Finding the courage to make big a career moves in your forties
In Our Forties, We Start Realizing That The Careers We’ve Spent The Last Twenty Years Killing Ourselves For Aren’t What They’re Cracked Up To Be. Here’s How To Pluck Up The Courage To Do Something About It.
The night I turned forty a few years ago, my friends threw me the world’s most fantastic surprise party. There was an epic homemade cake by an amazing baker friend with a disco motif. There was a boatload of wine and people I hadn’t seen in years. And there was karaoke. So much karaoke to so many 90s R&B classics that my face hurt from smiling when my husband and I got home about one in the morning. But after the smile wore off, I couldn’t sleep. I found myself in the living room, sobbing uncontrollably, and I couldn’t figure out why. I literally had everything I could want. An awesome husband. Two sweet sons. And a job as a creative director at a Fortune 500 company. I was making more money than I ever thought possible. I should be thrilled. But I also had a nonstop travel schedule—ridiculous hours. And a heap of debt from not paying attention to spending on what mattered. It was crushing. And I was miserable. Fortunately, that awesome husband of mine rolled out of bed to see where I was, and we spent the night unpacking what was troubling me. That conversation, along with counseling and coaching from the brilliant women I’m blessed to have in my life, woke up a fire in me…a fire to focus on what I cared about and to live life on my terms. A life that puts joy first and earning second.
SETTING THINGS RIGHT
For me, the next step was counseling and the diagnosis of major depression. That’s Big Move #1. Let me tell you, that was a game-changer. To me, nothing was more amazing than learning that one little pill could make my brain start acting like it was supposed to. It made everything else so much easier. And everything else? It was a lot. First, I had to look at the job. It wasn’t aligned with what I wanted from my life – like at all. So, I reached out to friends and companies I respected and landed myself in a leadership role that I loved.
Big Move #2…check. That wasn’t all that needed to change. The new job was fifty miles from home. The time spent on that commute was not acceptable; and when I looked at our life there, I realized that it wasn’t the best we could do in a number of respects. The school was a straight-up stress factory. They worked the kids nonstop with seven minutes for lunch and twelve for recess every day. They were exhausted. And socially? My husband was a stay-at-home dad, and our small town didn’t provide him many opportunities to connect with new friends. There was also a serious lack of diversity. As someone who grew up in a predominantly black neighborhood, I felt strongly that I wanted my kids to be around others who didn’t look and think exactly like them.
So, big move #3: We put the house on the market and had an offer within seven hours. A month later, we moved to a larger city that gave me a ten-minute commute to my dream job. I lived comfortably with those big moves for a while. Then I learned…change doesn’t stop once you get it started. A few years after I landed in my dream job, I had put my kids in a school that helped them learn better and have more joy, set us up in a neighborhood I loved, I learned my company was being purchased, and my job would be disappearing. Damn. Time for some more big moves. (Don’t get me wrong…I did spend a week moping about this. But then I got my act together and started making choices.)
Big Move #4: I started a consulting business and actively started marketing it so actively that I got in trouble with the company about to eliminate my job. And as other job offers started coming in, I had some more decisions to make.
Big Move #5: I hired a business coach, and not a cheap one either. With her help, I was able to get my business income to where it could replace my corporate income within a year of starting consulting.
Big Move #6: I hired a personal life coach. I was still getting full time offers, and staying focused on what I wanted was really hard for me. So, my coach helped me realize that YES, I wanted to run my own business AND YES, I still wanted a full time job, but not a really hard one, so…
Big Move #7: I accepted an executive creative director role at a boutique advertising agency. Now I lead an award-winning creative team doing what comes naturally while running a profitable business. And you know what? I don’t travel. I’m here for dinner with my kids every night. I work out most days. And I’m debt-free except for my house.
WHERE DID THOSE CAJONES COME FROM
That’s seven big careers, and money moves in just a few years…all from a lady who spent the wee hours of her fortieth birthday crying into her sauvignon blanc because she hated her life. How did I get the fortitude to make that first decision? Then the second? Then the rest?
The first decision to talk to a counselor and go on meds for my depression made all the other decisions possible. But that’s not the only thing. I started to realize that I could have whatever I wanted. Whatever. I. Wanted. In fact, my life was a perfect reflection of what I thought I wanted up to that point. But now I knew better. I knew myself and my preferences better. And as Maya Angelou said, when you know better, you do better. I had the full faith that whatever choice I made would work out to my benefit, as long as I made that choice in alignment with what I valued. And what did I value?
Time with my family
A strong network of connections
Joy for my kids and husband
Enough money to pay for anything we needed or wanted
In case you missed the main point, I’ll make it again: ANY DECISION YOU MAKE IN ALIGNMENT WITH YOUR VALUES WILL WORK OUT. You don’t need to stress about it.
If you are reading that line and thinking, “Yeah, but…,” you’re doing it wrong.
Stop thinking that this doesn’t apply to you. It does. But if you’re tied up in thinking that your circumstances are insurmountable or somehow so special that you can’t have the kind of success you want, then there’s nothing anyone can do for you.
Hire yourself a coach. Kick those limiting beliefs to the curb. Open yourself up to the absolute TRUTH that you’re capable of anything. Once you know that, any big move put in front of you is easy to make.
So start making moves because the life, the career, the joy you want is right freaking there. It’s your job to grab it.