How Resisting Change (Almost) Held Me Back From the Work I Love

resisting change

It all started when I won the lottery.

Well, sort of.

You see, I didn’t literally win the lottery. But you know how people say “You just won the lottery, now what will you do with your life?” (Or is that the Super Bowl?)

Anyway, I won the lottery like that.

I’d just had a baby, and my salary as a social worker barely covered the cost of daycare. It didn’t add up for me to go back to work, and my husband made enough for me to be able to stay home.

So I didn’t really have to go back to work.

Ever.

It was fun for a while. I’d wear my apron and play Suzy-homemaker, and send my husband off for the day.

But it didn’t take long for me to get bored. Goodbye kisses followed by baking cookies was soon replaced by long, long hours of boredom.

Maybe you’re so busy right now in your life that you can’t imagine what it would feel like to be swallowed up by the abyss of too much time on your hands. But maybe you can feel it – like there’s no ground beneath you but just a giant, gaping hole of nothingness. . .

And then the Big Questions started coming.

  • What was I going to do with my life?
  • What did I really want to do?
  • What was important to me? What did I have to say? To give to the world?

I wrestled with these questions. I tried to give shape and direction to that void.

And I’d love to tell you that from that soul-searching came a neat little answer tied up in a bow.

But that’s not how it happened.

I did come to some answers. I figured out that what was at the core of what I wanted to do with my life was related to this concept:

The world would be a better place if we all gave what we love to give.

My background as a social worker and my time working with homeless, mentally ill and substance-abusing people taught me a lot about what it meant to show kindness and to give to those who literally had almost nothing.

The idea really resonated with what I had been doing and what I wanted to continue to do.

My first attempt at nailing this idea down was starting a consulting business that helped wealthy philanthropists make giving decisions that were aligned with their values.

In other words, I took people through a process that helped them feel confident that when they gave their millions, they were giving them in a way that really resonated with what they cared most about.

It seemed like a good idea to me.

I was emboldened by my background in charitable work, and the idea that maybe I could be changing the face of philanthropy by helping people not just write another check, but to really think about their giving decisions and the ways in which giving gave back to them.

Maybe I could make giving so rewarding that people would want to give and not just feel obligated to do it.

But it was a huge risk for me personally. Here I was, a housewife and new mom with zero business experience and someone who never had a great head for the “hard” stuff like math.

Actually, the truth is, if you ask me to count higher than 12, I might faint from anxiety right on the spot.

Instead my strengths were in “softer” skills, like connecting with people, writing, and helping others see and articulate their own strengths  – so who was I to be starting a business?

Still, I did it.

I stepped out on a limb and started the process, made initial investments, landed my first client, talked it up to all of my friends and family . . .

But I had a dirty little secret.

Soon after I started, I realized I didn’t love it. In fact, I had a pit in my stomach, and when I finally stopped long enough to listen to what it was telling me, I realized I didn’t even like it.

I sat with that secret longer than I should have.

You see, I was afraid of change.

I was afraid of what it would say about me that I was giving up on my business so quickly.

Was I flaky?

Was I not cut out for business at all?

Could I ever face my friends and family again? Would they all think I was stupid?

And worst of all – NOW what was I going to do with my life?

I resisted facing the truth that I didn’t love my business because I just couldn’t face what it meant to let it die.

I think when some people resist change or hang onto something for longer than they should – a relationship for example – they believe it’s because they still love the thing – the person, or in my case the business idea.

But to me it was crystal clear that the love was gone.

The problem was what it meant to “break up” with my business and move on.

Who was I going to be after that?

In a moment I count as a blessing, instead of having to wrestle this resistance to the ground and again dig deep to understand what I wanted in my life, something interesting happened.

After I finally admitted to myself that my business was dead, but before I had the guts to admit it to anyone else, I had a conversation with a friend of mine that left me intensely jealous.

She is a life coach, and she was telling me about some of the wonderful things she was doing in her work.

In retrospect it seems obvious, but at the time I was truly puzzled by why I would have such an intense reaction.

It took some time for the clouds to part, but I realized I was envious of her work because it was work that I wanted to be doing.

The helping she did really resonated with the therapy and clinical work I had done in my social work days.

I also realized that the core idea of each person giving what they love to give wasn’t about giving in such a literal sense. It wasn’t just about philanthropic giving, it was about how we give ourselves to the world every day.

What I really was called to do was help people recognize what they love to give to the world – their passions and gifts, and bring them to the world through work they love.

I had to pick myself up and start again.

I had to not only announce to the world the failure of my first business but the birth of my second one, and I had to reinvent my professional self.

It wasn’t easy to do. I dealt with the embarrassment, but I knew I was doing the right thing.

Looking back, I realize I almost missed the boat.

Resisting change nearly held me back from doing the work I love.

I resisted change because I thought it meant that I wasn’t cut out to be in business – because I thought it was a reflection of who I was and who I wasn’t instead of a reflection on whether I was on the right track.

But looking back, I realize change was the very thing that prepared me to be in business the most.

Because without going through this process, I wouldn’t have the depth of experience to know what it’s like to search for a calling and to find it.

I wouldn’t understand what it means to have a pit in your stomach that’s telling you something is off, even when the compass is pointing at true north.

And I wouldn’t have the guts to tell you I can help people pinpoint their mission, their meaning, their passions and gifts and help bring them into the world in a way that makes perfect sense to them, because I’d never have done it myself.

Whatever change you’re facing, allowing change to happen is all about having faith that what’s on the other side for you is better than what you have now, and that you’re enough handle it.

