I recently was on a flight from Chicago to Charleston and met a new friend on the plane. For those of you who don’t know, whenever I fly I attempt to strike up a plane-ride-long conversation with my seat partner. I document their stories on my airplane friends blog.
My new airplane friend’s name was Estelle. She and I talked about family, cheese, long-distance relationships, and work. It was during the work portion of our conversation that my mind got going.
Estelle works in the corporate offices of a major fertilizer company – not at all where she thought she would be working. She asked what I do and I told her about how I speak to college and corporate audiences about authentic leadership and networking and how, this past year, I got into personal coaching. I finished by saying, “there is something special about doing what you love.” Estelle thought about this for a minute and then responded with, “I guess I am not doing what I love, but I love what I do.”
Some may look at that quote and think, “well, when life hands you lemons…” First off, I like lemons, so I prefer to say, “When life hands me close-minded people I make witty comebacks.” Secondly, I did not hear her quote that way. I saw her quote as a statement about how we can find happiness in unexpected places – as long as we are open to it.
Thinking about and pursuing your dream job is fine, but allowing yourself to think that’s the only way you’ll be happy is constrictive at best. On the path to your supposed dream job you are going to climb to a bunch of different platforms. Some of those platforms are not going to be related at all to what you studied or to what you thought you would be doing. They will be in a different place then you ever thought you would live, and you will be surrounded by people you would never pick out of a lineup to be friends with. Will you be open to happiness when that happens?
The phases we go through in transition are cyclical. Here’s what I think they are:
1. Call your parents or your friends from the last place you lived/worked and cry.
2. Post on social media about your woes and how stupid things are where you now live/work.
3. Suck it up.
4. Put yourself out there.
5. Find happiness.
6. Post on social media about how awesome your life is and how cool things are where you now live/work.
7. Learn about new opportunities.
8. Take a risk.
9. Move to the next platform.
In my opinion, if you never get to step three, this thing called life is going to be quite hard for you and you are going to need to get over yourself. If you never get to step four then you are destined to be perpetually closed-minded and you will miss out on the opportunity and growth that lies in interacting with new people and trying new things. When we do not put ourselves out there, then we settle, and there is a HUGE difference between being happy and settling.
One of my favorite quotes by Anonymous is, “Happiness is only a place that you can visit, but the smartest people go there often.” Estelle is not at all where she thought she would be and working in an industry she had no dreams of working in, but she is happy. Finding happiness in every stage of life is the key, and if you cannot then it’s either time to put yourself out there or move on. If you don’t, get ready to live a life full of what ifs, could ofs, and should ofs. Never settle.
Credit // Author: James Robilotta
James Robilotta loves the crucial moment of growth when college students figure out why they are who they are, and he’s hitting campuses across the country to help them do just that through his leadership keynotes. Learn more about James and his keynotes at campuspeak.com/robilotta.