The Job of Your Life with Karen Schaffer

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Archive for the ‘Career Exploration’ Category

Self Trust is about Trusting Yourself to Change your Plan (if it isn’t working)

Posted by Karen on March 16, 2011

I found this unpublished thought in my drafts and finished it…thought it might feed the ongoing conversation on Self Trust a bit more.

Comments seem to prompt me to write more…so keep ’em coming!

On a comment from an earlier post, Carly said about her shift from full-time job to self employed coach:  “…if the day came that ceased to be true, I trusted that I could (and would) find a new path to reclaim that success”.

Self Trust doesn’t mean trusting that You’re 100% Right

We must have trust in ourselves to know what’s best for us in the moment.

 The goal is not to make the “perfect” choice and then must stick to it at all costs.  – or we have failed. (So many people function like this is the truth so no wonder people are so “indecisive” about deciding. Hint: you’re not indecisive, you’re anxious).

The goal is to know – know at all levels – that we’ve made a good choice, that feels right, right now with all the information we have…and we have the power to change it at any time, with more information and insight.

Too many people I talk to are in a place of absolute “I cannot fail at this choice” space. How can you possibly move forward if what you’re asking of yourself is the power to predict the future? You are not Sylvia Browne or Nostrodamus. You are you. Here today. With the best information you’ve got.

So take a deep breath. This is not about perfection, this is about trust. The trust that you will work it out, whatever happens. The trust that you’ve thought the decision out enough to know that you’ll gain something from the experience that is valuable to you – be it a new skill, more experience, new knowledge that is interesting to you or new connections for future work oppportunities. And ultimately, the trust that you can handle the situation if what you realize is that this choice is not the right thing for for you.

So here’s a question to explore about your feelings of indecisiveness: “Do I trust myself to handle the outcome if this path turns out to be different than I thought?”

Posted in Career Exploration, Emotional Life as connected to Career, Self Trust - I trust myself | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

All Quiet on the Eastern Front: Blogger Returns from Cave

Posted by Karen on April 20, 2010

Hello all…

Well, obviously, after the Olympics I fell off the face of my blog.

Really, the blogger in me retreated into a cave and hasn’t wanted to come out until now. It’s been nearly a year that I’ve been writing this blog. It started as a way to experiment – what I originally called “the secret garden” – as I developed tone, style, content and direction with no pressure. I didn’t intend to actively seek to draw any attention to it, and yet I found myself, throughout the year, taking small actions here and there that were more consistent with making it known. It’s been a mixed message for both the blog and me.

So where did I go? New Year, new posts, full of verve and fire. I had my energy up and on a roll…and then I stopped. Nothing dramatic. I just stopped.

Has that ever happened to you? You’re all fired up about something and it seems really full of energy and power and life and light…and then it STOPS.

It took a little while to get the threads of what happened inside myself that put the brakes on so hard. In the last few years I’ve learned that when something happens, when you get stopped on something, there’s usually some various threads of thought and circumstance that get bound up together in a tight knot, so tight that it’s hard to see what the problem is, even though the one thing is clear is that the knot – or something – is blocking progress forward.

In my case, I had this sudden feeling like a) I’d gotten way too serious on this blog and somehow that isn’t me (even though it’s part of me) and b) that I was career, career, career all day long with no room, no spaciousness for other thoughts or interests  coupled with the fact that c) I was getting spun out with too much social media (Facebook Fan Page? Twitter? Linkedin? Link them all? Who am I?) and as a result d) I was starting to lose touch with what I was doing this all for…my purpose in committing to write this blog in the first place.

No more “secret garden”. I’d somehow put the pressure on without even realizing it.

On top of all that, a new and tantalizing project came over my horizon. It beckoned with a different goals, different topic, different yet meaningful mission. It is definitely not a career-exploration/counselling project, but still very much me. It has opened up new potential pathways I hadn’t considered before and found myself excited to consider. Did I want to continue with careers? (A question I’ve been asking for the last 15 years btw, at regular intervals).

