I made a major decision this week. I walked away from my Ph.D. Well, in actual fact I took a leave of absence for the next six months, but it’s practically the same thing. I don't think I'm going back. Just like when I took a nine-month sabbatical from my big corporate job, I had no intention of returning. I could feel a change coming, like the first breeze of spring that floats the sweet scent of jasmine past your senses. I just knew. And I was right.
As a little girl I didn’t dream about doing a Ph.D, and I didn't grow up wanting to be a researcher. My dream was always to be an actress and singer, to write and create and perform. Actually I had a staunch resistance to going to university after high school, meaning that I flat out refused, instead ending up at performing arts college which is where I felt destined to be. You know, on my path to movie stardom. Of course.
The Ph.D dream came much later. In my mid 30s, sitting in the auditorium waiting to be awarded with my first Masters degree (Business Management, scintillating stuff). The Ph.D’s were the first up on stage, with their funny hats and their big brains. I remember sitting there watching them with this knowing somewhere in my gut that I too would wear that silly hat one day, and be a Dr. Something.
Another Masters degree came next, this one in Wellness with a major in Positive Psychology. I wanted to get to the heart of what helps people thrive. And coming after a shocking work induced burnout, a heart wrenching breakup (you know, the usual kind) and a year learning about the eight limbs and yamas and niyamas to become a yoga teacher, this Masters degree felt about right.
All of this came during 15 years of working for the man, in big American corporations, striving and driving and succeeding. On the outside at least. What did it mean to get ahead in this world? For me at least, it meant conformity. Normality. Tick the box, do the work, make the grade, follow the rules. And I was very, very good at that. Until I wasn't.
For my session with my life (changing) coach Vanessa yesterday, I went in with the question on my mind about whether I wanted to continue with this PhD. I am researching Next Generation Feminism; Redefining and Reclaiming the New Feminine Power. On the surface, this looks right up my alley. And feels about right too. I have spent the last decade working in gender diversity trying to get and keep more women in business. I wrote a book called Getting Real About Having It All. And my work is centered around helping women create the careers and lives they love.
But there is a change taking place. A shift. Somewhere deep down in my soul. Away from diversity, and toward unity. Away from power, and toward essence. Away from striving, to just being.
I don't want to conform. I want to create. I don't want to fit in, I want to stand out. On my own terms. In my way. With my own voice. And now, at the right time.
Wayne Dyer wrote a book called From Ambition to Meaning. Reflecting on it, my Ph.D felt a lot like ambition. And it felt a lot like the driving and striving of the past. A huge part of it was about the knowledge and the learning to the depth that comes with this level of inquiry. But even though I said it wasn’t, part of it was absolutely about getting the piece of paper, getting the status, and the perceived doors that would swing open with that attainment.
But what if life became less about achievement and attainment, and more about purpose and space. Less about status, and more about serenity. Less about striving and more about soul. And much, much more about creativity and courage.
I am often called the permission giver by my coaching clients. They say I give them permission to want what they want. To let go of what they don’t want any longer. And to be who they truly are, right here, right now, without their stories of who they think they are or who they have been told they should be.
So I am giving permission to myself, to let go of the dream for now. It may come back. It may morph and change and become something that inspires me to a "hell yeah it’s Ph.D time" once more. But it may not. And from where I sit today, with all of my knowing and bursting with energy for my purposeful path that includes a new path, letting go is the very best thing I could do to honor where I am, and to finally be here. No stories. No expectations. No titles. No dramas. Just me. Here. Now. And to have that be enough.
Your turn. Try this:
• What is it time for you to let go of?
• Write down three things that you are holding on to that are no longer serving you.
1. I am holding on to____________________________________________________
2. I am holding on to____________________________________________________
3. I am holding on to____________________________________________________
• Pick one of these three things, and make a plan to let it go. Right here. Right now.