Let go of misplaced guilt and move forward in your career [Wise Wednesdays]
When you’re claiming your freedom to the career and life that you truly want (and stepping into a level of leadership and impact that is yours to create in this life), you will feel two things: fire and guilt.
Why the guilt?
Well, allow me to share from my experience. When I started to change my career I felt guilty for:
1) A sense that I’m disrespecting the sacrifices my family have made for me (with no guarantee of success in my new path)
2) A feeling that I’m damaging relationships and burning bridges with my professional world (and not knowing how else to manage that)
3) Breaking with norms and expectations of society (without any clear alternative of what I wanted instead – how childishly unrealistic, right?!)
Essentially, claiming the change that you want can feel like a rejection of the world that nurtured you and shaped you. How could you not feel guilty?
This can be particularly true if you’ve experienced some kind of ‘upward social mobility’ through your career i.e. you’ve moved up the socioeconomic ladder and broken ceiling after ceiling in terms of education, wealth and access to global resources.
If you’re in a service profession you might feel twice as guilty since you’re doing meaningful work (I see this a lot for doctors, for example). How can you give all that up without seeming ungrateful?...
As I was discussing with my client V this week, guilt isn’t always justified. In this kind of situation, it is misplaced.
What can you do? Afterall, the feeling is still there and unpleasant…
First, I don’t believe you always have to do something about a feeling. It’s a bit like wanting to do something about the clouds.
Second, how you’re feeling is a function of how you’re thinking. So you can shift it by shifting your thinking.
For example, guilt will arise from your view of the situation (see above). You may not realise it but you may be placing emphasis on honouring the past, your origins – a perfectly laudable perspective, of course.
However, the past can’t trump the present or the possibilities of a new future.
EXPAND YOUR CONTEXT: THE ANTIDOTE TO MISPLACED GUILT
When you feel misplaced (freedom-triggered) guilt, it’s because you’re inside a limiting context that’s defined by the past.
So one way to shift your thinking is to imagine stepping outside your current context (i.e. your view of the world) and into a bigger one that honours the past but integrates it into something wider.
Let me explain with two questions:
1) What’s the vision of life that you’ve inherited from your ancestors?
2) What is the bigger vision of life that your ancestors couldn’t access because their context was limited by the circumstances of their time?
For me, when I think of my ancestors, I imagine that they wanted at least better material security, access to education and protection from injustice and violence (they were embedded in a colonial power structure that controlled their lands).
And that’s what they strived for over generations.
But previous generations didn’t have access to healthcare, information and the global job market the way we do. Even having 3 meals a day wasn’t guaranteed. In other words: their context was different.
[Photo. North African woman reflecting on her goals c.1915.] What did our ancestors feel guilty about? Leaving the village? Doing work outside the ancestral tradition? Fighting for their freedom at great risk to their family?
Today, the equivalent of those ancestral goals might be a secure job, prestigious degrees and 2.4 kids.
And while that’s a perfectly valid set up, for you, freedom and happiness might look different. Why? Because your context is different.
For you, it might look like taking risks by stepping into more leadership and sharing a message; taking risks to create your own organisation or business; or simply taking more time to enjoy what you have and shunning the relentless treadmill of toxic modernity.
The beautiful thing is that, in the end, the desire underlying the dream is the same from generation to generation: it’s the desire for freedom and happiness.
So it may simply be time for you to upgrade the dream (in line with a wider, present-day context) or at least accept that the dream looks different to what your predecessors wanted and explore that.
That way you’re honouring the heart of the dream of previous generations while adding the unique set of possibilities that exist for you today. Life wants this from you as it enriches our human evolutionary process.
And as a by-product, you get to transform the pain of misplaced guilt into hope and optimism for yourself and generations to come.
Have a great week,
I need your help
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