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stepping out of your comfort zone: growth that spreads

What brings you a breath of fresh air? Every day routine can lead to efficiency, mindlessness or boredom. Experiencing something new grows your creativity, capacity and confidence. How often do you introduce a growth experience into your life?

Recently I enrolled in a metal art class. I love handmade objects, but have old messages warning against my artistic talents. Childhood art and music classes provide opportunities to awaken interests, but if done poorly can dash a child’s confidence in trying something new. My early conclusions were that I possessed neither musical nor artistic talent. These doors were closed for me and much was lost.

And yet throughout my life I’ve loved working with my hands. So independently I did sewing, weaving, knitting and beading. They relaxed me and gave me a final product.

I also became a “patron” of artists and love hearing about their journeys, learning their processes and buying their works. I want to encourage and support them in their dreams and efforts. But I also admire how free and courageous they are to follow their passions.

But what about my dreams and passions? What did I ignore and fear? My career as a psychotherapist and coach found me operating mostly in my head and heart. I don’t use my body in my work. Where is your career focus: head, heart, body? And what changes are required to become whole?

People approaching new learning or returning to previous interests can expand their brain capabilities. Through neuroscience’s concept of neuroplasticity, we now know that the brain grows new neural pathways through stimulation. The experience of being out of your comfort zone by taking on something brand new allows you to develop many skills including creativity, perseverance and flexibility that are beneficial in your current career. Plus this change of focus promotes energy to sustain a long work life.

“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone”
Neale Donald Walsch

Amy has been a physician for 40 years. She loves her work, but it feels repetitive at times. She regrets the administrative parts of her job, but loves patient contact and solving medical challenges. Amy notices friends are taking up dance, music and painting. They report joy in their endeavors, meeting new people and expanding their interests. Amy wants to find something new for herself, but she admits some fear and uncertainty.

A frequent concert fan, Amy starts thinking about playing an instrument. In high school she played the violin, but gave it up in college. “What if I could study music and be around people who play?” Amy does some research and finds a local community college offering piano lessons. She enrolls.

Amy loves jazz and convinces her teacher to begin lessons in that genre. At first Amy is a fish out of water, but eventually the practices become pure joy as she gets lost in the music. She meets other enthusiasts, young and old, and they talk of playing together.

While Amy has a stressful job and is tired at the end of the day, after a piano lesson she feels rejuvenated. She finds herself approaching her medical practice with new eyes and excitement.

“Unless you try to do something beyond what you have already mastered, you will never grow”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

So what do you want to take on? How long have you languished in your comfort zone? Perhaps it feels like you are constantly challenged in the work place. You’re tired of feeling stretched and never comfortable.

But taking a risk in a different environment can prove satisfying. Maybe you use your body all day, but rarely your heart. Taking on challenges in a new environment and developing unfamiliar skills constitute an act of courage. Proving to yourself that you CAN do something out of your comfort zone is a message that will carry you anywhere in the world.

Where do you want to grow?

What area would be a challenge for you?
Pick an interest
Take one class
Evaluate your growth
Continue or change again

Take that smile of satisfaction with you on your next path!

 

it can’t get any worse, can it?

This month I was hiking in the California wilderness with a very rudimentary map. The trail did not seem to match the description given by the park ranger. Much younger people were breezing by me as they climbed the mountainous path. No one was coming back as this was a circle trail. Thus, no local information, no reassurance, no help. I could gauge my distance and estimate if I had enough daylight to make it to the end. But, there were dark rain clouds overhead. What to do?

Adventures in life have beginnings, middles and endings. You start accumulating these experiences early on. If you are fortunate at a young age, you have wiser people around who can help you with the challenges. As you age, you may be less willing to reach out for that help, but could still use it.

The majority of your personal growth occurs in two arenas. Freud said love and work are the two biggies in our lives. As you think back over your life, where are your greatest turmoils and resulting lessons located? I would suspect it’s your relationship and work experiences that most impact who you become. Play can also be a contributor to the development of your unique talents and interests.