And as a result, all these strands of emotion, confusion and distraction threaded together in a big ole knot. In the meantime, I avoided this blog like I might avoid someone who made me uncomfortable. Didn’t really examine the discomfort…but didn’t stop by and chat either. 

You know, I still haven’t sorted it all out. But I did feel like it was the kind of thing that readers of a blog (supposedly) on career exploration might find interesting. Because this is me, exploring what it is I want to take on in my spare time. I don’t have a huge amount of spare time and one of the big things I learned in the month of March (the AWOL month) is that I need and DESIRE to be focused on something. And I have lots of interests and ideas.

However, spread too thin, nothing gets enough energy to move forward with power.

So in the cave I went.

I had to go quiet to listen to that part of me. And I had to wait as long as it took to get some clarity. One of the suprising decisions that came out of this quiet was that I stopped teaching the yoga classes I’d just started teaching again. A story for another day, but an example of a surprising (for me!) decision that came out of sitting with what was happening in my life.

I want to report that I’m still sitting with things. I’m still working out what this blog is about and what it is to me, versus the perceived pressure from every blog expert on the Net who says authoritatively you have to write consistently to build an audience. (Is that what I’m doing this for? To build an audience? Truthfully, I don’t know). However self-trust tells me I can’t write just to write, in my very own case, I need to feel out what this is about for me. I also need to stay in touch with the blog because it might be just the place to work this out.

I’ve been inspired by my friend Karina’s blog which you can find here – I love this post  – called “Label Whore” – because Karina (with all the funny I feel like I’m missing these days) really gets to the heart of what it is to integrate the self in what you do everyday for work. It’s challenging. We don’t like to hang out with that confusion for too long.

So…here I am…I’ll be back…I may change…I may not. And that’s how we progress. If you want to share your own stories or insights on dealing with confusion around what you’re supposed to be doing or how you’re exploring what to focus your life on, please feel welcome to share through comments. I know I could use some fresh insights and I’m sure other people could too.

With much appreciation to y’all for giving me some space,

Karen (aka the Schaffe)

p.s. If you read Karina’s post, know that I’ve known her simply as “Karina” for years and know all her secret and not-so-secret powers, which are many and impressive. So glad we’re going to get them all in one place!

Posted in Career Exploration, Emotional Life as connected to Career | Tagged: , | 3 Comments »

Great Post on Finding Your Passion

Posted by Karen on March 1, 2010

Those of you who know me know that finding passion in your work, career and life has been my passion for a long time (and what “The Job of Your Life” (the book) is all about.

That’s why I think this post by Carly Goldsmith has some wonderful ideas and specific actions to take around finding passion.


Posted in Career Exploration, Other People Talking Career | 1 Comment »

Follow up thoughts on Self Trust and the WORST Case Scenario

Posted by Karen on February 17, 2010

I got a great comment on the Self Trust post I put up yesterday, and I started writing a comment response. By the end of three paragraphs it occurred to me it was a post in itself…

So here’s Caryn Reddick’s comment:

Related to #1-4 above, I also recommended that you consider whether or not you are prepared to handle the “worst case scenario”. In other words, if you take a risk, and it doesn’t pan out, would you be willing to accept the worst thing that could happen. If so, the risk might seem less risky. Often the worst case scenario isn’t as bad as you think, once you really give yourself time to consider it. Again, great post.

Thank you Caryn for adding in that thought about the “worst case scenario” (for a related post by Caryn on her Original Success blog, click here it’s a very thoughtful corollary article that has great suggestions on how to deal with career-related fear).

Here was my “reply” comment that I’ve posted here instead.

A lot of people can’t even stand the thought of, say “wasting” money on a degree or further education or taking all these risks to put themselves out there and changing their mind. There are all kinds of obstacles that come out of, as you point out, fear. And fear is a very normal part of taking a risk into a new territory.

