The Problem With Passion: How Do I Choose a Career When I Have Too Many Interests?

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I worked with a client recently who faced a very common and somewhat tricky challenge when it comes to making a career change.

John (whose name I’ve changed for this post) had been in software development for 20 years when he approached me for help figuring out what type of work might be a better fit for him.

He didn’t hate his job, and it provided well for his family, but he was increasingly feeling like it wasn’t a good fit for him. He wanted to find work that he cared more about, and that was a better match for his interests.

The problem was, he wasn’t sure what his interests (or true passions) were. That is to say, he wasn’t sure which of his many interests were ultimately worth pursuing.

But to fully understand John’s conundrum, we need to go back to the beginning. And getting help, as most of us know, is hardly ever the beginning of any story…

Discovering a world of passion

The story of John’s career change actually starts in Sweden.

When he was ­­30 years old, John went on an audacious solo trip across Europe. It was while facing the challenges of travel and rediscovering self confidence after a divorce that he found out he was capable of far more than he’d thought.

He also realized that there was a whole world out there waiting to be discovered.

He began getting out of his comfort zone more and more as he explored various passions he hadn’t even known he’d had—things like cycling, painting, and even acting.

His explorations contributed to greater self-confidence, brought more joy and excitement into his life, and even led him to meet a new woman he would later marry and start a family with.

The downside to being passionate

The good news was, John had a lot of passions. The bad news was, John had a lot of passions.

John had a rich life after work filled with lots of activities that he enjoyed, and he had even started his own business leading fun science experiments at birthday parties on the weekends when he realized how much he loved entertaining and educating kids.

The trouble was, as John found more passions outside of work, he grew more dissatisfied with the lack of fulfillment he felt from 9-5. He began to realize that his work in software had little to do with his greatest talents and joys, and he had the growing sense that something better was possible.

At the same time, he had no clarity about which of his various interests was worth pursuing. They were diverse, seemingly unrelated, and none was calling to him clearly.

What’s more, John’s passions were not just plentiful; they were also inconsistent. He tended to get very excited about one particular activity and pursue it avidly, only to lose his interest in it some time later. Even his business was no longer exciting him the way it had when he’d started it.

When we met, John felt lost, unsure of whether he could ever choose one thing to work on, and doubtful whether any passion could sustain him long-term.

Digging deeper

The key to overcoming John’s challenge was to stay with things longer than he would normally have liked so that he could observe what came up when he did.

He stuck with his business, for example, and continued to engage with it even though it no longer felt exciting and shiny. He paid attention to how he felt when he did so—emotionally, and in his body—and found that many aspects of his business still energized him, but he got the urge to quit when things didn’t go as he’d hoped and doubts began to arise.

He also realized that he had been too focused on conducting business operations he wasn’t even sure were worth pursuing and listening to the advice of other business owners instead of answering the questions “What do I want?” and “Why am I doing this?”

When John realized this, he began to see his business as a learning experiment, a way to find answers to those questions. And he started to be able to separate out when he wanted to stop doing something because it was getting challenging versus when he wanted to quit something because it didn’t feel right to him.

He began to be able to stay with the discomfort of the challenges and found that when he did, his interests were more consistent than he thought.

The power of observation

At the same time, John paid more attention to his emotional and somatic reactions in his daily life (through meditation, he was able to quiet his “monkey brain”). With careful observation, he found that one set of passions did, in fact, rise above the others.

What he discovered is that his body lit up the most when he was entertaining people. He wasn’t so excited about the scientific aspect of his business, but the part where he brought joy to children consistently energized him. He observed the same thing happening anytime he was entertaining others. He began to accept that his purpose lay in helping others experience joy, feel better about themselves, and learn through laughter.

John began to experiment and explore to find job ideas that would both provide for his family and involve what he loved most about entertaining. He realized that he could start offering clowning to the birthday parties he served in his business, and he was thrilled to discover that he could put many of his entertaining skills to use in the field of corporate team building.

He’s currently exploring each of these ideas, and is excited about both possibilities.

John still has challenges he needs to overcome. But the amazing thing is, he feels good about choosing one of his many interests to pursue, and he’s confident that his passion for it will last.

And he’s finally enjoying the process of exploring his next steps, now that he’s realized that his many passions aren’t a problem and he can overcome any challenge if he just stays with it long enough.

The moral of the story

Having a lot of passions isn’t a problem. Nowhere is it written that you have to choose one thing and one thing only to do the rest of your life.

I recently wrote a post that offers options for those of us who are multi-passionate, and it shares some benefits of moving around frequently.

If you’re not sure which interests to pursue, try observing them carefully. Pay attention to how your body responds when you engage with each one, and start to look for patterns in what lights you up. Also get curious about what makes you want to deepen your involvement with your passions and what exactly triggers you to want to run for the hills.

The only problem with passions is when we refuse to commit to them because we worry they won’t satisfy us long-term. That’s when we bounce back and forth, uncertain and confused, unwilling to pursue one long enough to find out the truth.

The key, then, is to choose to explore a passion long enough to get more information about it. It doesn’t matter so much which one you start with, since this is one of those times when a wrong turn can actually be the shortest distance between two points. As long as you commit to deepening your experience with something and observing what happens when you do, you’ll find your way to what you love most.

Don’t be afraid to take action before you’re certain—this isn’t something you can figure out in your head. The only way to know if something is worth committing to is by committing to it—for now, at least, or long enough for you to deepen into it and learn what it has to teach.

10 Tips for Working With Anxiety When It Feels Like It Might Overwhelm You

In my last blog post I wrote about my key to dealing with anxiety.

Since this is a subject so close to my heart (and my nervous system), I was inspired to offer a few more tips for what to do when it feels like anxiety is going to overwhelm you.

While it’s incredibly useful to understand that anxiety isn’t actually a bad thing (believing we need to avoid it is actually what creates most of our trouble), it’s also true that working with it mentally often isn’t enough. Sometimes we need physical, emotional, or even spiritual ways to lessen its effects if we’re going to be able to see that it isn’t so bad. The reason we panic about anxiety, after all, is it often feels like it’s going to kill us.

So here are 10 things you can do to lessen anxiety and help your system relax:

1. Breathe deeply.

Deep breathing activates your parasympathetic nervous system; in other words, it calms your fight-or-flight response and takes you back into rest-and-digest.

We’re designed to breathe all the way down into our bellies by contracting and relaxing our diaphragms. When our stress response is triggered, however, our diaphragms tighten and we breathe primarily by expanding our chests. The problem with this is that because we’re designed to breathe this way only in emergencies when we need additional oxygen, our bodies take this kind of breathing as evidence that something’s wrong. Thus, regardless of what got us anxious in the first place, once the anxiety takes hold, its symptoms feel like further confirmation that all is not well.

