Ready to make change happen? That’s great. But are you holding onto this fantasy?
You’re in your office, tired, frustrated, under-appreciated. The phone rings. You look at it, attempting to decipher the caller ID and debating whether to pick it up. Your curiosity wins.
“Hello,” you say. Then, you listen to the caller on the other end of the phone. Slowly, your jaw drops open, you stand up in your cube, your pulse rate rises. “Yes, yes, I’d be willing to discuss this more,” you say, feigning nonchalance when all you want to do is scream. Which you do. After you hang up.
You got “the call.” It’s the Major League/Oprah/Publisher’s Clearing House equivalent of your profession. And they want you. Now.
My talented and brilliant friend, there’s no kind way to say this:
A big promotion. A top-notch company. A magazine or TV show wanting my expertise.
The fantasy became especially rich during those times when I was frustrated, unhappy, feeling stuck. I kept waiting, hoping for that bolt-of-lightning change, that a-ha moment that would reveal how wonderful I was to someone, someplace else. I longed to be plucked from obscurity and hand-placed on a larger stage.
And if I’m honest, I wanted proof that somebody else would think I’m special, too.
How does it feel when that proof doesn’t come? Answer: like you’re not very special.
And that keeps you stuck. Wondering. Waiting. Worrying. Which isn’t a happy, productive, or easy way to live.
And so I stayed in place, stuck, frustrated. Sure, I was doing good work and having a fine career “on paper,” but not feeling truly content, satisfied, accomplished.
The Surprising Thing That Changed Me
One day, I was updating content for the next version of my course “Should You Stay or Go?” And I stumbled across the reason that everything changed.
I never realized that this was THE thing that motivated, inspired, even allowed me to get out of my comfort zone, to try new things, to say different things.
It kinda shocks me even to write it, because it seems so simple, even trite. But here it is.
— I let myself feel pain.–
Okay, make your jokes. I hear the Clinton impersonations (“Baby, I feel your pain”) and see the eyerolls from the skeptics.
The stupid thing is that with all my professional coach training and immersion in personal and professional development, and with all my hands-on experience working with companies and individuals, I’d never put this into words before.
I had the pain for a long time.
But I wasn’t brave enough to let myself feel it.
In fact, as I was designing the my course, I found a piece of paper where I’d written down my ideal work. I’d written that I wanted to coach and teach people on growing their careers and potential, and that I’d wanted to travel around speaking and inspiring people to bring out the best in themselves.
How lovely that I get to do that now, right? How focused and intentional I was, doncha think?
If only. That piece of paper—one I hadn’t seen for years—was dated September 2000.
Here’s the reality. I didn’t let myself FEEL (and admit to) any career pain until early 2007, when my boss announced she was retiring. The 2007 pain led me to hire my first coach that summer. In 2008, I designed, pitched, and led an internal coaching program within the organization I worked for and started doing what I now knew I wanted to do, without changing companies. And in 2009, I took a deep breath and launched my own business. (I’ve talked about my journey in my book, but you can always ask me anything you’d like to know.)
At best, it was seven years between when I wrote on that piece of paper—things I somehow already knew I wanted to do—and my taking any action to make them happen. Seven years.
What might have happened if I’d let myself feel the pain and spur me into action seven years earlier? How many more people would I have helped by now? How many more opportunities, how much more money, how much more recognition could I have built that made a difference to me and the people I care about?
The pain I feel now is that I never feel there’s enough time to do all I want to do. I lost those seven years.
Please don’t let this happen to you.
Is it time to admit your pain?
As human beings, we spend our energy working to avoid pain. We look for shortcuts, hacks, secrets. Anything but waiting our turn in traffic, trudging through each step it takes to do it right, learning the hard way first.
But avoiding—or talking our way out of—pain isn’t helping. It didn’t help me.
For those of you who’ve called yourself stuck, underemployed, overwhelmed, frustrated, confused, or even lost about what’s next for you in your career, know those are just code words for pain.
Admit it, and put pain to work helping you instead of dragging you down. Because take it from me–it’s not until we face the pain that we can try the cures.
One final confession
But I let myself feel those gaps, those needs. And I don’t waste time anymore hoping for them. I take pride in the calls I do get—and more importantly, the ones I make for myself that keep me moving forward and doing what I can to help the world bring its superpowers to work.