In 2009, I resigned from a successful career in financial technology to start my own coaching business. My decision was quick: one day I was still working downtown, burnt out at the end of a six-year project and actively investigating other options, and the next day I’d made up my mind and handed in my resignation letter.
Despite the intense anxiety I endured over the next few years, that decision resulted in my best creation: the power to create positive change every single day.
Before resigning, I worked with a marketing coach in preparation to start my own business, and I’d saved enough money to support myself over the twelve months ahead. I’ll be honest, starting my own business came as a last resort. It only became clear that I’d have to make such a major move after I explored all of my options within my organization, and interviewed with other companies. I wasn’t even sure about what kind of business I would start; I hoped I could freelance as a business and technology writer.
Those early months of freedom were both exhilarating and stressful. Fortunately, I soon figured out that I wanted to train to become a professional career/life coach. I had a lot to learn about building a successful coaching practice but I loved the coach training and I took the opportunity to try new things, such as meditation and painting classes. I visited museums and art galleries and lingered over long, delicious lunches. I walked outside every day and inadvertently got a nice, deep tan.
My anxiety about starting over was significant nonetheless. I worried about the money I wasn’t making. I worried about what people thought of my inexperience in my new field and all the mistakes I was making as a new entrepreneur. I worried about how to speak confidently about my business when I was initially unsure. I worried about what to do next, fearing that every second not spent growing my business was business and credibility lost.
Around that time, a former colleague said to me, “you’re really living the dream, aren’t you?”
On paper, I had done what so many people dream of: quit my job and struck out on my own. The reality sometimes felt like more of a nightmare, my days vacillating between two extremes: the excitement of making progress and being open to new possibilities, or thinking I could never succeed and eventually crawling back to my corporate career.
It was in the depths of that dichotomy between agony and ecstasy that I had my first flash of insight. Every time I tore my hair out over what to do next, I found myself turning to an old habit, such as: journaling, venting (to my husband or trusted mentor), going for a walk, etc. Each habit crucially allowed me to step back from my thoughts and emotions for a moment, and gain clarity about my situation as I did. Not long afterwards, a new, good idea would surface in my mind and I’d run with it.
Over time, I realized that I could skip past the mentally arduous effort of trying to figure out what to do next and instead create the space for the answer to emerge, as a direct result of one of my reflective habits of writing, speaking or moving in some way.
The more intentional I became with these habits, the faster those new ideas and opportunities came my way – not only for my business but for every uncertain aspect of my life, from troubling relationships to home renovations.
As I sensed the potential for this approach to knowing what to do next in work and life, I began writing about it and sharing it with my clients. They were also able to identify productive habits that could help them figure out their way forward, even when the longer-term outcome was unclear. By practising them daily, they determined their next steps and started taking action right away, creating positive change in their own lives.
Today, I work with my “process” for creating positive change by exercising those habits that serve me best. I track them regularly to make sure I don’t miss any opportunity to come up with my next great idea and move forward. All different areas of my life have improved as a result, including my business prospects and the quality of my home life. Even my anxiety has subsided as I’ve learned how to disengage with my constant worrying through reflective practice.
What’s your process?
- What habits or practices have helped you figure out a problem in the past?
- What assumptions do you make about how positive change is created?
- If you were more intentional with these habits on a daily basis, what positive change can you imagine – in your work, in your life?
My process evolves as I do and soon you’ll be able to read more about it in a guide I’m writing on process-based living. In the meantime, discover your own true potential by subscribing to my newsletter (at bottom of Home page) and receiving your free copy of “How to Develop Your Process to Create Positive Change.” The more intentional you are with your change-creating habits, the faster your life will change in a positive way!