What’s it like to give up everything and start again?
Former Barrister Neil Seligman seemingly had it all, a successful career, a beautiful home, a loving boyfriend… but he felt stuck. Here’s his story.
In the last months of my career as a Barrister there were signs telling me that something was off in my life. My relationship with my boyfriend was no longer bringing me joy, inspiration, or fun. (If I am honest, there was a voice in my head for quite a while telling me to jump ship on that one, long before I had the courage to do so). In addition, my scalp felt like it was pushing the hair on my head out with boiling daggers (a very bizarre and unpleasant feeling) and I was feeling less and less inspired by the content of my work, even though I still found the skills I was using, challenging and fun.
I probably could have gone on like that for a long time but as history now has it, in quick succession, I left my partner and my job and embarked on a new chapter of discovery and transformation. I learned one or two things along the way, and now 10 years on, feel inspired to share some of them here, in case they may be useful on your journey.
Acknowledge Where You Are
“When misaligned, the body gives direct sensations as feedback to direct you towards new thoughts, actions, and behaviours”
Back in 2008 as a successful Barrister, it was hard for me to acknowledge that I was unhappy. I had so many ways of spinning it to my friends, colleagues, and even myself – to convince myself all was well. Yet when I was alone and quiet, I knew deeply that something was off in my life.
If this is you right now, breathe deep, and allow yourself to feel the imbalance, as this is important data. Where do you feel it? In your body, heart, emotions, anxious thoughts, or is it a full-body / full-being experience? Really notice what your symptoms are and where they are showing up.
When misaligned, the body gives direct sensations as feedback to direct you towards new thoughts, actions, and behaviours. Become familiar with your symptoms of imbalance so you can allow them to propel you forward, and so you will feel the contrast when you find greater balance.
Gather your Allies
“choose your allies carefully and don’t expect everyone who you would hope to be there for you”
Having a network around you that supports your shift is highly desirable, if not essential. Allies can be a team of friends, family members, and/or professional helpers. I was exceptionally lucky to find champions in my new partner, teacher, and a few key friends who knew what I was capable of, and could hold me in my new energy, rather than tethering me to my old identity. They could see who I was becoming and were not attached to an old idea of me.
This was much more challenging for some other key players in my life who were more invested than me in my identity as Barrister – so choose your allies carefully and don’t expect everyone who you would hope to be there for you, to be able to. They perform a different function, stress-testing your resolve, and don’t worry, they will come around later.
Assess the practicalities optimistically
“Do not under-estimate your courage and your ability to make things work”
When looking at the pre-leap practicalities with a harshly rational eye they often do not stack up well, but leap anyway. You are likely quite comfortable right now with finances and your future trajectory relatively predictable and safe, yet you are also probably paying a price in terms of waning wellbeing, creativity, and inspiration. Do not under-estimate your courage and your ability to make things work when you need to. You cannot foresee all the opportunities that will flow to you when you make this change. Scan the horizon optimistically, and expect to be tested but also delightfully surprised.
Make Peace with Your Decision
“Remember you are choosing the road less travelled”
There are going to be many days ahead when you question what you did and why you did it, so now is the opportunity to get really clear on your intention and vision for your new life. This will be invaluable down the line to return to when the doubts creep in, or the going gets tough. Remember you are choosing the road less travelled, and whilst the rewards are great here, the price of passage in terms of uncomfortable personal growth and increased self-awareness can be high.
Now is the time to complete the following sentences in your notes:
I am leaving my current situation because:
My intention is to create:
In my vision of my future self I am:
In my vision of my future self I feel:
Leap and the Net will Appear
“Don’t let anyone convince you for a second that you cannot fly”
You will never feel that you have enough money in the bank, a good enough plan, a clear enough map, sufficient support, or courage, but at some point, you need to just leap anyway.
Like the monkey travelling through the jungle on the vines, you have to let go of the last vine before grabbing hold of the next. In that moment between vines, the monkey is in freefall: suspended mid-air – the monkey is flying.
Just like the monkey, you don’t have wings – but don’t let anyone convince you for a second that you cannot fly. You were born to soar joyfully through this life, and the helpers are all around.
Leap and the net will appear.
Neil offers Breakthrough Coaching and Soul Ignition Retreats to support clients through personal transformation. www.neilseligman.com
Follow @mindfulneil on Instagram for inspiring daily posts and weekly videos on Instagram and YouTube.