Sunday, July 24, 2005

Shifting Gears

After spending most of my early mornings (and a substantial number of evenings too) during the past three weeks watching Lance Armstrong prove yet again what a phenomenal Tour de France rider he is, it's time for me once more to move onto the rest of my summer.

Fortunately, I don't think I'll have much trouble figuring out what to do with all that recovered time. I hope Lance is as fortunate in his retirement from professional cycling: shifting gears of that magnitude can be very unnerving for many folks. My sense, however, is that this is something he'll do every bit as well as he's done the cycling.

All around me, people are going through various kinds of changes. Some are starting new jobs and even new careers. Others are faced with having been forced out of what they had been doing. Still others, like Lance, are retiring and trying to figure out what's next for them or looking to make some kind of voluntary change in their lives.

Given that I'm working this summer with a number of people going through individual and group facilitation of the "Now What?" program I conduct now (along with other trained facilitators) based on the popular book by Laura Berman Fortgang, I'm getting to see all different kinds of permutations of this process up close and personal. As exhilarating as it can be to be helping people find success, it's also fascinating - and humbling - to be witness to the process.

I also feel fortunate to be able to collect even more stories about the process from a greater distance as it's a topic I find covered in the media on a fairly regular basis too. Just this morning, for instance, I read in the New York Times about Chris Jordan, a Seattle man who has successfully traded in a ten-year law career to become a photographer. That shift had to have been wrenching and scary at times. At yet, clearly it was one that he felt compelled to make. Feeling that level of conviction helps make the rest of it easier.

I remember thinking once that I could handle just about any other fear or concern if I could only feel such deep knowing and passion about a thing that I'd have that level of conviction. Like hey, even in Field of Dreams when everyone is calling Ray Kinsella a nutcase, he's got this voice telling him what it is that he has to do. All I ever wanted was my voice in the cornfield.

What I realize now is that all too often we become disconnected from ourselves to the point where we have to dig very deeply sometimes to uncover our true passions. The technique that I've learned from Laura Berman Fortgang is something she calls "hobby by crisis" and it's worked very effectively for me and many of my clients. Do something physical or tactile that we enjoy (or used to enjoy) and we find that the body begins to remember for us what it is that we love enough to pursue with passion. Horseback riding, painting, knitting, playing drums, dancing, etc., all count.

Even if you don't know how, even if you don't have time to "do it right" and even if it's not directly related to whatever it is you think you might be heading toward, it doesn't matter; it only matters that you re-engage your senses by re-engaging your body at least a little bit on a regular basis.

Additional tips to help make shifting gears easier include...

  • Use what you have - you already have knowledge and expertise you have gained from past experiences. Figure out how to use that doing something you love.
  • Feed your passion - figure out what you're passionate about and continue to feed it; harnessed passion can make great things happen.
  • See setbacks as learning experiences or minor detours instead of obstacles - this one is hopefully mostly self-explanatory.
  • Get support - find people and situations that will support your change in direction and will help you achieve what you want; anything else is an unwanted distraction.
  • Get started - success breeds success; every moment spent not getting started, whatever the reasons, just breeds more inertia. Once you start giving it a try, you'll see where your successes and challenges are; even if what you start ultimately leads you an entirely different direction, it's the getting started that puts you on the path to your future.
  • Establish a goal and keep it clearly in mind - just as with anything else, if you are completely clear about what it is that you want and why you want it, then making it happen will be much easier. Keep a visual handy as a reminder. It helps feed your passion, boost your confidence, and program your brain to look for appropriate opportunities.
  • Listen to the voice that tells you how to get what you want, not the one that tells you that you shouldn't be wanting it - that latter voice wants only to maintain status quo and is therefore not helpful; not that it is always wrong, just that the approach is not at all helpful. Do yourself a favor and pay more attention to the helpful voices in your life.

There is, of course, more. I go through these steps and many more with my clients every week and in turn, they teach me more than I feel I could possibly give them in return. Perhaps you have additional ideas yourself for helpful tips you'd be willing to share with others. Or questions about how to apply the ideas presented here.

I'm always interested and always happy to help so please send your thoughts to me at and perhaps we can continue to help each other grow.

In the meantime, Lance will presumably take some time to celebrate and bask in the glory of what he's accomplished. Then he (like so many of us) will begin to ponder "What's next?"

As for me, I will (among other things) continue with my client work, and taking on the presidency of my local ICF chapter, and hopefully also will make my first QSO on my old Yaesu FT-101E rig with my new General class amateur radio ticket. See, I told you I had plenty to do with my time!

What would you do if you had enough time, money, and the attention of the world?