Happiness First; Then Success?

I received an early Christmas gift in late November that will make all others this year pale by comparison. It’s one of those priceless “inner gifts of the heart” that only the person receiving it can recognize or fully appreciate. You know what I mean; the sign that you have received one of these special gifts is that as soon as it appears from out of nowhere, automatic tears, the tender sweet ones, brim the eyes in gratitude.

In this particular instance, the tears appeared when I saw a new email from my client, “Pat”, about whom I wrote in a blogpost dated October 11, 2013, called Cleaning House: You Never Know What Might Turn the Tide. You might want to look it up, so you will fully appreciate the progress that occurred after I wrote that blog about an interesting success story. [And by the way, you can always access previous blogposts by title in the index to the right of whatever my current blog is. If you are curious or if you need some encouragement on any aspect of your current career/life situation, pick a title you like, and you might find just the words you are looking for.]

The point I made in that particular post was how you never really know which aspect of your “career pain” might need to be taken care of first – when it seems like everything needs changing, but it’s all become too overwhelming to change anything. In Pat’s case, the seemingly locked door that couldn’t be opened was her deep desire to hire someone to help with the housework, a responsibility that was totally hers because of the demands of her husband’s job, and one which made her feel like a maid. The captions in her early emails, between Skype sessions from my office in Oakland to hers in Europe, read “Drowning”.

According to her, both the room designated as her home office and the rest of the house were a mess, she was behind in her billing, she desperately needed to make more money, and she was sure that her husband would never agree to hiring a housekeeper, because she wasn’t making enough money from her own at-home business (writing, editing, tutoring, and translating) to justify the expense. Here she was with a Ph.D. in international public health, years of professional experience in the field, and the ability to speak four languages, and she was miserable, despite the fact that she adored her husband and two young kids. There were many tears during those early conversations.

“So what was the conversation like when you talked to your husband about hiring a housekeeper?”,  I asked during one session that began once again with a focus on the impossible situation she was in because of her inability hire a housekeeper. “What conversation?” she asked into the void that had suddenly appeared. As is often the case, the clarity needed on a particular issue emerged like an iceberg, and the “homework” for the next session appeared seemingly out of nowhere. She knew what she had to do. She had to have that hugely important conversation with her husband about her pain – the very thing she had avoided like the plague. That is a great example of how once the process of finding one’s way is in full swing, the necessary “homework” begins to be obvious. It emerges all by itself. Together we prepared for the conversation, as best we could, and then it took place.

When they finally had the conversation she had been dreading for so long, it was a huge success! It actually brought them very close together. He had no idea how bad she felt, and he immediately saw how hiring a housekeeper made perfect sense. Overnight, she had been thrown a life raft, and things began to change.

I just pulled up the lengthy caption history of emails to me, from Drowning in 2012, to Hired a Housekeeper!, to the present, and they read like this: Updated CV, Photos Attached for My New Website and Business Cards, I Got an Interview!, Interview Preparation, Narratives for My Interviews, Good News!, and in the fall of 2013,Things are Booming!

News in the “Booming” email included her success in winning a high paying translation project that called not only on her writing, editing and translation skills, but on her education and professional  experience in international health. Her newly-minted website and marketing efforts led to many new opportunities, including tutoring adults in conversational English, tutoring many more kids by marketing her skills to primary schools outside of her own neighborhood, and really experiencing increased confidence, joy and satisfaction in her work, all the while happily paying that housekeeper she cannot do without. She and her husband have begun working as a team to deal with personal and professional issues, rather than in uneasy isolation. These are amazing instances of building positive momentum in every aspect of her life.

But at the end of November 2014, after almost a year without contact while she was happily living her new life, came an email with this caption: My Life is So Beautiful! and the opening words, “. . . and you were the one who set me back on my path.”

Therein lies “the inner gift of the heart” with accompanying sudden tears. Some other time I could tell you about all the progress happening in her professional life and in the professional life of her husband, who has started his own business with three other close friends and colleagues, and even exciting news about how her kids are beginning to find their way. This leads to a conclusion I get to see fairly often in doing the work I love: when one person finds their way, the people around them tend to find their way too.

Is there anything in particular that might be blocking you from your Joy? Think about this as you move into the new year, and rather than making a resolution you won’t keep, take action on one primary thing that has been bugging you for a long, long time. Then tell me about it!

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