When a Little Planning Goes a Long Way (A Cautionary Tale)
I didn’t know her.
An acquaintance of mine had introduced us and asked if I could give her an informational interview.
I’d be happy to, I said. (I'll call her Andrea, for the sake of this story.)
After all, only a few years before, I’d been in Andrea’s shoes, peering inside this global humanitarian organization, wondering how to get in. They had an amazing mission, as well as good pay and benefits, and of course, there was the allure of living in trendy Portland, Oregon, and traveling internationally for work.
I did a lot of informational interviews.
Andrea sat across a conference table from me and told me her story. She had been a Peace Corps volunteer in Central America, where she met her now husband. After Peace Corps, she'd stayed on there, working for several grassroots organizations, on issues like land rights and economic development.
Now they were back in Portland, her hometown, looking for jobs. The organization where I worked was at the top of her list.
As I asked her questions about the type of job she wanted, she started to become hesitant and awkward. I didn't know what was throwing her. She was obviously smart and had great experience, and up until now our conversation had gone smoothly.
A sort of bleakness started to cloud her features.
I described the short list of positions in which she might be interested, in an effort to be helpful. Yet, by the time our meeting ended, she looked nearly dejected.
At the time, I wasn’t sure what to make of the meeting. On the one hand, I thought perhaps it was culture shock. I could imagine that the prospect of working in a big, shiny, corporate headquarters would feel foreign after conducting grassroots community meetings in thatched-roof huts.
Still, I suspected there was something more.
Andrea hadn’t explained exactly why she and her husband returned to the U.S., but I got the feeling she wasn’t entirely happy to be back. It sounded like she had enjoyed her life abroad and found the hands-on work meaningful.
Now, she was home again, with pressure to re-enter the comparably cold and competitive U.S. job market and get a good job until her foreign husband could get situated. I also gathered that they were living with her parents for the time being.
Later, Andrea wrote me to let me know she'd gotten a position at another non-profit in town, and after that, I didn't hear from her again.
Yet, several years later, she came to mind unexpectedly as I contemplated my own big leap in life: to quit my job at this organization to take a year off to travel.
The thought surfaced from nowhere: I do not want to turn out like her.
Whatever happened, I did not want to later find myself sitting across from someone in a corporate office, at a loss for why I was here, why I had done what I did, and what I wanted to do next.
Most of all, I did not want to take this big leap only end up back where I started.
This was one of my biggest fears: What if I did this bold, risky thing, and nothing changed? Or what if things got worse?
In the end, in order to take the sabbatical I dreamed of, I had to accept that there were no guarantees. I might find myself in a similar situation to Andrea, and I’d have to make it okay and do my best, just like she had. It was possible that after a year I would have to come home and look for a job and ask my family for help.
But, I decided to do everything possible to avoid that.
I began to spend nights working quietly at my kitchen table, pulling out all the strategies I’d learned from the life coach I’d worked with three years before.
I wrote about my intentions for my journey and articulated exactly what kind of change I wanted to come of it. I outlined my fears and the risks and then made a plan that would help me mitigate them. Then, I started taking steps.
You know what happened?
A year later, I didn’t have to apply for an office job that didn’t suit me or interest me. I didn't move back in with my parents.
Instead, I moved to a farm north of Barcelona to live with the man I’d always hoped to meet – and with whom I’d fallen in love. With his encouragement and support, I started my own business, doing work that inspired me. We live a simple, independent lifestyle, close to nature, which is exactly what I wanted.
Yes, and no.
Over and over again, I observe – from my own life and those of others – how much some thoughtful planning can radically improve the outcome of your biggest life decisions.
This idea now forms the backbone of my work. I help create the space for people to really understand and plan the changes they want in their lives.
Most people don’t make enough time to pause and really think about what they want most in life. Their trajectory remains vague or opportunistic, and that’s why their subsequent decisions end up feeling less than satisfactory.
Many people tell me that one of the biggest things they want to change is their pattern of passively following one opportunity to the next, instead of proactively going after what they really want.
They have realized that there’s a cost to letting yourself be swept along by the currents of circumstance: You never get where you really want to go.
It's time to finally take charge of the future.
Though, if you’ve been going along passively for a long time, it can be very hard to change. It takes courage to put your stake in the ground and declare your intentions. It requires risk-taking because you’re no longer doing what’s safe or convenient. It might mean going against the status quo, and even upsetting people around you.
That’s why having support during this type of change is so important. There will be so many initial obstacles that crop up, they might convince you to give up before you've even begun. You need someone to remind you why you're doing this, and why you might need to dare to rock the boat.
Because ultimately there are tremendous rewards that come from finally doing what you've always wanted to do.
In my case, the payoff is being able to do this work and live in the gorgeous countryside with my farmer husband and our lovely new daughter.
<< Test First Name >>, in your case, it’s going to be something entirely unique and specifically marvelous to you.
Are you ready to take time out to plan the work and life of your dreams?
I’ve got two possibilities for you:
1. Join my Summer Sprint. Start my Back-on-Track 4-month Intensive program now, so that by fall you’ve hit your stride with the change you want in your life and work.
2. Talk to your partner about finally making real headway on your shared goals. Check out my new Power of Two package for partners.
If either of these sound of interest, be in touch to learn more.