So I’m back from a bit of a hiatus, primarily because while I’ve been writing about being a free woman on here, I have not been feeling very free. Over the holidays while I was visiting with my family, I got really charged up listening to Tiphani Montgomery’s spiritually led real goal planning webinar. And while I did a good job creating some quality S.M.A.R.T. goals for the year, I returned to Maryland and stood looking my day job in the eye with complete miserableness. One of my friends told me that she could even hear in my voice that I was unhappy when I called to let her know I was back.
The truth is that I’m at a crossroads in my life. I pondered just keeping my personal issues to myself but realized that I’m not the only person out here that is going through this. I’m not alone in being out here trying to find a way to achieve and live out their goals but frustrated about my surroundings. People say: you have find a job that allows you to finance your goals (or pay your bills while you work on your goals) and that’s the main reason I switched to the job I have now. My mindset was that I could do this job and make more money and work on my projects. Well, this new job – it may pay more, but if anything it’s a culmination of me having gone backwards, back to me working a job that I do not enjoy with the expectation that said job will be my life.
Nevertheless, I thought I could handle it. Instead I’m in the position where I feel like I don’t have the time to write. My mind is always full with things I have to do and every time that I think I’ve taken one step forward, I’ve instead found that I’ve gone two steps backward. To top it off, I’m so physically drained from the schedule – which as a night owl completely goes against my nature – that by Friday I’m depleted. I end up spending half of my weekend just trying to catch up on sleep and rest. Ultimately, if I loved what I did, this wouldn’t be a problem. I wouldn’t be complaining. But I don’t. And I’m realizing that I don’t have the stomach for it anymore. When I think about it, I left one bad situation for another. One situation without growth opportunity, a salary to live on, which showed signs of not being promising, to another that also doesn’t utilize my skills and also showed signs of issues from the beginning.
These past few years my focus has been on surviving, but I’m ready to thrive. I’m tired of just getting by. I’m ready to take things to another level. And so, amidst everything, being the spiritual person I am, I’ve realized while praying that I’ve been living in fear. I’ve been doing “safe bets.” I took the job I have thinking “oh, this is safe.” I went with my back-up plan, which wasn’t even a plan I truly wanted.
That was my first lesson in all this:
1. If you focus on your plan A and just look at the different ways you can get to that plan A, all still under the umbrella of trying to arrive at the same destination, eventually you will get there. But when you put a plan B, or C or D in there – you’re actually kind of settling.
What I’ve realized as I’m going through this, is that I’m not going to be able to do this anymore. I’m not going to be able to keep running and hiding via taking jobs where I am not going to grow and do not activate my passions. Because I’m honestly at point where I can’t go through the motions anymore. I can’t fake it anymore. I need a job that I’m able to do that will allow me to pursue my dreams. Ideally I want a job that is aligned with my purpose so that I can do that and still pursue my entrepreneurial goals. I crave every day, having the feeling of doing work that I feel called to do. And that’s not to say that I think that everyday must be fun and great. But there’s a definite difference between going to work and losing sleep due to having created something and being exhausted from doing work that you don’t care about. That craving that I write about is not just rhetoric. It is something that I am pursuing in my day-to-day life.
Some other lessons I’ve learned are:
2. A good employer seeks to bring out the best in their employees. As a good employer, you want people around you that are invested in your mission and goal. A lot of people are out here going through the motions, like me. But you want people on your team where you know their strengths and what moves them and you let them do what it is that they excel in. That’s going to not only help them, but you because then you’re getting their best. It just seems counterintuitive to have someone with a background in one area doing something completely outside their realm. Like if you have someone that loves fashion and lives for it and has strengths in putting together outfits and organizing an area but isn’t a people person working at a store, —you would have that person be the one that gets the layout of the store together and puts outfits together. I would not have that person be my chief customer service person. I’d have my bubbly people person be the salesperson. And while they have to work together on some tasks, I would make sure that they primarily worked in arenas where they played to their strengths. In today’s society, people say, “oh we need you to be a team player,” which may be true. But if you want that person to be successful, effective, AND stay – you know you need to figure out how to play to their strengths. A good leader knows that when you put a person in a position where they are not able to play to their strengths, they will lose that person. Too many people feel like the “threat” of not working is enough to make people do a job well. They forget that this an age where people tend to spend 4.5 years in one position (you can do the math to see what that equates to for someone who words for 40 years) in one lifetime and job boards abound.
