Category Archives: HUMAN RESOURCES – The Road to Self-Rediscovery

Part 1: LOST IN THE SAUCE: The Stay-at-Home-Mom’s Guide to Self-Rediscovery

Seven years ago I was a Vice-President at a prestigious investment firm, commuting into the city. I had two young children and was expecting a third. I knew who I was. My days were over-booked filled with meetings and projects during the day and night-time feedings in the evening. I would wake up early, go to sleep late. I was exhausted and stressed but fulfilled.

Being pregnant with my third child made me question the idea of being able to do-it-all.  I felt like I was being pulled in too many directions. So, I made that hard heart-felt decision of giving up my career and becoming a stay-at-home mom. I had attended a top women’s college, which made it even more difficult to give up my identity as a high-powered, career woman. Especially since I had gone to a prestigious women’s college whose students actually sent around a petition saying that Barbara Bush had not accomplished enough in life to warrant being our graduation speaker – after all, they claimed, she was only a wife and mother.

I was comforted in the fact that many of my friends were going through the same thing. Our conversations about our decision didn’t center around how easy it had been to come to the conclusion to stay at home. The conversations were more self-defensive and full of justifications – we were clearly not comfortable with our realization that we couldn’t do it all.

But then once we got into the routine of not having to get up and somehow make ourselves look presentable enough to get on a train at seven in the morning after only a few hours of sleep the night before, things weren’t so bad. And as the babies turned to toddlers and pre-school came into play, we actually had some free-time. It meant we had time to accomplish some personal goals that we had been putting off – getting some exercise, perhaps even losing some weight, organizing the house, having lunch with friends. Life was good – at least for the moment.

Along with the toddler years, came the age of being able to get a full night’s sleep again, which meant more energy. Energy we needed to find an outlet for. I had been in marketing, which meant I was used to creative projects. This background led to homemade, laminated flashcard sets and personalized photo storybooks for the kids.  I also organized the kitchen cabinets and redecorated the kids’ rooms.

As the kids each came to the stage of wanting to have play dates with their new-found friends rather than playing pattycake with me, I needed to find broader outlets. I joined a volunteer group and started helping out at their schools. I found myself comparing these groups to the groups of people I used to work at the office with. The hardest thing about running a volunteer project is that when someone doesn’t do what they are assigned or show up to meetings, you can’t fire them. You are just supposed to smile and say you understand that everyone has their own priorities and that they are all “volunteers”.  And working on school committees had its on issues.  I was chair of an event for mother’s to enjoy an evening out. Our theme was supposed to be A Mystical Evening, complete with a fortune-teller for entertainment. That was until one of the mother’s went to the local newspaper and all but pronounced us as witches.  So after about a year of that, I took another good look at my life.

My days used to be full of important budget and personnel decisions, project completions and sales forecasts. Then it consisted of teaching my little life forms how to walk for the first time, how to talk, huge milestone moments that any parent could claim as big accomplishments. And now, I found it consisted of driving kids to play dates, doing dishes, cleaning the house, making doctor’s appointments, planning the family vacation.

The April I turned 40, I found a new significance that month to writing the word “homemaker” under the occupation category of our family tax return.  I found myself wondering who I had become.  I remember a conversation I had with a close friend of mine that was in a very similar situation. We talked about how the kids are barely home, they are starting to have “their own mini-lives”. Our husbands come home tired after a long day of work, or what we like to call having the luxury of being out of the house all day, and leave their dishes in the sink. When we recount our day, it consistently entails picking up toys, doing laundry and trying to get the marker off our child’s legs. I was feeling particularly anxious that day when we were having our talk. And I will always remember what she said, “I know exactly how you feel. It’s like you are lost in the sauce.”

She was right. I did feel like I was drowning in a big vat of family dinner tomato sauce. I felt like I had lost myself and no longer knew who I was. A personal daily goal of tackling a large pile of laundry was not a fulfilling one to me. So, this is where I decided to get on the road of self-rediscovery.  Not to rediscover who I used to be, but to discover who I wanted to be in this next stage of life and to take action towards that end.

Once I started to do that, I found that I was becoming happier and more content.  But I also found that so many of my friends still found themselves “lost in the sauce”, unable to figure out how to even take those first steps towards self-rediscovery. In my past career one of my focuses was coming up with manuals to help people take the first steps to investing towards their financial goals. Their financial goals were more like personal goals that they wanted to achieve – where they wanted to see themselves 5, 10, 20 years from now. Not too dissimilar to trying to help stay-at-home moms try to uncover what they want to achieve and how they want to see themselves in the future, and then helping them take the steps to get there.  So, that’s the basis of this part of my blog.

