Dreams as Career Development Guides

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultant
Photo via Unsplash

Reprise: I’m dropping down to one new post per week between now and giving birth in March 2017, so enjoy this repost!

As a young Psychology student in college, I was taught that researchers still don’t really understand dreams, but the predominant theory was that they’re just how your brain processes information from the day – tossing out what’s useless and keeping the knowledge you’ll need in order to function tomorrow. No hidden meanings, no prophetic qualities – just an overnight update like the one your computer makes.

I felt sad and conflicted to learn this, and yet, I believed it for a very long time. I’d have dreams and hardly even pay attention to them because I figured that they were just nonsense.

That’s unfortunate, because I think I could have avoided a lot of pain and heartache had I paid attention to this vast resource that we have access to every night. 

I don’t believe that every dream I have holds some major “aha!” moment, but for me, it’s this amazingly easy, simple way to stay aware of what’s going on for me at a level below my consciousness.

Carl Jung, one of the most incredible thinkers (and feelers) of our time, believed that dreams were the process by which you become conscious of unconscious thoughts and feelings. He taught that dreams reveal much more than they conceal, and that their interpretation is highly personal – no one can tell you what your dream does or doesn’t mean for you.

I think this is why we’ve poo-pooed dreams in our modern culture. Since we couldn’t categorize, measure, and standardize their meanings, we tossed them aside as neurological waste.

That’s nonsense, and I believe it’s high time we included dreams in our personal and professional development work.

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultant
Photo via Unsplash

Since I’ve reconnected with my own dream life, I’ve been able to understand personal changes I’m going through, have gained insight into my business, and have been able to process old pain that was keeping me stuck, all of which is pretty amazing.

At this point, I should note that for some people, dreams just don’t really resonate with them, or they never remember their dreams when they wake up. That’s totally fine, and those people have other ways to access their subconscious, intuitive sides. Jung taught that even if we don’t remember our dreams, they’re still working their magic and helping us become aware of what’s going on beneath the surface.

If you’re curious about the dreams you have and are wondering how you can start tapping into their wisdom (your wisdom), I’ve got one trick that I’ve found incredibly helpful.  

The technique is attributed to Carl Jung’s dream analysis method, but I wasn’t able to find any hard evidence of that online (fear not: I’ve reserved almost all of his books at the library and will let you know what I find out later). Luckily, papa Jung encouraged people to just figure it out on their own and not overthink this, so here goes:

My version of a “cut to the heart of the symbolism in your dream” analysis technique:

Step one: When you wake up from a dream, it’s helpful to do something that solidifies it in your consciousness since so often we fall back asleep or go about our day and forget the details that were so vivid while we were sleeping. Some people write in a dream journal that they keep by their bed, put a note in their phone, or just try to remember it once they’re awake. Do whatever feels easy and light to you.

Step two: As you remember the dream, take any symbol or character from it (it can be a person, animal, stone – whatever interests you) and pretend you are that symbol.

As you take on that symbol’s persona, pretend that symbol has a message for you, the dreamer. What does this symbol want you to know? What does the symbol say? What is that symbol trying to make you aware of?

That’s it. That’s the trick. And it’s revolutionized the way I understand my dreams.

I’ll give you an example that helped me understand where I was getting stuck in my business:

A few months ago, I had a dream that I was in charge of a downtown revitalization project, and one of the larger art pieces for the downtown square was an iron sculpture of an Orca whale. I watched sadly as workers welded on its rusty fins and tried to make it appear alive and majestic even though it was a sorry representation of the whale’s true beauty in its natural state.

That was basically it – the rest didn’t really feel important to me, so when I woke up, I just focused on that image of the steel Orca and how sad it made me feel (we don’t have to conduct a 5-hour analysis on our dreams, we can just take the snippets that really speak to us).

As I sat remembering the dream, I pretended to be that iron Orca. I pretended it had a message for me, and the message came through clearly: the Orca represented my worklife, and while it wanted to be wild and alive, it was becoming a mechanical, stiff shadow of its real nature.

Message received: it was time to loosen the reins, step aside, and stop trying to force my career into a small, lifeless box. This totally resonated with me at the time, and it was exactly what I needed to be made aware of.

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultant
Photo via Unsplash

Now, on another day, maybe the Orca would have meant something different to me. Maybe Orcas represent something else entirely to you. And that’s all fine and well. You can scoff at this entire idea – part of me does sometimes, too – it goes against what we’ve been taught about external, “objective” truths, and it can feel silly to try and bring our dreamlives into the professional arena.

But give it a try – even if it’s just once. Play around with analyzing a part of a dream you had and see what you find.

Learning how to remember and interpret your dreams is a skill, but it’s not one you need to fret over or feel any sense of “not good enough” about.

Your dreamlife is yours, and it’s simply a resource that’s available to you if you want to tap into it. It will always be there, and if you can just be soft and playful with it, you’ll gain the insights your consciousness needs. Trust yourself with this process – whatever feels like the right interpretation is the right interpretation…with one big caveat:

The right interpretation, the one stemming from your intuition, will feel good – it will feel peaceful, clarifying, and calming, even if you get the sense that you need to make some changes, like I did with my Orca dream. Interpretations that make you feel afraid, bad about yourself, or fearful are coming from your ego – the part of you that hates any kind of change.

So trust the sense you’re getting, but try to make sure it’s from your growth-oriented deeper self, not the fearful part of you that wants to stay exactly who and where you are forever.

I hope you’ll give this a try if it fits for you, and I would love, love, LOVE to hear from you if you gain any insights about your career by using this technique!

Are You Digesting Life Properly?

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultant

Have you ever had something come up in your life that feels eerily similar to an issue you’ve dealt with in the past?

A while ago, I entered into a business partnership that was all wrong, and while my intuition was sending me alarm signals the entire way, I chose to ignore them. Sure enough, the partnership had to end, and it wasn’t a pleasant experience.

Something came up recently within a completely different context, but it had the same icky texture. Since our brains like to find commonalities and make sense of new experiences, my brain immediately declared, “This situation is just like that other one was, which means it’s horrible and you need to get out!”

In some ways, this is really helpful – I was noticing some of the same intuitive signals, and I’ve learned my lesson well enough now to pay more attention to them.

But something else was happening: it became clear to me that I hadn’t fully digested the first partnership, and without doing more emotional work there, it would shadow opportunities to collaborate with others in the future.

I wasn’t able to determine whether this new opportunity that came up was actually right or wrong for me without revisiting and dealing with the old one.

angel Kyodo williams is a Zen priest, writer, and visionary who recently spoke at the Sister Giant conference. While there, she shared an analogy that really stuck with me. She said that people who don’t meditate are going around eating and consuming life, but they’re not digesting any of it.

That is the truth.

Without consciously digesting our experiences, we end up having spiritual diarrhea, constipation, or all sorts of maladies in-between.

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultantOur bodies are amazing, aren’t they? We consume food throughout the day, our bodies take what they need in order to nourish us, and then they eliminate whatever’s left over and ready to go.

Most of us don’t even have to worry about this process – it just happens automatically, and it gives us the energy we need to enjoy life.

Digesting our experiences is just as important as digesting our food, but many of us have to learn how to do this – it’s not always something we’re taught.

But how do we digest intangible experiences and the thoughts and feelings that come along with them?

When I realized that old pain was informing how I felt about this new opportunity, I got quiet and asked myself some questions: what was the old story I was telling myself, what still hurt, and what was I ready to let go of?

Then I journaled about it so that it got out of my body and onto paper, where I could see it more clearly. This is the digestive process that works for me, but here are some others you could try:

  • Create rituals of processing and releasing. Maybe you write something down on paper and burn it, hike up a mountain and imagine releasing that thing at the top so you’re free on the way back down, or you toss rocks into a lake.
  • You could burn sage or incense after you’ve examined what the experience(s) meant to you, what they taught you, and what about them can be eliminated.
  • You can process things out loud with a loved one or support person.

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultantWhatever you do, I hope you’ll just start by being more aware of your emotional and spiritual digestion, because it’s so important.

