“Pain is too strong a word.”
This is the feedback several of my classmates gave me on a very early draft of what is now my first e-book, The Lighthouse Method: How Busy, Overloaded Moms Can Get Unstuck and Figure Out What To Do With Their Lives. (It is now available on Amazon, Kobo, and Smashwords.)
We were all enrolled in a weekly nonfiction writing workshop in which we took turns reviewing one another’s work. Just moments before receiving this feedback, I was on cloud nine, glowing because several classmates said they had actually benefited from reading my draft. They said The Lighthouse Method had motivated them to write that week. It was their feedback that had helped me launch the book.
But that glow momentarily dimmed when a number of my classmates said my description of how busy moms feel when they are stuck and can’t figure out their next career move seemed exaggerated.
“What you’re describing here is not pain but discomfort,” one classmate stated.
They argued that my clients’ pain couldn’t be compared to the kind of physical pain people experience from, say, an amputation of a limb or a serious illness, nor could it be compared with the sort of emotional trauma caused by an abusive parent or the loss of a loved one.
They had a valid point.
And I was reminded of that point earlier this week, when, in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday, my children and I watched the PBS “American Experience” documentary on the Freedom Riders. The pain and suffering endured by those who used nonviolent protest to try to desegregate interstate travel in the South during the summer of 1961 is very difficult to watch, even filtered through our digital screens many decades later.
Still, while the causes and degrees of pain vary widely among different individuals, each woman’s pain is the only pain that she experiences. And she is the only one who experiences that particular pain firsthand.
More important, whatever is bothering or hurting you is where your focus tends to be, and the longer it remains your focus, the more it can disorient you and erode your confidence.
In the end, here is how I decided to describe the pain of what I call “decision paralysis”:
Some of these women [I meet] are stay-at-home mothers who want to re-enter the workforce. Others are unhappy with their current employment situation in some way and want to make a change. Others feel something is missing in their lives, and are disappointed that most of their time and energy is spent on their careers and with their families, leaving no time for personal interests. All of these women and parents want to gain more balance in their lives. Sadly, they often find they are too busy to figure out what it is they want. And not knowing where they are going, it’s hard for them to plan and take action.
This sort of “decision paralysis,” or being immobile for an extended time because you don’t know where you want to go, can be painful. Sometimes the pain is sharp, like when a stay-at-home mom is asked the dreaded question, “And what do you do?” Sometimes it’s the pangs of guilt felt by an employed mom who works long hours or whose work includes lots of travel.
Most of the time, however, being stuck causes a nagging, chronic ache that doesn’t go away. The pain or ache comes from longing to make a change but not knowing how to start, and the frustration of not being able to figure out how to get unstuck.
The women I meet in my day-to-day life, as well as the women I coach, tend to be very capable and are used to being successful. For them, not being able to figure out what to do, solve the undefined problem or fulfill the ambiguous desire, and get unstuck makes them feel like they are a failure.
As a coach, I’ve met too many women who feel this kind of discomfort or pain. Thankfully, working with my clients has taught me invaluable lessons in how to work through and alleviate it. Witnessing their (often rapid) transformation is what has inspired my book.
The Lighthouse Method is essentially a set of suggestions that may seem counterintuitive, including:
- lose the map (i.e., stop analyzing, planning, and setting goals);
- drop the “no pain, no gain” mentality;
- take your eyes off the prize;
- give up the notion that bigger is better; and
- embrace quitting.
And I share real-life client stories to explain and illustrate these suggestions.
The e-book is short and inexpensive—short (9070 words) because I know how busy mothers are and inexpensive ($2.99) because I want to share these lessons with as many women as possible.
Large or small, pain and discomfort impair our ability to live life to its fullest. When we alleviate the pain, we free up our talents and potential.
If you can relate to the pain or discomfort I describe above, or if you know someone who can, please check out or recommend my book.
Some of the links in this email are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive a small commission. A portion of those funds will be donated to the New York Women’s Foundation.