Have you ever found yourself at a moment when you weren’t sure about your next steps? We all get there at some point or another. It can happen suddenly thanks to an unexpected event like the death of a loved one. It can happen in a more planful way when we decide to leave a job or when a child leaves for college. It can happen thanks to a recognition deep down that something just isn’t right. I’ve been fascinated by these moments for the better part of the last five years. I’m convinced that it is these moments that leave us at the doorstep of transition. What do you do when you find yourself at a moment when you’re not sure how to proceed?
Some respond to these moments with nothing more than a dismissive shrug. I hear this crew say, “Life. It’s just life.”
I smile politely when I meet these people. I will never convince them otherwise.
For those willing to respond to uncertainty with an open heart, I’ve learned that these moments are enormously important opportunities in our lives and in the lives of those we touch.
It is at these junctures that we have an opportunity to grow; to re-calibrate our voices; and to contribute more of our unique gifts to a world desperately in need of such contributions.
A simple one. Trust ourselves enough to bring voice to those things that hold value and meaning for us. Whatever this is or wherever it may lead.
One woman in my research told a powerful story recently that spoke to this task.
Hers started with a wrenching and destabilizing moment.
By 26, Lizbeth was immersed in an extremely competitive academic research lab. She realized, “This is not who I want to be.”
The realization was crushing.
“Up until that time, the package was defined. The package of me that is. It was stamped and it was on the truck going to its destination. I didn’t know what to do. I was feeling very confused and very lost and alone.”
Lizbeth toyed with leaving academia but was terrified by what that world might hold for her. “I was aware that if I don’t want academia, who am I? I had always thought that my attractiveness to other people was about being smart. If I didn’t want to offer that and be in academia anymore, then who am I? Transition was such a whopper. It wasn’t just a positional transition it was like a massive identity transition.”
Lizbeth made a decision to move away from academia. She described that decision as momentous. She wandered a bit. She needed to excavate and exercise her voice. It was circuitous. Messy. She got a little lucky. She slowly made progress. “I think I also got to the place of accepting not knowing.” She imagined all sorts of possibilities and gave herself the permission to try.
I now think of uncertain moments as invitations. We can accept or decline them. Accepting can be downright scary.
Could acceptance be viewed as an act of courage?
We live in a time that shuns those who are in a place of ‘not knowing.’ Think about it. How often have you felt the need to communicate to others that you’re on track? Heading in the right direction? Engaged? Successful?
These social norms can also direct us to ‘go quiet’ when our paths open up to uncertainty & possibility. The irony in all of this is that our voices falter even more if we react to uncertainty with silencing our voices.
“I am finding my voice.” Said a 51-year-old woman to me the other day. Imagine that. Her comment was unprompted. I wanted to cheer out loud.
Next time you find yourself at a moment with no clear path forward, take a minute to recognize it as an opportunity. Trust your instincts about what may be at play. See if you can’t use your voice to take one step in the direction of an imagined possibility all your own.
Is it time to turn up voice’s volume?
Have another minute? Read some earlier blogs about Voice:
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