I was once asked a provocative question about my work.
What’s your safe job and what’s your inspirational job?
I responded by saying that my safe job many moons ago was being a Social Worker. It was safe because it was a full-time permanent position with benefits. Something I could rely on to pay the bills and plan for a secure future. Referring to it as safe was ironic because my life was threatened more than once while working there. Those few terrifying incidents got me to look at who and what was I doing this job for anyway?
After a bit of introspection, it didn’t take long to realize I was fulfilling expectations of what a good person might do with their life.
Many women in my family were teachers, professors and social workers, so it was natural for me to work as a caseworker helping families who had children with different abilities. It was totally in alignment with who I was at the time.
And yet I grew increasingly dissatisfied.
It took me a while to get the courage to leave and to get over the guilt of “wasting” my University degree. I even tried job sharing to reduce the workload, but needless to say, I was out-growing this job. There was more for me to do in the world, but I didn’t know what, exactly.
While I was waiting out those last couple of years at my safe job, dancing and fitness became my growing passion.
I wasn’t thinking initially that dance would be my new career, especially because I was 36 and most dancers I knew were ending their careers by then. Yet, truth to tell, if someone would have asked me what my dream job would be at that time, I would have said, dancing every day! Essentially I followed that inspiration out the doors of my safe job and onto the dance floor of the Great Unknown.
It wasn’t easy, making that change.
My husband was upset with me for leaving a good job as I wasn’t bringing in the income our family of hungry teenagers was used to. I certainly had no clue about how I could possibly earn a living from dancing, so I tried not to think about it. The only thing that kept me going was the pop culture phrase at the time, “Do what you love and the money will follow.” It was like a guidepost or an arrow pointing me away from safe toward inspirational. I knew it could be possible and I held on to that mantra like a dog on a bone.
Since I loved any kind of dancing, and wanted to believe that if I just started dancing, something would happen…. I danced in my living room, danced in a modern sacred dance company, danced in clubs! However I grew restless with only that and what I really wanted was to teach my own kind of dance class. Once I realized that, I took a Nia® White Belt training in Lansing, Michigan and started teaching dance/fitness to 2-4 people once/week. That was the leg up I needed. It pulled everything together including my love of theatre, drama, dance, music and making people happy!
The next 10 years I danced up a storm, and at my peak, taught 275 students 20 hours/week. As part of that creative streak, I got asked to create and teach a 2 year Movement Arts component in a Theatre Arts Program at a local college. I pinched myself with the dance career I had created in my 40’s! I was totally inspired, fulfilled and living my dream of working with happy successful people who were happy to pay me to do my unique work in the world!
As part of this phase, I also co-created Synergy In Motion, a coaching business that had my partner and me traveling the globe for another 10 years. And on and on it goes! Daring to change. Having the courage to say “no” to some things and “yes” to others makes way for you to live out your wildest dreams. Is it simple? Yes. Easy? No. Worth it? Totally!
The reason I share my personal work life story with you is in the hopes of finding a piece that connects with you, moves you and inspires you to take action in those times… where fearing to make a change seems bigger than the gain awaiting you in the future. If this sounds like you, have a look at the steps I took and take courage, Grasshopper!
If I did it, so can you!
My steps from “safe” to inspirational
1) I took an honest in-depth look at my current job. I asked, “Who am I doing this for? Why am I doing it? What else could I choose that would be more aligned with “me,” and would make money too?” I realized my body wanted to move a lot more than sitting at a desk or in meetings or driving.
2) I got clear about who I wanted to work with. I realized that my clients in social work were mandated to see me and didn’t necessarily desire to change. I imagined the possibility of working with happy, successful people who wanted to pay me for my expertise.
3) I trusted myself to explore something more, something fresh and different! I didn’t give up. I kept asking, what else can I learn? Where else can I share the dance? That query led me on all kinds of adventures like teaching dance to 20 year old acting students, teen figure-skating champions, groups of Brownies and Girl Guides, a troupe of retired men in their 70’s!
4) I was willing to lose the security of a regular pay check. I was willing to be extremely uncomfortable waiting it out in the unknown. I was willing to fail.
5) I was willing to let go of perfection and follow the call of my spirit. Starting a dance career in my late 30’s was courageous. To dance in spandex in front of my peers was daunting. To learn choreography and somehow translate that to a room full of people, some who had danced more than me, was tricky! My inner voice telling me to do this was LOUDER than all my protestations!
Summing up, the truth is that after making that initial choice from safe to inspirational, I didn’t take steps, I leapt!
I get that not everyone is ready to leap, though, so I’ve left you some things you can do to freshen up your work-life in the meantime!
6 tips to refresh your work life
- Connect to why you’re doing this job, even if it’s only about the pay check, and let it fill your heart with gratitude.
- Ask what you can change about your current job to keep it fresh? Maybe change your office decor, change locations or companies, or pitch a new idea to your team?
- Ask what you can contribute to or receive from your colleagues, boss or maintenance people today to put a smile on their faces… and yours?
- Cultivate interests and friendships outside of work that nurture you.
- Go within and ask what else is possible that you haven’t considered to be able to enjoy and accomplish your unique work in the world? Then listen.
- Refresh your style – get a new hairstyle, a new look, that reflects the new you you’re becoming, then strut your stuff with confidence!
Thanks for reading this blog by Juna! As always, we love hearing from you, so please let us know how Juna’s blog inspired you in the comments section.
Let us know specifically if you are doing your inspirational work and if so, how did you get there?
OR if you’re working in your safe job and you wish to leave, are there any tips that you’ve found helpful?
What’s one thing you will do today to refresh your work life?