So, whether it’s getting back into a career, finding ways to achieve a life-long goal, or to even become a more fulfilled homemaker, the next few blog posts in this section will help start you on that path. We are all self-empowered strong women. We are naturally inherent caretakers. But now it’s time to take steps towards taking care of ourselves, too, because we are in charge of our own happiness and a happier, more fulfilled mom leads to happier children.  So, we shouldn’t feel bad about taking care of ourselves, because as they say during air flight emergency procedure instructions, place the oxygen mask over yourself first so that you are able to then place one on your child. As moms, if we can’t breath, we’re not going to be much help to anyone else.

For this journey, you will need a notebook. Label the notebook “My Road to Self-Rediscovery”. This portion of my blog works like a workbook. It doesn’t go from oldest to newest like a blog. You should follow it in order, just as it is sequentially numbered. Good luck!

To see how to navigate this blog, click on “What Is Mommysoffice?” in the TOP HEADER MENU.

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Part 2: DEFINING YOURSELF – Past & Present

If you’ve ever had a single friend who has used an on-line dating service, I’m sure they have shared with you at least one story of someone whose description of themselves and the reality of their inner and outer characteristics crossed the line somewhere between fact and fiction to put it nicely. In fact, it’s not uncommon to want to make yourself sound better on paper, what we like to call fudging the truth a little. For instance, I had to write my bio for the newsletter of a volunteer organization I was part of.  I thought it made me sound a little more fun to say that in my spare time I liked to play tennis. Now, in my defense, I didn’t say I’ve had any spare time to actually play nor did I say that I was actually any good at it. But let me tell you, I was surprised at how many people came to me after reading that and said they didn’t know I played tennis and that we should play some time.

So, there can be a difference in how we define ourselves to others versus an honest, accurate self-portrayal. For our purposes here, it will be important to see yourself as you really are, but it will also be important to get in touch with what your “fudge factors” are, because some of them might be things you would like to strive for. I would like to be a decent tennis player, have spare time to play it, and then actually play it in my spare time. And this isn’t just because I like to play tennis, it’s because I want, as part of how I define myself, to be a leisure-time tennis player. I might like skiing, but I don’t care to be known as a skier. But I would like to be known as a tennis player, I like the connotations that go along with that.

First we need to start with how we used to define ourselves either back when we were working or before we had kids.  Though having kids adds a dimension and depth to our character, for many of us it was actually easier to introduce ourselves and give a simple “elevator speech” of who we were, when we used to be defined by our job. I used to be able to simply say, “Jackie McCarthy. I work at JP Morgan, Vice President of Marketing.” Just the company name, title and department, said I was intelligent, creative, a go-getter.  But now when I introduce myself I’m “Brady, Alexx and Bailey’s mom.”  Unfortunately, they don’t give out titles for homemakers. When I went from one child to three, I didn’t get promoted to Senior Mommy, or Managing Director of the Household.  No one says, “Oh, you run the McCarthy house, I’ve heard good things about that house.” So, it’s not a surprise that so many of us get to a point where we find ourselves having an identity crises. Our first step is to go back to a time when, not that we necessarily new ourselves better, but just a time when it was easier for us to define who we were.

If you’ve ever had to write a bio for yourself back when you worked, this should be easy. Open your notebook, at the top of the first page write  “MY OLD-SELF”.  Under that, write the sub-heading “Education/Work”. Now think back to when you worked or before you had kids and write what your bio used to be. Include your former education, a generalization of your past work experience and more specifics on the last job you had – accomplishments and traits that made you good in that role.  Skip a few lines and then write another sub-heading “Personal”.  Now pretend you are writing a personal ad about yourself. Include personality traits that you feel predominated at that time, as well as hobbies and interests that you actually participated in.

 For Example:

Education/Work

I graduated Wellesley College in 1990 with a double major of Psychology and English. I worked as the National Sales Manager for the Independent Broker/Dealer Channel at PIMCO Mutual Funds. I was a national spokesperson for their investment products at brokerage meetings.  After that I became COO of an Independent Brokerage Firm where I ran the operations of their office and came up with their marketing programs. My last position was as a Vice President of Marketing at JPMorgan Mutual Funds, where I created the Wealth Management Program. It was a program designed to help financial advisors understand their affluent clients better. I created and designed workbooks, manuals and presentations for the program, as well as presented seminars on the subject to advisors across the country.

Personal

I am an outgoing, well-spoken individual. I enjoy reading, playing the piano, and going out with friends. I write music and have started writing a few romance novels. I marginally play golf and tennis.

On the next page of your notebook, write the heading “MY CURRENT SELF”. Here is where you will need to define who you are now, without relying on past employment history. Under the sub-heading “Current Role”, include your role as a mother, a homemaker, a caretaker, and any roles you have in the community: a volunteer, a group member, a class mom. If you do any part-time work include that as well.  Then, as in the exercise above, under the sub-heading “Personal”,  include any personality traits you have acquired since becoming a mother, and any activities you are now involved in or hobbies you have.

