One doesn’t discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time.
Whenever we’re in the midst of transformation, we can expect to be uncertain. We are leaving behind the old and preparing for the new. This blog post, an excerpt from my book, Professional Destiny, is the next installment of last week’s discussion about Moving Through the Void.
“Get comfortable with uncertainty—it’s the time of our greatest opportunity. A time when all possibilities are open to us. If we hold our vision and resolve to take a step toward it each day, we can be assured that great uncertainty only lasts for a while. This too shall pass.
Oftentimes even when we start our journey, our fear of failing returns and our hope of finding our purpose fades. We have no proof that things will turn out the way we want so we are hesitant, or even unwilling, to take the risk. Sometimes it takes a great deal of pain to get us motivated. Our fearful beliefs immobilize us and slowly but surely kill our spirit. We can feel ourselves being drawn back to the comfort of familiar territory—even though we haven’t been happy there for a long time. We become more anxious and wonder if we are crazy for wanting to do this.
Sometimes fear can be good. It can motivate us into action, especially if we fear our situation will get worse if we don’t act now. But it is not good when it paralyzes us from moving forward. This is the point when we look into the unknown, feel our fear, take a deep breath and step forward anyway. Do it even if you’re scared.
If you are willing to do the thing you are afraid to do, you often do not have to. Face the situation fearlessly and watch it dissipate.
Most things we worry about never actually happen. So worrying is an unproductive emotion that drains our energy and creative forces. Sometimes we just need to find humor in our fears.
The longer we stay in an unfulfilling and unchallenging situation, the more resigned we become—and the more we risk losing our individuality, unique gifts and edge.”
It’s essential to catch ourselves when we feel the urge to stay complacent. While change can involve letting go of things that are familiar, the cost of settling in an unfulfilling situation may greater than we originally think. So, while uncertainty might not feel good at the moment—get comfortable—it can open our eyes to things we wouldn’t normally see and may turn out to be a blessing in disguise.
The void is a place you go into when you’re “in between.” It could be you’re in between jobs, in between relationships or you’ve just had a child leave home and you’re wondering what to do next. It’s a state of being when you let go of old things and prepare to move into the next level of growth. In the void you leave behind familiar patterns, habits, thoughts and actions. Think of a butterfly in a cocoon. The cocoon is the void. Just as a caterpillar enters the cocoon to be transformed into a butterfly, you go into a void to prepare yourself for your next level of transformation. You are preparing to fly high.
The void is a time when you’re shedding something that no longer fits the person you are becoming. It can be quite uncomfortable unless you learn to accept it as a natural and essential state. It’s a time of transition and may feel like all of your foundations are falling away, leaving you nothing solid to cling to. In other words, you know what the “no” is (what you’re leaving), but you don’t yet know what the “yes” is (what you’re moving to). The tough part is that the new is not quite here, but the old has not completely left.
This place of uncertainty, of not knowing—can be disconcerting, especially for those of us who like to plot and plan our life. It may feel like a time of not-doing or emptiness. Yet, it is meant to be a time to stop knowing in your usual way, so that you can begin to learn things in a new way. You may even feel that things are falling apart or that things that used to come easy to you, are no longer working. This is because you are meant to move on.
The void is a time when you:
are expanding beyond your old habits and patterns
learn to think in new ways
replace things that are no longer working for you, with things that do
The following is an analogy I shared in my book, Professional Destiny…
“Imagine Tarzan swinging from vine to vine in the jungle. He can’t move forward on a new vine, without letting go of the vine he was on. If he holds on to the old vine and doesn’t grab the new one, he’ll go backward. If he tries to hold both vines, he’ll get stuck. He must let go of the old vine and grab the new one to ride forward to his destination.”
The void is that exact moment when you let go of the old vine and reach out to grab the new. You leave a place of security to venture into the unknown. The secret is to embrace this transitional time. It’s an opportunity to rest up, recharge and explore an expanded range of choices. Don’t worry if the new direction hasn’t quite shown up yet. Your job is to be open to all of the new possibilities so that you can recognize the best one ahead of you.
Our time in the void can last for hours, days, months or even years. Since all people go into a void at some point in their lives, and many of us experience it multiple times, how do we make the best of our experience there? Enjoy it! Just like the cocoon is to the butterfly, the void is a natural and essential state for your transition. It’s necessary to experience it to shake up your familiar structure in order to free you to think and act differently. You’ll move through it faster if you don’t resist. Rather than focusing on how uncomfortable you are, accept the unfamiliar and focus on the new opportunities that are open to you. You may not see the end-game at this point, but take the first step and the next steps will come. When you reach the turning point, circumstances will start appearing that are better and more satisfying than what you experienced in the past.