The way to counteract this is to breathe all the way into our bellies, letting them relax so they can rise and fall with each breath, and slow down our exhale. This naturally activates our parasympathetic nervous system and signals to our bodies that everything is actually just fine.

2. Shake it out.

Somatic Experiencing points out that most animals have ways of resetting their nervous systems after a big hit of adrenaline. Bunnies, for example, physically shake after being chased by a predator to discharge their emergency energy and come back to a resting state. If we don’t do the same thing, the theory goes, our nervous systems can get stuck in the “on” position.

So the next time you’re anxious, you might try literally shaking it off. Do what a dog does just after it gets out of the water and really have at it so you can let your body know that the danger is past and it’s safe to relax again.

You might feel funny, but at least you’ll feel funny and safe.

3. Meditate and get present.

Anxiety is usually about what might happen in the future. Often if we stop to check in with what’s occurring right now, we realize that in this exact moment, we’re actually just fine.

Meditation is a great way of connecting to the perfection of the present moment. It also helps you relate to the storm of thoughts and feelings that assault us all with greater equanimity.

It’s a practice of letting go, one thought or sensation at a time, so that instead of getting caught up in the drama, you can stay grounded in what’s happening right now and see things more for what they are (which is almost always less anxiety-producing than what we imagine).

There are lots of meditation centers, teachers, apps, and programs that can help you get started, but it can be as simple as pausing to feel your feet on the ground in moments when you notice you’re anxious. Whether you meditate, feel your body, or get curious about what you can see, smell, or hear around you right now, you’re practicing presence, which is an anxiety-lessening skill that, like a muscle, gets stronger with use.

4. Exercise.

Exercise is one of my favorite tools for dealing with anxiety because it can often relax me when nothing else will.

I used to joke that during a particularly transitional phase in my life—when I had recently started coaching, had just launched my own business, and was making the move across the country from San Francisco to Atlanta—I  had never been more anxious, but I had also never been in better shape.

Exercise gets us back in our bodies (which keeps us in the present moment) and can help move anxious energy through us. Find what works best for you—you might try walking, swimming, running, yoga, weight lifting, or playing a sport. One of my favorite things to do is put on music and dance as wildly and as goofily as I can.

Whatever form it takes, make it something you enjoy, as joy is another medicine for anxiety, if we can get present enough to feel it.

5. Get into nature.

There’s something inherently calming about nature. Maybe it’s the silence, slowness, and spaciousness. Maybe it’s the beauty. Or maybe it’s that we’re forced to acknowledge something larger and greater than ourselves and our relatively small concerns and worries.

Regardless, nature is a powerful antidote to anxiety. So if you’re feeling anxious, make time to get into the woods, the park, or the lawn out back.

Whatever form of nature speaks to you and wherever you can find it most easily, go there. Often. Take time to just be still, notice, and breathe in the beauty. The wonderful thing is you don’t have to do anything; just being in nature is healing enough.

6. Notice what’s going well.

When we’re anxious, we’re often worried about “What if’s”. The funny thing is, we almost never think, “What if everything turns out really great?”

Our brains are actually wired to focus on what might go wrong, which may have helped us survive at one point, but nowadays just serves to fuel our anxiety. So the way to counteract this natural tendency (and find a more realistic view of the world) is to focus on what’s going well.

If you’re like me when I’m in the throes of anxiety, you’ll think—wait, but nothing’s going well! The invitation here is to start noticing the little things and not take anything for granted.

You can do this by making a gratitude list and including everything on it—the fact that you have a place to sleep at night, food when you’re hungry, or people around you who love you. You can also begin to see your daily wins, which may be small but are often more significant than you realize.

If you let yourself observe without judgment, you’re likely to find that despite the challenges and uncertainties, things generally unfold for the best, despite what our minds tell us or what anxiety would have us believe.

7. Go slowly.

If your anxiety is coming up because you’re doing something new, then going slowly can be key.

When I start going faster than the slowest part of me feels safe to go (thank you, Karen Drucker, for that phrase), my anxiety kicks up, often to the point of keeping me awake at night.

It’s a not-always-so-gentle reminder to slow down. When I take baby steps and check in before taking the next one to make sure I have the energy for it, I not only feel better, but I also generally get better results.

Sometimes anxiety is just my inner wisdom trying to get my attention.

8. Feel your feelings.

What I’ve discovered from years of observing my anxiety is that it often functions like a baby’s rattle.

When I’m feeling something I don’t want to be feeling (anger, fear, hurt, disappointment, etc.), the anxiety comes in and provides a pretty noisy, attention-grabbing distraction. When I wrap my fat little fingers around that rattle and focus on all the noise that it’s making, it’s pretty easy to not pay attention to whatever disturbing feelings I have.

But following anxiety’s lead tends to make things worse, and the only thing that really helps in the long run is to pause and make space for my feelings. When I let myself feel my fear, anger, hurt, or disappointment, I realize that it never lasts forever and is never as bad as I think it will be.

I do this by focusing on what I’m feeling in my body, allowing the sensations to be there, and then following whatever energy comes up—sometimes crying, sometimes yelling (when I’m alone), or doing whatever I need to in order to make room for the feelings.

When it’s no longer needed to distract me, the anxiety often fades of its own accord.

9. Get curious.

Curiosity is like kryptonite to anxiety’s Superman strength.

Anxiety is fueled by the belief that something is wrong. When we act based on anxiety, we feed that belief.

When we’re curious, we’re not caught in the belief that anything needs to be solved. Instead, we’re finding out for ourselves what’s actually true.

  • Is it true that we need to have a particular outcome in order to be okay?
  • Is it true that we’re screwed if something doesn’t go well?
  • Is it true that if we’re anxious something must be wrong?

My best advice is not to take anxiety’s word for any it. Doing so will only add to its superhuman strength.

Instead, ask and observe. Investigate what it is that makes you feel that something is going badly. Get interested in your anxiety and what makes it intensify or lessen. Get curious to see what’s really going on, and what will unfold.

It’s very hard to be genuinely curious and anxious at the same time.

10. Accept it.

This is perhaps the most important thing I’ve learned about anxiety over the years:

It’s very easy when we’re experiencing anxiety to fall into the trap of trying to get rid of it. It can be very uncomfortable after all, and can disrupt sleep, work, and relationships.

But using all these tips and tricks to try to get rid of anxiety is the worst thing we can do. In fact, in my experience, it only makes it stronger.

We can’t control anxiety. We can do things that will make it easier to feel peaceful, but nothing works all the time. Relaxation isn’t a state than can be forced.

If we think we need to feel calm in order to be okay, all our efforts to lessen anxiety will only make us feel more powerless and vulnerable, because at some point they won’t work, and then we’ll feel even more out of control.

