Do what you love and never work a day in your life, they say. Follow your passion and the success will follow, you’ve heard. And so many more similar comments. Sounds easy, right? Just sit down one day and think, self, what am I passionate about? Well, maybe for some it works like that, but for me, not so much.
When I was young, I had so many dreams and goals. I had well laid plans to achieve them and worked really hard to accomplish all I had set out to do. Undergrad, finish my Master’s degree, start a family, land a great job, make over $100,000 by the time I turned 30, have a home I’m proud of, have deep relationships with family and friends. Sometimes it was hard. I remember feeling off course and desperate in my 20’s. Buckling down and staying focused was sometimes the hardest thing I could imagine. Often times life took unexpected turns and threw me off course. Financial hard times, death of loved ones, divorce, etc. But, I made it! Sometime in my 30’s I woke up and realized, damn, I did it!!! I’ve accomplished all of those things that I set out to do some 15 years ago! I had a moment of extreme pride and serenity. I patted myself on the back with a smile and took a second to reflect back on the years, struggles, and successes.
But then I had a moment of panic…NOW WHAT?
I realized shortly after that rather than being light hearted, proud, and joyful, absolutely loving the life I had created and the accomplishments I had made, I felt underwhelmed. I wasn’t finding joy in the little day to day things. I lacked motivation to push forward, probably because I no longer knew what to push forward to. I was grumpy, it was impacting the way I was parenting my kids, impacting how I was with my significant other. I often found myself wanting to stay in, rather than accept social engagements. It was like someone let the air out of my tires.
That’s right, I said “someone” let the air out of my tires. Guess who did that… ME.
It took me a while to make the connection between my feelings of being stuck and not knowing what to do next with the symptoms that were showing up in my life. When I finally did, I literally had no idea what to do. I tried reading some books to get me fired up, they helped a bit, but I still didn’t exactly know how to take action. I needed to do something more.
My next step was a life coach. I connected with Murphy Jo Palmer and that was the beginning of a whole new chapter for me! I’ll save the details of my endeavor with her for a future post, but just know that working with her was amazing. Worth every penny and opened my eyes to many things about myself!
I set out to find the joy in the little things, love the life I live, and find my passion. A few things I learned off the bat really changed my perspective and set the stage for the journey I’m on today.
- Squash down that mean voice inside of you that tells you you’re not doing enough, you’re not doing it right, you’re going to fail, you have failed, you’re too old, you’re not old enough, you’re not creative, you can’t this, you can’t that. The truth is you are doing enough, you are doing it right, you may fail and that’s ok, you’ve got this…whatever it is… you’ve got this!
- Practice self-care and self-love. People say it all the time, I don’t even know if everyone who says it knows what it means or truly does it. Some breakthroughs for me were figuring out what types of activities left me feeling energized and ready to take on the world. On the flip side, what types of things left me feeling completely exhausted and depleted, like I wanted to crawl into my bed and shut out the world. It matters, take the time to recognize those things for yourself, and be honest. I also did this exercise where I would literally look myself in the eye, in the mirror, and tell myself that “I LOVE YOU.” That’s right, and it feels as awkward and as embarrassing as it sounds. But, it makes a huge difference. Try it!
- Let the social norms of what is good or how to live go. It’s easier said than done, but it’s a must if you want to find your passion and next step. For instance, my kids did not care if I found some amazing Pinterest worthy projects to bring to their classroom parities. They cared that I was there. They would rather see me be-bopping around the house and dancing to tunes while I fix Kraft Mac and Cheese than see me hunkered down in the kitchen making some elaborate meal. We all have to do things that we don’t love, but we also do way too many of those things in pursuit of some global acceptance. Let it go. Do it your way and let the world eat it’s heart out over your joy!
Next up, finding what I’m passionate about and setting new goals. This is filled with trial and error. I’m still living this phase now! Each week I would set a list of a few new things to try for the week. They weren’t big, sometimes they weren’t even directional, meaning they were just random things that I was going to try and see how I felt following. For instance, one week having ice cream sundaes for dinner made the list. I mean where am I going to go with that, right? Well, kind of true, it’s not like I was going to endeavor to create a movement about having dessert for dinner as a passion! However, my family loved that I was acting silly, changing things up and being unpredictable, the hesitant feelings of my kids while building a sugar filled dinner, the laughs, the creations, the mess, the cleanup. It was all part of it, I learned that it was so fun to act like a child and that we as a family needed to do more of it. The boys now pick dinner once a week, sometimes they make it themselves, and man do we have some interesting things. I did learn that I am passionate about being in the kitchen with my kids and I absolutely get off on seeing them thrive and experiment!
On a more serious note, one of the things that had always itched at the back of my mind was teaching. Here I was with a full-job that I didn’t want to leave, couldn’t leave for that matter, and continuing to have thoughts about teaching. One week I went out and searched adjunct professor postings at our local universities. I sent out a few resumes and waited. Literally 15 minutes after I applied to one posting the department chair called me. I was just what she had been looking for, someone seeking to teach just a class or two, and had experience in my area of expertise. I signed on! Folks, I was suddenly terrified. Who am I to teach? I sucked it up and taught the semester. It was one of the most fulfilling and eye opening experiences of my life. I learned that I LOVED helping people, leading them, and fostering their journey! Teaching a class is a big commitment and in the end it was a bit to taxing for me personally with all of the other irons I have in the fire, but it was an amazing experience and breakthrough for me!
At this point I had learned that I really feed off of helping people, although teaching may be something I come back to later in life, it was not the right fit for my life now. So now what? Another itch that had always tickled the back of my mind was writing. I love to read and I think writing a book would be just about the coolest thing ever, but what the heck would I write about. How do you write a book? How do you get published? All those questions that I had to focus on squashing down (as in the point above). Murphy encouraged me to dabble, start a journal, set a goal for how often you’ll write and see how it goes. I followed this advice, I found I did have a voice, a perspective, and possibly some experiences that others would benefit from.
My blog was born! I don’t have a huge following, but I have some readers. I don’t have words that appeal to everyone, but I know that I’ve helped at least a few people sort out some things they had going on. I’m not restricted by a schedule, as with teaching, I can write when I want to and feel inspired. I may not be an award winning author, but my words are on the page and people are seeing them! This may not end up being my full passion, or maybe I have others that are yet to be discovered, but I’ve made progress!
I no longer feel stalled out and stuck. I’m enjoying the ride! Seeking your what’s next shouldn’t be a chore. It’s not always something that you can sit down and map out. Sometimes you need to take it as it comes and build on the things that make you happy along the way. I have some goals around writing and my blog, but they are focused around joy and balance in my life. I’ve branched out with some ideas in other related areas and friends are supportive and diving in with me. It’s fun!
Bottom line, don’t be discouraged if you feel like you’re spinning your tires. It doesn’t matter where you start in your pursuit of getting unstuck, it only matters that you pick a place to start and keep on going. You will fail, you will stumble, it’s okay…everyone does. In time, you will also rise, you will find your groove, and you will reap the rewards of the journey!