People often talk about “money” and “time” being the obstacles but there are others, such as wanting to get it “right” or being afraid you won’t really be passionate about it once you get there. In my book The Job of your Life I devoted an entire chapter on “Stories That Can Stop You” and how to think about them differently, including money & time.

Still, at the bottom of all these fears around making a decision is self trust. And Caryn draws attention to an important aspect of a big decision: can you trust yourself to handle the worst case scenario?

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Career Exploration, Emotional Life as connected to Career, Questions For Exploration | Tagged: , , | 4 Comments »

How Do I Trust Myself? Let Me Count the Ways

Posted by Karen on February 16, 2010

Last November I wrote a post on the importance of self trust (which begs the question: where does the time go?).

I had some interesting responses to that post, with some follow up questions along the lines of “How do I trust myself if I don’t trust myself”? Good question.

Trust is this really quirky little quality that requires you to do something before you get something back… i.e. to trust before knowing if the other person or the path is trustworthy – and if you can trust yourself to handle what happens if you choose to go forward. Moving forward safely takes courage and practice. It takes a high degree of relatedness with your “inner knowing signals” – that is with your body’s feelings when you are grounded in your decision at all levels.

It is something you can get related to by observing and practicing everyday. Start by learning to trust yourself on the smallest decisions, such as what to focus on in your day or what you eat for lunch. By feeling the small wins when you know you chose the right thing for you, you will become more familiar with your process to know when you’re ready to make a decision and if it’s the right one.

And I certainly didn’t learn to trust myself all by myself. I had some excellent coaches and friends who listened deeply to me when I was trying to decide something (big or small) and reflected what they heard both in the content of what I was trying to decide and also an “emotional” read of where I was: when I sounded scattered, anxious and frightened versus when I sounded grounded, coherent and calm (sometimes all in the same phone call!). Having a “mirror” to my inner state helped me to hear myself in new ways and to begin to recognize when my decisions became settled and certain.

So how do you know that you are “self-trusting”? Here are some questions to ask yourself that will help you “tune in” to where you are in the process:

1. Do I trust myself to handle what might come up in a new career path? Such as new information…unexpected detours…or fearful feelings about starting something new?

2. Do I trust myself to gently pull myself back if I go too far beyond my comfort zone? Do I know what it feels like to be “comfortably” outside my comfort zone?

3. Do I trust myself to recognize the signs when something is “off” or wrong for me at this time? Can I name the feeling in my body when this occurs?

4. Do I trust myself to get out of what is not right for me once I recognize it? Do I know my blind spots around letting go of something that isn’t working?

5. Do I trust my decision-making process? Do I give myself time to process emotions as well as thoughts? Do I recognize when “information” comes with an emotional undercurrent that needs to be understood and processed? Do I give myself the time and space to visualize myself fulfilling on the decision and experiencing the resulting feelings to see if I’m in tune with my decisions?

6. Do I recognize the feeling in my body when something is “right” for me? Can I identify other times I’ve known that in my life and regularly recreated that feeling for myself so it’s familiar?

7. Can I let things unfold organically or do I often try to force outcomes?

8. Can I trust myself to listen to another point of view with an open mind, knowing that I will make the final decision that is right for me?

9. Do I find smaller and less “high stakes” times to trust myself first before tackling bigger life choices like my career?

Posted in Career Exploration, Emotional Life as connected to Career, Questions For Exploration, Yoga and Career Exploration | Tagged: , | 3 Comments »

Conan’s Last Words

Posted by Karen on January 25, 2010

“To all the people watching, I can never thank you enough for your kindness to me and I’ll think about it for the rest of my life. All I ask of you is one thing: please don’t be cynical. I hate cynicism — it’s my least favorite quality and it doesn’t lead anywhere.

Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard and you’re kind, amazing things will happen.”

