One of the pillars of my career, has been the concept of my personal balance scale. Essentially, every career move had to have a specific redeeming quality in order to hold my interest and keep me put. In the corporate world, my two balance pillars have usually been Interesting Work and Making Money.
The funny thing is, that I have continually said how money isn’t really a motivating factor to me. But that’s kind of a lie. Or perhaps not a full truth.
Outwardly, it was easy to say that. It was easy to say yes to projects that were fun, exciting and interesting. And if it brought in money while doing so, even better.
But out of the side of mouth, in the back of my mind, I often muttered, “But yeah – wouldn’t it be great to make a lot of money doing it too?”
I have never admitted that to anyone. I don’t know if it’s because I know how tough it can be when you are not making a ton of money, particularly when you are a solopreneur, or if I am more materialistic than I thought. But I did think those words when an opportunity arose.
Based on that thought process, I have taken on projects or clients in the past that were probably not my “ideal” situation. Not because they were awful opportunities, in fact, just the opposite. But I took them on because I thought of the earning potential in the long-run. Ugh, that sentence alone embarrasses the hell out of me.
It usually worked out ok – the project was completed without issue; the client was beyond happy; and if I struggled a bit, it wasn’t drastic or long-lasting. Until a few months ago. It all came to a head.
And it was UGLY.
Essentially, I knew that I had signed on for something that wasn’t a great fit. I knew that I was making a decision to say yes because of the earning potential. I knew that I wasn’t following my gut or honoring my balance scale or making “the right” decision. But I did it anyway.
And it was excruciating for me. My life was literally turned upside down. I was beyond stressed out, beyond being able to find any redeeming qualities in my experience, beyond deep breaths. People – I resorted to drinking wine smoothies. (Yes, there is such a thing and don’t judge – it was an impulse purchase an it was actually pretty darn good).
After the dust cleared and I pondered the situation for a few months, here’s what I know for sure.
- I can’t just suck it up anymore for the sake of money. It’s not enough for me.
- I am grateful for the opportunities I currently have, the income I’m making, and the people I get to work with.
- I will never again not trust my gut. Period, end of story. I learned this beyond the hard way and let’s just say, this lesson has been checked off.
- We all have hard limits when it comes to work – and it may be a bit painful or clumsy to work through them at the time, it’s much better on the other side.
- Experiences like these are essential to help us align our beliefs with our work – and when they aren’t lined up, something needs to change.
- You will continue to experience a situation until the lesson is learned. (And for the record – this experience helped me learn so many lessons that months later, I’m still finding new ones! How awesome is that?)
- NO ONE is able to validate your balance scale for you – and similarly, it may be difficult for others to understand when you go against “the norm” when learning these lessons. Trust yourself – you’ve got it right.
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I agree completely that we have to find our own balance, and that our gut feeling often leads the charge in showing us the right way. Psychological science would confirm this 100%; our rational mind often gets in our way. I feel like I keep having to learn this lesson over and over; every time I think I’ve gone against my gut feeling for the last time, I somehow talk myself into taking on a freelance project because of X, Y and Z reasons. Never a good idea. Thanks for the reminder and the affirmation.