In last Monday’s post, I talked about how my self-funded sabbatical will be a way for me to “empty my cup“.
In this post I want to share how I’ve realised that I have made a commitment to changing my life in a big way – I’ve taken the first, and most important step. I don’t normally do big!
This week an article on the CareerShifters blog crystallised my thinking about what I’ve done and what I still need to do. (Most of the quotes below are from this article, unless otherwise specified).
“Either you are in or you are out, there are no degrees of commitment.”
If I am watching TV and complaining, I’m not in. If I am taking action, exploring new areas, saving money and talking to people, I am committed. I’m doing these things and more. I am committed.
So what have I committed to? What is my aim, my vision?
Can I verbalise this? Hmmm… tricky.
The way I see it, I have made two commitments to myself:
- I’m taking a self-funded sabbatical for at least three months.
- To take time to conceptualise the kind of work I want to do in the future. I am going to create a successful and thriving composite career for myself, possibly self-employed, using all my skills, knowledge and talents. This will give me freedom from working with other people’s ideas. It’s time to work with my own unique blend of talents, skills and passions.
1. So commitment… what’s that all about?
About 3 or 4 years ago I decided I would return to the UK, but the notion was vague and ill-formed. Two years ago, I spoke to my boss about leaving our project and we set up a contract ending in June 2019.
Even with this step in place, the decision felt a bit random. It was still far away.
Last year I watched a number of colleagues at the university take or plan their sabbaticals and I resented them. I was jealous that they would have so much time away from structured work and all that entails.
In this resentful space, I raged (internally) about the injustices of my work environment, the differences between contract and full-time staff. But as I raged, something interesting happened.
I realised that I had a choice: I could be a victim of my circumstances and wallow in resentment. Or, I could do something about it and take action. Take back my power.
An idea began to percolate in my subconscious. When it surfaced, it seemed the most perfect solution. Give myself a sabbatical.
Could I do it? Would it work financially?
Actually, those questions are academic, excuses, the ego’s way of preventing me from doing anything exciting, anything risky. I had the feeling that this is what I needed. It was important for my well-being. No. Make that essential.
As the idea lodged itself in my consciousness, it developed into a full-blown commitment to myself. A big deal. I’ve never made such a big decision BY myself and FOR myself. It galvanized me into ACTION. It was Jean-Paul Sartre who said: “commitment is an act, not a word.” Evidence of my commitment would be obvious in everything I choose to do from now on.
The word commit comes from the Latin word committere, which means to connect, entrust. Jan Gordon, an executive, career and personal coach says that when we stand behind our words, we demonstrate commitment. “Commitment exists when our actions meet the expectation of our words – when there’s a congruency between intent, words and action”. Harmony between intentions, what I say and what I do. Nice!
Strangely, it released all the pressure about “what I would do for work back in the UK” thoughts. Now, I have begun to share my plan with others and when I tell people that I’m leaving South Africa for the UK and they ask the inevitable question, I answer with “I’m taking a self-funded sabbatical” – complete with air quote hand gestures. Notice the confidence in that statement. I am, rather than I’m hoping to… So far, no-one has looked at me in horror and asked if I’m crazy. I’m taking that as a good sign.
I have been sharing. I have been telling people my plan.
“Commitment doesn’t work in secret. The more you share what you’re committed to with other people and with the world, the more it comes to life.”
So if you’re a regular reader, you’ll know exactly what I’ve committed to for the sabbatical part, precisely because I’ve been sharing it.
But what about the bit that comes after the sabbatical. You know, the bit about earning a living?
2. Here’s the second part of the commitment.
In the past my story would’ve gone something along these lines…
“Oh my, I need money, I need a job before I can do anything”.
So I jump at the first thing that comes along. Make sudden knee-jerk decisions.
Pretty soon I become unhappy because even though I have the skills and knowledge and I’m good at it – I hate it. It doesn’t feed my soul.
I am not a person who knew what I wanted to be. I had an idea about being a teacher or an interior designer. I chose teaching so I could go to the same university as my school friends. Once I finished studying, I taught for a year before going to the UK and finding I wasn’t qualified to teach there.
I ‘fell’ into jobs. Looking back, I know I have done these well and have been respected for what I do. But I have to say I have never enjoyed them that much, particularly project managing and being responsible for people or a team.
The hardest things to do is conceptualise the type of work I actually want to do, although when I wrote the first draft of my novel last year for NaNoWriMo, my leading character comes damn close to the ideal.
Can I conceptualise it in ‘real life’? That’s where the doubt comes in for me. I am nervous and apprehensive about what my future might hold. I am going to be out of my comfort zone. I find it hard to stop worrying about what other people think. I wake up abruptly in the middle of the night in a cold sweat, stressing about money. I know that I have committed to something but I have no idea how it is going to pan out. I am struggling to define what kind of approach this will be. The true nature of the thing is still out of reach. But I’m happy to be open to whatever comes my way, to trusting that there is more than one way to do this.
Natasha Stanley (of CareerShifters) writes:
“You need to be willing to go to the difficult places, push yourself past your comfort zone, take extraordinary actions to create extraordinary results. You need to be OK with being uncomfortable. You can feel excited and inspired, or you can feel like crap, and still be committed. In fact, it’s in the moments where it hurts that your commitment begins to shine.”
OK, I get it. I just need to get used to all these uncomfortable feelings. There is a well-known quote by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe that says that until that commitment is place, we hesitate. But once we make that leap to commitment, then all other things will also start to fall into place, what he calls providence. Things will begin to connect, align and be in harmony.
“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative and creation, there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too.”
I have noticed that he is right, but I’ll share those observations another time. This post is already too long!
So, there you have it. My long commitment story. Whew! Most of my life I have been carried along with other people’s plans and not my own. This is one of the few times when I have made a life-changing decision on my own.
Have you ever done something like this? What were the consequences for you?