Where does authenticity come from?

October 11, 2009

Unfortunately, for many of us, true authenticity can only come from finding ourselves in desperate situations.  I am speaking from personal experience here.

I recently spoke to a room full of newly unemployed people, folks who had never really known that kind of desperation before.  At the end, the first question was,

“Do you have to reach that point of feeling like you have very little left to lose, before you can begin to acknowledge and appreciate your own uniqueness?”

My only answer was, “I did.”  Before that point, I still believed I had all the answers.  I still believed in the traditional American dream and felt like it was working for me to some extent.  In other words, I was still willing to ignore my deepest personal need to become my best self, because I had some sort of marriage and job and that felt safe.  Don’t fix it if it ain’t broken!

But when that all crumbles before your eyes, when everything you thought you knew about yourself and your future is no longer true, desperation CAN lead to inspiration.

The same can be said about marriage.  If you have a mediocre marriage that meets a few of your needs and you feel safe, you may stay in it, because the alternatives look grim.  But when that marriage ends, you are forced to become much more creative when thinking about your future.  You realize now anything could happen, and that can be refreshing and terrifying at the same time.

But if you are willing to take the necessary risks and take the time to invest in finding a better future for yourself, help is available.  If you are certain you don’t want to go back to the same old, same old or your life feels like it has turned into a 9-to-5 way of dying, you are now ready to change for the better.

You may be ready to find the courage inside to explore what you were put on this earth to do!

Remember: do-overs are indeed possible before it’s all over!

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Working through the emotions of job loss

February 27, 2009

I will never forget the day I lost my job.  I had been working at the same university for over five years with basically no training, no supervision and no evaluations.  Then one day the head of reference called me into his office to say he refused to renew my contract.

Shock and awe was my first response.  I was 48 and had never received a bad evaluation, let alone lost a job.  I had never considered myself disposal.  Come to find out, my boss had found someone he liked better, and lined him up for the job.  Great fun working at a job while the boss is interviewing others for your position.

Here’s some excellent advice from Specialist Laurie Hessel of the Colorado Employee Assistance Program for working through and moving on from career setbacks:

1. Expect to go through all of the normal stages of grief related to loss and defeat–numbness, anger, bargaining and sadness.  Eventually you will arrive at a place where you can accept what happened and begin to move forward.

2. Acknowledge that you experienced a disappointment. Once you identify what your true loss was, you’ll have more success in recovering from it and moving on.

3. Admit your part in the situation. As with most things in life, there are two sides to any career disappointment.  While it may not be immediately apparent, examine what you may have done (or didn’t do) that contributed to this result.  Then take responsibility for the role you played.  This shifts you from being a helpless victim to taking positive action.

4. Reframe the situation if you find yourself stuck in anger over what happened.  Challenge yourself to look at this disappointment from a more constructive angle.  The universe gives us what we need, not always what we want.  Choose to adopt a powerful belief system instead of one that holds you back.

5. Ask people you trust for honest feedback.  If you truly want to make progress, yet keep running into the same roadblocks, get some objective feedback on how you might approach your challenge differently.  Old approaches may not work for accomplishing new goals.

6. Finally, talk to encouraging people.  Family members, because they’re so emotionally tied into your situation, may not be the best candidates to offer you proper support.  Instead seek out positive, helpful friends or look into counseling services available through your own benefits program or through your community.

In my case, it only took me a few months to realize that my job loss was just what I needed to begin an important journey towards right livelihood.  It was never easy or even comfortable, but I persevered because I wanted out of my 9-5 rut.  By losing my job I gained a much more positive future for myself.  Hope you can do the same!