When our bodies don’t digest things slowly enough, we can’t absorb the nutrients we need. When our bodies digest things too slowly, we get stopped up, which causes pain and an inability to take in any more food.

So it is with the things that we experience in life. We need the time to process and draw out lessons from what goes on in our lives, but we also need to release them and move on in time to receive new experiences.

If there were a continuum between “Digests Experiences Too Quickly” and “Digests Experiences Too Slowly,” where would you fall?

Is your spiritual body in balance, able to take in and eliminate regularly?

If not, consider what you might be holding onto that’s ready to go or savor your next experience and see what nutrients can be drawn from it.

Transcending Fear: Rabbit Medicine

 

photo-1433769747000-441481877cafIn honor of being authentic and bringing some spiritual wisdom into our worklives, I want to share a story that’s adapted from a book I love: Medicine Cards by David Carson and Jamie Sams.

In their book, they define “medicine” in the traditional Native American way, which “is anything that improves one’s connection to the Great Mystery and to all of life.” It’s a much broader definition and goes beyond just fixing what’s broken in our bodies.

I’m not Native American and don’t lay any claim to the story below, but I want to share it because I think it’s such a helpful reframe for those of us in the working world. This is about Rabbit and how Rabbit became the Fear Caller:

A very long time ago when the Earth was young, Rabbit was a fearless and brave warrior. Eye Walker, who happened to be a witch, was a friend to Rabbit. They spent a lot of time together sharing and talking about all sorts of things. They were very close friends.

One day Eye Walker and Rabbit had walked a long way and decided to sit down for a rest. Rabbit said, “I’m thirsty.” Eye Walker picked up a leaf, blew on it, and handed Rabbit a gourd of water to drink. Rabbit drank but said not a word of thanks. Then Rabbit said “I’m hungry.” Eye Walker picked up a stone, blew on it, and turned it into a turnip for Rabbit to eat. Rabbit ate the turnip with relish and still remained quiet.

The pair started back on their walk and ended up in the mountains. Near the top, Rabbit fell and rolled almost all the way to the bottom. Rabbit was in very sad condition when Eye Walker got to him. She tenderly applied some of her magic salve on his little body to relieve his pain and to mend his broken bones. Rabbit said not a word of thanks to Eye Walker.

After a few days, Eye Walker was looking for her friend but could not find him anywhere. She finally gave up her search and went on with her daily activities. One day, quite by accident, she ran into her little friend. “Rabbit, why are you hiding and avoiding me?”

“Because I am afraid of you! I am afraid of magic,” answered Rabbit, cowering. “Leave me alone!”

“Oh I see,” said Eye Walker. “I have shared my magical powers to help you and now you turn on me and refuse my friendship.”

“I want nothing more to do with you or your powers! They frighten me terribly. I hope we never meet again!”

With tears in her eyes Eye Walker said, “We were once companions and great friends, but no more, Rabbit. I have the power to destroy you but I will not. Instead, I lay a curse on you and all of your tribe. From this day forward you will call your fears and they will come to you! The sweet bonds between us have now been severed.”

photo-1455869434262-b664819692f5Now Rabbit is known as the Fear Caller. He goes out and shouts, “Eagle, I am so afraid of you!” If Eagle doesn’t hear him, Rabbit calls louder, “Eagle, stay away from me!” Eagle, now hearing Rabbit, comes and eats him. Rabbit calls bobcats, wolves, coyotes, and even snakes until they come.

When I first read this, I laughed out loud, because the image of me running around like Rabbit was crystal clear. I pictured myself hysterical in an open field yelling out all of the things I’m afraid of. I could see myself as a magnet for eagles, bobcats, and wolves.

What kinds of predators do we call in with our fear? I can think of a few examples from our worklives: “Rejection, stay away from me!,” “Layoffs, we are so afraid of you!,” “Change, keep out!”

Our days are often guided by fear and urgency, not by what’s actually important. The organizations and professionals who will thrive in our complex, changing world are those who transcend their fear and put their Rabbit tendencies aside while they do the work that is meaningful.

photo-1444465585361-21136b9b6430Rabbit helps us remember to take responsibility for what we call into our lives.

If you feel like you’re constantly surrounded by predators, or fear, you have some things to consider:

First: what are you currently calling in? Are you running around like crazy complaining about how there are no qualified candidates for your open positions? Are you frenetically responding to angry emails from customers who don’t understand you or your product?

Stop. Instead, find a way to focus on building the things that matter: recruiting practices that are human-friendly and sustainable…products that speak to the people you’re actually trying to reach. Choose to transcend your fear and call in something different. Choose to call in the future you want instead of the one you’re afraid of.

Second: Is what you’re afraid of really a predator? Eye Walker scared Rabbit, but she never intended him harm. What things in your life feel scary, and is it right to reject them and their power? Maybe you have a gift you’re ashamed of or not sure how to use. Is stuffing down your ability to draw/design/sell/caregive/etc. helping you, or are you turning your back on a powerful ally? Is your competitor really a competitor, or is there an opportunity for collaboration and mutual benefit? Is going out of business really a failure, or will it allow you to travel and start your life anew?

Consider the power behind what you fear.


Know someone who might enjoy this story? Pass this post along and share the love!

10 Non-Creepy Ways to Show Love at Work

In honor of Valentine’s Day (and every day, really), I want to share some ideas for how you can demonstrate care to those around you without looking like you’re trying too hard. Whether you want to use these tips on a love interest, colleagues you normally can’t stand, or your office BFF, they’re guaranteed to give you and the recipients the warm and fuzzies.

You’ll see them in list form, but I’ve also included a fun infographic below that for your viewing pleasure!

10 Non-Creepy Ways to Show Love at Work

  1. Be present. Stop making a grocery list in your head while Debbie from Payroll is trying to talk to you. Take a deep breath and actually be present with her – focus on her words, her demeanor, what she’s asking of you. When we know someone is truly present with us, we feel seen and connected, which is ultimately what it means to be loved.
  2. Bring treats. This one’s obvious. Pastries, lunch, sweets – eating yummy things releases oxytocin in our brains, which makes us feel relaxed and cared for.
  3. Remember something they said or did. You know how it feels when someone brings up something you said or did that seemed inconsequential to you but that touched them enough that they remembered it? It feels amazing – you feel meaningful and like your existence matters a little bit. Do that for someone else today.
  4. See them in new ways. Our minds like to put people into tight little boxes and then go find information that confirms what we already believe about someone. Pay attention to the stories you have about those colleagues that really irk you and choose to let go of them. Allow yourself to see the people around you in new ways.
  5. Smile more. Even when you don’t feel like it, smile. It tricks your brain into feeling happy, and it’s uplifting to others.
  6. Notice when they’re really trying. It sucks to be a newbie at something, and most of us are newbies in one way or another – we’re learning a new system, trying out a new skill, or working to make personal changes. Notice when someone is trying to improve and tell them privately how much you appreciate or admire their efforts.
  7. Give more. Hone in on one person you work with and ask yourself what you could do today that might lighten their load a bit. Find one small thing and do that for them.
  8. Be specifically grateful. We throw “thanks!” around like it’s nothing. Instead, thank someone for something specific, like “I really appreciated how quickly you got this report back to me” or “Thank you so much for helping me unload that box of papers – it was going to be too much for me to carry on my own.”
  9. Ask them questions. Be genuinely curious about people. Use your ability to be present to really see them and be inquisitive – what do they think about this situation? What’s it like to be them in this job? What’s on their plate that’s getting them stuck?
  10. Radiate love. Did you know that you actually radiate a certain kind of energy depending on your mood and the level of “stuff” you’re carrying in your chakras? When you take care of yourself and choose to be loving, you make those around you feel good without even trying. 

And now, in infographic form!:

10-non-creepy-ways-to-show-love-at-work

If you’d like to download or print this infographic, click here

What to Do in a Job Where You’re Not Valued

megan leatherman career coach human resources consultantI’ve been hearing from a lot of people lately who feel completely undervalued in their jobs. They use words like “under-appreciated,” “replaceable,” “a cog in the machine,” and their hearts are heavy.

