Finding Pillars of Certainty Amidst the Walls of the Unknown

One of my big fears around quitting my job (I gave notice this exact time last year) was the fear of boredom or burn-out. What if I tire of the very things that bring in money . . . then what? The paychecks won't keep rolling in if I suddenly just stop. doing. the. work. At the time, I remember reconciling that fear by saying, "So what? I probably WILL outgrow my business. In fact, surely that will happen, as it is a natural part of evolution. So I will cross that bridge when I get to it."

In a way, that bridge is here.

But it is showing up a little differently. It is not boredom, it is uncertainty (see Jonathan Fields' must-read book on this topic).

It's a big fat question mark around the topic of What's Next ←inter-capitalized followed by "dunh dunh dunnnnh" since this is one of the questions I get most often -- and maybe you too (especially if you're a recent grad or in any sort of career transition). 

The Man and I were talking this weekend about career change and relationships. Oftentimes we pin our hopes and dreams on one specific person or one dream company, and we Declare ClarityI am CLEAR! I know what I want! I want THIS job or THIS person . . . and we narrow our focus into a tiny dot on the map of our lives, oftentimes even becoming obsessed with it.

But as the popular saying goes, "The Universe doesn't give you want you want, it gives you what you need."

How many times have we lusted after The Hot Guy (or Girl) or The Hot Company, only to realize that what we actually need is completely different?

Perhaps what we really need is more depth, more opportunity, more flexibility, more meaning. Almost always, the new surprise is that which will best facilitate our own personal growth. Besides, that new job or person might be perfectly sexy in their own right! See Tara Gentile's related post on finding your passion today, The Danger of Searching for your One True Love

Expand your view

As my dad once wisely pointed out to me, by pinning our expectations -- our "clarity" -- on one fixed star in the sky, we miss the universe of opportunity that surrounds it. We miss the beauty of discovering what it is that we actually need.

For some reason (for which I am very grateful!), the "keeper" emails, tweetsbook reviews, and even coaching inquiries have really been rolling in since I returned from my trip.

I'm humbled and incredibly grateful . . . and curious.

I know without a doubt that my purpose is serve you (all of you -- not just twenty-somethings!) and yet I'm not sure exactly how to define it, beyond sitting in the middle of this uncertainty and telling you about it when I can find the words.

In a way, my fear of not knowing what's next for my business is here.

I'm finding it hard to commit to much of anything that isn't directly tied to what I love (like coaching and Make Sh*t Happen).

But you know what? I'm loving it. Most of the time, save for a few sporadic breakdowns here or there :)

Sure, sometimes sitting in the dusty pit of uncertainty sucks. But if you can be with your uncertainty from a place of feeling grounded in your most important guiding values and principles, you can keep the faith that it will all turn out okay.

Finding comfort in pillars of certainty

Even though I don't know exactly what the next year will bring in terms of my overall message, products, services, etc -- I know that I wouldn't change a damn thing.

I haven't regretted, even for a minute, my decision to quit my "dream job" at Google, as much as I love and greatly respect the company.

In the past year, I have built -- and am now standing within -- a few key pillars of certainty that are providing the space for me to sit with the questions and the unknown of this present moment.

Those pillars are my values and my highest ideals for my life and business: freedom and autonomy, flexibility and travel, meaning and growth, health (mind, body, spirit), fun and service.

Because I am clear on those pillars, the uncertainty within the walls is okay -- it's manageable, interesting, and even enjoyable as I'm starting to say no to anything that doesn't feel like "essential bliss."

How does this apply to other areas?

  • A job search: what are your must-haves for your next job? What principles must the company, location and responsibilities adhere to, even if you don't yet know the specifics of the role you want? You may even still end up with The Hot One, but hopefully with a greater sense of clarity on what it is you want and need -- not just because that's what what would generate the most external approval for your ego. Check out the Plan Your Next Career Move template to help articulate your thoughts in this area.
  • In a relationship: what are your must-haves for your significant other? What type of person would light you up and add to your life? What qualities of the relationship (e.g. honesty, trust, deep conversation, chemistry) must be present? Relationships are as complex as the people in them -- surely your partner will not be perfect. So what bigger pillars will make the bumps in the road, the slow reveal of their imperfections and those of the relationship, manageable and even catalysts for growth?
  • Overall values: Check-out the Wheel of Life and Wheel of Aliveness tempaltes to gain clarity on the environment, people and circumstances that bring the most joy, growth and fulfillment to your life.

One more thing: expect disappointment . . . and welcome it

So you broaden your view from one star to the entire constellation. You expand your search from THE HOT ONE to a range of potential jobs or mates that are best suited to your values and goals. Then what?

Expect to be disappointed.

Expect to get the job and have it not live up to your ideal. Expect your new job (or mate) to drudge up your insecurities, weaknesses, resistance, and self-doubt.

Expect to meet someone, start a relationship glittered with gold dust, and soon realize you are both flawed (shocker!) and that your relationship will ask you to walk right through the valley of your deepest fears.

On this subject, John Welwood, author of Perfect Love, Imperfect Relationships, is my new guru -- again thanks to The Man for the heads up on Welwood's brilliant work - you can read some free articles here.

Before you write me off as a total curmudgeon:

I'm only saying this to help you -- all of us -- remember that hitting the dip, feeling that bubble burst a little bit -- is not only okay, it's not only perfectly normal, but that it is INHERENT TO THE GROWTH PROCESS.

So, when we reach disappointment in a new job, uncertainty at a crossroads in our career or business, divergent views within a relationship -- GOOD! Celebrate! That information is just as valid as the hopes and dreams that preceded it.

As my dad put it in response to Martha Beck's fantastic article, Enjoyment in the Waiting, "When your dreams get crushed - make dream wine! And get dream drunk and create some marvel from outta the wreckage."

While all-consuming disappointment would surely be a red flag, a taste of it is a sign that we're doing something right:

We're living, we're growing, and we're asking the big questions.


Life After College goes Korean

In exciting news, the first copies of the Random House Korea edition of my book arrived this week! Here's a picture of the interior….now if only I could read it :)

Life After College Book in Korean!