The Job of Your Life with Karen Schaffer

Get out of your rut and find your passion

Posts Tagged ‘Career Exploration’

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 »

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 »

It’s My Party and I’ll Cry If I Want To…

Posted by Karen on April 20, 2009

Boundary crossing happens in ways big and small almost daily in our lives. Sometimes it’s very obvious (ask any pregnant woman how many times strangers reach for her belly in the later stages without permission) and sometimes it’s very, very subtle.

What’s a boundary cross?

All of us have a personal sense of our boundaries and those boundaries are different for each of us. Some moms-to-be don’t mind having their bellies touched and others feel it’s a great intrusion into their personal space. Some of us don’t mind people asking us lots of personal questions and for other people that’s the worst kind of conversation. Boundaries are the invisible lines between our Self and another person.

Imagine that you are throwing a party. What kind of people do you let into the house? Some people are fine with all kinds of people…the more the merrier. Others would really only let in a few, with the request that the party stay in the kitchen and not expand all over the house. In this scenario, if you’re out in the world interacting with people, some people are going to try to come to your party and they won’t necessarily respect the inner rules you’ve set down.

And really, it’s not their fault. People go where they go; it’s up to us to recognize if we’re feeling comfortable with them there or not, deal with it and find respectful ways of asking them to leave.

Really, boundaries are the fluid, invisible borders of trust between us and others. When someone crosses our boundaries, we cease to feel “safe” emotionally.

You can tell if someone has crossed your boundary if you feel defensive, angry, suppressed, upset – in a word reactive. Someone has come to the party that wasn’t invited, or who brought a big, honking elephant who is now tromping through your garden. It seems an obvious rule-breaker to you, but it turns out they always bring that particular elephant to the party and they don’t know what the big deal you’re making about it is.

And sometimes when it happens, we don’t really know it happened in the moment; it’s only later, when we examine the way we’re feeling that we notice something “off”. “It seemed like such a great time, why do I feel so awful?”  When you dig deeper, you might notice that someone crossed over past the “safe” zone – perhaps they started pulling things out of your hall closet and handing them around – and because you didn’t notice anything wrong at the time (they were being really funny about it after all), you didn’t know it was important to stop them doing it.

Boundary crossing is an inevitable part of life.

I do it, you do it and we’ve all had it done to us, probably last week or just before lunchtime today. It’s when someone comments on how you’re raising your child – maybe even as a joke – but it goes deep in. It’s when people give you advice on your career change and you didn’t ask for it (“You know what you should be is  a [something you would never be for a million dollars]”). It’s when people you care about and depend on question your choices (“Why would you leave that job? It’s a great job!”). It’s when someone at a job interview asks a subtly inappropriate question that puts your morals in question and you feel helpless to defend yourself because you don’t want to risk your chances of losing the job.

I’ll give you an example.

I had this wonderful chiropractor a few years ago – a really lovely woman who wanted to help people – and she was good at it. She had helped people as much as she could as a chiropractor, and was just starting on the path to becoming a coach. That was fine, except that she tried out new methods in her chiropractic office – a bit of a boundary cross, since that wasn’t advertised on the nameplate.

One day I went in for a treatment. I just wanted her to take care of me physically. I had been through several challenging emotional things and I was looking forward to be nurtured.

The first boundary cross was her trying to get me to come to more treatments because once a month wasn’t enough. Not a big one, given since I could concede it was true, but perhaps she could have waited until I was off the table to discuss it with me. This is when I put up an old defense of mine because I wasn’t on benefits at the time – I made it about money. “I’d love to but I can’t afford to right now”.

She’d heard that before from me and she decided to “coach” me on it. While feeling exceedingly vulnerable (I’m lying on a table, while she has her hands on my back) she asked me personal questions about my money goals and suggested abundance advice. At first it was okay, and I answered politely. But as it continued I felt more uncomfortable and by the time I left I was steaming mad.

How dare she try and talk to me about my money issues? What does she know about me and money? Did she know I had already written some of her coaching advice in a book? Did she know that I had a coaching call scheduled with my coach (my actual coach) that afternoon for that very topic? Where did she get off?

Now. Here’s the thing. People go where they go. They say what they say and they do what they do and it’s not their problem that they hit a huge trigger inside of us.

