So many days I hit 2 PM and I wonder what am I doing with my life? My husband is at work; my kids are busy, whether that be in school, at work or at leisure, and I am out of things to fill my time. I say I want to figure out what to do, that I want to be impactful or connected, but every time I start really looking into ways to get involved professionally or in a community organization, I start to feel overwhelmed by how much of me would be required.
It feels selfish (and I know I am lucky to have the choice), but I cannot seem to reconcile the desire to feel purposeful and preserve the time for me I so love. I exercise daily which is crucially important to me; I manage our household which I do really well; I am available to help/support my kids and my husband first, but also my parents and sister and good friends, all of which gives me great satisfaction. Plus, I like to read, cook, travel, etc. It feels small on an impact scale – I won’t be gracing any magazine covers -- but I am not willing to give up the flexibility that allows for this part of my life.
Yet, 2 PM hits, and more often than not these days, I sink into pensive mode.
I met with my dear friend Dan today and talked to him about these feelings. Dan is over a decade behind me in age and at least a decade ahead of me in wisdom. I have known him for over 12 years, and he never fails to give of his time and insight. His advice: stop imagining outcomes. Don’t project to where you will be; just take a couple of really small steps in the most interesting direction and see what happens.
It was so simple, but I couldn’t see it.
He asked me to promise I would do just two things: dare to send the link to this week-old blog to two good friends and reach out to one organization that works in an area that interests me to just learn what they do and if/how they need help. He told me to stop worrying if the blog is good enough or even if those friends ever read it – just share it. He insisted I stop perusing Web sites and imagining how I might fit into positions or programs or prescribed ways of helping and just listen to one person first.
This did not feel threatening, so I promised.
I drafted the beginning of this post yesterday, before I had coffee with Dan. I wasn’t brave enough to post it – I think I worried both about how privileged it sounded, as well as how exposed I would feel with it “out there.” And I’m glad I didn’t because time let me refine it to be clearer today. But I’m also glad I’m posting it now: really, I cannot believe I’m the only one stuck.
I just finished rereading Clay Christensen’s “How Will You Measure Your Life?” on the advice of another friend. Clay was a professor of mine at HBS, and I had such respect for him and his integrity. Truth is that I had forgotten how much of the book aligned with the way I live already, but the last chapter, where Clay outlines how to find your life’s purpose, truly hit a chord.
Clay outlines a three-step process (I love clear instructions!). Define your likeness – who you really want to be; commit 100% to that likeness, and then choose the appropriate metric(s) to measure success. What was so impactful to me was Clay’s metric: he decided he would measure his success, not by the number of books he published or the renown he enjoyed in the business world, but instead by the number of individuals he was able to help and support in his life. Outcome based? Yes. Overwhelming? No.
Twice inspired. Maybe tomorrow at 2PM will start to feel different. I can hope so.