For example:

Current Role

I am a wife and the mother of three children: Brady 10, Alexandra 8, and Bailey 6. I run the household, which includes doing the laundry, making dinner, cleaning the house, and organizing play-dates. I teach simple reading, math and reasoning skills to the kids. I help them with creative play. I design and throw elaborate theme birthday parties for them. I am also an avid internet-surfing, do-it-yourself amateur doctor.

I am actively involved in volunteering for my children’s schools including, the school district’s Special Education PTA group.

I was a member of the Northern Westchester Junior League. When I first joined, I was the co-chair for our Provisional Project and I was also part of the Year of the Member Campaign Committee. My first role as an Active member was with the Fundraising Committee where I helped to design the décor for their annual fundraising dinner and auction.

Personal

I am a creative mother, and I’m always looking for new ways to entertain my children that does not involve a large, purple dinosaur, or a sponge that lives under the sea.  I keep my family organized. I can be a fun and entertaining woman to my family and friends when I’m not overly busy or tired. I am empathetic and I try to be patient.

I like to be social and go out with my friends. I also like to stay active with running and going to the gym. My creative outlets are writing and composing music in my spare time.

The next step is for you to analyze your former and current bios and come up with a list of characteristics that you feel describes you. On the next page in your notebook, make two columns. Label one heading “Old-Self Characteristics” and label the other heading “Current-Self Characteristics”. Under these columns, list both positive and negative characteristics. Realizing that you can have polar traits, depending on the day or situation. For example, I can be very patient with my children but when I find permanent marker on my bedroom oriental rug, not so much. Once you have completed your lists, then add a “+” next to or circle the characteristics, past and present, that you feel portray you in a way that you would like to be seen.

For example:  

Old-Self Characteristics:                            Current-Self Characteristics:

empowered            +                                                organized  +

financially self-reliant  +                                     patient    +

creative   +                                                               short-tempered

motivated  +                                                            procrastinator

frustrated                                                                 empathetic    +

impatient                                                                 lonely at times

The nice part of Self-Rediscovery is that your past-achievements are a baseline for you, but you’re not done yet. You still have an opportunity to build on the person that you want to be. So, in our next step, review the list of adjectives below, think about the traits that you don’t see in your lists, but you would like to work on adding to the future definition of yourself. On the next page of your notebook, at the top write “MY FUTURE SELF”. Then under that make a sub-heading “Future-Self Characteristics”. In this column write down the traits that you would like to have and want to work on having. Also, this is where your “fudge factors” come in. Think of ways you’ve described yourself in the past, like a “tennis player”, and if that was a fudge factor for you like mine was, what were you trying to portray yourself as, such as “fun, athletic”, add those words as well. Then make a line under that list and go back to your Old-Self and Current-Self Characteristic lists and write down all the words you circled that you want to still be known for. This will give you a complete Future-Self list that will include all the traits you want to keep and all the traits you want to work on adding.

Other Characteristics you would like to see in your definition of yourself:

Ambitious, Articulate, Artistic, Athletic, Attractive, Brave, Cautious, Charitable, Clever, Competent, Considerate, Content, Creative, Cultured, Decisive, Dependable, Direct,  Easy-going, Efficient, Empowered, Enthusiastic, Exciting, Experienced, Extroverted, Fair, Fearless, Financially Self-reliant, Flexible, Friendly, Fun, Funny, Generous, Happy, Hardworking, Helpful, Literate, Imaginative, Intelligent, Interesting, Organized, Outgoing, Passionate, Philanthropic, Problem-solver, Relaxed, Risk-taker, Self-Confident, Sociable, Spontaneous, Strong, Well-traveled

Part 3: THE MISSING PIECE – Discovering Your Passion

There are many points of self-discovery in our lives. The first is when we learned to walk and talk. The next when we became teen-agers, then moving out of our parents’ house, getting married, having children – all in that order if you were lucky.  Each one of those milestones gave us a time, even if we weren’t aware of it, when we were younger, to marvel at just the experience of it, when we were older to reflect on how our life was about to change. As we matured, the experience of the change became more introspective. Were we where we thought we would be when we pictured this event coming upon us?  How was this change going to affect our lives – for the good and for the not so good? Did we feel like anything was missing in our lives that was leaving us unfulfilled at that time? For Stay-At-Home Moms, the time when we realize our children aren’t babies any more, can be another significant turning point in our lives. Another moment to reflect on all we’ve accomplished to get this far, a time to look forward to what would come next, and a time for introspection on what we feel might possibly be missing in our lives.

