When I was 29, I had newly re-entered the dating world and received some challenging feedback from someone I was dating. At first it infuriated me until I realized it was true. He told me that I didn’t know who I was. My initial reaction was defensive and dismissive but after some self-reflection, I realized he was actually right.
I had spent most of my life until that point focused on being a high achiever first in school and then in my professional career. I don’t think I am alone in this. Many of us are taught to focus on academic achievement but not encouraged or able to spend time developing ourselves. In the United States especially, we are rewarded for achieving in school but not always as much outside of school.
I grew up juggling a part-time job and school from the time I was 15 and little time was available for me to spend developing my own interests outside of a few piano and tennis lessons. School was not always easy for me, especially math, so most of my free time outside of school was spent trying to survive my math class, working or spending time with friends.
After receiving the feedback, I decided to do something about it and spent some time getting to know what I liked. I kind of felt like Julia Roberts in Runaway Bride as she was trying to figure out what kind of eggs she liked; instead of eggs I was figuring out what I did and did not like to do.
This inspired what I called “My Year of Fun” which is how I spent the year I turned 30. I tried things I had been wanting to try for years like surfing, line-dancing, outdoor rock climbing and I traveled to places that I actually wanted to go. My friends loved seeing my adventures and it was a great way to get to know myself. Some of my interests didn’t stick but others did.
You might be wondering what does this have to do with your career?
One of the things I have been reflecting on is how understanding ourselves and tuning into what we like can take practice. We aren’t often taught to listen to ourselves and instead are taught to follow the crowd or do what our family expects. As a result, it can be hard to know ourselves and ultimately what we would enjoy doing in our life.
I strongly believe the more time you invest in developing yourself and your personal interests, it will not only help you figure out a career that is more aligned with you but can also help you if you are struggling to find work/life balance.
The more interests we have outside of work, especially ones that we really allow ourselves to embrace and spend time on, the more we will make time for our interests outside of work and ultimately find more balance. This benefits us, our co-workers and family because we will likely feel more refreshed after taking time away.
My challenge for you as we head into the weekend is to do something this weekend that you have always wanted to try. I would love to hear how it goes! Please write a comment in the chat or send me a note.