It’s a pretty depressing state to be in. You know you’ve got good ideas, you know you can contribute more, but you feel stifled. Overlooked. Dismissed.

The creative energy you had when you started the job dwindles over time, and soon enough, you notice that you’re complicit in all sorts of silly practices and policies that you scoffed at when you first came on. You stop trying. You figure no one will listen anyway.

It breaks my heart to hear from people who are in this situation, because I can see how disempowering it is. It makes them forget that they’re gifted, that they have agency over their lives, and that things can change.

When I think about this issue, two questions pop into my mind:

Is it true that you’re not valued? and…

What beliefs and behaviors have gotten you to this point?

These are the questions I want to answer today in this post, and I offer up these thoughts from a place of wanting to leave you, dear reader, empowered.

I want to remind you that you are inherently valuable, no matter what, and that you are a badass grown-up who gets to decide where, how, and why you contribute your gifts.

So, question number one: Is it true that you’re not valued?

It might be.

There are a lot of organizations looking for modern-day factory workers who will simply put their heads down and do the work. In his book Linchpin, Seth Godin writes:

“Most white-collar workers wear white collars, but they’re still working in the factory. They push a pencil or process an application or type on a keyboard instead of operating a drill press…But it’s factory work.

It’s factory work because it’s planned, controlled, and measured. It’s factory work because you can optimize for productivity. These workers know what they’re going to do all day – and it’s still morning.”

It could also be true, however, that you’re looking for appreciation when it hasn’t been earned. If you’re like me, then you grew up in a generation that was praised constantly. If we took a shit, we got a gold star.

megan leatherman career coach human resources consultantThat messes with our heads over time – we start looking for validation and accolades instead of focusing on the work and just enjoying it for what it is.

It may be that you’re very much valued in your organization, but that you have different expectations for how an employer should demonstrate their care. If you’re feeling that desperate urge to get the gold star, hold your heart for a second and take a deep breath.

Instead of focusing on what you’re not getting from your employer, consider what about the work you enjoy and spend your energy there.

All that said, if it’s clear to you that you are considered by the organization to be a factory worker and you want more, then it’s time to go somewhere with people who can see and celebrate your strengths.

Question number two: What beliefs and behaviors have gotten you to this point?

A lot of people, myself included, believe that our outer lives are reflections of our inner lives.

If you believe you’re not valued by the organization you’re a part of, then I would challenge you to ask yourself if you value yourself.

Do you take your dreams seriously?

Do you trust your intuition?

Do you honor your strengths?

What are your answers to those questions, without any bullshit?

On the other hand, do you value the organization you’re part of? Do you value the people around you and see them in their giftedness?

I’m not trying to spread guilt or admonish anyone for feeling undervalued, but I also don’t buy into murky limiting beliefs that are more about us than they are about how we’re treated by others.

The truth is that what we’re looking for is usually something that we’re withholding from ourselves or others. 

It’s actually not your organization’s responsibility to make you feel valued. You’re the only one that can accept and foster that inherent sense of self-worth. If it’s not already anchored within you, you’ll grasp for it from external sources that can’t ever truly fulfill you.

If you’ve been feeling really overlooked or under-utilized at work, the steps forward are relatively simple:

  1. Make sure you’re demonstrating your belief that you and those around you are inherently valuable. Appreciate and show kindness to yourself, your co-workers, and anyone you encounter;
  2. Give the work your all and then let go of what you can’t control;
  3. If it’s clear to you that your gifts simply aren’t welcome in the organization you’re in, don’t stay stuck in a cycle of complaining. Go out and find a community that’s happy to pay you in exchange for the sharing of your strengths.

megan leatherman career coach human resources consultantWe have to become what we’re seeking.

We have to become people who reject the industrialized model of working and who contribute work from our hearts – that’s what’s valuable.

You are so capable, friend. It may just be that you’re buying into beliefs that are keeping you stuck. Or it may be that it’s time to up-level your career and move on to a community where you can really blossom.

Either way, you are already valuable – absolutely, inherently, simply by being born onto this Earth.

4 Easy Ways to Discharge Workplace Stress

*Reprise: I’m winding down to one new post per week between now and Baby Integrated’s arrival in March 2017. Enjoy this repost!*

Have you ever watched two dogs fighting with one another who separate, shake it off, and then go about their day as if nothing happened? Or how about one of those National Geographic videos of a herd of wildebeests escaping an attack, slowing down, and resuming their search for grass to eat?

megan leatherman career coach human resources consultant workplace stress
Take a cue from the animal kingdom and shake it off.

Doesn’t it seem like they get over that cheetah attack a little too quickly? That’s because animals – humans included – have instinctual methods of discharging stress and trauma almost immediately after it happens. They literally shake it off.

Before the human species developed its robust thinking mind, we would experience stress or trauma, shake it off, and move on. Now that we have these hyperactive minds at our disposal, when we experience stress, we create a story about it. When our coworker disagrees with us in a meeting, our bodies are sent into a stress response, which instead of just dealing with and shaking off, we turn into a story about our worthiness, our coworker’s intentions, et cetera.

The energy that’s created by a stressful response has to go somewhere. It will either stay in your body and make you sick, get displaced and hit those around you, or, ideally, be intentionally released in a healthy way.

Our workplaces generate a lot of this energy. Many organizations foster feelings of competition, unworthiness, and insecurity, and most of us simply absorb that energy into our own bodies or use it to attack those around us (either accidentally or intentionally).

We’re often completely unaware of how we’re feeling, what those feelings are doing to our bodies, and how we deal with the energy behind those emotions. We’re all walking around with the stories that we use to explain the presence of this tense energy, which don’t actually help us release it.

Our workplaces would change dramatically if we simply learned how to be better stewards of this energy.

We have a choice in how we react to our environments, and taking notes from the animal kingdom seems like a great place to start. Our natural response to stress is to discharge it quickly and without attachment.

While many of us are used to creating a story around the stress (e.g., “Jane disrespected me and is a bad person,” or “Larry isn’t talking to me anymore because I’m incompetent”), we can change that behavior and choose a different method instead. We can hit “pause” on the story and discharge the stress so that it doesn’t become toxic in our bodies or to those around us.

megan leatherman career coach human resources consultant workplace stressI should note that hitting “pause” doesn’t mean that you don’t deal with the external situation or simply walk away after someone causes you harm. It does mean, however, that the impact from that event is contained and released so that you can think clearly about the right action(s) to take in response. This way, your response can come from a place of ease and detachment instead of insecurity and threat.

Below are some quick, easy ways to discharge stress that comes up in your workday (or any day, really). Animals shake off stress multiple times a day, and you should feel free to do the same if you need to!

No matter what you do next, start by getting present with the stressful feelings. You can’t discharge stress if you don’t know that it’s happening. Notice it and just accept that it’s happening inside your body. Notice how it feels and where in your body it’s showing up. Your jaw, neck, or shoulders might be tight. You might feel like you have a knot in your gut or chest.

Once you’ve noticed it, you can try the tricks below or any that you come up with on your own. The most important thing is to process the energy through movement of some kind, and to do it as soon after the experience as you can.

  1. Literally shake it off. Close your office door or the bathroom stall and imagine all of that ickiness coming off of you as you shake your arms, torso, legs, hands, feet, head, etc. You could also do this by dancing in the privacy of your own home (or in public!) to a song that you love.
  2. Flick it off. If you can’t writhe your entire body, flick the negative energy off with your hands. If you’re in a meeting that’s totally stressing you out, you could get present with the stress, imagine it flowing like water down your arms, and then flick it off onto the floor.
  3. Wash your hands. Water is a great reminder to release and let go of stressors. If you just had a stressful experience with a supervisor or co-worker, you can head to the bathroom to wash your hands and just imagine all of that sticky energy spiraling down into the drain. Maybe you even dry your hands by shaking the water off.
  4. Breathing exercise. On an in breath, get present with the stress that you’re feeling. Envision the frustration, fear, or anger in your body expanding in your lungs. On the out breath, release all of it out into the ether. Feel it leaving your body and stretch and expand as it does. Try this 1 – 3 times. Imagine peace, presence, and calm taking the place of the stress that was originally there.

