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Changing Lanes


Each of us knows the familiar pang of feeling stuck. We've been stuck in relationships, in awkward situations, in traffic... Many times, we don't realize we're in the mud until we've been standing in it for a while. A family friend once described it to me as driving in a rut in the road. Once you realize you're in it, it's exponentially harder to change lanes.

We are educated, capable, professional women. We shouldn't reach this point, right? If we pride ourselves on being able to take care of all the little pebbles that get thrown our way, how can we miss the boulder right in front of us? Or maybe you saw it a mile down the road and just didn't know how to move it? Hey, smart women get stuck, too!

Where is your energy focused?

Remember all the little pebbles I referenced? Imagine they represent being a good boss, wife, friend, mom, coworker, daughter, and employee, etc. Sound familiar? If so, you may be what author and Professor Adam Grant calls a "selfless giver:" when we give all your time and energy to others without considering our own needs, we tend to feel depleted, drained and overwhelmed. So much so that if given two free hours to do anything we want, we might not be able to think of anything.

Where is your time invested?

I bet your grandfather retired from a company he'd been with for 30+ years. He probably never considered taking a leap after five, ten, or 15 years there. When we've invested years, sometimes decades, at a job, in a career, or even in a single position, moving on is terrifying! Even if we're not elated to come to work every day, there's comfort in knowing the ins and outs of a profession, and that often outweighs the itch to make bold moves.

Where could you see yourself?

That old saying, "Life begins at the end of your comfort zone," is a cliché for a reason. We all know what it means, and we've all felt it. We've had steady employment with comfortable benefits and predictable pay for a while, and flipping life on its head to pursue some wild dream seems crazy, even a little self-indulgent. Many of us lack the confidence to make the jump and dread the idea of "starting over."

Let's paraphrase Mean Girls for a second. "The limit perfect plan does not exist." Life is neither rational nor scientific. We're not operating in a laboratory. On paper, a perfectly planned life looks neat and controlled. Striking out without a road map is scary, but we've all been taken places by our GPS we didn't plan on going. And then what? Take a turn, and..."Recalculating!" Think big. Ignore perfectionism. Choose a destination. Directions are useless if we don't know where we want to be.

Post by Mary Straton Smith, Director of The Source