That Friday afternoon, as my handymen were done installing my security system and had just left my place, I was finally ready to get back to work. Except I didn’t even make it to my laptop. Physically, I mean. I was stuck to my sofa, unable to move or even to start thinking. All I could do was stay there, close my eyes, let this deep fatigue take control of me – and I quickly fell asleep.
I slept all afternoon, and my laptop remained untouched.
That day marks one of the critical turning points that enabled me to re-focus my life, in dramatically different yet so much more fulfilling spaces. Well let’s be clear though – that day was also a little painful!..
Let’s be clear: the idea that I needed to change something about my life wasn’t new to me, at all. I had been thinking about it for years, had read tons of books about it, was even giving advice to my friends and co-workers about how they needed to change theirs! The fact is, over the years I had developed and strengthen a few internal barriers, working hard against my ability to go for that much needed change.
With this article, I thought I’d share what they were, and what helped me finally overcome them: This is by no mean an attempt to teach or tell anyone what they should do in their life, but I hope that sharing my experience will resonate and give hints about how to address those hard moments, when change has become inevitable
1. Listen to the signs … and give yourself some love.
I’ve worked hard, very hard, and very long hours, at a job and a career, in which I was far from being fulfilled. Up to a point, where I started to have physical signs of burn-out: deep fatigue, physical sickness, inability to focus on a task. The reality though, is that I consider myself quite knowledgeable when it comes to listening to yourself, and signs to watch for. I also consider myself well aware of what a burn-out is.
Except that I completely missed it.
But it became actually worse, because guess what was my first reaction to those symptoms? I felt ashamed. Ashamed, and lazy, to have spent all afternoon – during a work day! – sleeping on my couch, while my company was trusting me with working from home. How did I even dare to do that?!
Today, as I look back at this situation and my reaction, of course I find it crazy and making no sense. But truth is, accepting and expressing our vulnerability gets even harder, in those moments where we’re on the edge of our life.
That’s why, if I could do it again, or if I could leave a message with you, it would be: listen to the signs, and give yourself some love. If deep tiredness takes over you, or if your brain decided that it just can’t continue processing what’s on the screen, or any other physical reaction leading to stop what you’re currently doing: listen to it, and give yourself some love. Your body isn’t trying to play some trick, it’s trying to tell you something.
2. Do the math
So what was I to do? Because I tend to work well with facts and numbers that put reality into a strong new perspective, I decided to do the following math: Based on the extra hours I was working every day, at a job that clearly I didn’t love, how much life time was I wasting?
And here it was.
29 days. A year.
Let me say it again.
29 full days. And that’s just considering the over-time hours.
Every year, I was losing a full month of life, being miserable at a job, instead of pursuing my dreams – becoming a pilot, traveling to Patagonia, or even learning Spanish so I could speak to my best friend in his native tongue.
And again, I only talk over-time here, so imagine if I start considering the full time spent at work, doing something unfulfilling!
3. It’s never the right time, that’s why now is the time.
How many times have I heard:
“Now’s not a good time [to stop working at that very unfulfilling job that is mine], I need to first get through the end of this project so I can add it to my resume [and continue being miserable for another year at least]”
Or “I will be ready for promotion after another 18 months on this job, so I don’t want to quit now”
The truth is, I myself told me that as well for years. The reality though, is that this experience I was looking to acquire through this job, or the promotion I was expecting to get out of that job, either didn’t happen, or happened at levels, that would have been at least the same, if not better, had I changed and gone for a better suited job. All in all, staying in a job “because you need to gain this experience” or because “then you’ll be ready for a promotion”, is not worth it in comparison to a job that fulfills you.
OK, so say now’s the time to do it: How do you actually go for it?
4. As you investigate your options, focus on what you have, vs. what you don’t
I have to say that this has been the mental framework that’s been a total unlock for me. And that would work, whether you know what your dream job is or not.
I had been living for 5 years in the US, as an expat for my company. I had learned to appreciate living and working in this country immensely, and didn’t see myself moving back to any other country, at least in the short term. The challenge though, was that I didn’t have a resident status: the day I would break my work contract with my company, I would have 90 days to leave the country.
So I was desperate to find ways to stay, and that meant finding a way to get sponsored to get my residency. The reality is, that the options I had on hand meant staying on my job (or similar) for another at least 2 years – while I knew that I could barely continue for a few months. This situation drove me sick, once more.
Until I made the shift. Instead of focusing on what I didn’t have – i.e. my residency – I started to focus on what I had. As an expat, I still had all my social security rights in my home country, which are very generous. Also, living in the US had enabled me to develop my own hybrid culture, which I knew would stay with me wherever I would go.
And little by little, as I was focusing on all those things I actually had – and we have much more than we think! – I was able to develop a completely new plan, in line with what I wanted and needed.
It’s been now a year that I’ve been on this journey, and 8 months that I’m finally living the life – needless to say how worth it is.
Now here’s my question to you:
What change are you going to drive this year?