“Love and work, work and love, that’s all there is”
Sigmund Freud

So I continued a gradual climb over the rocky, tree rooted trail. Enjoying the blue sky, clear air and gorgeous vegetation. I was at 8500 feet, but the air was sufficient for the task ahead. After a few hours, my enjoyment and the novelty switched to worries of how much farther to the destination and would it get more difficult and storm?

You often want to believe that the worst is behind you and you have clear sailing ahead. My companions and I entertained the idea of turning back. We knew that path and were positive that it would be downhill in that direction. But we had come more than half way.  What if we missed something glorious ahead? No one else had turned around. How difficult could it be?

These turning points in life occur on many different paths. Barbara is wondering whether she should leave her marriage. The children are launched and she feels a lack of camaraderie with her husband. Would a change be better or worse?

Mitchell thinks about changing his job and even starting over in a new career. He yearns to learn new things and to make a difference. His current work has grown stale and unimportant.

How do you choose? What process do you take in your decision making? In my dilemma I discussed it over with my fellow hikers. We all felt strong enough to walk the final miles. We expressed a curiosity about possible new vistas ahead and we wanted to test ourselves. How is this similar or different when the arena is not play, but work or love?

Barbara starts talking with friends and family about her marital dissatisfaction. She enters therapy to clarify her thinking and feelings. She prepares for communications with her husband and ultimately suggests couple therapy. Barbara is determining what her options are before she makes a final decision.

Mitchell likewise consults with friends and family regarding his work discomfort. He identifies areas for change and enlists his supervisor and co-workers in a plan. He decides to take some classes and finds a volunteer position that meets some needs.

Both reach outside and inside to get support, identify a vision and take small steps. My hike ended well. We were tired, satisfied and awed by the beauty in the forest. And the storm stayed away. Next time we will be familiar with this trail and can choose it again or pick a new one. The lesson was: it may get worse, but you can handle it.

What challenge lies ahead for you?

Pick a question to take on
Determine the resources needed
Ask for input
Create a plan
Take action and review results

Smooth sailing ahead and see you on the path!

authentic life or imax: careers in flow

A few weeks ago I visited Niagara Falls for the first time. I had always imagined it was an old fashioned, hokey honeymoon place. For that’s what people did in my parents’ era, take a trip there. I hadn’t rushed to follow.

But what I found was a gorgeous force of nature that pulled me in with its mist, pounding water and wonder. There were families from all over the world taking photos, enjoying the majesty of the falls. It was a group celebration.

On the Hornblower boat the Captain drove us up to the edge of the falls. Young and old were in amazement. I hadn’t felt that kind of excitement in a long time. I remarked, “This is like an Imax movie”. But it wasn’t, it was real. We were totally immersed in this natural spectacle. It felt somewhat spiritual and electric.

This experience made me think about times when we are pretending versus times when it’s the real deal. I remember seeing people at the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas paddling pretend gondolas and thinking, this is nothing like Venice. No smells, no Italian language, no damp air, no atmosphere. Much of our entertainment in the U.S., at least, is an amusement park. As little kids we beg to go on rides and be amused. Even more with video games, we act virtually without real people or challenges.

What are we missing when we pretend through life? Using reality shows, movies, tv, sports and books we plunge ourselves in strangers’ lives. Is it easier to be an observer than live a genuine life? Or is this one form of learning? Absent consistent role models. More often through technology we seem to be distancing ourselves from relationships.

In your career how are you expressing your authentic self, your bona fide interests? Is your work meeting your needs for purpose and value or is your main benefit the paycheck? Gina is right out of college and snagged her ideal job. Since high school she has been part of a movement. She’s worked as a volunteer for five plus years and her enthusiasm has paid off with this position. Not only is she advocating for a cause she believes in, Gina is growing her professional skills in organization, public speaking and interpersonal relations. She’s on cloud nine.

