She sits across from me, curling her hands around her latte. Her long brown hair swings over the white foam peaking over the brim. I know she’s searching for words to emerge from her inner tangle of emotions, thoughts and ideas.
“This isn’t the life I want, but I don’t exactly know what I want. Does that sound ridiculous?” she says finally.
I lean back with a smile.
I love this question. Because despite her uncertainty, she was reaching for hope. And doing that over an intentional conversation rather than a cryptic comment over social media or keeping it bottled in means she’s ready to uncover some answers.
I love it because I’m pretty confident she does know what she wants; she just hasn’t given herself permission to want it or imagine it. Maybe she doesn’t believe it’s possible for her or it’s buried under disappointment, busyness or loyalty to important people. Maybe she’s stuck in the weeds of shoulds and expectations.
I have a dozen questions swirling in my head. Which one do I ask that would draw her on a gentle journey instead of overwhelming her or shutting her down?
“Tell me more about what you don’t want about your life,” I ask, deciding to gain footing on the corner of certainty she does have.
She sighs. “I’m just doing the same thing all the time. Life feels like groundhog day. I’ve been doing my job for years — it’s in a non-profit. It started out as my dream job. I loved it. I got to work early — couldn’t wait to start. I loved solving problems, and helping my colleagues accomplish their grand visions.”
She sits straighter, energy lightening her tone. “I still like helping people find a sense of belonging and feel part of something greater. I like streamlining processes so that people don’t get forgotten. But I feel like I just keep solving the same problems over and over. I’d get a new job but I really value freedom and independence — and I have the trust and vacation time in this place now. I started a side hustle, but I’m better at the craft than the business part and my budget can’t handle investing further right now. I’m spinning my wheels, working all the time. My family resents it. And again I feel like just keep trying to solve the same problems but don’t actually make any progress. Is something wrong with me?”
I sip my Earl Grey tea, holding the space for her to continue.
Her gaze falls beyond my shoulder, out the cafe window behind me. The last question seems to surprise her, like she asked it of herself, not really searching for an answer from me.
When she looks back at me, she seems to pull herself from another world. “Sorry, I think I just went on a tangent.”
“Do you think there’s something wrong with you?” I redirect the question back at her, just to see if she really wants the conversation to go there.
She smiles sheepishly. “Not really. I know better than that — I’ve grown so much the last few years. I think I’m missing something that’s probably right in front of me. And sure, there are things I can improve about myself. But growing’s part of the fun in life.”
I grin, pleasantly surprised. “Now there’s a growth mindset that will be useful for you on your journey. Okay — let me sum up what I’m hearing so far. What you don’t like about your life is that you’re doing the same thing, solving the same problems without feeling like you’re getting anywhere. You’re working more than you’d like, and not spending as much focused time with your family as you’d like. What you do love and value is helping others, belonging and community, freedom and independence, trust from your team and time for yourself. Am I on the right track?”
“Yep.” She relaxed deeper in her chair, and took the first sip from her latte. I got it — there’s something reassuring about feeling heard and understood.
“So what else aren’t you liking about your life? What brought you to have this conversation today, and not next week or two years ago?”
As she takes another sip, her eyes redden.
Her cup lingers against her lips a moment longer. Emotion thickens her voice. “I’m tired of my frustration, boredom and overworking and how its affecting my family. My daughter adores family time. I want to work fewer hours so I can enjoy more time with my daughter and have family adventures and help in the breakfast club in my community. I want the financial freedom to do that. But I also know I have more potential inside of me.”
Sometimes it takes asking a lot of questions to pull out what’s inside of a person.
But with a deep breath, this dear woman’s tone grows soft and earnest as she pours out her heart. “I don’t want look back on my life and realize I did the same thing my whole life and feel like it was lopsided. I’m approaching 40. There’s more I can offer the world. Different people I can help. New skills I can learn. I think God gave me more potential that I can explore and use for him, and I don’t want to look back on my life realizing I never did anything about it just because I was scared or didn’t know how. I need to face this thing, make some shifts. I need to reconnect with the rest of me. I’m just not sure where to start. Sometimes I’m bombarded with an overload of ideas and feel defeated right away because implementing them would just mean more distraction from my family. And other days I have no inspiration at all.”
Delighted with her resolve, I reach beside my chair and pull out a notebook. “I can definitely help you find clarity and shape a solid path for what you really want.”
I could have chosen to share from many variations of this conversation I’ve had with people over the last 10 years:
Clients who are looking for the courage to start a major shift in their life — career change, going back to school, starting a business.
Leaders who’ve lost passion for the group or ministry she leads, causing her to question the identity that’s wrapped in her role.
The single friend who’s searching for fulfillment with her passions and ideas beyond her dream to get married and have her own family.
The mom who feel she should stay home to raise her kids and create a warm home, but also called to step out into another expression of who she is and to support her family.
The faith-led entrepreneur who crushes what she does but feels like she’s lost herself in her business and must redesign her life because of burnout.
But for fun, the conversation I share today is one I’ve had with myself in my search to blossom as fully myself. It was a conversation that was part of my journey to believing I was made for more than just enduring or settling.
Where are you in this scenario?
- Are you the friend/coach/mentor listening to this woman share her heart? If so, what would you offer or ask to begin helping her?
- Are you the one feeling stuck at a crossroads but ready to discover or embark on a new phase of your calling? What would you be sharing about what you want or don’t want for your life any more?
- Or are you the patron at the neighbouring table, pretending you’re not eavesdropping? 😉What part of this captures your attention?
I’d love to read your thoughts and comments below — or hold down the CLAP button to invite others into the conversation!
If you chose #2 and you’re curious to walk through the tool I started scratching on my notepad, you can explore this in this 4-day video series to prepare for a big shift in your calling or #madeformore dream.