We all have skills in our respective professions that we have honed over time. Hopefully, these same skills make us good at what we do and at the very least we get rewarded and recognized for them financially.
Now comes the downside. When we get so good at doing something only for the money we run an even greater risk of getting trapped in a comfort zone that does not mesh with our greatest passions because what we are good at is not necessarily what we are meant to be doing.
For those of you considering career changes mid life, the best way to break out of this limiting scenario is admit to yourself that:
- Yes, I am tired of doing what I am good at or just because its practical or because its an obligation to meet the needs for my standard of living.
- I am tired of living only a 1/2 life.
- I want to do whatever it takes to live a full life where I feel completely engaged and fulfilled by the work I do.
Fortunately, there are plenty of real life examples to show us the way. Perhaps the best one comes from a former resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C. After completing his term as the 30th President of the United States, Calvin Coolidge issued his famous “I do not choose to run statement.” Immediately reporters bombarded him with questions seeking further details concerning his “questionable decision.”
“Exactly, why don’t you want to be President again,” one extremely persistent journalist grilled? The normally “Cool Calvin” undoubtedly frustrated with the unending probes looked the reporter straight in the eye and responded, “Because there’s no room for advancement.”
Although this summation is both humorous and true, we can make a serious application to our own lives by never allowing the comfort of past achievements to outweigh the reality of the present. Coolidge didn’t allow the grandeur of his office to shade his perspective of other valuable accomplishments yet to come. He avoided postponing his future by realizing that being President was the ultimate in American politics but life existed outside of that realm.
Other significant historical examples of individuals who stepped out of their skill comfort zone to become an even greater success include, renowned physician, respected philosopher brilliant scholar, prolific author, accomplished organist and crusader for world peace Albert Schweitzer who on a visit to Africa was touched by the astounding need for medical help. Changing career gears yet again, his purpose became a one-man lifetime crusade to improve the health conditions and quality life for everyone on the African continent. Schweitzer’s commitment to following his passion won him a Nobel Peace Prize in 1952.
Then there was Vietnam veteran Jan Scruggs who endured many sleepless nights working out a plan to recognize soldiers who unlike himself never made it back alive. Even though his wife thought he was crazy and his supervisor at work laughed at him out of a job, Scruggs remained true to his vision and commitment to purpose. Today, the Vietnam Memorial engraved with the names of well over 50,000 Americans who lost their lives in that conflict is the most visited monument in our nation’s capitol, providing long overdue healing for countless others who suffered as a result of a war that should have never happened.
Dwight Hall, in his newsletter Have A Good Day, tells the story of a little boy returning home from his first day of school. The teacher had asked the students to bring copies of their birth certificates to help ensure the school kept accurate records. Struggling with the rather “large” word certificate, the boy came up with his own description. Bounding into the house with his important message, he promptly informed his mother, “Tomorrow I have to take my excuse for being born.”
Hall goes on to say, “That’s an interesting way to put it – an excuse for living. Everyone should have one. What’s your excuse? Anyone’s life can be noble, free and useful; or it can be slovenly, vile and wasted. It all depends upon our choices. We can reach for the highest goals or we can aim at nothing and hit it.” Enough said.