This post was written by Laura Coe, an entrepreneur, author, and coach working to bring emotional fitness to our daily lives through practical techniques steeped in ancient wisdom.
I wanted to share a mistake I made that left me searching for something – something that I already had, but did not see.
When I started working at the age of 24, my goal was to build a company and sell it before the age of 30. At the time, 30 seemed really old, so that number made sense to me.
We sold to a Fortune 500 company when I was 35, which I later realized was still super young. I found myself suddenly working as an executive with stock options, bonuses, benefits… and I was unhappier than I had ever been.
Here’s my mistake
I thought that when we sold the company I would feel a sense of calm, joy, peace, and/or fulfillment. As if I had climbed a mountain and reached the top and that experience would create a shift in my life that would be everlasting.
We sold the company, and I was happy. Of course it was a positive moment, but the feeling I expected to follow never came. It was like staring down an empty road.
Here’s what I did not expect
I was overwhelmed. The truth is I was having a ton of feelings and in sum total, it left me overwhelmed. I was proud that I completed my goal and happy to have the security from the sale.
However, I was also sad because we built the company from infancy to maturity and I was handing my “baby” over to the world. I was stressed because we had a ton of goals to meet right away due to the sale. I was fearful about the future. What would I do next?
I believed that when I attained the American Dream, I would have a sense of fulfillment. The “I have arrived” moment. I had the house, a child, a relationship, and now money. I was supposed to feel perfect. What was missing?
What I missed
I didn’t realize at the time that the top of the mountain does not exist. The moment of arrival is just another moment and is not where the feelings of contentment, peace, or joy come from.
I was stuck in the “When I Am” game. When I am thin enough, rich enough, loved enough, and every other “Enough” there is, then I will be happy. What’s even worse is at that point in time I wanted to feel all of those “Enough’s” at the same time!
After leaving Corporate America, I went on my search for an authentic career. I was determined to be that person who loves what they do. By the way, it could have been a search for anything: an authentic relationship, identity, parent, a project like a book, or a desire to travel the world… In my case, I was stuck in my career.
I went in search of an authentic career, but I was using the same old method to find it: I had an idea of what the “right” career looked like, and I would not rest until I discovered that. I searched for this pre-conceived idea of a career, not my own idea of what I wanted.
What seemed like a rather simple goal turned into 3 years of banging my head into the wall, the floor, and any other hard object you can imagine. Why? What was I doing wrong?
My intention was great, but my process was not.
I led my journey with my mind full of voices of culture and upbringing. In other words, I was emotionally obese.
What is emotional obesity? Simply put: as a culture, we focus on beauty and the health of our bodies, but not the health of our emotional lives. Due to this neglect, we become emotionally obese – carrying the weight of our unresolved emotional lives, unknowingly.
This weight piles on as we make choices based on what is right or wrong according to external influences, not our own goals, desires and values. The weight is shed by getting honest about what we want without the wrath of judgment from outside ourselves, destroying our ability to pursue our dreams.
I started over with a book, Emotional Obesity, based on my journey to find my ultimate passion in my career. I also started over with the approach I was using. Nothing in my approach was working until I realized I was doing everything upside down. I turned myself right side up, and suddenly everything started to flow.
Here are my five best steps to approach any area of your life that is not producing the outcome you desire.
Five steps to find your passions
After my three years of struggle, I finally broke free. This is what I learned, along with some actions you can take to break free from whatever is holding you back right now.
1. Set an intention
I wanted to find a career that was authentic and that I was passionate about. To do this, I had to release myself from the pressures of external influences and find out what my own values and beliefs truly are. I got real.
Action: Write down your intention and attempt to ignore the immediate need to judge your dreams.
2. Find external influences that matched your own
When I had trouble finding a clear path for myself, this really helped. I consulted those who understand my dreams or who have accomplished my goals.
Action: Find people who are doing what you want to do or who have shared values, and ask for their guidance.
3. Only take action when it feels right
I learned how to trust my sense of what I wanted by checking in first with me. If I feel dread, anxiety, depression, heaviness or anything like that, I do not move forward no matter what my mind tells me.
Action: Feeling bad? Change course.
4. Fear is not a deal breaker
Fear can be a good thing. Fear shows up when we are doing something important. Sometimes fear is real and we should take notice, but most often it is resistance – we are stepping into our passions. I found the courage to step forward when I was scared. Being scared is no excuse.
Action: Take action, even if you do not feel ready.
Every moment is a win. My website went up without crashing. Win. Got a call with someone I wanted to talk with. Win. The call went well. Win.
I am not waiting until “the end” this time to celebrate. I do not mean that I crack open champagne, but I privately take a moment to smile, appreciate the opportunity and enjoy the possibility of what is to come.
Action: Find something to celebrate today.
We want to find ultimate happiness and live a life that feels authentic, yet we are not taught as a culture how to achieve this. We spend countless hours at the gym, eating kale, or seeing specialists in order to feel better. We believe when we are thin enough, rich enough, smart enough, and loved enough, we will be happy.
But total health is impossible without this understanding: we cannot feel better until we attend to our emotions with the same energy we’ve put towards our physical fitness.
Drawing from my own struggles with emotional obesity and the experience of hundreds of other students, I’ll help you shed the weight.
Weight that we’ve all been carrying for too long.
Laura Coe is an entrepreneur, author, and coach working to bring emotional fitness to our daily lives through practical techniques steeped in ancient wisdom. She co-founded Litholink Corporation, a healthcare company serving over 350,000 patients per month nationally. When Litholink sold to a Fortune 500 company, she left corporate America to pursue lifelong passions.
Now she devotes her energy toward writing and coaching, helping others implement spiritual teachings in their everyday lives. Her first book, Emotional Obesity, is scheduled for release in 2014.