I rode my first wave in Kauai a few years ago. Being on that board and feeling ocean surge pick me and my board up and hurtle us towards shore -GASP!- I hooted and hollered til the wave petered out and I collapsed into the ocean with glee. It was the kind of moment I’d dreamed of when I was feeling so stuck in my windowless office three years earlier.
I didn’t quit medicine and become a surfing instructor – but, I could have and that would have been fabulous too – If that’s what my heart desired. I had to surf my way into uncharted territory to find my perfect vocation. It’s been a wild ride but, now I feel like a surf a bit each day– doing work I love again.
It’s can be a scary proposition to wake up one day and not know what it is you really want to be when you grow up. It can be so scary that you tell absolutely no one. It might upset your mother. Your partner. Your kids. This disruption doesn’t fit with your long range plans…it’s not convenient.
Here is what you may be worried about:
There will not be another job as good as the one I had.
I will never be able to make as much money as I am now doing something I truly love.
If I leave, it will SOMEHOW be a bad thing.
Maybe you’re like me and you’ve spent thousands, if not hundreds of thousand of dollars on your education… you’ve been busting your tail, rising up, sacrificing family and personal life, getting the right job at the most prestigious place and it’s not that the job is terrible its just that there is something new tugging at your heart. Or perhaps you’re master of your household- packing lunches, shuttling kids to violin and running the PTA and you and your partner have always agreed that you’d stay home and man the fort…only these days it feels like endentured servanthood- you aren’t happy and hence, neither are the kids. Shouldn’t you sacrifice for the kids? You made a deal? Perhaps you’ve confessed your unease and your friends say, “Why would you ever leave- you’ve got it made! You’d be crazy- it’s work! It’s not supposed to be fun! It’s just a way to pay the bills- it can’t be THAT bad!” But you know deep down it isn’t supposed to be hell either.
I was once in your [moccasins, wingtips, Manolo Blaniks or amphibious Keens] before. Your happy ending will be completely unique of course… the path to getting there will be different from mine but, I’m going to walk you through the steps and hold your hand…. because it’s scary as hell. Let us SURF our way there, shall we?
Miserable at work- the 4 Step S-U-R-F guide to finding your FEEL GOOD again.
S is for SELF CARE
Initiate emergency self care – STAT. How can you be GENTLE with yourself and find a way to give yourself some freedom…a little joy…without quitting your job…without moving to Napa. Maybe you would benefit from some tribal contact. That friend who really gets you.
Schedule a date now. Not enough time? A fifteen minute call could be life altering.
Minimize contact with anybody at work that feels toxic to you. You may not be able to bring it to zero but there is no law that you need to listen to the company grouch talk about how much they hate the [fill in the blank] again. If that’s you- then you may want to look for evidence of good around you and practice speaking of that often.
Have you been taking on unnecessary work at the office? Find a way to get that work back to it’s rightful owner and with the extra time you have- stop eating lunch at your desk and meet up with somebody kind instead.
These self care steps will help you feel better and meanwhile you’ll be raising the vibe of the whole office. When one person changes –it changes everything. It begins with you.
U is for UNDERNEATH
Start examining your work days- keep a secret log book like Spock. Most job situations are not 400% horrible – there are bright spots in the day.
Observe what you DO enjoy at work.
Maybe you hate the paperwork and brokering the deal in your real estate job but you light up when you get to meet your prospective families – because helping them find the home of their dreams lights you up. Note that: I love people and helping them connect with what’s perfect for them!
Make time daily at work to savor those things you love and look for opportunities to do more of it. Let your manager know…this is the stuff I’d like to take a crack at! Hint: What you DO enjoy may be a clue to your true vocation- the one that will fulfill you in everyway.
Look for what’s right (instead of what’s not) with your work…have a gratitude attack- list 10 things that are fabulous about your work (Free parking, the doorman smiles at me, the guy in supplies that always has a hilarious story about his dog, they do hand me money bimonthly, restroom are provided…)
R is for REALLY, REALLY!
Ask yourself, “What do I REALLY REALLY want to do- if there were no rules or limits- what would be FUN?
Most of my clients long for more peace, more play, more rest and more joy.
Find ways to give yourself a little bit of what you are REALLY, REALLY want….
While I was in my pathology job I yearned for more creativity and beauty and socializing! I ended up renting a closest sized space in an antique shop that my friend Suzi and we had a ball filling up with hand picked curiosities and treasures along with rehabbed and reimagined furnishings. We had a lot of fun and I learned more about what I wanted to do next….. I also threw a lot of parties at home for fun and for philanthropic organizations I loved.
One of my clients yearned to own a winery– while that wasn’t quite possible just yet- he began spending nights at wine auctions, locally and wandering in vineyards in his evenings- it brought him great pleasure. Plus, he began to make important connections and learn things. Three years later, he called to tell me how great it felt to be standing…in his new winery.
Maybe you are simply dying for more time alone? One of my clients began to schedule time out at her writing shack in the woods to write. She had never “scheduled” such time before- thinking it frivolous. Ironically- this WAS her most important work and when she began to write again regularly- everything fell into place.
Giving yourself a teenie tiny bit of what you REALLY REALLY want can shift the Universe on its axis and deliver miracles. I dare you to try it!
F is for Future FANTASY
Take a few deep breaths …light a candle … get quiet inside your brain. Let’s go four thousand years in the future and pretend that you eventually found your perfect vocation…. they dug up your house in an archeology dig and from all the preserved artifacts, images and documents they were able to piece together what you did to serve. What did they find in your home in the year 4015? What did the photo albums show you doing, and with whom? What was in your medicine cabinet? What garments hung in your closet? What was in your yard? Or was it an Airstream trailer parked in the woods?
Many of us forget to dream when we feel stuck but our imagination is an immensely powerful tool for getting us unstuck. You may be surprised at what you discover!
Maybe after S-U-R-F-ing for a week, you recognize- you actually aren’t that far off from the dream- just a specific tweak is what’s needed. A transfer to another department. A new training or credential to enhance and bring some new life to skills you already love using? Or maybe (like me!) your exploration and SURFing will lead you into a wild adventure and completely new turn in the road. Another thing that can really help is a guide, a coach, a teacher or mentor of some kind. I benefitted immensely during my own career upheaval. I’d love to talk to you. Book a 10 minute time to chat and I’ll listen and make a few suggestions. And remember, who’s universally accepted as the best surfer in the water by global experts? She’s the one having the most fun.