On last week’s Simpsons/Family Guy crossover episode, the funniest line (for me) was Brian the Dog saying, “I overthink things”. Story. Of. My. Life. It was like they were doing a subtle nod to overachievers. Do you ever get the feeling that you are running behind in life? That everyone else has it figured out except for you? Yep, that was (and still is) me, too!
Every day, we are faced with choices that can riddle us with anxiety. Should you go back to school? Should you change your job? Should you move, or start a relationship? Some of these choices are clear, but others are not. The tricky part is when there is something you feel is for you, deep within your bones, but it is simply not the right time. Timing is everything.
If I first knew I wanted to become a speaker and writer at the age of 18, why didn’t I start then? In a way, I did. I gave lectures and speeches for non-profits, K-12 schools, universities, and professional organizations in my spare time. I didn’t think about giving everything up to pursue a full-time career in speaking at the time, but I was honing my career right where I was. I gave lectures to nurses in Colon, Chile on junk food and childhood obesity in Latin America. I learned how to speak confidently in front of corporate executives and global health leaders through my internships and work experiences. I observed a learned apathy towards college and success among 8th graders that is a sharp contrast to the excitement of 6th and 7th graders who haven’t learned the art of being ‘cool’. I helped expose college students to corporate America, and was able to get more professionals engaged in meaningful service opportunities along the way. I was building my platform through the arenas in which I was already engaged.
In fact, I was following my passion for public health by pursing my doctorate when a listserv I was subscribed to offered coaching fellowships geared towards graduate students. This was my sign that the timing was right, and so I applied for the fellowship and trained to start my coaching business. The right message at the right time can be a magnificent opportunity.
Two years later, however, when I was first diagnosed with kidney disease, I had to make the difficult decision to temporarily suspend my business. Although I had the feeling I was giving up on something I was truly passionate about, I knew that I could not effectively serve others if I did not first take care of myself. During this time, I would go through several challenging health experiences, as well as those of loved ones. These events challenged me personally, and ultimately transformed my purpose in writing and speaking. A year later, I was in remission, and had a stronger body–a testimony I didn’t expect. Equipped with the lessons that tough life experiences teach best, I now wanted to help others build more lives that reflected who they authentically were.
The timing was ripe for me to enter this arena. However, no sooner did I make this decision than I began to be swarmed by success others were already having. At first, it excited me and challenged me. “Wow, if they can do all of this, imagine what I can do!” Over time, it seemed they were experiencing more and more success at a dizzying rate. It became overwhelming. I developed a sense of urgency that made me feel as if I was not moving fast enough.
Meanwhile, I felt like despite my professional background and academic credentials, I was just starting out. I was frustrated and discouraged to feel so far behind, still figuring my path out. I wasn’t sure how they made it to be successful, and I began to doubt whether I would ever see success. I had devoted many years to writing, speaking, and coaching already, and was reluctant to take on an entrepreneurial endeavor that meant everything to me, only to fail.
A burned out leader would have a hard time believing that she could be successful…that she could overcome setbacks along the way..that she doesn’t have to get there doing it anyone else’s way.
The truth was, I needed to take care of myself. Although I knew what I wanted to do with my life, I was recovering from severe burnout. Despite the services I had invested in and the work that I had done, none of it would do any good if there was a burned out woman behind my brand. A burned out leader would have a hard time believing that she could be successful…that she could overcome setbacks along the way..that she doesn’t have to get there doing it anyone else’s way. I had to water her faith. I had to nourish her soul. I had to calm her spirit through meditation and rest. I had to condition her physical body and strengthen her mind. It was not my time. I had to take care of her first.
Once I accepted this, writing became cathartic to me. Writing about the things that gave me the most pain brought on an odd sense of relief. I felt a purpose was served in many of the experiences I had gone through because I could now use them to encourage others. In fact, if I had rushed to become a professional speaker years ago, I would not have had the opportunity to learn from the unique path my life has now forged. I would not have the platform I do today: a researcher turned patient health advocate, an ambassador for wellness, a woman who can stand by her message of authenticity.
Investing in a program won’t get you where you need to go if you are not ready. Take care of yourself first. Pay attention to what your deepest needs are, and if they are being fulfilled. Take into consideration whether the timing is right and you are in the position to tackle certain areas of your life. The road isn’t easy. In fact, its tough. But the good news is that you can take your own path to get to your destination. And timing is everything.