In his seminal work, Tao Te Ching, Lao Tzu stated “the journey of a 1,000 miles begins with a single step”, teaching us that even the longest and most difficult ventures have a starting point; something which only begins by taking that first, single step forward.
A Step Into the Unknown
When it comes to starting out toward designing a purposeful, fulfilling future for ourselves, sometimes it can seem as though that first step is like trying to cross the Grand Canyon. As practical thinkers and logical planners, figuring out the next step (or steps) in something that is NOT wholly thought out, planned, and where there are unresolved or uncertain answers can feel like an overwhelming and impossible task. That’s how I felt and where my journey began.
This was uncharted territory. There wasn’t already a formula or framework with which I felt I could reference, study, and execute against. This journey of finding my W.H.O. required peeling back the layers of my own bias, assumptions, and expectations to begin dreaming, without the restrictions of reality, money, time, or effort.
It’s not that I’m not a creative problem solver – far from it. I could work with clients to explore and design new, untested ideas whenever a difficult problem or barrier didn’t have a nice, neat, obvious solution to leverage. It’s just that those exercises were always grounded within the boundaries and confines of a playground I had constructed: a logical, sensible, reality-based playground that had statistical analysis and benchmarks that could be measured against to determine acceptable solution and outcome.
But now, it was time for me to dream…and dream big. No longer was I going to let my ‘safe’ thinking keep me confined to the current reality of my life. It was time for me to take a step back and think of an existence where I felt fulfilled, content, happy, and excited to start each day. And that journey started with a simple question following a webinar I stumbled upon that set me on this evolutionary course of Me 2.0…“What would you love?“
What Would You Love?
Growing up, I was a deeply passionate person who followed whatever idea or activity peaked my interest or fed my curiosity to learn or try something new. But, as we all know, youth (vs. adulthood) can be a perfect incubator for these exploratory musings. Almost as soon as you start high school, you’re asked “what do you want to do with your life”? In hindsight, this is completely ridiculous. How can a teenager have the mental maturity and forethought to really decide what the rest of their life will look like? We’ve never lived outside of our protective bubble. When asked that question, my “still, small voice” said one thing (“pursue musical theatre”), but my sensible, logical brain said something completely different (“that’s ridiculous, it’s not practical and you’ll never be able to make a predictable, sustainable living”). So, in the end, I chose – what I thought – was the more practical path. Yet, in hindsight, the career path I chose would have had no guarantees of employment or wealth. And no surprise, as is true of many college students who pursue a career that may last them a decade or less, the path I chose was in no way – in the end – what I wanted to do when I grew up.
How often are we willing to really check in with ourselves and ask that question? Is it because we don’t know? Are we scared of what answer we may hear in response? Or is it because we do know, but have no idea how to make it happen? For me, as I’m sure for many of you, it’s a combination of all three.
Stop Seeking and Start Walking
Our lives on this planet and our time we’ve been allocated are finite. It’s time we stop doing what we think we need to and start doing what we’re meant to do. Once I was willing to recognize and accept this truth in my life – that I was unfulfilled in my work and was just existing vs. living – I knew I needed to take that first step…but what was it? In my adult life, I rarely gave myself permission to think about what I wanted vs. what I needed, career-wise.
If you’re reading this blog (thank you, by the way!), you’re probably a similar person as me…a type-A perfectionist who needs to feel as though you’ve exhausted all possible avenues to finally decide on the ‘best’ one. I’m going to try and save you countless months or years on your journey by telling you to stop seeking and start walking. Before now, I wasted so many hours researching purpose, passion, finding your why, etc. that I became overwhelmed and basically unable to take a single step, for fear it was the wrong one. But don’t worry, I will be sharing with you what steps I did take, what worked, what didn’t, and what’s moved me forward in my journey towards purposeful work and life fulfillment.
So, I hope you’ve connected a little with my story and feel you’re struggling with the same uncertainties and paradigms. If I could do it again, I’d want to have a kindred ally telling me to stop focusing on the research and start applying realistic, actionable steps towards designing the life and career you were meant to have…only if you’re ready to let down your guard and listen to that voice that’s screaming to be heard within yourself. Let’s take those steps together.