If I dug deep – and I did – I had to admit:

A) She had a point. I did have money issues that needed to be addressed at a deep level. What was really stinging me was how long I’d felt I’d been working on them and the embarrassment of having someone else come along and poke me where I already felt I was behind.

B) I opened the door by saying I didn’t have the money to come regularly, instead of saying “no” or saying nothing in response and later booking the appointment that worked for me.

C) I could have at any time asked her to stop coaching me. A lot of what paralyzed me in the moment was not knowing how to get out of the conversation and still be a “nice person” (ever my struggle!) – and how was she to know that?

Those are all my lessons, which I’m happy to report, I’m learning and growing on – and seeing the resulting change in my behavior and results.

But right in that moment I was stuck. Speechless. A wonky-spined deer in headlights.

And yet, she did some pretty big boundary crossing…going deep into personal territory unasked.

It left me really confused. I couldn’t understand how her good intentions had gone so awry. The whole episode was surprising to me because she had been so good about physical boundaries. In her treatments she always asked if it was okay to use a piece of equipment or to put menthol on me. So I was unprepared for the emotional boundary cross without permission.

I requested a phone call with her about it later, when I had processed my upset and could speak without being angry. It was hard and a little scary to do – I don’t like making people feel bad – but I felt it was important to share what I had felt so that she could take that knowledge forward into other interactions with her clients. She apologized profusely and let me know she was in the process of becoming a coach and it was all new to her. That made sense to me. I shared how I felt without (hopefully!) judging her behavior – just let her know what it felt like and how surprised I was that the session took that turn. It was a good completion and gave me back the power I felt I had given away in the session when I didn’t have the wherewithal to speak up for myself. I hope I left her in a place of power too, learning how to translate her excellent practices as a chiropractor into her new career as a coach.

Boundary crossing is going to happen. It’s how we deal with it that gives us power.

The first step in learning about boundaries is learning to notice when people cross them. I get a lot of clients who share upsets, anger, confusion or even just a sense of heaviness or weariness, and when I start looking for the source, it rests in a boundary cross – something someone has said or done that “went in”. A party goer who tiptoed in and then trashed the place.

Now granted people can’t go around wrapped in psychological cotton wool on the off chance someone’s going to say something insensitive. Remember: people are going to go where they go – they have their opinions and ideas about what’s right and wrong and okay and not okay – and you can’t stop them from doing or saying things that push your buttons emotionally. This happens a lot in career exploration and job search – other people have lots of opinions based on their experiences and you can’t control how they are going to interact with you about your journey.

Reducing the impact means first you need to be aware of the source of the trigger and your reaction to it.

  • Can you get flattened if someone tells you something negative about a job path you’re pursuing?
  • If someone disagrees with what career you want to do or school you want to attend, do you start to question yourself again?
  • How often do you consider the source of the person who questions you, or do you let everyone’s opinions in without checking in?

Observe and Report as Seth Rogen’s new movie title would say.

1) Start with observing who and what’s said that can get under your skin. Often a boundary cross happens because it’s something you feel vulnerable or doubtful about to some degree already. It’s why parenting comments go in so deep – I haven’t met a parent yet that doesn’t question their choices at some point, if not daily, about the way they handle things. Know what comments can “get” you and prepare for them.

2) Next, learn how to process the feelings that come up – preferably not with the person who caused them. It’s not really about them at this point. It’s about you figuring out why this particular boundary cross felt so painful. Sometimes it takes time to figure out what’s at the heart of the exchange for you. If the thing they said or did didn’t have some iota of truth or connection to your personal fears or doubts, it wouldn’t have created such a strong reaction.

3) Best advice ever: don’t try and manage a big boundary cross the same day it happened if you can help it. I just tried recently…it didn’t go well! Often it takes a day or two to process the emotion, figure out what happened, figure out how important it is to say something about it and figure out what to say that is clean and non-judgmental. Only when your communication is simple, direct with no “sticky” words or emotional venting are you fully integrated and ready to speak to someone. Take a day, take a week, take as long as you need to get clear. I promise it will be way more effective that way.

4) Sometimes you even have enough time to figure out you don’t need to speak to the person at all; you can just make a new choice and move on.