Brad is not so fortunate. He began his career 20 years ago with hope and excitement. However, his workplace’s bureaucracy has stifled Brad’s creativity. Over the years his efforts to make changes have been met with rejection and his client contacts are feeling repetitive. Brad is not being fulfilled and the stress is effecting him physically and psychically. He pretends to the outside world that all is well, but inside he knows he must change something.

What can you do to more accurately convey your authentic self? One is to take a temperature reading of what is going well and what is going poorly. Does your work matter to you and to the world? As we age, making a contribution is more important than material possessions.

“There is nothing more beautiful than seeing a person being themselves. Imagine going through your day being unapologetically you”
Steve Maraboli

What is unique about you? What special gifts and interests do you love to express? How can the world or even one person benefit from you? What do you like to learn? What is a day well spent? It seems that contribution versus consumerism allows us to give back and add to the world around us. I’m reminded of Al Gore who suffered a disappointment in winning the job of his dreams. But he returned to an old interest and has established a community working on improving the environment.

Do an authentic check up:

Am I using my talents and interests?
Is this the real me showing up?
Where would I rather be?
Can I stay or is it time to go?

Sail on and see you on the path!

who is a person at 70: creating the ideal life

So as I approach turning 70, I’m somewhat of a mess. You see my mother had a massive stroke on her 70th birthday and was paralyzed in a wheelchair for ten plus years. Her life changed on a dime and my father’s too. For he became her caregiver.

As a result I began to appreciate my ability to walk, something I had taken for granted. And also having two arms that functioned. I started walking every day and being mindful of accessibility, which was seriously lacking back then. My mother had her mind, but not her body. I wondered which was worse to lose.

When my father died, my mother moved into a nursing home. She chose not to move into my home in Virginia, even though I constructed accommodations. As the only child I became an executive caretaker while the “home” did the heavy lifting. Her life became very limited.

But am I my mother at 70? Is it ok to carve out a different path? I no longer walk daily and my diet is far from perfect. But my stress level has improved since retiring as a psychotherapist. I have my own part-time coaching business that brings me great satisfaction. I have a loving husband who takes good care of me and we are designing a great life.

One uncertain part for me is that my husband is 86 and it’s unknown how long we will have together. He is healthier than I and takes care of himself, but you never know these things. We all have an expiration date. Uncertainty is the norm. The life I had before is gone and the one I have now will not last forever. Change is the rule. And for a control freak like me, I don’t like to acknowledge that.

But here I am, thinking about my 70th birthday. I want to make it different than my mother’s, so I’ve planned a trip in Polynesia on a boat. Could I have gone any further or exotic? Yet that is what I enjoy, new sights, new cultures, water. This is a long term dream and I’m making it come true.

I actually have had a few dreams that came true. Always wanted to see Machu Picchu and did that for my retirement present. Always wanted to help the less fortunate and that’s been most of my career. I wanted to have biological and adopted children and did that. I wanted to see Washington DC and I’ve lived here for 40+ years. I wanted to study, live and work abroad and I’ve done that. I wanted to see the world and I’m progressing on that. I wanted to use my Spanish language skills and I do that. I wanted to give back and I do that. I wanted to winter in hot spots and I’m doing that. I wanted to live by the water and I’m renting that. I wanted to continuously learn and I do that.

So what does it mean to be 70? I can still do whatever I want. There are few restrictions. My feet and knees hurt, but I can hike for miles. I can put more effort into losing weight, eating healthy and being more active. I can make room for that. My mind is active.

Being 70, healthy and financially stable means I can design my next chapters. I can work as I want. I can coach, love my family, write a book, become an artist, create some projects. There are new interests driving me to explore.

While I’m living my ideal life, some things are missing. I have regrets and sadness regarding some loved ones. They struggle more than I’d hope. My learning is to love them where they are and work at adjusting my worries and expectations. I can’t control anyone but myself.

So I will stop comparing and be grateful for what I have. That’s it, be grateful for the joy and meaning that color my life. I have family and friends, health, a purpose and can create more. Anything is possible.

