GET CLEAR ON WHAT YOU TRULY WANT
Our not-so-large living room was filled with women who had come for an all-day goal-setting workshop hosted by my friend Tara Sophia Mohr. Tara founded the “Playing Big Leadership Series” and is the author of the best-selling book Playing Big: Find Your Voice, Your Mission, Your Message. In the past five years, she has trained thousands of women around the world to achieve their “audacious” goals by helping them recognize what is holding them back and giving them tools to achieve their “big” dreams.
The ten women in the room were nervous, afraid to share what was in our hearts. Turns out, dreaming big is hard. The bigger the dream to you, the more vulnerable you feel. We went around the room timidly sharing our hopes and fears. Beth, who is an ordained minister, sensed she had a calling to be in service to women in some deep and meaningful capacity. Sally, who had spent years in local politics, wondered if she should recommit to her dream of political office at the state or national level. Tonya, who had just left her job and was considering her next move, imagined starting a company helping women become better investors. I wanted to write this book and share with others what I learned about integrating careers and family. Our dreams were big, but something was holding each of us back.
Tara asked us to fill out a card with those voices, or “inner critics” as she called them, that we heard when we tried to dream big. “These are the voices,” she explained, “that keep you from achieving your goals.”
Our voices said things like, “Everyone else has their act together. Why don’t you?” or “You need to work harder if you really want to achieve that dream” or “Are you really willing to risk your financial security for something that is likely to fail?” or, as in my case, “Who is going to listen to your ideas?” In other words, who gives me the authority to speak on this complex and deeply emotional issue?
When we had each revealed our deepest fear, Tara said, “Now close your eyes. Today, we are going to find your inner mentor.” That workshop helped me see something I hadn’t before: We have been trained to look externally to find mentors to guide us, but we often forget or don’t even know how to look internally to get clarity on what we want.
I am not here to discredit mentors. On the contrary, the wisdom of our elders is often dismissed in our youth-obsessed culture. I have been blessed with numerous mentors whose wisdom and guidance has had an incalculable impact on my life. The insights and experiences of mentors are valuable data points for helping you figure out your best path. And yet, their wisdom is rooted in their own life journeys.
Positive Affirmations For Work And Career Photo Gallery
You, too, have wisdom based on your experiences. Looking externally is useful to helping you get clarity on your options and your situation, and to give you insight on how you might navigate your life and career given the constraints you face, but no one can tell you what is right for you.
Living with clarity about your dreams, goals, constraints, and compromises allows you to walk your own true path. How you integrate your kids and your career will reflect your own unique set of circumstances. Reach out and find a mentor, and then reach in and find yourself. It’s the best way to ensure you can live with authenticity and intention.
I believe what holds most of us back is not just an inflexible workplace, a punishing public policy system, a millennia of patriarchy, a boss who won’t promote us, a partner who won’t do his fair share, a culture that says we must be a certain kind of mother to be considered a good mother. No doubt these are obstacles in our path. But they aren’t insurmountable.
Fear that if we truly ask for what we want a full, rich life that includes work we love and the ability to develop and nurture relationships that are deep and meaningful we might not get it. Here’s the thing: We definitely won’t get it if we can’t even envision it.
Jennifer Mazella, who paused her career and then became a warrior championing the issues of the special needs community, shared her personal motto with me: “Don’t lean in, stand up! When you do that it says you aren’t leaning in to listen to someone else’s authority, you are standing up and listening to your own inner truth.”
I know it sounds cliched, like some bad Saturday Night Live Stuart Smalley self-validation skit, but to successfully navigate the obstacles that are inherent when it comes to integrating kids and careers, you need to get clear on what you want and what you are willing to give up to achieve those personal and professional goals.
Do some deep work and ask yourself what attitudes and preconceived ideas you have when it comes to being a mother in general, and a mother in the workplace specifically. Ask yourself what attitudes and preconceived ideas you have when it comes to being a father. Ask yourself what a “life well lived” looks like. What are those deathbed regrets you want to be sure you don’t have? What does it mean to be successful? What does it mean to be happy? What does it mean to be fulfilled? What trade-offs are you willing to make to truly thrive?
Now ask your partner the same questions. When you both have the answers, write them down. Then ask them of yourselves and each other again six months from now, one year from now, and all the years that follow. Get the Holstee Manifesto, frame it, and live with it each and every day. Eventually, you’ll uncover what it is you really, really want.
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