Draw Upon Turning Points to Create the Next Chapter of Your WorkLife Story
“It is never too late to be what you might have been.” George Eliot
When I begin working with a client who is considering a WorkLife change, quite often it is because of a particular turning point in their life, and they have come to realise that life is too short for them not to be living it fully.
A Case Study
My Turning Point Story: Life is Too Short Not to Be Living it Fully
There have been a few turning points in my life that have caused me to stop and think about what is important to me and to consider what I want from my WorkLife. Sadly, one of those occasions was when my brother Kieran died aged just 42. Kieran had lived very much in the present and enjoyed the simple things in life. I remember his wife Christina telling me how in the summer once their four girls were in bed, they would sit in their garden and watch the sun set.
As well as bringing up four daughters – Karen, Elaine, Donna and Ciara – they also gave their time generously to supporting the families who had been impacted by the Chernobyl nuclear explosion, and every summer they would welcome children from Chernobyl to stay with them. Their stay in Ireland allowed the children to relax and recuperate during the summer months.
It was important for Kieran and Christina to give back or indeed give forward. Thinking about my brother caused me to realise that I needed to live in the present and make every day worthwhile. It also made me question what contribution I wanted to make, to give back, to give forward. It made me go deeper in my questions around what legacy I wanted to leave behind. I took a step back to evaluate my most important values to consider what needed to change in my WorkLife to honour these.
I had worked in investment banking for several years. I enjoyed the work, working with great people, and it also afforded me a great lifestyle. However, the hours were long, and I was not spending as much time with my family as I would have liked.
I made the decision to leave banking and to set up in business myself. This took time, as first I needed to figure out what I wanted to do next; and once I did, I then needed to retrain. It was quite a juggling act initially: working to bring in much needed income while studying and subsequently gaining practical experience to launch my new business and WorkLife. Although tough it was extremely enjoyable, and from the outset I was carving a WorkLife in line with my needs and values. Now I both plan for tomorrow and live for today. At times it can be extremely challenging, but it is also extremely rewarding.
Along the way I discovered ways in which I could give back, give forward, along with the legacy I want to leave behind. From this I wrote My Mission Statement: “To spread the power of WorkLives lived with Passion, Purpose and Pride by creating continuous WorkLife development programmes that are accessible to everyone.”
A Case Study
Jason’s Turning Point Story: Overcoming a Significant Challenge
Jason worked in events, a job which he really loved; and he was also a drummer in a band, which fulfilled his passion for music. He was married with two young daughters and life was pretty good. That was until Jason caught what he thought was the flu. He had a lot of aches and pains, and was feeling really run down. Within a short time, he realised that something was seriously wrong, and to his complete disbelief and horror he discovered his symptoms were actually that of gangrene. It spread rapidly, sadly resulting in both his legs being amputated from the knee down. As you can appreciate the road to recovery was long and hard from both a physical and emotional perspective for Jason and his wife.
Jason’s illness had a devastating effect on his life, and it also meant he could no longer work in his chosen field of events. This was because he could no longer cope with the physical element of setting up events, which was a major part of his role and what he enjoyed. He also had to give up his drumming because he needed a sense of rhythm in his foot tapping to ‘feel the music’, and he no longer had that.
Yet when I met Jason, he was one of the most positive and upbeat people I had ever met. I also met his wife Tina, and she told me that while they had been through a challenging time, she felt they had come through to the other side and were ready to take on life with renewed strength and vitality. They were grateful for all the good things they had in their life, the essence of which was a strong family unit: Jason, Tina and their two daughters.
By the time I had met Jason he had had robotic limb replacements. He was quite agile and maintained good health and fitness. He had a love of the outdoors, and a renewed zest for life. He spent as much time as he could with his wife and daughters in the wonderful parks of London, many of which were on his doorstep. He had plenty of time on his hands, and was determined to make the most of it, and indeed make up for the time he had lost during his illness.
He was considering his next career, and although uncertain initially what this would actually be, he began to think of it in terms of what he loved doing and what was important to him. He did a lot of his thinking when he was in the park, spending time with his wife, playing with his girls or just walking in nature maintaining his health and fitness routine. He got to know the people working in the park and talked to them about their careers. These conversations led him to become a volunteer with responsibility for maintaining the upkeep of the park. Although he had no specific experience in doing this, he quickly grew to love what he was doing, and became more and more interested in the horticultural side of things.
One of the park horticulturalists noticed Jason’s natural ability in the work he was doing and spoke to him about the internship programme they ran each year, suggesting he apply for it. This is exactly was Jason did, and he was successful in securing a place on the programme. He is now developing his new career in horticulture.
Jason’s story for me has to be the most significant in overcoming the challenge of what life threw at him, coming through his turning point with greater strength, and a determination to move on in all areas of his life, developing a new WorkLife in line with what he enjoyed doing that also fitted in with his values and that of his family.
Develop Your WorkLife Story
In light of the reality that life can be short, and you could be faced with significant challenges, take time to reflect on the following questions:
Your WorkLife Mission Statement Assignment
What is a defining moment in your life and how did it impact you?
What is most important to you?
What challenge do you want to overcome?
What do you want to accomplish? contribute? complete? create or build?
What legacy or reputation do you want to leave behind?
Use this information to write your Mission Statement
A reminder of mine: “To spread the power of WorkLives lived with Passion, Purpose, and Pride by creating continuous WorkLife development programmes that are accessible to everyone.”
Or you can write a slogan that encapsulates what is important to you, which is what Jason did.
Jason’s WorkLife Slogan
“Happiness is a walk in the park.”
For Jason this sums up everything that is important to him: his love of walking in nature, playing with his girls, walking hand in hand with his wife, walking alone with his thoughts, all the time maintaining his fitness and well-being. Recognising the positive impact of simply being in the park, being at one with nature has for him and his family and wanting to play a part in contributing to creating that impact for other people too. While also playing his part in helping the environment through his work. This is Jason’s way of giving back or giving forward. This is the legacy he wants to leave behind. This is what he wants to be remembered for.
The Moral of this Story
Turning points are a revealing part of your WorkLife story. While they can be painful, they can also bring about the enlightenment you need to resolve your WorkLife needs and wants. They can help direct and lead you to the actions you need to take to drive your WorkLife story forward. In literature the turning point is the point of highest tension in a narrative before the story is resolved and reaches the conclusion. Turning points can do the same in your WorkLife story by making you think about the chapters you want to live out through the rest of your WorkLife, and to the legacy you want to leave behind.
Develop a Practice of Regular Self-Feedback Exercise
As in literature, use turning points to answer any unanswered questions, to reveal any hidden secrets, and to resolve any inner conflicts.
Develop a Practice of Insightful Self-Questioning
Do this by asking these important questions:
Am I living my best WorkLife, in line with fulfilling everything that is important to me?
What do I want?
Words of Wisdom
When you reach a turning point in your WorkLife, this is a significant point in time that can cause an irrevocable change in direction. Consider that perhaps it is the time to create the next chapter of your WorkLife story.
© Carmel O’ Reilly 2019 First published 2019 by WorkLife Incorporated
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