Growing can be hard. Maybe you’ve spent a career, or even a whole lifetime, polishing a certain set of skills and interests. You’re good. You’re content. Maybe, though, there’s a nagging thought that you’re ready for something else. Notice, I said “something else” which may or may not be the same thing as “something more.”
Shaking things up and moving from your current comfort zone doesn’t necessarily mean you’re climbing to the next rung on the corporate ladder. It doesn’t have to mean you’re pushing for a position at a bigger company with a bigger paycheck (although it can mean that!). It may not even have anything to do with your career. It may be time to tackle a new interest or hobby. It may be time to open that side-business or to stop pushing back on those offers to teach a class one night a week. Regardless of what it is, one thing is undeniably true: Life is better when you are stretching your limits and fully owning your value.
No Cookie Cutters Here
What does success look like? Undoubtedly, you’ve heard someone ask that question as if there was a right and wrong answer. Those around you may have rattled off specific job titles. They may have included things like “owning a home” and having a family. A few may have even gotten very specific about when they’d achieve these milestones and it almost felt like the younger they arrive at them, the more successful they would be. Here’s the thing. Life is not a race and no one is walking the same exact trail as you. Again, this is about stretching YOUR limits and fully owning YOUR value. Don’t confuse a prepackaged narrative of success that someone once rattled off like a fairytale you were expected to embody with actual success. This is personal.
Many of us think we’re quite well-acquainted with our goals, our dreams, our skills, and our talents. In truth, even if we are self-aware, it’s worth sitting down and taking a self-inventory from time to time. Start by asking yourself the following questions:
o What makes me unabashedly happy?
o What have I created, developed or accomplished?
o What tasks can I get lost in? When do I find myself working in a zone of focus?
o Who inspires me and why? Whom do I inspire and why?
o What aspects of my career/life would I miss if I had to give it all up tomorrow?
o What childhood dreams am I still dreaming and what’s held me back from pursuing them?
Chasing Unicorns and Slaying Dragons
Thinking back to the last question on the list above, let’s say your child-self dreamed of being a Broadway star. As you got older, maybe your realized that you didn’t quite have the voice of Idina Menzel. You opted to follow a different path, but when you catch a glimpse of Menzel belting out a song, you imagine yourself standing on stage just like her. You can hear the roar of the crowd, feel the heat of the stage lights on your face, the warmth of pride mixed with perspiration trickling down your neck. This doesn’t necessarily mean you should quit your day job and devote your days to auditions until
You see your name in lights on the Great White Way. (Unless, of course it does, then by all means, go for it!) It may mean, however, that you could consider stretching yourself a little and dabble in community theater. It may mean that you hit up open mic night once in a while to reconnect with that side of yourself. Here’s a secret — finding fulfillment in one aspect of your life can trickle over and give a boost to every other aspect of your life. Don’t ignore a dream that manifests itself as a hobby or side gig because it doesn’t seem “big enough.”
Yes, Failure is an Option
So, you stretched. You leapt, in fact. You tried. And it didn’t work. That failure doesn’t mean you were wrong to try, and it most certainly shouldn’t keep you from trying to stretch a little in a different direction at some point in the future. We’re not always going to stick the landing. Sometimes we’re going to go all in and it’s going to flop anyway. That’s okay. This is when we dust ourselves off and evaluate what went wrong…and what went right. Let’s be clear, you may not have ultimately succeeded with what you set out to do this time around, but there are certainly things that worked. There are new things you learned. There is something valuable you can take from this experience and use in the future. Don’t view this is a mistake. This was just a step on your way to where you’re really headed.