Integration for each human is possible. Magic is available. Wholeness is just around the corner.
What are you doing in your life that’s just for you?
Me? I walk. I like taking pictures, too.
I wear a lot of hats in the course of my day. I’m a coach, a cat-mom, a spouse, and a friend (not to mention a housekeeper/cook/financial manager/general adulting person).
There's a lot to keep track of, and I've learned it's necessary to my (physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual) health to get outside and ramble on a regular basis.
Going for a walk in the middle of the day sometimes feels like a luxury (especially when I’m busy), but I know from experience that it's vital to my sanity and optimal functioning - especially when I’m busy.
I'm sure you have a lot on your plate, too.
It’s easy to get into the habit of talking about how busy, overwhelmed, and overcommitted you are. It seems like you just don’t have any time for yourself!
I do it, too, and then I have to remember all over again what I wish I could beam directly into your brain: taking that time for yourself makes everything else work better.
If you are in the process of trying to figure out what you want to do with your life, this time becomes even more crucial. Who are you when you’re not a helper or a worker? When you’re by yourself and all those labels fall away?
If you can’t connect to those things that bring you joy, it's much more difficult to find your path.
My invitation to you, if you’re willing:
Take 10 minutes today to do something that feeds your soul. If you have no idea what that might look like, try something, anything, and see how it feels. Do it again tomorrow.
Pay attention, take notes, learn what lights you up. Find your way back to yourself, one step at a time. Take my box turtle friend here as inspiration.
Let me know how it goes!
When you're in a frustrating job situation, your whole life can feel like delayed gratification.
"Once I'm in a better place, then I can start enjoying myself."
"I'll be happy when I have a job I like."
Our culture doesn't help much; it demands a Serious Attitude when facing a Serious Problem (like what you're going to do with the rest of your life). The reasoning goes that if you're not worried about it, either you don't care that much or it's not really a problem.
I'd like to offer a counter-argument: enjoying yourself as much as possible has some very real benefits when it comes to figuring out your next steps. Let us discuss.
1. A positive mood improves your problem-solving skills.
In 2011, Scientific American reported that people who watched a comedy special were quicker at solving a word problem than those who watched an educational talk or a horror film. As it turns out, people in a positive mood have more activity in the area of the brain that is linked with sudden insight - those "aha" moments we've all experienced.
Approximately zero percent of my life-changing insights occurred during a freaked-out moment about my future. Even "useful" and "responsible" things like pro-and-con lists didn't play as big a role as you'd think in getting me or my clients where we are today.
Instead, these "aha" moments tend to happen (for me) during walks, naps, or conversations with friends. In fact, conversation in general played a big role in helping me get clarity, which is why I started my career-transition program, Finding Your Fit.
2. The things you enjoy are clues to your future happiness.
One of the reasons I never sought out a career coach when I was actively unhappy with my job is that I thought they would ask me about my interests and then offer related careers. "Oh, you like drawing? You should be an artist!" "You enjoyed planning your wedding? Obviously you should be an event planner!" (Turns out, this is actually not how coaching works.)
This line of inquiry might work for some people, but most of us need to dig a little deeper.
Here's an example: I love going for walks. That doesn't mean I'm destined to be a trail guide, but I can use the experience to gather clues.
Here are some things I get from the experience of walking:
- freedom (the time, space and ability to do it)
- beauty (looking at nature, peoples' houses and gardens)
- moving my body
- a mixture of solitude and companionship (I like going alone and with friends)
- time to think
- time to be without thinking
- variety (I like to switch up my route)
- autonomy (I get to pick the route and pace)
- being outside in the fresh air and sunshine
- feelings of curiosity, peace, appreciation
You can see how these desired experiences could translate to other areas of my life, like my career. I don't need all of them to be part of my job description, but my ideal situation gives me the time and space to make room for them in my life. Plus, when I focus more on the experience than the specifics, I don't get fixated on the outcome looking a certain way.
Step 1: Make a list of at least 10 things you like to do.
If you need a place to begin, start by making a list of things you enjoy doing. What makes you laugh? What makes you feel free, peaceful, energized, engaged, or cared for? What feels satisfying?
For the moment, leave off the things that maybe you don't love but know are good for you (like exercising). You may feel better afterwards, but are you excited about doing it right now?
If there are some things you like doing, but know they can turn into self-destructive or numbing behavior if left unchecked, put them down anyway. For example, one of my clients loves reading fiction, but she knows that it's an easy escape from the rest of her life. There are still valuable clues to gather!