If these techniques seem totally weird to you, that’s okay. We’ve been disconnected from our instinctual natures for a long time, and reconnecting with our bodies can feel really foreign and silly.

That said, most new habits feel inauthentic at first, so I hope you’ll at least give this a try and see if it starts to feel normal again. It might even help to tell your partner or a friend about it and see if they’re open to trying it with you. Chris (my sweetie) and I have used the shaking technique from time to time, and it completely shifts the energy of the situation. We feel stupid when doing it, but it always works, and we feel better afterward.

I hope that if nothing else, you feel encouraged to release some stress in a healthy way today. Maybe you flick some negativity off before pouring that glass of wine after work. Or maybe you release some energy through washing your hands before you reach for that cigarette.

Whatever you can do, wherever you’re starting, is just perfect.


Know someone who needs to shake it off? Consider passing this post along to them.

 

Is Your Emotional Frequency Making Work Harder?

megan leatherman career coach human resources work emotional frequencyThis post goes out to all you spiritual woo-woo types who, like me, are finding ways to blend ancient wisdom with modern-day professionalism. I’ve got my flower child headband on, my kombucha to sip, and my Birkenstocks are close by in case I need to run out and hug a tree.

Here’s what I’m proposing today: your energy (or vibe) might be making work a lot harder than it needs to be.

It’s something I think about and am attuned to personally in my work, and I want to expand upon a scientific concept that I learned about on Jess Lively’s podcast, which you can check out here.

The concept that got me thinking about all of this is quantum mechanics. On Lively’s podcast, she tells us about a groundbreaking experiment that Einstein did that I’ll attempt to put into very simple lingo below:

  • He wanted to find out what got electrons moving
  • He used light and found that the intensity of the light wasn’t what got things working – it was the frequency
  • If the light was of a low frequency radiation, it would take way more intensity to get the electrons to move
  • But with a high frequency light, he only needed a little intensity

Now, for this to make sense or even matter to us, we have to buy into the belief that all matter emits vibrational frequencies. To quote physicist Don Lincoln, “Everything—and I mean everything—is just a consequence of many infinitely-large fields vibrating.”

megan leatherman career coach human resources work emotional frequency
David Hawkins created the Scale of Consciousness

This includes you and the emotions that you feel. Using techniques from the field of applied kinesiology, David Hawkins demonstrated that different emotions emit vibrations of varying frequencies. You can see his “Scale of Consciousness” in the photo to your left.

Are you still with me? 

Do you wanna smoke some peyote and dance under the full moon? I kid. Mostly.

If it’s true that everything – including our emotions – vibrates and that low vibrational frequencies are less effective in creating movement than high frequencies are, then it could also follow that approaching our work from a place of shame, anger, and fear is a recipe for suffering.

This has been absolutely true in my experience, and I can share a little anecdote in case it’s helpful.

Like I mentioned in an earlier post, Let the Pain of Not Knowing Lead You, I went through a pretty rough patch in my worklife last year. Business was slow, I didn’t know what I was doing, and I was really worried about money. I definitely wasn’t at my best.

Everything with work felt hard. I felt like I was trying to force something that just wasn’t meant to be. I looked at job postings online. I almost signed a contract gig even though it gave me the heebie-jeebies all over. I felt desperate and lost.

Here are the two primary factors that got me out of that awful, no-good place:

Admitting how bad and ashamed I felt that my business wasn’t really working, and…

Raising my emotional frequency by having fun and taking care of myself.

megan leatherman career coach human resources work emotional frequency
The view from our cabin in the woods

Nearing my 30th birthday, I’d had enough and decided to splurge on a trip to a cabin in the Mt. Hood National Forest with my sweetie. It was right along a river, had no internet connection, and it was quiet. So quiet.

I really enjoyed myself there – I read, we cooked, I laid in the hammock listening to the river bubble by.

And when I checked my email the day we got home, I’d made more money than I had in the past three months.

This hasn’t proven to be an anomaly, either, I promise. My work resonates the most, whether it’s through sweet emails from blog readers, workshop sign-ups, or opportunities that cross my path, when I a) set it up from a place of wholeness and inspiration and b) check out to go have more fun.

I never, ever, get the most exciting opportunities when I’m bummed out, desperately checking email or forcing the work.

There’s a major difference between worn-out, raggedy ass hustle and aligned, intentional flow.

If you’re finding that the electrons in your life aren’t exactly moving in the right direction (or aren’t moving at all), I’d encourage you to consider addressing your emotional frequency.

When you’re focused on the thing you’re trying to activate, whether it’s a career you love, an intimate relationship, or anything you really want, notice how you feel.

Do you feel desperate? Do you feel angry that it’s hasn’t landed in your lap yet? Do you feel ashamed that you’re so torn up about it?

Or do you feel excited about the idea? Do you feel like you can just assume it will show up? Do you feel light about it, even if it requires a lot of planning or action?

megan leatherman career coach human resources work emotional frequencyYour body knows the difference between forcing and creating. And luckily for us, we can change our emotional frequencies so that our actions are actually helpful instead of being rooted in those low vibes.

Here are five effective ways to amp up your emotional frequency so that you can do less pushing and more enjoying no matter what it is you’re trying to make happen.

  1. Meditate. I know I harp on this a lot, and every guru in the world is telling us to do it, but there’s a reason. If we can’t get disciplined in our mind, it’s harder to notice and shift our emotions. One of my favorite meditation apps, which all of my clients love too, is Headspace. It’s free for the first 10 meditations. Try it out.
  2. Have more fun. I don’t know what counts as fun for you, but having fun is absolutely the responsible thing to do. Do more of it. Most of us don’t get enough.
  3. Treat your body right. If everything emits a frequency, and if higher vibes are generally more effective, how do you think that box of Pringles I just ate is gonna help? It’s not. We’re more able to do better work, quantum-leap work, when we’re well rested, our gut is balanced, and we’re moving our body regularly.
  4. Fast from social media and email from time to time. It’s almost like there’s an inverse relationship between how well my work goes and how often I’m online. At some point, the scales tip and all my fastidious checking and browsing becomes detrimental. Step back. For at least a few hours, or a day, or whatever you can manage. I promise it will up-level your vibe.
  5. Be careful about who you hang out with. Only the most “enlightened” among us can be surrounded by complaining, negative, toxic people all day and not be impacted. The rest of us are very sensitive and pick up all sorts of stuff from the people we’re around. If you want to keep your frequency high, try to limit the amount of time you’re with people who make you feel like shit.

Those are five of the things that have worked for me consistently and that continue to nurture my soul, work, and relationships.

Try some of them out the next time you feel like work is unnecessarily hard, or like you’re pushing for something that’s just not budging.

I bet you’ll notice the movement kick in – movement that’s graceful and light and that feels so easy you’re not sure it’s real.

If you’re a working woman who wants more of this kind of ease and flow in her career, I’d invite you to check out my upcoming series of mini-retreats, A Wild New Work.

 

 

 

What to Do When Desperation is Driving Your Career

Last summer, my mom, sisters and I took a weekend trip up to the San Juan Islands off the coast of Washington. If you haven’t been there before, go. It’s a magical place that helps you feel connected to the Earth again, in all of its green and watery splendor.

megan leatherman career coach human resources consultant work
One of my sisters and I on our quest to find the whales!

While we were up there, we went on a whale watching tour to see some of the Orcas that hang out around the islands. Did you know that there are actually separate kinds of killer whales? Some are solitary, most live in pods, and they’re separated according to their food source (marine mammals v. salmon).

The resident Orcas off the coast of Washington have always eaten salmon – that rich and fatty food source that was in abundance for millennia until we, you know, ruined their habitat.

Our guide Natalie let us know that in the past few years, the salmon supply has been too low to sustain the Orcas, leaving the hungry creatures with only two options:

Find a new food source in their existing habitat or swim farther and farther to find more salmon.

This got me thinking about what us modern-day humans do when our food source (read: purchasing power) is in short supply.