If, on the other hand, we can begin to recognize that feeling anxious is uncomfortable but not fundamentally dangerous…if we see that anxiety is temporary and never lasts forever…if we know that we can always let ourselves feel at least a bit more at ease in any given moment, even while the anxiety is here…

…then we realize that we can feel anxious and be okay.

When we do that, we’re free. We can accept our current experience and do whatever we need to in order to make it gentler, kinder, and easier to handle.

In other words, we can stop trying to control and start relaxing into what is.

My Key to Dealing With Anxiety

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I’m anxious. Most of my clients are anxious. Some of the most intelligent, loving, and talented people I know are anxious.

As if our natural inclinations weren’t enough, career change is basically a breeding ground for anxiety. Change is by definition new and unfamiliar. You won’t know what you want at first, and you have to spend some time in the dark until things become clear. And then, even when you do know what you’re aiming towards, you’re still swimming in uncertainty because you can’t possibly know how things will turn out.

So if you’re anxious, (1) welcome to the club, you have some great company, and (2) congratulations, you’re exactly where you should be.

The Two Most Common Reactions

There are pretty much two ways humans tend to respond to anxiety, both of which make it worse:

  1. We try to avoid it by taking action.
  2. We try to avoid it by not taking action.

I’m firmly in the first camp. When facing a new task or an unknown situation, my natural urge is to jump into action.

Recently this led me into a period of what could most accurately be called hysteria.

Faced with anxiety about the launch of yet another new offering (keep your eyes open for a special announcement about this soon, by the way), I did what I do naturally: I got good and doped up on perfectionism; began obsessively thinking about what I was going to do and how; and despite repeatedly telling my husband just how much I needed to rest, I added every possible task I could think of to my To Do list and filled my days with any productive activity I could find.

The result? Exhaustion, insomnia, irritability, and increasingly paralyzing levels of fear.

And lest you think those in the second camp have it any easier, I would invite you to talk to someone who has an equally challenging habit of procrastination. When faced with anxiety, procrastinators find creative ways to distract themselves and avoid taking action, seemingly remaining calm and carefree; beneath the surface, however, they feel all kinds of guilt, frustration, and often deep shame about not being able to take any action towards what they want, no matter how important it is.

The Negative Cycles

So on the one hand, those of us in camp #1 feel the edges of anxiety and respond by jumping into action.

The action may not be aligned with our Inner Wisdom, or it might be hasty and ill-timed. Regardless, we care more about getting stuff done than listening to what we need, so we end up exhausting ourselves.

Off-balance and depleted, we feel less powerful and more miserable than we did before, so we’re prone to feel even higher levels of anxiety, which makes us want to take on even more.

On the other hand, those of us in camp #2 avoid all this by not taking action at all when they feel anxious.

Instead, they get busy with other things, distract themselves, or find other ways to procrastinate. Part of them knows, however, knows that they’re not addressing something very important to them.

Off-balance and ashamed, they feel less powerful and more miserable than they did before, and—you guessed it—prone to even higher levels of anxiety, which makes them even less likely to take any action.

The Key to Dealing With Anxiety

I discovered the key to breaking this cycle with some (okay, a lot) of outside help. (Left to my own devices, I would probably be huddled in the corner somewhere right now reciting my To Do list in 20 different languages.)

What I found is that the key to cutting through anxiety is to stop listening to it.

In my last period of hysteria, every fiber in my being was screaming at me to do something—everything I possibly could—to try to feel like I had a handle on the situation. In other words, I was trying to do 5 million different things to make this edgy feeling go away. And none of them was working. In fact, they were all making it worse.

It turns out that the solution was much simpler. All I had to do was sit there, let the anxiety scream at me, ignore the voice that told me if I didn’t take action everything would fall apart, and not take any action.

It wasn’t easy, but when I chose not to listen to the anxiety, when I just allowed it to be there, it actually faded quite quickly. I was then free to do what I knew I needed: rest. When I did that, I felt much better. When I felt better, I felt more powerful. Suddenly things seemed a whole lot less frightening and a whole lot more manageable.

When we do what the anxiety is telling us to do, whether that’s trying to be perfect, worrying, and getting things done or distracting ourselves, numbing out, and avoiding action, we make it stronger. We buy into the fundamental misunderstanding of anxiety, which is that things have to be a certain way in order for us to be okay.

When we stop trying to make anxiety go away by doing what it tells us, we start to see the truth, which is that we’re always already okay. We begin to understand that it’s not our action or inaction, our feelings or external circumstances that keep us safe. We find that what keeps us safe is the strength, wisdom, compassion, guidance, and love we all have access to, regardless of how we feel or what’s happening around us.

The only problems we have are the ones we create when we call something a problem and anxiously try to avoid it, cutting ourselves off from our inner strength, guidance, and wisdom in the process.

So the next time you’re feeling anxious, notice what you want to do. Then see if you can do the opposite. See if you can stay with the anxiety long enough to see what it really is–a fleeting experience with no power to harm you.


If you’d like help on your own journey, I offer individual and small group coaching. Find out more here.


Photo credit: Leo Hidalgo // CC

Why It’s Good to Get Blown Off-Course

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“After observing O Sensei, the founder of Aikido, sparring with an accomplished fighter, a young student said to the master, ‘You never lose your balance. What is your secret?’

‘You are wrong,’ O Sensei replied. ‘I am constantly losing my balance. My skill lies in my ability to regain it.’”

–Wendy Palmer, The Intuitive Body

There have been several times in my life when I woke up to realize that I had been blown significantly off-course:

  • I was 25, just back from living in Mexico, and staying with my parents for a couple of months while I tried to go off my anti-depressant medication. I was feeling depressed, crying at regular intervals over nothing I could explain, and having full-on panic attacks I was convinced I wouldn’t survive.
  • I was working for a popular social enterprise startup in San Francisco on a project I was excited about in a job that many people wanted. And yet I was feeling more and more unhappy at work. I struggled with my boss, was in charge of tasks that I was good at but didn’t enjoy, and felt incredibly underappreciated.
  • I had just broken up with a boyfriend and realized that what I was most upset about was not being able to join him on his family’s farm that summer. I had lived in San Francisco for almost 14 years at that point and my entire life was there, but I wasn’t sure if I was staying because it was familiar or because it was the right place for me. I felt disoriented and unsure of where I was supposed to be.

How it happens

It used to be that when I was blown off-course, I didn’t notice until I was thousands of miles away from my path.

The process was kind of like this: My inner wisdom would whisper some direction or guidance in my ear. I’d pay it no mind.

It would speak up a little louder. I would promptly ignore it.

It would tap me gently on the shoulder. I’d pretend I didn’t feel it.

