follow the path

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I got the best email last week. It was from my cousin, Trisha, who lives in Kansas. As she mentioned in her payday segment, she landed her dream job a few months ago. She works at Kansas State University, where she got her degree, and after spending several years working as a recruiter for the university, she left that position to begin her new dream role as an Instructor and Program Coordinator for the School of Leadership Studies at K-State. This new position is right up her alley and, on paper, it fit her perfectly in so many ways. So now that she’s actually in the role and the day to day realities of the position are upon her, it’s even more exciting to see how much she’s enjoying it. Doing what you love really does matter.

So the email she sent me last week was to share some more great news. A proposal she put through at the new job has been approved: she’s going to be traveling to some incredible, far off places (like Kenya!) in the next 6-12 months “to explore the people, the country, the service opportunities.” And because she asked to go to one place, the department granted her the opportunity to go to a few other places – an opportunity she wasn’t even anticipating. Her joy in the email was palpable and I got a little teary-eyed when I read this sentence she wrote: “I took the leap, I left a job where I was miserable, I made a change and took a big risk…I am happy.  I smile all the time. I learn everyday.  I have new thoughts and ideas that I have never had before.  It is amazing.”

She is my little cousin and she is one of the most beautiful people I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing, so my heart tends to overflow with pride and emotion whenever something good happens in her life, but I would have been moved by those words no matter who wrote them. The very nature of someone seeking out whatever makes them happiest, following the path as it presents itself, and reaping the inevitable rewards is so cool to see. It’s inspiring.

Lately, I’ve been considering this idea of “following the path,” so to speak, when making major life changes. It’s a way of thinking that’s relatively common sense. I didn’t read it in any book or blog and it’s nothing new. It’s just something I’m employing on my journey right now.

Rather than sitting down and making a hard and fast list of goals and items and next steps and aggressively working to achieve them, no matter what gets in my way, instead I make lists of key words or ideas, draw pictures, cut clips out of magazines, read stuff, update and rework my lists and seek out conversations that dabble in and around the flavor of my goals.

Perhaps that sounds a bit “Uhhh? What are you talking about?” So I’ll try to explain.

I don’t push for anything fixed or finalized to happen on this journey to leave my desk job unless and until it presents itself to me. And even then I still take it moment by moment. I try to be open to things – anything – that will help me continue forward, because any forward motion is positive. Change is positive. Sure, there are certain specific things I want – fulfillment, satisfaction, freedom, less stress – but I’m not picky about how I get them or in what form they come. I really do believe that my life will make room for whatever good comes to me, as long as I’ve got an open mind and am willing to see all the possibilities. If what I imagine will happen doesn’t happen, but something different does, I am fine with that. I trust that my positive intentions and my energy toward creating change in my life will result in something great.

For instance, as anyone who’s read follow my bliss from the beginning knows, I did not start this blog with the intention of then starting a business and then blogging about building the business. I decided I wanted to leave my desk job, and the world of desk jobs, for good. Then I decided, at the urging of my supportive boyfriend, to write a blog about it. Right around that same time, I discovered my love for baking. A month after starting the blog, as I looked into every nook and cranny of my life for hints about what I should do next, I decided, among other things, to try to sell some brownies. I kept writing and voicing my goals out loud in the world and a few months later, I ended up starting a little brownie selling project with Faryn. As we explored our options, we had to make some choices about which path to traverse and ultimately, the brownie project soon turned into an entire bakery project. And so it’s only natural that I would then share my journey to start a bakery with my blog readers.

Again, I didn’t originally set out to do this, to travel along this particular road, but you can see how it naturally occurred, as I simply put one foot in front of the other and followed the path as it revealed itself to me. Of course I shaped and molded things, I’m not suggesting that what’s happened in my life in these last few months is the result of some divine intervention and I just followed along. I am saying, though, that I did not set out on this journey knowing how it would look or where it would take me. And I have been surprised to find myself here.

This “follow the path” methodology is not for everyone – some people have a very specific vision for their lives, or very specific goals they intend to accomplish. And that’s perfectly fine. For me, I just want to do what I love and be able to make my student loan payments at the same time. So this method works for me.

I sit at this desk job every day and I stare out the window a lot. I have to take deep breaths to defer the stressful nature of the place. This, in contrast to how I dream about spending my days – doing something I love, on my own terms – can weigh on me. And it makes the urge to stomp into my boss’ office and give my two weeks notice that much stronger. But I know it’s not yet time. It will be soon, but today is not the day and nor will tomorrow be.

I have charged myself with the simple but disciplined task of staying true to this path I’m on, of trusting that as long as I’m willing to set fluid goals, work toward them, and be flexible to their natural movement, the path before me will unfold and I will find my way out of here, however that may happen. I will know when the day is right to leave this job. And on that day, it won’t be an easy or safe transition, but it will be the right transition. I will be putting one foot in front of the other and reaching for what makes me happy, just like Trisha did. She’s set a fantastic example.

This might be one of the more new-agey posts I’ve written in a while – all about paths and being true to yourself and blah blah. I’m glad you survived it.

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9 thoughts on “follow the path

  1. Actually, I think you’re onto something here. When I was about 20, my parents were really good about putting me in front of really high powered businessowmen that they knew, in areas that I was interested in. At the time, I thought I wanted to be a buyer, so they set up for me to have lunch with a woman who was a head buyer for all of menswear at Dayton’s (which later became Marshall Fields, which later became Macy’s). ANyway. Some of the best career advice I ever got came in the form of a story — when this woman was a kid, she used to cut out pictures from magazines of things she just thought were cool / trendy. SHe put them all in a scrapbook. SHe didn’t even know what “Being a buyer” meant, but later on when thinking about a career, she remembered these scrapbooks and that she had the fashion instincts to know what was GOING to be cool — sure enough, all the crap in those scrapbooks ended up being items that took off as major trends a few months later.

    SHe encouraged me to not focus on a career path, but just to think about the things that I LOVE doing, that I’d be doing regardless of whether or not there was a job that existed, and find a way to do that. This translated really well for me into event planning — I was ALWAYS the one throwing the parties, planning the nights out, etc. To a level of perfectionist detail.

    And right now, I’m realizing that I’ve found a way to blog and tweet and facebook for a living… which I didn’t even REALIZE when I took this job.

    So I think this is a great way to figure it out… not with a career destination, just a happiness destination and then finding the career that fits into that model!

  2. Congrats to your cousin Jen. This kind of stories are filled with inspirational and motivational vibes. Thanks for sharing and wish your little cousin lots of success.

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  4. I think following your own path works great if you are AWARE! If not it can take you on adventures you might prefer not to have. Part of being aware is knowing yourself and knowing what is going on in the world around you. They say the wise person is not someone who has all the answers but someone who knows just how to respond in any situation. That comes from practicing awareness. There is an awareness exercise on my website for anyone interested.
    http://www.turn-stress-into-bliss.com/

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