Conan O’Brien on the last episode of the Tonight Show (see full clip here)

Posted in Quotation | 3 Comments »

The Importance of Self-Trust

Posted by Karen on November 26, 2009

Consider this a follow-up to the “Spaciousness or Just Drifting” post 

#8 of that post said this: Ask Yourself – You Know the Truth Without This List Anyway: We have a deep knowing as human beings if we are doing something for the “right” or the “wrong” reasons – we just keep ourselves from knowing that truth by keeping ourselves busy and on the surface of our minds. If you have the courage to look inside deeply, you’ll know if you’re creating spaciousness or if you’re merely using the idea to keep you stuck.

What if  you really don’t know – like #8 suggests you really should – when you look inside yourself …because you don’t know if you know anything “true” about yourself anymore?

One of my readers emailed me that question. She pointed out that once you get into this career exploration thing – letting go with who you thought you were and what you thought you wanted and in the vacuum-like state of trying to discover what you DO want – you can often feel more lost and confused than you have in your entire life.

When you’re in that state, not only do you doubt yourself, you tend to also doubt yourself self-doubt and then second guess your second guess doubting. Head spins ensue. Lying on the floor in the fetal position begins to look like an appealing life choice.

My reader is right – and good to remind me – that the great unknown of searching for your passion can make you feel much more vulnerable when being told you should “know” whether or not something is true for you.

And that’s where Self-Trust comes in.

Self-Trust is the unsung, oft-missed and yet vital element of a transformative career search. What I’ve come to learn…though it’s really rather obvious when you think about it logically…is that if you don’t trust yourself, no matter what possibilities open themselves to you, you won’t take them – or often won’t even see them – because you don’t trust yourself enough to make the right choice.

I find this often happens particularly later in someone’s career, when they’ve been around the proverbial block enough times to have been “burned” by their decisions (even if they couldn’t have foreseen the consequences of the decision, such as a workplace environment going toxically sour). Even if there was no way of knowing the outcome, they begin to question and doubt their choices. They get stuck. “I don’t want to choose that direction if it’s only going to end up the same way”. There’s no way out of that one with certainty. No one knows how it will end up.

Or, another version of the Self-Trust shake up: losing one’s certainty of life purpose that comes from knowing what you do. That can seriously mess you up. I knew a guy who loved his marketing job so much he’d named his cats Trix and Snap after the brands he worked on. But when he didn’t love the job anymore he got severely depressed…who was he if not a marketing guy? Trust goes out the window because you begin to wonder “Did I know myself at all? And if I don’t know myself, how do I know if my new ideas are the right ones?”

So we could actually say that self-doubt is an integral part of career exploration. And Self needs Trust in order to move forward. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Career Exploration, Emotional Life as connected to Career, Yoga and Career Exploration | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

Spaciousness or Just Drifting?

Posted by Karen on September 8, 2009

(Shout out Renata and thanks for waiting for this one!)

So I’ve spent my summer (supposedly) working on this wonderful question from a “Job of Your Life” reader, who, in engaging with the new step of Spaciousness asked “How do I know if I’m being spacious or if I’m just drifting?”

Because that’s the concern, isn’t it?

In The Job of Your Life I’ve outlined the idea of Spaciousness – of allowing things to occur inside of a structured inquiry – which sounds really meaningful and important. But then you could just as easily be calling it “Spaciousness” when what you’re really doing is avoiding the decision or maintaining the status quo with a great excuse or drifting along thinking you’re getting somewhere but really just fooling yourself.

And really, in our chaotic world of “go, go, GO!” it does seem self-indulgent and new-agey to “just go with the flow” or that’s how it feels maybe when we’re trying to explain to people about our lack of perceivable action. And if it’s hard for other people to tell if we’re being “spacious” or just being “drifters”, it can be even harder to tell ourselves, since in this area of career exploration I find that people often feel like they’ve lost their proverbial mojo anyway – that inner sense of knowing that you’re going in the right direction.

Ironically the very reason WHY you’re career exploring is exactly why you feel so confused; you’re looking for a new direction you’ve never considered before.

