I Found the Problem

We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them. —Albert Einstein

The Dream

When I left Apple to start my coaching business, I wanted more freedom. Of course I was excited about the coaching, but I was also excited to own my time.

Working at a big company has constraints, especially working with people around the world. Meetings were scheduled in the morning and late afternoon, co-workers could walk by my office anytime looking for me, and there is a general expectation to be available at all times. I felt behind if I went more than an hour without checking email or messages. It was this pressure to “always be on” and “don’t fall behind” that I looked forward to leaving behind.

In its place, I anticipated mid-week hikes, afternoon walks, and time to exercise each week. My image of running my own business was of being relaxed, seamlessly blending work and personal interests. In my mind, it was great to be my own boss.

The Reality

It took about six months running my own business to realize that I wasn’t doing any of the things I had looked forward to. Hikes remained a weekend activity. Afternoons were spent on work, not on leisurely strolls around the neighborhood. And exercise? I had fallen completely off the wagon.

Fortunately, however, one of my coaches held up the mirror, and I saw what was going on. I recognized that I wasn’t doing any of what I said I wanted to do. There was value in that lesson.

The Biggest Lesson

Even more important that solving my scheduling challenges was the bigger lesson I learned. I found the source of the problem.

It wasn’t my job. It wasn’t Apple. Nor was it my boss.

The problem was me.

I learned to work hard at an early age. I put in the time at school. My first job out of college, I worked 12 hours a day. I took the 5am calls and the 11pm calls at Apple, working with people around the globe. That pattern of hard work was so wired into me, that I just kept going…even when my external environment changed dramatically, from Apple to my own business.

And the lesson I took from this was a big one.

It is easy, however, to blame your choices on your environment. But…you are 100% responsible for your own experience.

Breaking the Pattern

Just today I spoke to someone who was “caught in the whirlwind” of work. She starting work at 6am and looked up at 6pm only to realize the whole day was gone. Worse yet, the work wasn’t valued or rewarded by her boss. She knew there was higher value work to do, but she could never get caught up enough to do it.

I asked why she couldn’t prioritize the high value work. Her answer? Too much work.

It’s the same pattern I struggled with; too much work at Apple and in my own business. Nothing changes until you realize that you are both the source of the problem and the solution. No one else is going to fix it for you.

It’s worth considering: what if your biggest problem at work is of your own creation? What might you do to change it?

Making Progress

I’m still putting these new skills to work. I have five personal trips planned between now and year-end, and in the same time period, my goal is to enroll five new clients. So far, two of those spots are filled. But, right now, I’m heading out for a morning walk around the block. Is there a part of me wondering anxiously what else I could be doing to enroll those last 3 clients? Of course there is! Breaking the pattern is never easy, but I can guarantee you it is worth it!