Preface: I wrote this post originally in 2012 as a submittal to Tiny Buddha, only to be told that too many writers were talking about taking chances, so they weren’t going to publish mine. So with that, I said screw it, and shared this piece directly my blog readers back when I was still on Wordpress. Over the past 9 years, I've referred back to it more than any other piece of my writing whenever I needed a nudge of inspiration. I hope those who are reading this get that nudge as well. As we head into the new year, with so much up in the air, I'll take inspiration wherever I can find it! Let me know what you think in the comments.
"To get something you never had, you have to do something you never did." – Unknown
In 2012, “ambiguity” was my theme – dealing with it, fearing it, and eventually learning to thrive in it. In other words, not considering it a four-letter word, embracing it and allowing change to blossom from the unknown by preparing for different possibilities.
This year, I left the corporate world. Whew.
While intuition started tapping lightly at the door a few years ago, saying “make this your last j.o.b.”, my lack of confidence allowed me to make excuses. Even when I’d been laid off, I didn’t listen. I kept listening to that other voice.
You know, the Voice of Them. The voice that says do this or that in the name of security. I took the “safe” job – the one I least wanted. The job that would make my father proud. I told myself, hey, it’s not permanent, you can dream later.
As we all know, the universe works it’s own ways, and while I do pretty darn good job at making lemonade out of lemons, I was afraid to admit I was miserable, that after all this time, I still wasn’t doing what fulfilled me.
I still wanted to please. I was still looking for approval.
Looking for validation externally can drive us straight into chaos. I realized it was the comfort of familiarity that kept me in the same environment for so many years. Expecting different results each time is what some define as crazy.
On paper we know this. We tell friends this when we offer advice. But do we listen to our own intuition? Or do we listen to Other Voices and see life as two options: One Way Or The Other.
Finally, I took a job that brought me mentally, physically and emotionally to my limits. I was very successful, on paper, and convinced myself this was it. But I gave up everything that was important to me personally. My volunteer work. My business as a chocolatier. Even my writing – the core of me – didn’t feel as powerful. I stood still in the eye of the hurricane.
And I broke down. I started to fight – for me. Maybe it was the uncertainty I’d dealt with in my past, from the death of six loved ones over six years. Maybe it was just the blessing of getting older.
But maybe it was that I no longer had anything to lose.
Have you ever been in that place where you realize, the only way is up? That’s where I was. And so I did it, I gave my notice – and with only a vague idea what might be next, I took off into the great blue yonder.
I didn’t feel brave. I didn’t even feel particularly strong. I just knew it was time to put my own dreams first – even if I couldn’t quite articulate them yet. Not knowing even how I’d pay my bills, I knew I’d survived worse, and that things would work out in the end.
As a friend reminded me, I would not become a bag lady if I did what was best for me.
So, what did I do?
I told everyone I considered a potential ally that I was starting on a new path, and shared my passions. It’s amazing how the mere act of saying something out loud can do wonders. And people started to listen. They connected me with others who they thought I should know or who I could help. This gave me courage to take the next step.
I focused on incremental change. I reminded myself that just because I was changing direction didn’t mean I was making a U-turn. Going straight from black to white rarely works in the long term. And because I was open to change in any form, opportunities I’d never contemplated came my way.
And with this, I found a new way of using my existing skills, giving me the flexibility, independence, and income I craved, while never forgetting dreams still to be articulated.
I connected with as many different people as I could. I asked them, where do you envision me being successful? What do you think are my core strengths? I didn’t view it as advice, rather as a way to understand myself through the eyes of others. The words “connector” and “guide” came up a lot. Not surprisingly, based on the work I’ve done.
And then this, from a prospective: “You are a force of nature”. Dang. I thought, what a shame it would be if I didn’t take something from that.
I took every opportunity to learn. Inhaling books, watching TED talks, attending workshops on any topic that I was interested in, from ecopsychology to education to gardening. If I’d never allowed myself time to focus on it, or felt too chicken to do, that was my signal that I must do it.
I made a conscious decision to only spend time with Supportive Sallies, and avoid Negative Nancies. When you’re going through change, you discover the cheerleaders who will encourage your attempts to find your calling, and start to notice naysayers who want to rein you in and tell you what they think you should do.
The negative talk is not protective, it’s toxic. A talk by Scott Dinsmore inspired me to “surround myself with people who support possibility”.
I created a plan. Or at least an outline of a semblance of a plan. Seriously, I’m still figuring some of this out, but through the process, I’ve solidified what five dreams are most important to me (and what I need to avoid at all costs), and answered the famous question, “What would you do if you knew you could not fail?”
Then? It was up to me to create a new to-do list.
“Leap, and the net will appear“ is my new mantra. In the months since I leapt, I have brought in income. My bills have been paid in ways I never could have predicted a year ago. I have started volunteering again. I have written volumes. I’ve even made a few truffles.
But most importantly? For the first time, I’m truly blazing my own trail. I still get scared, but it’s nothing in comparison to where I was before.
Where in your life do crave change, but feel held back by your fears?
Remember, living your calling leads you towards bliss. Don’t know what that calling is, but know what you’re doing now isn’t aligned with your values? Take the time. Whether it be one hour a week or going away for a weekend to clear your head and outline what is and isn’t important to you.
Know you can eliminate a lot of anxiety by listening to your heart. Think back to the times where you knew you shouldn’t have, but did anyways (then paid the price) – and the times where your gut was spot-on. Save time and pay attention to your own voice.
Understand our paths aren’t always linear. In fact, few go in one direction their entire lives. Be gentle on yourself, and open up to evolution. Share your dreams with many – you’ll be amazed at the encouragement you’ll get to take that leap.
Still freaked out? That’s okay. Accept it, and jump anyway.