That was a tricky one to figure out.
I was close to pouring much time and energy into something that is a real interest for me – but not my passion.
If you are like me, your inner fire burns hot and it is fueled by curiosity. I thrive when I get to learn about new things, deepen my skills, and make transformative expriences. (All the while being an introvert who loves a calendar devoid of social events and with lots of time to myself…)
I seriously do not know what boredom is. My personal backlog is always filled to the brim with more projects and ideas than I could ever implement with the time available on my hands. In the few weeks between quitting my old job and starting my new one, I am rolling out of bed in the mornings with excitement, eager to get to the computer to write a post (like this one), or work on my website, or study the online courses I bought, or read on some topic. The sun is shining outside, I could be sitting on the balcony, taking a nap on the grass, watching the clouds pass by. All very nice but I am actually more content sitting here in my office for hours on end, doing the work that fills me up with joy and excitement.
“Work” is an interesting expression here because it is not the work I am paid for – it is MY work. Producing a podcast in my 3rd year now, writing content for YOU out there, marketing and spreading the word – for the reward of knowing that I will inspire, empower, and enrich some folks out there. I love my life for this opportunity to spend my time.
What is dangerous, however, is being me with too much free time at my disposal. Like, say, a couple of weeks of voluntary unemployment… One of my unhealthy patterns is wanting to achieve too much just because I can. It’s like a compulsory wanting-to-make-use-of-my-time. Also, I am just too curious to see what could happen if I started building something – I just love creating and developing things. Like a website, or a product, or a business idea. Note that up until recently, I was not even registered as a freelancer. I was just a normal employee with a biiiig time-consuming hobby.
Then I quit my job and flirted with all kinds of potential next steps in my career.
Should I again submit my creator spirit full-time to a new employer, with no space for my own projects?
That was a no-brainer “NO”!
Should I go freelance and build a business, starting from zero?
Well, I admit I am not thaaat risk-tolerant. Throughout the years, I learned that I am healthiest when I keep the excitement, adventures, and insecurities in my life generously balanced with routines, plenty of rest time, and secure supporting pillars. Also, I didn’t exactly know in which direction to go…
I truly like my day-time job as an agile coach. Through this role, I get to bring my passion for “humanness” to environments that often lack play and vulnerability and authenticity. I also get to be a servant-leader who empowers individuals and teams in ways very different from my WHYLD work.
With WHYLD, on the other hand, I get to address individuals at a much deeper level than what would be convenient in a corporate environment. Ever since I first thought about starting a podcast, it has been a non-stop passion ride to build WHYLD.
Trying to bring those two paths together in one narrative, I thought of them as my “personal” (working in personal development) – and my “business” (working for organizations) “branches”. Branches of a business I don’t yet have, that is.
Knowing that both areas get me excited and also considering how I feel about the insecurities of becoming self-employed, I thought “maybe I could find a way to combine ALL OF THESE THINGS”?
Sounded good to me! Aaaand like a million things to do in limited time…
I jumped right into brainstorming how to change up our ebsite to host both WHYLD Personal & Business, start blogging on both ends of the spectrum, develop workshops, create great resources, and potentially take extra gigs in both areas…
… when a nagging sense of overwhelm started sneaking in. At 32 years of age, I am able to read the signs quite well by now. It feels like a rush in my head, it is thrilling and a little bit like being on drugs. But it also sends me spinning in an unhealthy way. Too much at once, too many loose ends, too much pressure on myself, too little focus.
All these ideas – are they really what I want, what is good for me? Why do I feel like I need to build and accomplish all these things, like… NOW? What other voices and drivers are at play here and… do I want to listen to them?
One of the many things I put on my plate during this “time off” was a book writing course by Dale Darley on Udemy (no, I don’t get money for mentioning this here). As some of you may know from my mentions on WHYLD Podcast, I started writing a book a while ago and I am not planning on finishing it before long in the future. I bought the course so I could pause and reflect a little on how I approach the book writing process.
One of the nuggets in the course was Dale insisting there was a RIGHT book for a RIGHT time. She tells her students they, most likely, got loads of potential books inside of them. But only one is the right one for now. You got to listen to your inner voice, find this one and resist getting distracted by the others.
That did it for me.
I was waiting for my inner voice to tell me in case some direction I was about to move into wasn’t right. But, of course, starting a blog and a freelancing side business in agile coaching and human-centred organizational development didn’t feel wrong! How could it? I enjoy this field. I have learned so much through my studies of psychology and human factors and coaching and, lastly, (business) agility. I like ever expanding my experience here and sharing it with others. I can get quite passionate when talking about human-centred organizations. If this interests you, too, you can check out this article I posted on LinkedIn, for example.
But the thing is: I am MORE passionate about serving individuals outside of the work environment, where all of the beautiful, quirky, personal parts of us are invited to be seen. Living a WHYLD life has a lot to do with our purpose and our work in this world, but it goes so much beyond our professional roles and activities.
There are many things I like or even love doing. Not doing something that I love and am good at feels like a waste. More so, I feel like I have an obligation to myself to do these things.
However, the precious epiphany I had through the writing course is:
It is no shame to sacrifice something that’s best for something that is even better.
I get to do the agile and team coaching in my day-time job and I will likely do some writing and some extra gigs around the topic in my “free time”. But I don’t have to.
What I “have” to do is prioritize the very thing that gives me a sense of purpose above all else: It is the journey towards more authenticity in my own life and inviting others to do the same. Because above all else, it fills me with joy to see others boldly living a life on their terms.
I don’t know if you have detected the humor in it: this very epiphany is one step towards more authenticity as it helped me unravel the cluster of voices in me and find the one that is truest.
Now I invite you to do the same. Get a piece of paper or a digital notes pad.
Step 1) Write down a list of things you really like doing or learning about (free time activities, activities at work, other topics and activities you are curious about but have not really invited into your life yet)
Step 2) And now write down a list of things that you absolutely LOVE doing or learning more about. Things that feel light and not like a chore, things you would choose over all the other “nice-ish” options to spend your time on.
Step 3) Look at both lists and determine how much of your time and energy you devote to things on list A (the “like” list) as compared to the things on list B (the passion-purpose-love list).
Do you prioritize what lies at your core, or do you procrastinate and distract yourself away from it?
Awareness is the first step towards having a choice. Towards getting to choose authenticity.
photos: Nicolai Illing