For many of us, the biggest change is feeling that just because we are no longer up all night, or because we actually can finally sit back in our chair, once again, instead of constantly on the edge of it, or that we have regained, at least for the most part, our privacy in the bathroom, to us this means that we must have free time on our hands. This usually triggers a need to find something to do to fill that time.  For that reason, many women decide to go back to work, get a part-time job, or start volunteering. Taking any sort of action is better than not taking action at all, but if you aren’t passionate about what you’re doing, you are still going to feel like something is missing. Our purpose here is not just to find something to fill your time with, but to discover a passion that will help you define your inner self.

I fell into the same trap myself. I felt I needed something to do, so I volunteered for a non-profit organization. I co-chaired our first project. The project was to renovate a recreation room for a boys’ group foster home.  Though it was a good cause, I didn’t have any personal connection to it.  So, I concentrated my expertise in areas where I felt most comfortable. As the co-chair my responsibility was to run the planning meetings.  I used to run lots of meetings when I worked. And drawing on my marketing background, why not make it a theme meeting. Who doesn’t like themes – why do you think Disney World is so popular. Actually, I was surprised no one had thought to plan a theme meeting before. Surely it would get everyone more excited for what’s usually a dull hour spent.  The meeting was in November so I called our first planning meeting “A Taste of Fall”.    I spent a lot of my own money and time on my theme. I was so excited.  I sent out meeting reminders that I put together on power point with a fall scene.  I had food stations and specialty drinks that made you think of fall, like apple cider donuts, smoked hickory cheese, Appletinis, and Kahlua Butterballs. I was thrilled with the display, but apparently, I was the only one. It was an evening meeting. These women were all volunteers. They were tired after a long day and just wanted to get the meeting over with and get home to their children.  They weren’t there for a social cocktail and besides, another thing I realized too late, the women in my town don’t eat – and certainly not apple cider donuts. But the lesson I learned was that I was more into theme marketing than house renovations, and I was going about this all backwards. I couldn’t just fill my time and then figure out how to be passionate about it. I needed to find out what I was passionate about and then fill my time with it.

You can have many passions in your life, things you’ve always wanted to do.  But the passion we want to uncover is the one that you want to incorporate into the definition of your self.  It’s part of how you want to be known. How you want to build your legacy.

I was talking to my sister one day about how I was trying to rediscover myself and that I was trying to finally tap into my passion for writing.  She pointed out to me that one crucial fact that was missing while I was talking, was that I had never actually referred to myself as a writer. She told me I needed to start thinking of myself as a writer, if that was what I wanted to be.  From that day forward I was a writer. Just by doing that, I started to feel more connected to my goal, it made it seem much more achievable.   So, the first step is to uncover your inner defining passion and then the next step is to start believing in it.

Those who are lucky enough to be really in-tune with their inner passion know exactly what they have always wanted to be known as: a writer, a guitar player, a world traveler, a child advocate. But then there are those of us, who when asked who or what we want to be, will feel like we are freshman in college, all over again, trying to pick a major.  You could have had a highly successful career but if it you wouldn’t consider it to have been your dream job, then your inner-driving passion may still be a mystery to you.  There are a couple of times in our life that can perhaps give us a clue to what our hidden passions are.  We are going to start our journey by revisiting those times.

The first moment is when we were much younger and we were asked the question of what we wanted to be when we grew up.  For most of us the answer to that question changed from year to year or even from week to week. When my youngest son was three, for example, in one month he wanted to be a fireman, an astronaut, a truck driver, and a “pourer”. When I questioned him about what it actually entailed to be a “pourer”, he pointed out the obvious to me, it was someone who pours drinks. Ah, of course, a bartender – and another opportunity to teach him a new word. After he repeated the new word a few times, I thought of him announcing his new occupation at pre-school the next day and all of a sudden my catch phrase “lost in the sauce” would take on new meaning to his teachers.  So, I then quickly incorporated into his vocabulary the term “juice bar” – which was really where his interest lied anyway.

Turn to the next page in your notebook and jot down the heading “PASSIONS”.

In this next exercise, write the sub-heading “Childhood Passions”. I want you to write a list of every career/occupation you ever dreamed you would be when you grew up, even if it was a “pourer”, up until you graduated high school. Then circle any career dreams that still hold a strong interest for you.

In college, your career aspirations start to take on more shape.  They have to – it’s called picking a major.  It’s important to delve into the reasons you picked your major(s) so that you can uncover the true motivating forces behind your choice. Under the sub-heading “College Passions”, list any majors and minors you had in college, even the ones you didn’t stick with, and the reason why you chose those subjects. Then circle any majors or minors that you still have a strong interest in pursuing further.