If all else fails, change your vocabulary. Instead of thinking of this time as a “void,” think of it as a “vacation.” You might as well enjoy it, because—like it or not—you’re going to be in it! Embrace it as your time to leave behind the old, prepare for the possibilities ahead of you and emerge fully ready to experience the new.
People with high levels of mastery…
cannot afford to choose between reason and intuition,
or head and heart, any more than they would choose
to walk on one leg or see with one eye.
When it comes to pursuing our Professional Destiny, many of us learn at a young age to tune out our intuition and choose the safe and secure route. In other words, we make a decision from the head, not the heart. But, does this path ultimately bring us success and fulfillment? Chances are—an overwhelming “no!” A choice made purely from the head is a choice that saps our creativity and motivation. We operate on autopilot and are simply not our best. On the other hand, a choice made from both the head AND heart is a choice that inspires and energizes us—and leads us to great breakthroughs. The following is an excerpt from Professional Destiny about the struggle between head vs. heart and the ultimate power of combining the two:
“The duel between reason and intuition, or head and heart, is a constant and powerful force in our lives.
Head—also known as our mind. It is the home of our rational thought and logic. Our drive for survival.
Heart—also known as the soul, spirit or essence. It is the home of our intuition (some also call it our “gut”). It is the home of our higher self and represents who we really are at the core.
HEAD VS. HEART
Voice of reason
Achieving stature and safety in life serves to satisfy and comfort the mind. At some point, if we are committed to a path of purpose, we will experience an insurgency of the soul—an insistent demand that we live more consciously and meaningfully. Our job is to stay focused on this deeper message, so that we can call it forth reliably and use its guidance to steer ourselves in a more satisfying direction.
The moment we stop learning is the moment we begin to stagnate. We go to sleep and our life becomes empty with an unsettling combination of anxiety and boredom.
Once you start on your journey and follow your deepest yearning, you won’t be able to turn back and keep it quiet. Human beings are born learning and growing. Even if you keep yourself so busy and pretend not to hear it, you will feel a deep sense of dissatisfaction and experience disenchantment with your life. Your inner voice will always be there, even if buried, waiting for you to listen.”
We are given the gifts of rationality (head) and intuition (heart). The former helps us with survival in the physical world we live in, the latter allows us to have breakthroughs that are genuine, unique and fresh. In terms of discovering your Professional Destiny, finding harmony in the combination of head and heart is the most powerful mix.
When we make a decision to take a risk and venture out on the journey toward our Professional Destiny, we are often confronted with deep-seated, irrational fears of survival. It is then that our “little voice” (a.k.a inner critic) takes over and tells us all the reasons we are guaranteed to fail. Next, after it scares the daylights out of us, it tells us to be cautious, go the safe route and be secure.
My little voice told me all the reasons I should stay in a job that was making my stomach hurt and my mind numb. It told me I couldn’t survive without the security it provided, and I had no experience doing something new. It told me that most people fail. Many do. But, failure comes in all shapes and sizes… and, painful as it is, can also be a great blessing.
The other night, I watched the video of JK Rowling’s commencement speech at Harvard. I don’t know why I never watched it before, but it was fantastic and struck a chord. She spoke with deep wisdom and humanity about the benefits of failure and how it changed the course of her life.
When Rowling was in college, she was convinced that the only thing she wanted to do was write novels. Her parents, however, coming from impoverished backgrounds thought that her “overactive” imagination would never pay a mortgage or land her a successful job. They wanted her to take a vocational degree, and she wanted to study English Literature. They reached a compromise that, in the end, satisfied no one and Rowling agreed to study Modern Languages.
It was failure that set her free. She tells the crowd…
“A mere seven years after my graduation day, I had failed on an epic scale. An exceptionally short-lived marriage had imploded, and I was jobless, a lone parent, and as poor as it is possible to be in modern Britain, without being homeless. The fears that my parents had had for me, and that I had had for myself, had both come to pass, and by every usual standard, I was the biggest failure I knew. Now, I am not going to stand here and tell you that failure is fun. That period of my life was a dark one, and I had no idea that there was going to be what the press has since represented as a kind of fairy tale resolution. I had no idea then how far the tunnel extended, and for a long time, any light at the end of it was a hope rather than a reality. So why do I talk about the benefits of failure? Simply because failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged. I was set free, because my greatest fear had been realised, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter and a big idea. And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.”
It’s not possible to live without failing. To avoid failure would mean that you are compromising your deepest desires and being so cautious that you are simply existing, not living. Ultimately, the knowledge that we can survive our deep fear of failure—and come away breathing—can liberate us to achieve our greatest success.
Professional Destiny® is about finding the career you were born for. I've created this site to help you in your pursuit. Here, you'll find excerpts from my book, as well as new ideas and stories to help you make the most of your natural gifts. We're a community, so please join the conversation!