Becoming present to boundary work allows you to trust yourself more deeply and build confidence that you can move safely in the world. It’s one of the essential tenets of good career exploration that no one ever talks about. Strong boundaries lead to a strong sense of self, unshaken by the outside world.

People go where they go. And you can handle it.

Posted in Career Exploration | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

Two Career Exploration Questions To Get You Started

Posted by Karen on February 11, 2009

If you spend some time with a question – really spend time getting a handle on it…not only getting an answer, but also another layer down to the insight beneath that answer…it can bear a lot of useful fruit.

I ask a lot of different questions in Career Exploration  and the recent workshop I did at The Yoga Loft reminded me how powerful questions can be. The tricky part is that you can’t put pressure on the answer to take you somewhere directly or to solve the overall career question. You have to just hang out with the question and see what emerges. I call it “meditating” on the question rather than thinking about it. Thinking about it gets you the logical answers, the first round of the answering process. Meditating to me speaks of letting yourself go quiet – letting the question sink in deep, and letting your subconscious get working on it. I find the next layer of “answer” floats to the surface of your consciousness between an hour and three weeks later.

Sometimes what comes to you is mind-blowing and sometimes its useful for clarifying something for yourself. Either way, it keeps you in the conversation with yourself. I’ll tell you this though: it’s the little insights, coming one by one, that add up to the whopping big breakthrough you’re looking for.  You just don’t get to know when the big wave comes.

So keep on asking yourself questions and spend some time with each one to see if there’s real juice in them (sorry for all the mixed metaphors…I’m riding end of the day fumes where waves, juice and meditating all come together as one big happy explanation).

Okay…here are two questions to get you started:

1) What, right now, do you KNOW about your next step or next career?

2) What, right now, DON’T you know?

Try writing one thing for each. Then come back to the exercise and try adding a few more for each question.

One of the aims of this exercise is to see that you DO in fact know things about your next step, even if you don’t exactly KNOW what it is. You are in a process…you’re really in it…and some things are clear to you (even if it’s “I really don’t want to do THAT job ever again”) and some things aren’t. The questions act like guideposts to where to look next.

For instance, if you are having trouble writing your resume and you sat down with the question “What don’t I know”, and what you don’t know is what exactly you’re applying to…well, now you know you need to step away from the resume and do some other exploration first.

Treat the “don’t know”, as an observation, not a judgment of your progress. Your judgments about how far along you should be in the process by now get in the way of you hearing deeply what is needed next.

Let me know how it goes!

Posted in Career Exploration, Questions For Exploration | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

The Yoga of Career Exploration

Posted by Karen on February 3, 2009

Spent this past Sunday giving a workshop on how the practice of yoga can support your career exploration. It’s a workshop I have held before, in the fall of 2006, and holding it again allowed me to observe how much I have integrated the learning from the principles for myself. The workshop was blogged about, which is a first for me. So…in all…awesome.

To give you a taste…I took four principles from yoga practice – Playful Exploration, Spaciousness, Self-Trust and Acceptance, and looked at the ways that this can form a new way to approach Career Exploration.

Playful Exploration: In the practice of yoga, we explore postures and movement. We see what is possible in our bodies, without striving. We hear something new a teacher says about the posture (or hear something we’ve heard a million times and suddenly “feel” it in our bodies) and we play with that direction to see what that does to our experience of the posture. I add the word playful because playful to me conveys the lightness of the exploration. It’s not heavy and full of judgment and assessment. We aren’t commenting on where we can go or how far we come or where we are compared to where we should be. We’re in it. We’re being the posture.

Spaciousness: I’ve written more about this now in The Job of Your Life 10th Anniversary Edition. In yoga, spaciousness conveys our experience of the whole yoga. Often people relate the most strongly with the “strong” postures – the downward dog, the warrior – when they are sweating and energetically holding. Then when they get to a counter posture, like child’s pose, they just relax without awareness. We dismiss it as “easy”, as the holding place between the more important postures that are really “doing something”. I invited the class to really experience the spaciousness, to honour it and recognize it’s importance. Even the spaces between the postures can be full of awareness and experience. Spaciousness allows us to savour and release the energy we create, to fully experience it. Without spaciousness, there is no awareness.

