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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!


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!

heading west: finding your lifestyle

Ever traveled outside your familiar surroundings and were amazed by the differences? Usually I notice that when overseas, but last month I visited a unique area in New Mexico. Compared to Washington DC, I was immersed into a distinct flora, climate, energy and lifestyle.

I notice that I display a different temperament  depending on my settings. Some thrill me, while others are a turn off. Where we grow up is out of our control. But later many of us migrate for school, work opportunities or relationships. We may not prioritize our surroundings ahead of work and love. And yet I believe we discover a compelling fit in certain environments versus others.

I always thought my ideal environment included water, sun, warmth and palm trees. While in New Mexico, there were gorgeous, huge, blue skies with sun, clouds and warmth. Not big bodies of water. Instead there were mountains, sagebrush and various browns and greens. The air was dry and invigorating.

But what also struck me were the people. On vacation you have time to talk with people and in Taos especially, residents wanted to talk with us. We had the pleasure of learning people’s stories and journeys. Other than Native Americans, everyone was from somewhere else. And it appeared they deliberately chose this destination.

As we age many of us move. We move to be closer to family. We move to warmer, less expensive areas. We might still move for work. But perhaps we consider what the location has to offer more than earlier in our lives. We create criteria that is vital to us.

Just as we learn more about which careers fit us best, with experience we know what type of home we prefer. Congestion or open spaces, warm or cold, U.S. or foreign, high or low. What comes with these varied areas are unique people. People who behave differently due to their environment, priorities, values, way of life.

In New Mexico we met people who have chosen this community for the lifestyle, the people, the possibilities. They had moved from the East, South and Midwest to this very distinct country. Some were almost pioneers to a new land. Initially living without electricity and water, they started businesses and became artists. They felt inspired by the culture, nature and beauty.

If you had your choice, where would you prefer to live? What kind of community would you seek out? What’s missing where you are? What has impacted you when traveling? Where are you at your best? What feels like home?

“(Neighbor is) not he whom I find in my path, but rather he in whose path I place myself, he whom I approach and actively seek”

Gustavo Gutierrez

Margaret is working in New York City. She has the job of her dreams, although it is very stressful. She grew up in Colorado, but found more job opportunities in the East. While she lacks much free time, Margaret misses the outdoor sports that were important to her growing up. She wonders if being active in nature on the weekends might alleviate her stress. But instead she stays inside most of the time and brings work home.

When will lifestyle outweigh livelihood for Margaret? When will it for you? Some people don’t wait for retirement in order to live closer to their ideal environment. People, pace and nature call you to change your current way of life. The support and camaraderie of communities which inspire your creativity and hopefulness go a long way toward raising your wellbeing. Salary and title may become less important as you mature. Finding the fit in life involves much more than work.

Find your place:

List your favorite places on Earth
Detail what about them call you
Find the commonalities
Make a plan to include these factors now
Ask what is possible

Get on the road and let’s meet on the path!

el camino: finding your way

In June I experienced the pleasure of hiking the Camino de Santiago for two weeks. Pilgrims have followed various paths to Santiago de Compostela, Spain since the 9th Century.

A pilgrim is one who journeys to a place of special significance. This can be a physical location or a place within yourself. Many contemporary Camino pilgrims travel for religious, spiritual or adventure reasons. My Camino impetus was a mixture of motivations: celebrating my husband’s special birthday, experiencing new vistas and being active.

However what resulted were opportunities to think about my path, fulfill a dream and discover how other travelers approach life. My fellow pilgrims and guides were mid-lifers and beyond: we ranged from 40’s to 80’s.  We all possessed great life experiences, valuable relationships and accomplishments, but we were eager for more.

Being in nature provides a perfect spiritual backdrop for contemplation. And if that isn’t enough, entering each town’s sacred meeting place allowed for quiet and solitude. Creating a personalized “retreat” like this for growth and renewal is a gift everyone can use.

When and how do you take a break from the hustle of every day life? When do you think about where you are going, where you’ve been and what’s ahead? Who do you have these conversations with?

Often your talks with friends and family are around what you are doing vs who you are becoming. With strangers there is a freedom to be real. To cut through the details and get straight to what’s vital about your existence. Because you’re unlikely to see these people again, you can often have more honest exchanges. It reminds me of those conversations that occur with airplane seat mates…meeting someone and leaving changed.