It would punch me in the arm. I’d pay no attention.

Finally, in desperation, it would stick out a foot in front of me. I’d trip and fall flat on my face, whining about how badly it hurt and why it had to happen to me.

I have a high pain tolerance, so it used to take a lot of suffering to get my attention.

For example, when I went off medication, it was after a decade of trying to pretend that there was nothing I needed to question or examine, nothing worth changing about my approach to life. When I was finally humbled enough to seek help, I recognized that though I am a capable and talented person, my way of doing things wasn’t working so hot for me at that point in time.

I became willing to take a really good look around me, admit that this wasn’t really where I wanted to be, and listen to my inner wisdom so I could begin to find my path once again.

Fortunately, over time I learned how to listen to that wisdom earlier on, so it doesn’t take quite so much pain to get my attention anymore. Now I often notice the tap on my shoulder, the voice in my ear, and—more and more frequently—the whisper I just barely detect.

Why it happens

The thing about our inner wisdom is it often tells us what we don’t want to hear.

I didn’t want to know that medication wasn’t going to cut it for me forever, that I needed to seek help, and that I needed a new perspective, new skills, and new tools.

I didn’t want to believe that my job, which I had loved at one point, was no longer the right place for me, that it was time to step into the unknown again, and that I needed to start over and do something new.

I didn’t want to hear that my time in San Francisco was coming to an end, that my hometown was calling to me, and that I was going to have to pick up all the roots I had laid down and transfer them 2,400 miles across the country to Atlanta, a city that at that point was a near stranger to me.

It’s very easy to ignore our inner wisdom and let ourselves be blown off-course, in ways both big and small. And the good news is, this is a totally human thing to do. We all do it. It’s part of being the flawed and amazing beings we are.

Yes, it really is a good thing

Like O Sensei said, it isn’t about never losing your balance, it’s about developing your ability to regain it.

It’s good to get blown off-course because each time you are, you get a fresh reminder to look up, observe your surroundings, and re-check your instruments. And the more you check your navigational equipment, the more adept you are at reading it.

We aren’t taught anything in school about how to listen to our inner wisdom, how to decode its whispers, or how to be true to ourselves. So we have to learn it on our own, through observation, help from others, and yes, being blown off-course.

Even being off our path is an important part of finding it.

Not sure how to read your instruments?

Don’t worry—few of us are. If you’d like to learn without falling on your face quite as many times as I did, join me for my new course that I’m super excited about—Passion Quest: 5 Steps to Find Your Calling in a Fear-Based World. It’ll walk you through the process that I discovered by helping dozens of clients find what they were meant to do in the world and start actually doing it. You’ll learn all about how to find your way, read your instruments, and discover the path that’s right for you, over and over again.

Because, as the painting on my wall by an artist named Erin says, “Your path is beautiful and crooked and just as it should be.”

>>Click here to find out more and to save your spot. (And don’t mess around—classes start tomorrow!)<<

21 Reasons to Get Out of Your Head

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“My mind is a bad neighborhood that I try not to go into alone.
–Anne Lamott

I know how easy it is to get stuck in your head. When my brain isn’t churning with thoughts, memories, worries, plans, analyses, or trying to figure something out, it’s attempting to pull me back into its fold by convincing me that it can solve whatever problem I’m facing if only I obsess about it a little longer.

Our minds are incredible, but they’re only part of our natural awesome-ness, and so much gets eclipsed when we over-rely on them. So as much for myself as for anyone else, here are some reminders from my own experience about why we could all use a break from our brains:

1. Your mind is a dark place.

Most of our heads are filled with catastrophes and worst-case scenarios. Though this scenery bears little relation to the real world, the more time we spend in our minds, the more likely these outcomes seem. And because of this…

2. There’s fear everywhere in there.

You can’t jump from one thought to the next without stepping in a pile of it. Not to mention the fact that…

3. Your mental landscape is covered in rationalization.

Our brains are smart, and they know how to talk us into our out of just about anything, regardless of how we really feel about it. Just ask Lance Armstrong, or someone who’s convinced themselves to stay in a job they hate for 30 years. And on top of that…

4. In your head, self doubt is rampant.

Doubting your abilities is a mental habit, not some intuitive truth about yourself. And the more time you spend in your head, the more likely you are to run face-first into it.

A lot of this can be explained by the fact that…

5. Your brain has bad eyesight.

What I mean by that is when you’re in your head, you’re not paying attention to what’s happening around you. You’re not taking in new information, and you’re not seeing, feeling, or experiencing what’s actually occurring in the real world right now.

When you do…

6. You see that you’re okay, no matter what’s happening.

You observe that there is always support available to you. And you see how much you’re able to handle day-in and day-out, no matter what comes your way. In fact…

 7. You feel more powerful and confident.

Without your thoughts distracting you, you’re able to sense into that quiet place within that feels how strong and wise you really are.

8. You aren’t so worried about what other people think.

Self-consciousness stems from thoughts, so without them, you don’t feel so dependent on other people’s approval.

9. You’re less stressed.

These days, our fight or flight response is triggered mostly by thinking (there are fewer actual tigers prowling around in modern times). Without worries, your system is free to rest and digest in peace. And because of this…

10. You’re able to sleep more easily.

When you learn to get out of your head, you can choose whether or not you want to follow certain trains of thoughts. You get to decide which thoughts to amplify and which to let go of. As a result…

11. You obsess less.

And the same skill would make it possible that…

12. You stop beating yourself up over your mistakes.

 Not to mention the fact that…

13. You give your poor mind a break.

(Your brain gets tired too.) In addition…

14. You feel more connected to others.

Connection is what happens naturally when we’re present with others instead of trying to listen while really being caught up in what’s next on our To Do list.

And maybe best of all…

15. You stop asking yourself: “Where did all the time go?”

When you’re present in the current moment, time doesn’t disappear. It may go faster or more slowly, but you’re there experiencing all it has to offer—things like beautiful sunsets, dreamy birdsongs, and the delicious food you happen to be ingesting.

It’s true that your brain is smart. It’s also true that your smarts aren’t all in your head. If you got out of there more, you’d see that…

16. You’re more creative.

 Ever heard of the shower effect? (It refers to the fact that many of us get our best ideas in the shower.) Or the fact that almost every model of the creative process includes a step called something like “incubation” where you stop thinking about an issue and put your attention somewhere else?

These occur because creativity depends on more than our brains, and in fact, sometimes our brains get in the way of the process. Which is true of something else as well…

17. Decisions are easier.

Neuroscientist Antonio Demasio found that people with brain injuries that prevented them from feeling their emotions suffered a similar effect: they couldn’t make decisions. They’d list out the pros and cons of each choice and bounce back-and-forth among them endlessly without being able to decide. It turns out that emotions are key to making decisions. Furthermore…

18. You have greater access to your deepest desires.

Studies show that our brains are terrible at predicting what will make us happy. Our emotions and bodies, on the other hand, can point to this information much more directly.

