I started off my life with the blue pill – at a path that I thought would be right for me, in terms of being successful, financial wealth and making a positive difference in the world.
Few people know that I trained as a pharmacist! I do not talk about it often because it was such a long time ago and now seems like the wrong decision that cost me several years of my life and lots of money for my parents because they financed my entire education. Oh boy! The day-long labs were so boring, so isolating, with little human connection. I did well at the course and ticked all the boxes that a bright student would but my heart wasn’t in it. It seemed to crush my soul despite the fact that I was studying at one of the best universities in the country. I was good but I was not sparkling. My crushed soul kept showing up in all areas of my life.
I tried a year of working in the software industry. Goodness! I sucked at the job! I dreaded Mondays! Thankfully, I showed myself out in less than a year. Good for the organisation and me!
Life began clicking when I changed my career track. This round had a lot of human connection, lots of conversations that you would have with a confidanté, lots of speaking and storytelling. I was now doing talent management and learning & development for global organisations.
I had begun to sparkle but there was always a burning need deep inside me to do more and be more. There weren’t any Monday blues; there was lots of recognition, frequent opportunities to make tiny differences but something was missing. The kind of life-transforming moments when you sweep someone away…those were missing.
Amidst all this, I packed up my bags and moved abroad because I wanted to experience living and working in a different country. I had some savings (most of them consumed by the grotesque currency exchange rate of 1:80), and eyes full of dreams as I made a life for myself in the new country.
I found my real calling when cancer served as a nice kick up my a*se. Yes, that is the only way I can describe it.
I stopped in my tracks, had a long hard look at my life and asked myself, “What the hell are you doing? What on earth happened to that 9-year-old-you who dreamt big and wanted to make a difference every day of your life? When did you so deeply learn that you could not be more or do more…that you would settle with what life throws at you?
What is the worst that can happen?”
I now knew what ‘could’ happen in/to life. So, I made a promise to myself, “If I make it to the other side of cancer, I will do everything in my power to live the rest of my life as joyously and meaningfully as possible.”
I did make it to the other side.
Amidst everything that was going on and a load of uncertainties that cancer brings, I decided to take the red pill. I had stayed safe and small for far too long… subscribing to how I should have been, what I could or couldn’t do.
The red pill changed everything. I wish I could tell you how amazingly fancy the whole finding my life purpose and listening to my soul’s song was but it wasn’t. It was messy. It was more like a rude awakening because it felt so hard. Most days I wondered if what I was doing made any sense at all. And yet, it felt the right thing to do, despite making what could be called several bad practical decisions.
There was the temptation to take the blue pill again and make it all go away but ‘Hey! What’s the worst that can happen? Also, whatever it is, if not now, then when?’ kept me going.
So, I continued on my red pill path. On my little canoe. Without the certainty of the journey. Or the destination in mind. With my heart full of fear and desire.
Whilst people who knew me kept wondering why I was doing what I was doing.
They asked me to go back to the safety of the life I had always known.
To settle even more!
But my time to settle was over. It was the time to own who I was and truly sparkle through coaching and speaking.
When I look back at my life, I see several clear patterns and themes.
The first theme is of walking away from things or life decisions that weren’t working out for me or nourishing my soul. No matter how rational or well-considered a decision is, it is only in the hindsight that we truly know whether it is the right decision or not.
I see the pattern of owning up my decisions, acknowledging what was helping me get closer to the life I wanted and taking consistent action towards it. Those decisions came as a whole package, with warts and all, and not just the good bits.
I see my affinity for taking risks. Yes, it is true that I have continually longed for a certain crystal ball that could reassure me that my decisions would work out. But we know that there is no such thing as a crystal ball! If there is, I am yet to find it! And so, there is just one way to find out whether a decision would turn out to be the right decision or not…by doing it. I have not let my desire for reassurance stop me from acting.
I see my knack to be clear on my priorities. To not let judgment stop me.
With the benefit of hindsight, what seem like bad decisions look like the right decisions based on where I was or who I was when I took them. They have all been valuable life lessons and have shaped me into the person I am.
I see the theme of courage. Risk-taking. Dreaming and pursuing those dreams through action. Failing. Learning from failure. Setting on what looked like a straight path. Losing my way. Continuing on the zig-zag route. Being a constant ‘work in progress’. Owning my magic. Finding myself in the process.
If you have a soul-song that you would like to sing but the journey looks too messy or scary, try the red pill. Allow yourself to step into your magnificence and see the magic happen. Take the decision to come home to yourself, as I did.
If you feel that fears are getting in your way, ask yourself, ‘What’s the worst that can happen?’
Wishing you a great 2020. May you have the courage to dream big and the courage to take action to realise those dreams.
Please find below link to Vishen Lakhiani’s video that served as the inspiration for this blog post.