Choosing a more creative livelihood

Dear Paulo, I have decided to retire from my government job in the near future. My long career has had its ups and downs, but increasingly, I feel the value of my job is diminished by mindless procedures and focus on personal ego. When I was offered a job by an old friend whose new business is taking off, I had a strong feeling it was time to go. But I also have a nagging concern about whether the new job will work out, and what to do if it doesn’t. What direction should I take then? I have good business skills, have always wanted to write (some ability runs in my family), plus I sense other untapped creativity. But I lack a concrete goal. It’s been a long haul, and I feel exhausted. Any advice would be appreciated.
— Della in Amesbury MA

Della, when it comes to trying completely new things there is no way to be sure of anything. Whenever we move out beyond our established “comfort zone,”we are taking a risk, and risks make us nervous. As it is said, fear and excitement are two sides of the same coin. But questions linger: Is the job offered by your old friend the right choice for you? Is he going to be able to pay you? On the other hand, should you take a sabbatical from ALL work before restarting at anything?

Ask yourself what is the worst thing that could happen if you take the job offered? For even temporary setbacks offer learning and personal growth … and all setbacks are temporary. We develop courage when we stretch ourselves, whether our latest endeavor was ‘successful’ in worldly terms or not. In fact, we always succeed in a sense when we learn something valuable about ourselves.

Although we too often focus on fearful possibilities, the unintended consequences of decisions are not always bad. By following a seemingly wild intuition in one direction, we may hit the jackpot and find that we love it — or find ourselves presented with a better opportunity in another new or related direction (involving more writing perhaps?) — landing in some new role we were meant for all along.

Feeling the way you do, you don’t need a ‘concrete goal’ to get the ball of change rolling. But you also don’t need to jump at the first good-looking thing that comes along. Perhaps the offer from your friend is cosmically ordained to get you to move out of your current position — into a relaxed phase of looking around for a better fit for your creative energy, and nothing more. You are exhausted (and who can blame you?). Don’t stress yourself out over anybody else’s deadline. Go for it if you are inspired by the work itself. Otherwise, there will be lots of good ideas and opportunities, now that you are open to them!