In 2020 I finally made the decision to change my career. The COVID-19 pandemic gave opportunity to many of us to reflect. For me personally it gave me another perspective. I witnessed a large number in my network juggling and struggling and I simultaneously saw those who thrived in this new way of working. I was extremely fortunate that it enabled me to test out what it would be like to be remotely based, permanently working from home, and linked, in the main, via technology.
I’m naturally an introvert, which to clarify, simply means that I recharge in small groups or alone. However, in my professional life, I love being with people. I delight in working as part of a team and valued very highly the human interaction that my office-based role afforded me. Being part of a larger community, with common aims and goals can be incredibly motivating; for me personally it tapped into my value around family and belonging. I had therefore, a lot of anxiety around losing this. How would I fair being a company of one? Would I feel lonely and without direction? On a practical level, could my husband (self-employed) and I both work from home, long term, and not get sick of the sight of each other? Would there be enough separation and space (in the emotional sense)? We both highly value our independence as well as our togetherness and at least one of us commuting daily to a company office, gave us a weekly routine of our own time.
Lockdown 1.0 therefore was a laboratory experiment, and the results were encouraging! Now, perhaps the superb weather, allowing me often to take conference calls in the garden, gave a rosier than average picture; but new routines also started to emerge. Actually pausing for a lunch break, having saved the commute time, being able to get out for a run or park myself on the yoga mat became more common, dare I say habitual! And although I was physically in the presence of no one, I felt very connected. I was having far more conversations than when I had been in the office, I noticed we all made extra effort to speak with each other, beyond the superficial and beyond just business. My actual workload increased significantly, my team were furloughed, and I found I became immediately responsible for a lot more, and yet, despite this I was generally calm and grounded. Yes of course there were times when I got stressed and ratty and a couple of times when I lost my sh*t, but I noticed my recovery times improving (did I mention I was getting more running and yoga in?!).
All of this gave me insight into how a self-employed career may look, it became more tangible and more realistic and I noticed that the anxiety started to shift a little. It started to become less of a pipe dream, and having tasted it, I wanted more. So, over these months my ideas started to crystallise and I became more determined. Until the day when I acted and resigned. Hooray I thought, well done me, how bold! And I basked in this for some weeks as I embarked on my training courses and began establishing my new business. The Leap. TICK.
Change is a slippery thing, it makes many people uncomfortable, I am one of those people. I spent a lot of time avoiding it, to avoid the uncomfortable and yes, I knew that wasn’t a stella formula that was going to work forever, but being told that, reading it, even knowing it yourself deep down, doesn’t mean we are going to suddenly be best buddies with change and skip head long into it screaming yippee. So, having made “The Leap” I was acutely relieved. I had made change. And I didn’t have to do it again.
I started off, with gusto, down this new superhighway. I moved to “Learn”, everything was new, new training, new people, new methods, skills, using mental muscles that had been dormant, that I didn’t know existed in some cases. Moving from a large corporate setting to your spare room office means suddenly I am, well everything. CEO, CFO, MD.. whatever badge you can think of, I’m it. That’s a lot of learning right there. As I stated to friends, naivety was my greatest gift going into this! As the learning progressed and I began to be consciously incompetent (as opposed to unconsciously incompetent), the expected anxiety crept back in. We all know this part, your inner critics, lined up classroom style, who start waving their hands from the back of your mind, in an exercise of “ask me”, which you invariably do, difficult not to. And they have such pearls of wisdom, along the lines of “who do you think you are”, “oh dear, epic fail ahead”, “you don’t know what you are doing, do you?”, “this really isn’t going too well, is it?” and on and on. What was rapid progression, slows up a bit and I found myself checking the road signs more carefully now, not quite so sure of my route.
I was being coached when I got the click moment. Questions from my coach, me talking out loud, me emptying the thoughts and feelings into speech, further questions from my coach. Here it was again, or should I say still – change. I’d done it once; and yes, it was a big one, but it was once and now I had to do it again and again and again in perpetuity. And I felt utterly disappointed. I wanted a free pass from change, I thought I deserved it, having made such a whopper of a change already. But it doesn’t work like that for any of us and especially not for me, whose career is everything about change and walking side by side with someone while they bring that into reality for themselves.
I’m still in this coaching session as I let this truth land and then we head off to another perspective and we sit and ponder it all from here instead. I’m a visual person, which means for me that condensing into images helps me lock things in, so you will just have to go with me when I say my lighthouse showed me the light (pun coincidental). I’d leapt and I’d learnt and to move forward, I now needed to repeat it all over again. That’s daunting, I mean really, I have to do it again? It took me about three years to leap the first time and now what I can see ahead is a mountain range which I have to tackle one mountain at a time, and I can’t see the summit. That’s a real bummer.
How then do we motivate, or in some cases steel ourselves for leaping again? Identify the why, and here I mean identify your purpose, identify your values. These act as your compass in all things. When we have the why we will endure the how (forgive my unfaithful quote, see Viktor E. Frankl, Mans search for Meaning, for the masterclass). In my case, my why is about guidance, support, learning, developing. Therefore, frequency of my leaps, my learning, directly correlates to my ability to live my purpose and honour my values and in doing this, all my feel-good buttons get hit. I get a direct benefit from, if not skipping toward change, at least walking towards it.
Life is moving, we are moving, constantly, whether we have an awareness around that or not. I find myself on the cusp of well used metaphors and quotes around all things embracing change, I shall try to resist (back to my former point, that just because someone tells you, doesn’t mean you will suddenly love change). I can speak for myself only, I’m not comfortable with change, I’m trying to become more comfortable with being uncomfortable and as part of that I am choosing to change my outlook to - Leap. Learn. Repeat – confident that I will at least get some awesome views from up those mountains I am climbing.
“Leap. Learn. Repeat” will return, or should I say repeat? Keep an eye out!