Ideally, we’d all have a year’s salary in savings and live well within our means so that if we did lose our jobs or income source, we could float to the next thing without any desperation.

For most of us, that’s just not where we are. If our income source runs dry, it can leave us feeling desperate and crazed as we search for the next thing that will pay the bills.

What do we do when we’re in this place? It can be easy to make decisions that we might regret when we’re in this state, and my goal in this post is to offer two strategies that keep you buoyed amidst the storm.

The first thing to focus on when the food source has run out is to secure a new source of nourishment. Do as the Orca do: stay where you are and switch things up, or get out of your comfort zone and reach for more of what you had.

Finding the food is non-negotiable. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is real, and even if it means you don’t step into your forever job right away, you’ll feel so much better knowing you can support yourself financially through this time.

In today’s economy, there are more ways than ever to find side hustles and gigs that can bring in some extra income. You’ve got ride sharing sites like Uber and Lyft, services like Instacart and Task Rabbit, and lots of contracting sites like Fiverr and Upwork.

There are also temp agencies and, if you’ve got more experience, plenty of opportunities to start consulting or work with agencies as an independent contractor.

megan leatherman career coach human resources consultant workNo matter what, secure the food source first.

Once you’ve done that, if you know the food source you’ve found is only temporary, you’ll want to work on finding one that feels better to you.

This is the part where I see a lot of people in career transitions struggle: they get some kind of income stream secured but then still operate from a place of scarcity and desperation.

I totally get this – I’ve been there. You find the temp job, the contract gig, or whatever, but since it’s not your top choice, you hustle and beg like crazy for something better.

Unfortunately, this usually means that our ego-driven, fear-based brains have taken over, which can be a recipe for disaster. The people we network with or interview in front of can smell the desperation all over us, which isn’t very alluring.

So we have to commit, maybe more than ever, to the practices that ground us.

We have to exercise, meditate, play music, or do whatever it is that reminds us that we are going to be okay. We have to connect with our intuition every day and let that guide us instead of the parts of our brain that say “you’re not good enough.”

Having grounding practices and really focusing on the mental discipline it takes to stay positive are what’s required in order to draw in and then recognize which opportunity is the right one for you.

I’ve seen this play out over and over again in my own life: if I’m feeling desperate or needy or making career decisions out of fear, I end up in situations that are not in my best interest. I compromise. I talk myself out of what I know I need.

megan leatherman career coach human resources consultant workIf you, like the Orcas in the San Juans, are facing a major shift in your ecosystem, do whatever it takes to meet your basic survival needs.

After that, though, it’s all about balancing the hustle and job searching with intuitive, centering work that reminds you of who you really are, which is someone capable of creating a worklife you really love.

If you’ve been in this space of desperation before, I’d love to know how you managed! If you’re there now, take heart: it’s only temporary. You can hop on over to my Facebook community to share your story and hear from others.

 

How to Know If You Need a Professional Tune-Up

In just a couple of weeks, my friend Claire and I are starting a series of “professional support groups” called Realigning Your Professional Self. We wanted to put this together for a couple of key reasons:

First, there are not enough spaces where professionals can vent, gain perspective, or just be seen and heard. Work is hard, y’all, and without a safe place to process what goes on there, we can get burnt out, resentful, and lost.

career work personal development
Photo via Pexels

Second, not everyone needs a major career overhaul. Sometimes we just need small tune-ups along the way, as if we’re getting a regular “Career Oil Change.”

It can be tough to know if we really need something to be different in our career or if something else is at play in another area of our lives. If you’re feeling relatively healthy and stable in your body, your relationships, and your finances, it’s much easier to pinpoint a work-related issue.

Even if you’re not feeling stable in those areas, however, there are still a few sure signs that a tune-up would be useful:

  • You constantly feel overwhelmed and mentally “flooded” at work
  • You get a pit in your stomach when you walk through the office door or even think about going to work
  • You find yourself getting anxious, angry, or sad at the end of your weekends
  • You’re exhibiting physical symptoms that weren’t there previously, like a racing heart, excessive sweating, headaches, etc.

Other less urgent signals might be things like boredom, feeling drained at the end of each day, or just sensing a tug toward something new.

None of these signs mean you’re bad or that you’ve done something wrong, they’re simply your intuition trying to send you a message.

You probably need a little professional realignment, and knowing what kind of tune-up you need is immensely helpful.

When we’re in that space of sensing that something’s not quite right, we can ask two powerful questions that are posited by Chris Guillebeau in his fun and accessible book, Born For This: How to Find the Work You Were Meant to Do.

The first question to ask ourselves is: Is it working?

Is the work you’re doing actually working, as in: Is it bringing in enough money for you? Are you able to produce quality work? Is what you’re creating resonating with the people it’s meant to resonate with? Basically, is your career functional?

career work personal development
Photo via Mystic Mamma

The second question is: Do you still enjoy it?

You might be getting promotions left and right, but do you hate the work? That’s a red flag. In order to create a career that’s energizing, meaningful, and a reflection of your unique giftedness, it’s critical that you actually enjoy the day to day work.

Try to determine whether you enjoy the work itself or the fruit of the work, like praise from others, the “status” it gives you, industry accolades, etc. While all of those things might be fun results, if you don’t feel a connection to the work itself, you may not be operating in alignment with your strengths, which can eventually feel really draining.

If your answer to both of those questions is “yes,” then you’re probably in the right spot professionally, which is great!

If you answered “no” to one of them, then maybe it’s time to make a career pivot or switch some things up in your current environment. This might mean that you need to take on more responsibility at work, foster more connection with your peers, or commit to doing less each day. Your first step if you answered “no” to just one of them will be to try and optimize the aspects of where you are right now.

If you answered “no” to both of them, then something bigger needs to shift so that you can be expressing your gifts in a way that’s more fulfilling and in a way that actually works. If you’re in this bucket, there are a lot of amazing resources available to you, whether it’s a book like Born for This, a career coach you connect with, or (the most amazing resource) your own intuition.

A very important point: going through this exercise will only be helpful if we can be completely honest with ourselves as we answer those two questions.

If there’s any part of you that hesitates to admit that things aren’t working, or that tries to convince yourself that you do still enjoy it when deep down you know you don’t, notice it.

It can be really hard to admit to ourselves that something we’ve worked at for so long just isn’t fitting for us anymore. I’ve been in that place, and I can tell you how uncomfortable it is.

This summer, I reached a breaking point in my own worklife where I knew that the answer to that first question, “Is it working?” was a “No.” My work didn’t seem to be resonating with my community, the money wasn’t flowing like I needed it to, and things were just totally stagnant.

career work personal development
Photo via Pexels

It took a while to accept this reality, but finally I broke down to a mentor and, in-between tears, I admitted that things were broken.

Just saying those words was incredibly freeing. It didn’t mean I knew how to fix things, but I was putting so much effort toward strategies that were getting me nowhere, and in that moment, I got to reclaim all of that misguided energy.

It felt terrifying to face the shame I felt. I had been subconsciously hiding this secret, that things weren’t working, because I thought that if I admitted it, it meant that I was a failure – that I couldn’t be an entrepreneur, or a coach, or a help to anyone. But that wasn’t true.

It was my own fear of facing what was really going on that was hindering my ability to support myself and others.

As with every other time I’ve spoken the truth to myself, I felt free.

I could rest. I could cry and admit that things really sucked. I let myself feel some self-pity, I declared that I wanted things to be different, and then something really lovely happened: the clarity I needed came to me and I’ve had the best three months I’ve ever had in my business.

I say all this because while Guillebeau’s questions are elegantly simple, our egos can over-complicate things in order to try to protect us from the truth.

The truth will feel clear and expansive to you. Even though I didn’t like the fact that I had to answer “No” to that first question, it was so lucid that it felt like an immense relief to accept it.

We have to be honest with ourselves if we’re going to find our way.

If you’re seeing the signs that something isn’t working for you anymore, it can be an amazing opportunity to practice authenticity. You can choose freedom and answer those questions in a way that resonates deeply with you – the way that only the truth can.

