There are so many forces working around us throughout the day that directly influence our decisions. Many of these forces we can see clearly and can adapt to. Many of these have just become a part of our everyday lives. However, there are other forces that we can't see – those are the ones I worry about. They are like gravity. They subtly keep us close to the ground and may make it difficult for us to fly and maybe even hold us back from fulfilling our potential.
Because of the power of these forces it is very wise to be aware of them. With awareness comes the ability to choose your own path rather than being dragged along with the current.
Over the past few months I have noticed quite a few of these forces. I have also openly discussed them with many people who see them as well.
After approximately twenty-four years in the workforce I have chosen to take a few months for myself. During this break, I am exploring all of the possibilities that the world has to offer me as I think about my next work adventure. Although I have no regrets and wouldn't trade my past for anything, I am being much more thoughtful about purposefully choosing the next chapter.
When I speak to some friends, family and people in my network I get a sense that some feel uncomfortable about my decision to take some time to myself. Recall a time recently when you met a new person. How quickly did it take before the discussion got to “what do you do?”, “where do you work?” and “what’s your title?” People want to know where you fit, what box to put you in in their head. Well that might be helpful to them and how they organize their world but what does it do to others?
I was speaking to the founder of a Toronto startup recently. After leaving a large software developer to start his own business, even his mother had trouble understanding his choice - he had a good job, he worked for a good company and he had a good title. Why would he leave to “do his own thing” particularly when he wasn't even sure what "the thing" actually is yet. Is this risky behaviour? Is he crazy?
If you lived in Boston, Silicon Valley or even parts of downtown Toronto or Vancouver you would think this is completely normal. In fact, in some places, these are the people who are “cool and interesting” and have “status” at a party.
Depending on where you live, the cultural norms you grew up with and the family and friends around you, you are being subjected to forces that influence you. They subconsciously influence how you feel and the path you will take. I worry that many people are unaware of the forces keeping them safe, comfortable and close to the ground. We all have the right to have a shot at reaching our fullest potential but these forces that keep us close and make us feel safe may also hold us back.
So, my ask of you is only this, when you think about your life – what you love, what you want to do, how you might want to change your path – if you do decide that you want to change your path, be aware that it is possible that those around you may subconsciously discourage you.
With awareness that these forces are there you will make a better decision and are far less likely to regret the choices you will make.
Your life is yours and you are responsible for the choices you make. Good luck and enjoy the ride!