Where’s Your Edge?
Your Jewish Fairy Godmother’s Prescription for
Leaping into Your Next Challenge
The alarm goes off. You brush your teeth, brew some caffeine and head in. What day is it? Monday-ugh; Tuesday-yawn; Wednesday-halfway (hooray!); Thursday-hang in there; Friday-TGIF!!!
What’s the problem? You know the drill. You know your job. You can script every day of the week, not down to the labels on the lost files but pretty close. You’re okay: secure, entrenched, safe, and yikes, can you say it out loud, totally bored,. You don’t want to die in this job but how’re you going to find the energy to prepare yourself for what happens next? Where did your energy and ambition go? Where’s your edge?
It’s a not uncommon lament. We’re all looking for that scent of danger, the utter vitality than comes from feeling completely alive. Not that we walk around wanting to face off lions or tigers; usually bosses are scary enough. We don’t really want to know first-hand if a parachute will open; giving a presentation is enough of a life-threatening thrill. But often we crave, secretly or not, the intensity and zeal that comes when we’re fully focused. And we tend to be most focused when we take risks, when we’re willing to leave the safety of a predictable week and test ourselves, see how we do in a new and different world.
So what’s it take to get ready? What do you have to do? Not just updating your resume and searching the help wanteds. What do you have to do on the inside? How do you leave behind the emotional baggage that’s weighting you down?
One way to face risk is to leave a safe distance between you and the edge. Look for an internal promotion. Be sure you have a secure financial safety margin. But what happens if you push the envelope a little? If you take the essentially risk-averse parts of your nature, the ones that usually run the show, and muzzle them for a while? If you allow yourself a flight of fantasy, visions of what you think you’d create, would become, would be if only.
The key is the ‘if only.’
Because if all you do is dream and then tuck those disruptive little thoughts away, or smile indulgently and then go back to your desk, sit back in the familiar chair of your predictable life, you’re doing yourself a great disservice.
That’s not to say that today is the day to quit your job and start a dot-com (or even to proclaim your adoration to the secret crush in an adjoining cubicle). But it might be the day to remember how to dream. To leave some space for an edge to appear, and then not to run from it.
Most of us have been trained to be parakeets. Too few were encouraged to become eagles. No one ever said: You can learn to fly. The ‘If only’s’ are the doubts that weight your wings, the words that keep you on the ground, safe in your cage. Take some time to think about what it means to fly. Because that’s what an edge is really all about. It’s what happens when you go over the side and trust that your wings will carry you.
How can you encourage yourself to take risks? And how can you figure out which risks to take?
The answer: start talking to yourself more and trusting the answers you come up with. In you is a great sense of understanding of what you really want, what makes you happy, what you’re willing to work and strive for, what you simply no longer are willing to put up with, and what you’re willing to sacrifice to reach some goal.
If you can learn to listen you will let yourself over the edge more often. You will probably make some ‘mistakes,’ but they won’t harm you more than you can bear. Though you may end up with a few tattered feathers, you’ll also learn something powerful. If you do it often enough, with a proper sense of joy and exploration, with fewer ‘if only’s’ weighting your wings, flying will begin to feel as effortless as swinging out of bed on a workday morning.
Risks don’t have to be big to give you the benefits you aspire to. You don’t have to throw yourself over a steep edge to feel the rush of pure air. You just have to want to take them badly enough to banish doubt from your mind.
Go for your dream, whatever it is. And if you aren’t sure, clear some space in your life for it to show up. When it does, fly with it.
Finding Your Wings
1. Commit half an hour completely to yourself. You can do this at home, (though turn off all phones), or in a library or a park. The key is insulating yourself from all distractions.
2. Take a blank sheet of paper and draw a line down the page. At the top of the left column, write Topic, and above the other one write Failure/Worst.
3. Write the following words in the left-hand column: Job; Salary; Job Search; Interview; Promotion; Boss; Colleague; Project; Learning Experience; Challenge. Feel free to adapt or add others.
4. You may come up with answers while you are writing the list. Jot down whatever comes to mind. This is a Working World Rorschach test. Grab what’s in your forebrain first, so you remember it, and then peel it back and see what’s below. Most important: be honest.
5. Go through the list the way you would a crossword puzzle. Ideas and memories will trigger more ideas and memories. Your goal is emptying out all the fears, fixed ideas, and blocks you have about your work history. It may take you a while to put something in every category, but persist until you feel empty.
6. Take a week off from this project. Then go back and do the same thing, but label the right-hand column Success/Best. Repeat the previous steps till you’ve got the good things identified. Then reread both lists. What you’ll find out is:
Your failures, embarrassing moments scary times, will feel less bad to you. They are history. You’ve learned from them. You can move on. Burn the first list.
Your successes will give you strength and courage. Look at what you’ve already done! Read that list every day for a week. Keep it on your desk and add anything good that you remember or do.
7. Take a new sheet of paper and describe the next job you want. Be explicit. List everything from work hours to pay, title, responsibilities, whatever you feel you can imagine now and anything good you think of while you search.
8. Tape the list to your bathroom mirror and read it every time you brush your teeth.
9. Every time you send out a resume or go to an interview, remind yourself you’re the best person they could hire.
10. Repeat as needed until you believe #9 or reach your goal.