(This post is part of the “LifeWork Renewal 101″ Series. The series introduction is HERE.)
“The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.” ~Joseph Campbell
“You will be.” ~Yoda
You’re a confident person.
And you’ve tended to excel at most things you’ve applied yourself to. So it’s confidence you’ve earned.
Then why is this career limbo so hard? You think maybe its just a matter of keeping at it. Toughing it out. Besides you’re smart. Very smart. So you’ll figure it out.
But so far nothing.
Some ideas perhaps. But they just aren’t clear enough and don’t grab you enough to act on yet.
It may be that the skills required for this passage aren’t the same strengths that brought you success in the past. In fact, odd as this may sound, I suggest that your current transition is inviting you to step outside your confidence. Outside your comfort zone.
Because, in my experience, that’s the only place “What you want NEXT” will be found.
The Renewal Zone
Deep renewal is different from rest.
Beyond a stepping back to regain perspective and energy, a major renewal period actually leads us more fully into our talents and purpose. More fully into ourselves.
So the renewed vitality that we discover is found in our own depths.
In myth, the “Hero’s Journey” always begins with the hero-to-be leaving the known world and venturing into wilderness. Similarly, deep renewal always involves an interior journey beyond what we’ve done and been up to this point.
“The usual person is more than content, he is even proud, to remain within the indicated bounds, and popular belief gives him every reason to fear so much as the first step into the unexplored. The adventure is always and everywhere a passage beyond the veil of the known into the unknown; the powers that watch at the boundary are dangerous; to deal with them is risky; yet for anyone with competence and courage the danger fades.”
~ Joseph Campbell
To find new lifework “fire” we have to enter new territory.
And in my experience that always involves going outside of our comfort zone. Un-comfortable by definition. And scary by nature. Especially to our practical mind.
Our practical mind craves clear and known points of reference. Safety. And leaving our comfort zone is essentially stepping outside the arena of our practical mind. Out of control. So while transition may be the necessary path to find a new dream and renewed vitality for your NEXT work and life – that doesn’t mean you have to like it.
3 Faces of Fear – Steps on the Hero’s Journey
The personal growth opportunities that lifework transitions bring are unique to each of us. Yet they all wear the face of fear.
I’m noticed three central areas of fear in the successful renewal journeys of the smart and confident people I coach. Each area of fear is tied to a normal step in the renewal process. And each, while distinctly uncomfortable, is ultimately a source of growth.
These three natural steps, and fears, each correspond to one of the three stages of the classic Hero’s Journey. The stages of that mythic journey are: “Departure,” “Initiation,” and “Return.”
Each heroic stage steps into and meets a different face of fear:
1) Departure: On the Way to “No”
Before we come to an ending, on the way to “no,” we fight an inner battle. Something important to us is slipping away. And there are a hundred good reasons not to let it go.
Yet deep inside something new is stirring. Something brighter and more vital than our current work and life have room for. In our quiet moments we hear it calling. A longing, a thirst even, for “something more.” Something we instinctually know cannot be fulfilled by just tweaking the life/work we have.
We are caught between. Between the value of all we have, and the vague but insistent pull toward something MORE. And we don’t want to look too closely at either.
Beyond this interior tug-of-war, we also face an outer battle. In the ring: “Your Needs” vs “Demands of Others.”
Your job, your boss, your family, your mortgage, your commitments… Everyone wants a part of you. And you have less to give than ever. You’re tired. Yet no one is wanting any less from you.
It’s an uncomfortable, exhausting, process. And it can be fraught with a gamut of feelings and fears:
- Anxiety and practical concerns about security
- Sense of loss for all that we’ve invested and the value we’ve built
- Flashes of regret, questioning past choices…
- Acute awareness of mortality and the passing of time.
- Blame, anger…
And the list goes on. Yet in these inner and outer battles something in you is being strengthened. Your clarity about what is no longer enough. Your clarity about what you don’t want. And you take your own halting steps, or Life pushes you, toward the edge of all you’ve known.
