Advice We'd Give Our Younger Selves
We were having a conversation a few days ago about how it’s both hard to believe the pandemic has existed for an entire year already and how it feels like it’s been ten years long. All at the same time. ☹
We’ve been living in limbo for over twelve months now, unable to really plan anything concrete because of all the unknowns. Many of us have managed to keep ourselves distracted from the discomfort of the present, by focusing on the future and what we’ll be doing when this is all over. The irony is we don’t know when this will be over, or what life will look like when it is. And in the meantime, our ‘distraction’ could actually be robbing us of some precious gifts.
Part of the coaching work Ian and I do is drawing on our own personal experience and sharing it with our clients to help illustrate a point or connect some dots. During our ‘oh my god, this pandemic feels like it’s never going to end’ conversation, we asked one another what advice we’d give to our younger selves that might be pertinent to the situation we now find ourselves in now.
Obsessed with Achievement
Let’s begin with the world today. Our society is obsessed with achievement. We’re encouraged and rewarded for constantly achieving bigger and better things. Our children are raised to continuously strive to ‘be the best’. Everyone is expected to win. Anything else is substandard.
There’s nothing wrong with continuing to better yourself, in fact, it’s an admirable quality. But when it’s at the expense of being grateful for what and who you are, it becomes problematic. Let’s face it, we all know the social media world thrives relentlessly on comparison. Who’s prettier, more fit, more accomplished, who has a better feed, more likes, and on and on. Ian and I often thank the gods that we grew up and spent a good portion of our working lives pre-social media, but in our own ways, we too fell victim to the ‘always looking ahead, never good enough’ mindset.
Success by What Standards
Right out of the gate, Ian was confident and ambitious and had a career plan with some clear goals. One was to become the Woodlands Manager for the company he worked for by the time he was forty-five. This position was basically the top job in the forestry industry at the time and not only did he achieve his goal, but he did it by age thirty-six. He absolutely loved his work, his industry, and his profession and by society’s standards, he was very successful.
It really wasn’t until the third decade of his working life that he began to figure out who he was. He finally reflected on that busy ambitious time in his life and realized that he’d been so focused on the ‘next job’ that he never really immersed himself in the jobs he’d had. What he sacrificed was the enjoyment, the peace, and learning of the present moment and his achievements. Things he could never get back.
As a single mother, my focus was on building a career that would support my family. Rather than pursuing roles in areas that really interested me, I chose positions that would give me the stability I needed to raise my kids. Starting over from scratch after a divorce, I worked my way up from a twenty-six thousand dollar a year job to my dream of making over six figures.
And after twenty-five years of hard work and chasing the next step up the ladder, I found myself leaving the dream position that finally gave me the financial freedom I’d been pursuing most of my adult life because the stress had literally made me sick. What I finally realized was that in exchange for those six figures of freedom, I’d sacrificed my health for performance that only the shareholders cared about. And in doing so, I missed out on the satisfaction I could have had by doing work that really touched my soul.
Our drive, ambition, and constant striving moved our careers forward. But at a cost. The present was never comfortable, so we focused our minds and efforts on the future. The best advice we could give to our younger selves today would be to stop spending all your energy focusing on the future and pay attention to where you are now. The discoveries you make may be gifts of unimaginable value.
This pandemic has literally ‘locked us down’. But we have the choice to be present, introspective, explore and learn. Our hope for everyone (including ourselves) is that we don’t miss all we have today in favour of what we might have tomorrow.
And as a note of follow-up to our personal stories, Ian and I are now fortunate to be doing exactly what we were meant to do. Work that aligns with who we are and that lights us up. 😊 And we appreciate this gift every single day.