Perhaps being away from home gives you permission to explore, be different, interrupt the status quo. This was a hike with a destination and a purpose. We lived completely in the present, but had room for reflection. A walking meditation works for some and for others a walk with thinking, sensing, or talking.

One special highlight of the Camino was receiving a pilgrim’s blessing on two separate occasions: one in a simple, rural church and one in the great Cathedral in Santiago. Here we were recognized, honored, supported. Walking the Camino was valuable and significant. We felt encouraged and included in a community that goes back hundreds of centuries.

“Traveler, there is no path
The path is made by walking

Traveler, the path is your tracks
And nothing more

Traveler, there is no path
The path is made by walking

By walking you make a path
And turning, you look back
At a way you will never tread again

Traveler, there is no road
Only wakes in the sea”

Antonio Machado

Closer to home, Mavis is uncomfortable. She thought she knew what she wanted to do with her life, but now is not sure. The things that at first interested her, no longer hold that attraction. What happened she wonders. How could that passion disappear? She feels lost, without a compass.

All of us have times in our lives when we are lost personally or professionally like Mavis. It could be after college, at midlife, at retirement, after a death or divorce. A bell rings signaling time to re-evaluate. It’s a tipping point. You have to change course and you don’t want to blow it. You want to get it right.

The truth is there is no “right”. Life isn’t a straight shot to the goal. It’s a series of meanders, where you head in the best imagined direction with the information you have. And then, when that no longer works, you pick up again on a new route.

One day in Madrid while in a curvy, medieval section of town with map in hand, I couldn’t find where I wanted to go. As usual the print was too small, the streets weren’t named and I was lost. But after the frustration, I instead focused on the beauty of the architecture, the joy of the people and the cloud formations above. Eventually the destination was found, but looking back I remember the journey as the best part.

Making your way:

Create your retreat experience
Leave it spontaneous or have intentions
Write down your findings
Start a thread of themes
Dare to glimpse ahead, stretch
Take one step

Buen Camino. Y a ti también.

reasons you work: career evolution

Retirement here I come! Are you longing for the day when you don’t have to work anymore? When you can retire? This concept of retirement is changing dramatically. Previously, retirement usually occurred around 65 and most entered a life of rest and relaxation. That’s no longer the template.

Many people are working for pay way past 65. Either because they need funds to survive or because they have uncovered a reason to keep working. And most are doing some form of unpaid work. Whether it’s caregiving parents, partners or grandchildren, serving their communities or volunteering with non-profits.

Why do you work? Looking over your work cycle, note how the reasons you work change over time. You probably worked during high school and college. These were spending money jobs, money for books, tuition money or internships that introduced you to various fields. Some jobs were paid and others you did for experience or to give back. Maybe through volunteering you earned credits or good references or a place in heaven.

Remember your first real job after graduation? Were you working because you were driven or because it was expected? Were you hoping to live independently and become successful in a chosen field? Or were you testing the waters, making relationships, learning about yourself?

As you grow, so do your reasons for working. There is often the need not only to support yourself, but also a growing family. There is the societal pressure to accumulate material possessions and experiences, like cars, homes, vacations. But there is also the drive to move up the ladder. Take on more responsibility and leadership, and produce results while becoming an expert in your profession.

Samantha is in her 50’s and was just appointed full professor at the state university. She worked very hard to get there, teaching, doing research, chairing committees, earning grants. Samantha is often tired and overwhelmed with her work load. She always thought being a professor would be something she could do forever, slowing down gradually as she aged. And yet as she rises through the ranks, it seems people expect more from her. And the system she entered no longer looks the same. She is teaching less and grant writing more.

While Samantha questions what is ahead for her, she hardly dares to ask why she continues in her position. What does it provide her? Is she fulfilled?

Samantha’s friend Harry is retired and his life seems so simple to Samantha. He appears to have no pressures and his time is his own. Harry retired because he could afford it and was no longer finding work satisfaction. Harry thought he accomplished everything he desired, but now often finds himself adrift.

Harry is 70 and society accepts that he is retired. No one asks him why he isn’t working. In fact if he found a new career or started his own business, people might wonder why. Now if Samantha retired at 55, she might have to explain herself to family, friends, society.

As long as we believe there is a prescribed place you need to be based on your age, we will have people who defy those norms. As people age, most seek work that has meaning and purpose. Meaningful to you and meaningful to others.

How will you decide when to work and when to retire? How will you answer that question: What do you do? Who are you? How will you design what is best for you?

