Getting thrown off course

Off CourseHurricane Irene has come and gone, and – thankfully – the impact was much less than it could’ve been. Hopefully, those that were seriously affected are getting the support they need to recover (the Red Cross is taking relief donations here), and the rest of you are getting back to your daily routines. In any case, it’s no stretch of the imagination to say that the situation forced us (here in New York) to change gears and shift our perspective to taking care of ourselves and our loved ones, rather than focusing on the “grind of it all” that tends to dominate life here. This can be an eye-opening experience, particularly when you need to consider what your priorities are. In most cases, “safety first” usually wins out, and everything else (rightfully) becomes secondary. It’s getting back to normal that tends to be the tricky part. Not to minimize the seriousness of the hurricane, but since this is a career coaching blog, I want to focus on what my experience has been with my clients when it comes to getting thrown off course — whether from Mother Nature, family commitments, or even inner calamities. Because this industry is built around the idea of being a nonstop go-getter, people tend to feel a lot of discomfort when they can’t focus 100% of their attention on their career. There’s a sense of being left behind, or of not being productive enough, or even just a constant nagging feeling that you could always be doing more.

The truth is that there is a time and place for career, and it’s not “all the time, everywhere." Knowing when it’s appropriate to disengage from the rat race is part of having a successful career – it’s all about balance. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat across from artists who were burnt out and anxious about the idea that they needed to tend to other areas of their lives simply because they felt guilty about what it meant for their careers. But, as anyone who had to stop and prepare for Irene can probably attest to, self comes before career. This is true whether we’re talking about a hurricane or a rocky relationship...a sick parent or financial turmoil. Every area of your life is intrinsically linked to the others, and if you don’t give each the time and attention they deserve, they will bleed over and affect your life as a whole.

Getting “back to normal” may not always come as quickly as we like. When you’re thrown out of your rhythms, it’s important to honor the process of realignment, and allow yourself to organically find your way back (or, equally as important, to discover a new path). At the same time, don’t wait for the “disaster” to occur before you give yourself a break – know the value of preventative maintenance. With Labor Day approaching, the industry is notoriously sleepy over the next week. Why not focus your time and energy on something other than your career, whether it’s getting out of town and relaxing, hanging out with close friends, or catching up on your reading list? Give yourself permission to indulge in YOU. I promise, your career will be waiting for you when you’re ready to get back to it.