When big life changes mess up your plans, you get a chance to find yourself through all the pain and emotional discomfort and gain a new purpose in life
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Well…that’s not at all how I had envisioned my 2016 to look like. First, I didn’t think I would feel so uneasy and in the wrong place most of the time. I definitely didn’t think I would go months without blogging because I was too busy trying to find a permanent job. But I also didn’t think I would learn all these amazing things about myself, find out what I really want to do in life, and had no idea what I could achieve if I put my mind to it. 2016 was one big emotional roller coaster.
In this post I am sharing the difficult experiences I made over the past year trying to find my passion because I think we all feel overwhelmed, insecure and totally lost at times and it helps to see that others struggle as well. I want Reveries of Style to be a place where I share my true being, where mindfulness and authenticity are key, and where we don’t pretend. There is enough of that on the net. The result, hopefully, is that you see my genuine interest in living a conscious and sustainable life and that we can support each other. But before you think this is going to be a downer of a post let me reassure you: all the “difficult” things that happened turned out to be just what I needed to find my passion. That’s the beauty of life: It will always give you exactly what it is you need to grow, as painful as it might be. I know, I know, not a very popular concept. Still, I wholeheartedly believe in it. But I am getting ahead of myself…
Dreams and expectations: Yours or someone else’s?
Let me give you the backstory. At 26 I moved from Switzerland to Los Angeles by myself and worked hard to attend UCLA. I chose a subject I was passionate about, sociology and public policy, rather than what someone else wanted me to study. I truly loved school and learning and I loved life in LA. After a difficult post-graduation period, a move to Vancouver and a tough break-up, I returned to Switzerland and went to grad school to get my masters in sociology and gender studies. Unsurprisingly, it didn’t score me a corporate job. I had been working in customer relations for a national company while in school. Due to the lack of more interesting options I decided to keep working there. It was a pretty sweet deal: I had lots of freedom as to how much I wanted to work and the length of vacation I could take. Overall it was a secure job and the money was ok. My first priority at the time was travel. I went to Nepal and Tibet, to Thailand and Cambodia and took a lot of smaller trips all over Europe. I was happy with all the flexibility and life was pretty good. Still, I knew it wasn’t what I would do forever. After a few years I was feeling unhappy with some of the changes at the company. On top of that, I now was in a committed relationship and, as a result, wasn’t traveling solo as much anymore. It was time to move on. Interestingly, the desire for change was also partially based on my environment telling me that I was “wasting my potential.” I didn’t know exactly what that meant but I thought there must be some truth in it seeing I wasn’t happy anymore.
So in 2015 I quit without knowing what to do or where to go. It was not a thought-through decision but rather a gut feeling that told me to get out now. I had the full support of my boyfriend and I know he must have faced some insecurities during this time as well. He never projected them onto me though and that meant a lot to me. Part of me succumbed to the idea that I needed to take on an academic position because, well, I had a degree that shouldn’t “go to waste.” I had specialized in gender studies and was passionate about the subject. So I embarked on a journey of trying to secure a job in that field. I say journey because it felt like such a difficult undertaking. Since I had worked in a different field after grad school I was at a huge disadvantage, competing with people who were more experienced. I put a lot of effort into making it happen though and went on to intern at two different places, one government agency and one NGO. Both were very good references in my field and dealt with highly interesting issues. I learned a lot about working in gender projects and met interesting and experienced professionals, went to international conferences, UN sessions and so on. But somehow working in those environments never felt right. More than that, I was extremely stressed and always worrying about what would come next and how to secure a permanent job. Self-doubt and insecurities flooded my system to the point where I had trouble breathing. I recognized it as a symptom of anxiety and started to pay attention to what could be the source of it.
I had this idea in my mind that I should work for an international agency, UN Women or some NGO, go on missions abroad, etc. I thought it was what everyone expected me to do, making use of my language skills, can-do personality, travel experience and my gender degree. It was also what I expected myself to do, as in “make the logical choice:” It’s this belief that an academic education must necessarily translate into a certain type of career/position. But most of the time I was neither excited nor uplifted at work. I couldn’t quite verbalize the reasons for it, though. I just knew it wasn’t bringing me the joy I was yearning for. Despite this growing realization I was worried what changing my mind would mean for my CV and my career.
Finding your passion takes some gut and introspection
There’s no such thing as chance. So when I came across a four week online course promising to help people find “a new career in 30 days” it came at the perfect time and I was all in. There was a special offer (isn’t there always?) and so I enrolled and started right away. Little did I know it would show me exactly what I wanted to do and in the process change my life. Big statement, right? Bear with me please, I am not making this up and this is not an affiliate post.
Whether you are simply unsatisfied, don’t know what your true calling is or are absolutely hating your current career, this course will show you exactly what the problem is, how you can change it and help you transition once you find your dream career. There were no deadlines, so I wasn’t feeling stressed about time. It helped that I went on a one-week yoga retreat, giving myself the necessary time to focus on the course.
What do you really value? What are your passions?
