How I Overcame My Fear To Pursue My Passion
I think we’ve all been in a place where we contemplated, second-guessed and even struggled with figuring out what we aspire to do for the rest of our lives. These contemplations, doubts and struggles come from the pressure that we often inflict on ourselves, but that also comes from exterior sources, societal norms or expectations or standards set by parents, family members or friends.
No matter what the source of the pressure is, one thing I’m sure we could all agree upon is that some of the “million dollar questions” we were asked throughout early childhood, our teenage years and even the beginning of adulthood sound a little something like this:
- What do you want to be when you grow up?
- What do you want to do with the rest of your life?
- Where do you see yourself in five or ten years from now?
Annoyingly, we don’t always know or have an answer to these questions. And that’s totally fine. However, due to a large amount of pressure surrounding us, whether self-inflicted or not, we learn to believe that not knowing is a bad thing, makes us indecisive, uncertain and means we don’t have our lives in order or a head on our shoulders. That indecisiveness and uncertainty are often accompanied by feelings of frustration, anger and fear about what the future holds and whether or not we’ll “make it”.
Step back and take a second to think about how wrong that is. Do you realize the extent of what these questions actually entail? When you actually put things into perspective, you’re basically asked, at the young age of 17, 18, 20 or even, 25, to decide and know what you want to do for the rest of your life. Crazy, right? My (and I’m sure, yours too) lingering question is: How on earth are you supposed to know?
I’m a civil and commercial litigation lawyer by profession but I’m currently not practising because I’ve discovered a new passion for health, wellness, nutrition and fitness. I won’t lie, it was scary to take the leap of faith and pursue something totally different than what I studied so hard to attain for what seemed like the longest four years of my life. But, my experience taught me some very valuable lessons. Sometimes, instead of dwelling on the frustration and anger associated with the uncertainty, it helps to shift our perspective and to embrace the uncertainty.
Don’t get me wrong, this is not to say that if you’re someone who has ALWAYS known that you wanted to be a lawyer, doctor, dentist, engineer, biochemist, teacher or nutritionist that you’re wrong or unsuccessful. Sure, a select few of us know what we want from a young age, strive to attain it, successfully become just that and live and breathe it for the rest of our lives. And that’s great! But, the reality is, that doesn’t happen to MOST people.
Several studies have actually shown that many professionals are expected to change their careers three times in their lives… so even if you know (or think) you know what you want to do RIGHT NOW, chances are, you may not be doing it for the rest of your life. That’s why, sometimes, I believe that instead of striving for a sense of permanence, it can be beneficial to detach ourselves from the pressure and the standards to embrace uncertainty. In fact, another very valuable lesson I learned from my shift in career paths is that I’m human and I evolve, change and grow through my experiences. Human beings have an innate desire for change. We get bored, we need to be challenged and stimulated. We strive for growth and reality is, growth cannot happen with stagnation.
Many years ago, as I sat in the library until the wee hours of the night (or well… morning), chin deep in my law books that were way too heavy for my own good, had you told me I’d be pursuing my passion for health and fitness and studying to become a holistic nutritionist today, I’d probably look at you in disbelief. I was a perfectionist and the straight A+ student in law school with no life beyond my career goals and no idea about what it meant to have balance. I believed I was destined to be the most successful lawyer on this planet and that I’d never grow out of it, evolve, discover new passions or grow into a different, less perfectionist, more easygoing, spontaneous, adventurous person. And while I’m still very ambitious and committed to what I love and am passionate about, I’m also in a place where, as cliché as it sounds, I’ve learned that life is too short to settle and not do what you love.
The goal of this article is not to tell you that there’s something wrong with you if you’ve committed to being a lawyer, doctor, teacher or whatever it may be for the rest of your life. My goal is to share my experience with you in hopes that it inspires you to branch out and to recognize that your career is important, but it shouldn’t be your whole life. You are a person outside of the courtroom, operating room and classroom. Know that and find your balance.
Trust me, I know, it’s easier said than done. don’t blame you if you have a hard time realizing that. Unfortunately, in today’s society, we are taught, from a very young age that all that matters is structure, deadlines, respecting authority, commitment to goals, finding a career path and not changing our minds. We have been institutionalized. What happens when we “leave” the institution? When we suddenly feel like we don’t want to be a part of it anymore? When we find passion in something other than the norm? We feel confused, lost, uncertain, frustrated and doubtful. We feel that way because society teaches us to be afraid of change. My shift in career paths has taught me that there really is no reason to be afraid and that stepping out of my comfort zones and facing what I’ve been taught to fear is a very valuable and rewarding experience.
Today, my “million dollar questions” are a little different:
- Why can’t I be a lawyer but also a health coach?
- Why can’t you be a doctor but also a tutor?
- Why can’t he be a teacher but also a personal trainer?
- Why can’t I be a lawyer but also a food blogger?
- Why can’t you be a doctor but also a restaurant critic?
- Why can’t she be a teacher but also a stylist?
I can. You can. He can. She can. We can be all of those things if we let ourselves and if we teach our minds to let go of the idea that we need to know what we want to do with the rest of our lives right now and that if we don’t, we have failed. Life is a rollercoaster, with ups downs, slips and falls. Truth is, I don’t think we ever really get off; it’s a constant journey towards figuring it out and getting to know ourselves.
Fact is, we can’t be expected to pursue a career without exposure, challenges, setbacks and allowing ourselves to have an open mind and to find our purpose. You can be the best professional in the game, with a six-digit salary and still be the unhappiest person in the room. I too thought that success was defined by my notoriety and salary in the legal profession. But today, I know that success is defined by my happiness. If you can take just one thing from my experience, let it be this: Before you can know and decide what you want to be for the rest of your life, aim to wake up every day with a smile on your face knowing that the life you are living right now is the one you want for yourself.
Don’t force yourself into a career that you don’t want just because you’ve been taught that it’s time to decide or because society thinks it’s the “right” thing for you to do. Don’t get lost in the pressure. Don’t feed it. Find yourself. Feed your happiness. And with that, success will come.
When I left my job as a lawyer to recover from my eating disorder, it was probably one of the hardest decisions I ever had to make. But it was also something I had to do. I could’ve given into the pressure and the belief that doing that made me a failure. But, I didn’t give in. I let go, momentarily to find myself, my health and my happiness. Through that journey, I kept my passion for the law, but I also discovered new ones, for cooking, baking, writing, blogging, helping others, raising awareness about mental illness and eating disorders, healthy living, wellness, fitness and nutrition. These are all things that I may have never discovered or opened my eyes too had I not taken that leap of faith and made the decision to take care of my health before anything.
Today, I’m successful because I’m happy, I have control over my mind and my thoughts, I love myself and care about my health more than anything in the world, I see the value in putting myself first sometimes and not feeling bad or selfish about it and I love what I do.
Just because you may or may not know what you want to do with your life right, it doesn’t mean you won’t eventually figure it out and find your true calling. Live your life. After all, IT’S YOURS. Nobody can take that away from you and nothing, no societal norm or stigma can tell you how to live it and more importantly, how to love it. It’s all up to you. Things ALWAYS have a way of magically falling into place for you when you are ready. And whatever it is you decide to do, don’t let ANYONE OR ANYTHING tell you that it isn’t “right”, “suitable” or “enough”. If it’s RIGHT for YOU. If it SUITS YOU. If it’s ENOUGH (and if it means EVERYTHING) to YOU, that’s what matters.