George is 85 and still works for pay part time. His sister is 88 and working also. This wasn’t the norm with their parents, but it is their way. If you ask them why they still work, they will tell you they enjoy it. It stimulates them. They are making a difference and choose to be involved. Who are we to say what’s best or right for someone else? How can we acknowledge all the various life designs that people create?

“If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.”

Henry David Thoreau

You can benefit from these diverse role models as you chart your course. There is no script to follow. You have the freedom to make life fit your desires. A second, third, fourth act await you, if you wish. Your legacy will comprise all that you create and the lives you touch.

Why work:

List your current reasons for working
Make a work history time line
Identify your current legacies
Imagine how your future could be different
Take one step toward your vision

Happy drumming and hope to meet on the path!

your guiding star: creating principles to live by

Sunset/sunrise above the Earth on a starless sky.

Sometimes you feel lost, directionless, confused. It can happen in your work life, your personal life, or your family life. It’s as if all you believed in and counted on has changed. Bethany felt that jolt when her husband wanted a divorce. Owen fell into a tailspin when he was laid off.

Think of times when you lost your way. Perhaps it was due to external circumstances or instead a deep change within. What follows is a sense of unease and questioning. You wonder: what happens next? Where will I go? What do I want? This state of instability can occur quickly or creep up on you.

Expecting life to be smooth and predictable is futile. As living organisms, change is constant. Nothing in your life, outside or inside, will stay the same. If it did, you probably would stagnate and become dissatisfied.

“The important thing to know is that life will always deal us a few bad cards, but we have to play those cards the best we can. And we can play to win. This was one lesson I picked up when I was a teenager. It has been my guiding principle ever since. When I wanted something, the best person to depend on was myself”

John Gokongwei

Some things in life are changed for you and some you change yourself. By making thoughtful decisions and choices, you increase your chances of creating a life that is satisfying. But what aids you in making the appropriate decisions? You can ask for the opinions of others, gather information, and hire experts. But how do you know you’re heading in the right direction?

Eons ago our ancestors relied on the North Star to guide them and to guard against becoming lost. Currently we have technology to blaze our paths, but our confusion comes more from the lack of an internal compass. Many fail to ask the one who is most “expert” in what will work…oneself.

Instead of a North Star to point you in the next direction, you can establish guiding principles to shape your actions. Guiding principles are rules that influence the suitability of your actions. They are highly personal. Based on your values, self-awareness, and lessons learned, your guiding principles become the North Star you can consult. When faced with a dilemma or change, you have criteria to determine your precise direction/orientation. Without personal guiding principles you can become adrift in the life you design.

Just as companies and corporations outline their principles, individuals require them to stay on a steady path. Individuals uncover their guiding principles through self examination. Principles are ever evolving. As we grow and experience, they show up as guideposts for work, family, and personal life and demand effort to create.

Melanie is at a crossroad in her career. She studied biology and pursued a degree in research so she could work in a laboratory. After ten years on the job, she is dissatisfied. Rules and regulations interfere with desired discoveries. Melanie lacks the reward of seeing the results of her efforts. Instead, Melanie feels depleted of energy and frustrated.

What Melanie knows about herself is that she requires certain elements in order to be engaged. These include: connecting with people, teaching others, and making a contribution. Using these uncovered principles, Melanie decides that becoming a high school biology teacher would more meet her needs.

Knowing what guides her purpose and passions, allows Melanie to find a new direction that is a better fit. If she fails to heed these guidelines, Melanie will fall into greater disinterest and despair.

As I meet with others, I often hear their guiding principles: learn and grow, be in nature, connect with others, be happy, share your voice, be creative and active.

While you create opportunities to express your guiding principles in your career, you can also practice them in your personal life. The more you utilize your values and guiding principles, the more authentic and satisfying your life will become.

Steps to take now:

Review your lessons learned
Outline your guiding principles
Employ them whenever you can
Review periodically
Savor the results

Full speed ahead and see you on the path!

wait don’t tell me, figuring it out yourself

Some of you may listen to the NPR Quiz Show, “Wait, wait don’t tell me”, or have been in that frustrating state of trying to remember or do something and imploring someone, “Wait, don’t tell me”… Along with the desire to come up with the answer independently, is the satisfaction of figuring it out on your own.

This past week I encountered that situation. Every year I participate in a psychotherapy conference in Washington DC. In addition to clinical courses, creative arts workshops are offered to allow us to grow by getting out of our heads and using our bodies. I chose the Clay class.

