**This is a guest post by Scott Elmgren. Scott is a career choice coach, writer, and entrepreneur hell bent on changing how we look at choosing best-fit work. After finding himself in career misalignment, he set out on a journey to get back on track and helps others do the same. When he’s not writing or coaching, you can find him camping, hiking, working on cars, or trying to tire out his Cardigan Corgi, Indy.
Let’s dive straight into it and see how he traded his success for a life of living intentionally…
This is the story of how I went from being a stressed out 20-something to changing the trajectory of my life for the better. I also detail what I learned along the way, and how you can take action today to start building the life you want.
Let’s start at the beginning…
Out of the corner of my eye, the screen lit up on my company-provided iPhone. I didn’t have to look to know what it was telling me. I was triple-booked for meetings in 15 minutes, all of which I had to be at. Somehow. As I attempted to re-focus my attention to the meeting I was presently in, another all too familiar wave of stress and anxiety washed over me. I knew once I got through these morning meetings, my plan was to run (literally) back to my desk, and choke down some food as I frantically replied to the 50 – and growing – emails that had piled up in the last 30 minutes. Looking at my afternoon, I knew it wasn’t going to be much better and so, I began mentally preparing for another late evening.
This was the culmination of my career working for an advertising agency. I worked hard and I mean really, really hard. But of course I was rewarded for it. By all intents and purposes, I was successful. The company I worked for was good to me and offered many unique and generous benefits. I was climbing the ladder of promotions and raises faster than many of my friends. But despite all of this, something was missing.
Many people would say I was crazy to walk away from my job, to walk away from what was ahead of me but I knew that if I didn’t escape, I was going to work myself into a life I didn’t want.
The thing is, I knew early on it wasn’t a good fit, but I felt I had no other options. The reality was that I hadn’t put the time and effort into creating the life I wanted. All I knew was that if I didn’t get out, I’d never have the time to explore what I really wanted to do. I’d never reconnect with what was really important to me.
So, I started thinking about what I wanted. I started to think about my next step. I was ready to compromise for some “normal” work hours and a better work/life balance (if there was really such a thing); just to be able to take a breath and start to figure things out. It would have been easy to just assume a similar role at another agency, but my gut – and people I had talked to – told me that it would be more of the same, just different people and different widgets.
I knew that wasn’t going to solve my problems so I looked for a different type of role; one that I thought would be a better fit for me. It turns out, I really didn’t know what I wanted and was making decisions based on gut feelings and surface-level observations. After a long search, I found an opportunity to put my advertising life behind me and moved on to something more suitable for me.
Getting back on course
After about a year and a half, I realized my newly selected career wasn’t a good fit either. Sure, it provided some of the things I was searching for, like more time to do things outside of work I’d always wanted to do and job responsibilities I thought would be a good fit. Yet, something still wasn’t right.
I was still stressed out; stressed to the point where it was affecting me physically. It got so bad that I eventually needed to see the doctor as my symptoms persisted. This isn’t the sort of thing you envision yourself going through in your late 20’s or early 30’s.
After realizing how it was affecting me, I decided it was time for another change, but I was afraid of once again making the wrong decision. So, I sought professional help and hired a career choice coach to help me get “unstuck”. Little did I know just how large of an impact this experience would have on my life.
After about six months of various assessments, daily internal reflection, informational interviews, a lot of reading, and pondering over different careers, I finally decided what I wanted to do; what I felt compelled to do in this world.
I still remember walking in and sitting down in my coach’s office, looking her in the eye, and telling her I wanted her job! These words get said in job interviews all the time, but for the first time in my life, I actually meant it! But my spin on it was different. I was told multiple times during informational interviews that I’d be great working with young people, and this really resonated with me. I had a light bulb moment and I knew what I needed to do.
I needed to change how young people thought about career and education selection in order to help them avoid the traps I had fallen into myself. I felt a sense of purpose being able to say, “I want to help young people make informed, intentional decisions about future work.”
Now the question was “how?” How does one become a Career Choice Coach for young adults? Well, there is no defined path to this outcome so I began to immerse myself in anything I thought would help people make these important decisions.
Within a few months, I established a career coaching practice dedicated to helping young people identify fulfilling work while also becoming a certified Myers-Briggs Type Indicator practitioner – a tool to help uncover clues about who you are and best-fit work. I also completed a rigorous coach training program, spanning over six months. I met inspiring people through all of these experiences, and I was starting to gain momentum doing the work I was passionate about. But it still wasn’t enough!
I absolutely loved working one-on-one with people, but I felt the message of living an intentional and purposeful life needed a bigger platform. So, I created another website and blog to provide resources to anyone struggling to find best-fit work.
Now, one might think the training is complete and the there’s nothing left to do, but I believe that I’ve only just started – there’s so much more work ahead! And you know what? I’m stoked about it! That is how I think we should feel about our work. That we are called to do it. This is how I plan to make a mark on this world; one person at a time.
10 Lessons I Learned that You Can Put into Practice Today
1. Your first step forward is actually a step inward. Becoming self-aware of what works for you and what doesn’t is the only way to begin to live a life of purpose.
2. It’s not just going to happen; you have to make it happen. With intention. Be clear and deliberate about what you want to accomplish. If you’re unclear, spend more time on #1.
3. It will take sacrifice. Whether that is waking up early, staying up late, declining social events, giving up weekends, or all of the above. In order to change your life, you will actually have to change your life! There’s no shortcut.
4. Find an accountability partner. Whether this is a coach or someone else, find someone who holds you accountable. Tip – don’t choose friends or family. It’s easier to brush off commitments with loved ones, as we know they won’t hold it against us.
5. Start small. It’s overwhelming to think about everything we want to change all at once. Pick just one thing today that you’ll do differently that’s more in line with how you’d like to be living. Make this a daily practice.
6. Be “abundant-minded.” It’s easy to get sucked into the trap of thinking of all that we don’t have, so try to think about everything you do have and can leverage to get you to where you want to be instead.
7. Make a schedule. Dedicate time to work on whatever it is you need to work on that day to keep your momentum. It helps to work on it at the same time each day. Commit to a certain number of hours each week.
8. Fail. A lot. Sometimes it’s the only way to learn. I considered going into furniture design at one point, so I tried it out; making an ottoman out of reclaimed pallet wood. I learned quickly that it wasn’t something I wanted to do for a living. So try things out, but be self-aware to see if what you’re doing is connecting with you on some level or not.
9. You might have to make it up as you go along. Often, there is no road map, so just pick a direction you know you want to go and start moving. Don’t worry about the exact journey; keep working in the general direction and the rest will become clearer.
10. Just start.
Are you trying to live more intentionally? Share your story in the comments below.
** Scott writes about career choice and living intentionally on his blog, EntryLevelLife.com. If you are ready to start living your awesome life, he would like to offer you free access to his Kick Start Guide.