In the first week the course helps you identify your values by asking you questions that will yield recurring responses and themes. My values turned out to be: Authenticity, learning/self-growth, balance/health, beauty, freedom/independence, mindfulness, and creativity. Those values rang very true to me and it felt like this was really going to show me what my inner self was looking for. For example, authenticity is a huge force in my life. I have always done things my way and taken what others would call the unconventional road. I tell people what I think and love to connect with them in a genuine way. Knowing the importance of authenticity in my life helped me see that in certain environments I had worked in, there had been a clear value conflict. For example, whereas I value authentic communication, being open and honest even if it may ruffle some feathers, and thinking outside the box, the environment valued diplomatic communication, strict hierarchies, and traditional approaches to problem solving. This isn’t just a reflection of the employees but also of the organizational and cultural structure of the environment. Learning/self-growth is also very evident. I love taking courses, reading books, participating in workshops and seminars, etc. Balance/health incorporates my desire to have different interests and being able to pursue them. It means not having to sacrifice these interests because of a crazy workload or long work hours. Beauty represents my love for all things aesthetic, design, decor, and fashion. Freedom/independence relates to my free spirit who loves to travel and go on adventures, try something new and not be bogged down by responsibilities. Mindfulness reflects my interest in taking the time to think and ponder instead of being superficial and rushed, and in taking care of people and the environment. This also caused value conflicts in a lot of the environments I had encountered: Everything felt like one deadline after the other and people had burnouts left right and center. And last but not least, creativity relates to my love for all things DIY, art, projects, problem solving, etc. The values exercise was a great start into the course and allowed me to think about what it is that drives me. It showed me why I don’t feel at ease in certain fields and what kind of environment I need to reach my full potential.
The second week is all about determining your passions and getting to know your personality type including your strengths and weaknesses. I realized that while a lot of my passions were linked to my values, not all lend themselves to be pursued as a career: I love yoga but I don’t see myself being a yoga teacher. I also love movies, documentaries, etc. but I don’t want a career in the entertainment industry. So little by little, I got a better idea of which passions might be potential careers. I also took a ton of free personality tests which gave me a good sense of my strengths and weaknesses. I am an ENFPT type according to the Myers Briggs model: I like to work with people, have strong communication skills, am very social, sensitive, and empathic, like to think about the big societal aspects and implications of life, am curious, idealistic, outgoing, and adventurous, and I love to take a stand for things I believe in. ENFPT types are often multi-passionate. I can also be impatient, impulsive at times, have a hard time finishing things I started, have too many projects going on and little discipline…you get the picture. Based on these results, I then researched some of the careers that match my type: teacher, social worker, coach, mediator, equal opportunity coordinator, blogger/writer, and more. In addition, I had to ask my close friends what they thought my strengths and weaknesses are which was a very uplifting and gratifying experience. It made me love my friends even more, showing me that they really know and believe in me and that I am so lucky to have people in my life who care about my future.
What lifestyle do you dream of?
The things I realized as part of the course up to here weren’t completely new. Then, in week three I had to determine what kind of life I want to live. What lifestyle do I want? What do I dream my days will look like? That is when things started to become clear. What happens most of the time is that we decide on a career based on our passions and values (best case) or expectations and pressures (worst case). Then, we adapt to whatever lifestyle this career brings even if we feel unsatisfied with the working hours, the culture at work, where we need to move in order to work, how much money we make, etc. So the lifestyle question becomes an afterthought. We think this is how it needs to be, that we can’t have it all, meaning a career we love and a life that is worth living not just from a professional point of view. Through this exercise I realized I want a career that allows me to have balance, i.e. gives me the freedom to work from home and choose my own hours, that makes it easy to live a healthy life and that lets me be location independent. A career where I can interact with like-minded people who care about sustainability and mindfulness and for which I get to travel from time to time. I want fairly regular hours and to be able to take time off for myself and my relationship. I want to get up early in the morning and then have the evenings to spend with my partner. In sum, I want a career that makes me feel independent and free, connected to my values and other people, fulfilled with a purpose of helping others rather than just a advancing a business, a career that allows for mindful connections and dialogue, that is balanced, healthy and gives me a sense of achievement. It became clear that I am neither looking for a lot of money, status or material things but rather experiences and a sense of purpose. This is, interestingly but not surprisingly, how I have already spent my life so far. I have always prioritized experiences, travel and learning over stability, security and savings and I intend to keep it up. There is no judgement in this realization or other people’s values, the importance is on following what you believe is right for you.
Based on these realizations I made the decision to fully immerse myself in sustainable and conscious lifestyle blogging with the intention of making it my full-time career at some point. Blogging allows me to be creative, to share my passion with others, to advance the values I hold dear, and to help people in living more consciously. I decided to take on a part-time job in a field that still gives me a deep sense of purpose and intellectual involvement (working for a human rights NGO) but won’t drain my energy and lets me pursue blogging on a regular basis. Plus, it pays the bills and ensures that I am still independent. This transitional period of working part-time and blogging regularly is the perfect combo for me and Reveries of Style can take center stage. It took a lot of soul searching and a lot of doubting myself before I committed to it but I know it’s 100% the right thing to do at this moment in my life.
Making your dream career a reality: scary but so worth it
I am at a turning point and excited for a new beginning. So it’s all peachy, isn’t it? Well, it is if it weren’t for the fears that come with big life changes and unknown territory. We don’t like change. We absolutely hate it. Our whole system is wired to oppose and fight it. Since making these decisions I have experienced first-hand how powerful my mind can work against what it sees as being change: “What if I don’t know how to do things?” “What if my blog doesn’t bring people together?” “What if the money isn’t enough?”
What if I am not good enough? That is what it comes down to, the same old fear that accompanies so many of us through our days. I know this is the time to really show up for that scared part of me and for my dreams! That means meditating regularly (I use the Calm app and I am part of the wonderful 7AM Club with Laura Seiler), keeping a journal, setting goals, and facing my fears and reading about ways to deal with them. It means looking for support and inspiration, trusting and involving my partner in this process, and maybe most importantly, putting one foot ahead of the other. I have done scarier things in the past and, in retrospect, did just fine. Even though it feels like a mountain right now, I know it will be like a stroll in the park once I am passed the steep part.
I am so happy and grateful to share this journey with you. Sadly, there are too many people on this planet who will never get the chance of finding their passion. So we owe it to them to do our best! I am truly looking forward to getting back into blogging and to sharing lots of amazing sustainable and conscious experiences together on Reveries of Style.