In 2015, I had an epiphany. Actually, it was more of an inner knowing that existed from back when I was in high school but I had kept a damper on while being a responsible adult with a family and career. This inner knowing was this deep-seated desire to help people live better lives. At the time my position at work was admirable, and I was good at what I did, but it simply wasn’t checking off the personal fulfillment boxes. I felt this unshakable need for change—but I knew it was any change. I wanted to find a way to be creative and help others transform their lives.
This led me to think about my retirement years. With only six more years before early retirement eligibility, I began to ask myself, what am I going to do? Mentally, I was done with the competitive corporate life … no feelings of regret or disdain, just that gut feeling that it was time to move on.
As I considered options for retirement, I realized I didn’t feel fully in charge of my life. Life was happening to me, and I had let it. I asked myself, how did I get here? For over twenty-five years there was a series of opportunities that fell within a few degrees of whatever state I was in at the time. I took those opportunities based on interest, money, and to do something different. The reality was I didn’t truly ever have a plan.
I recalled Dr. Stephen R. Covey’s body of work—specifically his concept that great strategies “begin with the end in mind.”1 All of a sudden, a wave of embarrassment hit me! I had been speaking (nearly preaching) at work for over two years about planning projects with the end in mind strictly from a business context, yet I never translated its usefulness to my personal life. I examined why and realized I was on autopilot doing my duties as a mom, wife, employee, etc., simply going along with whatever seemed interesting and would be deemed as growth.
I suppose because I was successful and very proud of my achievements I never truly took the time to self-reflect on where I was headed next. This is when I began paying attention to what highly successful (and happy) people do. The common denominator is that they have a vision or a destination in mind for what they want in life, a sense of purpose.
I was intrigued. It was as if this simple realization had opened a new door of opportunity. I began to change the direction of my life. I wanted to be in charge, to make life choices with an end in mind, and define what I wanted to do, and how I would do it from that day forward.
In 2016, I was given the wonderful opportunity—via a corporate downsizing initiative and a nice separation package—to design my life with purpose and intention. Below is a summary of the steps I took to change my life. You might have fewer steps or possibly more, but that’s the beauty of it! The process is yours—it really is all about you. Now before you start thinking it was easy for me, I guarantee you it’s rarely easy, but it is simple. All it takes is a desire to change, mindful activities, and ACTION!
How I Changed My Direction and Redesigned My Life
#1. I hired a Life Coach.
Let’s be real—there are times when you’re swimming in a million ideas, pros-n-cons lists, and a ton of doubt. Not to mention, those closest to you often aren’t able to give you the objective voice you need to reason through an emotional step of this magnitude. Some people will always support you no matter how crazy your idea is (“Kami, you’re a genius!”), while others will always play the part of a skeptic (“Do you know how many people fail when they try to switch careers? It’ll never work.”). I was swimming in a pool of career ideas; some required going back to school and others were purely about keeping me out of a 40-hour-week desk job. After already spending twenty years sitting at a desk, my health and body had paid enough! The bottom line was that I needed an unbiased sounding board to talk through my thoughts and give structure to my ideas. Someone who could provide insight and appreciate my enthusiasm but who could also give me a solid foundation to build on. I searched LinkedIn and hired an Executive Life Coach.
#2. I identified my values and created a personal mission statement.
A mission statement isn’t just for businesses. A personal mission statement can get you and your new career headed in the right direction. My coach gave me an exercise to explore and understand my personal core values, and from there I designed my personal mission statement. We started with a list of over thirty-six values from which I chose ten that we prioritized. This exercise allowed me to consider what was most important to me in life with no other context, just my values. If you truly think about it, it’s a brilliant process. When we muddy our minds with all the “what ifs” of a decision before us, we rarely vet it against our values. Instead, we think about what’s in it for me (WIIFM), money, feasibility, impact on ourselves and our family, and our level of desire.
Here is my final draft of my personal mission statement.
My mission is to act as a guide for others in navigating unexpected or desired changes. I will utilize my talents in teaching and problem solving to benefit others in an objective, calm and reassuring manner. I am committed to participating in all aspects of my life with harmony, emotional intelligence, and gratitude.
#3. I listed my passions and began building them into my life.
Like the values exercise, I made a list of things I love to do or wanted to be—advisor, mentor, teacher, creator, analyst, user-centered designer, and researcher. These are things that I do without realizing I’m doing them, like breathing. Each one is heart-centered, and the best part is I don’t have to choose just one. Many of us struggle because we try to find that ONE thing that we are meant to do, but trying to find only one thing is the reason we feel like something is missing. The notion that we have only one thing we are meant for limits us from fulfilling our greatness. Your heart is your best tool to access your true purpose and passion. Ask yourself what you love! Start taking steps to do what you enjoy. When you are inspired and connected to your happy self, inspiration floods your heart and soul.
#4. Keeping the end in mind and taking action.
Once I began finding ways to do the things I loved, I ran into a problem—there was an endless inspiration for application. There are multiple ways to be creative, subjects to teach, and analytical careers to choose from. I was blissfully happy but was back to doing things on autopilot, doing for the sake of doing. This is where having the end in mind is essential. With the help of my Executive Life Coach, I knew I wanted to become a life coach, and I also wanted to help people design or improve their business’s customer experience. I took action to bring those two things into my life. I signed up for a life coaching class at Southwest Institute of Healing Arts to become certified as a life coach. I began advising friends about optimizing their websites for higher conversion rates and better customer experience. I joined entrepreneurial mastermind programs and networking groups to immerse myself into the business owner mindset and learn from experienced entrepreneurs what it takes to succeed. I’ve taken my customer experience skills to MELT Coaching, a marketing company with a mission to help start-ups create a comprehensive marketing strategy.
My new direction is filled with daily excitement. I sometimes want to say I’m very lucky, but the truth is I’ve worked hard to earn this and have transformed my life. I am now living a life filled with purpose and intention.
1The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, New York, Simon, and Schuster, 2013