One of my favorite subjects as a pupil was Math. Ever since I was a child I loved a good problem to solve and writing them on the chalkboard was something I really enjoyed. From time to time something very funny happened: I would see in my head the entire demonstration before going to the chalkboard, only to stumble halfway while I was writing it. Each time it occurred my teacher would come to me, gently grab my shoulders and slowly drag me backwards away from the chalkboard. Needless to say, every time he did that, I found a way to finish the demonstration and solve the problem.
That’s how I learned about the power of perspective. It’s been years since I last thought about those Math classes and only recently I realized how much those episodes have inspired me. I’ve changed my career three times now and every time I did that was by taking a step back. Luckily (or not!?) I have never been attached to my achievements or the effort for obtaining them so once I feel a chapter has ended, I change course quite easily and decisively.
Don’t get me wrong, I know I might sound like a person who bails out at the first hardship. :)) The truth is I made these changes after 5 years of intense work. And each time the milk and honey period lasted around 3 years, while the other 2 were about reinventing things and finding a new motivation. Did I score any tenacity points? 😛
Stepping back to gain perspective has always been very productive for me. Not only it gives me the chance to integrate previous experiences, it also helps me understand who I am in terms of values, attitudes, skills and desires at that particular moment in time. I have evolved a lot throughout the course of my life and these checkpoints provided me with a lot of revelations. I will share with you my top 3 so far.
It’s ok not to know all the time where the final destination is.
I’m not saying it’s easy, I’m just saying that uncertainty is a natural part of the process. Every time I ended a chapter I had to ask myself: what now? I never had a clear answer from the beginning, but I did trust the journey and magic usually happened.
When I first started working as a project manager I would see myself doing that for a very long time. Quite soon, I would discover I enjoy more helping others becoming certified professionals in Project Management and thus started my training career. During the same period I also had the opportunity to consult on external projects. After 5 years, I began studying Anthropology. I discovered correlations between the two fields and even wrote an article about it. Two years after the article was published, I received an invitation to deliver a training on a topic originating in Anthropology that would inform business decisions. I delivered the training session last month. 🙂
So that’s what I mean by trusting the journey: do your work as authentically as possible and enjoy the ride; results will follow sooner or later. Which leads me to my next discovery.
I am fulfilled when I am able to express myself in what I do…
and not when my aim is a particular result, role or job title. As someone who has never had a vocation for known fields (medicine, law, engineering, etc.) I struggled my entire life with identifying myself with the job titles or roles I had. I worked as a project manager, as a trainer and as a consultant in the field, but never felt that I was a project manager, trainer or consultant. I am none of them completely, all of them combined, and also much more. To be completely honest, my early career decisions were based more on what I would be good at rather than what I would really want to do. I realized I had to change my focus from “what?” to “who?” and “how?”. Who am I and how can I really contribute to the world around me? I want to be able to use my skills in a meaningful way, to have the freedom to schedule my own time, to be able to travel and work from anywhere in this world, and to create as much as I can. Freelancing has proven the best solution for me although it has its challenges. However, the most important benefit I gained was the freedom to adjust my life rhythm. Because…
Time is… Nature.
Nature has its own particular flow and trying to control it is unrealistic on the long run (unfortunately, we are all witnessing the results of the Anthropocene era). As humans we are part of Nature and all of our lives are governed by the same universal laws of growth, stagnation, and decay. I have had periods of very intense work and growth followed by slack times and endings (projects are temporary). Accepting that my life follows a natural course and adapting to it was probably the best personal achievement so far. There is a time for everything and the current pandemic was an effective teacher in this respect (a harsh one too!).
I spent more time with my family the past year than I had had in the 10 years since I left home combined. It has been an incredibly healing time. I did not give up on my professional goals, but I made my family the number one priority and used this time to reflect on my next steps.
So here I am again in a transition phase. I fell in love with graphic design last year and decided to give it a chance. I even challenged myself and launched a project on Instagram with the intent of sending positive vibes as often as I am inspired. I am still exploring my creativity, I don’t think I have a style yet. I grew up telling myself I am not a creative person, but all my past experiences say otherwise (the reality is we are all creative, but it manifests in different ways). And I probably wouldn’t have realized it if it hadn’t been for the last step back. I have no idea yet where this path will lead me, I just feel like this is the flow I have to be in right now. 🙂