When you are a young, single, hotshot professional, it feels like the only way is up.
You graduate from school, land a good job, and proceed to wrap your life around it and your almost certain date with destiny.
Sure, sure, you plan to get married some day and have children, but that couldn’t possibly stop your steady, gritty, unstoppable rise to the top. Not you, you’re different.
Then circumstances change.
You trade your powerhouse corporate gig for diapers and dishes (it’s only temporary!) and before too long you wake up in a life that doesn’t feel of your making.
You’re off track, sidelined, unsteady in your decision, and feeling this vague sense you are supposed to be doing something else.
Your self-confidence is in the toilet while you beat back this nagging notion that all your friends are happily moving ahead while you are left behind.
If I Could Just Get Back On Track
And there it is.
The phrase that sums up the dyspeptic, daily mental ruminations of a woman who believes she will eventually return to an all-consuming company as the single-minded, careerist she was before.
Seriously, did you even like her?
When you look back on who you were before marriage and kids, aren’t you even a little bit embarrassed at how self-absorbed you were? If I met my single self today, we would hardly be friends. I’d find her shallow, annoying, and quite frankly, boring.
“Off Track” Is Not A Wasteland
It’s made you a better person and leader. You’ve learned far more about what you can handle than any corporate situation could provide.
It might feel like you are on sabbatical, spinning your wheels and just itching at the chance to get back in the game.
But the truth is, the game has changed. You’ve changed. Your priorities have changed.
And that’s a good thing.
Your time “off track” in not in place of your rise to the top, it is an enhancement to it. It augments and adds to your repertoire.
No matter how accomplished, organized, and in control you were as a single professional, having children will bring you to your knees. You will learn more about what you can handle than you ever thought possible.
Shoot, the lack of sleep alone will teach you more about persistence and resiliency than any two-hour board meeting.
You Don’t Need To Get Back On Track
You need to pivot.
Corporate accountants who now work from home as Virtual Business Managers.
Pharmaceutical sales reps who now host weekly podcasts on sales strategies and techniques.
Teachers who now hold classroom “best practices” workshops by teleconference with young teachers around the country.
Lawyers who now create online video courses on ways to prepare for the bar.
Executives who now coach mid-level managers on leadership skills.
If you simply want to go back to what you were doing before, then by all means do that. Work hard and catch up and apply all the lessons you learned while away.
But if staying put feels oddly empty, and going back to who you were no longer fits, you will find the answer not in choosing one or the other, but in combining the two.
You haven’t lost a thing – the power is in the pivot.