Earlier this week I experienced one of those events that momentarily makes your heart stop. My mouth felt dry, my palms began to sweat and I started frantically looking around for a solution to my predicament. I had boarded the wrong train!
Thankfully, in my case, the consequences of getting on the wrong train were not serious but the experience did get me thinking: Isn't it interesting that we can experience such a dramatic physiological expression of fear, panic and dread at something we know to be insignificant in the grand scheme of things? Isn't it funny how our bodies respond when we know something is wrong? Doesn't it make it so much easier to resolve the situation when you're in a hurry to make it right? And wouldn't it be amazing if we could have the same clarity of vision when it came to our working lives?
Please excuse the pun but we all really do want to be on the right track. And countless articles and reports based on professional satisfaction surveys seem to suggest that perhaps, we're not. What's going on? Is it that perhaps we're all living with a "tomorrow" mindset, and so feel no sense of urgency in making a change? We're thinking about the destination and enduring the present because it will "be worth the wait". If that's the case, I think that's nonsense. Like Warren Buffet said, that's like "saving up sex for your old age"! Who would do that?! We don't have endless amounts of time and yet, we behave as though we do.
I do understand that changing trains is much, much easier than making life changes though. It is low risk. And sure, I understand that though we may be experiencing stress (the physiological response to the current situation) it's not SO bad. We are strong and resilient and can handle it. Can't we? But is it perhaps a case that we're toughening ourselves up on the wrong side? We're growing a thick skin doing something we may not want to do because maybe we're afraid to expose our soft, vulnerable dream? We're all afraid of revealing our achilles heel and making it easy for our foes to crush us. But in the process, are we therefore denying ourselves the chance to do something we'd love?
None of us know where we'll end up in the end. Thankfully, life is too chaotic, messy and beautifully unpredictable. So much is out of our control that often times we just find ourselves going with the flow. But what we aim to do with "today" can be in our control. We do still have a choice. And we don't have to jump off the train and be all dramatic about it (though we totally can if we want to)! I think we just need to be honest with ourselves and give ourselves the time and opportunities to explore those vulnerable dreams.
Some people call their dream their "purpose" and I can relate to that. I'm all for purpose! But I want to be multi-purpose. AND I want to be able to evolve. Some people say that your purpose is something that you remember – the activities you did as a child that made time fly. The things that really matter to you or that satisfy you when no-one is there to judge you. It's confusing to try find your way. If you open yourself up to choice it's very easy to feel overwhelmed, and then you get analysis paralysis and end up doing nothing! There are bills to pay after all! But just imaging feeling lucky and radiant and happy every day at work. Wouldn't that just be SO good?! And if you did love your work, wouldn't you feel great to really get into the problems and try to solve them? To dig a little deeper and try a little harder... Because it would be fun!
The rise of the "life coach" and "happiness coach", mindfulness and positive thinking are all indicators of a movement towards reclaiming our lives for ourselves. I feel lucky to live in a time where so many people are making changes, designing their lives and trying to help others do the same. From amazing individuals like Caroline K Winegeart and Violeta Nedkova to organisations like Escape the City, and OpenIDEO, inspiration and support to take a step sideways has never been so abundant! It will still be scary, and it will still be difficult, but it could also blow your mind. You could live your whole life without risking anything and never hate it, but you could also take a small risk and find that you LOVE it! Taking a decision for yourself can be terrifying but I for one, think it's worth it...