What Are You Waiting For?
This was a big week for me. I left a senior leadership role in a large organization to pursue my executive coaching, speaking, and consulting practice full-time. My side-hustle entrepreneurial days are over – bring on the full-hustle!
This was not an overnight decision. I have been pursuing my business on evenings, weekends, and precious vacation days for a decade but always felt fearful about pursuing it as my all-in career. Could I match, or increase the salary I made working in an organization? What about health insurance, and retirement benefits?
Name The Fear
As a speaker and executive coach, I have frequently asked my clients and audience members the pivotal question: What would you do if you were not afraid? Some extraverted folks would shout out their dream scenario for all to hear, and the reflective types would jot down their desires privately. I heard consistently that these individuals rarely gave themselves permission to truly consider why what they wanted to do evoked fear.
Naming the fear is the first step. Dig deep to discover if you are living your life on purpose or with purpose. Are you designing your next step, or letting it happen by default?
When I identified my actual fear – the fear of failing at my business and not being solvent financially, I was able to deconstruct the facets of the fear and address the obstacles with solutions.
Many of us get stuck in the fear of what our family, friends, and colleagues will think, and it immobilizes us from moving forward. I watched my parents, older clients, and friends let go of what people think and celebrate their seasoned life journey with joyful abandon and clarity that comes with a certain age. While the sage age of wisdom is wonderful, you need not wait until you earn that age to surrender how you feel about what other people might be thinking about you. Letting go of what doesn’t serve you takes practice and patience, so approach this new behavior with self-compassion.
- What do I need to let go that is not serving me well?
- Why am I refusing to let go of what needs to go?
- Why am I avoiding moving forward?
Bill Burnett and Dave Evans talk about gravity problems in their book, Designing Your Work Life as a problem that is not actionable or solvable, and therefore, not the problem you should be trying to solve. For example, a 60-year-old former pro basketball player is not going to make an NBA comeback as a star player because the competition is fierce and focuses on young, nimble athletic talent to win and keep the business model profitable. Best to focus on another goal.
There will be some things you can’t change and problems you can’t solve – acknowledge those and move on. My fears were steeped in money, healthcare, and retirement savings, which created a scarcity mindset and crystalized my fear. These were not gravity problems at all – these problems with solutions for me to discover.
After much research, and consulting with fellow entrepreneurs, and my financial advisor, I learned about private pay healthcare, how to invest in my own retirement, and began to take my power back to pursue my goal.
Suffering is Optional
I see so many people who are admittedly miserable in their career. Stuck in a dead-end role, or dealing with a bad boss, or woefully underutilized in a company. Facing your fear requires you to move between who you were, who you are, and who you want to be to make positive change.
We often get stuck in the paradox of, “It will get better when…”. Maybe you are waiting for your young children to go to school, or your adult children to graduate from college and move out on their own. Maybe you are waiting to be recognized for your contributions by your less than stellar boss, or hoping that if you just wait it out, things will get better at your toxic workplace.
As I said in my TEDXWomen talk – “The suckiness is real, but the suffering is optional!”
I’m a big fan of failure and believe in the Growth Mindset of continuous learning. Admittedly, I was stuck in the fear zone, which led to analysis paralysis and kept me from activating my business full-time until now. I am confident that I will fail forward with my business and I am ready to use this experience as a tool to learn new things.
We often talk ourselves out of pursuing what feels scary and succumb to deeply ingrained messages we have heard since we were young. Freud called this your superego. Well-meaning families perpetuated the messages they were fed as children and the generational doubt is lasting. Perhaps you were told never to talk about money, and this has impacted how you negotiate (or don’t) when offered a salary for a new job? Perhaps you were told not to speak until you were spoken to as a child, and this has hampered how you are seen and heard (or not) in the career world? Perhaps you were taught to be humble, and as an adult you have a hard time acknowledging the accomplishments you have achieved and recognizing others for their great work?
Don’t blame your parents or relatives – they had their issues to deal with a generation earlier. Consider what you must unlearn and undo to create a fresh new page on which you can design your next step with new eyes and unbiased intentions.
While I activated my career dream in a big way this week, I didn’t get here overnight. I have been developing my business slowly over the years, building clientele, developing a brand, and gaining traction with a national community that values my work.
Start small and commit to something you will do on a regular basis to advance towards your goal and mitigate your fear. Focus on what you can do and find an accountability partner(s) who will help keep you on track with support.
What I know for sure is that time moves fast, and life is too short for regrets. Stop waiting and take a chance on what will make you happy. Start writing the book, look for a new job, end the unhealthy relationship – whatever you would do if you were not afraid. Your time has come.