I messed up

Today I planned to tell you how using my core values as a measuring stick makes it possible for me to not live other people’s lives but live my own instead.

However, I decided to tell you about that time (well multiple times really) when I completely messed up instead, because it’s likely one of the things you’re doing too.

Where I messed up

Back when I was 18 (I know! It’s a long time ago, but bear with me!), I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. So of course I also didn’t know if I wanted to go to university let alone what major I would pick.

What I needed – I thought – was a year in which I could find the answer to those very questions. I had decided I could best do that by immersing myself in a different culture.

So I went to my parents and told them I wanted to do a year in a US college as an exchange student.

My dad especially thought this a hair brained scheme. He insisted I would figure out a major and continue my education immediately. He was convinced a year of ‘figuring out what I wanted to do with my life’ was a terrible life choice.

Making a long story short: I dutifully dropped the exchange student idea, picked a sensible major and spend the next 20 years doing something I quickly discovered I didn’t like at all!!

I spend many of those years consciously and unconsciously blaming my dad for the unhappy career I found myself in.

If only he hadn’t forced me to drop the exchange student idea …

If only he hadn’t forced me to pick a sensible major …

If only he hadn’t forced me to finish it once I had started …

I think that’s when I got into the habit of blaming others for all that was making me unhappy in my (work) life.

If only they didn’t expect me to work 60 hours/week …

If only it was acceptable to go home at 5 or 6 PM instead of 8 or 9 PM ….

If only they’d give me enough time to properly finish a project …

If only they didn’t set me a ridiculously high sales target …

If only they didn’t demand perfection …

If only they …

What changed

It took me a serious burnout and therapy to discover two things:

Every instance in which I blamed others for my unhappy career had one thing in common: ME!
In each of those instances I handed others all the power and let them decide over my work, my career and essentially my life.
These two insights changed everything for me.

Realising how much I blamed others for things that were wrong in my life I felt really ashamed.

If I was the one who was always involved in situations where I invoked the “If only …” mantra, I realised I was also the one who had to start doing things differently.

The solution

The solution was as simple as it was difficult.

I had to take responsibility for my own unhappiness AND I had to step into my power instead of giving it away.

Taking responsibility in some instances meant going back to the people involved and actually apologise for my attitude towards them.

Mostly though I started taking responsibility by looking at my “If only …” moments and trying a different approach.

I replaced my “If only …”-statement with a “What if …”-statement.

For example:

Instead of “If only they didn’t expect me to work 60 hours/week …”, I asked “What if I would put a 40-hour/week cap on the amount of work I’d accept?”

When next I was asked to take on work that would take me past the 40 hour/week mark, I politely reminded my employer of that fact.

The world didn’t stop. Nothing came to a screeching halt. We looked at my schedule and it was decided to give the work to someone else instead of add it to my already full plate.

Every time I noticed an “If only they …” blame statement popping into my mind, I’d reframe it into a “What if …”-statement and then put that into practice.

Each time my confidence grew and I started feeling better about life and about myself. As my sense of control over my life grew, my happiness and sense of power grew too.

Why am I sharing this with you?

Because I want you to learn the lesson today instead of the 20 years and a burnout it took me to learn it.

You are THE CHANGE you want in your life and career.

You are the one with ALL THE POWER.

All you have to do is TAKE RESPONSIBILITY and start using it!

As always …

Go dare greatly!

Photo: Alexandre Godreau (Unsplash)

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