This is my story on finding purpose and meaning: I realized that what I have been working on for the last decade simply isn’t what I want to do when I grow up anymore.
Someone once told me:
“If you can remember what it was like as a kid to grow out of a size of pants or shoes, that’s what’s happening right now — you are growing out of a chapter and ready to enter a new one.”
Sounded cheesy when I first heard it, but it makes so much sense now.
This story has 3 phases:
- The turning point of how this went into action
- Learnings and process ( → clarity/breakthrough, direction, a
While one work experience led to the next-best-one, over the last few years I’ve felt ‘stuck’.
Ideas came and went. I tested some of them. Others never made it out into the world. Friends vetted and approved them; I just stalled and procrastinated.
I thought the solution was to get a new day job. Hitting the ‘refresh’ button on my resume, pitch, and goals, I started interviewing. As I went through informational conversations and interviews with companies I was inspired to work at, I was convincing myself that I was on the right path. Yet, through this process, I captured mixed signals: how I was presented on paper did reflect my experience and skills but it did not reflect what I’m excited about in life and the change or impact I care to make. This was a deer-in-the-headlights realization, so I decided to pause on the job hunt and take a good look at myself.
Shortly after my interviewing phase I had a set of memorable conversations with two of my mentees. These conversations stood out to me because both of them expressed gratitude for our relationship and especially for me helping them through a career transition.
“I felt ‘stuck’ and thought the solution was to get a new day job.”
The same week I had lunch with a colleague I admire. I wanted to get her advice on my next move. She asked me about passion and purpose. I stumbled… and instead shared a bit about what I think I do best and what I can offer outside of the context of my job: bringing communities together, building frameworks and systems to guide folks and lift blockers.
Our lunch ended with a recommendation to meet with someone in leadership development at my current company. I munched on all this over the weekend and shared it with my therapist (I used TalkSpace for 6 months and I highly recommend the service). She had been amazing with guiding me and offering tools during this me-trying-to-get-unstuck phase but if it wasn’t for her calling out something specific about the two mentee conversations I had earlier that week, I would have walked right past it! — coaching came natural to me. That’s when I realized I wasn’t mentoring, I was coaching. Most of my coffee dates or friend breakfasts over the years have been about career transitions. Without realizing it, I have been so invested in this topic and now I find myself in the same career transition space!
I took some meetings with coaches to listen to their stories on how they got into it; some were doing it for a living, some out of joy. One thing led to another; from chats to books to videos to referrals — and I landed on Project X’s Purpose Accelerator.
I signed up for one month to work on my personal and professional journey to purpose. Sure, this may sound self-help-ish and cheesy but the proposition was clear to me: I would be offered the tools needed to propel myself forward and follow the program with a group of strangers that would become my accountability group, aka what I needed: a kick in the butt.
This program was designed with so much detail, passion and care, I cannot recommend it enough. Some are shy or even partially ashamed for joining such programs and I can respect that, but I loved hearing why the founders came to designing the programming and resonated with the value it has been providing to many cohorts before mine. These type of programs need to be integrated in schools and companies — period.
“What I needed: a kick in the butt.”
LEARNINGS & PROCESS
So many people are searching for purpose and it is so important to learn you are not alone on this journey.
Purpose does not have a one-time definition, it’s ever evolving.
You reach the best version of yourself when what you are doing (for work or in life) is aligned with your purpose. Don’t know what it is? Hey, I didn’t either but I was ready to find out. I was ready to ask the hard questions and step outside of my comfort zone to get the answers.
I have been living this one-track life post school and felt that I had lost my focus. This program helped me look into my strengths and fears and transition from a thinker to a doer. I was a doer at work, but a thinker outside of work. My ‘doing’ was defined by work, not by my true passions. Project X made me commit to continuous, small experiments—nothing I was unfamiliar with as I was literally taking years of agile methodologies and design thinking and now performing them on myself vs on a client.
“You reach the best version of yourself when what you are doing (for work or in life) is aligned with your purpose.”
WHAT WAS DIFFERENT WITH THIS PROGRAM WAS THE POWER OF ACCOUNTABILITY.
I designed, acted, learned, rebuilt, and acted again while having built a system of support that pushed me to see these steps through, week by week, until I got completely comfortable putting imperfect ideas out into the world and developing more meaningful career change techniques.
That one month I was dedicated, focused and had intent like I’ve never had before for my personal and professional growth. It was the combination of Project X + TalkSpace + Headspace + the BestSelf.co Journal (reminder: I’ve been a project manager for years so this rigorous and detail-oriented combination was my jam; it may not work for you). All my spare thinking time went to reflection and actions on repeat (it was a lot, no kidding, but it was worth it).
Here is a snapshot of various exercises I went through to give you an idea of the journey to building your very own authentic definition of your own success:
- Identify your heroes and the values of your heroes
- What brings you joy?
- In what situations do you find yourself “
- Calling cards (Richard Leider)
- Build your own power mantra
- Death meditation, self-obituary activities
- Future-life meditation
- Dealing with your career and life baggage
- Gratitude and happiness activities
- Dates with yourself without a destination in mind, sans phone/tech
- Reflective best-self exercise *this one was brilliant* (have others call out skills and passions you may have buried or ignored)
Some can work on all this solo by reading books, going to retreats, journaling… but doing this with a group of complete strangers was my trigger to react and get unstuck. If I had one main takeaway from this is that a vision of the future accomplished is what allows us to commit to relentless experimentation (Jeff Hittner I think you actually said this). I had never ever done this in my life, never thought to nor was ever provoked to — vision is key.
I’m shifting from ‘solutioning problems for people’ to focus ‘on people development’. It will be two-fold: talent/skills development and coaching. I will apply this direction where I currently work (because if there is one thing my company cares about, it is indeed the people and their growth) as well as work on external education and practice on the side.
- Out of Project X, I have a product idea I’m working on (and a great community of mentors to leverage going forward). My action is to share with you where it’s at 3 months from now.
- On Coaching, I’m taking a few lay-of-the-land calls with coaches to find the right education/certification program that suits me. My action here is looking at at career transition and life-coaching education options. I will also be looking to put my fluent Greek to use by offering bilingual coaching. (Recommendations welcome!)
- Out of TalkSpace, I have a superb toolkit to use to balance focus, intent, goals, self-care and to be more aware of things around me. I did so much introspection with this service, and my action is to open up my toolkit as needed.
- Out of Headspace, I learned how hard and how important it is to take breaks in your day to slow down, to relax, and sometimes to challenge your mode of thinking. My action is to use Headspace daily.
- On Talent Development, my actions are: taking intros, calls and meetings with various folks that work in or have retired from HR to get more perspective in a rather new industry for me.
- Out of the BestSelf Co journal, my action is to visualize my entire day and not let work or my inboxes dictate the planning of my day. The journal is designed to sprinkle goals, lessons, wins, areas for improvement and gratitude to make it a ‘natural’ way for you to think about your day. My action is to use this daily for 3 months (but to also not beat myself up if I skip a day or two ;)).
Thanks for reading. I believe sharing stories is important — it creates space to talk with others going through similar journeys.
If you have questions, want to chat on any of the above or want discount codes to any of the services above, reach out!