By Sabrina Ali
Rita* walked up to her guru with all the confidence she could muster. Everyone had told her that she just “had” to meet him and now here she was. He was a living example of what she wanted to do. Afraid that her nerves would get the better of her, she’d been rehearsing her line all day:
“I’m totally inspired by you and want to do what you do someday. What would I need to do in order to pursue this path?”
“You need to become a Social Worker,” he answered.
And off she went and got into a second degree program to become a Social Worker. Two years into the program she’s wondering when it’ll start to feel good to study this subject that’s supposed to land her in her dream job as a Speaker and Educator in the health services sector. She graduates and three years into her job as a Social Worker she’s feeling emotional and physical fatigue and wondering how she’s going to get from where she is to where she wants to be. That’s when we connected.
And her tale isn’t so uncommon:
You see someone doing exactly what you want to do and go and ask them for career advice. At least that’s what you think happened. What really happened is that you wanted the result and tried to ignore what the process actually entailed. To get “there”, you give someone else’s voice more authority than your own.
You forgot that you needed to like the journey to be able to enjoy (and maybe even reach) the destination.
Here’s how things really work (and don’t believe me, by all means, ask people questions yourself to see where they’re coming from): When someone gives you advice, they’re not really telling you what you should do (even though that’s what it sounds like is going on). Most often what you’re hearing from someone is their own advice for themselves (if they imagine that they have your life and your problem, but as themselves and not actually as you – got that?).
Rita could look at her situation with a wounded ego and think that the lesson is to ‘never to listen to anyone else ever again,’ but that kind of thinking is just a distraction. Rita saw the lifelong pattern she had in place of wanting to please others by doing “the right thing” (which by definition was whatever someone important to her told to do because she believed that they knew her way better than she knew herself).
So Rita had a lot of regret happening. And regret is just more distraction because everyone means well when they give you advice – they really do. Whether it’s a guru, a teacher, your parents, a friend, or a significant other. They’re “trying to help”, but they’re not living your life. You are. The question for you is: Can you hear advice and discern what’s right action for you?
Until we choose another way to learn our most precious lessons of self-love and self-honoring and self-respect, we take these detours to get to our most inwardly expansive destinations in life. In Rita’s case, she saw how she really wanted to learn how to trust herself and needed this experience to be able to do that.
Nothing ever feels like a waste of time if you’re looking for the expansive perspective, the higher plane of learning, the theme of your life – whatever you want to call it. Because really this is the very thing that you will be best equipped to help others with in whatever role is the best venue for being you. It’s what makes you a more compassionate human being.
This is about becoming the author(ity) in your own life.
In the meantime, of course, keep meeting people that you admire and keep asking them questions as you figure out your unique place in the world. Only this time, go and ask more intriguing questions that get you insights for your own journey. Like:
What advice would you give someone interested in doing exactly what you’re doing?
What skills are must-haves for someone to excel in what you’re doing?
Are there elements of the work that you do that you want to get better at? What are they and why?
If you could create your career over again, would you do anything differently? Why or why not?
*name changed for confidentiality.
Bio: Sabrina Ali is a Career Counselor and the author of the Bliss Kit: a digital guide to authentic career creation. She works with young professionals who want to manage their careers with confidence and clarity while being true to themselves. Find her at MakeBelieveForReal.com for more inspiration, authenticity touchstones, tools and wisdom for your career journey. Also join her on facebook , LinkedIn and twitter to stay in touch.