I Was Living From My Shoulds Until…May 31, 2023
I was sharing part of my career journey with someone the other day. Well, it wasn’t so much a “part” of my journey as it was a pivotal part. Before I share what that was, allow me to share a couple background nuggets. I wonder if you can relate.
For many years, I was a financial analyst at one of the big medical device companies. This was the path I wandered onto after graduating from my undergrad program. It’s what I thought I wanted to do. (And it certainly didn’t hurt that I also enjoyed all the benefits, a nice salary, a short commute, interesting projects, and even had fun at work!)
It’s also important to note that I love learning and I love school.
So bringing these two things together – my love of learning and my career as a financial analyst – it naturally made sense for me to start working towards my MBA in finance…right?
I started taking a class or two per semester. There were classes I really enjoyed, like a marketing class. And there were classes that made me want to quit on the spot, like statistics – yikes! Overall, though, I was much more in love with being on-campus and in a classroom than I was with what I was learning.
Ultimately, I was pursuing my master’s in finance because it was what I felt I should be doing. I was trying to prove my worth, or value, and to fit the mold of what was expected of me along my career path. And I kept going until that moment came – my a-ha moment.
I no longer remember what class I was in, but I’ll always remember the moment clearly. I was in a classroom on the downtown Minneapolis campus. It was a beautiful afternoon and I was happy to be able to see outside the windows from the room we were in.
The thing that was different about this day, though, is that it was right after the horrible events of September 11th, and I couldn’t seem to stop the visions flashing through my mind as I sat there looking out the window on that gorgeous day.
It was in that moment that it hit me: I wasn’t where I belonged and it was time to make a change.
That was the last session I attended.
As it often goes, it took a tragic event to wake me up to what was going on in my own life. Yes, I loved school and learning. But studying finance? Statistics? This was not me.
I began to realize how much I was living from my shoulds, running on autopilot.
That was when I started to wake up to taking action towards truly living my own life according to what I wanted. But, I had to unravel from my should life first. So I began experimenting and exploring some of the many, many other things I was interested in. I started volunteering in my son’s school more and attended training to facilitate groups on uncoupling. I finally learned to dance – which even included hip-hop classes – and ended up falling in love with Latin dance. I even got my first passport and did my first Habitat for Humanity project in Costa Rica! (A whole other story…)
I had unlocked a brand new level of joy and fulfillment that hadn’t been available to me before. And it was only the beginning.
What shoulds have you been living?
Sometimes the opinions, examples modeled, and the implicit or explicit expectations may very well be in alignment with what you truly want. That’s great if that's the case, but what I’m talking about here are the inevitable times when that’s not the case.
It’s really incredibly easy to go about your business living by your shoulds without even being fully aware of it. There’s no judgment. You have a lot going on already. Plus, that’s just how life is supposed to be, right??
Perhaps you haven’t considered that another way is possible or available for you. Or maybe you’re still experimenting on the way towards figuring out what’s true for you.
I’ve talked with many people who’ve simply chosen to stay on the path of least resistance, within their comfort zone. Some have known what they wanted, but felt compelled to stay the course with what they thought they should do, either doubting their own ability to know best or not wanting to show disrespect to someone who’s supported them along the way.
Listening to advice can be a positive, helpful thing, especially when given by those you care about and who you believe have your best interests at heart. But, ultimately it is your choice.
Taking your own path can be uncomfortable for a while as you navigate your own feelings and those of others as they respond to your decisions. Keeping your balance and giving yourself space during this process is important.
Tell me, do any of these situations ring true for you?
- Waiting for that magical “right time.”
- Realizing a couple weeks into your new job that this isn’t the right fit, but you feel like you have to stay because of what leaving so quickly would look on your resume.
- Having the “Sunday scaries” every week and could manage temporarily without a job, but are afraid of having a gap in your work history.
- Knowing exactly what you want to do, but sticking with your job for a few more years until you “retire” before you do anything about it.
- Delaying pursuing your dream until your kids are grown.
- Feeling drained by your current role at work, but sticking around because they keep talking about future opportunities or bonuses.
- Staying in your relationship until the kids have graduated high school and have moved out of the house.
- Saving, saving, saving for retirement so you can then begin living your dream life.
I could go on and on.
The way I see it, there are a couple possibilities that come to mind here.
One is that we use these situations to justify maintaining the status quo because we’re afraid to step out of our comfort zone and to experience the discomfort of this uncharted territory.
Another is that we simply don’t realize that we’ve been living out of alignment with our true beliefs and desires. After all, it is so easy to get caught up in our daily habits and routines without ever taking time to look at whether or not we’re on the right path for our truth.
So, what to do???
The first step to take, regardless of your current situation, is to take some time to assess the main areas of your life – career, relationships, financial, health, social, personal. Explore questions like:
- What’s the status of this area of my life?
- How did I create this? Why did I create this?
- Is this what I want?
- How do I feel when I think about this situation?
- Does this honor my true self?
- What’s my inner guide telling me?
- What have I been tolerating in this situation?
- What are my true, deep down desires in this area?
- What do I need to do to reach my goals here?
These questions are significant and it’s good to explore the answers on a regular basis. Doing so often can help bring things to your attention, so that you can adjust your course faster than you might otherwise.
I strongly encourage maintaining a journal to capture your feelings in the moment, including when you explore questions like those above, as well as when you have a high or low moment. It’s way too easy to forget important details that can provide crucial clues to help guide you.
Honor yourself today and every day. Don’t delay in making the changes you need to pursue your life according to how you want to live it. Stop waiting for the illusive perfect moment – it simply doesn’t exist. Love yourself enough to listen to and follow the guidance of what your inner self is telling you, and ditch those shoulds. You deserve to live your best life, and you deserve to start today.
If you’re ready to explore this even deeper, I’d like to invite you to attend my upcoming workshop called ‘Time to THRIVE! 4 Steps to Shed the Shoulds and Live a Life that Feels Ever More Like You’. You can check out all of the details and register right here.
Enjoy the journey!
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