Photo by Tess Mayer

resisting change

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19 thoughts on “How Resisting Change (Almost) Held Me Back From the Work I Love”

  1. Many people often have the misguided belief that everyone around them is happy in their careers and life. Sadly, this is clearly not the case, so one should never be afraid to admit that they aren’t where they want to be, most people will be able to relate.

    1. Hi Josh! You’re right. According to statistics, an astounding number of people are unhappy at work – so we are in good company. People will be able to relate, and I really think being able to admit to ourselves and to other people that we’re not where we want to be is the first step in making a change.

  2. I know exactly what you mean about becoming bored. I’ve always needed something to do. When I was younger and worked a few hours a week I would quickly become bored with that when school ended and have to find a way to fill my time.

    Its a good thing you were able to uncover the cause of your jealous, most people don’t. And if you hadn’t you would be where you are now, doing what you love.

    ~Lea

  3. I love how candid you were in this post, Jessica. Like many, I can relate with boredom. Funnily enough, I used to refer to 3-5pm on Saturdays as “boring hours” when I was a kid. Not sure what it was about that time but I never liked it for some reason. Looking back, I think that it felt somehow bare, as if it reflected back what was missing from my life. Something I will have to reflect on again…

    Being a social worker and a life coach like yourself, I’ve come to see that boredom and anhedonia go hand-in-hand. If you think about it, there’s always something you could be doing. Boredom is in essence saying no to many things (the opposite of good improv comedy) or not having interest in the things you are or could be doing.

    Thanks for this great post. Very thought provoking and real :-)

    1. Thanks Jack. That’s an interesting way to look at boredom, but yes, you’re right. You’re essentially saying that there’s nothing that’s good enough for you to be doing right then. . . but I think that there are situations (like mine) where the world of possibility is narrowed. With a baby in tow, there were lots of things I just wasn’t going to be doing. So from my very narrow list of choices, I felt bored. But it’s interesting to think about why other people become bored too. Do they also have a narrow list of choices? Do they have limiting beliefs about what they feel they can choose to do? Great food for thought. . . thanks!

  4. I love the message of this post, Jessica.

    I like the message about standing up to fear and not being afraid to face and go through change.

    What’s really cool is the ending where you point out how your experience actually prepared you for your new calling because now you can relate to what your clients are going through.

    I’m glad to hear you’re following your heart. The world will be a much better place because of it.

  5. Not to be rude or a downer, but why is everything on thechangeblog revolving around everyone who decides to become “life coaches”. Seems every story on here ends with the same thing: I hated what I did and my life, so I became a life coach.

  6. @lovelife: That’s not been my experience. But…people who have failed, then found their way to success do have something to share. It’s definitely not the only skill needed to be a good coach, but it’s a great start!

    Jessica: the mark of a leader is being willing to risk failure publicly. I love how you describe the journey you took. Thanks for sharing. :)

  7. @lovelife – I didn’t hate my life, I was bored professionally – empty in fact. (I didn’t tell you the incredible story about my journey into motherhood – I was far from hating my life). I can’t speak for everyone’s change, but for me, I think I was always on this journey. I didn’t do something radically different from what I was doing before, so much as I decided to do something true to my heart – and the part that surprised me was how similar it ended up looking to what I did before.

    I hit one of life’s many transition (change) points, and yes, it changed me. So for me, I don’t think it was as simple as “I hated what I did and my life so I became a life coach.” It feels much more layered than that, but perhaps it’s just my perspective.

    Larry Hochman, Thank you for your chivalry. Life’s too scary, confusing, and hard not to help each other along the way, so thank you for your support as I try to do my part! :)

  8. Hi Jessica,

    Congratulations on following your gut and finding your true purpose. I’m on a similar journey myself – having left behind a world of finance and trying to make a living blogging. I hope to see some financial returns soon (so I don’t have to go back to my day job)

    Thanks for sharing your journey.

  9. Jessica,

    Great article. Very entertaining writing, and a wonderful point. Change is something that most people fight against tooth and nail.

    People fear change and they fear the unknown. It is human nature.

    Change can be tough and it can be nasty.

    But change is also the best opportunity and can often be for the good, even if we resist it.

    Though sometimes my reaction is to fight change, I TRY to look at the opportunity and see the potential, because you never know what good might be inside of a change until you give it a chance.

    1. Thanks so much! There is always something to learn from change, no matter how painful. And try as you like, you just can’t change the fact that change happens, so you may as well at least benefit from it.

      It can be tough to remember that, especially when changes seem devastating, but there’s always that silver lining.

  10. Jessica, this article really hits home with me. I haven’t found what I love yet either. I’ve found a few things that I enjoy doing, but not sure I love it. There is one biz opp that I’m pretty sure I want to stop doing. I keep hearing don’t quit, but at some point you have to decide that quitting something that isn’t serving you is a good thing. I see the potential for it and I like some of the things associated with it, but I’m not sure it fits into my life’s purpose. I really do feel flaky because I can’t seem to make up my mind about it.

    1. Hi Bonnie,

      I found that at a certain point you really have to be honest with yourself and let it go. It sounds like you know it’s not working, and it’s not right, though some elements are there – just like my story. You’re probably close, but I’d guess that once you can lay the “wrong” thing to rest, the new thing will emerge. Of course, you’ll have to decide what’s right for yourself, but that was my experience, and it seems to make sense to me that giving up that struggle makes room in your life for something new. I hope that it unfolds for you.

  11. Thanks Jessica this is just what I needed right now…on the verge of divorce and big life changes surrounding that….taking that leap of faith can be overwhelming but trusting your vibes through the fog is really important. Thank you and good luck.

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