Almost 3 years ago I walked out of a high pressure management job. Leaving behind the pressure and fatigue, but also the fun, prestige and achievement was never an easy decision. But in the end it was the only decision. At the time I wondered if it was right, and I’ve had that same lingering thought countless times since then.
That last night, handing my keys over and driving the final commute back down the motorway, I felt in some sort of twilight zone. I had no plans, no way of bringing any income in, and a faint clamour at the back of my mind that it was all a big mistake.
3 years on, I know for certain I was right. Leaving the 9-5 (or the 6am – 1am as it became) was the best thing I’ve ever done. Here are some of the things I’ve learned.
1) The struggle is necessary to appreciate the end result.
I can’t count the times I’ve been lost, despairing, willing the universe to show me what I should be doing. During those times I browsed management adverts, wanting to go back to some security, some purpose. In retrospect, I should have had a clear plan before leaving, but at the time, I just needed to go. It all worked out OK in the end though.
I went to work in a cubicle for a bit, which taught me one important lesson; that I was right the first time, that a traditional job is not for me any more. The job got me down and the proximity of a bargain sweet shop got me fatter. I left it behind and didn’t look back.
We have to go through struggle so we can learn. To look back is easy, but we can appreciate the lessons we took on board during those times. I sit here, 3 years on, in a place I never imagined I’d be. I cast my mind through all the tumultuous events over recent years and there is one thread running through- that I wanted to work for myself and I knew I was on the right track, even when everyone around me told me I should be bringing in a stable income instead.
Persevere. If you can’t not do it, you’re on to something.
2) Old habits die hard
I was obese in the past. I lost weight and got fit and did a personal training qualification. I swore I’d never be overweight again.
But you can never say never. Feeling down in my cubicle job, I fed myself just to feel something. When I felt lost, whenever anyone told me that I should be looking for a normal job, whenever I got scared, too scared to take any action, whenever anyone told me I wasn’t working hard enough, I felt like a failure. I ate again to get through. Of course I did. It was the old failsafe, bad habits learned, ingrained, untrained. Because I knew what I was doing to myself, I felt worse. So I ate more. Self sabotage. A precarious balance.
It took a huge effort to catch myself before the scales tipped. I was terrified to start teaching a fitness class. I felt like an imposter calling myself a PT. But now, months on, I help people going through the same things I did, and in turn it helps me. A journey back to normal.
3) Action is the hardest thing but it brings great rewards
I’m an INFP. I live in my head. I think of great ideas, huge, universal solutions. I dream in technicolour and see layers of meaning and intention people don’t even notice, whether they exist or not. I think inanimate objects have feelings and I myself feel everything 100 times over.
I find it easy to scheme big schemes and dream big dreams.
I find it incredibly hard to put those plans into action.
I hate minutiae, detail and process. I care greatly about the end result but have no care at all how we get there. I get bored easily, flitting from topic to topic and idea to idea. For me, action is the hardest thing. I’d much rather somebody else do it.
But if the last 3 years have taught me anything, it’s that it’s all down to me. I scare myself on purpose, imagining my last day and looking back on my life. That pushed me into doing, no matter how much I want to resist.
Action is scary. I don’t want to be scared. I want to live in an easy world. But to reach where I want to be, I’ve got to put the hard yards in. I’ve got to push myself out of my comfort zone. In the last year I’ve upped my game and I need to ramp it up some more. I can feel a little momentum building and in turn, that gives me a spark more confidence to try something new.
Those months spent sitting around waiting for something to come to me, and failing, taught me that for things to come to me I have to make them do so. The days of sitting and wallowing in self pity showed me, when the clouds cleared, that of course I need to take action. Now I’m focused and even more determined to continue building this life I’m so lucky to have.
Every day teaches me something new. A new layer uncovered, a new thought flickering into actuality, a point of view changed, a hint in the breeze.
We’re always learning, even thought it can be hard to see at the time.
What is one thing you’ve learned in the past year? Could you see it at the time or does hindsight help? How has it impacted your life today?
p.s The picture at the top is Framing the Landscape, an awesome project by Ashley Jackson. Find out more here: http://www.framingthelandscape.co.uk/