Back in college, I met a woman who claimed she was psychic. She said that one day I’d make a living by helping corporate executives suffer less. I laughed it off. I didn’t believe in fortune tellers, and I didn’t think corporate executives suffered. Little did I know…
Soon after my graduation, I found myself in a swanky tech office with free meals, onsite massages, and all the perks. I enjoyed the lifestyle and recognition that came with fast success. I lived the Silicon Valley dream – working on the coolest technology with the smartest people. Ten hour days plus a gruelling commute followed by late night scrambles to hit deadlines seemed a small price to pay. In hindsight, I was frequently overwhelmed and exhausted, but I didn’t let myself feel it. Somehow, I managed to disconnect from many things that were important to me just to constantly prove myself and climb the next rung on the career ladder. Once in a while, I would hear soft whispers like “what is this all for?” or “do I really belong here?” but I ignored them. My career was skyrocketing after all.
It wasn’t until my marriage unexpectedly fell apart that I started to see what was really going on. I felt lost, depleted, and deeply sad. I woke up from busyness and realized that the life I was living wasn’t the life I wanted.
I slowed down and, with the support of others, learned to listen deeply. I sat with uncomfortable questions like “why is this so hard?” “why do I feel so empty?” and “is it possible for me to find joy in my work without having to leave my job?”
Here is what I discovered. Life is not a to-do list. Blindly following other people’s demands can cause the emptiness inside. It’s possible to find joy at work when you discover what’s true for you and make that your priority. I also realized that I didn’t have to throw away my career. Instead, I embraced how small but meaningful tweaks could make a huge difference. I learned how to cultivate space and connection in the midst of the craziness I was in. I could have both – success at work, and fulfillment.