I attended a local professional association meeting earlier this week and arrived early to do a little networking. I used to dread these events, but now I enjoy meeting people at various stages of their career. I am now the seasoned veteran who sees myself in the younger professionals I meet.
The interaction process is quite systematic. Break into a set of people, smile and introduce yourself. Everyone shakes hands, states their name, shares what they do and where they work. Business cards and pleasantries are exchanged, then move on to the next group of people.
I was meeting my third set of new acquaintances when a young man caught my attention. His response to the usual “get to know you” questions was both familiar and sad. He stated his name and where he worked… then he said, “but, I’m looking for something else.”
I saw myself in this young man.
His response is quite common. I hear it all the time. Don’t chalk it up to the restless nature of a millennial; I hear this same discontent from colleagues of older generations. I meet with established, seemingly successful, professionals each and every week who say the same thing. They hate what they are doing.
Why won’t you make a change?
Not too long ago, I was in the same position. I ignored my inner calling and proceeded to make the same mistake over and over and over again. I would take a job that was no different than the one before it. The new position might provide a little more money or a more impressive title, but after the honeymoon period I would realize nothing had really changed. It took me twenty years of restlessness and discontentment to finally do something about it.
We choose the wrong path for a number of reasons: family expectations, perceived security, bad advice from well-meaning people, dumb luck, or apathy. More often than not, we’re just afraid to pursue our dreams.
Unfortunately, the longer we’re on the wrong path, the more difficult it becomes to change directions. We feel the increasing weight of our adult responsibilities and obligations. Therefore, we stay in the wrong job, for the wrong company, waiting for divine intervention… but it never comes.
I get it. I was there.
Then one day, if you’re lucky, something terrible happens. Maybe you experience a personal health scare (like me), or a family disaster, or you live the reoccurring nightmare where the employer you hate so much finally kicks your ass out the door.
That terrible event is a blessing in disguise because it is an awakening. You emerge out of the trance that you’ve been in for years. You become fully aware of the lies you’ve been telling yourself about what truly makes you happy. You’ve justified your misery by equating it to some sort of sacrifice for your family or the future (if that ever comes), or some false idea or ideal.
And you are finally ready, really ready, to make a change.
That’s your Shakubuku--a swift, spiritual kick to the head. Congratulations. You are now awake.
So… what do you do now?
That’s the question I hear most often from people right before their personal, life-altering transformation: “What do I do now?” For most, their inclination is to ask others, “What do you think I should do?” Or, “What do you think I’m good at?” Unfortunately, others don’t have the answer you seek.
When I’m asked these questions, the advice I give is this: Trust your inner calling.
You already have the answer. It’s deep, deep down inside your heart. You know your path, your purpose, your destination. You’ve always known it, but you ignored that little voice inside you that has the answer. Like me, and most of the people around you, you have let all of the outside noise drown out the only voice that counts—yours.
The next piece of advice that I give, when asked, is to find a way to escape from babel in your life for at least one full day. No friends, no family, no colleagues, no boss, no news, no social media or electronic communication of any kind. You must turn down the noise in your life in order to hear your inner voice.
That little voice inside you is your true self. Listen to it. It has the answer. You have the answer. Stop fighting it. Trust it. Believe in yourself.
The transformation is magical when you trust your inner calling.
I’m not advising you to burn the ships or bridges to your past, but why would anyone break into prison? The one path you know does not work is the one you were on. Why go back? I say, once you are free, run to your calling as fast as you can.
Finally, the last pushback I get right before a transformation is “What if I can’t make as much money on my new path as I did on my old path?” I get it. I’ve been there. This question is about more than money, it’s about ego and fear. The real question is, “What will others think of me?” “What if I don’t’ measure up, anymore?” “What if I fail?”
I say, who cares?
Would you rather be true to yourself or live someone else’s version of your life? As far as I know, this is the only life you get. So, trust your inner calling.
As Dr. Wayne Dyer wrote, “You don’t need the approval of others or another possession in order to be happy.”
It's time to get started.