Toward an ending. External or internal – your departure.
2) Initiation: The Identity Void
Once we’ve let go, after the initial relief and dizzying freedom, what then?
When we’ve lost a dream or let go of old roles that were imporant to us, how can there not be a void? An empty place.
We’ve lost something that we built and invested ourselves in. Something that we put our energy, our heart, and our-Self into. So we understand the grieving – even while knowing that it’s time to move on.
What we don’t understand is the unexpected crisis-of-confidence that accompanies this ending.
We came to regard our confidence as a given. Like breathing. Just part of who we are – “a confident person.” For some of us, this grew beyond confidence at times. Into pride with a capital “P.” Maybe into arrogance.
What we were unaware of is the degree our confidence was propped-up by our success.
We’ve acheived and built things that we are, rightly, proud of. Success that we could point to, certainly for ourselves (and perhaps for others), that provided hard evidence of our ability. And worth.
Now, as these props fall away with each internal and external ending, we are startled. Startled to find our confidence shaken. Surprised to find ourselves asking the question, “Who am I now?” “Who am I separate from ____________ ? (Fill in the blank with your job, dream, relationship, role, etc. Whatever identity-anchor was lost or left behind)
So, we find ourselves unexpectedly vulnerable. Unexpectedly unsure of ourselves. Adrift.
And way outside our comfort zone. Yet ready to discovery anew who we are and what we truly want next.
3) Return: A Testing
Finding treasure is not the end-point of a hero’s quest.
Even after you re-find yourself. After, as I talk about it here at Brilliant NEXT, you “find new fire.” There is still an important distance to travel. You have the new dream, you have blazing clarity, purpose and passion. Now you need to build that dream. Bring it’s brilliance into the world.
The heroic return is about finding a way, in the world, to share the internal treasure you’ve discovered.
And this challenge wears its own fearful face.
To allow yourself to dream. To step into, claim, and commit to what you really want, and to do so without knowing a sure path to “How,” can be terrifying.
Is it possible? Will others see the value of what I have to offer? Can I “follow my bliss” and still support my family abundantly? Will the money really follow?
For some this is a challenge custom-made for their strengths. Perhaps it is the kind of challenge you thrive on. For others this is the most daunting step in the journey. Moving out into the external arena. Into the arena of money, commerce, marketing and institutions. The “Real World.” Even, the dreaded job market.
Either way, this step is a testing. Following our renewed clarity and enthusiasm we jump into action. Into exploration, planning, and learning. We are in motion – despite the uncertainty and obstacles that would have paralyzed us before.
Yet we are still afraid.
At times the path forward opens in unexpected, almost miraculous, ways. Other times a promising trail leads to a dead end. And we retrace our steps. Remind ourselves what we’re committed to. That commitment is tested and tempered. Our clarity is affirmed, strengthened, and fine-tuned.
And, in time, we arrive.
Renewed. Committed. Strengthened. Fully living our Brilliant NEXT chapter.
More to Come…
Finding ways to be with fear. To be kind to it, to acknowledge yet quite it’s shrill alarm klaxon, to use it and to gather it’s gifts is a central theme of the renewal journey.
This article acknowledges and introduces the topic here at Brilliant NEXT, and will be followed by many others – starting with Part 2 of this article, titled: “5 Guidelines for Navigating Uncertainty and Fear .”
Look for it here.
In the meantime, tell me about your own hero’s journey.
- How are you currently journeying outside your comfort zone?
- What steps have you already taken, and what made you willing?
- How are you growing, and being strengthened, by the journey so far?
A Gift of Career Renewal
In this inspiring 9-page Special Report you’ll learn:
What is this time Between-Dreams? And why is it so important?
4 Affirmations for career renewal that can be a lifeline of hope in the confusion and uncertainty of this period.
4 “Guideposts” that offer a starting point for navigating to renewed clarity of purpose & direction.