There’s an old joke about the tourist who gets lost on the back roads of Maine. He comes across an old farmer and asks, “Do you know how to get to Portland?” After a long pause, the farmer replies, “E-yup. But you can’t get there from here.”
The farmer’s nonsensical response offers an important lesson to those who wish to live life on purpose…work at what they love…and follow their own road.
I spent seven years commuting 90 miles a day to a management job in a large corporation. I told myself that this corporate thing was just temporary. I’d stay a few years, get my corporate credentials, and then start a consulting company.
Gradually, this delusion began to wear thin. The dissatisfaction it had masked was starting to rise to the surface.
At work I’d practically chant the words, “I’ve got to get out of here,” over and over, as if the words themselves would somehow magically transport me to another place. I didn’t like the path I was on, but I couldn’t seem to find my way to a better one either. My mantra was all about where I didn’t want to be—namely, “here.”
By squandering my already limited energy griping about the path I was on, I’d set up a kind of psychic roadblock. Until I formed a clear picture of my desired destination, I wouldn’t be able to get there—at least not from where I was.
Once I realized this, my emotional focus shifted from the negative “being here” to the more exciting prospect of “getting there.” From this new vantage point came a new, change-affirming mantra that has guided me for over two decades. To this day, I keep a worn, faded sticky note taped to my monitor. You can no longer read the words. But I know what it says: “I can create the life I really want.” It was this new and exciting vision of what could be, which is what ultimately got me pointed in the right direction.
However, “thinking” about making a change and actually “doing it” are two different things. Another year passed before I got one of life’s unwelcome wake-up calls. My mother Barbara died unexpectedly of a massive heart attack. She was just 61 and a mere five months shy of her much-awaited retirement. Within a few months of my Mom’s passing, I took another job at a much smaller company with half the commute.
That’s when I got my second wake-up call. It happened while sitting in yet another insufferably long meeting. On this day, I was overwhelmed by the realization that in jumping from one employer to another I’d made the career equivalent of changing deck chairs on the Titanic. That’s when it hit me: I didn’t need a new job—I needed a new life!
A life with more balance. One that included time to spend with the people I love, where I work at something I feel passionate about, and most importantly one where I, and not an employer, decides what time I’ll wake up and how many vacation days I need. That’s the day I decided to follow my bliss.
Twenty years ago I chose as the tagline for my business: “Live life on purpose. Work at what you love. Follow your own road.” As I sit writing this article from my comfortable home office with a fabulous mountain view, I’m mindful of the tremendous satisfaction I receive from showing other frustrated cubicle dwellers that if I can create the life I really want—they can too.
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