God’s not done with me yet”
Jesse Jackson

I will continue to learn, grow and improve. I will be courageous and live to the last breath. I will be good to people and help them as I’m able. I will be proud of myself. I will get off my duff and be active and alive. I will stay hopeful and work to better the world.

Ask yourself:

What makes your ideal life?
What is being vs doing?
What are your life lessons?
What do you want to change, keep, let go of?

Giddy up and see you on the path!

words of inspiration: commencement reflections

This Spring I attended a family graduation at the foot of the Washington Monument. A more stirring sight is hard to find. But what was really inspiring were the words of the speakers who had overcome adversity and strived to express their values through service.

Maybe it’s a long time since your own graduation and it’s difficult to remember the words that served to propel you out into the world. What if you could have that encouragement and inspiration anytime you needed it? Instead of being alone and struggling to know what step to take next in your life/career design, there are resources for you.

I tried to take notes during the weekend festivities. Mature and young, accomplished and enthusiastic students, speakers and professors were sharing their stories and lessons learned. How enriching to know that others have been afraid and lost and confused. What a gift to see the paths they took toward work they loved. I was left with hope and urgency.

People with humble beginnings or with challenges so daunting rose to become engaged and productive. Senator Tammy Duckworth speaking at George Washington University encouraged everyone to “enter the Arena”. What does that mean to you? What Arena is calling you? Where do you belong? Exposing yourself to interests allows you to know whether it’s a “No” or “Let me learn more…”

Frank Sesno, GW professor and journalist, suggested we get curious and ask questions. What are your questions? What information do you need from within and from the world? At any point in our lives we can ask for a Check In. Am I living the life I want? Am I doing the work I love? What needs tweaking?

So how can you find inspiration if there are no graduations in sight? Or a few days after hearing a compelling message, you are mired in your day to day. Google “commencement speeches”. Just as we learn from podcasts, youtube, online education, we can access speeches from years past. Steve Jobs had a famous one. Kumail Nanjiani’s speech is gaining note this year. Hillary Clinton returned to Wellesly to address the graduates.

Watching a speech doesn’t have to be a passive endeavor. You can share your “take aways” with family and friends. You can digest and apply it to your life and create action steps. You can journal and reflect. These are peers sharing their journeys. And that journey never ends. It doesn’t go on autopilot. It needs your input and energy. Or you risk living a life that doesn’t fit you.

“Sometimes, the only way to discover who you are or what life you should lead is to do less planning and more living-to burst the double bubble of comfort and convention and just do stuff, even if you don’t know precisely where it’s going to lead, because you don’t know precisely where it’s going to lead”

Daniel Pink

What if you were to write your own graduation speech, a graduation from life up until now? What would you include? What would stand out from your life so far? What would you want to pass on? Here are some of mine and others:

Take a risk
Help someone
Find what you love
Make a community
Keep learning
Get in action
Ask great questions
Treat people as people
Jump over fear
Show up
Work hard
Change the channel
Be grateful
Laugh at yourself
Use creativity

What’s your list? People’s lives are zigzagging all over the place. If you stand still, you won’t grow. So get out there and experience something/someone new. You may not stick with it, but you won’t be bored. Find people, experiences, places that cheer you on, pick you up.

Write your Next Chapter:

Learn from the past
Take inspiration from others
Choose something new
Emerse yourself
Grow and be proud

Forge ahead and meet you on the path!

it’s never too late: career possibilities

Are you still waiting for your dream career or are you there? You know it when you have it. It may not be perfect, but it feeds your purpose and curiosity. It’s easier to know when you aren’t there. You may have more of the “not there” experiences or ones that started out well, but soured over time.

Perhaps what you wanted at 30 is not what you are wanting today. Your interests have taken a detour along with your priorities. Or you regret never really going after that ideal passion. Instead you’ve worked for financial well being, not to feed your spirit. Is it too late? Will you stay with the familiar? Or is it time for a change?