3. You have to have a priority list. Regardless of if you’re an employer or employee, there will always be little tasks that are a constant that you come across that will not go away and must be dealt with. As a result, it is up to you decide what is the most important and what is most necessary to get done. I’m not saying not do the work you’re being paid to do. But you have to take a look at what is most important to you and take care of your own priorities – or be at the mercy of other people’s priorities forever. And when you put other people’s priorities in front of your own, you will never get back to your own. This is my current situation, and I’ve decided that people will just have to say something to me because I have shirts to design, essays to write, things to create, programs and conferences to attend, and these are in line with my goals so they are my priority.
That leads to my fourth point:
4. Work smarter, not harder People say this all time: set SMART goals. Don’t hustle backwards. And what I’ve realized is you have to look at what you have to do and figure out what moves will free your time to take care of other tasks or will bring in money to allow you to do other tasks. As an employer, if you’re running multiple businesses or multiple projects, you also have to be mindful of this. But honestly, if you identify what it is that you can do, that can help put you ahead of a game. Then instead of getting overwhelmed from a list of tasks, you have put yourself ahead of the game. To be honest, in some fields/positions, there can be times where you are trying to work smarter, and because you have to deal with other people, you just will be unable to. There will be some bump in the road. But you have to figure out what will help you get what you need done. That, of course, goes back to #2, because again, other people will take your time if you let them.
5. Time is your most valuable resource. Do not be afraid to claim your time.
I think that one of the biggest frustrations I have had in most positions I’ve had is being criticized for not being “social” enough or not interacting with my co-workers enough and seeming “stand-offish.” This was somehow in my evaluation at my last job, a fact that I still laugh at because the reason I didn’t socialize enough is because I was busy doing this crazy thing at work: working. Imagine that? When did preferring to get your work done at work become this bad thing? Why do so many places expect you to take your work home – especially when you’re theoretically supposed to be working at work? The main thing that leads to taking work home in my field is getting caught up in these unnecessary, b.s. conversations. And that’s not to say that I’ve disliked my co-workers. That’s not the case. But these extra conversations have always led to work not being completed, therefore having to take extra time. Sometimes you have to hide away to get your work done. And it doesn’t mean you have to be stand-offish (although I clearly may not be the best person to speak on that). But at the same time, you have to make a decision. Some people will bemoan all the work they did over the weekend, almost as a badge of honor. It’s one thing if you’re working in your passion and you love it. But if your job is the means to the end and is supposed to support your passions and your dreams—then don’t get caught up in that and end up taking that work home. No. That’s hustling backwards. So figure out how to steal away: shut the office door, find a corner of the building at lunch to have a working lunch, and just knock work out.
I’ve found that when you have an outside focus and outside projects you work on, some people don’t understand it because they don’t have that. They therefore don’t get your need to be protective of your time and get away. But that’s okay. They don’t have to get it. I realized this when I was working a fulltime job during my first year of working on my PhD. I’d have to steal off to get work done because people wanted to hang out and gossip during breaks, and I literally did not have the time. The biggest blessing I could have received was getting my assistantship because it allowed me to finally be in a place with like-minded people where I could work and it not be an issue. So you have to take that time and steal away if need be.
There is always a good thing that you can learn from bad situations. I recently saw a quote that said that once you learn the lesson from a negative experience, then it can take away some of the anger because you’ve walked away with a learning experience. There is something about when you’ve checked out and realized that you’ve learned your lesson that is empowering. Now I feel like I have to keep my eye on the prize and trust my intuition because I know that I’m working on a higher plane. God doesn’t mean for us to go through life dreading our day. Life is a gift and it is short. I believe that we’re supposed to be grateful for what we have, and sometimes that means being grateful for our lesson. It doesn’t mean everyday will be easy, but it can be purposeful. We’re here for a purpose and when you’re not walking in your purpose than it’s a clear sign to go.