I woke up and groaned. It was a Monday, again. My calendar was choc-a-bloc with meetings and presentations. I dragged myself out of bed, looked at the figure in the mirror, and started crying at the sight of the tired face with sunken eyes and slumped shoulders.
Prestigious education degrees, dream campus placement followed by impressive lateral movements, and a high-profile corporate job with a seven-figure salary. I was a successful professional by the world’s yardsticks. Yet I was crying like a loser in my bathroom.
‘You haven’t slogged this long to spend your days on autopilot. You have not come so far to not have time for family and friends,’ said a voice in my head. This time I didn’t silence it.
I was disenchanted and disillusioned for the last few years of my corporate career. The voice in my head had been goading me to change my life’s direction. But I felt trapped. This career was what I had aspired for, was good at, and what I had done all my life. I had no hobbies and passions.
While I loved my husband and daughter, my work was my identity. I was afraid of losing this identity and the associated independence.
‘Then be prepared to spend Mondays waiting for Fridays for the rest of your life,’ the voice in my head whispered.
“No,” I screamed, wiping away the tears streaming down my cheeks, and shouted, “I want to wake up with a smile every day.”
That day I gave my notice at work. “You have lost your head,” people said. For a change, I didn’t listen to them. I was willing to incur the sharp pains of self-discovery than endure the dull ache of listlessness for the rest of my life.
That was a year ago. Today I get up from bed early in the morning and enjoy two newspapers at leisure while sipping tea on my scenic balcony. I have the privilege of choosing the people I work with. I enjoy doing what I do, and work doesn’t feel like work.
So, how did everything change? How did I find my direction and make a successful career pivot after losing myself?
“When you stay on purpose and refuse to be discouraged by fear, you align with the infinite self, in which all possibilities exist.” – Wayne Dyer
How I first uncovered my passions…
I used my notice period to think, reflect and figure out that I needed to pursue my passions to feel fulfilled. Either at work as a profession or outside work as a pursuit. So, uncovering my passions was the first step.
Here are the lessons from my self-discovery phase:
1. Ask for help from your trusted friends. Then eliminate and select.
Reach out to a set of people close to you whom you trust and who have known you for at least five years. Be direct and specific about the support you want from them to get constructive results.
I reached out to four of my closest colleagues to list five areas of my strengths with reasons and examples. As a result, I not only got a list of skills but also a third-party validation of these capabilities — a much-needed confidence booster.
2. Reflect on what gets you to a state of ‘flow’.
The answers to all your questions lie within you. Spend time with yourself to get those answers. I asked myself three specific questions:
- What did I love doing as a child, as a teenager, when I first started work?
- When was I last so absorbed in something that I lost track of time? What was I doing?
- If I were accidentally locked in a bookshop overnight, which section would I camp out in?
It became apparent to me where in which areas I should apply my skills even as I noted the answers.
3. Upskill yourself.
You put in the hard work while pursuing your degree to land that job, didn’t you? You will have to do the same again to transform your passion into a pursuit or profession. Especially if your chosen future area is entirely different from your current domain.
Choose wisely and prudently among the virtual courses, certifications, diplomas, and degrees. The aim here is to build a foundation for your future success and not simply add an extra credential to your LinkedIn profile.
I decided to pursue two divergent careers, both completely different from one another, and unrelated to my previous background, opting for simultaneous certifications in both areas. This helped me transform my nascent ideas into a structured plan.
…and then transformed them into professions.
After I had zeroed down on my passions, I dived headlong into my new careers. These are my learnings from the phase:
1. Do while you learn.
How did you learn to ride a bicycle? By riding it. How did you become adept in your first job role? By doing it. It is no different during the transition.
If you wait to complete that course or degree to restart, you will be short of confidence and time. The best time to put your knowledge to use is while acquiring it. I started publishing my writings on online platforms within the first two weeks of my writing courses. I followed the same approach for my other venture.
2. Join peer support groups.
A peer support group that bonds over a common goal is crucial during your transition. It helps you to be accountable, encourages you to give your best, provides constructive feedback and pulls you up when you are down.
A peer support group will help you not feel alone on the lonely road of transition. Some of the best ideas for my new ventures came during my interactions with people in these groups.
3. Take small but consistent steps.
Transformation is an outcome of several incremental steps. Consistency establishes a process. Process brings results.
If I had imagined myself as a published author on day one after I quit my job, I would have been paralyzed by fear. Instead, I focused on writing at least 500 words every day. And I have been doing that ever since, even on my vacation and sick days.
4. Embrace the new you — with your backstory.
‘What do you do?’ You might fumble to answer this common question during your career transition. That’s what happened to me in the initial months after my pivot.
Then I realized that the world would not accept me in the new roles unless I accepted myself. So, I wrote and recorded my new professional introduction and listened to it daily till I got comfortable answering this question.
You are a different person at 25, 35, 45, etc. Be grateful for your past, enthusiastic about your present, and excited about your future. The world will follow your lead.
Tapping into your inner self will bring you the happiness you deserve
Stop being busy and tap into your inner self. Uncover at least one activity where you will enjoy the process as much as the outcome. Then pursue that activity. Your life will acquire a new meaning.
Listening to that little voice in my head made me find my life’s purpose. I now wake up with a smile every day and am the happiest I have ever been. So is my husband.