We don't like change. There's something deeply disturbing about giving up the things that we are comfortable with. Even if we're not terribly happy with our situation, there can be a certain comfort in knowing what to expect day after day. Part of the reason for that is because our sense of self is wrapped up in a certain way of life. Usually the first thing that we are asked (after our name) is "what do you do?" So we answer with our title or job description, but does that really describe us?
We are much more than what we do during working hours, just as we are much more than the names we've been given. We are also much more than our physical appearance, our ethnicity, age or sexual orientation. Deep down we are more complex than even we can realize. Our lives are the sum of our experiences, and each of these experiences has given us a story about who we think we are. No doubt you've heard that people live from their perceptions, or that perception is reality. Our perception...our story is what we live through. It's the road map that we look at to tell us where we are and what is happening around us.
Where we run into trouble is when we allow those stories to become part of our identity. I've met many people who say that they can't write, or they hate writing. I'd guess that somewhere in that person's past they were made to feel that their writing wasn't good enough. So, they accepted that story as their reality.
The same is true for people who have been told they are stupid, or ugly or not quite good enough to be successful. I personally know a couple of women who were told by their parents that women didn't need higher education. One of those women paid her own way through college and law school. She didn't accept the story that was being given to her. She wasn't going to be defined by someone else's expectation.
In the workplace, if we are defined by a job title, a salary or a grade level, it becomes part of our identity. The people we associate with, the economic class we belong to, the neighborhood we live in, the car we drive...it can all be tied to what it means to be that type of person.
When I decided to leave the corporate world and go out on my own, I didn't consider how that change would affect me. However, leaving Information Technology was like losing a part of myself. Though I was unhappy in that profession, I had been in it for over 10 years and become used to being in that community. I knew the language, the culture and I had paid my dues over time.
Who would I be if I were outside of that world? I'd be a stranger. I'd have to start over again in a new place. My self-assurance and accumulated knowledge would mean nothing. As I mentioned, there is a certain comfort in knowing what to expect - even if you hate your situation. The prospect of starting over from zero can be very frightening.
Though I read many books about how to start a business, I never read anything telling me how to let go of my day job. No one talks about how to let go emotionally. When you decide to pursue your own business (whether on the side or full-time) you are starting on a journey of discovery. You will be made to pull off layer after layer of the stories and beliefs you've held for years. There is no way around it. If you believe the negative stories that you've held on to over the years, your business will reflect it. If you believe you can do what you set out to do, your business will reflect it.
When I'm asked about coaching, I say that no matter what you call it - career, life, transition, law of attraction, etc. - it all comes down to the personal stuff sooner or later. Sooner or later we'll have to address that part of ourselves that we suppressed so that we could live according to our stories.
When that comes out, it becomes impossible for us to pretend to be what we are not. That's when the work begins. Going through that experience enables us to discover who we really are.
Deborah A. Bailey is author of two non-fiction books including, “Think Like an Entrepreneur: Transforming Your Career and Taking Charge of Your Life .” She's also the creator and host of Women Entrepreneurs Radio, a weekly internet talk show. Her fiction work includes a short story collection and a novel, available on Amazon.com.
For more information, visit http://www.BrightStreetBooks.com.