While I was working in a large law firm, I felt like was in a zombie movie trying to look like the walking dead so they wouldn’t eat me. I went to the parties, luxury retreats, and happy hours. I took the glass of Kool-Aid—so at least I’d look like them—but I never drank it. When they weren’t looking, I was always looking for a way out. Playing that game was exhausting.
Later, when I was in another career and much happier, it was tempting to beat myself up. Yet, I reminded myself that I was doing the best I could at that time in my life. That’s what we are all doing. When the shoulda, coulda, wouldas start, always try to find compassion for yourself. If you get stuck on how things should be, you are not present with your life as it is now. If you are busy beating yourself up for what you didn’t do or say back then, then you are missing opportunities to change your life here and now.
What could you accomplish if you could stop shoulding yourself to death and start caring for yourself, and living right here…right now?
Trust the journey.
There were times when I questioned why I went to law school in the first place or why I stayed in law for several years. I was young and dumb. True. But over time, I also realized that I had learned so much from being a lawyer—things I could not have learned otherwise. I worked primarily with entrepreneurs and start-ups. I was able to watch and learn from them. Many became good friends and still are. My favorite clients didn’t do what they did for the money—they did it because they were passionate about their services and products. In fact, several of my clients were not surprised when I told them I was leaving. One client who was a VP in biotech said: “you are way too cool to be a lawyer, but that’s why I liked working with you.” What? Why didn’t you tell me sooner?!
Then, one of my mentors—who had left a career as a federal prosecutor to become a successful executive coach and psychologist—reminded me why I needed to trust my journey. He told me that I would have more success because of the path I took. “You really get it at a whole other level. Your clients will see that and be better off for it.”
Just this week, one of my best friends from law school helped my family through a very difficult and complex legal matter. He is a partner in a large law firm with a billable rate well over $650 an hour. When my family was threatened with litigation, I called him to ask for a referral. Out of the blue, he said, “No. Forget it. I’m doing it.” And he did—with amazing results.
Instead of second-guessing why you took the path you took, trust the journey. You will learn something from every job, career, coworker, or boss—good or bad. As Leonardo da Vinci wrote, “Learning is the only thing the mind never exhausts, never fears, and never regrets.”
What could you do right now to use what you’ve learned to take you in a whole new direction?
If you can’t make a huge change, is there one thing that you are doing or could do right now to move in that direction?
Intentional wandering rocks.
In the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Tolkien writes: “Not all those who wander are lost.” He repeats this quote twice—so he must have thought it was important. If it’s intentional, purposeful, and authentic, wandering rocks. There are many things that are linear—decisions, processes, and procedures—but not life. (Ok, except that whole birth to death thing). Otherwise, the experiences of life are circular. Lessons keep coming back around—in case you missed them the first time. While there are certainly some one-shot deals in life, in general, life is full of second chances, mulligans, and do-overs if you are paying attention. And which is worse wandering only to find that you took the wrong path but can return and try another, or wondering what would have happened IF you would have tried?
What topics do you want to know or learn more about? What would it mean for you to wander? What if you could wander into a new life?
Lean into pain.
Pain is a gift. Yes, you heard me right. Both my personal experiences and my work with trauma victims has taught me the paradox of human suffering. Suffering is ubiquitous, yet the human spirit is unbelievably resilient. The more we avoid suffering, the more are defined by it, and, in turn, the more we suffer. Suffering and joy are inseparable.
Kahil Gabran teaches you cannot have one without the other: “the deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.” Pain brings perspective that often cannot be gained any other way. Acceptance, gratitude, and self-compassion clarify our perspective on pain and suffering. If you can master these, then it’s possible that you could live a life untangled from so much fear and regret.
If you could own your story while practicing acceptance, gratitude, and self-compassion, what would that mean? What could you accomplish today?
While I had started this post, I kept telling myself I’d post it when I had reviewed it—just one more time. A few more edits. Always some excuse. This month, Jeff Goins, a popular writer and blogger, initiated a 7-day intentional blogging challenge. His first challenge was to ask participants to write a personal manifesto.
“That’s how you become “legit” in the eyes of others — not by waiting for acknowledgment, but by acting as if you already have it. . . When you do this, you get the permission you’ve been waiting for. Not by asking for it, but by proving yourself.” — Jeff Goins
The challenge has been a great motivator to just shut off the “buts” and “what ifs” and JUST WRITE!