Fact: Life is hard. We are all well aware of that, but how do we maneuver through those times in our lives when we know it’s right to pursue something new? Feel a career change brewing and need some guidance?
I would like to share with you three questions that have helped me whenever I felt something just wasn’t-quite-right in my life, but didn’t know exactly where to go from there (or was afraid to face what I knew I needed to do, and required affirmation). I came up with these considerations when I was laid up with knee surgery – sometimes having too much time to think can be a transformative thing, and I hope you can benefit from my recovery process as much as I did.
- What am I good at?
“True happiness involves the full use of one’s power and talents.” – John W. Gardner
Ask yourself what your gifts and talents are. We all have them, though perhaps you have not spent enough time discovering yours yet. It’s so easy to go about our daily lives just skimming the surface of our capacity. I promise you; you are capable of unreal things that you haven’t even heard of or imagined yet, and it’s very probable that some of those things will become what you love doing.
“I want to challenge you today to get out of your comfort zone. You have so much incredible potential on the inside. God has put gifts and talents in you that you probably don’t know anything about.” – Joel Osteen
Once we have reflected on the gifts we know we already possess, how do we discover our unknown talents? Get out of your usual bubble and try new things, or look at the things you are kind-of-good-at, and try similar opportunities. Make a list. Make a mood board, a Venn diagram, a Pinterest board – whatever works for you. Look carefully at where the things you know you excel at overlap with topics that intrigue you – pursue those things further, even if it means doing something that scares you.
As a teenager and young adult, I was not only a regular gym-goer, but also a fairly strong ice hockey player. I wasn’t quite good enough to really make it anywhere in this sport, though, and I always had a slight anxiety on the ice that made me perform worse in big games. As far as fitness was concerned, I was into the regular gym routine and I was getting bored with it! It wasn’t until I ventured into a new arena of sport and physical activity that I really flourished. I was training for a bikini competition when my friend encouraged me to try CrossFit. I instantly fell in love with the constantly-varied workouts, focus on performance rather than physical appearance, and, after putting in some work, I discovered I had a strong aptitude for lifting heavy things. I began spending a significant amount of time under a heavy barbell, and competed in CrossFit and strength sports like powerlifting, Olympic Weightlifting, and strongwoman. I found activities that allowed me to harness my pre-event anxiety in a purposeful way that actually enhanced my performance – I stumbled upon my niche. I had always been a respectable and passionate athlete, but it was only when I seized an opportunity to try something unfamiliar, and yet related to my interests, that I came across the sports to which I was most suited.
List your gifts and talents, but don’t let this inventory limit you – you may have talents you are yet to discover. Find them.
- What am I passionate about?
What breaks your heart? What brings tears of joy to your eyes? What are the things that you absolutely love doing? What do you like to share with others?
These are the things you must pursue – these passions will propel you out of bed in the morning and fill your belly full of firey purpose – and this is the way you will transform the world.
“the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.”― Jack Kerouac, “On the Road”
Your gifts, talents, and passions may guide you to one job, and you might find that profession is not the ideal platform to pursue them. This is OK! Statistics show that 75% of people today believe they will go back to school at some point in their life, and that adults will switch jobs between four and seven times throughout their lifetimes. If the occupation you are in right now does not feel like a precise fit, you have the ability, and the right, to switch. You are not alone, and your experiences are all building you into the person you are destined to be.
When I first enrolled in university I planned to become a doctor. This is what people often do when told, “You can become anything you want” – they gravitate toward careers viewed as most challenging and prestigious in our society. I remember flipping through my biochemistry textbooks prior to my second year and thinking, “Why am I learning this?” Although I found the content interesting, I didn’t like memorizing information and spewing it back onto a paper, and I knew I was not pursuing my calling.
I contemplated the three questions I pose to you here, and it was my mathematical ability (and the way I could use logic to solve a problem, as opposed to simply memorizing information), combined with my passion for helping others – specifically, youth – discover their gifts and abilities, that lead me to become a high school math and physics teacher.
I loved that job and lived it for three years, but I quickly learned that the classroom was not the ideal platform to deeply pursue my desire to help others discover the best in themselves – I felt limited by the curriculum, and most empowered by the parts of my vocation that weren’t in the description: like getting to know my students and their interests, and watching them shine and smile during the extracurricular activities they adored. As much as I might have wished it so, the Pythagorean theorem was not going to change many of their lives; teaching about goals and helping others unearth their gifts was.
I made an unexpected career switch and became a CrossFit coach, where I could regularly help people pinpoint and discover health and wellness targets they could never even imagine for themselves, and I ran programs for kids and teens so I could still work with the young populations I so-loved to inspire. I also began writing on the side, as I knew I wanted to be able to impact the vastest audience possible.
Many within and outside of my circle frowned upon this job jump: “but will you go ever go back to teaching?” I was asked almost daily. People could not comprehend that I was leaving a career with a respectable salary and benefits to “work in a gym.”
