Years ago Sam went to college because everyone in his family went to college and it was expected. He had a good scientific mind so his professors encouraged him to take pre-med courses. Once he graduated in pre-med, it was natural for him to apply to medical school, and much to the delight of his family and teachers, he was accepted. So, he went to medical school and became a doctor.
However, what Sam really liked was working with his hands, and gardening was his love. He tried to fit gardening into his life, but his medical practice required too much time, and he had to let it go.
Does this sound familiar? Have you been doing things because you were expected or supposed to? Do they make you feel fulfilled, or leave you feeling empty?
A few months ago, Sam was in an accident, and while recuperating he had time for reflection. He realized that his whole life was built on other people’s “shoulds”. He hadn’t even been aware that he had incorporated the expectations of others into his own thinking patterns, and that he had structured his career choice and how he lived his life around these expectations.
Sam realized that whenever he had thought of opening the landscape design and maintenance company he dreamed of owning, his fears had stopped him. He was afraid of disappointing his parents, of not being able to make enough money to support his family, and of losing the social status he had gained as a physician.
However, he also realized that his current work was not feeding his soul or making his heart sing, and he couldn’t go on with it any longer. It wasn’t fair to his patients to have a doctor who didn’t want to be there, and it definitely wasn’t good for Sam or his family, since he was grumpy all the time. He understood that just because years ago he had chosen a career, did not mean that he had to continue on that path.
For the first time in his life, Sam asked himself, “What do I want?”
This was a new, exciting and uncomfortable experience for him. It took a lot of work for Sam to sort out who he is and what his needs, desires and dreams are. Letting go of the “shoulds” and expectations that he had built his life on was a difficult process.
In order to do this Sam asked himself several questions:
- Am I living a life that fulfills me?
- What is fun for me?
- What is so fun that it makes me lose track of time?
- What makes my heart sing and fills my soul with joy?
- What is missing and how can I put more of it into my life?
- What do I want?
- What expectations are keeping me from being me?
- What fears are stopping me?
- What can I do to change this situation?
- What things do I need to allow myself to let go of?
- Who do I need to be in order to live the life I want?
- What is the next step to getting there?
Now that Sam has answered these questions, he understands who he is and what he really wants. His children are grown and his wife loves her job, so he no longer needs to earn his former salary. He has decided to put aside his fears and begin to take the steps necessary to do the things that will make him happy.
Are you like Sam, living a life you created years ago, for reasons that no longer apply? Maybe it’s time for you to ask yourself, “What do I want?”
Sandy Abell is the author of Self-Esteem: An Inside Job and Moving Up To Management: Leadership and Management Skills for New Supervisors. She is an educator, speaker and a Licensed Professional Counselor. She specializes in working with executives, business owners, professionals, entrepreneurs and people in transition. Sandy publishes a free monthly newsletter entitled Focusing on Your Success. Please visit Sandy on her website at www.insidejobscoach.com