College was a time to explore your inner self and that was done not only through academics but also through extracurricular activities. When you were back in college think of how you liked to spend your time when you weren’t in class or studying.  (OK. Even I’m having trouble not writing down “frat houses”, but let’s stay on task here.)  Once again, the reason behind your choices are important so that your real passions surface. You may have joined the swim team because your parents had expected you to do so. Or you could have joined a sorority because your friends had joined. For instance, I ran for Class President because I thought that would distract my parents from the fact I was on academic probation following my stint in pre-med.  I made a dozen of the fanciest, most beautiful election posters that the campus had ever seen along with a kick-ass slogan, which is not easy when my maiden name was deWysocki – try rhyming something with that.  The woman who won the coveted title had plastered the campus with hundreds of plain photocopies of just her name and her true desire to be our class president. Thank goodness she won.  What I discovered was that I had absolutely no interest in any type of politics and that my parents were not as easily distracted as I was hoping for. Write down what non-academic activities you pursued in college and your reason for participating. Then circle any activities that you still have a strong interest in.

The next sub-heading you need to write down is “Post-College Passions”. Now there are a lucky few of us who start a career out of college that actually had some sort of connection to your major or your dream career aspirations. But for any number of reasons, this might not have been the case for you.  I graduated college in 1990.  I interviewed with magazine publishers who would have been closer to my inspirational direction. But apparently I made a fatal mistake in arriving at Conde Naste in a borrowed suit – the lethal combination of actually wearing a suit and that it was one that was borrowed, gave them the impression that I had no personality, so surprisingly a second interview was not forthcoming.

Where I ended up in my first job was in a training program for a large telecommunications company – oh, joy – did I mention we were in the middle of a recession? But even in that job my true self was trying to emerge.  One of our main tasks was to split into groups and create a product presentation.  I was the first person, in the history of the company, to come up with the brilliant idea to incorporate the Sprint Foncard into the rap song, “Me So Horny” – “The Foncard, F-F-F-Foncard.” Catchy, I know. I have to say it got a lot of office buzz. It was nothing if not entertaining.

Write down what your first job or two was after your college graduation.  Again, explain the mitigating circumstances behind your job choices. List any parts, tasks responsibilities that you liked doing in your former career, and also think of how your true self came out while working there.  Then jot down some words or a phrase describing how you feel those moments reflected your inner personality or passion.

If you weren’t fortunate enough to find yourself in your dream job right off the bat,  were you pursuing any other avenues on weekends or during time off that more closely related to your inner passions? Write those down and then circle any of those pursuits that you still have a strong interest in.

I chose to look at this time frame from childhood through your early twenties because that’s when we all could afford to be optimistic dreamers – when the world was our oyster and the possibilities seemed limitless. Once we stumbled into our career paths, some of our dreams faded away as we got caught up in promotions and raises and reviews and rents and credit card bills and then mortgages.  So, this past exercise was an attempt to revisit those dreams so that we may be able to breath new life into them or gleam some interesting insight about ourselves back when we were more open and carefree about exposing our inner desires.

This is not to discount our careers in our later life. For many of us we spent a lot of time and energy developing our former careers. Even if you weren’t lucky enough to have been working all this time in your dream job, because we tend to be adaptive people, you could probably find things that you did enjoy doing in your former work.  Things one tends to enjoy doing are apt to be things you can be more passionate about.

Besides careers and extracurricular activities, there are also those dreams of travel and personal goals that can also be life defining: a pilgrimage to Rome, skydiving, a safari in Africa, running a marathon, learning to cook, pursuing a cause. For some women this is what lights their fire. I always wanted to go to France and learn to cook but, for me, I wouldn’t consider them to be life-defining events. This is not meant to be a bucket list. So, I want you to think of only those dreams that you want to have as part of your legacy. Write these down under the sub=heading “Personal Goal Passions”.  List any dreams of travel or personal goals, that we haven’t touched on already, that you want to have as part of your legacy. Then circle the one(s) that you feel the most passionate about really pursuing at this time.

Now hopefully we are starting to build on a plethora of information that will help us uncover our true identifying passion in life. Let’s look at our passions/dreams/aspirations and weed them down into your most prevalent one that you feel has the best possibility of success at this time in your life – I still have a passion to be a screenplay writer, but maybe later in my life.  Add to that, all of the extenuating activities that you like to pursue that could work in combination with this passion. On a new page in your notebook, write down the heading “DEFINING MY TRUE PASSION”.

Look at all the past passions you have circled in your lists. What we are going to do now is combine this condensed list of aspirations with our list we generated on our prior pages, of characteristics that you have currently, want to reawaken, or aspire to have.  Use this garnered information to write a description of how your passion is shaping up, incorporating those characteristics you have decided that you want to emulate.