Many ingredients go into a change, two being readiness and courage. Where you work cannot be too comfortable. There needs to be a reason for change, more than you just want something new. You need to be hungry, willing to risk and curious about answering that call.

Shon Hopwood’s life started off poorly until he found work he was good at and enjoyed. Disinterested in college, Shon fell into robbing banks and served time in prison. There he unexpectedly found a passion and purpose. Eventually Shon worked his way into a career he loves as a Georgetown University Law Professor and a cause he believes in. Shon helps the less fortunate and is committed to reforming criminal sentencing.

In a way Shon fell into a field that was vital to him and his prison community. He learned to improve his life. Now on the outside he continues to help that community and teach law students to do the same.

Think of the areas you are attracted to due to personal or family experiences. A teacher who hated school but wants to improve it for others. A physician whose parent suffered from a chronic illness who wants to heal. A politician who lived in a poor neighborhood who wants to upgrade services for all. An immigrant who began a business and wants to employ newcomers.

What motivates you? What interests you? What are you good at? Every day you are exposed to things that spark your interest and touch your heart. Pay attention. If you stay mired in the same work that no longer serves you, you miss opportunities to charge after something new.

Shon was in a rut and his poor choices landed him in a seemingly hopeless situation. And yet he thrived in the prison library. Soaking up knowledge, writing and helping his colleagues. When he was released, people helped him because they recognized his passions and efforts.

It’s never a waste to work hard and create an meaningful role for yourself. The skills, relationships and experiences gained will asset you in your next chapter. After 15 years Dorothy has risen to management in her organization. She’s noticed for her contributions, but she no longer feels fulfilled. The skills that provide for her financial support don’t excite her anymore. The company’s mission doesn’t touch her heart. She’s feeling stagnant.

But can Dorothy make a change at 55? Is it too late? She can retire in 10 years. Is it best to hold on and wait until then? But what will be different at 65? What will Dorothy design then to have a meaningful life?

“It’s never too late to be what you might have been”

George Eliot

Beginning the inquiry now when you feel the dissatisfaction empowers you toward a solution. Staying stuck is never comfortable. Taking action, any action is an investment in the future.

Dorothy chooses to explore her interests. She notices where her eyes go, how she prefers to spend her time. She finds a theme that repeats, that was nagging her years ago. Sometimes you drop an interest or a talent for good reasons at the time. But now is a new opportunity to pursue something that brings meaning into your life.

Giving yourself permission to create the “just right” life of your dreams is scary. You have been settling for so long, it’s an automatic habit. Defining the direction and ingredients you really want is putting a stake in the ground. Shon knew that convicted felons rarely get a law license, but he went after it anyway. He faced possible failure and won.

You can declare: This is what I want. This is who I am. This is what I believe in. I’m going to do something about it. What if instead of asking, “Is it too late”, you proclaim, “It’s about time”.

Start Now:

Choose this as “your time”
Make your Yes, No, Maybe lists
Find immediate ways to add passion to your day
Hang out with people who share your passions

Take the leap and see you on the path!

chasing your dreams: the interim step

Last month I met several people who traveled near and far to realize one of their dreams. For some it was securing their ideal work. For others it was choosing a lifestyle fit for their souls. How often do you ask, “Am I living my dreams?” No matter what age, you ponder how close you’ve come and what still lies ahead.

Transition points can occur naturally or with effort. You graduate school and move into the work world. You change jobs as you advance in your career. Your children grow up and launch. You create a business. You leave the paid workforce. These transitions shape who you become and reflect on how authentically your path evolves.

An example of a crooked path that represents a life well-lived is Juan. I met Juan, a surfing instructor, in Costa Rica. Before he was able to actualize his dream, Juan’s passion for surfing led him on a detour. Juan grew up in a South American region with economic and political unrest, violence and kidnapping. He felt unsafe and feared for his family’s welfare. Surfing became an interest and escape from the stresses of daily life.