I’ve always admired and collected ceramics and wondered how it would be to create a clay piece. Our instructor gave us tools, clay, brief demos, colleagues for support, and permission to play. It was heaven manipulating the clay and seeing what emerged. We worked on small tables of 5, all creating unique projects.

After watching people throw pots on a wheel, I was intrigued to try it myself. Maybe this could become a hobby for me and I would become good at it. In addition to supporting artists, I could become one and share my gifts with others… To be honest, I wasn’t dreaming that far afield. I was just curious to try something new.

Another student centered a blob of clay on my wheel and then it was me alone with the clay. Being mindful of the instructor’s demonstration, I started the wheel and touched the cold clay.

I didn’t really know what I was doing, but took my cue from the clay. When it felt dry and my hands couldn’t shape it, I would add water. When it seemed off center, I gently moved it back into equilibrium. It felt like the moving wheel and clay were in charge and I was a minor onlooker. This was fun.

No one was there telling me how to do it. At times I thought, “I need to ask for help, I need to find the correct way to do this”. But just as quickly as that urge arose, I responded with “Wait, see if you can figure it out on your own”. I liked that freedom and risk taking.

I doubted something huge could go wrong. At one point I drew out a thin lip of the pot. It looked cool and then, in a flash it flew off the wheel. Oh well, that was ok. I just started over. No biggie.

“We cannot teach people anything, we can only help them discover it within themselves”


What were my take aways from that day with clay? I enjoyed the hand building and wheel working experiences. I felt relaxed expressing myself with my hands. And felt positive that clay is something I’d like to try again. I challenged those early childhood messages, “You don’t have talent”, by simply investigating an interest.

Why not pursue something new and different that exposes you to unique experiences? Why not stretch yourself?

What does playing with clay have to do with Career Transitions? Getting curious about an alternate career field or job happens when people are ready for a change. That urge to shake things up and immerse yourself in another environment represents a voice calling you. You’ve heard it.

Sometimes you ignore the call because you can’t attend to it right away. Sometimes it gets so loud or falls in your lap that you just have to take it on. Sometimes you give yourself permission to take a peek.

Just like in clay class, you need some orientation, some tools, some encouragement and even some fellow seekers to support you. You may charge ahead with purpose or feel lost and want some direction.

Based on my experience, I encourage you to make times when you follow your heart, investigate interests, avoid asking for the answer first and envelop yourself in the multiple possibilities.

Steps to get started:

Ask what’s calling you
Find a way to experience it
Engage your head and body
What are the lessons?
Decide what’s next

Happy Trails and see you on the path!

patience leads to uncovering: finding work that fits

hourglass in sand

Ever want something to happen yesterday? Can’t wait until you leave a painful, current state to something better? This often occurs regarding health challenges and work issues.  But just like we cannot push our bodies into health, we cannot drop into the perfect work.

Some people I meet want to change jobs, but there is not much urgency, just a dull ache. Others need it to happen now. Maybe they were laid off or their financial welfare is in jeopardy. They want a solution fast and yet how can that occur?

It’s an uncomfortable place to be in when your life feels out of control. There’s a quickening of your heartbeat, a shortness of breath, a looming dread. You aren’t at your best, but it’s often a time when you have to make important decisions.

Yvonne was in a job she disliked and wanted to change. But it was easier to go along with the familiar than stop and look for something better. As often happens, life took action without Yvonne. Her company was sold and half the employees were laid off, including Yvonne. While she received some severance, Yvonne was in a panic. She hadn’t looked for a job in 15 years and didn’t know where to start. She knew what she didn’t want, but wasn’t sure what was possible for her. The work world seemed unfamiliar and the application process she remembered had disappeared.

People may say, enjoy your “time off”, take a trip, don’t jump back into the 9-5 just yet. But most of us want the assurance that everything will be ok. That we will land with a better situation or at least an equivalent one financially. We still need to put kids through college, or contribute to our retirement funds, or pay off the mortgage. How can we rest now?

Yvonne was lost at first. She looked in the newspaper want ads; she looked online; she talked to some people. She really didn’t have a clear vision of what she was seeking. Just a good job that paid a satisfactory salary.

But, what if this was an opportunity? What if this was a gift of space for Yvonne to consider who she wanted to become next? Often we are so busy taking care of business, we lack time to dream. When I retired from my first career, my co-workers remarked I was so lucky. I asked why they didn’t leave and they said they didn’t know what to do next. Well, the hard truth is you have to figure it out. 

