Written by: Nancy L. Seibel
You have probably heard the expression “pay attention to your heart’s desires.” And while we may not be able to have everything we want, it’s those very desires that tell an important story that helps guide us in moving forward in the right direction.
How do I know this? Well…
I had a good career, but I left it. Not because I was independently wealthy, and not because I was ready to retire. Instead at age 57, I decided it was time to start thinking about something new. It was time for me to continue pursuing my life purpose but in a new way. Instead of working for someone else, I was ready to be the boss of me.
Sounds like an easy enough decision right? I was unhappy, so I left to work for myself. Case closed.
But it was one of the most difficult decisions of my life.
I am usually very decisive, but the choice to leave my current line of work was not easy. I did my job very well and had been with the company for many years. I had the camaraderie and security of being a part of team, earning a regular paycheck and benefits. A big part of my identity was tied up in my work. It was hard to envision walking away from what I had worked so hard to achieve.
I struggled with this decision for years. Literally. During this time I didn’t just stew in my indecision though. I started taking the steps that would let me make the career change I envisioned. I took courses to get the information and credentials that I needed. I started saving up some money to help with the transition, and talked to trusted friends about my ideas and got their feedback.
Finally the day came where I was sick of myself! It was time to make up my mind and move forward. But I knew I needed some help.
My then-boyfriend, who is now my husband, suggested I contact a career coach he had met and found to be very knowledgeable and helpful. That sounded like a great idea. I met with her and as it turned out, her help was exactly what I needed.
With Michele’s guidance, I took inventory of my strengths, resources and vision. She helped me unlock the door to see what was holding me back. And behind it I found some pretty intense fears.
Like anyone thinking of starting a business, I had a fear of failing. It’s no secret that plenty of small businesses just don’t make it. Would my new venture become another statistic?
I had a fear of starving. Dropping my sole means of income to pursue an idea was scary enough. But if I failed, I wouldn’t even be able to put food on the table. And that was even scarier.
In truth, though, it was an exaggerated fear. If my business didn’t succeed, I would be disappointed. But I would still be employable, and my family and friends would not let me actually starve.
Yet, facing those fears helped me realize I could let go and focus my energies on how to be successful in my new venture. Working with Michele helped me find clarity and finally I came to a place where I felt confident, at peace and comfortable with my decision.
As part of making this decision, I read some excellent books including “The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles” by Steven Pressfield, and “The Gifts of Imperfection” by Brene Brown. I recommend them for anyone who is grappling with fears related to making important changes in their lives.
So, with Michele’s wise guidance, I reached that place of calmness and clarity with my decision. I was ready. I spoke to my supervisor to let her know I had decided to resign. While this was a difficult conversation, I continued to feel confident and calm as we talked. I knew I was making the right choice.
Over time we worked out a date and a transition plan that included a piece of consulting work that I could start as part of my new business. That helped allay the fear of starving part!
This choice to become a solopreneur wasn’t just a choice about how I earned my paycheck. It changed most of the everyday parameters of my life. The biggest change for me personally was figuring out my new identity.
As I share this story with all of you, I feel quite a bit of pride. I found the help I needed to face fears that were holding me back. I’ve created the life that I want to live, with work that is meaningful and with a business that is growing, allowing me to be creative, and to reconnect to my core purpose.
Somewhere along the way a part of me had died off, and I have been able to reclaim it. I have the creative pieces of me back. I am being an adventurer and a pioneer again. To get those things I had to walk away from a career I’d worked hard for. It was worth it. Letting go of that created the room for what has come next.
This started out as a journey into the unknown. Even with all my preparations, I still didn’t know what was ahead. Yet as I came to the decision to make this career change, I felt a calm certainty that I was doing the right thing.
When you make a big change like this, whether it is in a career, a relationship, or something else, there is a process of letting go of the old and building a new sense of self. Because my vision and clarity about my new business was still evolving, my new identity was still emerging too. And trust me: there were plenty of days when I felt pretty wobbly.
Looking back, sometimes I wish I spent less time making this decision. On the other hand, maybe it was best that I remained at my workplace as long as I did. Maybe I really wasn’t quite ready yet to make the change. Who knows.
But the confidence is there now, due in large part to the support I have sought and been lucky to find along the way.
I haven’t shared this story in writing before, but decided to because it might help others who find themselves stuck at some point in their lives.
Your turning point and the decision you’re making might be a very different one from mine. Here’s what you might be able to draw from my story.
Things don’t have to be perfect. If you want to make a change, don’t rush it. But also, don’t stay stuck. Take the time you need and get the help you need. Create a vision that you can steer toward, and develop a plan that will let you make those dreams a reality. You’ll know when you’ve reached a good decision and you’re ready for the next step.
Nancy Seibel guides over-giving, service-centered professionals in reconnecting with what matters most in life: caring relationships, core purpose and clear vision. She lives, works, knits, cooks and rides her bicycle in Catonsville, MD. She founded Keys to Change, LLC in 2012 after 30+ years of nonprofit work.