In fact, our emotions and bodies have lots of important information to offer us. Which is why…

19. You tap into your inner wisdom.

Here’s what I mean by inner wisdom: Intuition. Guidance. The bigger picture. Knowing what’s most important. Malcolm Gladwell called it “thinking without thinking” in Blink. It’s your ability to sense the truth in ways other than reasoning and deduction. And it’s incredibly powerful.

Because you have so much wisdom within you…

20. You get better without trying.

When you’re following your inner wisdom, every experience is educational and every challenge becomes a teacher. You don’t have to worry if you’re learning enough or doing it right. Your true self is in charge, and it knows what it’s doing.

Because of that…

21. You find what you’re looking for without trying.

Everything we want—peace, love, admiration, security, excitement, happiness, etc.—is already within us. The problem is, at some point we begin to feel disconnected from it, so we start to seek it out—a process that actually takes us farther from our goal. A lot of this effort takes place in our heads. When we relax back into our hearts and bodies, we re-connect with what we thought we were missing.

If you’re at all like me, right about now you’re thinking something like: “That all sounds great, but how do I actually do that?” I’m so glad you asked. I’m super excited to share an opportunity with you to…

Learn how to get out of your head and in touch with the wisdom of your body.

I’ve mentioned some exciting new offerings in the works, and the first of them is coming up! I’m partnering with my good friend and amazing teacher Natalie Biniasz to bring you: Tune Into Your Body’s Intelligence: A FREE Call to Unlock Greater Power, Presence and Wisdom on Wednesday, May 11th at 6:00pm ET. It’s going to be fun and practical and will show you various ways to get out of your head and in touch with your inner wisdom. And did I mention that it’s free?

If you want to get the details about how to sign up for this call and future opportunities, leave your information in the grey box below!


Photo credit: zaphodsotherhead // CC

 

If You Still Haven’t Found What You’re Looking For, You May Be Missing This (Hint: It’s Probably Not What You Think)

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I recently realized that I’ve been missing something my entire life.

It’s stopped me from doing the things I dreamed of. It’s made me feel a lot less capable than I really am. And I see now how it’s gotten in the way of achieving the things I most wanted for my entire life.

What surprised me most when I realized this, however, is that it has nothing to do with knowing enough or doing the right things.

Because that’s where I used to look when I wanted to be successful: what do I need to know to do this? How can I make sure that I implement this the right way so that I find the result that I’m looking for?

What I see now is that without this one thing, knowledge and action—even the most well-informed or well-executed efforts—can be wasted.

How to Know If You’re Missing It Too

When I first started my business, I thought that everything I did was a make-or-break opportunity. It felt like I needed to know everything and do everything right right away.

Every potential client I spoke with needed to work with me if I was going to succeed. Every marketing effort I made needed to have big returns. If it didn’t (and if often didn’t), I questioned my abilities and worried that I’d never be able to make it as a coach. More than once I considered giving up.

I often see something similar in my clients who want to change careers. Frequently when they first get started (and, if I’m being honest, throughout a significant part of the coaching process as well), they have no idea what they want to do next. They’re confused, uncertain, or lost, and they’re anxious because it feels like if they don’t have the answers now, they never will.

It happens again when clients take their first steps in a new direction. They’ve gotten clarity, but now they’re going from theory to reality. Everything feels critical to their success. If they don’t have the skills they think they need, if they’re not sure exactly how they’re going to transition, or if they’re not having immediate success in their new field, it becomes incredibly tempting to just take the first thing that comes along, or give up entirely and go back to what they were doing before.

If you’re feeling a lot of stress or pressure to achieve certain results with what you’re working on; if you wonder if you have what it takes to accomplish what you hope to; or if you doubt that doing what you love is possible for you, you’re probably in the same boat.

We’re missing the bigger picture.

What I realized recently is that success is not a matter of being talented enough, knowing enough, or getting everything right. It’s not about creating great outcomes with everything you do. Rather, it’s about trying things out, failing in some ways and succeeding in others, and then trying things out again.

It takes time, sometimes lots of it, to find out what works and what doesn’t. For most of us, no matter how talented, it takes lots of practice, iterations, and failures to reach the outcomes we long for.

In other words, success isn’t a destination; it’s a path, and most of us are on it long before we realize we are.

When we think of success as a destination, we compare where we are now to that golden isle of perfection and see just far we are from it. When we back up and see it as a path, however, our current endeavor becomes simply a step along the way; we realize how far we’ve come already; and we understand that no matter what the result, our current effort will show us where to go next.

When we see the entire path, we realize that we don’t have to be super smart or extraordinarily talented to walk it; all it takes is a willingness to get dirty, fail, and fall short over and over again.

Basketball legend Michael Jordan has a great quote about this:

“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

I may perhaps have agreed with this intellectually in the past, but it’s certainly not how I viewed my own endeavors. I was caught evaluating each effort based on its own results. I failed to see how each action was a part of a longer trajectory and process, one that takes time but that can still lead me where I want to go, even with lots of bumps and pitfalls.

Zooming Out

There’s a great book called Zoom by Istvan Banyai. There are no words in the book—just pictures. It starts with a close-up of something that looks like the edges of a red crown. The next page zooms out a bit and you realize that it’s actually the comb of a rooster. Zoom out more and you see children watching the rooster from inside a house. A few pages later, you realize that the rooster and children are part of a play set that a much larger real girl is playing with. Soon it’s revealed that the real girl and her toy set are part of an advertisement in a magazine that a boy is holding on the deck of a ship. A few pages later you see that the ship is part of an ad on the side of a bus being watched on a television by a man in the desert. And the story goes on…

The point is, the world is both infinitely large and infinitesimally small. We need to pay attention to the smallest tasks because there’s so much richness and nuance there—entire worlds within worlds—but we also don’t want to get lost in them and forget that we’re part of a larger universe.

And because the universe is so incomprehensibly large, we can never be sure of the effect our small tasks will have it, what their ripple effect will be, or what they will lead to. We cannot know the true results of our endeavors, whether good or ill, because we can’t even imagine the entire world, let alone see it or predict it.

So the next time you’re feeling stressed about a make-or-break opportunity, wondering if you’re capable of achieving what you hope to, or worrying that you’ll never find your way, stop. Notice how small and narrow your focus has become (literally and figuratively).

Remind yourself that whatever you’re doing right now is part of a longer process. This is not your last chance. No matter how this turns out, you’re learning something valuable, and if you keep going, you’ll have the opportunity to continue refining and trying new things in the future.