What Nature Can Teach Us About New Year’s Resolutions

On December 21st, we passed through Winter Solstice – that gate that comes once a year to remind us that we’re returning to longer days and more light. Between now and the Summer Solstice in June, the light will slowly, almost imperceptibly, return.

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultant winter solstice new year's resolutions
Photo via Unsplash

I love two things about the Solstice:

  1. It always comes, twice a year, without any interference from humans. It’s a sure thing, and a good reminder that we don’t have to force change – the Earth shifts and moves in its own perfect time.
  2. It’s a slow change. Instead of everything changing in a jarring instant, it happens in increments that add up over time, until before we know it, we’re out playing in the daylight until 9:00 at night. It’s smooth and artful.

 

Contrast this with the pushy, neon energy of New Year’s Eve.

I think it’s sweet that people want to celebrate bringing in the New Year, but the whole champagne-popping, bright lights-flashing, party-hat scene has never jived with me.

Not only does the celebration itself feel empty, but the amount of “New Year, New You” marketing emails and advertisements that come at us this time of year feels pretty overwhelming.

The intent behind all of these emails and programs isn’t negative – there really is something to the idea of starting a new year that’s invigorating. But the urgency associated with them is so unnatural.

It’s healthy to seek change and create goals that come from our depths and really support our dreams. That said, too often we’re pushed into creating rigid programs for ourselves that rarely end up producing the benefits we were seeking.

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultant winter solstice new year's resolutions
Photo via Unsplash

We enroll ourselves in “Boot Camp” or commit to “Whipping ourselves into shape,” believing that the new year is a time to fit into stuffy boxes of personal change.

If there’s something your heart really wants to be different in 2017, I think that’s beautiful.

But instead of creating an Excel spreadsheet outlining the steps toward change or signing up for a program that treats you like something bad that needs to be “fixed,” I’d encourage you to take a different approach.

Keep it simple and give it space to grow.

The Solstice comes twice a year without our having to will it. The light waxes and wanes, the waves ebb and flow, and the flora and fauna thrive when it’s time.

We can take notes from the natural world around us and follow a similar arc in the journey of our souls.

I’ll give you an example that I think illustrates the benefits of this approach.

I was working with a client we’ll call “Jo,” who was feeling really desperate to have a new career in 2017. She created to-do lists, she set ambitious goals, and she gave herself a firm deadline to go by.

And yet, every week, making time to focus on her career changes would get pushed aside. I’d check in with her about her progress, and she’d feel down and frustrated that she couldn’t get to the things she wanted to, but she remained committed to her deadline.

So there was tension: not much was happening in the present moment, which made her feel bad, but she didn’t want to abandon the rigid structures and timelines she had set up for herself.

It was a recipe for failure, and she was feeling like shit along the way.

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultant winter solstice new year's resolutions
Photo via Unsplash

So, through some honest reflection and re-configuring, we came up with a new approach: ditch the lists and the deadline, and put that energy toward one hour of career nurturing per week.

One hour in which she was giving her dream of a new career the space to grow, without the pressure to check everything off or figure it out by a certain date.

When we break out of rigid systems that aren’t working for us, there’s tremendous freedom and creativity released.

And that happened for Jo.

Sure enough, she actually started creating the dream she’d envisioned. She looked forward to that hour every week. She was playful with it and found that it created the momentum she needed in order to do the hard work of transitioning into something new.

Making the changes we want in the new year can be a natural, fun, and enlivening process.

We may feel the pressure to set deadlines and whip ourselves into action, but oftentimes that just paralyzes us in a space of inaction and shame because we’re “not doing enough.”

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultant winter solstice new year's resolutionsI want to support thoughtful professionals make the changes they seek in healthier, more sustainable ways.

On January 11th, I’m offering a free webinar called How to Work in a Wild New Way, and it has nothing to do with pushing you to make resolutions or commitments that don’t align with who you really are. It has everything to do with making work fit for you naturally, in your own perfect time, and I’d love to have you join us.

Click here to learn more and sign up.

3 Things You Need If You’re An Airplant

At the end of A Wild New Work, we do a closing ceremony where each person is asked to bring in a gift (real or symbolic) that they’d like to leave the group with. In our ceremony this past November, one of the participants very sweetly brought me an airplant, which is one of my favorite kinds of plants.

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultant
Some of my airplants drying out after their bath.

Airplants, formally known as Tillandsia, are native to South/Central America, the southern United States, and the West Indies. They’re these adorable little things that can attach to other creatures (you’ll see them growing on trees in the wild), but many of them don’t require any soil.

Some of them will shoot roots, but they’re unlike other plants in that they don’t require an underground support system.

In my work, I talk a lot about how important it is to be grounded (rooted), because without being grounded, it’s easy to lose a sense of who we are amidst the chaos of life. Rooting into what is meaningful for you, whether it’s through a daily spiritual practice, going for a walk outside, or simply living in integrity, is essential for us humans to live well.

But sometimes we’re so taken out of our elements, either by a crisis or a major change like moving or getting a new job, that it feels like we lose our rootedness for a minute.

This is the limbo stage we get put into when we enter into a new phase of our lives, and it can be really uncomfortable.

This topic feels very personal to me right now, as I’m about to enter into the completely unknown territory of motherhood. Maybe for you, the territory is a reconnection to your true identity, a new relationship, or an unfamiliar town that you’ve just moved to.

I think airplants have something to teach us about this place of limbo – this feeling like everything is unfamiliar, or like we can’t make sense of things like we used to. Eventually we’ll get rooted again (hopefully in a rich, healthy soil), but if we take a few cues from our airplant friends, it’s possible to get through this in-between stage with grace.

The three most important things that airplants need in order to survive are light, water, and air. Let’s take a look at how each of these can help us in these times of transition (bonus: this can be a mini airplant care tutorial if you need one!):

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultantLight

Airplants need to be no more than three feet away from a brightly-lit window. They love the light.

The light warms us, helps us see clearly, and bestows invisible vitamins on us without our having to do anything. It’s a gift.

When we’re in this place of feeling like we’ve lost our groundedness, we can seek the light. What is it in our lives that makes us feel warm? Can we get closer to it in this time? And how about seeing clearly? What can we do to have more clarity? Maybe it’s journaling, asking ourselves if we really believe something to be true, or talking to a supportive person in our lives.

Sit in the light of what feels like truth to you and you’ll get all the warmth, clarity, and nutritious vitamins that you need in this time. For me, this light has been the work of Byron Katie and her book Loving What Is, which I highly recommend.

Water

Most airplants need a bath 1-3 times per week for about 20 minutes each time. This enables them to really soak up resources and stay hydrated.

When was the last time you felt totally submerged, in a good way?

Think back to a time when your cup felt really full or like you had a lot in your emotional/energetic tank. Can you feel that fullness in your body?

A few weeks ago, I scheduled a prenatal massage because when you’re pregnant, your body has no idea what the fuck is happening and starts to decompose. Or at least that’s what it can feel like. On my way to the massage that I was so looking forward to, it was raining, I had Lykke Li playing, and my heart was so full. I hadn’t even gotten to the massage yet, but that simple act of showing up for myself and what my body needed made me feel submerged in goodness.

We all need to bathe regularly, and not just literally – we need to feel submerged into whatever it is that fills us up, whether it’s a massage, lighting a candle, or getting outside. Just because we don’t have roots in this time doesn’t mean that we have to run on empty – just like airplants, we can still store up resources to draw from when we need them.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pkjm_Go-JFk
Air Plant Design Studio

Air

Once the airplants get their mini spa day, it’s really important that they dry out completely within four hours. Putting them in a place that gets good air circulation is critical, or else they’ll rot from the inside out (I’ve had this happen, and it’s sad).

Fortunately, when we’re in this place of limbo and newness, there’s already lots of air circulating!

We’re no longer in our stale, stuffy old patterns – we’re breathing in novelty and change. The key is to incorporate plenty of light and water into your life so that all of the freshness around you doesn’t start to feel completely overwhelming.

