I often get asked how it is that I left the practice of law and became a Professional Life Coach—like people can’t believe anyone would leave such a traditionally lucrative career for something barely heard of. Honestly, like most life changes, the process was gradual. But, there was a key day, a key moment, when probably the hardest, big decision was made.
One late summer morning, several years ago, I woke up with the same thought I’d had in my head almost every morning that year: Why am I doing this? Why am I making myself sick? Why am I spending my days on dissatisfying work instead of with my family?
I had just learned that my husband and I were infertile, and I was pre-diabetic.
About a month earlier, I found out that my dad had a brain tumor.
Earlier that year, my mom had her second bout with breast cancer.
And there I was, another morning waking up in a daze, heading to the office, to work on unrewarding cases, in an unfulfilling job, staying late, taking it home, coming in on weekends, and missing out on what mattered to me the most. For what? Money that I didn’t have the time or energy to spend.
But that day would be different, because that day I decided to make a change and quit my job as an associate at a mid-size law firm.
I wasn’t sure where it would lead me. I knew I needed to spend more time with my husband, to figure out how to take care of myself, enjoy what I could with my parents, and try to build a family of my own. I knew I needed something significant to change in the work I was doing, but had no idea what, and I knew it wasn’t going to happen there.
We have a tendency sometimes to shy away from challenge. The reason why depends on the person, but it usually comes down to fear of failure. We look at the mountain in front of us and worry about what happens if we can’t make it to the top.
There are two other perspectives that can help us find the courage to try. First, to focus on the reward at the end of the risk – what if we DO summit that mountain? How amazing would that be? Wouldn’t it be worth it? This requires a sort of risk-reward analysis of us.
Second, to focus on the value of the experience of trying – what will we take away with us from climbing, even if we don’t make it to the summit? What will we learn about ourselves? What beauty will we experience? What other, unforeseen challenges will we overcome? This approach necessitates identifying failure itself as a brand of success.
These two approaches aren’t mutually exclusive, at all. In fact, the best way to motivate ourselves to take on a challenge is often to use both. In the end, the benefit received from accepting the challenge is the reason challenge-based coaching is so effective.
The day I decided to quit, I knew that following that path would be its own challenge. But, challenge is a fire that cleanses, renews, tempers, benefits, and inexorably changes. It was exactly what I needed.