If you feel stuck, ask yourself: What have I learned from previous efforts? What can I do differently based on what I’ve learned in the past? What new experiments could I try? What support can I find to make this process easier?

The Benefits of the Bigger Picture

Now that I’ve learned how to zoom out, so much more feels possible. Nothing feels make or break anymore. I have this sense that I can absolutely find what I’m looking for, and what’s even better, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with what I know, what I’m doing, or where I am now. I can enjoy wherever I am on the path.

That’s another reason success is a process: when we see the bigger picture, we don’t care so much whether or not we reach our destination. We realize that in most of the ways that matter, we already have.


Photo credit: Kevin Gill // CC

 

My Fear Confession

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I realized yesterday that I’m terrified. Rattled. Completely unnerved.

Though it’s not something I’m thrilled to admit so publicly, I wanted to share because it’s helped me realize something important.

It started when I woke up yesterday morning from an uneasy sleep feeling generally (and disturbingly) anxious. I wasn’t sure why.

Then I drew a Mother Mary Oracle card and saw this: “Change is coming to you now, my dear child. It is a change that has been triggered by the loving prayers held deep within your heart. This change does not have to be difficult for you… I would like you to use your energy for more worthy purposes than worry…”

I immediately started to cry. And suddenly I knew why I was feeling anxious.

The Commitment Conundrum

An image had come to mind: I was standing on a deck on a beautiful late afternoon in Calistoga at a training I attended last week. I was saying out loud to the group that I was committing to bringing new things to life, to believing that my new dream for my business is possible, and to taking action towards building that dream. The woman leading the training told me to imagine a line in front of me and step across it to signal my commitment.

I hesitated.

It’s a bit embarrassing to admit, but I didn’t want to do it. I was actually scared to step across an entirely imaginary line.

I did step across that line, however, and as I was holding that Mother Mary Oracle card in my hand yesterday, I realized that that’s when it had started: the fear.

I was feeling anxious because ever since I made that pledge, I’ve felt an underlying terror that I won’t be capable of delivering on my commitment or building it out successfully, that I’m unworthy of my dreams.

That’s the commitment conundrum: There comes a time when we’re no longer willing to remain in circumstances that don’t feel right for us, or that don’t make us come alive. And in that very moment of unbelievable strength when we finally commit to making a change, we open the door to the fear—fear that will do everything in its power to convince us not to move forward on our promise.

The Fear We All Feel

I think everyone who’s considering a career change, or any change at all for that matter, is facing fear.

Some of the clients I talk to experience the panic as worry or anxiety, others as a lack of confidence. Some are aware of it directly (What if I fail? What if I make the wrong decision?), while others feel it more as a lack of possibility: I can’t make enough money doing what I love, or I can’t do what I really want to because I have no idea how.

Regardless, when we’re standing on the precipice of something new, we all feel fear, and it can keep us from committing to what we want, or from following through on what we do commit to do. In short, it can stop us in our tracks.

The Crazy Simple Tool for Working With Fear

What I was reminded of yesterday, though, is that it doesn’t have to. Because there’s one, simple tool that can cut through fear’s paralyzing light and sound show, full of sound and fury, and reveal it for what it is.

And, to keep quoting Shakespeare, that’s the power of what’s in a name.

When our fear is vague and unexamined, it looms large. Like a shadow that falls over us, it can feel like a life-threatening tiger is about to attack.

When we take the time to look directly at our fear, however, recognize, and name it, we see the true threat rather than the shadow, and we realize that it’s not as bad as we previously thought.

When I got clear that what I’m afraid of is being incapable and fundamentally unworthy, my fear became right-sized. It was suddenly manageable.

When I named the fear, I reconnected with a felt sense of my own strength and value. It became clear that nothing I do (or fail to do) will ever make me unworthy.

As for being incapable, I realized that this is just a chance to see what I am actually capable of. I can be truly curious about that, learning and having fun along the way, since I know that my basic worthiness is not at stake.

I can also remember that I always feel fear in the beginning of something new. Though I can’t make it go away, I can offer it a seat in my car and take it along for the ride. Because I’m bigger than the fear is. And because the fear wouldn’t exist if I didn’t also have the profound strength required to commit to creating something new.

It’s a divine gift that, I believe, the infallible desire that we all have as human beings to open and grow and create, a longing that reasserts itself again and again in obvious and subtle ways, no matter how scared we feel.

Tips for Naming Fear

If you’re not sure how to name exactly what you’re afraid of, here are a few ideas:

  • Play the What’s the Worst Part game. Ask yourself what you’re scared of, what bad outcome you’re trying to avoid. Then ask yourself what the worst part of that would be. Then ask yourself what the worst part of that would be. Keep asking yourself this same question until you can’t break it down anymore and feel like you’re at the root of your fear.
  • Talk it out with someone else. Some of us are external processors, and the very act of putting our experiences into words can help to clarify them.
  • Ask for it to be revealed. Before I drew my Mother Mary Oracle card, I asked that the truth about what was upsetting me be made clear. Less than 5 minutes later, clarity came.

Don’t Let Your Fear Stop You

Part of the reason coaching is so powerful is that it helps us name and find a new perspective for our fears. I’ve worked with clients where this process alone is enough to get them unstuck and on the path to the work they’re meant to do in the world. If you’d like to learn how coaching can help you work through your fears, please click here to fill out an application for a free, no obligation Clarity Call.


Photo credit: Jack Fiallos // CC

 

Feeling Lost, Uncertain, or Ungrounded? Here’s Why That’s a Good Thing

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“Anxiety, heartbreak, and tenderness mark the in-between state. It’s the kind of place we usually want to avoid… Becoming intimate with the queasy feeling of being in the middle of nowhere only makes our hearts more tender…By not knowing, not only hoping to know, and not acting like we know what’s happening, we begin to access our inner strength.”

–Pema Chodron

I’ve had to learn the hard way that the purpose of life isn’t to feel good all the time.

It’s easy to adopt a goal of learning how to be happy, confident, and centered all the time. Ad campaigns for everything from self-improvement programs to blue jeans promise us that this is the thing that will finally make us feel good for good. Whether consciously or not, marketers know that as human beings we’re wired to pursue pleasure and avoid pain.

Recently I was reminded of why this is not such a helpful way to approach the world.

The Pitfalls of Pleasure and the Perks of Pain

About a week ago I found myself lying awake in bed in the middle of the night wondering where I had gone wrong.

I was feeling sad, anxious, and overwhelmed, and all my best efforts to relax and take it easy hadn’t helped me feel any better.

The faster my mind spun trying to find solutions that would fix my problems and lead me back to the promised land of happiness, the worse I felt. It was like I was hugging a tar baby and the more I struggled to escape, the more ensnared I became.