This sense of limbo won’t last forever. Eventually, we’ll begin to feel grounded again and things will start to feel familiar. Change is a wonderful thing most of the time, but it can cause some real discomfort when we’re in the midst of it.

If you’re in unfamiliar territory, don’t panic: that sense of groundedness will be back soon.

In the meantime, focus on the light, water, and air that are always available to support you.

One Powerful Thing You Can Do to Feel Less Overwhelmed

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultantI’m due to have a baby in March of 2017, and I never knew (until being pregnant myself) how much pressure there is on new and expectant moms. There are about 1,000,000 things you’re “supposed” to be doing before the baby arrives: take lots of supplements, eat more protein, stop drinking so much coffee, kegels, sleep more, buy things, choose a name…the list goes on and on.

Oh, and on top of all that: relax! Stress hurts the baby, and you need to keep your blood pressure down.

It’s a horrible, annoying spiral of “not enough” that’s so easy to get sucked into.

On top of trying to be a good baby-grower, I’m running a business, which has had to shift and accommodate as I grow and approach giving birth.

I know 2016 has been a year of next-level stress and change for many of us, and we’ve seen that played out on a larger scale through global events.

It’s not difficult these days to feel overwhelmed and like we’re not doing enough. In fact, I think that’s kind of the baseline for a lot of people, especially those of us who want to grow and develop into more awakened, loving professionals.

A not-so-helpful thing can happen when we’re experiencing life stress: we add on the pressure to deal with that stress in a “better” way.

For example, not only did I feel the pressure to be a good pregnant woman, I found myself feeling bad about not managing that pressure in a more “enlightened” way. In an attempt to grow and develop, I’d listen to podcasts about how we need to separate from our egos more, or about how we need to manage our time more intentionally. I didn’t listen to these podcasts because I really wanted to, I listened to them because I believed I wasn’t handling things in “the right way.”

I totally believe the things I heard on those podcasts, but berating myself for still having thoughts that made me feel anxious only compounded my sense of feeling overwhelmed.

If you’re feeling the weight of a shifting world, a heavy load of responsibilities, and the pressure to constantly improve yourself, I want to share one thing you can do today to give yourself some breathing room:

Stop trying to be better.

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultantDon’t read another article about how you can change until it’s because you want to. Don’t get any more advice from anyone until you’ve taken some deep breaths and centered yourself again.

Let go of the pressure to be and do more.

Chances are, you’re being and doing enough already.

I’m all for self-improvement and development, but sometimes I find myself turning the desire to grow into an obligation and another thing I’m not doing “correctly.” But the thing is, we are all already growing. In the natural world, everything that is alive can’t help but grow – even when it’s on the path to death.

If we are part of the natural world, then we can’t help but grow, either. Even in the midst of what feels like a burden we can’t possibly carry or get through, we are growing. We’re progressing in small ways every moment without even trying.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed and like you’re not handling it the way you should, please give yourself some grace and let go of the need to be better.

I know this is a hard lesson to learn – I’m learning it, too – but we have to stop hating ourselves and trust that we’re evolving even when we don’t feel very good.

So just be who you are today.

Do the best you can, and accept that it’s enough.

When you’re ready, you’ll make the tweaks you need to in order to feel more grounded and less overwhelmed. Magically, those changes will be much easier to make when they come from you, not from external pressure to be better.

 

Be Where You Are

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultantGenerally, the people who come to me for coaching or who venture into A Wild New Work are looking for help with the future.

They wonder what they’ll do for work, how they’ll make a living doing what they enjoy, or how they’ll get unstuck from office politics.

They wonder what will happen, which is a fair question when you’re not comfortable with what is happening.

I love the future. I could live my entire life there, imagining possibilities, wishing for this that and the other, creating plans and spreadsheets, on and on.

The tricky thing is, fixating on the future makes it that much more elusive because it robs us of the energy to do something to create that future. We imagine and pine for the life we want and in the meantime, neglect the steps that could actually take us there.

The other week in one of my daily meditations, I tried an exercise I heard about on a podcast with Jess Lively. You write a question down and then wait for your intuition to answer, which you also write down. It’s like you’re taking notes for a conversation between your mind and your intuition.

This particular morning, I woke up feeling anxious about work, which I know is a total waste of time, but I’m human, and it happens. In my meditation, my mind kept going to the future, worrying about how I’d do this, how I’d make that happen, etc.

So I asked my intuition:

What can I do today to help make my business thrive?

Here’s the answer I got:

Be present with every client today. Love them. Let go of the need to fix things.

Be where you are.

You see, I was freaking out about the future despite the fact that I had a full day of client work to look forward to, in a new office that I loved, with women who are brave and a lot of fun to be around.

My business was thriving, but my ego and my lizard brain were going berserk. My intuition showed up to help me re-align with the kind of person I want to be in the world.

You know what could really cause my business to un-thrive? Worrying about how to get more clients in the future and being blind to the people who were already showing up, doing the work, and giving me the opportunity to support them – right now.

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultantWhat I keep learning, and what I share with the people on this path with me, is that the magic is right here. 

All we can really do to create a future that we’ll love is to love this present moment – to be here now, to accept what’s happening, and to take the next, most open-hearted step forward.

Imagining the future you want to create is a lot of fun, and a worthwhile exercise for sure – it’s something I do with everyone I see for coaching. But it has to be balanced by presence.

We can’t neglect the gifts right in front of us and think more of them will just show up on command. We build a life – and a career – we love by honoring the gifts that are here now, by being present with the people in our lives, and by letting go of the need to figure it all out.

This is much easier said than done, of course, but I know we can all exercise this muscle.

Let’s say you work with someone who drives you absolutely nuts – someone who gets under your skin every day. Your modus operandi thus far has been to resist them: to avoid interactions, to push back, and to complain about them to anyone who will listen. You think, “If they would just leave the company, my life would be so much better.”

Can you be where you are with this person? Can you accept that no matter what the future holds, you’re tasked to work with them right now?  Can you let go of the need to fix things with them and just allow yourself a deep breath?

Can you ask yourself, “What is the next most loving step – loving to myself and to this other person – that I can take in this moment?”

How does that change things?

Is it possible that by staying present and focused on the next best step, you’re actually already transforming your relationship with this person into something more positive?

This practice could be applied to any situation at work – a desire to leave, an urge to figure out what your career will look like in five years, or anxiety about an upcoming performance review.

We’re simply being asked to be where we are; then, when we’re present, to take the most loving step forward.

It can be that simple if we’ll let it be.

How to Re-engage with a Stagnant Job

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultantIt can be really hard to know whether it’s time to leave a stagnant job or just make some tweaks to improve the situation. If you’re like me, then your first assumption when something really isn’t working is to leave. Change. Move on.

Most of the time, I appreciate my inclination to cut out what’s not working and move on quickly, but that’s not always a helpful impulse.

Sometimes when we’re feeling the urge to leave a job, it’s not because we really should – it’s because our orientation to the job needs to change.

All of us get stagnant in our work from time to time, and we start to wonder how to shake things up again: do we leave? Do we stay? Do we stay but make changes?

Stagnation in a job can show up as fatigue, procrastination, or a general “numbness” to the work. There’s a sense of agitation, like we just know that something’s not right.

If you’re feeling this way, I’d encourage you to slow down and carve out at least 10-20 minutes per day to get quiet and connect with your intuition. These periods of feeling stalled are so ripe for a deeper connection with our inner voice, which is there to help us figure these things out.

Assuming you’re setting aside quiet time to still your mind, get outdoors, journal – whatever it is for you – then I have some ideas for how you can make the most of the situation while you’re waiting for the answer to “what’s next”?

Here are three things I suggest for folks who are feeling like their career is entering a transition period:

First, let go of the pressure to figure this out.

Your soul is on its own timeline, and it does not respond to our frantic rushing (trust me, I’ve tried). This transition will go much more smoothly if you can settle in and assume that the path will open up when it’s time. Your life isn’t a sudoku puzzle that you can solve with your mind. There are other things at play, and when we can stay calm and trust the process, we’ll get the results that we need.

