This is the third article following The Irony of Quitting My Job to Take a Sabbatical, the first in a series on what I learned and what I’d recommend from quitting my job to take a six-month sabbatical (without another job in sight). Here, I share how I reached the tipping point.
“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” – Barack Obama
It took me three years to reach the tipping point.
During those three years, I hid from the change I needed to make in my life. I continued on my stagnant path, until the milestone distractions against the angst drew to an end six months after we moved into our first house.
I started feeling an unshakable sense of doom. Nightmarish images of years passing by and weakening limbs bearing the resentment, regrets and what-ifs haunted my waking and dreaming thoughts. They came from the knowing within that if I didn’t make a change in the near future, it’d only get harder to leave and easier to find another reason to stay.
On the last day of 2013, a conversation with a newish friend was the spark that led to the tipping point in my life. That spark can range from the everyday to the catastrophic for others—from an idea, book, layoff, health scare, accident or passing away of a loved one.
Unlike the majority of people I knew during that time, this friend had quit his job—multiple times—and had taken sabbaticals in between the changes.
He was a smart guy. He admitted he didn’t know what he was doing at the time, and he ended up just fine—actually, more than just fine.
That was the day I realized I had it all wrong. The obstacle wasn’t about responsibility, lack of clarity or any of the reasons I told myself on why I couldn’t make a change yet. There wasn’t anything more to figure out.
It was really quite simple; I was the only real obstacle.
My husband picked me up from lunch. When he asked how it went, I sat in the passenger seat staring out the window, silent, unmoving, unable to do or say anything more.
The newfound awareness was devastating. Driven by fear of the unknown, I was an unwitting accomplice in the unproductive behaviors that were keeping me from living a meaningful life.
Fear, disappointment, helplessness, and despair clouded my thoughts. I felt the full misery of what I had been suppressing for years in a new, unfiltered way.
But amidst the agonizing rawness, I somehow knew this was necessary—that this was the first step towards the tipping point of change.
In order to reach the tipping point, I needed to stop numbing the suffering and get real with myself.
The pain was needed. I needed to allow myself to feel the depths to build the resolve of making a change.
So, I delved into it. I cried a few tears. I let out some anger. I threw a couple tantrums. I expressed my frustration in my journal and to my ever-so-supportive husband. I let it all out and then some.
Otherwise, we can go on for years, continuing to distract, numb, shield, and hide—making ourselves feel better at the cost of our freedom. Many people do just that. They creatively cope instead of confronting and dealing with the real issue.
And at the end of a tumultuous two weeks, I came out knowing that quitting my job was absolutely essential to living a life that was truly mine.
Even if I had no clue what was to come afterwards. Even if – (gasp) – I didn’t have a plan.
The problem was, I didn’t feel ready to make such a big change.
In a growth-oriented mindset and lifestyle, you never really do. But I didn’t know that yet.
I was terrified I’d be making a mistake. I didn’t know what else I’d do outside of corporate finance. I feared I’d be un-hirable and unable to make a good living in the future. The practical side of me raged internally, near dizzy in its attack on the unspeakable action I was considering. Not only that, I felt helpless and scared. The lack of trust and confidence in myself was clear; after years of breaking promises to myself, part of me was doubtful I’d actually go through with it.
It feels… impossible. I don’t think I’ll be able to do it. What’s going to happen afterwards? How is it going to work? This is crazy.
And even after days of mulling and brainstorming, I didn’t have any solutions or answers. That wasn’t important though.
The key was my determination to do everything I could to make it happen—no matter what or how long it took.
There was some major internal work that needed to be done before the leap could happen. Work on things such as an unproductive mindset, limiting beliefs, lack of confidence and self-love. There was also some external work to be done. I didn’t know how, but I was going to get myself into a leap-ready state.
Whatever it is that you feel is impossible, know that it is not.
This applies to all dreams, big projects or major changes. I went from severely doubting myself to making the leap within six months. I overcame an immense amount of anxiety, fear and sense of responsibility, perhaps more than the average person.
I share my story because I know there are others out there, people who are more hesitant, who like to anticipate and assess before they leap, who can easily fall into the trap of staying where they are when they don’t have all the answers—yes, I’m talking to you.
How I reached the tipping point was by ceasing to numb the suffering. By feeling the rawness and getting real with myself, I resolved to make a change. No matter how big or ridiculous your dream may initially seem… you will get there, somehow, some way, if you consistently put in the work to figure it out. If I can do it, you can do it too.
Next comes the real work—on getting yourself mentally and emotionally ready to commit to the leap. More on that next week!