Searching for my ideal work/life situation has been a long process for me. From orchestral player to freelancer to recitalist, to teacher, to coach, etc. I have basically made a career out of experimenting with shifting balances and jobs until I found just the right fit.
I’m at a point now where things feel right. Ironic, since I haven’t played a live concert in over a year, but that’s for another post.
As we’ve discussed before, a lot of people are taking a good hard look at their current (or pre-pandemic) career situations and feeling a bit of anxiety over going back to “before times”. As much as they might miss certain parts of what they were doing, for a lot of folks, there were some aspects that they were very happy to leave behind this past year.
We have this incredible opportunity right now to figure out for ourselves what it is, EXACTLY, that we want to do, be, have, etc. What kind of work do you want to be doing? what kind of concerts? What kind of students do you want to be working with? Where do you want to live? What kind of schedule?
As one of my clients recently confided:
” I miss performing SO much, but I realized this past year, that spending weekend time with my family is amazing, and I had been denying myself that for years. I’m heartbroken when I think of all of the moments I missed out on. The family memories I simply wasn’t a part of. I don’t want to go back to having to work every Saturday night and Sunday afternoon for eternity.”
I don’t think she’s alone in that! The answer, for her, has been to shape a concert series that SHE runs, and SHE dictates when the concerts are held. She’ll be playing music she loves, with colleagues she adores, in her favorite venues, and can keep whatever Saturday nights and Sunday afternoons free that she wants.
To get to this point though, I’ve found some tools to be helpful and some, well, not-so-much. I thought I could save you all some time and write up a list of my favorite 5 techniques and exercises that I have used on myself and with clients to help bring more clarity around career and life choices.
I wrote about this exercise in a post I wrote years ago about getting yourself out of a funk, and it serves a similar purpose here. Open up Instagram (or Facebook if you don’t have IG) and as you scroll through, pay close attention to any posts that make you feel a twinge of jealousy. Is it the colleague who is finally able to rehearse and perform a live chamber music concert? Is it the person who is teaching an online class at a university? Or the person who seems to always have the cutest and most perfect studio of tiny little beginners? Make a note of it. Also make a note of what you just scroll past without interest. (see above list..)
People look at the life I am living, and ask me how i got here. My answer? I wrote it into existence. I know, I know, that sounds pretty woo-woo, but It’s true. Always has been. When I was in my 20’s and had bought a condo, I was BROKE, and I had very little furniture. And every morning I would have my coffee and write about what I wanted it to look like. I wrote about how it would be full of lush houseplants and gorgeous rugs, and music and friends and students, and chamber music parties. And I would write about it all in SUCH detail, that I was hyper-alert to those things whenever i came across them. A gorgeous rug on Ebay for $150? snag it! Admiring my friend’s houseplants? Grab cuttings of those suckers! You get the idea.
As my finances improved, the craigslist and yard sale items would get upgraded, and as I evolved, so did my morning descriptions. Everything I have in my life now–from living on an island to the students I teach, to the “white, love seat-sized sofa bed that would be perfect in my office” (and then found at the consignment shop the very next day while looking for a lamp) are things that I wrote about wanting to have.
I don’t think it’s a matter of magic. When you have created a picture of it in your mind, it’s like it already exists, so when you see the opportunity out there, you’re more likely to grab it and not pass it up-because your brain wants to match up the reality you’ve created in your head with actual reality. (okay, maybe that’s a little but woo….)
I married late. I was (gasp!) 40, and all of my close friends had already started celebrating their 10+ year anniversaries. So when it came to planning my wedding, I didn’t really have a finger on what to do/have/latest trends/etc. I was kinda on my own. So I turned to Pinterest. It was also a bit of a hectic year for me, so my wedding planning/pinning was sporadic. I would look through floral arrangements for a few minutes here, dresses for 10 minutes there, etc. all the while, pinning anything I liked the look of to my secret wedding board. It was all very chaotic and random.
But after a couple of weeks of this, an amazing thing happened.
Once I had about 20 examples of each “thing” on my board, I began to see strong patterns. Most of the dresses had a similar design. The flowers I kept pinning had a very clear color palette. In fact, the whole concept had come together very clearly on my board without my realizing it.
So go for it! Create a Secret Career/Life Plan Board and just start pinning anything that looks good to you. do it in short spurts, different moods, different times of day. In a couple of weeks, take a look and see what trends you’re seeing. Do you have 8 pins of lake houses? Photos of gorgeous music rooms with grand pianos–just begging for a house concert?
They say that your childhood offers a lot of clues for how you will be happiest in your adult life. Case in point. I knew when I was 15 that I wanted to be a professional cellist, and from that moment on it was all about competitions, festivals, teachers, conservatories, and the endless pursuit of being just that.
So it was surprising to me when I suddenly wanted to start a blog, until I remembered how much I used to love writing “books” when I was in elementary school, and how I used to get my older brother to pay me to write his book reports for him because I could knock out an A+ paper for him in less than an hour.
And it was surprising to everyone when I started a festival during a pandemic/economic turmoil, but it wasn’t so surprising when you look at the fact that when I was 10 and told I couldn’t do a certain summer camp because we didn’t have the money, I started my own camp in my back yard and charged my neighbors $3 a kid to have them come to my back yard for 2 hours a day, 2x a week while I read them stories, and we made craft projects, and I gave them lemonade and cookies.
I CLEANED UP that summer. We happened to have a ton of little kids in the neighborhood and their stay-at-home moms were more than happy to get rid of them for a few hours each week. Win-Win. And a baby entrepreneur was born.
What did you love to do before music took over? How might you incorporate those first passions into your life today?
If you’ve been reading Tales From The Lane for awhile, you already know how being confronted with the idea of retiring from a particular job jolted me out of temporary complacency and compelled me to start doing what I truly felt called to do.
Here’s the exercise:
Part 1: Imagine you’re at the point where you’ve decided to retire. Your career looks exactly as it does now. Same gigs, same type and number of students, etc. How do you feel? Like you accomplished what you wanted and are leaving the legacy you always desired? No? Make note of what feels lacking.
Part 2: Imagine an imaginary retirement party. Someone is giving a speech about your career and your legacy. You feel proud and accomplished. You lived your dream, you did amazing work, and you feel completely satisfied with how you are exiting your “working years”. What did they say about you?
Life’s too short to be living someone else’s life. I think the best thing each of us can do is figure out exactly what we want to be doing, and then do everything we can to make that happen.
If you’re having trouble figuring out exactly what that is, try the exercises above and let me know what comes up for you. Here’s to Living Your Best Life!
The Spring Session of my 10-week group coaching program, The Profit Pivot, is starting up in a couple of weeks, and there are only a couple of spots left! Want to know more about how to launch a summer program, festival, concert series? Book a (free) 30-minute ‘Discovery’ call with me to talk about you, your goals, and your ideas today! I also have one more 1:1 client slot available if that’s more your speed-but grab it before it’s gone. I won’t have any more openings until the fall!
In the meantime, join my Tales From The Lane Facebook Community for bonus material, live discussions, and tons of free content and insider info.