Example:

I would like to pursue a writing project that would be creative and helpful to people.  I would like it to have something to do with human behavior that would help solve a problem people had. I want the project to be entertaining to read, have a theme to it that I can build a marketing plan around, and be in a workbook format. I want it to be interesting and funny and thought provoking, that would ultimately help make people happier. I would like the project to be multi-dimensional with possibilities of speaking engagements from it and workshops. I would like it to be something that could be built upon.

Part 4: PASSION INTO ACTION – Career/Job

Now that we have a basic framework for your defining inner passion, we need to come up with an action plan for that passion. As the saying goes, “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”  I have split this section into four sub-categories, depending on whether your passion is to start back into a career, work on a hobby, become involved in a philanthropic cause, or if your passion is geared more towards a trip or a personal goal.

In my early twenties, two of my sisters and I broke out of our family singing group and started to work with a music producer. We were taking songs that I had written and were sprucing them up and creating harmonies for us to sing. In the meantime, we were also taking singing lessons in New York City. One day our music producer invited us to the Blue Note to meet Ellen Greene, a singer/actress from Broadway’s Little Shop of Horrors.  He introduced us as his new singing group. She was excited to meet us and on the spot, at the very famous New York City club, asked us to sing something for her. We hadn’t planned for this, nor with all of the work we had done, did we truly think of ourselves as a musical group. So we froze, we couldn’t think of a single song to sing. Our music producer was horrified. Finally we broke out in something, which was far from the type of performance we wanted to showcase.

Shortly after that, back at my “real job” my boss was about to offer me a promotion to Marketing Manager, my first management position. But he said he wanted to make sure this is the direction I wanted to take and that I wouldn’t be pursuing my musical career. I almost started laughing, my musical career? Even though music was more of my passion and we had people who believed in us and were working with us, I had never seriously thought of an action plan for it so it didn’t seem truly attainable to me. So, I was doomed to fail.  And who wouldn’t rather be a mutual fund marketing manager than a singer/songwriter sensation anyway?

So, twenty years later, it’s finally time for me to put passion into action.  To be successful in your goal, you need to do the same.   To do this, as I said, we are going to look at three active path categories: Career, Talents/Hobbies, and Philanthropy/Causes. Each of the next three posts, including this one, will cover one of these active path categories. Direct your attention to the post that most closely resembles the path you have chosen.

Career/Job

In an effort to decide if this passion can ultimately turn into an actual career, answer the following list of questions:

1)   Do you think you can make a career out of your passion?

2)   Do you have time to pursue this as an actual career and not just a pastime?

3)   If you have the time and childcare resources, would you be able to pursue this full-time or part-time?

4)   Would you like to make money from it?

5)   Would you pursue it even if you couldn’t make money from it?

6)   Would you work in an office or prefer to work out of the home?

If after answering the above questions, you feel like pursuing your passion in some sort of career is the action path you want to take, then we need to start shaping your passion in light of your preliminary job requirements.   If it is a career/job you are interested in pursuing, at the top of the next page of your notebook write “CAREER/JOB ACTION PLAN”.  What does the framework look like that your new career will fit in? Use the answers to the above questions to sketch out a framework.

Example:

I definitely want to turn this passion into a career. It needs to be a money making proposition. I want to work out of the home, though there can be some travel, especially in and out of the city. It needs to start off as part-time but could lead to full-time if need be.

An action plan starts to take shape when you start to involve others in it.  And to get to the end result the quickest you need the path of least resistance and where you have the biggest or highest quality of networks that can help you get there.  Think of your passion, and all the creative ways you can think of forming it into a career. Write the sub-heading “Network”. Start by making a list of everyone you know who has some sort of connection in business to your passion category – friends, relatives, friends of friends, alumni, neighbors, community members, local businesses.

Now, using your networking list, come up with a framework for a business plan in how you can break into your passion related career.  There may be some initial steps you have to take on your own before you can start to network, but you should have your plan outlined with your networking contacts included so your action steps can be fluid and you can be more confident in how your plan is going to be able to move forward. Write the sub-heading “Action Plan Steps”. In this exercise, look back at the description of your inner passion that you worked on in the last section, keeping in mind your career framework. Start off with a brief description of your proposed passion career. Then come up with enough steps for your action plan, using contacts from your network list where applicable, to formulate how to get your passion-related career off the ground.

Example:

I want to create a blog where I can reach out to like-minded women and help them rediscover their passions in life and help them put those passions into action. I want to connect with them in an informative and entertaining way.

