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Lipstick without a Dream
I believe we aren't getting to the root cause of why so many individuals aren’t able to bring their hearts to the office. We are afraid.
The statistic alone tells an interesting story—it’s estimated that 75 percent of folks wake-up on Monday morning uninspired about what they do for a living. In response to this epidemic, a plethora of experts, consultants and coaches are making their living telling us how to solve this unfortunate phenomenon. Most of the advice, I believe, isn’t getting to the root cause of why so many individuals aren’t able to bring their hearts to the office. We are afraid.
I’m not talking about the kind of fear that causes us to lock our car doors and bedroom windows, but rather the type that closes our spirit and puts us in self-preservation mode. We fear this isn’t the right career, or we’re nervous it is. In the backs of our minds, we wrestle with the anxiety that we’re not good enough, smart enough, or deserving enough and then we stop short of going after what we really want. Hell, sometimes the fear-based tendencies of the mind can cause even the most talented to give up dreaming all together.
Of course, sadness is what I feel when I think about the people who have taken dreaming off the table. If I give myself license to connect with this sadness in this very moment—I am easily transported to the 75th floor of the prestigious Columbia Tower Club. It was an evening meant for celebration. I’d extracted myself from the masses of high heels and clinking glasses to make my way to the floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking Seattle so I could discretely check my phone. My intuition told me a quick look would explain the disappointing no-show.
Like the other ten women gathered together in the room that night, the Columbia grad on the other end of the text had made a year-long commitment to find work that feeds her soul. And yet, the first cryptic message on my screen solidifies it is not always enough to intimately understand our strengths, passions, purpose…when our mental and emotional barriers won’t allow us to get out of our head and listen to the whispers of our soul.
I am dressed, lipstick on, but can’t make myself walk out the front door.
This evening had been meant to culminate the work we’d all done together in the past year, as well as imaginatively dream out loud about the possibilities of the future by pretending we were at our 5-year reunion. But, this invitation had proven too much for this amazing woman whose companionship with fear promises to keep her safe…if she will only keep herself small.
I don’t have any dreams.
I take a deep breath, send a supportive text, and turn myself around with a smile. I need to be strong for those who are attending this evening. Our celebration has already shown itself to be a success if I measure the energy level in the room. I reenter the swirl of events by taking a hors d’oeuvre from the server, wiping my tears and following the laughter in hopes of saving my professional make-up job done especially for this evening.
But when the lashes came off later that evening, I knew the absence of this woman was the final call I needed to evolve my coaching practice. Though incredibly important work, it is not always enough to identify the strengths, passions and priorities that promise to create more meaning and engagement at work. This knowledge, however important, has the potential to offer only limited success when there are old beliefs, strategies and programs that keep even the most well-intentioned individual swirling in her head, captive to her fears, and away from her dreams.
As the years have passed since the time of that event, I’ve become more convinced that our biggest business epidemic is really a societal pandemic. It’s not that we don’t love work. We don’t love life. This tragedy can’t be fixed with another newfangled career engagement theory or strategy from me, or anyone else. Instead, this is our time to understand we are wired early in life from a place of primal fear; yet, when we remove these mental obstacles meant to protect us, we can connect directly to our hearts. And, from this place of truth is where we will find work – and a life – that feeds the soul.
Learn more about the author, Susan Crampton Davis.
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