When Juan became an adult, his goal was to move to the Pacific coast of Costa Rica. As it happened, he went by way of Canada. Frequently, a straight line doesn’t exist to reach your goal. The goals identified in youth are transfigured by the experiences and information you obtain while on the road. At times you may feel totally off course and wonder, “How did I get here and why am I doing this work that doesn’t interest me?” or “Why am I living here or with this person?”

In Juan’s case he went to Canada to live in safety with his sister. He didn’t speak English and didn’t see an opportunity to surf, but a surprise was in store for him. Through his interests, he met a community of people who loved surfing and did it on the Great Lakes! As Juan says, “I didn’t expect to be surfing with ice on my beard”. But he was surfing and learning to teach others and studying English.

Eventually Juan made it to Costa Rica where he has the life of his dreams. He has a wife, a child, his family has joined him and he created his own business. Juan teaches others to use surfing as a means for growth and transformation.

“If you listen to your own inner voice, it will tell you where you are now, and which method will work best for you in your evolution towards the light”

Ram Dass

If you are stuck in a situation that seems not working for you, what are your options? Dissatisfaction leads to feelings of hopelessness and despair. You lose your creativity and positivity. One way to determine where you are is to cherry pick the good parts. Who is special in your community? What skills are you learning? What values are you expressing? What purpose is being shared? Selecting out the opportunities in your current position and viewing this time as a stepping stone help to cherish this moment in your life cycle.

You are never wasting time when you’re in an interim step. This can be a jumping off point for the next, tailor-made situation. Take in whatever you can. Ask what you need to learn and seek possibilities to do it.

So I spent the winter in a surf town. I’m not a surfer, nor did I plan to become one. But I learned from that community and I reveled in the parts that worked for me. I discovered what it means to fight to be in that almost perfect place that makes your heart sing.

Perhaps your community isn’t exactly what you want it to be. Perhaps you aren’t living your values doing precisely what you dreamed, but the experiences can be important. Being flexible, curious and open to possibilities and turns in the road can lead you closer to your authentic life.

Make use of Now:

Create your vision
Enumerate the parts
Check off what you have
What’s missing?
How can you get it now?
How can you make the leap?

Enjoy the curves and see you on the path!

 

bumps along the way: career challenges

Today my plan was to meet friends for a hike. It was a new spot for me and I thought I was in the right place. Instead I was alone, not quite lost, but not with my friends. They called, we negotiated and I went to them. Problem solved and a beautiful walk/talk ensued.

Instead of being upset, I reminded myself that without a hiccup most journeys lack adventure. I can’t tell you how many of my hikes contain an aspect of wrong direction, not enough water/nourishment, sore feet, “danger”, too hot/cold, fatigue. But I love that. I love that there is a challenge to overcome. It feels like a test followed by an accomplishment. It’s not perfect, but it gets done.

The hiking/journey metaphor can be used for career paths. Looking back, has yours gone smoothly over the years? Of course not. But what have you learned from those bumps? The obstacles, doubts, crises have to be there to grow the stamina to appreciate the blessings of your path. You have the choice to stop, retreat, go back, veer off, march harder, think deeper, ask for help.

When you are out of the crisis, it doesn’t seem so bad. But when you are mired in it, you wonder if you are up to the challenge. Tackling these experiences is like building a mastery muscle. The more you push through and create solutions, the more you believe in yourself. You amass a history of lessons faced and learned to use as resources.

Jessica is fed up with her job. She wants out, but has no idea what to do next. Like many, Jessica knows what she doesn’t want, but not what she does. That veto list pops up pretty quickly when you are in pain. To find what you do want takes effort. A review of times you were in work flow, remembering the particular circumstances: the colleagues, the purpose, the projects.

