Twenty years ago this month, I resigned from my secure, salaried role as a Customer Services Manager in a large multinational and stepped into the unknown. On my podcast, Your Time With James Sweetman throughout the month of August, I’ve been revisiting this scary, yet exhilarating time in my life.
Over a series of episodes, I examine how I found the courage to leap from the career ladder I’d worked so hard to climb, how I discovered the world of coaching and transformed my passion into my profession. Be sure to tune into these episodes for more insight into the highs and lows of my career journey.
With the benefit of hindsight, here are seven nuggets of wisdom I wish I had known back then.
In 2000, I left my well-paid job because I wasn’t happy. I could see a corporate career stretch in front of me and something deep down told me there has to be more to life than this. We will all experience degrees of ‘stuckness’ at different times in our lives. This lacklustre ennui is always a sign to shake things up. It doesn’t have to be a revolutionary change, but it does start by making a commitment to yourself to get curious and explore baby steps in a new direction.
Life is change and to resist change is to resist life. In reality, we don’t really resist change, we resist feeling uncomfortable. Change is growth. The price we must pay for birthing something new in our lives is self-consciousness and vulnerability.
We can never see the end from the beginning. I love the Martin Luther King quote ‘faith is taking the first step even though you can’t see the staircase.’ We move forward trusting that as we take the first step, the next step will come into focus.
Worry is the long shadow of the worst possible future that we experience in the present. We all worry; it’s part of our defence mechanism. The antidote to worry is to focus on what you can do now. I’ve learned to view worry as a reminder to exercise greater faith, both in myself (that I will take the right action when the time is right,) in the Universe/ God, (as Rumi said ‘the Universe is titled in your favour,’) and that things generally have a tendency to work out.
I did worry that I was making the biggest mistake of my life leaving my job, but my instincts told me I was doing the right thing. I struggled to make the decision, but once it was made, I immediately felt better, lighter, relieved. In the six months prior to making the decision, my health suffered. Physical disease reflects mental dis-ease. That sense of relief and feeling lighter was the only evidence I had that I’d made the best decision for me.
People told me I was mad to leave my senior job in a company where I had achieved success and was well respected. I’d climbed a career ladder but it had been against the wrong building, but I needed to climb that ladder so I could see the bigger picture.
My years of being an employee in the corporate world; the project management experience, living through complex change, managing teams, working in sales, delivering presentations, managing customer expectations and building working relationships all continue to serve me.
Like countless others when I worked in the corporate world I was playing a role, wearing a mask and over time this drains the soul. Often we need to give ourselves permission to just be ourselves, with our own likes and dislikes, our own opinions.
Your uniqueness is your gift to the world. Before others can hear your voice, you have to hear it and value it yourself. In a society that seemingly rewards conformity, it takes courage to be an independent thinker, to act on your soul’s calling and to reach for the fullest truest expression of you.
The journey to a more fulfilling career or meaningful life starts by acknowledging that no one else is responsible for your happiness. The buck starts here! Sometimes we simply have to make a decision to be happier, to instigate change, to draw a line in the sand and say enough.
I made that liberating decision in the autumn of 2000. Back then, I would have loved to have known the Paulo Coelho quote ‘at the moment of commitment the Universe conspires to assist you.’ Over the last twenty years, I’ve seen ample evidence to know this is true.
If you enjoyed this post I would suggest you read my post Journaling – right it out. Apart from capturing my ideas when inspiration hits and organising my thoughts on a topic, the benefit I get from journaling is being able to witness my life. This helps me observe my patterns, detach from my concerns and gives me a greater sense of control which in turn reduces my levels of worry and stress.
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