If you feel 100% certain in all areas of your life, then the following words are likely not for you. This article IS intended for anyone who’s feeling a very normal, human experience of uncertainty in any aspect of life. If you’re raising your hand, then congratulations for keepin’ it real and acknowledging your own humanity during times of change. While it’s wonderful to feel certain and confident, it’s also perfectly normal not to sometimes; especially, during big transitions.
While the powerful words of the late and great author, Joseph Campbell, “follow your bliss,” ring true, it’s okay to acknowledge that you may not always be sure of where or what your “bliss” even is! In a world that preaches “follow your passion,” it can feel a little unsettling when you don’t seem to know it!
When I think of the spiritual quests of so many spiritual leaders throughout history like Buddha, Jesus, Moses, Mohammed, and Mother Theresa, to name a few, where “becoming,” or purpose unfolds through a process of self-discovery. Some of the most celebrated humans who’ve ever walked the Earth have found their passions and “bliss,” not just by passively contemplating deep questions like “who am I” and “what do I want” in spaces of comfort, but instead, their stories show a deeper willingness to experiment and engage with life’s trials and tribulations, along with its exhilarations.
I think we can all point to periods in our lives when our sense of purpose felt perfectly unclear, and definitive plans were hard to pinpoint. And, when plans are hazy, who wouldn’t feel a little lost when it comes to dreaming-up new possibilities?
In the months leading-up to leaving the only career I had ever known, before starting my own business, I can distinctly remember walking into the office each day with a sinking feeling, knowing that my work was about to fan another day of skepticism. Finding enthusiasm amidst a daily grind of “fire drills” without shaking my head at the insanity of it all, had become nearly impossible. It’s also worth noting that amidst my amplified cynicism, was a line out the door of enthusiastic prospects who would have jumped at a chance to do my job. And, they certainly did – once I made the conscious choice to leave it.
I often felt guilty about my lack of gratitude for my position within a great company, and amongst incredibly smart and talented people. “I should be psyched with this!” I’d convince myself. So, I’d push myself into overdrive and tackle my to-do lists with as much enthusiasm as I could manufacture, and all this did was make me really, really tired – with little left to give my family at the end of the day.
I’d regularly ask myself, “who on Earth would I be without this work, this title, this company, this paycheck, this identity I’ve built?” Amidst this malaise of fear and anguish, I certainly wasn’t in the best position to get creative about other career and lifestyle possibilities. Simply put, this was a period of uncertainty and confusion in my life – and I was experiencing the inevitable side-effects of a transitional hallway.
If I would have tried to “create” and “manifest” my next steps in the eye of this storm, I’d likely have walked straight into the next familiar situation, involving yet another job that I didn’t love, amongst a similar setting and cast. At the same time, had I ignored the fact that I was grimacing about the very things that were supposed to make me excited about work, I’d have accepted the numbing fate of endless career discontent, leaving “bliss” to dissipate as a fictional ideal.
So, what are we to do when our daily status-quo becomes unbearable, and at the same time, we have no clue what else to do?
Here’s a new analogy for you – enter the “runway,” which I think, offers a solid visual depiction to the answer. When I visualize a runway, I think of a long stretch of road that prepares us for flight (or landing). Along this path are visual markers and air traffic controllers, who guide us in the right direction; at least, if we choose to pay attention.
On a runway, we don’t take-off or land immediately, we move – either slowly or speedily. It’s not a place to sit completely still, nor is it designed for us to take-off abruptly. A runway is simply a space to experiment with movement, gain a sense of direction, and build momentum, as we prepare for take-off.
In your life’s runway – you’ve got hunches to explore, invitations to engage, and ideas to investigate. As you move around it, you may decide to change direction and fly somewhere new, as some of the visual markers you previously ignored become more appealing, or start to draw you in – like the people you keep “running into,” the “spam” emails you once ignored – and heck, the buildings you’ve never stopped to notice on your daily drive to work!
The more we notice these hunches and pursue the markers on our runways, the more momentum and speed we generate for flight. Small steps of action will inform us of what to do next, as the real world provides feedback for our experiments. Sometimes the only way to really find answers to our deepest questions like, “who am I” and “what do I want,” come from actual experimentation with the various possibilities that are directly in front of us. I love this quote by Vietnamese Buddhist Monk, Thich Nhat Hanh,
“Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.”
Or, as the late author Dr. David J. Schwartz and his old book The Magic of Thinking Big wisely said,
“Action cures fear.”
So, if there’s a nice, spacious runway between you and your next endeavor, how do you want to experience it?
What are some of the markers, signals and signs within your current surroundings that are worth further investigation? True story – the name of my coaching practice – Pave Your Way – came from my eyes landing upon a “One Way” street sign while driving to meet friends for lunch! NOTICE what you notice ; ).
How might experimentation with some of the possibilities directly in front of you, give you more information about yourself and what you want? Remember, exploring the runway is not the flight itself, but simply a way to prepare for it.
If you’re looking for a concrete way to explore your runway and establish a clear sense of direction for your next career or life take-off, then check-out my FREE Career and Life-Defining Masterclass.