How did you find Daniel’s deeply personal story yesterday about how he is beginning to let go of a traumatic past to pursue his passion to help homeless children? Well worth a look in case you missed it!

Today we have the first of a two-part Career Breakthrough Experience from Gillian Watson. She shares how she was never really happy at work and one day with the right guidance finally took the plunge to do something about it.

It’s a fantastic story that I’m sure many of us can relate to, so I hope you enjoy it over today and tomorrow.

While reading, have a think about these key questions:

  1. What career would you pursue if you could pick any one you wanted?
  2. What areas of your life would you like to change if you had enough of the right knowledge, skills, money and good people around you?

gillian watson

Why I Quit My Job to Build My Dream – Gillian Watson

“When I was growing up, it was drilled into me that to be successful you needed to:

  • study hard
  • get the marks
  • succeed in sports and cultural activities
  • be a good person, etc etc..

Essentially be well rounded and work hard. That the results will bring you a sense of value to you and your life that will keep you secure in all you achieve and feel. Most importantly; be a strong independent woman with opinions, thoughts, drive and presence in life.

All of these lessons and values were so ingrained that I never stopped to actually think about them. Not until this year when I suddenly realised that I wasn’t following any of them (except maybe in the strong opinion section).

I worked hard through school, without most of it being easy or making a lot of sense and panicked into choosing a career choice for my studies. All of these decisions I made without really understanding the long term effect of them. I choose with my impulsive heart, but not necessarily taking into account where this journey would take me.

So the result? I went from studies, to work experience, to more studies and a career where every decision I made took me further away from those values I should have been keeping at the forefront of my mind. I lost confidence in my abilities, my knowledge, my instinct, in order to take on other people’s priorities and objectives. I didn’t have a plan. I decided to leave each job without actually thinking about why I needed to leave and where I was going to move to.

Never once, did I consider an option without working for someone else’s vision. I saw myself as a part of the system, a cog in the wheel, not an indispensible part, but important nonetheless.

My sense of self became what that job moulded me into. I never questioned when friendships or relationships didn’t last because of the person I became in each role. The unhappiness I felt would manifest into a short tempered, less understanding and more demanding person that I didn’t recognise most days.

I would consider myself an introvert and found myself retreating even further into my bubble, to escape the unhappiness and lack of fulfillment in my life. The refuge I would seek out would be detrimental to long-lasting relationships as well as my waistline and overall health and well-being.

london eye

Moving In Search of a New Life…

I have moved often in my life, not really ever feeling settled, mainly because my moves were usually work related.

The last move I did very impulsively, having been through a traumatic family illness. My father had been lying in an ICU unit for over a month and only came out of hospital another month later with very little mobility and strength. Seeing the rock in our family almost succumb to a weakness in his body, but be given a second chance, really tilted my world. We came together as a family, but my mind took on a Carpe Diem (‘Seize the day’) attitude. So the moment an offer came in for a new start in a new city – I impulsively packed up my life in 2 weeks, filled my car with what I could fit and drove, hell bent on making changes in my life.

But at this stage, I still hadn’t actually had my ‘Ah-ha’ moment. I essentially was running away from the scary reality of mortality, into a void of no direction and many dangled carrots. I once again, misinterpreted a new job title for my life’s plan – my goals and values still not being on my agenda.

Reaching Out for Help…

I felt like something was missing, but really didn’t know where to start, so I reached out. I knew very little about mentoring and what it entailed, so I went to seek out help from a friend, someone who knew who I had been but wasn’t blinded by what I was now nor to the gaps and lack of structure in my life. I needed someone direct enough to not fall for my false sense of direction. This is when I made contact with Shaun Cooper. I didn’t know what exactly he could help me with, and without knowing anything about the mentorship process I was unknowingly embarking on, I needed to reach out and find answers in my life.

I was definitely at a crossroads – enjoying the actual work I was doing, but not the environment nor leadership related to that work; while falling in love with a new city that just spoke to me on so many levels.

So my challenge? To ask the very scary and difficult questions – What do I want? Who do I want to be? What do I stand for? What are my goals & values? – all these posed by Shaun, in some very emotional and often frustrating conversations because I felt like I couldn’t answer any of them. At the age of 34, I was embarrassed to admit that I had never actually set life goals for myself, not once.

Knowing I Wanted Something More…

I started questioning a lot of my behaviours and daily activities that I had never thought were important before and came to an unsettling conclusion.

‘I shouldn’t be working for a company that didn’t know it’s own objectives clearly or lived by any type of values, and who didn’t appreciate what I brought to the job, just questioned why they didn’t get more from me.’

I would work hard and achieve in my work, but I would never get that sense of accomplishment. I sat back one day, from arriving at the office in the dark, working furiously through the day to shorten that to-do list, but knowing it wouldn’t end before the sun went down; and I looked outside the window. I had this gorgeous view from my desk of a nature pass where the flowers were in bloom, basking in the brilliant sunshine and the sky so blue it almost hurt to look at it. Usually this view helped me take a deep breath and feel happy to have that at least. But this day, I looked at it and I felt like I was in a prison – being taunted by how great life was outside of my box. I instantly felt resentment to everything I was working so hard to keep afloat. All the stress and sleepless nights of essentially killing myself for someone else’s goal and bottom line were suddenly put in stark perspective.

That was the day that I knew I needed something more…”

Read part 2 to find out what inspired Gillian after leaving her job here

woman breakthrough

Breakthrough image courtesy of Nickay3111 @ Flikr

London image courtesy of Paul Tridon @ Flikr