Are you playing it safe, but feeling trapped in the life you have created for yourself? How do you know when it's time to move on from a job, a relationship, or even the town you live in? Often times the best strategy to achieve victory in life's battles is to "burn the boats behind us." Times may be a bit lean right now but the truth is, this is a great opportunity to grow. Before you write me off as crazy, listen to what I have to say about job loss, income issues, and any of life's major challenges.
Step 1: If you are not dead, this challenge will make you stronger.
Step 2: This is your opportunity to think about what you really want in life.
Step 3: Ask yourself what kind of goals inspire you right now. If you move towards you inspiration fully, learn from your passion, and share it with the world, you can't fail!
Is the reason you don't reach your goals because you don't care anymore? You may not have a clear vision of where you want to go, but you may know that you need to leave where you are right now. When I first got into the habit of setting goals, people told me they should set S.M.A.R.T goals (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely). It was very methodical, but it didn't work well for me. I wanted to achieve my S.M.A.R.T goals, but they never consistently got my butt in motion to do anything about them. What did work for me was scrapping that whole process by looking at the goals I had already achieved and the goals that I hadn't. What I found was that the goals I achieved weren't usually the S.M.A.R.T ones. They were the goals that inspired me and they drove me to action the minute I thought about them. Now when I set a goal, if it doesn't change the way I feel or my state immediately, then I know it's a bad goal, I won't bother with it.
How do I know when I'm inspired? Not too long ago I made a decision to "burn the boats" with my career and begin, again. You know how people suggest to you that the things you did as a child are what you should do for a living? What I really enjoyed was coaching youth sports teams (even though I was a kid myself) and creating art. I would immerse myself so deeply in those projects, and would lose track of time. I love how it felt to help people grow, seeing that "A-ha" moment in people's eyes. That has always been something I got off on. How could I get back in touch with wanting to inspire people, have fun helping and connecting with people? The more work I've done towards that as a recruiter, the more the goals themselves totally inspired me. The funny thing is that somewhere along the line I've begun to achieve it; it inspired me, drove me to action and created a result. I am no longer was adopting socially conditioned goals, where you set them, start working on them then realize deep down you just don't care. My goals were always about what other people wanted, not what inspired me.
So I thought I would try to set inspiring goals. The question is; how do you tease out that motivation by connecting what you want in your life? One of the first steps is disconnecting what you don't want. You may find yourself in a trap where your life is filled with things you don't want, or don't feel connected to. They leave you feeling uninspired. Maybe you're in a city you don't want to live in, or a job you don't like, maybe a relationship where you feel stuck. It's counter-intuitive to shed what you don't want in order to create space for what you do want. Now at this point you may be asking yourself "Who is this guy and is he serious? It’s a crappy job market and I'm going to leave what do have, behind? It’s better than nothing!" As Steven Covey says, go for win-win or no deal. Too many of us think that compromise is the best solution. Personally, I'd rather be homeless than be in a situation I don't enjoy. Did I burn the boats? Absolutely. You have to burn the ships that got you there when you land on the new shore. However, you don't want to burn the food and supplies! I'm guilty of this and had to learn the hard way a few times... Make a careful distinction between what you need (food and supplies) vs. the escape route that's keeping you tied to that ship. It's no different that going through a divorce, you've got leave, but DAMN you wish you had grabbed that end table...
After burning the ships, you've taken it far enough to where you are committed. If you have to quit your job to move forward (and a lot of people do) the job isn't only the food and supplies, it’s the ship as well! That's what may very well be keeping you in the wrong harbor. In my parents and grandparents generation, the idea was that you picked a job and did that for life. We've inherited the ability to not question our circumstances or choices we made years ago. It's not that I woke up one morning and turned the corner; it was a gradual malaise, a long slow curve, that developed over time. I t took me years to realize what was happening to me, no matter how many times I had heard it from others. I couldn't mute my feelings any longer, and made the choice to recreate myself. Rather than mute my feelings, I made the choice to follow inspiration. There's a part of me that wants to shake the hell out of the people I interact with, rip the heart out of my chest and stick it in theirs! By heart I mean courage. The definition of courage is “the state or quality of mind or spirit that enables one to face danger, fear, or vicissitudes with self-possession, confidence, and resolution; bravery.” It is derived from the Middle English corage, from Old French, from Vulgar Latin *corāticum, from Latin cor, heart. The root of the word courage is heart. Ask yourself, does this path I’m on have a heart?
How do you know if the path has heart? You feel it in your chest, it excites you, and you have an emotional reaction to it. At the same time it scares you, you have this feeling of "wow, that would be awesome but I don't know if I can pull it off..." These are the goals that should really inspire you. Excitement is part inspiration and part terror. I have to be somewhat scared about the path I'm on because that's the path that is building courage. It’s scary out there and so many of us are playing it safe. Find that edge, that thing you feel in your chest that both scares and excites you. Safe is an adjective and a noun, it means both free from harm and an enclosed locked container. If you’re living the noun you’re living the adjective as well. The need for security is restricting your freedom. If the basis of your of your self esteem is your need for security, a safe relationship or a steady paycheck, you're living in a cage.
What does it look like to take a step outside of that? Initially it’s terrifying. At the same time it’s thrilling. From a pretty early age, I made a conscious decision to create difficulty in my life as a means of creating growth. It’s been long, progressive training, no different than using dumbbells to strength train. For someone who has been stuck, changing jobs is a huge weight to lift. It’s like a "newbie" looking at a 100 pound dumbbell, thinking that's too much weight to curl. Yet everyone is at a different level of courage, only able to tolerate a level of uncertainty. You need to have a vision of where you are going when it comes to the application of courage. Ask yourself "where do I want to be? What shore am I sailing to" THEN burn the ship! How important is that vision of where you want to be? It depends on if you’re in more of a training or destination mindset. There are times when I have goals that are just about training. Maybe there something I'm afraid of where I need to build my courage. a fear I need to get over, then I’ll go do it. Maybe after that the vision is more about competition so it’s more of performance mode than practice. Performance mode is applying the strength I’ve already built. As any athlete knows, there’s a big difference between practice and games. If all they did was play games, they wouldn't be a great athlete because practice puts you in as many potential scenarios as possible.