Action Plan Steps

1. Research prospective blog sites.

2. Create an outline for my blog.

3. Reach out to friends X, Y and Z, who have written blogs of their own and ask for advice.

4. Come up with a schedule for working on the blog.

5. Research other blogs with similar content.

The action-plan list would continue. You need to be as specific as possible. Once you come up with your list, break any large steps down into sub-steps. Make sure you include steps that will make this plan “a reality” for yourself, no matter what that might be. For instance, it doesn’t help me to create the blog if I don’t have steps in my plan to  make it “go live”. I needed to make sure I had steps that involved how I was going to get blog followers.  Your list might include head-hunters to call with their phone numbers listed, or friends from your network list that are in your “passion” industry, who might be able to get you in the door, or might know someone who could tell you who to contact. At the end of the day a passion is just a dream unless you take actionable steps to make it a reality.

Part 4 (cont.): PASSION INTO ACTION – Talents/Hobbies

If you have concluded that you either don’t have an interest in going back to work or you don’t have the time or resources to pursue your passion as an actual job, you can shape your passion into a side hobby that could still be fulfilling but be less demanding.  There are so many hobbies to choose from. Your challenge will be to find a creative way that you can tap into your passion through a hobby and dive into it deep enough that it becomes more than just a pastime; it becomes a self-defining role.

For instance, if I didn’t have the resources to be able to pursue a career in writing, I could still pursue my passion by writing children’s stories that I could self-publish on-line and read them to classrooms or at the library. You could take your hobby of collecting and sell your collections on ebay.  You could build dollhouses and donate them to the Boys and Girls Club. You could make quilts and give them out as year- end presents to your children’s teachers. The main objective about pursuing a passion to fulfillment is that you need to come up with an action plan for that passion and incorporate it into your life and not look at it as a haphazard hobby. What do you do with the end-product or result of your hobby? How can you become known for your animal rescuing or your stain-glass work or your songwriting?

The first step is to determine what hobby you would be interested in undertaking that you can incorporate your passion into. There are many hobbies to choose from. I have included a partial list below to help get you thinking.

If it is a new hobby you are interested in pursuing, at the top of the next page of your notebook write “HOBBY ACTION PLAN”. Now, being as creative and action-oriented as you can be, describe how you can share your hobby with your community.  You can even combine two hobbies. You can combine nature walking with photography, or collecting antiques with storytelling, camping with playing a guitar.

Example:

Volunteer to be director and musical composer of an original high school musical.

Be the mom who teaches golf to your child’s friends who come over for playdates.

Put on a puppet show with handmade puppets at a local library.

Be in charge of putting together a round robin of dinner over friends’ houses with a different international meal theme.

Remember, as we stated under career action path, an action plan starts to take shape when you start to involve others in it. Now that you have a well-thought out action-oriented hobby you need to come up with a list of contacts to help get your plan rolling.  Write the sub-heading “Network”. An action plan starts to take shape when you start to involve others in it.  And to get to the end result the quickest, you need the path of least resistance and where you have the biggest or highest quality of networks that can help you get there. Start by making a list of everyone you know who has some sort of connection to how you can involve your community in your hobby – friends, relatives, friends of friends, neighbors, community members, local businesses, schools, libraries, community centers.

Write the sub-heading “Action Plan Steps”. In this exercise, look back at the description of your inner passion, that you worked on in the last section, keeping in mind your hobby framework. Start off with a brief description of your proposed idea of sharing your passion hobby. Then come up with enough steps for your action plan using contacts from your network list where applicable, to formulate how to get your passion-related hobby off the ground. There may be some initial steps you have to take on your own before you can start to network, but you should have your plan outlined with your networking contacts included so your action steps can be fluid and you can be more confident in how your plan is going to be able to move forward. Here you need to come up with all the action steps you would need to take in order to make your hobby actionable and fulfilling, making sure to incorporate the contacts from your networking list. Try to be as specific as you can.

Example:

Self-publish a children’s book that is personalized to your child and share it with his class and town library.

1. Think of a theme for your story.

2. Research on-line photo gift websites. Find one that allows you to use your own pictures to create a book.

3. Download personal pictures of your child into the photo web-site.

4. Add your written content to each picture in creating your story.

5. Order your completed  book.

6. Ask your child’s teacher if you can come in and share the story with your child’s class.

7. Find the contact for the Children’s Room at your local library. Inquire if they have a program, or if you could start a program, where you can come in and read during story hour.

The action-plan list would continue. You need to be as specific as possible. Once you come up with your list, break any large steps down into sub-steps. Make sure you include steps that will make this plan “a reality” for yourself, no matter what that might be. For instance, in the above example, it doesn’t help to create the book if you don’t have steps in your plan to  share it with anyone. At the end of the day a passion is just a dream unless you take actionable steps to make it a reality.

