“If you’re brave enough to leave behind everything familiar and comforting, which can be anything from your house to bitter, old resentments, and set out on a truth-seeking journey, either externally or internally, and if you are truly willing to regard everything that happens to you on that journey as a clue and if you accept everyone you meet along the way as a teacher and if you are prepared, most of all, to face and forgive some very difficult realities about yourself, then the truth will not be withheld from you.”
This weekend I happened to catch the movie Eat, Love, Pray on TV. Though I usually love any movie or book about journey and growth, for some reason I’d never been interested in watching this movie. Perhaps somewhere inside I was envious that I couldn’t up and leave my life for a year to travel and find myself.
Two things struck me about the above referenced quote the movie ended with. First, “If you are willing to regard everything that happens to you on that journey as a clue”. What a powerful approach to life, as our life is always a journey. I know, at least for me, that for so long I worried over and tried to fix and control everything happening in my life. Others I know often become apathetic and accept things, assuming they can’t be changed. I’ve now learned that worrying won’t fix things, and often what you are worrying about never comes to fruition. And how much focus, intentionality and happiness were lost in those hours of worrying. And yes, often you may not have the power to change things in your life, but you can be empowered to regard those things as a clue to your journey.
The second part of this quote that struck me was “accept everyone you meet along the way as a teacher”. Everyone we meet is a teacher. People we like and admire and people we don’t. They all teach us if we are willing to pay attention to the lesson. A great example of this was one of the biggest changes I made in the direction of my career. I was working for an estate planning law firm and had been promoted from receptionist to legal assistant. At first I was proud and eager to learn my new job. Then, after a few years, I finally realized that role wasn’t for me. While I was good at it, it didn’t fulfill or inspire me. I thought I was going to have to find a new job and that kept me paralyzed in this position I really wasn’t enjoying. After all, I didn’t want to leave this job. I’d worked there for years and loved my boss and my co-workers. Now, I can see that resentment and entitlement was slipping in. The job I once tackled with fervor began to irritate me. I realized afterwards that I’d been struggling with this for awhile. I just didn’t know it, and therefore it was stealing my focus and joy. When you don’t look at things that happen and how you feel as ‘clues’ to your journey, you don’t realize why you are feeling disengaged, emotional detached and overall unfulfilled. You blame yourself, or others, rather than just realizing the clues. After all, it’s hard to strip out the blame and right and wrong of a situation and just stand in that place of realization. For me, at the time, it was hard to admit that I didn’t want this ‘career track’ I’d been placed on. It was easier, at the time, to think “I’m overworked, tired, burned out” and that’s why I’m not happy. By allowing those things to factor into my decision, it actually took away my power to make a decision based entirely on empowerment and what I wanted in my future. Had I instead paid attention to the clues, I may have realized what was really bothering me.
Fortunately, I found an unexpected teacher who helped me realize I didn’t have to leave the place I loved to work. I could discover and create a new role that inspired me and helped grow the business, within my workplace. I was chatting with an old friend. I knew she had recently moved and just started a new job. I inquired how she was liking her new job. I wasn’t looking for nor asking for any advice, I was simply catching up with a friend. What she said hit me between the eyes and moved me forward. She said “It’s great. I realize in this new job that I love working with people, not paper. I can’t wait everyday to get to work.” She articulated what I wanted but was too blinded by the “what is” of my current job to be able to see. She was my teacher showing me what could be. So, I talked to my boss about my unhappiness in my role, while expressing how much I loved working for him. Together we designed a role that allowed me to go out into the community and introduce our firm and services to others and be the first person clients met with when they started working with us. (This was back in the day, before this role became popular in estate planning law firms.) I was in a role I could thrive in and helping bring more business into the company. And we hired someone who loved being a legal assistant. Holy cow! This changed the path of my career and saved me from either being stuck in a role I hated, that was starting to show, or leaving a place I didn’t want to leave!
I realize now the power of seeing everything that happens as a clue and every person we come across as a teacher. To do so leaves us in total control – not of what happens to us – but of the decisions we make. Being overworked, burned out and tired (which is something we hear constantly from business owners and team members) doesn’t have to be a reason to do anything. If you connect with the clues to what will fulfill your passion keys and look to the teachers you meet, you can often find a solution versus running from being overworked, burned out and tired. Because guess what, had I given up and left my law firm I would have quickly found myself in another role where I was unhappy, overworked and tired! Because I didn’t know what I needed to be fulfilled, until an unexpected teacher showed me. Until you accept the clues, the teachers and hold them up to yourself as a mirror, you will repeat the same patterns no matter where you go. And whether that means you stay in a place or move on, you will do so with all possibilities on the table.
Team members, your bosses are your teachers. Bosses, your team members are your teachers as well. And there is so much to be learned when you can strip out the blame and right/wrong from your conversations and instead have honest, while respectful, conversations with each other.
Champions of Your Continued Success,
Molly and Laney