When life throws you an unexpected obstacle that forces you to rethink your entire life, it can definitely leave you feeling at a loss and potentially depressed. Depending on how you choose to look at the situation, it can be a devastating, life-altering problem or an amazing opportunity for growth.
I was faced with such a choice a few years ago. I was a server at a local restaurant for fourteen and a half years. My body had been telling me a few years into it that the time to find a new career path was dawning. In short, I was beginning to physically fall apart.
It started with the usual — general aches and pains from being on my feet and running around all day four to five days a week. After a few more years of this, the repetitive abuse to my body was beginning to take its toll. Eventually I developed a nasty case of tendonitis in my arms from carrying heavy plates and pouring coffee. It was a very scary prognosis and I was forced to take time off work.
Then it hit me. I became absolutely terrified! At 34 years of age, I had been at the same job for almost 10 years and suddenly I was faced with a serious problem. Maybe I won’t be able to do this anymore? Maybe I’ll have to find another job?
Low and behold the infamous childhood question popped in my head: “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I never knew the answer to that question then and never cared to figure it out. Perhaps I had been too scared to actually “grow up”?
Throughout my life I had always been an underachiever, just letting life happen around me and pass me by. I merely existed. Content. Comfortable. Happy-ish. Until that day, I had no plans for my future, no sense of purpose. I just earned my money and spent it with no real thought of anything else.
Oh sure, the future would cross my mind, but I immediately dismissed the thought. It was too depressing to think about the fact that I had absolutely no clue what I wanted to be when I grew up. Well, surprise! As they say, the universe works in mysterious ways.
It was a complete and terrifying mystery to me what to do next. I had a mini melt down and immediately fell victim to self-defeating thoughts. Thankfully, my flirtation with desperation was only brief. Fortunately, somewhere along my life’s journey, I had adopted the belief that everything happens for a reason.
With that in mind, I saw that this was not a devastating problem but rather an amazing opportunity for positive change, to move forward and to finally find my purpose.
Still terrified, I began to ask myself some simple yet powerful questions to help guide me towards the answers I sought. What do I enjoy doing? What do I really want? What am I passionate about? What are my strengths?
I definitely knew what I DIDN’T want. Thus, I made a list with two columns: “What I want” and “What I don’t want”. To help figure out my “wants” I merely looked at my “don’t want” list and wrote down the desired opposite. It wasn’t too long before I had really honed in on a direction.
I knew I wanted to work with people and I was passionate about personal growth. I wanted my career to involve giving of myself to others in some way. I couldn’t be on my feet all day or sitting at a desk — I wanted the freedom to create a job for myself that would reflect who I am and nurture my strengths.
The only things of interest that came to mind were doing some sort of counseling, art therapy or consulting. However, I definitely knew that the idea of locking myself away in academia for years in order to get a degree was not a desirable option for me for various reasons.
After narrowing down my options to these few important elements, I was still at a loss. I didn’t know what kind of career would fit my vision. I left it at that for a while, feeling a little deflated yet somewhat better. I had at least reached some sort of clarity, though I still really had no clue what my future would look like.
My arms had healed enough after a couple of weeks off to return to work, serving my regular customers. Time withered by, life settled back in and I had almost forgotten about the idea of moving on to bigger and better things, when out of the blue the perfect career for me came into my world.
While volunteering for an annual “Leadership and Mentoring Conference” I met a woman who was a Life Coach. I had absolutely no idea what that was but the mere job title was enough to prompt me to ask her a few questions. As she described what she did for a living, a bright light went on for me — THIS was the answer I was seeking. Thus began a whole new and amazing journey for me. I felt ecstatic.
The avenue I pursued to fulfill my vision is a whole other chapter in my life, perhaps one to be shared another time. In the meantime, I wish to leave you with this:
I truly believe it was my conscious choice to look at my work related injury as an opportunity to make positive changes – rather than allowing it to crush my spirits and becoming a victim of circumstance – that enabled me to do the necessary soul searching to put out to the Universe what I really wanted. And guess what? The Universe provided.
As a result, I am currently living my life’s purpose and loving every minute of it, despite any obstacles that may come my way. Ups and downs are to be expected; however, it is our response to them that makes the difference in the quality of how we live our lives.
Next time life throws one of its many challenges your way, be mindful of where your thoughts take you and make a conscious effort to take the course of action that will propel you forward rather than hold you back. Find the positive in your current circumstances and focus on the opportunity before you. Adversity can be the greatest of gifts — it all depends how you choose to look at it.
Happy soul searching!
“Hold Fast to Dreams Mixed Media ATC ACEO” peregrineblue @ flickr. Creative Commons. Some rights reserved.