So, the mantra for this period is: “I’ll know what to do when it’s time.”

Second, amp up the emotional labor you’re putting into the work.

“Emotional labor” is a term I first heard from Seth Godin, and it’s essentially the effort we put into cultivating meaningful connection through our work. It’s the amount of effort we put into building strong, authentic relationships or expressing who we really are in what we do.

It’s easier for many of us not to expend emotional labor at work. We like to hide behind our professional “personas.” But if we’re going to create careers that are meaningful, we have to expend emotional labor.

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultantWe need your heart in the work you do, and you need it, too. When we shield ourselves from the work and don’t make the effort to show up human, doing work we’re proud of, we stagnate – no matter how awesome the job was at first.

You can amp up emotional labor instantly. You can genuinely ask your coworker about his weekend. You can check in with your gut as you start on your next task and see if there’s more “you” that you can put into it. You can be honest when your boss asks you how you feel about something.

The more you can show up in this way, the more energy you’ll cultivate at this job, which will multiply and create momentum for whatever’s next.

Finally, toss your job description in the trash.

It doesn’t matter what you’re “supposed” to do at work. Forget about that for a minute. Here’s my question to you instead: what needs to get done?

Where are there holes? Who’s in pain? In your sphere of influence (which is larger than you might think), who needs help? How can you help them?

Stagnation comes up when we’ve mastered our day to day work enough to feel like we could be doing more. We’re going through the motions, starting to feel bored, but then we wait for someone else to give us the freshness we’re seeking. We think we have to stay in these boxes because anything else just “isn’t our job.”

Choose instead to look around you. What can you help with? How can you expand your influence in a way that feels generous and interesting to you?

Now, if you’re feeling stagnant, you might believe that there’s no point in exerting extra effort where you are. But now is exactly the time for you to see your organization and the work with fresh eyes. Try pretending it’s your first day again. What do you see? Where can you connect? Where can you show up more fully?

If you try these things, you’ll start to create movement that will nourish you, and that movement will help clarify what it is you’re meant to do next.

If you do these and get stalled at every turn by systems or peers who want to keep you in one particular box, then it may be time to leave.

But give them a chance. Do the work. Bring a little more of yourself to work each day. 

No matter where your path ends up leading you, you will have done your part to be present with wherever you are, which is such a gift to the rest of us.

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultantIf you want help figuring out what kind of transition or change your soul is asking you to make, I’d love to partner with you on the journey. My most impactful coaching program is 12 weeks long, and it closes in December.

I only have three slots available, and the first step to take is scheduling a free 20-minute consultation so that we can learn more about one another. I’d love to connect with you, and you can schedule your free consultation by clicking here.

 

How to Talk About Your Career When You Have No Idea What You’re Doing

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultantThe holidays are coming.

This means that there could be a lot of unstructured family time in your future, which you might be dreading.

Getting together for meals and merriment with well-meaning loved ones can be a real challenge when you’re not feeling awesome about where you are in life. The same feelings can come up when you’re trying to network with peers in the midst of a personal or professional transition.

It can be really difficult to talk about your career confidently and enthusiastically when you’re just not sure what it is you’re aiming to do.

But here’s the thing:

It’s okay to not know what you’re doing.

It’s okay not to know what kind of work you’re interested in, or how you’ll make a living, or what you’re good at. A lot of people actually don’t know this for themselves, they’re just pretending like they do because it feels safer.

I commend you for not knowing, and while I know that’s not a comfortable place to be in for very long, it means you’ve started the process of finding an authentic path, which is one of the bravest acts anyone can do.

So, now that you know it’s okay not to have it all figured out, let’s talk about how you’re going to interface with Aunt Gertrude at Christmas Dinner.

I want to make the ideas below digestible so that you can easily recall them at your next networking event or family gathering. I’ll give you a little acronym in case it’s helpful: IFCBS.

I: Intend

Before you engage with anyone you’re a bit nervous about talking to, get really clear on your intentions for the interaction. A lot of people (and I’ve done this myself) go into these conversations without having thought about it ahead of time and then end up feeling totally deflated and confused afterward.

So what do you intend to happen with your family or your network when you give them an update on your career? Are you intending to solicit advice? Are you intending to share without getting advice? Are you intending to be a little more open this time around, or maybe a little more reserved?

All intentions are good as long as they fit for you and are really clear in your mind’s eye before you engage.

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultantF: Frame

How we frame our experience – to ourselves and to others – is incredibly important. Just the other day, I was working with a client who was feeling really nervous about seeing her family and having to explain that she “still” wasn’t working. When she described what she’d have to tell them, she used a phrase like “Well, I still don’t know what I’m doing, but I’m working with a coach, so I hope I’ll figure it out…”

I noticed that and offered a different approach instead – something like “I’m being really intentional about my next step and I’m not ready to talk about it yet, but I’m feeling more energized than I ever have about the work I’m going to do.”

Both of those sentences could technically be true, but can you see how they elicit different responses from others?

When I offered her that re-frame, her whole energy shifted. She sat up straight, took a deep breath, and took up more space in the chair. She came across as grounded and sure of herself, which was wonderful to see and will impact her family in a more positive way.

See if you can take what you normally tell people make it more powerful and positive. It might feel like you’re faking it, but you’re not – you get to decide how you frame your experience.

The more you hear yourself reframe your experience into one that’s intentional and positive, the better you’ll feel, which really impacts how you’ll come across to others.

C: Curiosity

Family and friends can be really weird when we’re in the midst of a big life transition like a career change. They often mean well but ask questions that make us feel small and defensive, like “What will you do with that degree?” or “But you can’t make any money that way – how will you live?”

Curiosity is your friend. It’s always your friend, but it’s your bestie during family gatherings. Instead of getting hot and bothered because your dad is grilling you again about “when you’re going to grow up,” see if you can take a curious orientation instead. Ask yourself why your actions bother him so much. What is it about how you’re living that causes him to act this way? What about his past is coming out at you?

The reactions others have about our lives is always about them. It is not about you. When you start stretching and making changes, it makes a lot of people around you uncomfortable because it can make them feel insecure about what they’re doing with their lives.

Instead of getting defensive and allowing their insecurity to cause you pain, see if you can be like a scientist looking at the interaction objectively and curiously.

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultantB: Boundaries

Being in the midst of a career change is a precious, vulnerable, and scary time. You’re working things out, and oftentimes, getting lots of input from people who want you to stay the same is a recipe for disaster.

You get to decide what you will and won’t share with family members, friends, and people in your professional network. If you don’t feel like explaining yourself to anyone, you can say “I’m really excited about where I’m heading, but I still want some time to figure it out on my own before talking about it with others.”

Or you could say, “I really appreciate you asking, that means a lot, but I read on a blog that it can be helpful to keep the process private until I’m really sure of what direction I’m going in.”

You can also be totally open with the fact that you’re in the muck and mire of a transition – it’s up to you. The point is that it’s important to know what our lines are and, when those get crossed, assert our needs and confidently redirect the conversation.

There’s no reason you have to be interrogated this holiday season. You call the shots, and you get to decide what you do and don’t want to talk about.

S: Self-care

Taking care of yourself is always important, but it’s 1,000,000 times more important when you’re going through a major transition. This holiday season (and anytime you’re doing work on yourself), make sure self-care is a priority. That could look like splurging for a massage while the rest of your family goes shopping, taking a lot of space in your room, going on walks alone, using mantras, or having a friend on speed dial.

The holidays can be a hard time for many of us, for lots of different reasons, but by taking extra good care of our spirits and bodies, it’s possible to enjoy them and the fullness they bring.

Remember IFCBS this season and anytime you’re in the midst of making a change that you’re a little unsure about.

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultantIf you’re in the midst of a holiday gathering or professional event and are just feeling exasperated and like you really do want to make a change but aren’t sure how, I’m around. You can always drop me a note here, join my Facebook group, or work with me in a more formal way.

I’ve been where you are and have felt that sense of dread knowing I’d have to update others on my career. I hope that maybe with this information, it will be a little less painful for you. Take good care of yourself this season, and please reach out if you need to.