Many of us “happen” upon our path. We get a job after college or a job after that first job post-college. We discover we have a knack for something; other people point it out and comment about how it seems to come easily to us. Or, we think differently than those around us and people view it as a good thing. We sit there in our twenties, looking at those around us and start wondering what it would be like to be our boss or our boss’s boss. Could we do it? Sure we could! We do enjoy what we’re doing on the daily, but if we were in her position, it would be better!
So, we start marching towards it. Well, not marching as much as racing towards it. We do enjoy life along the way, but now we’re pretty laser focused on getting somewhere. Along our way, as we get more experience, we start to realize what we like to do and what we are truly good at. We start to believe that this thing we are yearning so greatly for, is just on the other side of that last fence. When we get that job, we believe that happiness, control, autonomy, impact, doing good, will all be there waiting for us. If we actually stopped to think about it, it’s not that our boss or boss’s boss actually looks like they bask in their feelings of autonomy, doing good, happiness and impact. But who stops to think about the path they’re on? We’re busy doing the doing to get us there.
I found myself on such a path. And, I really loved my ride. I didn’t have a traditional ride, like a lot of my peers, but it was a great one. I got to travel and live internationally! I got to manage people and start a team from scratch! Why would I pause and consider what it was that I really wanted and where I thought I would find it? I was having a good time!
Until I wasn’t. And that’s what was cyclical for me. I took on earning my MBA and CPA. I would get a new job, a promotion or in a new area and throw myself into the learning curve so completely. I wanted to be great at whatever it was and I didn’t let anyone else down, so I contributed my best. On the other side of the learning curve I would notice that I felt as though I was missing something or wanted more of something else.
In hindsight, if I replay the conversations I had with those above and around me about why I was working my way up the ladder and desired more responsibility, I should have realized I probably wouldn’t find it on the other side. I loved helping people be their best self. I did not love the technical aspect of my work, even if I was good at it. I loved helping people do things they truly didn’t think they would be able to do. I wanted to move up, because I thought that would provide me the opportunity to help more people. And it did, but it still came with all the other stuff I didn’t really love….and not surprisingly, it added new stuff I wasn’t in love with. I didn’t love rushing or skipping over big time development in the name of deadlines. I was obsessed with Phase 2 type activities and breakthroughs: the slower, more deliberate design of processes and learning so that next time, more people and processes are better. The fact that the company I worked for, while fabulous, was not equally obsessed with this, wasn’t something that would change the higher I moved up the ladder. That seemingly fundamental yet obvious disconnect between its values and mine, should have been an early sign that I wouldn’t find what I was looking for.
While I didn’t realize it as early as I could have or would have liked, I did get there. Well, the first realization was that I might not find what I was looking for where I was. Unfortunately, that kind of made me feel worse. I thought not knowing what I wanted to “be when I grow up” was daunting in my twenties, ha! It was even more unnerving in my thirties. Now, I had more to lose. Not just from a responsibility perspective, but along the lines of “better the devil you know.” Not that my joy and employment were the devil, but I knew what they were and they hadn’t been bad, they just hadn’t been as amazing as I wanted them to be. Making a change meant going way outside my known. If this wasn’t it, what the heck could it be? There were people who really wanted my job and the opportunities I had created for myself.
Obviously, I did the work to figure out what that else I might want to be, how I could leverage that obsession and my superpower. If I hadn't, you might not be reading this. And I’m so glad I did. It’s not that my life is easier now or I make more money or every day is rainbows and sunshine, but I own the day and how I show up. By “own the day” I don’t just mean that I create my own schedule, I mean that, more often than not(we all have bad days), I am not a victim in my day. Yes, I changed my career, but I changed my mindset before that. That was the key. Once I started to own how I showed up for myself, for my corporate job, my family, it became more clear what I wanted. Could I choose to bow out of meetings to hang out with my family? Could I choose to rearrange my friends so I could have impact during that meeting? Of course. But that wasn’t what I wanted. I didn't like choosing to spend 60-80% of my time on things that didn’t light me up. Changing my mindset from “my company makes me work all these hours” to “I choose to support my company by working all these hours,” woke me up. I realized if I could make that choice, I could make another choice. I could choose something different.
Once I then did the work and realized what I wanted and I could choose it, it became near impossible NOT to choose it. That’s how good change happens. You are clear about what you want and your ability to choose to move towards that. Will I be a life coach for the rest of my career? I think so today, but who really knows. Even if I move on to something else, similar or different, taking this step put me one step closer to what I want. Staying where I was, couldn’t have done that. It was impossible. Living life and discovering what you want “to be when you grow up” can really only be achieved by action. It’s like cooking. Everyone’s preference for salt or sour or sweet is different. You can accept someone else’s recommendation and that may be fine, but to discover what your ideal amount of salt/sour/sweet is, you have play with the ingredient until you get it “just right.”
So...what about you? Do you know why you’re on your path? Do you know why you want that particular job, position or title? What are your “shoulds” in your job or at your company? What is it that you think is on the other side? Money? If everything in your life were the same, and you were making more money, would it be enough? Would you stop wondering what was “over there”? Or, would it not be enough?