The Route to Hard Decisions

Paying Bills

You are not wasting your time. You, the one who now thinks majoring in marketing was a mistake, the one who entered the industry at your parents’ urging because you’d always be able to find a job, the one who after 10 years realizes it’s not at all a job you want.

You are not wasting your time.

Now, please don’t read that as, “You should continue to work in this area you’re not thrilled about.” You should not, unless maybe you’re like Wallace Stevens.

Yes, the poet who made such an impact in the 20th century that he’s now on a postage stamp with some other fabulous masters of verse. That Wallace Stevens.

In noting his birthday this week, The Writer’s Almanac by Garrison Keillor mentioned that Stevens went to law school and then took a job with the Hartford Accident and Indemnity Company; he had that job for the rest of his life.

“He walked two miles to and from work every day, and that’s when he wrote his poems, scribbling notes on slips of paper and then giving them to his secretary to type up when he got to the office,” says the Almanac. “Some people thought it was odd for an insurance man to write poetry. Stevens did not. He said, ‘It gives a man character as a poet to have this daily contact with a job.’”

Is that you? Might the daily contact with a job, even one that doesn’t light you up, be a good way to set up the rest of your life the way you want it?

When a job or path feels like a waste of time (except, of course, on payday), often what it means is it’s time for a decision. The kind that might require rolling up our sleeves and doing double duty. In the case of Stevens, it was a long-term solution to his desire to write poetry and make a living. For others, it could be short-term. Maybe your ‘thing’ will eventually earn you a living, but not for a while, and in the meantime you need to pay the rent and/or support a family.

When clients come to me with these kinds of quandaries, it typically boils down to priorities and demands on time and (un?)willingness to let something go. Spending time with their children might be priority one, at least for a phase of their lives. Does that make full-time employment and a serious photography hobby realistic if they’re all at the same time?

It depends. It’s so darned individual.

In the span of a week, I’ve been exposed to various folks making these kinds of thoughtful decisions. And not just parents, but those with a lifestyle they’re reluctant to surrender or a full-time job that feels so stifling and stressful all they want to do when they get home is flop on the couch and eat takeout. Forget the book they want to write.

I read the blog post of a dear friend who put her child into daycare for the first time and even though it tugged at her heart, she knew it was time to return to her professional love – entrepreneurship. She took it further, noting that children will be watching the decisions their parents make. How wise of her to look ahead to the message she’s sending her daughter.

In the dedication to their transformative book, Half the Sky, Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn (a married journalist couple), write this to their three children: “Thanks for your love and patience when research for this book meant grumpy or absent parents and less cheering at your soccer games. You’ve enriched our journeys through difficult and oppressive countries, and you’re wonderful kids to be arrested with!”

And then there’s a friend who has hit some dead ends in trying to find full-time employment, but it has made her explore some very creative avenues for income streams. Maybe those are what she was supposed to be doing in the first place. Her decision not to be stubborn and only see one possibility is making her quite an earner.

These decisions were right for these people at this time. There is no one path, regardless of what we were brought up or socialized to believe. We need to pay more attention to what our instincts are telling us and fully explore our options.

So let’s go back to you, marketing professional who has little job satisfaction. Are you good at it even though you’re not fulfilled by it? Might the bulk of those skills translate to something else? Would it perhaps be better to be doing the same job at a company whose values you’re more aligned with?

The way I see it, a person could be a receptionist and be really good at it. Personable. Curious enough to engage people. Organized. A strong multi-tasker. Let’s say she loves classical music, too. She could work at an insurance company and find it bland and drag herself to work every day. Or she could do that same job for a music school or a company that makes pianos.

Couldn’t that shift to being surrounded by something that uplifts her dramatically change her daily life?

Sometimes we just need to take a hard look at the decisions we’ve made thus far to get some insight on what’s next. That can spur momentum that makes the next decision feel less grueling. Confident decision making begets more of the same.

Getting there, to that place where we can envision our next move -- definitely not a time waster.

Nancy Colasurdo is a practicing life coach and freelance writer. Her Web site is and you can follow her on Twitter @nancola. Please direct all questions/comments to