This made me think of an article I had recently read by Pema Chodron called “The In-Between State”. In it, she says that when we’re no longer able to get comfort from the outside but haven’t yet found our way to lasting internal equanimity, we’re in an in-between state marked by anxiety, volatility, and vulnerability.

The challenge, she asserts, is to stop running from it and start staying with it. This is how we connect to compassion. It’s how we access our inner strength. It’s how “the warrior learns to love.”

Relaxing into Groundlessness

In her beautifully wise book When Things Fall Apart, Pema Chodron speaks to this in more detail, managing to both pull the rug out from under you and help you feel okay about the fact that you’re now falling through the floor into an endless abyss.

“Only to the extent that we expose ourselves over and over to annihilation can that which is indestructible be found in us,” she says.

Life will offer us plenty of opportunities to “come to the place where we think we can’t handle whatever is happening.” The key, she says, is to stick with the uncertainty, get the knack of relaxing in the midst of chaos, and learn not to panic.

She offers a few ways of doing this:

 1. Accept that you don’t know.

“Letting there be room for not knowing is the most important thing of all. We try to do what we think is going to help. But we don’t know. We never know if we’re going to fall flat or sit up tall.”

2.Don’t fall into automatic habits.

“When we stop there and don’t act out, don’t repress, don’t blame it on anyone else, and also don’t blame it on ourselves, then we meet with an open-ended question that has no conceptual answer. We also encounter our heart.”

3. Use it as a chance to examine what’s really going on.

“Rather than letting our negativity get the better of us, we could acknowledge that right now we feel like a piece of shit and not be squeamish about taking a good look. That’s the compassionate thing to do. That’s the brave thing to do. We could smell that piece of shit. We could feel it; what is its texture, color, and shape?”

Dancing With Shadows

Lying in bed, feeling my uncomfortable emotions of fear, overwhelm, and anxiety, it occurred to me that there’s nothing to be ashamed of. I don’t need to be a conqueror of maladies; I can be a shadow dancer.

It’s easy for me to tell a story in which my journey up to this point has been about developing tools and skills to help me overcome depression, anxiety, and stress. Look, I can say, I’ve learned so much and gotten so good that now I don’t have to feel bad ever again.

But that’s not what’s really going on. My journey up to this point has been much more about learning who I am and what’s true in the world. It’s been about examining my shadows in detail and learning how to dance with them.

It’s absolutely true that being a shadow dancer has helped me to feel far more joy, strength, compassion, connection, and freedom than I ever thought possible. But that’s not the point. It’s just part of the process.

What’s most important about dancing with shadows, I think, is that I’m increasingly able to experience the darkness without pushing it away. I can be okay in confusion and chaos, not just when things are going well or when I’m feeling good.

To be able to be okay no matter what requires staying with the fear, the terror, the confusion, the darkness, the despair. These are a part of the palette of life, of what we all deal with. The question is, can we be okay with them? Or do we strive to be good enough, right enough, or perfect enough to avoid them?

The purpose of the journey to find work you love is not so that you can be happy all the time. It’s so you can dance with your fear, uncertainty, and stuckness and still be okay. Then and only then are you free to follow what the world is calling for from you because there’s nothing to be afraid of, nothing to avoid, nothing you can’t handle.

The most important task we can set for ourselves is to be willing to be with everything, pain and pleasure. Because only when we’re able to do this do our lives become truly our own.

Over to You

What do you make of this? Is there a benefit to being with pain, or is there a point where it’s too much? I’m curious what you think—please share your take in the comments below.

Still feel like too much?

If you’d like help on your own journey, I offer individual and small group coaching. Find out more here.


Photo credit: Mark Freeth // CC (Mark assures us the bird was not harmed in any way in the taking of this photo.)

Why Changing Your Job May Be Easier Than You Think

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I realized recently where 99% percent of my stress comes from.

Last month we had a mold explosion in our house. It started with a few spots on our window frames and closet shelves, and then suddenly three days later I noticed that it was covering everything—and I mean everything, up to and including my grandmother’s antique rocking chair—like some sort of evil new varnish.

My stress level rose immediately. But what I find interesting is that it wasn’t the problem itself that caused the stress. When I was resolving the issue by pouring Mold Control over everything in the house or buying a dehumidifier, I felt powerful, not stressed.

The stress came before I took action, when I was considering possible solutions and believing that they were all going to be very hard to make work.

The proverb’s wrong—it’s anticipation that killed the cat.

 My sense is that many of us avoid career change for similar reasons: we believe it’s going to be extremely difficult to make work.

Many people I talk to worry that they don’t know what they want to do, don’t have the right skills, don’t know the right people, won’t make enough money, or don’t know how to transition properly. Most think they don’t have the time, energy, or wisdom to figure it all out.

So we avoid taking action, telling ourselves that our current job isn’t so bad after all. Or we put it off until later, thinking that next year will be a better time to make a change.

What the cat actually experienced

Though I expect every challenge I face to be nearly impossible to solve, they seldom are. The mold hasn’t come back since our thorough cleaning and the introduction of a dehumidifier.

And making a successful career change doesn’t have to be hard either. In fact, I’ve seen it be quite easy.

Here are three reasons career change might very well be more painless than you think:

1. Sometimes what we really want isn’t hard to find.

I had a client once who was a project manager at an engineering firm. When we first started working together, she was burnt out and pretty sure she needed to do something drastically different. We explored lots of ideas, from home renovation to graywater installation. None of them felt right to her.

When we explored further, we found that what she really wanted was to feel as if she was creating something tangible and needed. Shortly thereafter, a friend let her know about a job with a local government engineering infrastructure improvements. She applied and got the job, and everything about the process was easy—her skills easily transferred, she felt confident in the interview, and she got along well with her future team.

When you get clear on what’s most important to you, it can be very straightforward to find (and sometimes it even finds you).

2. A good fit makes everything easier.

After getting my MBA, I got an interview for an internship at a social enterprise investment firm. The interview went well until the very end. When I took out my calendar to schedule a time to meet with the partners, the woman who had been interviewing me suddenly frowned. “Is that an anarchist calendar?” she asked me disapprovingly. “I don’t think that we can tolerate an anarchist working here.”

I immediately flushed with shame as I realized my mistake. I wasn’t an anarchist, but I’d bought the calendar at an anarchist bookstore the year before and hadn’t thought about it since.

Just then the woman flashed a smile at me. “Just kidding,” she said. “I love Long Haul Books! I got my calendar there last year too.” She ended up hiring me, and I worked there for over 3 years.

When you find a great fit, things feel easier. You don’t have to try so hard. You can lack skills or experience. You can make mistakes. You can even break out an anarchist calendar at a company devoted to capitalism.

