“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”
― Mahatma Gandhi
Almost two years ago I lost my job through changes in the organization I had devoted my career to. It was unexpected, and I was shocked at the time. It took me many months to heal from the experience as I went through doubt about my abilities, my future and myself.
What surprised me the most? Discovering the toll stress had taken on me. Working in a large organization is fraught with changes, competition and unwritten rules. I figured at the time that if I just worked harder and became known as a high producer I would be successful. Was I ever wrong!
Fast forward to today. I am building a thriving coaching practice that is all mine. As I look back over the past year, I realize I have learned something so important, so valuable that I don’t believe I will ever choose to work for someone else again. I have rediscovered me.
What do I mean? Wasn’t I always me? Well yes, but I was working against the backdrop of someone else’s time, structure, values and decisions. It felt at the time like I was swimming down a rapid flowing river trying to keep up with the twists and turns ahead.
Now I enter my home office every morning with a sense of relief and calm. This is no river. This is a serene pool big enough for me to play, create, and best of all push myself in directions I choose to take. I am on a steep learning curve and I still don’t fully know what I don’t know. But that is one of the best parts.
My day is filled with serving others, making decisions, designing new approaches and building relationships. I make my own schedule and align it to when I am most productive.
How I choose to show up is closely aligned to my brand. And my brand is me. I have finally discovered that I don’t have to “show up” in a role. I don’t have to “fit in” to other’s norms. I don’t have to play a game with shifting rules.
Instead, I am discovering what it feels like to live my own values. If I don’t think a client is right for me, I can refer them to someone else. If I want to take a risk, like developing online courses as part of my offerings, I can do it.
The only thing I must do is stay aligned with the International Coach Federation’s competencies, engage in on-going personal and professional development, and have my own coach. The rest is entirely up to me.
So, what does all this freedom really mean? I actually get to be the authentic me. And it feels amazing. My stress has reduced substantially and my work life balance is well tuned. Very little rankles me anymore. I have energy to place on the right things like family, friends, healthy living, and new interests.
And best of all, I can live my values to serve others. People have always been my focus. I believe people are a company’s biggest asset. So when I realized this wasn’t the case, except with lip service, in my former workplace, I knew I didn’t belong. Now when I work with people, they expect me to not only be a professional expert, they expect (and deserve) me to show up fully and wholeheartedly as me.
My success in my business and my life depend on being my authentic me!
I am not for a second suggesting everyone should work for themselves. Entrepreneurship is hard work and takes time and passion to reach the point of making a good living. It isn’t for everyone. But it doesn’t mean you can’t live your life on your terms. My sister works in academia and loves it. A close friend works for a small organization devoted to improving the lives of children. Both women enjoy their work and have created a lifestyle that allows them to be who they truly are. Sure there are always compromises, but knowing you can be the best version of yourself every moment of the day is liberating.