Do you ever walk into your office, switch on your computer and feel your soul go to sleep?
Ten years ago, I did.
How on earth did I end up here? I've worked so hard for this so why do I feel empty and uninspired? And how am I going to get out of here?
I had one of those jobs that made people say ‘Wow’. I was a political correspondent for the global news agency Reuters. I reported from a desk in parliament, went for drinks in Downing Street and flew around the world with Prime Minister Tony Blair.
I’d worked ridiculously hard to get there and I thrived on the adrenaline and long hours at first. Six years later, I was exhausted and felt dead inside.
I had changed so much that my Wow job was now completely misaligned with my authentic self. I’d begun to recover from an eating disorder I’d had since my teens – I’d used food to numb painful feelings and disguise low self-esteem – and I’d started to make friends with the vulnerable, creative woman beneath my tough façade.
I needed to leave my job but I felt trapped, with a big mortgage and a lifestyle I’d grown used to. It felt like there was no way out. But the time came when I had no choice. My dad died, a relationship ended and grief - for those losses and others that dated back years - knocked me to the ground.
I burned out and broke down. I was no longer a globetrotting reporter. I was now sat at home, in my pyjamas and in tears. I returned to work but my heart wasn't in it so when a voluntary redundancy offer came my way, I went for it. I was scared of letting go of my salary and status, but I knew there was something more.
That leap of faith was the start of a new life. It hasn’t always been easy - the things we truly want don’t come easy to most of us - but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Slowly, I found myself. With more time and a slower pace of life, I rediscovered my love of writing and unearthed my passion for coaching. I also reconnected to the things I’d loved as a child - camping, cycling and being outdoors. On one outdoors weekend, I met my now fiancé. A few years later, I moved to Dorset to be with him.
So much has changed since those dark days in parliament, but the change began with that soul-dead feeling, with that sense that my light had gone out. It began when it all fell apart. I had to break down to break through.
Over to you
If you’re feeling soul-dead in your career or life, or if you have a niggling sense that you’re heading that way, can I suggest you do something about it, and preferably before you burn out or break down? I know it’s not easy. I know you have bills and responsibilities. But you deserve to feel fully alive.
You can start small, with these baby steps:
- Carve out some space and time to connect to how you feel. Don’t run from the feelings, even if they frighten you. Sit with them. Become aware of what’s really going on inside. This awareness is your catalyst for change
- Make space in your life for the things your heart longs for. You may have a deep desire to write, paint, draw, dance, sing, travel or learn a language. Set aside a small amount of time every week for new pursuits. Get up an hour earlier or absent yourself from Facebook
- Dip your toe in the water. I wanted to live by the sea so I went on daytrips to the beach and I house-sat for a few weeks. When I finally moved to Dorset, I came for six months. I kept my options open. If you’d like a new career or a new home, find a way to test it out without taking big risks
- Put your plans out there. Tell family and friends. Write them down. Draw them or make a vision board. How do you feel as you speak or draw? Are you animated and excited? Do you feel alive? I blogged about leaving London two years before I moved and spoke about it to friends. Things might not happen overnight but we need to own our dreams
- When you’re ready, leap. Listen to your heart. You have the answers. You know what’s right for you. Get support. Get people on your side. And then go for it
- Sit out the wobbles. It’s natural to have second thoughts but the more you understand these wobbles are normal, the easier they’ll be to ride out. Breathe deeply. Tell yourself you can reverse the change whenever you want. Give yourself a deadline to see if the doubts subside. From my experience, they will.
If this post resonates, do comment below or get in touch. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org or go to www.howtofallinlove.co.uk and check out my courses and retreats. You can also hear me speak in London on Feb 12 in partnership with Psychologies and NOW Live Events. More details here: Fall in love with yourself, with life and with another. For more on my story, take a look at my book, How to Fall in Love.