The analogy that
perhaps best represents the process of changing course is that of a garden.
Even the most die-hard city dwellers understand that there's no mystery to
what makes a garden grow.
Wanting It With All Your Heart
maintaining a garden takes a lot of work. This is especially true if
you've never done it before. Let's face it – it's a lot easier to
complain about how your garden looks or to gaze longingly at other
people's gardens than it is to dig in and do your own landscaping.
That's why the first step in changing course is desire.
I'm not talking
about wishing or hoping. I'm talking about a deep and
insatiable longing for a more balanced, satisfying life doing work
that feeds your soul. Without this profound hunger for a lasting change, you simply
won't make the time to take even the smallest step to move beyond your
current work-life landscape.
You'll know when
desire hits because suddenly the idea of living the life you currently have
and doing the work you're doing now is no longer an option. That's what
happened for a delightful Texan named Linda. I checked in with Linda a few
months after she'd returned home from the Making Dreams Happen (ChangingCourse.com/makingdreamshappen.htm) retreat in
created a web site, or designed business cards, or started putting money
aside every week to help fund her dream? No. But still, something important
was planted. "A door has been opened," said Linda, "so that possibilities
can now come into my life. There's no question in my mind of getting there...
it's now a matter of deciding how fast or slow." What Linda had planted were
the potent seeds of desire.
Tend to the Soil
You don't get a
lush, bountiful garden by staring out the window, wishing one would fall out
of the sky. Similarly you don't tap into your calling, quit your job, and
strike out to follow your bliss by sitting around hoping to win the lottery.
Changing course, like planting a garden, takes a willingness to dig your
hands in and make something happen.
There are many ways to
tend to the soil. For starters, be kind to yourself, and your dreams, by
tuning out distractions so your inner voice can be heard. Then, go often
well of knowledge and information. Soak up everything there is to learn
about starting a bed and breakfast, being a consultant, owning alpacas,
getting paid to write or travel or create art, or whatever it is you'd love
to be paid to do. Feed your dream of living a more purpose-filled life with
regular doses of inspiration.
Plant the Tiniest of Seeds
plants began as tiny seeds. And so it is with dreams. It's all about small
steps. There's no right or wrong way to plant a garden. If you already know
what you want to do – great!
But what if you
have no idea what you'd love to do? Just because you don't have a clear idea
of what your garden will look like when it's done, doesn't mean you can't
start planting seeds. The only way to get an idea of what excites you is to
experiment. Read a book, take a class, talk to a stranger about his or her
work... cast lots of random seeds out into the world and see what takes. You
may be surprised at what pops up! The point is, don't fuss so much about how
you plant your seeds that you end up planting nothing at all. Like any good
action plan, your seeds will probably be planted neatly in a row, one seed after another.
Keep the Weeds Down
always possible to actually "weed" people out of your life
(you know how fussy loved ones can be when you disown them).
You can, though, mentally root out the voices of those who
belittle your dreams by making it a point to talk about
anything and everything except your dreams. Reserve these
conversations instead for people who understand and support
your desire to change course.
come in the form of bad advice from ill-informed people who have never been
self-employed a day in their life.
Yet these same people
are all too happy to share their "expert" advice on why your little business
idea will never work. Despite the fact that your inner garden is
dying a slow death, these nay sayers dispense fear-filled advice like, "What
do you mean? You have a good job... you want to be happy too?"
kind of "don't take chances" negativity by constantly reminding yourself of
what you should really be afraid of... like living your entire life "in the
weeds." If you really want to be scared, imagine what it will be like to
look back at your life in ten or twenty or thirty years. Imagine nearing
the end of your time here on the planet knowing that had you only
let it, your life could have flourished beyond your wildest
imagination. But it did
not. Instead, reflect on the knowledge that you stood by as the weeds, and
your own fear-filled lack of attention, choked out any chance of realizing
the color, splendor, and bountiful abundance of a life well-lived.
Watch Patiently As Your
You can't rush
your dreams any more than you can a garden. Some seeds won't take.
You can get discouraged about that... or you can realize that those
particular seeds weren't meant to grow and plant some different
ones. Other seeds seem to take forever to sprout and even longer to
bloom. Sometimes things happen so slowly you think nothing is
happening at all. There will be days you'll be so discouraged you'll
want to "throw in the trowel." That's usually right around the time
you wake up to find a magnificent bloom. So hang in there. Patiently
nurture those tender shoots and your garden will grow.
Repeat the Previous Steps
Cliché or not,
the truth remains that changing course is a process, not a destination. The
"get rich quick" hawkers out there want to you to believe that once you
implement a few "simple steps" you can just retreat to your yacht and watch
the money flow in. I could make a lot more money selling this fantasy, but
the reality is it just doesn't work that way. It may not seem it, but that's
actually good news.