Now to the meaty part. Are you worried about your job and the possibility of losing it? Wondering what to do if you've already lost your job? How can you turn that job loss into a positive opportunity? How can focusing on your passion, rather than paying your bills actually help build a more satisfying life? We all have been at the "oh shit, what am I gonna do" part. Some of us will look at the glass being half empty and some half full. This path I'm sharing with you of courage and inspiration seems like the high, unrealistic and impractical road. There is a hidden benefit to losing your job. It is GOING to make you stronger. It's very true that whatever doesn't kill you will make you stronger. You may be running deeper and deeper into debt, even on the verge of bankruptcy. You know what? You will still be here. Your life won't end, it'll only make you stronger and wiser. You' have plenty of time to relax when you're six feet under. You should be building skills that may have never developed if you hadn't gone through that experience. To reiterate, the first step is;
1: If you lost your job, that's a wonderful thing because it's going to make you stronger. People will come to me and tell me they quit their job, lost it, or got laid off. Invariably my response is congratulations! That's awesome! I can say that because I know they are about to go through a monstrous growth experience. There are lots of people who lose their jobs and feel a sense of relief, as if some enormous burden has been lifted. It's all in your mind and depends entirely on your perspective, how you react is under your control. You can see it as a huge opportunity, or not. Your goal shouldn't be to live a cozy, secure and safe life-you'll have plenty of opportunity to do that when you're 6 feet under, in a nice little box. No one will bug you then.
2: Start thinking about what you really want to do. Maybe you're not strong enough to lift that weight yet, but you can start developing your courage and skills in that direction. What kind of goals inspire you right now? Don't look at the easy ones, but the ones that will lift you up. Re-frame it from "Oh my God, holy sh*t" into "here we go, this is a gift, it'll make me stronger". Now we need to get clear about what we really want and what starts moving us towards that, what gets us fired up.
3: Ask yourself what kind of goals inspire you right now. If you move towards your inspiration fully, learn from your passion, and share it with the world, you can't fail! There's a balance between being freaked out. What's a simple way of finding the balance between challenge and being freaked out? Grow a pair! Helen Keller said life is a daring adventure or nothing. There is no in between. The challenge is what makes you you stronger. It's the equivalent of going to the gym and lifting the same weight day after day. Whats the point? You're not gonna get any stronger? How long are you going to stick with the 10 pound dumbbells? Progress! Get stronger! Of course its harder to lift the heavy weights, you'd be bored and frustrated by a lack of growth. There's no need to fear it or resist it, even though it's called resistance training. Let the resistance come from life itself, not from whats within you.
When people lose their jobs, they really start thinking hard about their lives, maybe for the first time in quite awhile. You may be feeling a mixture of panic and relief. Almost always they're losing a job they didn't really want (which is often the reason why they lost it). They were expendable. They were fired or laid off because they weren't really needed. They weren't doing work that they were passionate about. It's not very common that people who are passionate are fired or laid off. They are usually awesome to be around and management is going to let that person go last and only if they absolutely have to. That person is probably doing more work than anyone else and they're creating a ton of value. Knowing those things to be true, turn inward, determine what you're really passionate about, what you'd really like to do and how can you create that.
Don't focus too much on the "how" right away..its the why. Ask yourself, what would that kind of life be like, and start feeling that passion once again. That passion and excitement is what's going to get you into action! Job security is finding that passion, adding energy, and contributing. That's what people want to be around. You are adding energy-you're a contributor. A manager of 10 employees that has to lay off two is NOT going to lay off those that have the energy, passion and contribute. They're going to lay off those that are miserable, unproductive, that don't really fit, those that aren't easy get along with and that don't want to be there. The manager is actually doing them a favor by laying them off! Those are the individuals that really DO need that wake up call! If I've been laid off, and I'm sitting here reading this trying to shift my perspective, there is incentive for me to dig deep and find out what I'm inspired by because that's going to make me more attractive. Take the time and find out what fires you up because THAT is going to make you more marketable and relevant. Inspiration is absolutely critical. I've worked for a time without it and a great deal of time with it. After experiencing both sides of that fence I could never go back to working without it. When you're passionate, filled with energy, happy and contributing, you find yourself inspiring people in ways that you can't even imagine!
When I truly became successful in this business, it wasn't when I started billing x amount of dollars, it was when I made the decision to start helping and inspiring people. People say do what you love and the money will follow. I find that it's somewhat accurate, but you have to understand why that is the case. See, when you do what you love, you do it often and you get good at it. Eventually. Hopefully. If you keep working at it, for 10,000 hours (according to Outliers) you're going to become great! I imagine this is only true if you work at it intelligently and passionately, rather than making the same mistakes over and over. Eventually you'll create some value for other people. Now you have some talent that you can share, use and teach other people how to do what you're doing. Then you can create income by exchanging value with others. It started for me with awareness of finding my passion, really focusing on it, developing it and sharing it with others.
Just because you made your bed doesn't mean you have to lie in it. I no longer believe that I have to live with my past decisions, choices, and actions. Thank God. The past is past and has nothing to do with me. It has nothing to do with Now. Do not let anything from your past inhibit you as you go about re-creating yourself. Start over. Start Fresh. Each day. Each hour. Each minute. Just get going. Just do it. Just say it. With passion. All else will take care of itself.