First assignment we give everyone, no matter who, how big, how old, how young, or how many years you’ve been in school, is to write your dreams. In not one, not two, but twelve areas of your life. You might have heard about it. It’s a pretty notorious assignment, even by postdoc standards. Not just because it changes lives (though, that too), but because it’s hard for us humans (no matter how many letters behind our names) to not only admit our dreams, but put them in print. Let alone, share them.
It certainly sucked (technical term) for Sofya.
Figuring out exactly what Sofya, a 29-year old postdoctoral fellow at the Department of Microbiology, wanted in all areas of her life, let alone her CAREER, was particularly hard. So much so, her coach gave her ANOTHER assignment to do first. What assignment?!
Sounds like a dark Netflix show, right? Close. Whenever a client is upset, stuck in an uncomfortable situation (i.e. writing 12 dreams) that they swear they want to change but seemingly can’t, we have them write a purge. A purge is when you write down, in a stream of consciousness, everything that is upsetting and frustrating you. It need not be coherent, or make sense to anyone but you, but it does need to be out of your head and on to “paper” (or screen, if you will).
Until you get out every last part of the narrative you have in your head, the entire saga feels real. Worse, all the contradictions in your mind are what shape and inform your reality. Or, in this case, Sofya’s reality, especially when it came to her career.
Here’s an excerpt from her Career purge:
I don’t know what I want to do with my life. My head is full of these things my parents told me I want, society told me I want, I think I thought I wanted, somebody else wanted, etc. The dreams I wrote down for the class are very general and impersonal, because I don’t know what I want. I only know what I am supposed to want. Sometimes I feel like I’ve lost my personality altogether. I am afraid to change anything. Because what if I don’t like it, what if I fail, what if my parents don’t approve, what if I am not good at it at all, what if I regret making the change but there is no way to go back…
You see, once you’ve conceded to writing a purge (no small feat), you will be amazed when you discover how what you are upset about sounds legit in our head, but when it’s written down on paper, it’s nothing but your inner dialogue’s lousiest and most convoluted hits on a subject. In fact, it’s the very reason we have you write out your purge: to incriminate your inner dialogue which is doing a darn good job at keeping you from finding a solution.
Let alone, admitting your actual (read: big and scary) dreams about your future.
What Sofya discovered lurking her purge – besides the usual blame, excuses, voices in her head and a poor-me trait – was a strong theory she had about her parents and what they thought about her and her future. In fact, she was almost certain that they would not approve of ANY career choice of hers EXCEPT for academic science. But did she ever ask her parents if this was true for them or not?
What do you think?
Of course not. Turns out, we humans not only hate dreaming, we hate being uncomfortable AND, worse, we hate being inaccurate about our theories. Even if our theories are not that empowering. But now it was Sofya’s turn to brave up and grow up. To seek (and coincidentally, speak) the truth.
And off she went.
Sofya’s coach had her follow the guidelines of how to have a hard conversation (LINK) and script the conversation. Being the good student she was, no matter what her head said, she did it. She was ready to stop hiding behind her bad theories and her constant need for approval.
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The next time Sofya spoke to her mom on the phone, she took her chance. Quivering, Sofya bravely fessed that she had developed a theory that both she and her father would not love her if she didn’t pursue a career in science. She asked if this was true.
Her mom’s response?
“No! Of course not!” she said. “We just want you to be happy, no matter what you do!” She then went on to explain: “We thought being a scientist is a great life, so we wanted that for you. But we are not scientists and we don’t really know how it is. All we want is for you to be happy!”
Happy? Happy!? Sofya was elated! You see Sofya’s theory about her parents was not only disproven, turns out, it was not their theory after all. It was hers, alone. The only thing that was in her true career dream’s way, doubting her pick, was she.
So, who (or what) is standing between you and your dreams? (Hint: Maybe, just maybe, it’s you)
If you need help getting out of your own way and disproving non-mathematical or scientific theories – just your own, find us. We’re here to get you unstuck and humaning better, STAT.