Once you have your list, see if there are any common themes. What do you like about each activity? Do you do them alone or with others? How long do they take? How much money do they cost? Are they location- or situation-dependent? What is the ideal time of day to do them? In a perfect world, how often would you do them?
Looking at them from a less literal place: what qualities are present in these activities? How do you feel when you do them? What other situations, people, or activities bring up those feelings? What experience are you looking for when you do them?
If you get stuck, a friend or coach comes in handy here to help you see things from an outside perspective and ask questions you may not have considered.
Step 2: Do these things often.
As I mentioned earlier, wisdom and insight bubbles up more easily from happy minds than angst-filled ones. I'm not trying to downplay the struggles you may be facing. I know it sucks. But when you take the time to do what you love, you bring that energy to other areas of your life.
Be curious about any resistance that shows up when you commit to enjoying yourself. I spent a lot of time during my own transition believing that dissatisfaction and unhappiness were my best motivators. While those feelings had some valuable information for me, I believe that you don't need to be miserable to deserve a change. The scared or judgmental thoughts that show up when you move towards joy can be amazing teachers - but only if you listen to what they have to say without buying into their messages.
If you're intrigued but have trouble seeing how having fun and lightness can improve your job situation, check out how to work with me - I'd love to help you tease out the insights hiding in your life. You already have everything you need to be successful - sometimes you just need a little help seeing it.
Image credit: freeimages.com/Julia Freeman-Woolpert
A Dream Deferred
When I first became a coach, I really wanted to work with people in search of satisfying and fulfilling careers. However, my own path was so convoluted that I doubted my ability to guide others through their own transitions.
Obviously, I knew something about making decisions and trusting my heart, but I was so fixated on the specifics that I missed the larger lessons I was learning at the time. Instead, I decided to focus on the "easier" (to me) issues of perfectionism and procrastination.
It wasn't until I'd been doing this for awhile and decided to check in with some of my more successful clients that I discovered something surprising.
That thing I thought I couldn't do? I'd been doing it all along.
At the time of our coaching, these clients tended to be un-, under-, or unhappily employed. After working with me for a few months, they found better situations and ended up feeling optimistic about the future. It wasn't until I talked to several of them in a row that I began to see the pattern.
That's right - despite claiming all along that I wasn't a career coach and knew nothing about helping people achieve the same results that I had, each one of these women had crafted a path to greater happiness while working with me.
Underselling yourself isn't modesty - it's blindness.
"Fake it 'til you make it" isn't terrible advice, especially when it comes to matters of self-confidence. However, it can backfire when you've been slowly "making" it all this time but forgot to stop "faking" it - i.e., you've been improving, but your confidence hasn't.
This is when things like "imposter syndrome" (when you're perfectly qualified but feel like a fraud) come into play. You over-prepare for things, worry over every little detail, obsess over your perceived shortcomings, and dismiss your successes as flukes. You live in dread of being "found out" as less skilled than everyone thinks you are.
Once I was able to let go of my assumptions about what "career coaching" really entailed, I was able to see how my strengths had contributed to my clients' progress. As it turned out, I didn't have to know where they were going; all I had to do was help them get clear enough to figure it out on their own.
This was a huge epiphany for me.
I no longer had to fake confidence that I didn't really feel.
As much as I'd wanted to work with people in career transition, my lack of faith in my own abilities stopped me from specifically trying to reach out to them.
But when I took the time to look back and examine some of my past successes, I didn't have to have faith that I could do it, because I'd already done it. I didn't have to hold on to some nebulous "belief in myself" because the facts told me I was already successful.
Turns out, I wasn't the only one doing this.
My clients were doing the exact same thing. They already possessed all the makings of their success, but just couldn't see them. I know that sounds cheesy, but it's true. They just needed to get to a place where they could stop discounting their gifts and their intuition so that they could see that they already had everything they needed.
When you're living inside your own head, it can be almost impossible to get perspective on your strengths and abilities. It's easy to discount them because they're easy for you.
I get it: I spent years feeling that achievement wasn't valuable unless I worked extremely hard for it. Now, I'm learning to lean into my strengths and play up to them and not take them for granted.
Here's a quick and easy way to do this in your own life.
Whether or not you're interested in changing careers, I can't imagine that it's a bad thing to get new perspective on what makes you awesome.
Here's the exercise:
Take a typical day in your life and write down all the things you do, beginning with getting up in the morning and making breakfast.
Move through the rest of your day, noting down the tasks and projects you're in charge of, the things you get done, and the people you interact with.
