Recently I led a group of moms in a workshop on how to make a meaningful career change and one of the things I talked about was my own journey to finding and doing work I loved.
If you’ve read my story, you know that I spent most of my career doing what I thought I SHOULD do because I was scared to leave what I thought of as the “safety” of the corporate world.
I knew I was capable of doing so much more, but I had no idea what that “something” looked like. And sometimes I worried that I was a lost cause who didn’t actually have any passions or dreams.
In the workshop I shared three mindset shifts that allowed me to finally figure out what I love to do and have the courage to pursue it.
1) I got out of my head and started taking action.
For most of my 15 years in the corporate world I was passively unhappy. I stayed stuck in my head, daydreaming about what I might want to do instead of my current job (and then immediately coming up with a long list of reasons why each idea would never work) but never actually taking any kind of action or DOING anything about it.
One of my biggest epiphanies was that clarity comes from action.
You can’t sit at home and think a dream into reality. You have to take action. You’ve got to get out of your head.
Action step: You can learn so much by talking to five people who are doing what you think you might want to do than you can by sitting behind your computer reading about it and making assumptions that may or may not be true about what it involves. Identify three people to reach out to and set up a call or coffee over the next month.
When you take that first small step you start the momentum and you gain valuable information along the way that will help keep you pointed in the direction of figuring out and fulfilling your dream.
2) I started to see fear as a good thing.
The second epiphany that I had was that fear is not something to be avoided. Fear is actually a signpost.
Throughout my career, deep down I knew I wasn’t happy in the corporate world but I was too scared to take a leap. Fear kept me stuck.
But I came to realize that rather than trying to avoid my fear (which honestly is impossible anyway), I could actually tap into it as a valuable source of wisdom. Really looking at and understanding your fear can provide you with tons of valuable information about whether or not you’re heading in the right direction. (And by “right” I mean a direction that feels in alignment with who you are and what you want.)
Action step: Examine your fear. It could be the signpost that points you to your dreams.
There are different types of fear. If your fear is just total dread, you feel constricted and have a pit in your stomach or your shoulders are in knots, those are all strong signals that that this thing or situation you dread is out of alignment with who you are.
But if you feel fear and there is even just a little curiosity or excitement mixed in, that can actually be a sign that you’re headed in the right direction. When something really means a lot to us that can feel scary.
3) I started focusing on the “what” instead of worrying about the “how.”
When I worked with my own coach and was trying to figure out what kind of work I would really love, I was so caught up in trying to figure out HOW it would all work (how would I make enough money, how would I fit in school with my full time job and life with two kids under two, etc.) that she had me write “how” in big black capital letters on a piece of paper, put an X through it, and hang it on my bedroom mirror.
There is a time and place for worrying about the how. But if you, like me, use “how” as a way to shut yourself and your ideas down (with a long list of reasons why they will never work) then allow yourself to create a “how-free” zone.
That might mean putting that sign on your bedroom mirror too. Or maybe you need to a commit to month or two of just letting yourself explore your ideas and dream before you worry about any of the how’s.
Action step: Create a how-free zone. Put an X through HOW on a piece of paper (or multiple pieces of paper) and hang the sign on your mirror. Force yourself to focus on the “what” of change.
Figuring out what you dream of doing is a precious process and one that needs some protecting. Trust me, once you figure out the what, you will find a way to make it happen. You will figure out the how. But when you start with how, you risk squelching your dream before it can even take shape.
Over to You
I’d love to know how these mindset shifts resonate with you and what happens if you practice employing them on your own journey towards figuring out and living your dreams.
A version of this post appeared originally on juliehoughton.com.