In the wake of the anxiety that I have been feeling since quitting my job, I thought I’d venture into the world of video to share some strategies that I have been using to help me feel more in control and avoid overwhelm.
I hope that you benefit from them also.
I’m hoping to do a few more videos (as you can see, I need the practice), so if you have any questions are any subjects that you want me to cover, please let me know.
When I wrote my comfort zone challenge list many months ago there were a few that I thought I would attempt straight away and then others that I thought “Yeah, I’ll probably do that in a few years time” (oh, hello my friend procrastination). One of those things was shaving my head (holy hell did I really commit to that!) and another one was quitting my job without having another one to go to. Well I’m pleased to report that I haven’t shaved my head, but a few weeks ago I somehow mustered up the courage to quit my job.
Now, normally, when I sit down to reflect on a comfort zone challenge and write about my experience, the learning is fairly absolute, or at least it is in my mind. I complete a challenge and I have learned something as a result of it. However, as I am writing this I am still sitting very firmly in the discomfort of my challenge and every inch of me is resisting it. The days are a bit of a rollercoaster; going from extreme optimism and a sense of freedom to sometimes that feeling of being lost, not really knowing what I should do with myself. However, I am trying to use these uncomfortable feelings as a reassurance that I am moving in the right direction.*
If you’ve completed my guide to setting meaningful comfort zone challenges (and if you haven’t – subscribe now and download it!) you will probably find that your comfort zone challenges relate to one or two base level fears and they tend to be recurring. For me one of these recurring fears is around uncertainty, or lack of control. So the idea of quitting my job without having another one to go to was terrifying. Kind of like jumping off a cliff without knowing where you’re going to land (or more specifically whether your parachute will open…).
I should probably first explain to you why quitting my job was on my list of comfort zone challenges in the first place. I didn’t just put it on there because I saw it as a way of feeling out of control, these things don’t really work that way. I’ve been working in the financial services industry for over 10 years and over the last few years I have started to feel unfulfilled. On the surface my most recent job was perfect – the loved the people I worked with, they were flexible with me working part time, it was close to home and there was day-care just around the corner for me to drop off my daughter before work. But there was something gnawing away at me. I just kept thinking “What is wrong with me?”, “I should be grateful for this”.
And then something happened that opened my eyes and made me realise that maybe I shouldn’t keep ignoring these signals. An entrepreneur and blogger that I have been following for a couple of years, Scott Dinsmore, died at the age of 33 in a freak accident on Mt Kilimanjaro. To me, and a lot of other people around the world, he was hugely inspiring. He was living his dream life, running an amazingly successful business, connecting people around the world and inspiring them to do something that made a positive impact on the world. If you haven’t watched his TEDx talk, do yourself a favour and watch it here.
After Scott died I was in shock and despite not having even met him, I grieved for him. I have been involved with his community here in Sydney for a while now and so I felt I was a part of his impact, being involved in that community has well and truly changed my life. His dying firstly made me think about my own mortality. But what impacted me more was hearing from his community, family and even his wife, that he died doing something that he loved and making a positive impact in the world. Naturally that got me thinking “If I died right now would anyone say that about me?”
Of course everyone’s definition of making a positive impact in the world is very different. I’m certainly not saying that by being a financial planner you can’t make a positive impact, or that you need to solve world hunger to make a difference. But for me it isn’t the impact that I want to make. At this stage I am not even sure what that impact is, which is causing me just as much discomfort as not knowing when I’m going to make my next dollar. But I’m committing to use the discomfort to take small consistent actions to try and find out.
For now, I’m trying to get a little bit more comfortable with not knowing. I’m trying to plan less (What, you thought the whole financial planning thing was a coincidence?), and start to listen to my heart and let my intuition guide me a little more (former Jane would be freaking out at the ‘woo woo’ of that sentence by the way…). So I guess you’re going to have to wait to know my sure-to-be-hugely-profound insights once I’ve figured this bloody thing out. One thing that I do know is that control is a bit of an illusion anyway. Scott’s death reminds me of that too. Thankfully the one thing you do have control over are your own thoughts and actions, so that’s where I’m going to start.
Are you a control freak? Or a former control freak? I’d love to know your experiences and, ok yes some tips would be great too 😉
*There is a great book called The War of Art by Steven Pressfield that explores the concept of using resistance as your compass.
There are some comfort zone challenges you can plan for. Arranging a silent date with a friend, going to church, jumping out of a plane (definitely worth having a plan for that one). But then there are challenges that you didn’t plan for, that you never expected and that change you forever. As far as comfort zone challenges go, parenthood is an absolute doozie.
I make it sound like parenthood just came out of the blue, unplanned and unexpected…. Surprise, here’s a baby! Actually it was planned and I was pretty damn excited about it. In my true control-freak fashion I read every book there was on pregnancy and birth, I knew exactly what little features the little alien inside me was developing week to week. Only problem was that, despite everyone telling you parenthood is ‘hard’, I never really considered that what came after the birth would actually be the hardest bit.
Admittedly, prior to parenthood I was slightly delusional about the meaning of ‘hard’, and to be fair I think it’s very difficult to explain to someone who hasn’t had kids exactly the type of hard being referred to. My previous slightly arrogant self thought that I could do hard. And to a large extent I could. But I was good at the intellectual hard, or the physically hard. I was definitely not good at the emotional hard.
Life had worked for me up until Sophie was born because I had a set of rules about the way life was and I (thought I) had complete control over the aspects of my life, including my emotions, which I kept tightly locked away. Who has time to deal with pesky emotions, sheesh. Letting go of control has been (and continues to be) one of the biggest challenges that I have had to face about parenthood. But as with most comfort zone challenges, those things that we find the most difficult are also the most liberating and rewarding once you’re open to hearing the message.
The element of control that I find most interesting is around the idea that you can not control another human being, even your own child. I think I’ve said before, that I’ve never been shy about my opinions. And I think that it’s important that people have their own opinions. And while I’ve never tried to ‘control’ anyone per se, I have previously tried to make someone change their opinion by probably being more forthright (read: aggressive) than I probably should have.
Becoming a parent has really made me reflect a lot on the way that humans interact with each other and made me change the way I behave in a situation where I want to be persuasive. Dealing with a baby or a toddler has turned my perspective around so that I now consider the other person’s needs or feelings in any situation more. It doesn’t automatically mean that their needs always trump mine, but at least I now consider their point of view more. Yelling at a crying baby because you want it to stop is definitely less useful than considering what it is that it needs and trying to address it. Once their need it met, so too will your need for some peace and quiet. It actually sits much more comfortably with me now knowing that in a situation, someone else having their needs met doesn’t necessarily exclude me from having my needs met.
Of course there are always exceptions – like why the bloody hell people at work won’t put recyclables in the recycling bin instead of the normal bin! That is definitely a zero sum game. My earth-mother needs are clearly not being met in that situation (nor are the needs of our sick, dying planet by the way people! Just saying…), but I’m also learning that part of letting go of control is also about not expecting a particular outcome.
The less attached that you are to controlling another person’s behaviour and just accept that they are who they are and you can not change them, the more at peace you will be. People do change, and people can be persuaded and convinced, but at the end of the day it is them who is in control of that change. And I guess that is the biggest lesson. The “only” thing that we have control over are our own thoughts, our own actions and consequently our own lives.