When Following Your Dream Doesn't Work Out
You’ve taken the leap. Told everyone you’re starting a business. Launched a website. Printed business cards. Maybe even quit your corporate job. No longer a “cog in the machine” - you’re following your dream of building a business that matters! It’s what you were meant to do!
And then … that sinking feeling appears.
You know, that sinking feeling of discontent in your gut, the one that pushed you to “follow your passion” in the first place!
It’s back. But this time it’s happening in what’s supposed to be your dream life.
Feeling discontent in a corporate job is kind of normal. Lots of people feel that way. Many dream of starting their own business - and some do. You did. But when you’ve taken that leap and then you still feel discontent - it can be disorienting and embarrassing. Where do you go next?
This happened to me in 2012. Finally, after several years of reading, scheming, naval gazing and blogging, I’d decided the ultimate path to my life happiness was to quit my corporate job and become a health coach.
I invested in a training program. I studied nights and weekends in addition to my demanding day job. I tailored my blog posts to my new ‘target audience’. I read entrepreneurship books and listened to relevant podcasts in every free moment.
And then, I finally started health coaching! And I hated it.
It’s hard to describe the cruel mix of emotions this caused.
Of course there were the normal emotions that come up when you’ve publicly declared you’re going to do something, and then you quit: embarrassment, feeling immature and unprofessional and fickle.
But this time it was even worse, because it was combined with an intense sense of loss and confusion. You see, this was my PASSION. I was FOLLOWING IT, just like everyone says to do — and if this didn’t work out, then what?!
Looking back on this experience now, it’s easy for me to see how I made it harder for myself.
In my head, I had decided that working as a health coach would make me happy and fulfill all my professional goals. But I was focusing on the wrong goal. What if, instead of focusing on “being a health coach” as the ultimate outcome , I’d decided that my goal was to make an impact in the world through spreading wellness?
That simple mindset shift would have opened up numerous possibilities for me, allowing me to see my stint as a health coach as what it really was: an experiment. Health Coaching was simply one type of wellness work that I tried, and then eliminated from my list. It wasn’t the ultimate goal that would make or break my happiness.
Here’s a key truth I’ve learned about finding fulfillment in your work:
Focus on the direction, not the specific outcome.
When you launch a startup, do you know exactly what your ultimate product or service will look like? Of course not. Your offerings will evolve and change with customer feedback. Your branding will change. Your target customer might change. Even the product you’re selling might change. There’s no way to predict all of this when you begin. So, rather than being attached to that one specific outcome, focus on the Big Idea instead. What is the bigger problem you’re trying to solve? How is this business helping to make change in the world? Then you have flexibility to change the specific “how” and “what” to evolve with the business, while staying true to your original goals.
So here’s how I approach following your passion now:
Use your feelings of attraction and inspiration — your passion — as a compass. And what do you do with a compass?
You head in that direction.
Yes, hold a vision and a dream for yourself (and your business), but always be open to bigger or better possibilities by reminding yourself: “I will create/do/have/be this, or something better…”
You don’t need to have everything planned out through the ultimate end goal.
You just need to take the next step in that direction, consistently, and be open to what appears.
For me, personally, I did end up working in wellness in a way that fits me, my background, lifestyle and personality. I’ve been able to combine my business experience with my love of wellbeing to help wellness entrepreneurs with digital marketing. No, my “wellness career” doesn’t look at all like I’d planned it to — but in the end, it’s even better than I’d imagined because it’s uniquely mine. And if that’s not the purpose of following your passion, then I don’t know what is.
So if following your passion hasn’t played out exactly like you’d planned, remember — your passion is a compass, not your final destination. Just take the next step forward. And stay open to the possibilities.
by Amanda Cook, the founder of wellpreneuronline.com