A Career that's Hazy will Drive you Crazy: Finding Clarity in a Blurry Life
Have you ever driven through thick morning fog or a snowstorm?
It's an interesting experience. It's tough to figure out exactly where lanes separate, and the roads that you take on your daily commute suddenly seem foreign and unfamiliar.
Once you hit a clear patch or paved road, you feel such a wave of relief to be able to have the visibility to reach your destination safely. Suddenly, it doesn't matter if you get cut off by that SUV, or if the Fedex truck in front of you is driving too slowly, those challenges seem so puny in comparison in that fleeting moment.
As much as I now value clarity in my career and life, I haven't always had it or even recognized how important it was to be able to create the life I wanted.
Early on, in my urinal-cleaning-can-of-beans-wearing days, I knew I felt miserable, but felt even worse when motivational speakers or self-help books that declared "Just follow your passion!". What the hell was wrong with me that I didn't HAVE a passion, or even know how to get one? Plus, it's much easier to make that assertion when your passion has panned out successfully, am I right?
So, in my mid-twenties, I pretty much checked out. I filled the void of clarity with other "passions" of mine:
And eating copious amounts of dessert like the proper, distinguished lady that I am
n the moment, this strategy worked well. But soon, my mind would shift back to panic mode. What was I doing with my life? How did I get here? Where am I going?
No giant slice of Hula Pie or tropical adventure was going to solve my problems. There was only one long term solution, I needed to build a life that I didn't need to escape from.
So, how exactly did I put down the fork, cork the bottle, and tame my wanderlust? Here are five ways to find clarity and move forward in your career and life!
1. Approach your life like you would with allergies.
If you woke up with a skin rash all over your arm, what would be the first thing that you'd do? You'd start thinking back to the day prior about everything that you ate or came in contact with, right? I used the same strategy to slowly transform my life.
Years ago, I was living and working downtown, and it was giving me no space at all to refresh and recharge, even though it was more convenient. I moved out to the country to be closer to nature. While I was at home, I felt relaxed and zen, but as soon as I approached the city, my heart started racing. I knew, based on my physical reaction to my workplace, that it was time to move forward. I was able to build up the courage to do so because I had taken charge of other aspects of my life.
If you are waking up unhappy, it's time to audit your life. What factors could be contributing to your discontent? What can you remove immediately to increase your clarity on the situation?
2. Pay attention to escapist tendencies.
Enjoying a glass of wine after a long week, going on that well-deserved holiday, or digging into a juicy cheeseburger and plate of fries isn't the issue. I wrote this part while eating a PB&J donut! Pleasure is super important for a well-balanced life.
That said, pay attention to the WHY. I used vacations as a getaway from my problems. When I would climb onto the plane going back home, I would immediately panic just thinking about heading back to reality. Similarly, after a night out at a pub, I would wake up the next morning with this heavy feeling in my heart. That feeling was that my intuition knew that I wasn't living the life I was supposed to, and I was wasting time getting there.
Are there things that you're doing right now to avoid making tough decisions? Clarity requires courage, and you've got to be all in to make change happen.
3. Drop that guilt.
Stop feeling low because you weren't born a prodigy. You don't need to have musical chops or Olympian level athletic abilities to be a deserving, purposeful human being. As well-intended as "follow your passion" is, it's misleading because it suggests that if you don't love what you do at all times, you're on the wrong path.
Over the past year, as much as I adore my career and writing on Linkedin, there have been tough days. I've had to make painful decisions, I've been harassed and threatened, and I've had to prioritize my hustle over privacy and relaxation. This is your real life adventure, not an anti-climatic fairy tale, but isn't that half the fun?
Don't put passion on a pedestal. Stop waiting for it to smack you in the face like a magical wand. Instead, use fear, curiosity, and your intuition as compasses, and just focus on being the best you possible.
4. If you're lost, ask for directions.
When my husband and I traveled to Maui a few years ago, we decided to take a scenic road trip called "The Road to Hana", which is essentially a tour of the island you can drive with little stops along the way, along with stunning views of waterfalls and state parks. We got lost about halfway along the journey, and we refused to stop and ask for directions. Why? We couldn't pronounce "Palapala Ho'omau" and didn't want the locals to think we were dweebs. So we stuck to the map, tried to forge ahead, and ended up on a desolate gravel road for hours in the dark with no cell phone reception and the low fuel light flashing on our rental.
We all get lost sometimes. But the real trouble begins when you make your ego the pilot of your life, and let your insecurity determine your destiny. If you need clarity, it's time to set aside your pride and reach out your hand for help, you worthy, lovable dweeb!
5. Start connecting the dots.
The more I've written, the more I've learned about myself. As you build clarity, you'll begin to notice the pattern of your life take shape.
Unfortunately, I never became the tooth fairy I wanted to be when I was little, but that quirkiness has served me well. If you want clarity, you need to start thinking about what principles have consistently guided you and let that be your career blueprint.
Nothing in your life is an accident. Your personality, your skills, and your mindset have led you to where you are right now.
It's time to let go and rely on them to lead you to where you need to be.
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