Living Life Is Like Riding A Roller Coaster

by Diane Baranello Guest Blogger

Life. It’s full of ups, downs, hair raising turns, screams, belly flops, eyes closed, eyes wide open, hands up in the air, clutching and screaming, laughing, anticipating highs and lows, considering your fate, looking down from the heights, inching up to the precipice, not being able to see over the next hill, clutching your heart, holding hands with your best friend, burying your fear, not knowing what’s around the next turn, getting sick to your stomach and getting back on the ride.

When we think about it, every time we conquer fear we gather the courage and the strength to live another day. I can remember the year I got a two-wheeler bicycle for my birthday. I was thrilled and panicked at the same time. It felt so much bigger than I was and keeping those thin wheels steady as I negotiated trees, bushes and cracks in the sidewalk was frightening, but I could feel my father’s hand on the back of the bike to steady me every time I took off. Before you knew it, I was riding like the wind.

The first time I went into the water at Coney Island with my blue air tube around my waist and the waves lifting me off my feet, I could feel my heart jump. My mother was within arm’s reach and I was enveloped with a feeling of safety. It didn’t take long before I was paddling by myself with mom keeping a watchful eye from a blanket on the sand. It was yet another victory.

I’m sure most of us have had similar experiences. At some point, though, we find ourselves navigating in a grown-up world, interviewing for jobs, first day at work, managing or counseling people, attending conferences, traveling far from everything familiar and, for some, falling in love and raising children. Suddenly it’s our hand on someone’s back, comforting, encouraging, cheering her on. Life has a way of preparing us to take the next step. Over the years there seems to be a natural order to things and many think they can see down to the very end of the road. But things change. Jobs come to an end. Skills get rusty. The competition gets younger. Workers of a certain age begin to feel obsolete.

I know. I coach women at all career stages … those who are just emerging and putting their foot on a career path for the first time, evolving leaders eager to risk it all for the next big opportunity, and mid-career women facing unexpected turning points. For them, the way is uncertain and all that confidence, accumulated over years of making solid contributions, climbing that career ladder step by step, cracking the glass ceiling, and tasting success becomes a story no one wants to hear. Women are competing in a new world … and they forget just how great they are.

If this sounds like you, then maybe this is your time to recalibrate your life, draw your own roadmap, take the path less traveled. There’s no reason to spend your entire life doing what you’ve always done. You can breathe energy into your life by leveraging what you do best perhaps in a different industry, or jumping off the gerbil wheel in corporate life and exploring a not-for-profit organization you believe in, or freelancing in order to control your personal and professional time, learning a new skill or consulting as an expert in your field. Just what is it you do exceptionally well that gets your adrenalin going? Your career’s not over, it’s simply winding in a different direction. As I often tell my clients, you are not what you do. You are the value you bring.

You have to decide what’s next, what you really want, and where you want to go. Without purpose, you’ll flounder. Don’t like your story? Change it! You just need to get started … that’s how you finish the race. Let me share five thought-provoking questions to kick start your thinking …

1) What lights you up? In other words, what is it that totally engages your spirit and your mind?

2) What would a perfect day look and feel like for you? Are these things missing from your life now? What are you waiting for?

3) If you were being interviewed for a magazine cover story, what is it you would want be recognized for? How would you want to be quoted for your legacy statement?

4) When was the last time you did something for the first time?

5) What’s stopping you from living your next chapter? What will it take to overcome your fear so you can experience life, joy, fulfillment? Looking for your ‘career next’ could be the best thing that ever happened to you.

So, what are you waiting for? Time is your most precious currency. Spend it wisely.

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Diane Baranello is a Personal Branding/Career Coach and the Founder of Coaching for Distinction. She is a two-time Women At Woodstock alum.

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