“I am still teaching, but the things that really matter to me, and that have the power to change lives.” was my usual response.
You might be met with confused looks when you make a decision and respond like this. Expect that, prepare for it, but don’t let it make you waiver from your plan (even if your plan is still only a rough draft). The only person who has to be happy with your life at the end of the day is you, and, I’ve learned, all of the others will come around and be your biggest fans when they see you killin’ it in your new career (and new life!).
I am in the midst of yet another professional transition, and as you can see, each switch has been a stepping-stone to the next. While the changes I’ve made don’t necessarily relate in a traditional and lateral sense, none of my time was wasted or unappreciated. I am now pursuing a full-time career in writing, public speaking, and wellness coaching as the sole-proprietor of my own business. Every single day that I spend developing an email about goal-setting, or on the phone with one of my clients discussing her habits and aspirations makes me realize that all moments up to this point have prepared me to be exceptional at this; I truly believe I am exactly where I need to be, and I think this will be an avenue that I can continue to grow in for the remainder of my years on this planet. I have found the career in which I can become world-class, and I think we all should find that thing at which we can stand amongst the best in the world.
Career change is OK. Every job we have helps us discover what we truly desire for our life, and how we can optimally serve the world, just as past relationships help us determine what we really need and desire in a life partner.
Consider the things that move you to tears or spur you into action, and find, or create, a career that combines them.
- Where is there a need in the world?
“I don’t know what your destiny will be, but one thing I know: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who will have sought and found how to serve.” – Albert Schweitzer
You owe it to yourself, and the world, to become the person you are capable of being when you are performing at your peak. Society has so many aches and pains and it longs for brightness and beauty, and there is a unique way that only you can provide this.
What are the things you wish you could change about the world? Who are the people you would most love to work with? How can you help?
I have always had a deep longing within my soul to change the world, and although I have constantly tried to do this in my own way, I think I am still only scratching the surface of my reach, and I know Idealistic Isabel will be the platform from which I can do this. Here is my mission statement for my company: “to liberate others to unearth and invent their true capacities: physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually, and to challenge society’s limiting beliefs.” I want to help the world become better by guiding individuals to discover their limits. I started doing this as a teacher. I continued doing this as a CrossFit coach. But there is no better way I can transform the world into one that is full of acceptance and strength than through the means I am in the process of creating.
Finally, that grain of salt (that probably seems like an iceberg) that may still be holding you back: “but I do not have enough money to quit what I am currently doing to do that thing I know I need to do.” True, you might need to be broke for a bit – that is a reality, but I would rather spend a few months (or a year) of my life struggling financially (but still doing things that make me happy), than settle into a job that isn’t satisfying for the remainder of my life (we spend an average of 90,000 hours, or 3,750 days, or ten-year-non-stop-straight-time at work[i]). Or, in the words of my friend (and business owner) Kyle Smith, “I don’t mind going through the shitty part in order to prosper.” And furthermore, in the words of Barbell Shrugged weightlifting coach and program manager, Alex Maclin, “If you care enough, you will find a way.”
There is always a way. It will work out. The world takes care of those who are excellent at their craft, and the only way to become excellent is to Every Day do what you love to the degree that in its most brilliant moments it takes your breath away.
So make the leap! Maybe for you this means leaving your current job to improve the world by selling the best cupcakes in the cosmos. Perhaps you love making places impeccably clean and should quit your current career to create a custodial business that employs many – you could share spotlessness with the city! If you have a knack for working with children, and dislike leaving yours at home, consider starting a daycare. Whatever it is, there is something unique that you are destined for.
Ask yourself these three questions – about your gifts, passions, and what the world needs – and consider the answers. The intersection of these three areas is what you should pursue next. And if you are scared, that’s normal, but trust yourself and move forward to realize your most happy, successful life in little steps.
Step out, and do that scary thing that you know you should do.
“I know you want better. I know you want excellent, stupendous, outstanding. And you want it all the time. There’s nothing wrong with that—and don’t ever let anyone tell you that there is.
The “good-enoughs” of this world are just tired souls who gave up. Don’t be them. Be the lost soul who’s still trying to find the trail.” – Lisbeth Darsh
“Self-trust is the first secret of success, the belief that if you are here the authorities of the universe put you here, and for cause, or with some task strictly appointed you in your constitution, and so long as you work at that you are well and successful.” – Emerson
“I know of no single formula for success. But over the years I have observed that some attributes of leadership are universal and are often about finding ways of encouraging people to combine their efforts, their talents, their insights, their enthusiasm and their inspiration to work together.” – Queen Elizabeth II
“To achieve the impossible, you need to first develop the mindset that it’s probable. Please
don’t allow the current limits of your life to define your future reality. You deserve so much
better. And the world deserves your best.” – Robin Sharma
“All change is hard at first, messy in the middle, and gorgeous at the end.” – Robin Sharma
[i] Jessica Pryce-Jones. Happiness at Work: Maximizing Your Psychological Capital for Success, 1st Edition.