Recently, at work, I had decided to pull out all the stops, and try to get to the next level. It has been a bit of a struggle, and I decided to take more ownership of my situation. I had asked for and gotten approval to get some executive coaching to help me be more effective.
And then, in between scheduling some exploratory calls and having them, my employer announced some initiatives I didn’t feel comfortable being involved with. And I decided that maybe it was time to start thinking about what’s next.
In the first two calls, we worked on fleshing out a compelling vision of the future. Something that would inspire and direct the next year of effort. Coaching is not about self-improvement, in this context, but about getting a result you really want but don’t see how to get.
But what was my compelling vision? I thought about a life with a short work week, lots of income, time for my family, contributing and volunteering within my community.
That all sounded great, but after a few days, it didn’t really stick. It wasn’t that interesting. Something was missing, and something still didn’t feel right.
My Difficult Wife
Just kidding, not difficult, just a bit stubborn, but in a helpful way.
I was about to start a 3 month engagement to figure out what the compelling future would be, and she kept saying something like “Didn’t he say you should have something you want, before you spend all this time and money on coaching? Seems like you’re not ready.”
After arguing back and forth, and for some reason feeling an intense level of stress about this, she mentioned something like “We need to get our house in order. Successful people have their stuff in order. They take care of their stuff. How can we go out there if everything here is a mess?”
In our haze of sleep deprivation, somehow the subject of all of our mortgage debt and the construction loan came up later that evening, possibly as a reason we shouldn’t spend thousands of dollars for me to come up with “my dream goal”. Nobody really remembers this conversation. We don’t sleep.
Debt means you are promising someone else to constrain your life into certain parameters for however long it takes to pay them. You want to keep that house? Don’t stop having an income that can pay for it.
The problem is that most things that are really interesting require a lot of startup time. Time of exploration, experimentation, and meandering. Those bets don’t always pay off. Exploring in this way requires some time freedom.
And the debt was the reason I felt trapped in my 300k/year job, which on paper was great. I was grateful for it, but also felt like I wanted to try some new things, and couldn’t imagine taking the steps.
Debt, like all the things in our house that needed to be repaired or replaced, was another demand on our time in the future, and it was stifling our creativity and sense of exploration.
It is a compelling, meaningful, and seemingly impossible goal – to pay off all of our debts in the next 12 months.