One important thing I learned on how to celebrate life

At the end of life, what really matters is not what we bought but what we built; not what we got but what we shared; not competence but our character; and not our success but our significance. Live a life that matters. Live a life of Love. — Unknown

Many of us live a life with no goal in mind. We are just drifting through life as if we find pursuing a goal and living life a big effort. We are living dead. No passion, no purpose, no destination in mind.

A couple of years back, I went through this phase. A disconnected Zombie. I had lost my sense of direction. Was working in an auto control mode. Would start my day, go to the office, work on the project, get back home, have dinner and sleep.

Until One day, while I was struggling with this state, Anita, our domestic help, showed me how to celebrate life. What she said, made me come out of my disconnected state of mind. She taught me how to Live a life with purpose.

Is it enough to just Live?

“It’s not enough to have lived. We should be determined to live for something.” ―Winston S. Churchill

Anita worked in a few homes in our locality, earned roughly around ten thousand rupees per month. She was married and had two lovely daughters. Her husband was a drug addict and never contributed to the household expenses or to the children’s education. Anita paid him a daily allowance for his alcohol, just to avoid facing the domestic violence at home.

Despite her difficulties, Anita always looked happy. She would never complain and make excuse for the situation at home. She carried a satisfied look. Curiosity forced me to ask her one day. What keeps you so happy every day?

Her response shook me. She said she had a purpose in life. She wanted to make sure that both her daughters went to school, had a good education and gained financial independence.

For making sure that her children had two square meals a day and went to school, Anita worked extra hours. She loved knitting and candle making. Anita learned these skills and in her spare time, knitted for her neighbors and made candles and sold them to the shops in and around her home. Her struggles were huge.

Here was a lady who had her destination clearly marked and had a sense of direction. Her purpose in life was so clear, that she could take on any challenges that came her way. She was in a flow state and could connect with what really mattered to her. She was in full control and never took life for granted. Anita had no formal education, but she was full of energy and dreamt big for her daughters.

Living in a flow state

“Of all the virtues we can learn no trait is more useful, more essential for survival, and more likely to improve the quality of life than the ability to transform adversity into an enjoyable challenge.”
― Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Flow: The Psychology of Happiness

I was certainly not in a flow state. The passion and purpose that had brought me to my job and the project had gone missing. I no longer connected with the project. Even the small easy task of the project would give me nightmares. Small chores in the house made me stressful.

Anita’s story was enough to push me out of the comatose state.She was in a flow state. Even if she had to swim against the rising currents in her life, she was unstoppable. She was working to achieve something in this life. Her story changed my perspectives on life forever.

What is a flow state? positive psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi has defined it as an “optimal state of consciousness where we feel our best and perform our best.”

Ask for help

“Never let your ego get in the way of asking for help when in desperate need. We have all been helped at a point in our lives.”
― Edmond Mbiaka

Anita’s response to my question really had me thinking. It was as though she had thrown a challenge at me. I took the help of a coach to help me uncover my passion and purpose. I knew I had all the resources within me to address my problem, but I needed someone to challenge me, provide me with perspectives and be a sounding board.

The coach helped me to see things within myself, which I had overlooked and never thought of before. I was able to connect back to my passion and purpose in life. I realized that to have a purposeful life, I needed to find a purpose in what I was doing. It wasn’t easy. It was a roller coaster ride.

For cutting through all the chaos, I needed help and I was not hesitant to ask for it. My coach held me accountable to my goals. As I kept moving and grinding towards my goals, my coach stood by me.

“The path to our destination is not always a straight one. We go down the wrong road, we get lost, we turn back. Maybe it doesn’t matter which road we embark on. Maybe what matters is that we embark.” ―Barbara Hall

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What I learned when I quit the rat race.

“A version of this post originally ran on the Lead Change Group site on 18th September 2017 and can be read at www.leadchangegroup.com.

 

“The future is called ‘perhaps,’ which is the only possible thing to call the future. And the important thing is not to allow that to scare you.”
Tennessee Williams

For thirty-three long years, climbing the corporate ladder was my only goal. Success to me was always being in the spotlight and reaching the top. To achieve my goal, I had worked hard and grown through the ranks. I had relentlessly pursued the dream of reaching the top. Yes, I did reach the top, traveled a lot, could make decisions, had power, influence, money, and everything that I had dreamt of. I loved my career.

But one day it all changed. After 33 years, the luster wore off. My job was no longer interesting to me. I felt trapped in the rat race.

I knew it was time to redefine my life and look at pursuing work that was more fulfilling. I decided it was time to call quits.

Transitioning to a New Way of Life

“20 years from now you will be disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain

So, I  sailed away from the safety of my corporate job and was ready to explore and discover the new world. Once I had made the decision, I had peace with myself and finally felt in control of my career again. I had to redefine what success meant to me and found that it is not always about the money you make, but is also about the happiness in life you gain.

What happened in my case is not unique. Many would have gone through similar experience. Once we quit the rat race,  we find a lot of time available to us.  However, after the initial feeling of being a free bird is over, concern takes over. The thought of nothing to do can be quite daunting. Not having a clear idea of what you plan to do next, can be even more terrifying.

In my case, I had thought about this day for a long time. I had a plan. I was not sure about the robustness of the plan, but I was ready for the new adventure. During this transition phase, one also requires remaining optimistic. Having a plan to start something new can help maintain optimism.

The Adventure Begins

The security of the corporate life when enjoyed for a long time tends to make us risk-averse.  It is normal to miss the comfort zone of the corporate life.  Unfortunately, it does not prepare us for the big change in life when we transition from its warm comfort to a life which is full of adventures.

Many things that I had planned did not work the way I had dreamt of. I had to redefine not just what success would be, but also the way I work. I was always passionate about coaching and mentoring. Equipped with my three decades of experience in the industry and a Coaching certification, I decided to help women grow in their career. Help them follow their dreams, align with their values,  and enjoy their work and career.

I had to develop new relationships and leverage existing networks to get projects that I was passionate about. After many falls for several months, I finally managed to get work that was fulfilling and gave me immense joy.

Lessons Learnt

Thinking back on my journey of last two years, I learned the following important lessons:

  • Plan this day well in advance. Be absolutely clear about what your goals are for the next phase of your career. Do not make any rash decision.
  • Clarify what is important to you and what is your priority. Money, happiness, fulfillment.
  • Think about your key skills and strengths which can make you successful.
  • Choose work that you are passionate about.
  • Be agile. You would have to try several things, build new relationships, redefine your plans till you hit the jackpot.
  • Be prepared for all the obstacles that would be thrown your way and the many discouragements that you would receive.
  •  Most important stay optimistic, as that will see you through.

If you are working on achieving your goals and leading a life you want, then don’t let fears get in your way.

      Life is a one-way street. No matter how many detours you take,
none of them leads back. So enjoy life’s every moment as none of
them will happen the same way again.
— Unknown