All my adult life I had done what I needed to do, or more accurately what I felt I needed to do. When the opportunity came to do what I wanted … I had no idea what that was.
Over the course of my adult life, I had a succession of different jobs and businesses but none were the result of any deliberate choice on my part. It was always more of a collision between need and circumstance:
- I needed a job, a job came up and I did it.
- A profession came up, I needed an income, I did it.
- My wife wanted a business, so I did that.
All this worked fine for me and I have to say I look back on all that now with a degree of fondness.
Things changed, however, when my wife passed away in 2005 after a long battle with cancer. After her passing I was very focused on needs. I had a young son to take care of, a business to maintain alone and a fairly demanding property to look after.
I was fortunate and soon met another wonderful lady and began a relationship with her. She was a mature age student with two young sons of her own on a shared custody arrangement with their father. She was doing things tough with little money and lots of pressure. We moved in together and worked hard to blend the families. (Three boys between 8 and 13 keep you on your toes.) Again, my focus at this time was all on meeting the needs of my family.
In time our family dynamics settled down, my partner finished studying and began working full time, we got married and the boys all got their drivers’ licenses and became very independent.
For the first time in my adult life the intensity of the pressure to meet the needs of others started to diminish.
This was the start of the hardest part of my life to date.
You see once I’d done meeting everyone else’s needs I was left with the massive question of:
“What do you really want to do?”
This was a question that hadn’t come up since I was in my early twenties; the only other time in my life when I could do whatever I liked.
I knew I wanted to change my career. I’d been a commercial photographer running my own business for over ten years and a lot of that business, the property we had and the reason for doing it all, died with my first wife.
It was time to figure out what I wanted to do instead.
I started out with the limiting belief that I had to just re-work the existing skills I had (as I was surely too old to start a new career at 54). Months of brainstorming around that belief got me nowhere. Eventually I had to relinquish the idea and allow myself to consider starting from scratch.
I sat with a notebook, pen and a blank page to write down everything I knew about what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
- I knew I wanted to own my own business. Once you’ve been self-employed for a decade or so you really become unemployable.
- I knew I wanted a business that allowed me to travel and work flexible hours; I couldn’t go back to a 9-5 routine in an office or shop.
- I knew my work needed to create a reasonably good income as I’d been earning reasonably good money and I didn’t want to go backwards.
- I also knew that work had to deliver more than just money. I wanted to do something that positively contributed to the lives of others.
- Finally, I knew I wanted to work with positive and likeminded people who were a pleasure to work with. They would be a sail not an anchor if you know what I mean.
Not too much to ask right?!
After much more soul searching and Googling I discovered a network marketing opportunity in Personal Development Products. I’d always been keen on personal development, and it seemed to tick all my boxes. So I threw a bunch of money and time at learning that. We had a couple of great holidays and met some great people but after a while I found that my heart really wasn’t in it.
So it was back to Google for some more soul searching.
The next thing I found was Life Coaching and undertaking study in this field confirmed that the ability to help people unearth, unravel and overcome the problems they were creating in their own minds appealed to me greatly.
But I wasn’t ‘there’ yet. I now knew what I wanted to do, but had no idea what problem I wanted to solve, who I wanted to help or where to find them.
Time for yet more study! This time learning all about social media marketing, website building, email marketing, and online business in general.
The three years I spent working through all of the above and meeting my own needs for the first time in a long time should have been exciting times. But in fact, they were the three worst years of my life!
My health suffered, my family suffered, my finances definitely suffered. There was very little laughter, I was obsessed with finding my new niche in life and frustrated beyond measure when I couldn’t seem to find it. Many times I could have given up and gone for a job. I even applied for a couple in one dark moment.
But I got there in the end.
Life Coaching was the right field for me and once I got a handle on who I wanted to serve and what problems I could solve for them, I really hit my stride again.
So what’s the moral of this story?
If you are struggling with your business or personal life perhaps it’s because you are yet to find your niche. That place where you can contribute to others in a way that satisfies your soul.
If that sounds like you I want to encourage you to search hard to find your niche and focus on how you can use your talents to solve other people’s problems not your own. Because if the experience I’ve shared above has taught me anything, it’s that if you find your niche, this is where true happiness is found.