Few people know exactly who they want to become when they begin college. They reach a solution through exploration, investigation, trial and error. Same thing happens when we are older and face a transition. It’s up to us to design our next step. No one can do it for you.

“The best teachers have showed me that things have to be done bit by bit. Nothing that means anything happens quickly–we only think it does. The motion of drawing back a bow and sending an arrow straight into a target takes only a split second, but it is a skill many years in the making. So it is with a life, anyone’s life…”

Joseph Bruchac

So Yvonne is at a crossroad. She can’t go back and to go forward requires some introspection. People change over time. The person Yvonne was 15 years ago is different than who she is today. Her interests, values, priorities, even strengths are slightly or greatly changed. Life has influenced Yvonne with her realization or not. She may have to take some time to get in touch with the current woman she is and then visualize the woman she hopes to become.

Many people I meet say they want to make a contribution by working at something they believe in. Money is necessary to support our lifestyles, but it may not be the driver it was when you were younger. Your priorities change with maturity, differing responsibilities, and with experience. You may not be sure what will bring satisfaction, but you can know what you want to leave behind. Life experiences bring life lessons to use in a new design.

So what can you do when you are at a crossroad?

Take a breath, look at what’s important to you
Explore alternative ways to work
Find role models and shadow them
Dip your toe in, see how it feels
Look ahead, not back

Happy traveling and see you on the path!

new year, new beginnings

Sunrise over the meadow

The beauty of a New Year is the feeling of a fresh start. The old is behind us and we can choose to let go of regrets. In fact we are inspired to review and renew. But how to begin and what to focus on?

One way to begin is to focus on what went well, the wins of the prior year. What stands out as something you are proud of, thrilled that happened, couldn’t live without? Perhaps you finished a long term project which brought you new opportunities or joy. Maybe you were recognized for your innovation, leadership or creativity. Perhaps you finally mastered a new tech tool. Whatever it is, write down the wins of the year past, small or large.

What do the wins tell you? They probably reflect your values. We tend to honor those things we value. For example, if recognition is important to you, an award or bonus will count as a win. If family is a value, a reunion with your relatives will be one of your wins.

Our wins also reflect our personal mission: why we are here. If feeding hungry people is your mission, then progress in that area constitutes a win for you.

Once you have your wins and their significance, you can design a thread that continues into the New Year. What do you want to continue, have more of? What do you want to substitute? June was a writer who completed her book and tour in 2013. While that was a professional accomplishment and very satisfying, this year she wants to switch gears and express herself in a different way.

It’s common for our interests and passions to evolve. We may choose to keep 80% of our routine, but bring in 20% of something new. The new could be in the area of work, relationships, play, health, giving back, adventure, creativity, spirituality, or learning. What do you want to try on? It’s like shopping and trying on new shoes. What’s going to fit for you? What have you been missing as you scan your current level of satisfaction with life?

For Roger it was missing creative expression. His career involved analytic thinking and Roger longed for a break from his left brain focus. He was a lover of sculpture and wondered what it would be like to get his hands on some wood. So for the New Year, he enrolled in a woodworking class. Now Roger is finding new energy and passion in his craft. He’s meeting new people, leaving work on time, and feeling great satisfaction seeing immediate and tangible results.

What’s calling you? Sometimes we are overweighted in certain areas of our life: too much work, not enough activity. Too much family, not enough friends. Too much head, not enough heart.

Marc Freedman author of “The Dangerous Myth of Reinvention” points out that a complete life reinvention isn’t needed. Rather we can continue to build on who we already are. By heeding the lessons learned from our successes and failures, we increase our self respect and compassion.

So what are the lessons learned from last year? What stands out as the best investment in yourself? Was it education, a relationship, a challenge, a new adventure, a contact, or a new skill? When an investment pays you back in self understanding, satisfaction, clarity, connection, or wisdom, it is a valuable one.

So choose wisely as to where you want to use the precious commodity of time in the New Year. One year from now, what will bring you a smile as you look back?

     “The chief beauty about time is that you cannot waste it in advance. The next year, the next day, the next hour are lying ready for you, as perfect, as unspoiled, as if you had never wasted or misapplied a single moment in all your life. You can turn over a new leaf every hour if you choose.”     Arnold Bennett

Here are some ways to get started:

Identify your wins
What values are expressed?
Design a ritual to represent what you let go of and take on
Take the first step within two weeks

Happy beginnings and see you on the path!