved me and how I should meet his mother. He didn't seem to care that I was throwing up. Do you know how hard it is to throw up while holding your 50 pound pack while being harassed? I decided to find the sleeping room-- many Indian train stations have them-- to rent a bed hostel-style. I figured I'd be safe in there.
I was wrong. The soldier followed me up the stairs to the room, telling me the whole time how I should come home with him and we could stay in the same bed together with his mother (?). I ignored him and paid for a bed. A few blissful moments passed and I thought I might be able to sleep off the food poisoning, when I heard the creepy drunk voice of the soldier again, telling the sleeping room manager to let him in... and then felt him get into bed with me. You've never seen a sick girl jump like that, man. I was outta there. Lugging my giant pack and vomiting all the way. This time I parked myself in front of the information desk, which wouldn't be open for another hour or so. I didn't know what else to do. You might wonder if I asked those around me for help-- the answer is yes-- I shouted for help and everyone just stared at me. The soldier followed me, picked me up, physically pulling me toward the exit. Luckily I knew about making yourself heavy by going completely limp. I was a lot heavier with that backpack on too. He was simply too drunk to get me into his car, which he said was waiting to take me to his house. Finally he passed out on the floor, after whispering gross things in my ear while taking hits off his flask.
The information desk finally opened and I found out where the nearest hotel was. I RAN all the way. After I checked in I didn't leave for 3 days. I was so ill that the hotel manager sent a doctor to my room. Turns out I had dysentery and could've died.
All this is to say, would it have been better for me to stay home in Minnesota, wondering what could've been had I ventured out on my own? Certainly I would've avoided that guy in the station and the illness. But I also would've missed the crazy, interesting, wonderful experiences I had that made me who I am today. I know what freedom feels like and I know what fear feels like. They are simply two sides of the same coin.
Fear is such an interesting concept, because the very thing that is meant to keep you safe can also keep you bored, depressed, stagnant and lonely. I'm not advocating huge risk taking all the time, but if you feel yourself get a little excited about an idea, but then get scared, feel the fear and do it anyway. Because life's too short. Consider this: if you don't do it, what does 5 years from now look like? Are you satisfied? Happy? What if you do take the risk? What might your future look like? If it doesn't go as planned, can you allow yourself to “fail” and try it again differently? Do we give up on love when our first relationship doesn't work out? Of course not, and we can't give up on risk taking either. By all means, take calculated risks. But always head in the direction of joy, love, excitement; and away from fear.
I'll leave you with this: When you aren't sure about a career or life decision, ask yourself: Is this the best use of my time on earth?
Career Clarity Now