As any gardening
enthusiast will tell you, the goal is not to plant a garden and be done with
it. It's like saying, "Well, I finished growing as a person now. What's
next?" Rather, gardening is about the process of continuing to grow a more
beautiful, bountiful garden. It's about coming up with ways to make the
garden more interesting or fun or diverse. It's about redesigning the garden
to come up with new ways to add value to those whom your garden serves. As
Mirabel Osler observed, it is the ongoing work of gardening that brings the
joy. She writes, "There can be no other occupation like gardening in which,
if you were to creep up behind someone at their work, you would find them
name comes up again and again in the world of gardening writers. So I
decided to do a little digging myself. As I read Stefanie Hargreaves review
of Osler's book, A Breath from Elsewhere, I could not help but think
of its application to changing course: "Osler's argument – to break the
golden rules, follow your instincts, and create the garden that you desire...
effectively [draws] the reader further down the path towards the garden as
refuge – a place perfectly suited for 'inspiration or freedom, for discovery
A New Addition to Changing
I'm not one to
let my own garden go too long unchanged. So, from time to time, you'll
notice a new section of the Changing Course Newsletter called simply, The
Garden. The Garden is a place to learn about, be inspired by, and celebrate the incremental growth of the dreams of real people just like
The idea of The
Garden came from fellow dreamer and Work at What You Love seminar attendee, Joan McAndrews. Joan envisioned
The Garden as a section that would "reflect the
growth of business, based on the seeds you planted at your three workshops in
the summer of 2006." There certainly were a lot of seeds planted this
summer. But The Garden will be open to anyone, regardless of where their
particular gardens got their start. I hope reading about the seeds others
have planted will inspire you to get busy planting a few of your own.
It is only
fitting then to share some seeds Joan herself planted following the
mid-August workshop. She writes:
very well, certainly for the first week!" In one week, Joan says, she
got the funding she needed to purchase a Home Referral Business –
basically a "business in a box." [Learn more at
And, to ensure there's some cash flow coming in while she builds her
new business, Joan also lined up a small job doing some contract work
for a former employer. The work doesn't end here. Joan is itching to
spend a lot more time in the garden, adding "I have more goals set
and action steps lined up from here."
desire in action!
generator of ideas for books, screenplays, cartoons and more... Northampton,
Massachusetts workshop attendee Mark Tarrant's latest brainstorm puts
together two unlikely, but highly imaginative, concepts – cowboys and
Within days of
the seminar, a local newspaper featured The Blood Rider, the first of Mark's
books in his Blood and Spurs western horror series. You can read the article
yet go to TheBloodRider.com
and reserve a copy of Mark's book.
And while you're
there, congratulate him on this book and on the birth of he and his wife,
Lisa's, first child, Haley Jadyn Tarrant.
Bigenwald was growing up in South Buffalo and Hamburg during the 1960s and
'70s, he says he set medical records at Mercy Hospital for the number of
stitches he received. He was into sports, as well as other little-boy
activities, and trouble just seemed to find him. Bigenwald is still
passionate about sports at age 40, and now channels his enthusiasm into
coaching his 10-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter in baseball and soccer
in their hometown of Naperville, Illinois."
So goes the
beginning of a recent article in The Buffalo News about Madison, Wisconsin
workshop attendee, John Bigenwald's new "coach the coaches" consulting
business. Unfortunately, the article is no longer available at the
newspaper's site. But for a nominal fee you can still access it and other
Or just check out John's
new website at
My Own Garden
I've been planting
seeds with the media for some time myself. Last spring Inc. magazine (Inc.com)
called to interview me on something called the Impostor Syndrome. Since
I've been speaking on this topic for over 20 years (and am myself a
self-described "recovering impostor"), it's a topic I know a lot about.
The article, "The
Impostor Syndrome: Why Do So Many Successful Entrepreneurs Feel Like
Fakes?" appears in the September issue. In it, entrepreneurs like
Northampton, Massachusetts health food store owner Bud Stockwell, a
Canadian CEO and others talk about not feeling deserving of their
success. Instead, deep down, they believe they have somehow "fooled"
others into thinking they are brighter and more talented then they
believe themselves to be.
Most articles on the
Impostor Syndrome focus on women. There are good reasons for this. But
in part, it's because it's harder to get men to talk about self-doubt –
which is why executives, business owners, even a Canadian Mounted Police
officer feel safer talking to me than they do their coworkers.
Thankfully, this article features a number of men sharing their
experiences with this little talked about, but surprisingly common,
If you (or someone
you know) experience chronic self-doubt, are plagued by perfectionism,
find yourself crushed by even constructive criticism seeing it as
"proof" of your ineptness... you may be experiencing symptoms of the
Impostor Syndrome. If you'd like to learn more about How to Feel as
Bright and Capable as Everyone Seems to Think You Are visit
or visit my other website,
his book, In a Yorkshire Garden (1909), Reginald Farrer said, "I think the true
gardener, the older he grows, should more and more develop a humble,
grateful and uncertain spirit." I am both humbled and grateful that so many
of you take the time to share with me the delights of what your small, but
determined, seeds have sown.