Some people love yoga.

They twist themselves into what I think are unnatural poses, hold them for a few seconds or minutes and then somehow fluidly move into some new mind-boggling place of twisted arms and legs.

And they feel great.

(I admit I’m a teeny tiny bit envious of them.)

Meanwhile many of us are so busy contorting our personal lives into the paths we think we’re supposed to be on, mentally twisting our passions and desires into a mind-boggling place of have-tos and shoulds.

And we’re freakin’ miserable.

Start the rest of your life now

What do you want to be when you grow up?

A lot of us had dreams of being stuntmen, superheroes and the prime minister of Canada. When we’re in elementary school.

We’re starting to define ourselves. A few years later in junior high, someone asks us the question on career exploration day and we want to be doctors, lawyers, architects.

Then in senior high, it gets serious. We have to decide what our major is going to be and that, kids, decides our path for the rest of our lives.

Or does it?

I recently learned of a young woman who went to university for her pre-med degree. Less than two years in, she went home for Thanksgiving and told her parents she was giving it all up to pursue her music career.

Her parents, who were funding her education, were upset, understandably so for many who work hard to ensure their children’s success. How could a music career possibly be more secure, more reliable, more profitable than being a doctor?

They were so disappointed, but why couldn’t they have been excited for her? In her early 20s, she found the clarity of who she wanted to be and what she wanted to do.

She couldn’t have done that without going to medical school first.

Too big decisions too soon

Instead, many of us decide our major and pursue that goal at all costs. We hate our courses and dread our finals, but we’re thousands of dollars in debt already.

All of a sudden, we’re $80,000 in and we feel like we have to keep going. Then we have to give at least eight to 10 years to a career we hate before we even get started, just to make our education feel worthwhile.

Of course, those of us in middle age know what happens next, right? Just when the plan was to pursue what we really want to do, we have a mortgage, a personal line of credit and kids of our own. They must be taken care of and so we plod along in a career we hate, never seeing the end to this life of punching the clock.

We stress about our career choices in university, pressure to make a huge decision about our lives before we’re even old enough to know anything about life.

We stress about our career choices when we’re in them, wondering if we made the right decision and imagining whether there’s something better out there.

We burn out, because we’re committed to the path and we feel like there’s no way to change.

Is there a way out?

youth maturity
I just started working with a young adult who was recruited to university sports. He got to school and became stressed out, finding himself too far away from family and friends too soon.

He gave up and came home.

Now he isn’t doing anything but playing video games all day and driving his parents nuts. So they’ve sent him to me to help him figure it all out.

He’s not in a place where he’s ready to make those decisions, because he hasn’t explored his identity beyond “amateur athlete.”

Then there’s my client who worked in corrections for 37 years. At age 50, he took a buyout. He has a long list of skills and credentials and he isn’t ready to stop working yet.

He has no idea where to start looking for a new job or even what to look for.

When we’ve reached middle age and find ourselves pushed out by downsizing and cutbacks, we’re lost. We’ve tied our identities to our careers and we’re told we can’t do that any longer.

So we ask ourselves “what do I want to do when I grow up” but it’s really the wrong question.

We have to start asking ourselves:

What kind of problems do I want to solve?

You might dabble in art … painting, photography, interior design.

Or, you might be handy in the garage, fixing things or building garden boxes and shelves.

That’s where we start.

Does your hobby:

  • Make you completely lose track of time?
  • Make you feel like you’ve accomplished something?
  • Make you smile?

Yes, yes, yes? Congrats, you’ve found something that satisfies you and it may very well be the type of thing you can build your next career around.

But, Janice, I’ve been so focused on my career that I don’t have any hobbies, you say.

Yep, I know lots of people like you. It’s time to go back to the Clarity through Contrast list, where you write down everything you don’t want in life in one column and what the opposite of that looks like in the Clarity column.

It’s a philosophy of picking a lifestyle, not a job title. We get too attached to the title of “supervisor,” “writer,” “engineer” or “electrician,” and we don’t look for aspects of a job or career that fit our core values.

Do I follow my passion?

A lot of us have fallen into our career paths.

We thought that’s our parents wanted.

We thought that’s what we were supposed to do.

We were good at something, received praised for it and turned it into a career.

And now it sucks.

Either we hate the career we’ve chosen, resign ourselves to our “fate” or we don’t feel like we have a career at all and it feels like we screwed up our lives. We get into a judgment place and start with the negative self-talk.

When we feel like we have no purpose, we haven’t clarified our values and what’s most important to us. Worse yet, we’re contorting ourselves into a definition of who we think we should or who someone else wants us to be.

My goal with all my clients is to get them to a place where they know what brings them joy and they learn how to do that more often.

First, they have to:

  • Experiment
  • Explore
  • Try new things
  • Be curious
  • Have fun doing it

And be willing to make sacrifices. Because, hey, not everybody likes what they do 100 per cent of the time.

Not even actors. We see them as naturally talented, lucky, rich and famous, but many of them had to eat a lot of shit sandwiches along the way.

We have to compromise and sacrifice and ask ourselves “is there enough good in this that it’s OK.” If not, we need to make a change.

We have to change our mindset around our life paths, not our career paths.

We have to look for opportunities to do what we want and abandon the idea that we have to do that for the rest of our lives.

Because we change.

And business and technology change.

So the world changes.

My sister says she wants to live her life by design, not default. She makes very conscious decisions about her life, her family and her career. She doesn’t want to just keep muddling along like so many of us do.

Meanwhile, my athlete friend is lost. He’s feeling the pressure from his parents to do something. Anything.

So we’re going to experiment.

We’re going to get him to a place where he gives himself permission to try new things and find out what brings him joy.

He has to know he can experiment with the possibilities to find his own clarity.

We all have to ask ourselves what we want to be remembered for and who, if anyone, is it important to be remembered by.

I’m Janice Otremba, a professional speaker, facilitator and coach who specializes in stress management, health and wellness, personal growth and life balance. Let’s kick your butt into gear with simple, sound advice for beating burnout and powering up your happy. Book a free 15-minute consultation call with me to get started!

Main image courtesy of arztsamui at

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