“You’re doing this because you’ll get more time with your kids, right?” was the question that came at me over the phone. If I am choosing to leave a successful career in Corporate America, it must be a selfless decision, so goes my mothers thinking.
“No,” I carefully responded.
I did not leave so I could spend more time with my kids. Actually, leaving executive search and Corporate America for my passion was the most selfish decision I’ve ever made. I have not regretted it once. It just took me awhile to make the decision. It was impossible, until it was easy.
My external life looked good. I had a lovely family, white picket fence, a career that I was good at and was paid well for. Yet, even with all that, I was bored, deeply unhappy, and unfulfilled. I felt trapped in a life of my own making. I secretly longed to do something unconventional. Ironically, I spent my days interviewing executives, poking holes in their career decisions when they did not follow a linear path that included business school, a name brand Fortune 500 company and consistent, timely promotions. As I yearned to impact people’s lives in less typical ways, I was crippled by the voices of judgment, poking holes in my wayward wantings.
Conformity had pressed in on me on all sides and I could not fight my way out.
Somewhere in this time frame, I found meditation and a process that helped me see how limited I had made my own life. I wasn’t trapped, I just needed a broader perspective and a strategy. My husband and I decided together. We downsized our house, shrunk our mortgage and budgeted for the change. I was leaving my safe but uncomfortable suits behind to start to coach people through their personal brand of stuckness – spiritual crisis, mid-life realizations, and patterns of fear and inertia. I had watched too many people interview for life-changing jobs, then make their career decisions based on fear, rather than on their potential, creating a certain ache inside that says “I have everything, but something just doesn’t feel right inside.” I know. I, too had lived it.
It’s been a few years now and I still sometimes have to shake of the conformity that wants to kick in when I put together a really unconventional workshop or idea. I recognize it now and can brush it off. I love what I do. I come out of every client meeting more enthusiastic about life, my choice, their journey, and my touch points with them along the way. When I was unhappy, I used to make fun of people like me, not believing it was possible to love your work that much.
It’s funny. Becoming a life catalyst for people seems like such a natural decision on this side of the equation. It’s almost hard to remember the agony I felt before. But then, friends of friends get sent to me. I never know why in the beginning. It usually unravels over the course of a conversation. They want to take that leap. They want to feel happy in their life again. They want to make the change they are afraid of. It’s not that they want answers, it’s more like they want that magic thing to rub off onto them. The magic being the willingness, or the gumption or the sheer wildness of choosing, choosing something different for themselves.
“How do you take that step off the cliff?” is the question that rumbles around in the background of each of the conversations.
You just start.