“I don’t know if where I am is where I should be.”
This was the essence of the question my friend raised at a recent breakfast meeting we had. She’s been both a friend and a client for the past decade or more, and we have always talked comfortably about our industry in general; nuances related to a deal I was working on, or any number of specific questions related to the work I do for her firm. But the conversation at this meal was different than all of the countless ones we’ve had before. Different because this time – when we were done with the polite back and forth about each other’s families and work-life balance – she pivoted to the $64,000 question weighing on her mind. (And, in reality, the $64,000 question on just about everyone’s mind—everyone who is being honest with themselves, anyway.)
My friend happens to be a very successful career woman and so, in this case, her query had mostly to do with her professional life.
“Is the work I am doing now and the firm at which I do it still serving me best? And, will it continue to do so as I look into the future?”
To tell the truth, I’ve asked that very same question dozens of times, referring sometimes only to my career, and more often to the role I play and how I spend my time in my personal life. In fact, when I think back on the conversations I’ve had with my“personal board of directors” (what I call a group of my seven closest friends), it’s a question that someone invariably brings up.
Change, to me, feels exciting. I love the idea of growing and learning new things; being sparked by new challenges and adventures. But, even to someone like me who usually embraces it, I get paralyzed at first by overwhelm…at even the thought of doing something different in my life. For example, when I first noticed the boredom I was feeling at being a stay-at-home mom all those years ago, I became filled with a knowing deep in my soul that the status quo no longer served me and it was time for a change.
“What could my life look like under new terms and a new direction, with different people and commitments to fill my time?”
That question alone made me feel just short of paralyzed at first, but less so over time as I gained greater clarity around what I wanted my end game to look like. From a desire to work part time – so that I would never have to miss one of my sons’ soccer games, performances, or orthodontist appointments, yet still challenge my mind and build something that would make me more whole – Diamond Consultants was born.
The White Space in Between: The “Not Knowing”
So, why is it so hard to make a change if the result is almost always something better than what we have now? It’s the “not knowing”, I think. As a black and white thinker (and admitted major control freak), I need to have everything mapped out and know at all times exactly where I’m going and how I will get there. Lack of clarity and structure makes me crazy. But, after 53 years and lots of uncomfortable changes under my belt, I realize that I am not supposed to know everything and that the best things that have happened to me were because I let go and let the universe direct me as I moved through the white space between “here” and “there”.
My business, for example, has grown into something far beyond anything I could have ever imagined. To be sure, I put in a lot of sweat equity over the last 2 decades and I definitely knew what the non-negotiable tenets were in order for me to feel good about what I was doing everyday. But if I had the need to know exactly how I would get from “stay-at-home mom” to a leading recruiter in the financial services industry, I am quite sure I never could have imagined where I am now…nor could I even have mapped out how to get here. That’s because when I let go of the need to control everything, the universe actually had much better plans for me than I could ever have dreamt of for myself.
So, back to my friend…I think about how lucky she is to be gainfully employed by a firm that enables her to make a very nice living and feel good almost every day about the work she does. She knows what things she loves and hates about her job, and what sparks her. Yet, she’s looking at the bigger picture and realizing she wants more of the things she loves, and less of those that she hates. It’s that “spark” that she really wants more of—and acknowledging that is key. From there, she can start to connect the dots: think about what her job would look like if she could have it her way, and if it doesn’t exist, then maybe she needs to create it—at her current firm or elsewhere.
Whatever your goal, don’t be overwhelmed by lamenting on “How do I get there?” The answer lies in putting one foot in front of the other, one day at a time, and before you know it, the space between here and there – which initially seemed so vast – will virtually disappear. Resilience and flexibility will need to be your new best friends as it will take both to get comfortable with the “not knowing” of exactly how and when you will get there. Keep your focus on knowing that you want to be there and the rest will fall into place.
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