Lessons from the past…

watch-791714_1280In order to grow it is important to understand where we are coming from. This allows us to learn lessons from past behaviours, or actions that created something we either liked or didn’t like. And they are just that, lessons to learn and grow from, not items on a list to constantly beat yourself up over.

Recently I did a review of what my life was before I made some changes, and how I am moving forward….

6 Months Ago:

It’s 5:00 am and my alarm goes off. I don’t recognize the song, probably because a few months ago I accidentally hit the dial on my alarm clock radio altering my normal alt rock station to one that plays Bollywood music. It would make sense to change it back, but this is not a huge pain point for me, the idea of turning the dial feels like an expense of energy I’m not prepared to pay.

This is the start of my every day. The thought of working out fleetingly crosses my mind, quickly shoved aside, the mercury for hitting the treadmill is below freezing on my motivation-meter. “Tomorrow,” I say, as much to my dog Sophie as to myself. Internally I’m grateful the chances of her holding me accountable are low. I don’t NEED to get up this early, I don’t NEED to go to work this early. So then, is it that I want to? The piles of paper that I shoved in my credenza drawer are calling out to me. I can almost see the flashing of the red light on my smartphone that I purposefully leave in the kitchen overnight, the allure too great to not check for emails in the middle of the night – as if I’m saving lives or something.

I am not saving lives – but this simple act of defying my smartphone in the middle of the night feels like it might be saving mine.

By 6:00 I have showered, dressed, checked my phone three times and likely responded to a minimum of seven emails, possibly eaten cereal, but more likely talked myself into a breakfast sandwich from Starbucks, and am on route to drop Sophie off at doggy daycare. My life has been so “busy” with building a career, that I forgot to build a life, and so I have replaced children with a dog, and relationships with my love of Netflix. “It’s just for now,” I tell myself. “Once I become a …” fill in the blank, I’ve been saying that through each rung on the career ladder.

After my stop at Starbucks for that breakfast sandwich and a chai latte I head to the office. I’m not the first one in. It’s not even 7:00 and at least three other people have already arrived. I drown out the hum of the fluorescent lights with the playlist on my iPad and start my computer.

The day ebbs and flows between under control and alert status red. Usually I leave my office for approximately 20 minutes mid day to grab fast food that I down at my desk – this is on the days that someone doesn’t grab lunch for me, or I have a lunch meeting.

Finally, on the days I don’t have a work related event to attend, at 6:30 pm I decide I better leave to ensure I pick up Sophie before the daycare closes – thankful that she’ll be tired from a day of playing and won’t need a walk. $35 later, I leave the parkade and hit, what are now the almost empty streets of downtown, most commuters having left far earlier. On route home I grab something for supper, not wanting to cook by the time I get home. God forbid anyone knocks on the door, I stripped out of my business suit and stepped into my pajamas the minute I got through the door. I take my meal, my smartphone, laptop, and my dog to the living room and turn on the TV. Most nights I fall asleep playing Candy Crush and binge watching TV, thinking about how I wished I had done some writing or something creative or active that day.

Here are the facts:

  • No one asked me to be at work that early
  • No one expected me to put parts of my life on hold
  • I convinced myself that this was normal and that I was happy
  • I could have put the Apple TV remote down and gone out and got a life
  • No one told me that I needed to continue to climb the ladder
  • No one told me I couldn’t write and have a career
  • No one, no one, no one…. but me!

Isn’t it funny, how we sometimes tell ourselves that we need to do all of these things, and then lose ourselves in the process. No? Is it only me then?

Four months ago I stopped. I burned the ladder down, and created my own ladder. I don’t have to worry about getting to the next position when I’m already the CEO. In reality, it’s not as easy as all that. Work still has to be done, decisions made, and visions acted upon. I don’t regret the career I had, it was AMAZING! Really, it was, I worked for an organization that helped me grow, challenged me, supported me, and gave me rope. I feel sorry for those who look back with regret at something that they’ve left.

One of the principles I’ve learned in coaching is behind every behaviour is a positive intention – it might not be obvious, but its there. So regardless of what it is that you are leaving, think of everything you gained. In my fifteen year career I gained business acumen, flexibility to move (literally 7 times in 12 years), the courage to complete an MBA, the vision to seek a path for myself that was outside the one they saw for me.

Today, my alarm clock is back on my alt rock station. There are still many mornings where I don’t go on the treadmill like I tell myself to – but I do walk Sophie a minimum of once a day and further than ever before. She still goes to doggy daycare a couple days a week – just to socialize with her pals. I still watch Netflix – it ebbs and flows.

Today, I always have enough air in my lungs. I see my family more, and I joined a creative writing class. I feel inspired every day. I allowed myself to become consumed with my career – I did it, no one did this to me, and in order to be consumed with my life I had to step away. That was the step I had to take – it was personal to me. Your steps will be personal to you, and can only be designed and taken by you.

The key is to design your steps. Don’t allow the everyday, the demands of a career or the demands of life to guide your direction. Only you can be accountable to you.

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