Learn to Thrive at Work and in Life

Last weekend I organized a retreat to celebrate the culmination of a fabulous twelve months with my group of Live a Life You Love Club women(I’m starting a couple of new versions of this private women’s club, including an international one, in January 2014, so contact me if you’d like more info). We had an amazing time sailing, dining and laughing, and on the Sunday morning I wanted to take them on a walk to one of my favorite secret coves.

The "Closed" sign at the stairs to the cove

As I led the group to the top of a long set of wooden stairs that wound down into the forest, I was dismayed to find a “Beach Access Closed” sign at the entrance. The path was a steep and somewhat challenging one to begin with, and I didn’t want to take them down all those stairs if the path eventually proved impassable. I didn’t want to waste their time and didn’t want to put them at risk, so I immediately started to come up with an alternative (and much less inspiring) walking route.

When I sadly relayed the news of the change in plans, a rosy-cheeked, life-loving group member piped up, shouting: “We’re going down! Who cares about the sign? Let’s try it anyway!” The other women cheered their agreement. I laughed, delighted by their adventurous spirits, and we headed down the stairs.

There was nothing wrong with the path. We easily made it down to the beautiful little cove. The pebbly beach was deserted, the morning water still and transparent. It was glorious. So glorious that a couple of the women tore their clothes off and dove into the chilly morning water, having the time of their lives.

Our private cove

At one point a jogger emerged from the trail, grinning openly at how much fun we were obviously having. We ran into her again later, and she told us that after she’d run past “our” cove, she texted a friend and said she wanted to be as gutsy and fun as the women she’d just seen hanging out together. Did we ever celebrate hearing that! What a morning.

If I’d believed what that sign said, and turned around at the first indication of an obstruction, we would have missed out on an experience that we’ll now treasure forever. An experience that apparently inspired others who witnessed it.

Is there a path that you long to follow that seems to have a “Closed” sign nailed to the entrance? You might want to think about ignoring it and blowing past it (or finding a way around it). You will likely be amazed about how often the “Closed” signs in your life turn out to be nothing more than an illusion.

Here are some examples that come to mind, from my own life and the lives of my coaching clients:

– I started studying and performing dance (salsa and flamenco) professionally in my late twenties and early thirties, when I was already a doctor. I earned real income from it, and still do. This shouldn’t have been possible, but I ignored that and just kept believing in and going after my dream that it could happen.

– I embarked on a writing career after I finished medical school, with virtually no writing experience. I was told it would take ten years of working as a freelance writer to be have my work even considered by a national magazine. Instead, I got published in a national magazine in the first year (and currently have a couple of national columns, have published a book, etc.).  This happened because I sought out information on how to pitch story ideas, ignored the naysayers and started sending my work to magazines I dreamed of writing for. 

– A client dreamed of working abroad, and knew of colleagues in her field who had worked in certain countries. She didn’t really want to live in any of these countries, but was going to apply to work in them anyway. I asked her where she would REALLY want to live and work, and she said: “That’s easy: Paris. But I wouldn’t be able to work there.” Really? I always encourage people to investigate their possibilities rigorously before giving up on a dream. I told her to research working in Paris, and she discovered she qualified for a special program. She is living and working there now. She came very close to missing it, if she’d believed her own “Closed” sign.

– Another client dreamed of retiring and going to a top-ranked university to study a whole new field. She hardly let herself even consider it, because she didn’t have the money. How could it ever be possible, especially at her age? I had her do some research, too, and she discovered she qualified for a grant that would pay for a large chunk of her education. She also discovered a scholarship competition – and won. She finished her schooling this year and is loving life like she never has before.

If the way seems closed to you, I encourage you to catch yourself before you automatically turn around and abandon your hoped-for path. What more can you learn about your possibilities? Google searches go a long way towards finding solutions, and I encourage you to ask for guidance from others who have made it to your desired destination. Most importantly, if there is something in your heart that tells you that you really don’t want to give up – don’t give up.

Have you had the experience of a "Closed" sign in your life being just an illusion? Share your experience in the Comment section below, as your story will likely inspire and encourage others. Also share with us if you’re encountering one of those pesky "Closed" signs in your life right now!

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