Often your work life cycle becomes a variation on a theme. You change situations 10 degrees at a time. Or others, you head for the opposite side of the pie. A doctor who works for a hospital starts her own practice. Or a teacher becomes a professor, or a lawyer becomes an artist. If you look closely, we seem to carry familiar skills and interests as we move around the career pie. Sometimes to the left, sometimes to the right, sometimes across the diagonal. Taking a slice as you go.

Jessica is looking for a radical change. She’s a teacher who is burned out by administration, faculty, students. The schedule worked well while she raised her children, but after 20 years she craves a change. It’s been so long since she has job searched, she doesn’t know where to begin.

“Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember you have within you the strength, the patience and the passion to reach for the stars to change the (your) world”
Harriet Tubman

One way to create solutions for your world and your thinking is to get “away”. This can take many forms. Forms that stimulate all senses. One is to be in nature. Seeing trees, water, skies, wildlife. Smelling new flowers, fresh air. Another is to visit art museums, art shows, outdoor sculpture gardens. Another is taking a course.

Visiting a new neighborhood, city, country is assured to reshuffle your thinking and being. Experiences that allow whole brain thinking. Having great talks with friends and family can recharge your spirit and brain. Even playing with babies and children propel you into a new head space.

Being in a state of Awe leads to healing and possibilities according to Project Awe in California. Thinking of when you are at your best, when you feel alive, engaged and hopeful helps you to set the stage for problem solving and creation.

Jessica has decided to treat herself to a weekend trip to New York City. There she will connect to her interests in music, performance, art and walk in Central Park. She plans to eat adventurously and write profusely as she begins her journey to brainstorm a new slice of life.

Ready to begin?

Choose a beautiful journal
Set your intention or question
Enter a customized state of awe
Write/draw your findings
Design your first action step

Happy discoveries and see you on the path soon!

career confusion: the winding transitions

“What if I’m not good enough?” asks the Emma Stone character in the hit movie La La Land. She plays an actress/barista who faces disappointment regularly in her auditions. Likewise her love interest, played by Ryan Gosling, fails to earn money playing the jazz he loves. Are they stymied or do they forge on?

When have you fought for your dreams or, on the other hand, walked away from them? What is the tipping point that signals you to muster more faith or to know that it’s time to discard an ambition?

A complicating factor on many career paths are relationships. Can you have both work and love or must you sacrifice one for the other? Once choices are made, do you consider “what if”? What lessons do you take from the decisions you chose?

Life doesn’t consist of just one career decision. You may have several transition points along a full life. Your dreams grow and change as you do. What you longed for as a child can be vastly different at midlife. Sometimes you discard early dreams only to circle back to them at a later time.

Michael always loved science and entered medical school to become a surgeon. His career was long and outstanding. He had few regrets. But now in his 50’s, Michael is ready to leave medicine and take up something different. Healing, fame, money no longer call him. Michael wants to use his hands in a new, creative way. He wants to sculpt.

Fortunately, Michael is financially secure and has the freedom to explore new ways to use his time and talents. What of those who dream of a transition, but need to earn a living? Or perhaps specific opportunities lie far away from family and friends. How to choose? What will you regret most? The lost career or the lost relationship? Is it possible to have it all?

Life is a series of twists and turns. Sometimes you think lightly of a single decision: which school to attend, which major to study, which person to date, which city to live in. Yet those decisions can influence which doors open and close and impact your progress. Careful thought in decision making is important. You never have a crystal ball: all the needed information about yourself and the world. But you can consider wisely with what you know at the time.

“To be careless in making decisions is to naively believe that a single decision impacts nothing more than that single decision, for a single decision can spawn a thousand others that were entirely unnecessary or it can bring peace to a thousand places we never knew existed”

Craig D. Lounsbrough

Your work lives mean a great deal to you. They support you as you support the missions of your industries. Keeping a steady hand on the tiller as you navigate the smooth and choppy waters and acting with your values and priorities give you a sense of engagement and control. With eyes wide open you can make the best decisions for your future.

Believing you are “good enough” and capable of growth sustains you as you reach for your dreams. Maybe life doesn’t turn out exactly as you imagined, but if you are nimble and hopeful, what appears can be an intriguing opportunity.