That’s also why you can feel pretty vulnerable to the vagueness of the process, the wondering “Am I getting it right?” and the sense that other people would be doing a lot more fancy action steps. Plus we really don’t value spaciousness, ever. Our world has become so instantaneous and responsive, we have problems understanding why someone can’t “just get it together already” and make a choice. So measured by that standard, we get very unforgiving of ourselves if there’s any sense that we’re not in constant motion.

So here’s a way of evaluating whether it’s drifting or spaciousness:

1. A Created and Stated Intention: When you move into spaciousness, do so with intention. That mean, be clear on your outcome (not rigidly but with some specificity) such as “I allow new ideas and opportunities into my working life. I stay open to when these new ideas and opportunities arise”. Intentions are the structure, the silent backbone – it allows you to become spacious and allowing “with purpose”. If you want to know more about the power of intention, check out/read The Intention Experiment. It will scientifically both prove my point and blow your mind.

2. Follows an Intense Period of Breakthroughs: Spaciousness is often required if you’ve been doing some deep inner work. That takes time for your system to process. It may be that other, unexpected things came up, things you didn’t expect to be related to career. It may be you saw new things about how you relate to work, or your self-identity, or made progress in your personal self-development. Following the natural ebb and flow, this means letting things settle before leaping into the next stage.

3. Continued Personal Work: Spaciousness can still mean that you’re working with a coach or doing other kinds of personal work. I do notice that there are times that clients step away from regular meetings with me and need a few weeks or months to process what we’ve worked on. Or they may find an alternative form of therapy or personal work that they resonate with and want to do work with that for a while – this might require some spaciousness.

4. Keeping in Touch with Your Needs: Learning how to listen to yourself is one of the first hurdles of an inner exploration. If you know how to tune into yourself and when you tune in you are clear that you still need space – take it. Your mind might get impatient (mine always does) but I soothe it by showing it the undeniable truth – I’m not ready and I won’t be ready until I’m ready. And there’s no sense trying to hurry it.

5. Other Things Are Happening: Often we get impatient with ourselves at the weirdest times – like when you’ve had a big breakup or you’ve moved or you just had a kid (that goes for Dads too) or lost someone close to you. Everyone else is like “slow down, take it easy” but we try and crack our inner whip on the career thing, like that’s going to make a difference. I think we just have a deep human desire for emotional events not to touch or change us and so we reach out to things that we feel like we can control, like career decisions, even if it’s more appropriate that we spend time processing or getting through what we need to get through in the moment. If your moment is demanding your attention elsewhere, give it in trust. You can always check in with yourself if the demands continue to keep you away from your career exploration.

6. You Feel Engaged Even If You’re Not in Action: I always associate this one with writing. I have books in me that I don’t yet have time to write, but when I check in, they are there, waiting for me to be ready. I don’t feel like I avoid them; I feel like they are a delicious thing in my future that will flower at the right time (pardon the mixing of metaphors – I suppose you can eat a flower but maybe it won’t be delicious). If you check in on your feelings about the career exploration, and you feel positive about it – that some part of you is engaged, feeling like this change will be good and it’s coming – you’re likely in spaciousness.

7. You Get Unexpected Breakthroughs or Synchronistic Events: Spaciousness is the opportunity for your subconscious to process all the learning you’re doing about yourself and the possibilities and opportunities that might fit you. So you can be in a period of spaciousness and suddenly get a new insight, apparently out of nowhere, or get into a great conversation with a woman at the dentist’s office, or hear a program on the radio that seems like it’s speaking to you, even if nothing else seems to be happening. These are signs, also called termed God Winks and other various names, that let you know you’re still on the playing field even if you don’t feel geared up and carrying the ball (see…there go those metaphors again).

8. Ask Yourself – You Know the Truth Without This List Anyway: We have a deep knowing as human beings if we are doing something for the “right” or the “wrong” reasons – we just keep ourselves from knowing that truth by keeping ourselves busy and on the surface of our minds. If you have the courage to look inside deeply, you’ll know if you’re creating spaciousness or if you’re merely using the idea to keep you stuck.