3. You inner wisdom will point you towards the smoothest path.

I had a client once who was having a really hard time finding a job. He was looking for a position in IT at a university. His search felt excruciatingly difficult, and he wasn’t finding anything good.

Then one day he found the job he had been looking for, and he promptly realized that he didn’t actually want it. What he did want was more autonomy, greater impact, and the opportunity to work with creative people. What he was truly excited about (and scared by) was freelancing. When he realized this, his search became much easier to take action on.

Following what we think we should do or what feels safe and secure often leads to struggle and hardship. Following our soul’s desire, our inner wisdom, and what we truly want usually leads to a much smoother, much more fruitful path.

Questions to Make an Easy Change

 There are a few questions that I’ve found can help me recognize the smooth (and fruitful) path. They include:

  • What sounds good to me? What energizes or excites me? What sounds “delicious” when I think about doing it?
  • Where do I belong? With what types of people do I feel at ease, appreciated, confident, or valued?
  • What comes easily to me? Which next steps make me feel tense and stressed? Which allow me to relax and breathe?

Over to You

What helps you find ease in the process of making a change? Please share your experience and thoughts in the comments below so the rest of us can learn from them.

Find Ease in Your Career Change

You know what else makes things easier? Getting somebody else’s help. I offer Clarity Calls designed to help you get clear about what you’re wanting and create your personal roadmap for transitioning into meaningful work you love. Click here to find out what else you’ll get in this one-on-one session and how to schedule yours at a time that’s convenient for you.


Photo credit: Me! This is actually a picture of my husband joking around in Arches National Park on our honeymoon.

 

The Surprising Truth About Career Change and Depression

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I want to talk about something different today. I want to talk about career change and depression.

I’ve struggled with paralyzing low moods since I was a young teenager. Depression, along with debilitating levels of anxiety, was what forced me into therapy in my mid-20s, which helped me to learn a lot about who I really am and how I operate in the world, which ultimately led me to coaching.

I say “forced” because I’m convinced that if I hadn’t been drowning in unbearably high levels of pain, I wouldn’t have taken the good, hard look at my life and what wasn’t working for me that was necessary for me to change paths.

And I’m not the only one. I’ve personally seen a strong link between career change and depression in others as well. I talk to people all the time who are trying to make a transition and feel hopeless, despondent, and lethargic.  Sometimes they use the word “depressed” and sometimes they don’t, but the same energy can often be felt in their words and mood. It’s quite normal, especially when people are in or facing a big change.

The Negative Feedback Loop

For some reason, most of us don’t want to admit that our careers have us depressed. While my mood is much better than it used to be and I no longer need to take medication for it, I still have days when depression rears its ugly head (or traps me in its web—take your pick of dark metaphors here). Often it comes from stresses at work, but I hate to admit that.

I want to look like I have it all together, that I can handle it, that something as innocuous as doing my job could never get me so upset. I want more than anything for that to be true, because there’s a lot of shame in our culture (and in my head) attached to being weak, messy, or out of control.

But when I deny the depression, I just make it worse. Like a tar baby, the more I struggle to free myself, the more entangled I become.

I believe that’s because one of depression’s key features is a disconnection from feelings. When I deny my depression, I squash my emotions, becoming further alienated from myself and less likely to do what I need to feel better. So the depression worsens.

The Surprising Truth

The good thing about falling into the cycle of depression a lot is that you have the opportunity to break out of it just as many times. And what I’ve discovered over the years of dancing with depression is not what I expected to find in the beginning. It’s far better, in fact.

Here’s what I’ve learned:

Messy is good. 

When I really think about it, I can’t really come up with any good reasons not to be messy. In fact, it seems to be a pretty common natural state in the world. Once you embrace your depression, uncomfortable as it is, there are possibilities to enjoy it—for example, using it as an excuse to get outside more, call a friend, or treat myself to an uplifting movie (if it says “heartwarming” or “makes you want to stand up and cheer” on the back of a DVD, I’m pretty much guaranteed to love it).

Being messy also connects me to my common humanity, because no matter how bad I feel, I can be sure that there are lots of other people all across the world feeling the exact same thing as I am right now (it’s estimated that there are over 14 million Americans feeling depressed at any given moment in time). If I weren’t humbled by depression, I would likely try to convince myself that I’m the one human being on the planet completely in control of her emotions. How lonely would that be?

Bad feelings aren’t bad.

One time a few years ago before I was married I went on a date that let’s just say didn’t go as well as hoped. I woke up feeling depressed the next day. As I lay on the couch observing what was happening, it occurred to me that I was really just feeling disappointed. When I let myself feel the heavy weight of disappointment in my body, the depression lifted.

Often depression visits because I’m resisting some emotion—anger, fear, sadness, etc. The emotion feels too overwhelming, or the reason for it too small and inconsequential for me to welcome it in. I’ve found, however, that if I can honor and treat each feeling like a welcome houseguest (like in Rumi’s amazing poem “The Guest House”), there’s relief and wisdom to be found.

Depression isn’t a cruel dictator; it’s a determined teacher. 

Depression is kind of like that teacher you hated while you were in her class but then realized after you left how much you had learned.

In my experience, it slams you to the ground in order to make you listen. My depression almost always carries with it a message that I need to hear, but that I’ve been resisting. Sometimes it’s as simple as, “Slow down and get some rest.”  Other times it says, “Speak up for yourself.” Or, “Pay attention!  This isn’t the right path for you.”

Depression has taught me a lot. As I said before, I don’t think I would have sought out the support I needed or gone on the scary and difficult journey of learning the truth about myself if I hadn’t have been forced to out of sheer pain. And that journey has led me to my calling and brought me tremendous joy, purpose, fulfillment, and gifts to share with others.

The Way Out

If you’re feeling depressed, hopeless, or despondent, first of all, remember that it’s temporary. It never lasts forever. Every time I feel depressed, I think I’ll feel that way forever, but I never do.

Remembering this, the best thing I know to do is to reach out for support. Get out of your own head. Talk to friends and family about how you feel, or find a good therapist. Let them help you listen for what depression is trying to tell you.

We don’t need to be ashamed of our depression (or anxiety or fear or any other perceived neurosis). We don’t need to deny them. They’re part of who we are, which is both deeply flawed and utterly perfect.

Find Support to Make a Change

If you think your depression is related to a career change, please feel free to get in touch with me.

I offer individual and group coaching programs at various levels of investment designed to help you listen to your wisest inner self, discover what you’re meant to do in the world, and get started actually doing it.

To find out more, schedule a free 1:1 call with me. We’ll illuminate your goals, clarify your challenges, and discuss what each program involves and how it can help. There’s no cost for the call and no obligation to buy anything. Click here to apply for your free call today.


Photo credit: David // CC

 

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