This is the seventh 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 the key to committing to true change, instead of opting for quick fixes or despairing before true change takes place.
“Have patience with all things, but first of all with yourself.”
– Saint Francis de Sales
Patience isn’t my strength.
I feel pressurized discomfort as I manage my default impatience in random, everyday situations.
My chest tightens, my breath shortens, and I feel a sense of urgency in the air. It’s as though something horrible is going to happen unless I take quick action to resolve the issue immediately. This happens less often these days, but I used to be constantly on edge.
Just a couple years ago, my life used to be all about control and efficiency.
Everything in the household had to be the most efficient and effective way of doing things. I rolled my eyes at my husband if he dirtied more pans and plates in the kitchen than necessary. I became frustrated when things didn’t work or when something didn’t go as planned.
To compound the effect even further, I spent at least fifty hours a week finding inefficiencies and mistakes in financial processes and excel spreadsheets.
In my pursuit for maximum efficiency, control and results, I saw life as string of issues waiting to be resolved as quickly as possible.
And one big issue in early 2014 was my prevailing fear around quitting my job, even after realizing how I hid from change, reaching the tipping point, improving my mindset, letting go and meeting likeminded people.
It still felt scary and irresponsible to quit without having another job or a plan aside from a six-month sabbatical. The immense privilege I had in considering this course of action wasn’t lost on me, but this actually worked against me as a reprimand to be grateful for (and to cling onto) the job I had.
Originally, the leap date was tentatively slotted in February. As the date drew nearer, I realized there was a heavy block of resistance I couldn’t overcome. The date was pushed out to March… and then April.
Why couldn’t I suck it up and take the plunge? Why couldn’t I commit to a date already? Why wasn’t there a quick fix or solution to this?
In feeling the need to rush the process, I felt miserable and incompetent. Not only was this mentality domineering and exhausting in the mundane details of everyday life, it simply doesn’t work when it comes to the uncertain and abstract forks in the road.
I needed to be more patient.
Around this time, I attended a conference where everyone was encouraged to commit to a positive action for three months. The speaker talked about meditation and the benefits he experienced.
High off intrigue and inspiration at the event, I decided to commit to an hour of meditation every day for three months.
It was an ambitious and foolish commitment since I was new to meditation. I bought a book, listened to some recordings and plunged into it. I didn’t know what would happen, but what did I have to lose? The obvious answer was sixty minutes each day, but those minutes spent in silence ended up giving me back more than I ever could have imagined.
I was smart enough to give myself several options though. During the sixty minutes, I could either meditate (in silence or along with a recording), journal, or go through affirmation or visualization exercises depending on my mood.
Most days, I sat down on a yoga mat, closed my eyes and struggled to redirect my thoughts to my breath for what seemed like forever. During the first week, I opened my eyes and repeatedly checked my phone to discover only five excruciating minutes had passed. Meanwhile, my mind twirled around as I helplessly followed the rabbit holes, pulling myself back from Wonderland after lengthy adventures.
I generally felt more centered after the hour—but there were better days and worse days in the mostly mundane and unexciting practice. Some days, I felt incredibly distracted or like I could’ve done better. Other days, I dozed off. But there were truly amazing days too—when I felt internal healing and understanding shift and radiate through me.
Looking back, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend jumping into a similar three-month commitment like I did. On many days, it took every ounce of self-discipline I possessed to sit myself down on the mat or pull out my journal.
However, there were many benefits. The evening practice cleared my mind, led to better sleep, and enabled me to better deal with stressful situations at work during the planning and year-end periods (the worst times for many finance folks).
In spending a dedicated hour each day either in meditation, journaling or other exercises, I was forcing myself to confront the fears, concerns and negative stories that normally ran undetected and unchallenged in the back of my mind. With the lack of distractions, I was bringing them to conscious awareness and processing them.
Meditation turned out to be extremely helpful in gaining awareness of what was really going on. I developed the ability to recognize the unproductive thoughts for what they truly were. With awareness and time, I was able to heal.
But most of all, I learned the practice of patience in my commitment to meditation.
Patience for uncertainty, distractions, inefficiency—and most of all, myself.
The act of meditating taught me to allow and accept what comes up to simply be, and then patiently and compassionately let it go as I refocused on breathing. Meditation taught me to be patient in putting in the work every single day, no matter how it went the day before.
I’m not exactly sure how, but around May—two months into the daily practice—it happened.
I developed the internal commitment and confidence to commit to quitting. I was mentally ready to leave in May, but I strategically chose to stay until July to save up more and receive my bonus. In next week’s post, I’ll share more on what I strategically considered (and what I failed to consider and would recommend for others) in the months leading up to the date.
In the process of taking the leap, I learned to be a much more patient person. I started allowing life to be the messy, confusing and meandering day-by-day journey that it is.
And in those confusing moments, the secret is to be patient and to enjoy the process of figuring it out. The key is to patiently put in the work while gracefully allowing things to progress along—instead of opting for quick fixes or despairing before true change takes place.
For me, meditation was instrumental in developing the patience needed for true change. What works for you? How do you develop patience for yourself in times of upcoming or current change?
Rushing through the process or finding a quick fix rarely works. All good work—whether it’s a project or true change—comes from patience. Up next week: the strategic considerations I took (and wished I took) in preparing for the leap.