Clarifying the confusion:

What currently works?
What doesn’t?
What change do you seek?
Where do you start?
What resources do you need?

Happy New Year and see you on the path!

seasons of your career: change you design

No matter where you are on your Career Life Line, ten years ago it looked different and it may change in the next ten years. Your parents and grandparents probably worked many years at one place. But just as factory and farm jobs have dwindled, 20-30 year long careers are often a thing of the past. Career reinvention has become the norm as we work into our 60’s, 70’s and 80’s.

To see how far you’ve come, draw a line across a piece of paper to create a Career Timeline. Start noting work in your teens and progress to today. There may be some non-employment sections where family care, education or sabbaticals were your focus. By analyzing your reactions to each period or season, you can gather information on their personal significance.

What motivates you at 50 is often different than at 25. Unless you live a single life, family influences your decisions: where to work, how intensely, what salary, amount of travel and responsibility. The risks you undertake depend on your responsibilities. If you have only yourself to care for, you may take more chances: go overseas, live simply, change jobs frequently, start a business.

But often in the middle of your life, you have commitments that color your decision making. Maybe it’s children, aging parents, a partner, mortgage or other debts. These are practical obstacles. Unlike obstacles, your motivators call you to follow your passions, grow in expertise, make a difference, become a leader or accumulate a fortune.

When Mark graduated college he felt an urge to see the world. His interest in becoming a financial analyst was intriguing, but the call to leave the U.S. was greater. Combining both was a possibility that Mark investigated. He was able to secure an opportunity in India with an international company. Because he had no ties in the form of partner, children, mortgage or aging parents,  Mark told himself this was his window of opportunity. He could follow the risky path. He took the job and tested out life overseas and India in particular.

When have you taken a fairly risky career jump? I took my first one at 19 by teaching English in Colombia. After a semester abroad, I had 8 months free from college and sought out more experiences. This proved invaluable to me personally and professionally. While I never was a full time educator after that, I have always incorporated teaching into my life work.

“Most things worth doing come with their fair share of risks”
Kirsten Beyer

As Mark aged, his priorities changed. After 5 years he transferred with his company back to the U.S. He had traveled greatly which was invigorating, but he missed his family and friends and wanted to experience life in the U.S. again. The good news was that he had gained expertise and advanced in his company. A low risk change. Over the years, Mark married, raised a family and bought a house. His need for stability grew.

Frequently at midlife the reasons you work are complicated. You may be responsible for others and have serious financial obligations. Your freedom to take large risks is compromised. Much weighs on your decisions. This restriction may feel like a burden that you’d like to throw off. Some people do this through divorce, job termination or drastic moves. Sometimes that works and sometimes not.

What are your options during this responsible period? And what lies after it? Although it may not feel like it now, life gets more simple as you age. If you are fortunate, you launch your children, are financially secure and your health is good. Any of these can go wrong, which complicates the picture and changes your focus temporarily.

But let’s hope that you handle the bumps that come along and eventually end up in a calmer period of time. This is a season when you can again focus clearly on your livelihood and life style. And take a risk.

For Mark he wanted more freedom in his 60’s so he could return to travel and foreign living, so he became an international consultant. For me I wanted to work for myself and also have the flexibility to follow my interests. During 4 years I planned an exit from my main career, including financial planning, career identification and re-training. By 59 I was ready to move on and start a new business. No one was dependent on me, so the risk was mine alone. I had a mortgage, but also a nest egg and significant experience.

The seasons of your careers grow and develop. It’s up to you. You create the scenario partly through your actions and partly by how you handle unexpected life events. The best reminder is that you are the captain of your own ship. If you want change, head in that direction.

“It always seems impossible until it’s done”
Nelson Mandela

Craft your seasons:

Identify your passions
Choose an opportunity for change
Design the needed preparation
Commit on a beginning date

Step outside the box and see you on the path!