Self-Trust: Yoga allows us to explore and observe how much we trust ourselves. Are we willing to move slowly and with awareness in new ways? Do we hold ourselves stiff because we are afraid of getting hurt, or we have an unshakable belief that our “shoulders will always be tight” or “I can’t touch my toes”? Can we not do a posture that everyone else is doing because we know that it’s not right for us today? Self-trust is how to move safely in yoga. One trusts the instructor, and yet each class is a co-creation with your inner teacher. Self-trust allows us to make the decision to go forward because we trust ourselves to take care of ourselves when something isn’t right.

Acceptance: I accept where my body is. I accept where my body is in this class. I accept where my body is in this posture. I accept where my body is in this moment. Learning how to accept ourselves, have compassion for where we are at every moment…this is the practice of yoga.

My breakthrough has been in seeing how these areas apply so powerfully to a Career Exploration.

Most people come into a career exploration feeling heavy, serious, action-oriented, pushing for the answers and yet not trusting themselves to know if it’s really the right answer. As human beings we are generally not very good at being compassionate at the best of times. We get even harder on ourselves when we don’t have what seem like things that should be important or “simple”. Of course what we’re asking to be clear about is only the most profound life questions of “Who am I?” “What is my purpose?” “What are my unique gifts and how can I serve the world with them in a way that bring me joy?”. It’s not like ordering off a McDonald’s menu.

Of course society at large doesn’t help because we are not, as good North Americans, very tolerant of unanswered questions or anything that appears as indecisiveness. Hence the non-compassionate attitudes that often surround career exploration (as one person in the seminar said, “I don’t want to be running around “chasing my bliss” while telling my partner he has to do things he doesn’t like in the meantime”). We don’t want to be irresponsible in the exploration…we still need to keep up our end of the practical necessities of life.

And at the same time make space for a delicious, open, playful exploration.

Using the practice of yoga to learn through the body what the exploration of Self is…it’s a great way to find new avenues and secret pathways to your inner “answer”. And to have a much more peaceful and joyful experience while you’re at it.

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Aiming for Perfection in your Career Exploration

Posted by Karen on January 25, 2009

Kelly asked if I could comment on perfectionism and how it relates to careers. In my work, I’ve seen how perfectionism can deeply impact not only the outcome of a career exploration, but also the quality and enjoyment of the process.

Let’s define perfectionism first.

For the purposes of this blog and this topic, we’ll talk about perfectionism in a couple of ways. First of all, it’s an internal measuring bar. We all hold ourselves to a set of standards, whether we are consciously aware of what those standards are or not.  Some people have much higher personal standards than others. Those standards can be so high in fact that they are nearly impossible to attain, but you will still feel like that’s the level of achievement needed to be reached for the action to be a success.

That’s a lot of words…I feel like I could write forever to try and attain the perfect definition (see…right there). Luckily my son demonstrated it for me this afternoon.

At three years old he likes hiding under things.

Today we made a “tent” with a blanket over his small table. Well, not content to play under there, he got whiny and demanding, asking us over and over to help re-set the blanket. He kept asking us to “make it dark”. Mark and I got frustrated; nothing we did made it dark enough. Meanwhile, instead of enjoying his little tent, he was upset it didn’t meet some idea he had about how the tent should be. He didn’t enjoy himself, he upset everyone around him and all the fun went out of the game.

Sound familiar?

You know you are bringing perfectionism into your career exploration if you’re sucking all the life and fun out of the process by demanding it to look a certain way. Lots of us do this…I promise you that you’re not alone. We have some unattainable idea of how fast it should go, what progress should look like, what exactly we should be focusing on and how we will “know” the right answer. And in the end we just end up like whiny three year olds who cry a lot and topple over the whole table because we’re so frustrated we can’t make it happen the way we think it should go. That’s when it gets easy to think we’re stuck or  stupid or lost.

None of those are true. We just hit an inner road block when our expectations came up against the true nature of the (mostly creative, mostly non-linear) career exploration process.

So that’s what perfection in career exploration looks/feels like. Next we can discuss ways to break through this state. One of the first ways is by becoming conscious of what you expect from yourself in the process.

How does the need for perfection impact your career exploration? What high standards have you set for yourself?

In the meantime, stop trying to make it so dark!

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