Are You On A Slowly Sinking Ship?
Does it feel like you’re going down?
Our lives are surrendering, slowly but inevitably, to the weight of all of that stuff–clutter, extra weight, financial strain, tired relationships, and over-committed schedules. We are too busy to play, too tired to create, too broke to get ahead, too skeptical to make a difference, and too bitter to make love. It seems that everybody I know is looking to make a change… or perhaps wishing for one is more accurate?
Yes, everybody wishes life could be different in some way but not all of us are ready to actually make the change. My clients hire me because they are ready to make a change, ready enough to invest in a life coach to support them and that’s a huge step.
Only the truly Wild Ones ever take this step but once you decide that, “It’s time for your life to bloom,” and hire me (or whoever is the best coach for you), the focus immediately shifts to the change, or often changes, you are ready to make. It may be a healthier body or to simplify your physical environment, to improve communication or find time for a creative dream. You may be ready to come out of the closet, or you feel completely lost and maybe you’re ready to find yourself again.
A majority of new clients include career on their list of things to they’d like to make a change, which makes sense because work touches so many parts of life. Also, because dissatisfaction in any area of one’s life can easily manifest a desperation to change another, clients sometimes come looking for a new job when what they really need is their spouse to stop drinking, or to lose 80 pounds, or to feel like their life has purpose. It’s almost comical really, how easily we blame something outside of us for misery that is rooted deep within us. Seeking a new career is like looking for a brand new boat that, if it would just come close enough, we could grab onto and pull ourselves on to a new way of being. It’s as if having a new, perfectly suited career will enable us to sail away from the excess, the chaos, the pain in our lives right now. In some ways, this is a reasonable impulse. Staying here sucks, or at least the way things are now totally sucks. I understand. I’ve been there myself, more times than I care to remember.
This sucks and something has to give and it’s time to make a change. So, now what?
Well, it’s likely that most of us have already chosen an exit strategy, an approach to making this life change. The problem is that we don’t usually realize that we’ve chosen anything at all, nor have we taken time to consider our other options. It’s been my experience that making a big, fancy life change goes best when we are awake to the course of action we’ve chosen instead of mindlessly stumbling from one partner, job, project, or crisis to the next.
In fact, I’d like to propose we put an end to all of the thrashing about with our eyes closed, trying to pretend we can’t understand the consequences of our actions. With the change you’d like to make in mind (substituting “new spouse” or “new habit” or “new stomach size” or “new certification” or “new house” or whatever for “new job” as we proceed), let’s consider our options. Some approaches are just better than others.
Wait for a new boat to come, then jump with your baggage in tow.
You’ve been searching for a new place to start professionally. This job is tired, or perhaps you are just tired of this job. Either way, the romance is over. It has been a long time. You want to feel good about the way you spend your days. You want to feel like your life has purpose. You want to get paid for all of your hard work. You are sick of being stuck at work. If the boat comes, then you’ll jump to it and that will be wonderful for you to feel refreshed and invigorated and clear, and that is nice.
It also must be noted that we don’t just leave our habits, responsibilities, and existing relationships behind when we leap like that. All that stuff from the old boat is coming to the new boat with you. It’s all just… you know, your baggage.
This is a doable approach to making a life change but there are challenges. The extra weight of all of this stuff may make it difficult to leap. We may fall right in the water and drown! If we get on board, we will still have the new career plus all of this excess we carried with us to tend to. And, because we haven’t freed ourselves from that which causes us to attract/allow said baggage, then we’re likely to be in a similar mental state regarding insecurities (self doubt, second guessing, etc.).
If this boat comes soon, it’s certainly acceptable to jump on board with all our baggage in tow. We just have to remember that this stuff comes along and will still need to be tended to at some point before we able to experience true freedom, no matter how fancy and absolutely perfect that new boat is. And the truth is, many people never actually do the work and soon this boat starts to feel as crappy as the last one. There is no boat in sight, jump and start swimming with your baggage in tow.
Let’s say that the boat doesn’t come today or tomorrow or this week, and we find the waiting absolutely unbearable. This might be the case when there is an element of abuse in a situation that cannot be eliminated without leaving. Sometimes leaving is best, even when we don’t know when the next boat is due to arrive. Anywhere but here is where we want to be. So, we hurl ourselves into the water begin to swim away from the old boat. Desperation has groomed many a fine, fine swimmer and sometimes, it works out and it makes for a great war story.
Certainly, we can quit the job without knowing where to go from here. It’s been done before. It’s easier, obviously, if we know how our bills are going to be paid but even if without financial security sometimes we simply have to get out of a situation. The biggest decision is which direction to swim. We can go back to school or find a job, boarding a new boat and settling in is certainly a great way to decide if we like it enough to stay on.
Again with this scenario, we’re going to have to swim with our baggage in tow. It’s the old way of being and we haven’t done the work to release it, so we can’t leave it behind. It’s probably going to be a rough journey. We have all of this stuff, no direction, and the destination is unknown. It could be an hour before the next boat arrives, or it could be years before we find ourselves safely upon the next satisfactory vessel. It’s going to be a hard swim, if you know what I mean. Let’s be honest, some people leap and never seem to find their way. Some even drown out there. But other people will do it because taking that risk is better than staying where they were before. If it’s bad enough, you may decide it’s worth the risk.
Unload your baggage while you wait for the boat to come, then jump.
We know this boat feels bad, and we’ve made a decision that we’d probably like to be off of it. This situations is no longer serving us and it’s time to go. Recognizing the new direction is still unclear, we decide that while waiting for the destination to reveal itself. We can spend this time preparing for the change, lightening our load in preparation for the change that’s up ahead. Once it arrives, we’ll be able to jump without the weight of all of this excess and once we arrived there will be so much less junk to deal with!
I’ll be honest, I don’t care which route you choose but I know from my own experiences that the first option is… painful. It means lots of waiting in situations that suck for someone or something to come and rescue you, only to find out that that the new situation sucks too. It hurts to carry all of this baggage around, it’s heavy. The weight of it interferes with everything–relationships with other people and with myself, my health suffers, and my enjoyment of life is destroyed. It feels like my whole life is defined by the stuff. All of my energy is spent managing the stuff instead of managing my life.
Traveling from one job to the next, one partner to the next, one addictive behavior to the next makes for a miserable life. It feels like you’re always on the run, struggling to find peace and never actually being peaceful. I was always in pursuit of a life I could love but not actually loving my life.
Clearly, the second scenario can get ugly fast. It’s just not feasible to search and search for your true destination with all that baggage in tow. We know those impulses, right? It’s like running on the tracks, knowing that the train is coming for you. Nobody can survive at that pace.
For me, the last one is the most organic way to be, and it will certainly result in the most natural unfolding. When the situation we are in–be it professional, marital, financial, spiritual, etc.–can be considered a safe place from which we actually deal with ourselves, a beautiful life becomes possible.
When we feel unhappy but choose to pause long enough to explore and tend to our inner self, we are able to release baggage first and then travel with lightness and grace to the next destination. We forgo all of the drama and exhaustion, we spare ourselves the fight, the perpetuation of our own distorted myths about who we are and what drives our actions.
Of course, there are some who will never leave the boat they are on, even though it isn’t right for them. They will remain unhappy, unfulfilled, unhealthy, or whatever other “un” comes from getting stuck and staying there, because it’s too hard to leap with all that baggage, and too scary to be still and tend to it. Again, this boat is slowly sinking. There are certainly consequences to being willing to stay stuck too.
Image Credit: eschipul via Flickr