For each of those things, ask yourself, "What did it take for me to be able to do that?"
Even something as simple as getting up in the morning can take strength of will or self-discipline. Maybe you're drawing on your innate qualities of dedication, conscientiousness, or scrupulousness.
What skills did you have to utilize to get through your day? What strengths, abilities or qualities did you need?
You don't have to get pedantic about it or take it to a level of tedium - all we're doing is bringing a new level of self-awareness to the ways you're already rocking your life without realizing it.
I think it's important to note the difference between skills and preferred skills.
Just because you're really awesome at putting together spreadsheets or meal plans doesn't mean you like them.
It's good to notice all the skills you have to draw on, but it's also worth paying attention to how much of your day you spend doing things you're good at versus things you're good at and enjoy.
I hope you found this exercise illuminating! I'd love to hear what it brought up for you. If you're wishing for a job that that uses more of your skills, check out my career transition programs to learn how coaching can help you make the jump.
“This moment, it's holy. But we walk around like it's not holy. We walk around like there's some holy moments and there are all the other moments that are not holy, right, but this moment is holy, right? “And if film can let us see that, like frame it so that we see, like, ‘Ah, this moment. Holy.’ And it's like ‘Holy, holy, holy,’ moment by moment. But who can live that way?”
- Caveh Zahedi, Waking Life (3:15 in this clip)
Ever since I watched Richard Linklater's groundbreaking film Waking Life in the early 2000s, these words have stuck with me.
They would come to me at the oddest times: while doing homework, walking to class or work, on my dusting rounds at the museum, before a client meeting.
I would ask myself, “What would it be like to exist as if this moment were holy?”
You could try it for yourself, wherever you are when you read these words. And if the word “holy” carries an uncomfortable connotation, you can replace it with something else: maybe meaningful, or significant, or momentous.
You don't have to try to make anything happen, and you don't have to be feeling good. You could be having a truly terrible day. Could you suspend disbelief for a moment and be curious about what would it be like to be having a terrible day that was somehow also holy?
When I do it, everything seems to imperceptibly slow down. My actions take on new weight, deliberation, meaning. My mind quiets and my senses open up. I become aware of possibility and magic. If I stay with the feeling, I can sense anticipation in my breath and my heart swelling in my chest. Not to be too dramatic, but it feels a bit like falling in love - that heady moment of stepping forward, completely vulnerable.
“I'd be open. And then I'd look in your eyes, and I'd cry, and I'd feel all this stuff and that's, like, not polite. I mean, it would make you feel uncomfortable.”
“Well you could laugh, too. I mean, why would you cry?”
“Well, 'cause ... I don't know. For me, I tend to cry.”
The metaphysical author and teacher Eckhart Tolle spent two years on a park bench in this state.
(Have you tried it yet?)
For a long time I wondered if I was supposed to do something with this feeling. It feels...momentous, if that’s the word I’m looking for. I would get caught between feeling like existing in the moment was enough and thinking I was supposed to do something about it.
Now I am newly appreciative of the Zen Buddhist saying, “Before enlightenment: chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment: chop wood, carry water.”
Or, as contemporary Buddhist teacher Jack Kornfield puts it, “After the ecstasy, the laundry.”
Awareness of the sacred nature that underlies everything has never stopped mystics and contemplatives from living everyday lives. Jesus walked, ate, drank, and slept like the rest of us. Monks and nuns of all religions tend gardens, cook, and do laundry (and sometimes even play pool) between prayers and study.
Embracing the holy moment is not retreating from life - it is bringing that awareness to life. It's the opposite of checking out. When our work and recreation and daily business of living are threaded through with this deeper meaning, they themselves become sanctified, transformed by our awareness.
“What is the purpose of life?”
“To be the eyes and ears and conscience of the Creator of the Universe, you fool!”
- Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., Breakfast of Champions
Physicist John Wheeler posited before his death that we live in a “participatory universe” that changes and reacts purely because someone is watching. In the same way, I believe that the most mundane of activities becomes fundamentally different when experienced with this kind of attention. But don’t take my word for it - try it for yourself.
“Who can live that way?” Zahedi asks rhetorically. Certainly not me, not all the time - but in each moment, with each breath, I have the opportunity to return. Being human is not about living in a state of perpetual bliss - it’s in our nature to forget. But it is always possible to remember, to keep returning to that state of grace if that’s what we want. And it will transform your life, if you let it.
I’ll leave you with a song that’s kept me company most of this year. It always helps to bring me back, and I hope it does the same for you.
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