Part 4 (cont.): PASSION INTO ACTION – Philanthropic Efforts/Local Causes

If under Career Action Path, you answered that you did not need to make a financial living out of your passion then your action path could potentially involve philanthropy/causes.   It can be a way of following your passion that is more structured than a hobby but potentially more flexible than a career. Or you could pick this pathway because philanthropy in itself could be something you are passionate about.

The stumbling block here, can be not knowing how to get involved, or what to get involved in.  Philanthropy can be broken down into nine different categories. Take a look at the categories below and think about where your passion would best fit, as well as, which category you feel the most connection with.

1. Animals

2. Arts, Culture, Humanities

3. Education

4. Environment

5. Health

6. Human Services

7. International

8. Public Benefit

9. Religion

There are also various ways to be involved in causes. You can be an active member, a sponsor, a donator of goods/services, or a board member. For those of you with a background in business: project planning, management, budgeting – you could be well sought after to sit on a board. Boards are usually in need of talent and experience in those areas and yet they can’t afford to pay for it.  If your pathway  is one that involves philanthropic efforts, at the top of the next page of your notebook write “PHILANTHROPIC ACTION PLAN”.  Now you need to start sketching out what that framework looks like. Which of the above listed philanthropic categories are you most interested in? Then dig a little deeper and think of what theme under that category you are most passionate about. Write a line or two that would best define the area in which you would most like to be involved.

Example: Volunteering at a pet shelter, working to help find new homes for dogs.

In order to put your passion into action, you need to come up with a list of possible local causes/volunteer organizations. Write down the sub-category “Network”. Take the category you chose above and do an internet search, look in your local phone book, and get information from your local town hall to create a list for yourself of possible groups to get involved with where you could find ways to incorporate your passion. Also, think of anyone you may know of that could give you advice on ways to get involved with your chosen cause.

Example:

Local Chapter of the ASPCA

Local Dog Shelters

Adopt a Dog Services

Local Vet/Dog Groomer – for advice

Now, being as creative and action-oriented as you can be, describe how you can share your passion with the cause you have chosen. The more personalized and unique you can be with your action plan, the more this plan will be self-defining for you. You could just choose to be a volunteer at a local senior center or your plan could be devising an intergenerational project where you volunteer to arrange to have pre-school students visit a local senior center to have the seniors read to them. Write the sub-heading “Action Plan Steps”.  Under that write an overview of your action plan and then formulate your first few action steps involving your Networking or Cause contacts, to help get your plan off the ground.

Example: 

Help to find new homes for dogs that are currently housed in my local pet shelter.

1. Contact my local pet shelter and ask about volunteer opportunities.

2. Look at my schedule and see where I have free time to volunteer for these opportunities.

3. Talk with the manager/owner of the pet shelter and discuss how they find new homes for their dogs.

4. Brainstorm with friends in the community about new ways you can help the shelter make the community more aware of these adoption efforts.

5. Talk to town officials about community days in your town. Are their opportunities to showcase some of these sheltered dogs during the events.

The action-plan list would continue. You need to be as specific as possible. Once you come up with your list, break any large steps down into sub-steps. Make sure you include steps that will make this plan “a reality” for yourself, no matter what that might be. For instance, in the above example, it doesn’t help to create the book if you don’t have steps in your plan to  share it with anyone. At the end of the day a passion is just a dream unless you take actionable steps to make it a reality.

Part 5: AFFIRMATION

Now that you have DISCOVERED your inner passion you need to start believing it. Make it your mantra. If you have a Facebook Profile go to your home page and where it asks what you are doing now, write, “I am writing a book.”  “I am planning a trip to Greece.” “I am training for a marathon.” When people start asking you what you’ve been up to, start responding affirmatively, “I am starting to pursue a career in Publishing.” “I am learning how to play guitar.” If you like to tweet, go on Twitter and let everyone know, “Today, I came up with my plan to start my own glass blowing business.”

Believe me I know it’s not easy. It’s not easy to put yourself out there; it’s not easy to put time into your own passions; it’s not easy to follow-through. It’s taken me quite a bit of time to come this far. And interestingly enough, it was my 8 year old daughter that most recently gave me the push. She asked me what she was going to do when she grew up and I told her I don’t even know what I want to do and I already am grown up. But that gave me the wake-up call that I had to start moving forward again.

Keep the faith in yourself – that’s half the battle. And just keep pushing forward. It’s time to re-discover your inner passion. Don’t wait another three, five, ten years. You can start to re-define yourself today and move toward a more fulfilled you. One step at a time, but let’s take that first step. There’s a line in one of the songs I wrote for my children that says, “The best gift I can give to you is belief in yourself, belief you can do anything.”  And I’m right here with you, taking the steps, too. It’s time to RECOVER your sense-of-self. What do we have to lose?