I can’t leave this job. It’s secure. The benefits are great. And my stock options might split someday.
I repeated those words to myself for five years. Five. Years. I hated that job. But for all of the reasons listed above, I felt I had to stay, despite my unhappiness. I didn’t have a choice. Sound familiar?
What you aren’t changing, you’re choosing.
My yoga instructor said this recently, and I resisted the urge to give her a standing ovation. It’s the thing I repeat to my clients (and myself) all of the time.
It’s so easy to convince ourselves that we don’t have a choice, isn’t it? If I’ve learned anything from coaching (and from my own lived experiences), it’s that we’re very good at tuning in to societal norms, the opinions of others and fear of the unknown when we make our decisions. We let them tell us what we should do—and you know how I feel about shoulds.
This does two very bad things: It makes us feel trapped in jobs, relationships, and situations that aren’t suited for us. And it removes our autonomy, stripping our ability to make decisions using our gut as our guide. After all, our gut often asks us to do scary things—things that make us uncomfortable—and it’s easier to tell ourselves I have no choice.
But we’re always choosing, even when we say we aren’t.
Every time we wake up and go to a job we hate, we’re choosing. Every time we avoid hard conversations with loved ones, we’re choosing. Every time we ignore our intuition and say yes to shoulds, we’re choosing.
I didn’t fully realize it at the time, but I was choosing to stay in a job I hated. I’m so glad I finally listened to my gut and left.
A few years ago, during my NYU coaching training, I attended a poetry reading at a classmate’s apartment. The poem, titled “Diving In,” struck me. (You can listen to a reading of it here.) It uses the analogy of leaping into a cool lake on a hot summer night as a way to encourage us to jump into the unknown. Otherwise, we end up choosing to experience life from the safe seats on the dock.
My hope for you this summer is that you don’t just dangle your feet. I hope you dive in, embracing your unique ability to choose what’s right for you.
And if you need some encouragement, you know where to find me.
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