January 10, 2011

No, this post is not about the weather!  :)

What this post IS about is this strange pattern I see show up year after year in January!  Here’s what it looks like.  January (and the lead up to it in December) always start off with a bang.  I spend hours reflecting, getting inspired and jotting down life-changing goals.  This period is akin to what I imagine a drug high feels like until, that is, the inevitable crash happens (usually around the 2nd week in January).  At that point I feel like crap and all this gross stuff surfaces – doubt, gremlins, fear, etc.  No matter what I do to prevent it, I inevitably run the course and end up back here.

This year’s ‘January Discontent’ feels centered around my business.  I set all these BOLD goals and now I’m not so sure that I really want them.

The confusing thoughts that keep swirling through my head are:

  • Maybe I want to slow down and make space for a baby to come into my life INSTEAD of ramping up my business…
  • Maybe I don’t have to be a rock-start 6 figure coach right away since I plan to do this for 30 years…
  • Maybe I’m not cut out to be an entrepreneur…

What I can’t seem to distinguish is if slowing down my biz purposely is my natural desire or just a way of hiding out and not having to step into my ‘bigness’.  How does one tell?

What is Work?

I’ve always placed a high value on ‘working’ but I notice lately that my definition of work is changing.  Some days I wonder if my truest work is unpaid and if I could feel content with that.  I’m also feeling the mommy itch and know that I’ll want to devote 100% of my energy to doing that well.  Finally, I’m noticing this increased desire to pursue my hobbies and volunteer passions – things like organizing fundraising drives, blogging, learning graphic design, improving my photography.  That too could be considered work, just the unpaid kind.  All of these feel like they’re competing for my interest and attention, yet there is no clear winner.

I am fortunate in that our lifestyle allows for me to choose any of these paths and have it be okay financially, the problem is that I have mental barriers around deviating from the norm.  What would it look like to choose unpaid work for the time being and would I be able to shift my belief around value being measured only by income? I honestly don’t know the answer yet, but I am comforted knowing that my husband does not share my limiting views around how value can be measured.

What say you blog readers? I could use some powerful questions or insights to guide some reflection around this.  Thank you in advance for taking the time to help me find clarity around this.

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21 Comments

  1. Becky says:

    This is a great post and I think you bring up some important points. I think the most important thing is that, no matter what you decide, you have to be true to what you feel and what you really value as most important. It looks to me like you are engaging in that all important first step of figuring out what you value most.

    I can’t imagine you ever just idling away the time. No matter what you choose, I am sure you will fill your time with purposeful activities. Someone is always going to think you could have chosen a different (in his/her mind better) path. At the end of the day, you have to be true to what really matters most to you and to your family (as in you and Nick). If you define that and put that first, I think the other stuff will fall into place or simply become unimportant. I really think you’re on the right track. Good luck as you figure out what matters to you most.

  2. Alison says:

    North Americans really put an emphasis on ‘what you do’ rather than who you are. When I first moved to Belgium I wasn’t allowed to work and it really sent me into an identity crisis. But I learned that at the end of the day you need to be happy and fulfilled. If you already have enough money to get by, then you don’t need to make more just to have a label people can stick on you. Do what you love whether paid or unpaid and in the end the rewards will be better than just making cash.

  3. Evelyn says:

    I couldn’t agree more with Alison’s words, choose the things that make you happy and fulfilled but before you decide to let go of the goals you originally set, think about what you would have got out of pursuing them and why they are important to you. If you do let go of the original goals you can find ways to get those things that are important from other places.

    If you do decide to go along the unpaid route, make sure that you and your hubby have a very clear understanding about how the money issues will work. (Happy to talk to you more about this offline if you’d like)

    Lastly – being a Mum is a wonderful experience but its easy to loose sight of yourself and your dreams in the process of becoming a mother. Its one of those dirty little secrets that motherhood while wonderful and fulfilling can also be mind-numbingly boring and soul-destroying and in those moments it’s important to have something to remind you of your identity and give you an alternate focus.

    The right decision is in your heart. Evelyn x

  4. Christina says:

    Having the luxury of not having to “work” to bring home money to survive is truly a blessing. I would say spend time doing a bit of everything. You have a gift and talent of coaching, do not throw that away. I would maybe reconsider your goals and it is ok to be selfish sometimes. It is also ok to be spontaneous and not plan out every moment of every day, life is what happens when you are making other plans. Be a team with your husband and decide when starting a family is right for the both of you, continue to fulfill yourself and do what makes you happy :)

  5. Daniela says:

    Excellent post! I too have struggled with similar questions. My career (in marketing) was very important to me a few years ago. Then our first child came. At the time, I decided to go back to work when the baby was only 8 wks old and thankfully, my mother was able to take care of our child for two whole years, while I went back to work, which was terrific. The whole time, however, I felt torn between work and the baby. I had such a hard time with it that now that we are expecting our second one, I have decided to stay home even during the pregnancy. This decision has surprised even me because it is very “unlike” me but at the same time, I really, really want to enjoy being pregnant this time around, which I really couldn’t with my first pregnancy because I was working full-time up until the day I went into labor. I also want to spend at least 6 months home with the baby after birth this time. I breastfed my first for a year but in order to make that happen, while working, I had to develop a very, ahem, intimate relationship with my Medela pump, which I hated with a passion. I don’t want that with my second baby.

    Am I happy with my choice? Yes, to some extent but I feel awfully guilty that I am not contributing to the family financially. It seems like no matter what I do, I will feel guilty, so I guess I have to come up with a way of dealing with the guilt. Raising our kids to be(come) happy and well-adjusted individuals is immensely important to me but so is pulling my weight financially in the marriage. Right now I am experimenting with doing the exact opposite of what I did with our first child, so we’ll have to see how it works out. I keep telling myself there will be time for work again later, but the guilt is still there….

