What has been a turning point in your life; a moment or decision that led you toward greater joy? You know, one of those times where you know things will never be the same?
For me, soaking in the summer sun each year reminds me of one of those important times in my life. Back in my days in the corporate world, I had a great job. I enjoyed my role as Training & Development Leader and had the gift of spending my days with cool people, many of whom are still close friends.
Goofing around at work
One of those friends, Michelle, sat in the cube next to me and we’d constantly goof around in between working on projects. We’d laugh at anything and everything, throw notes over the cube wall at each other, and my absolute favorite was Michelle’s horn. I mean, literally—she had an actual “horn” sitting on the top of the cube divider wall. It was a heavy-duty metal one with a big black rubber ball on the end and screws attached to it, intended to clamp on to a kid’s bike. It was loud!
When something exciting would happen (someone announced they were having a baby, for example), Michelle honked the horn. When a long and tedious project was completed, Michelle honked the horn. Or even when it was Friday afternoon (which was reason enough to celebrate), Michelle honked the horn. That simple act always added a touch of fun and color to a stuffy business setting draped in monotone beige.
My favorite honk came in the fall of 2003.
Rewind to a day a few months prior to the honk. It was the middle of summer and I was stuck in my cube. You’ll never hear me use the word “hate” because it feels so harsh. But there are exceptions to every rule. I hate fluorescent lighting, I hate rooms with no windows, and I hate cold air conditioning blowing on me. In my cube, I was surrounded by these things all day, every day. It was July and I had no idea if it was a gorgeous summer day outside with bright sunshine illuminating the world…or if there was a severe thunderstorm ensuing, pounding hail on my car.
And I hated not knowing; not being a part of the nature and the world that fueled me.
5:00 finally came. I packed up my stuff and headed for the door that led me to the parking lot. What happened next is one of those turning points that altered the course of my life.
I flung open the big steel door, and it felt as though I was stepping out of a meat locker and into a relaxing sauna. The chilly goosebumps on my arms were met with intense heat from the summer sun that completely enveloped my body, my soul, my core. My body relaxed. I tossed on my shades and heard the security door slam shut behind me. I stretched out my arms, looked up toward the sky, took a deep breath in, and as I exhaled let out an “Ahhhh…” The same kind of sound you make when you’re sinking into a hot bath or when someone comes up behind you and starts massaging your tense shoulders.
I stepped out of the cold building with artificial lighting…and into myself.
I’ll never forget that moment. I know exactly what I was wearing. And the exact feeling I had as I walked away from the building, knowing that I would never, ever (ever!) spend another summer in an environment that depressed me.
Again, that job rocked. The people were awesome. The company was incredibly good to me. But this was about something far bigger than “the job.” It was about subjecting myself to an environment that was so far from who I was, that I simply couldn’t do it any longer.
That summer day, which served as one of my biggest turning points, was seven years ago. And I’ve never looked back.
My favorite “honk” was when I announced to Michelle, a few months later, that I would be leaving my job to start my own business. She graciously relinquished her duties as the official honker, stepped back, and said, “You come over here and do it this time.” And as I walked over to the homebase for the horn, Michelle added: “And do it LOUD; it will feel good!”
My turn to step up
So, I did do it loud and she was right—it did feel good. That goofy honk reverberated thunderously throughout the second floor of the building, which I’m sure interrupted my fellow co-workers from whatever they were doing. But in that honk, I heard a voice inside me shouting: “It’s time for me to live!”
The past seven years have been sheer joy working as a Coach and helping my clients experience greater joy in their lives. What an honor and a blessing that I get to do this work! And you can probably imagine that my home office has a big window that’s always open when the weather’s nice. Every once in a while I check in with the list I created just after I left my job with the heading at the top: “Why I Started My Own Gig.” It’s filled with reminders of why I risked and made the big move. It’s a reminder of the importance of following your joy.
What has been a turning point in your life…that led you toward greater joy? We all have many of them (whether you recognize it as a turning point or not). It doesn’t have to be a major job change. Maybe it’s something as simple as reading a particular book, signing up for French lessons, or deciding to eliminate sugar from your diet. Following your joy shows up in all kinds of ways.
And if you can’t think of a particular turning point from the past, tell us: What would it take for you to honk your horn?
Whatever it is, we’d all love to hear!
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