It usually happens when we reach a crossroad in our life. Maybe you’ve been plodding along in a job you never intended to stay in or a relationship that isn’t going anywhere. When life becomes routine and uninspiring. When we lose passion or interest in the way things have been going, we tend to start looking elsewhere for something more fulfilling. We think, “Maybe it’s time to try something new.” Cassie has always been into yoga and use to dream of a career in mind-body wellness. She envisioned becoming a yoga teacher or perhaps a wellness coach. She developed these interests while attending college and working toward a degree in nursing, which was a profession she chose out of practicality. This made her parents happy. They would rest easy knowing she could find a job anywhere she went. Her parents had instilled in her a sense of pragmatism and conventional thinking. Almost ten years later, Cassie has a great job working as a nurse in a specialty clinic only 10 minutes from her apartment. She gets decent pay, has great benefits, and likes the people she works with. Yet, she can’t help but feel something is lacking. She isn’t passionate about her work. She tells herself she’s helping people, but down deep, she feels she could be doing more. She still practices yoga on Saturday mornings and has looked into teacher training programs in her area, but the cost has been prohibitive and she finds other reasons to talk herself out of it.
Is it the right choice? First of all, there is no “right” choice. Right out of the gate, we get stuck on this one. For people like Cassie, whose rational and practical minds guide her every decision, the right choice seems like the one that should have the most pros in a list of pros and cons. It’s the choice that makes the most sense logically. Sometimes that’s true and sometimes there is only one pro on the list that takes the cake: My heart just wants it. Your intuition is your best guide when it comes to big life decisions. Your mind can be a great helper, but sometimes it can get in the way. There are many reasons Cassie’s mind gave her for staying on her well worn, conventional path, a path she could depend on for a long steady career doing something she was pretty good at no matter where she lived. Her decision making faculties must include desires that are harder to measure on a list of pros and cons. Fear of Failure The second barrier was her fear of failure. What if I’m not very good at teaching? What if I can’t support myself or fill my work schedule with enough classes? The money issue was a big one for Cassie. The truth is, you can’t teach yoga classes for 40 hours a week. It’s physically and logistically impossible. So in order for her to fulfill her dreams she would need to supplement her income in other ways. She looked into wellness coaching certification and became discouraged once again at the sticker shock, especially on top of the cost of yoga teacher training. “I’ll never be able to afford all of this,” she thought. “And even if I could, none of this is guaranteed income. What if I don’t get any business?” My answer? Then you’ll do something else. You’ll learn from your mistakes and you’ll course correct. The possibility of failure isn’t a reason not to do something. Failure is inevitable. Nobody just succeeds from start to finish. Have you ever read a biography of someone successful, who just made the “right” decisions every step of the way? How boring would that be? Don’t be afraid to fail. Taking a new path is fraught with unexpected set backs and hazards. The sooner you accept that the better prepared you’ll be. Will I fail? Maybe. Now let’s go! Acceptance of Anxiety If you’re not fearful, this new path of yours is probably lame. Anything worth doing is going to have it’s risks. You don’t have to get rid of your fear. Acceptance is holding your fears lightly and moving forward with your fear, because it’s worth it. Courage is nothing without fear. So what does it mean to “hold it lightly?” Where do you feel this fear? Sit somewhere, close your eyes, and locate this sensation of fear or anxiety in your body. Imagine it’s a three dimensional object with physical characteristics: shape, color, texture, temperature, activity, etc. Breathe into this area and imagine with each inhale you are creating more space around your fear. You’re not doing anything to get rid of the fear, just creating space around it, to let it do what it needs to do without your interference. (For a guided audio recording of this exercise go here.) When fear has plenty of room to dissipate, it has less effect on your behavior. This exercise helps you get some distance from the fear, to see it objectively, and ultimately to give you the space to make contact with what you’re really passionate about. Fear doesn’t have to push you around. Even if it’s still there, you can move freely because you’re able to attend to your passion rather than the fear. Leaving the Old Path Another barrier to taking a new path is your investment in the old path. Cassie put a lot of time and money into her nursing career. She was still paying off student loans from nursing school! When she brought it up to her parents about changing careers, this was her parents’ first rebuttal. All of the reasons for getting into this career were reasons to stay in it. “Look how well you’re doing! You’ve got a great thing going. Why would you give that up?” The old path is predictable and much more dependable. There is comfort in that. But comfort comes at a cost. Comfort and growth do not get along. Another way of looking at it is, you’re either growing or your dying. Cassie may not have been able to articulate this to her parents, but her soul was being depleted. Moving toward uncertainty meant leaving her comfort zone. Moving Forward With Courage This can look so different from person to person depending on the change they’re willing to make. The next Saturday Cassie went to her regular yoga class and saw a flyer for an upcoming teacher certification training. The early bird rate ended that day: $3250. She had been saving money for a downpayment on a new car and she checked the balance in her savings account: $3250. She immediately secured her spot in the program and on Monday requested time off to attend the training. After the two month training, she was offered to teach a class at the studio where she had been attending. One class became two classes, and then three. She continued to work as a nurse at her clinic and offered to teach a weekly yoga class to her co-workers and other medical professionals in the building every Friday. This was not a paid gig, but she handed out post cards that had her weekly studio classes printed on the back and sure enough she began seeding her classes with her own co-workers who were happy to spread the word to their friends and family. She continued to look into wellness coaching certification. After buying a new mat and three new pairs of yoga pants, she started putting aside the income from her yoga classes and in about a year’s time had enough to pay for that, too. At this point, she worked with a consultant to set up her coaching business and she began seeing private clients in the evenings and weekends. She put together weekend workshops and offered to speak at various medical practices about incorporating yoga and nutrition into treatment plans for all kinds of medical conditions. She blogged and started a YouTube channel all about yoga and nutrition, which became very popular and she was invited to be a guest on a health and fitness podcast. She would volunteer to speak at health fairs and other wellness events in town. Eventually, Cassie was offered to teach more and more yoga classes during the week, but her work schedule did not allow it. After much deliberation she decided to take a part-time position at her clinic. This was a very difficult decision because this meant losing her full-time benefits and the pay was significantly less than she was making as a full-time RN. The first few months were hard. She had to get a loan from her parents to make rent one month. But she put all her extra hours into promoting her coaching practice and soon she had a consistent 5-8 clients per week in addition to teaching six yoga classes. Cassie is still working part-time as a nurse, but she has plans to expand her wellness business to working with large organizations, presenting at conferences, and even creating her own podcast. If you ask me, it’s just a matter of time. If you’ve reached that point of stagnation, unfulfilled dreams, it’s not only possible to change the direction of your life, it’s your responsibility. It’s not going to change overnight, but when you set your intentions and have the courage to see obstacles as challenges, you will create opportunities where you didn’t see them before. It’s your life. Make it count.