It’s totally natural to doubt yourself, particularly when nothing seems to be happening on the surface. Spaciousness is the ultimate practice in trusting yourself – and trusting the Universe – that all will happen in right timing. Your insights are happening deep below the surface. Your job is coming. Stay peaceful. Stay connected.

All is right with the world.

Posted in Career Exploration, Emotional Life as connected to Career | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

A Thought from Po Bronson

Posted by Karen on June 23, 2009

“I’ve been all over the country,” I said. “And what I’ve found is that…if you succeed at something in which you’re honest to yourself and in line with your values and not wearing a mask to the world, then that does seem to make people happy. It’s not a mirage. When you succeed and you’re still unhappy, it’s usually because in your heart you’re conflicted about how you accomplished it or whether you really deserved or, most likely, that you’re conflicted about what you’ve presented about yourself to the world.”

 Po Bronson, What Should I Do With My Life?

Posted in Career Exploration, Quotation | Leave a Comment »

We Aren’t Taught About The Value of Space

Posted by Karen on June 5, 2009

Just as a follow up to the previous post, I just had to share something I saw in the free Metro paper handout yesterday.

So in the paper they have this Canada-wide “Word on the Street” poll, with a little on-the-street photo of about six people, their ages, their city and their on-the-spot quote (we assume) when asked a question. Yesterday’s question was “Should Canada have more legislated vacation days?”.

I’m going to pick on Richard Kevis here, age 19 from Calgary. Richard, caught on camera with slightly untidy long hair and a rocking sunglasses/black blazer/no tie with his collared shirt look, served up this gem of an answer:

“Probably not. Days off aren’t really practical. They’re not really used for anything. They’re not really necessary to the system”.

We can speculate as to whether Richard Kevis, age 19, Calgary was having us on, or if he truly believes that no one “uses” days off productively and therefore aren’t necessary to the Kafkaesque machine we like to call “work” but it’s interesting to hear what bubbles under most people’s thinking about time off so blatantly. We have not been taught that it is wise – nay essential – to have space from our work. We don’t get great or easily accessible models for spaciousness and how that might link to productivity, creativity or even the ability to rest and re-charge.

We had a model once, long ago, in the Christian world, that went something like “And on the seventh day God rested” but lately we have all started to act like God was a bit of a wuss, and that spaciousness is a sign that we’re getting soft or lazy. I meet so many people (myself included) who have a secret suspicion they’re lazy.

We’re not. We’re exhausted.

Some of the things I love to say when I teach yoga is “Enjoy the spaces between the postures” and “Enjoy the resting posture, the counter-posture to the active movements. Observe how this rest allows you to feel the energy you’ve created”. Often students come up to me after to tell me how much they liked that direction, in part because we tend to devalue the parts of the yoga class where it seems like we’re not “doing” anything. But we are. We are observing our energy releasing. We are enjoying the active part of our practice from the restful state. We are allowing the active postures into our being.

Holidays serve as that same spaciousness to our life. They allow us to sit back, appreciate who we are, where we’ve come from, what we’ve achieved and what we’d like to be doing. Often, it’s not that conscious a process. We don’t think at all (and perhaps this is Richard’s real protest). We happily “don’t think” about anything but jumping into the cottage lake, or enjoying our families, or visiting a new place, or sitting in the back yard reading the paper cover to cover and weeding the petunias. Little do we know it, but our “don’t think” period refreshes us at the deepest levels, allowing (wait for it) SPACE for new ideas to emerge. I bet you all have had the experience of moving away from something you’re working on, and coming back to it fresh with new ideas after a bit of a mental ‘holiday’.

So…thank you Richard for your opinion. You made me laugh and you also made me think about how to start better speaking the value of space.

Enjoy your summer vacations!

Posted in Career Exploration, Careers and Work in the News, Yoga and Career Exploration | 1 Comment »