  6. Becky says:

    I love what Allison said about “who you are” vs. “what you do.” I often want to quantify who I am by what I do (dollars earned, numbers, awards, etc.) but life just isn’t worth that. It’s a hard habit for me to break though. Even if you never earned a cent from your cancer coaching, what an amazing impact you can have. And your work with the kids at the Friendship Home is amazing too. As far as being a mom goes, it can be mind numbing at times but also incredible. On days when I used to get really frustrated, I would try to remember that of all the people I could impact, my kids were the most important. Not just because I love them tons but also because I have more interaction with them than anyone else. 90% of the people I meet will forget me over time. Bad or good, my kids will remember us for their entire lives. It is not often that we can have that kind of effect on people.

    There is no one way to be a “good” mom and I am sure you will find out what works for you. I had my kids all close together and when I was pretty young (between 23 and 28). It was intense and for awhile I felt lost in all of it. I devoted my full time to kid stuff. As they get older, I am realizing that I am still there and that the me that was there is even better than before because of my time as a full time parent. I am starting to get back into a lot of the stuff I love and finding that I am not as obsolete as I thought. I have friends who spread their kids out and pursued their passions along the way. And that is great too. We just have different styles.

    I think that as long as your actions and goals stem from your values and passions, you will be in the process of becoming “who” you want to be, even if no one else can see “what” you are becoming.

  7. Joyce Novak says:

    I agree with all of the above. I vote for the baby thing!!! Love you a lot and thanks for the great time. You are a wonderful daughter-in-law. Plus there’s no right or wrong decision. You have to be comfortable with what you pick and don’t let anybody else tell you are not fulfilling yourself if you don’t “work.” OK?

  8. C says:

    I was told about a recent research project that was done on people that were only over the age of 85 years old. And for them, the most important thing in their life that they valued – above all else – was their personal & social relationships. Their families & to love and to be loved. At the end of their lives, those social connections (that they did or didn’t have) was what they placed top value on. Simply food for thought. Ultimately, do what feels right to you. At then end of the day, you only have to please yourself and NO ONE ELSE (well…except perhaps your hubby!).

  9. Chris says:

    I second your mother-in-law’s comments – it is not, I repeat not, necessary to bring home a paycheck to be fulfilled. It is what is in your heart and soul that makes you who you are. You WILL be a wonderful mother – you ARE a wonderful coach, champion of the less fortunate, and amazing young woman! Follow your heart! XOXO

  10. sarahlynn60 says:

    You’re so wise Becky – I’m loving all the insights I can draw from you (since you’re farther down this particular path than I)… I can tell this is something you’ve given much thought too in your life as well! XOXO

  11. sarahlynn60 says:

    Short and sweet – just like I’ve come to expect it from you. Thanks Alison! You are a great role model of that for me!

  12. sarahlynn60 says:

    After reading all these insightful comments that the issue may not be in deciding WHAT to get rid of, but WHAT proportions I want to have each of these components of my life. The cool part is that I’m very clear on what I want there – family, meaningful work, volunteering, travel – I just need to come up with a satisfying mix of the 4! I may just take you up on that conversation in the near future… for the time being I letting these new insights just percolate. Big hugs, Sarah

  13. sarahlynn60 says:

    I think you’re on to something there with the ‘bit of everything’ comment. What I’m realizing is that it’s not so much about setting one thing aside for another, but determining the correct proportions of each thing I want to have in my life.

    So appreciate your wise insights Christina – you know me so well after all the years we’ve been connected! Hope I can return the favor someday. XOXO

  14. sarahlynn60 says:

    Thanks for being honest about your own experience around this. It’s comforting to know that it’s a common issue that moms struggle with. I know that you, like I, will find the right blend of the two over time. Thanks for being such a wonderful resource and person to lean on as I work my way through this. It is SOOOO appreciated! Sarah

  15. sarahlynn60 says:

    So essentially what you’re saying is that if I focus on the ‘being’ part, the doing will just naturally flow from that place! I think you’re spot on Becky! Thanks for helping me pull this all together… Sarah

  16. sarahlynn60 says:

    No fair! You can’t vote – you’re BIASED! Of course you want the baby! :) Both you and my mom have set great examples of different fulfilling paths you can take. I’ll figure it out eventually…

  17. sarahlynn60 says:

    Darling C – thanks for your contribution to the conversation. Yes, you know me well. Connections are the fabric of my being. I just need to figure out some way of measuring the value of them (or let go of measuring altogether – I shudder to imagine such a world!) I was never meant for a conventional path, so I guess it was inevitable that my ‘old school’ ways of measuring value would have to be questioned too in order for that unconventional path to unfold.

  18. sarahlynn60 says:

    Ahhh Chris – thanks for your non-stop encouragement. You have become such an integral part of my day to day life, despite the fact that we’ve never met. How cool is that?! Just think how fun it will be when we finally connect…

    Hugs, Sarah

  19. Becky says:

    Since we are looking at a time of transition too (another move, kids all starting school), I think this is something I am thinking about a lot as well. I like how you said it, focus on the being and the doing will come. It is easy to do a lot and still never become who we want to really be. I look forward to hearing where this year takes you.

  20. sarahlynn60 says:

    Given my sharing nature, I can assure you that there will be future updates!

  21. Becky says:

    It is time for the Weekly State Department Blog Round Up and you are on it!

    It is found here:
    http://smallbitsfs.blogspot.com/2011/01/part-2-new-stuff-and-100-or-so-blog.html

    If you would like the links to your site removed (or corrections are needed) please contact me. Thanks!

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