How did I finally do it? How, after 20 years, did I leave my steady corporate work on a high? For me, it was about jettisoning the three “life jackets” I’d been clinging to.
You are up there, and everything is great. Clients need you, teams respect you, and everyone recognises your stellar reputation: being amazing at your job! You are winning awards, driving revenue, delivering new solutions and making everyone proud.
Yet, deep inside, you know something is missing. The irony behind this unbalanced ratio of happiness and success perplexes you. You dissociate from the optimism of it all, forcing yourself into a spiralling rabbit hole that convinces you of your ungratefulness. And then you end up stuck in the chaos of your self-created storm; you question everything you do; you feel torn and confused.
Battling an internal dilemma, you try to justify your choices in order to feel satisfied with your resulting state of mind. “My independence is on the line here,” your inner voice whispers. It’s the devil of the known battling the unknown. “If I don’t do this, what will I do?” It’s your pathological pursuit of productivity. “How else will I pay the bills?” It’s your disappointing susceptibility to falling into that energy-absorbing money lie.
So you convince yourself that everything you’re doing will only benefit your future self. How could one more year hurt? One more year of you entertaining yourself with sizeable challenges thrown into your space, encouraging your gullible self to keep going.
Unable to recognise your purpose anymore, you finally feel compelled, finally feel ready enough to take up the journey of professional self-discovery.
Looking back at my progress today is a breath of fresh air. But, contrary to my current state of satisfaction now, the tough six-month journey of self-introspection, self-coaching, mindfulness and, last but not the least, developing a strong conscious desire to change, was only made tougher because of three key factors.
These were the three metaphorical “life jackets” I was supporting myself with – using them falsely to protect myself as I swam in the wrong direction.
Life Jacket #1
Primary Motivation: “Show me the money!”
Personally, financial reasons continued to be my prime inclination to continue working; I believed I needed to earn this money for the smooth functioning of my own ecosystem.
Shockingly, through hours of introspective thinking and critical conversations with other people in my support system, I realised an alternative perspective toward this belief. Instead of holding on to the strong desire to attain achievements whose worthiness is classified by society, redefining our own needs and revisiting our wants will always leave us with enough. Enough success-fuelled happiness. Enough celebrating the small victories. And enough needed to empower us to release ourselves from this crutch.
Life Jacket #2
Secondary Motivation: “I don’t like to feel entitled”
I need to contribute; I need to prove to myself and everyone around me (especially my young daughters and family) that I’m a “giver”, not a “taker”. While earning for myself, I still contribute to a larger, combined purpose. Working hard to ensure my family’s stability, being a role model to my children, and living my dream life are all ways I contribute to a greater whole.
But, at the end of the day, this purpose I was aiming to sustain was unsustainable. Question is, who set these goals? Who so dramatically worked to change the importance of these contributions from wants to needs? Who decided that we must feel less valid if we don’t contribute financially? That our worth is tied to the number of dollars we bring in?
I’ve been bringing money to the table for over 20 years, yet ironically not once did I feel empowered to spend it on myself without seeking approval and consent from someone else. However, this isn’t anyone’s intention. It is simply the result of nature and nurture – the unsaid conditioning of sensible women that inevitably suggests our requirement to be selfless and give to all. The truth is, in this journey of giving, we almost always forget to give to the most important person: ourselves!
Life Jacket #3
Tertiary Motivation: “Will I be intellectually stimulated?”
If I “sit” at home, my intelligence will waste away. I will not interact with other sharp and intelligent people. I will lack an intellectually stimulated environment, inevitably corroding my “intellect” to dust.
We have all been sitting at home for the last 18 months. If anything, this has taught me that to learn, perform and grow, one does not need to be in any “predefined” physical environments.
All they need is an open mindset. A mind eager to learn, armed with a curiosity to be disciplined as they discover how to act as needed in any given circumstance. To facilitate seamless learning, students and teachers need not be in the same room. To engage in physical activity, we don’t need formidable state-of-the-art gymnasiums. Rethinking what we seek to learn rather than what is predefined as worthy of learning is a powerful shift. Because, it realigns us on a certain path, and nudges us in the direction of what we were always meant to be, but never could – simply because we never had the chance to pause, reflect and proceed to act.
A final word
The privilege of living an inspiring life is a gift. Sometimes we are born with this privilege and sometimes we get the opportunity to reengineer our thinking and our current reality to achieve this. For those of you who are like me, I know it’s hard. It feels like there is just no other option but to be in survival mode.
I was in that state for many years myself. And, just six months ago, I chose to consciously make a shift, acknowledging that for a big change to happen in the future, I needed to take steps to work towards it now. When you greatly desire something, the universe conspires to make it happen. I was able to make this change; and I feel so grateful to be able to look forward to new experiences as a result. I am hopeful to learn more, to cherish the moments to come, and to appreciate the new puzzle pieces this next phase will bring me. I’m excited to let it allow me to finish building the full picture so that I can better navigate the seas of life, without needing any life jackets.
By Priyanka Tiku Gupta
Edited By Taarini Gupta
This article first appeared in the September 2021 edition of Expat Living. You can purchase the latest issue or subscribe so you never miss a copy!
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