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Why Leaving A Promising Corporate Career Was The Best Decision I Ever Made (and how to know if it's the right decision for you)

It seems as though in the past few weeks, I've been getting asked a bit more frequently why and how I could have possibly left my safe, secure and promising career in the sports marketing industry for one that isn't safe, isn't secure and doesn't pay for benefits or my phone bill. So this prompted me to give you all a little preview of the last couple years of my life, how I was feeling (if you haven't read my about me page), why I made the move and how it turned out to be the best decision of my life.

This blog post was sparked by a conversation I had with a couple of close friends that I hadn't seen for quite some time. And what started out as a simple catch up between us, turned into the inevitable conversation and question that I have been asked on multiple occasions, "So I gotta ask, why the sudden drastic change from corporate life to life coach?" 

It's a bit of a long story so I wanted to warn you all before you dive into this one what you're signing up for, but I do think that it is very much worth the read because the more I speak to people and share with them what it is that I do, the more I realize just how many others have also been questioning their current career or lifestyle, but just lacked a platform to discuss it, question it or were yet to even realize there was possibility for more.

For a while I found myself stuck in a lifestyle and career that left me feeling lost, empty, unhealthy, unhappy and worse, lacked any real meaning (for me). What I hadn't realized however, were the massive amounts of women and men that find themselves in the same boat. So I wanted to share my story in hopes that what I went through might cause each and every one of you to reflect a bit on how you're spending your day-to-day, and to give you an idea that with just a bit of courage and a nudge in the right direction, you can overcome any fears that might be preventing you from re-engineering your life.

When I was thirteen years old, my grade eight english teacher introduced me to the world of marketing. I thought it was fascinating to learn how brands could influence consumer decisions based on the shapes, colours and messaging of their products and services. (I might be by myself on this one.) Growing up, it was the only future (outside of being Pocahontas) that I actually ever imagined for myself. Three years later, my volleyball coach in high school introduced me to - more specifically - the world of sports marketing. He connected me with a relative of his who worked for the Nike headquarters in Oregon and she quickly became a mentor of mine, sharing her wisdom and experience so I could follow along a similar path. I did absolutely everything she suggested (down to sending letters to every single sports team in Alberta and volunteering to work for free) which led to an internship, sports marketing conferences across the province and once I graduated, a marketing and events position with a professional football organization across the country. As per the requirements of her MBA program that led to her opportunity at Nike, I would dedicate exactly two years of my life to the professional sports industry and then dutifully make my way down to the University of Oregon where I would obtain MBA, continue to build and display my unparalleled dedication and work ethic to her and her colleagues, and eventually become employed at Nike. A very simple and straightforward plan with 100% certainty that I was going to make it happen. 

Before I had the chance to complete two years in the industry, however, I had been offered new opportunities, promotions, increased salaries and by the age of 25, I was a recipient of a  “Top 5 under 25 to Watch” award in the sports business industry, across Canada. Shortly afterwards, I was approached by a League head office with yet again, a salary increase and a new title. At this point, I had completed the two years of work in the sports industry that was required to be accepted into the MBA program and knew that I needed to first check in to see if the Nike headquarters was still something I wanted to pursue. I booked a trip to Portland and arranged to meet with students and faculty in the program in addition to organizing a lunch and a tour of the Nike Headquarters with my mentor that I had never met in person before.

The Nike Campus was everything I had ever dreamed of (and more). The buildings were surrounded with trees lined with running trails, volleyball courts, a soccer field, a climbing wall, yoga and spin classes and bikes located at nearly every entrance for a quick and active means of transportation to your next meeting. The buildings themselves surrounded “Lake Nike” and floor to ceiling posters of Nike’s famous athletes towered over me as I walked from building to building. It was breathtaking, beautiful, exciting and yet, something didn’t feel right. I didn’t have the same level of excitement, passion and motivation that I had experienced when I was first introduced to the sports industry. I had a wonderful visit and a delicious lunch with my mentor and made my way back to my hotel to get a fresh start the next morning. 

The next day, I made the two hour drive down to the University of Oregon and partook in a campus tour with a few of the MBA students that were currently in the program. They took me to lunch and answered any questions I had about the program, sharing with me their own experiences. I finished off the day by sitting down with one of the Faculty professors who, similar to me, had spent the majority of her sports marketing career at another league head office in marketing and sponsorship (prior to becoming a professor). A career she had spent 8 years in before realizing it no longer made her happy. We discovered that we had both gotten into a career because it seemed cool and fun, yet once the initial shine wore off, we both found ourselves overworked, overwhelmed and too stressed out to enjoy the many gifts that life offered. I told her about the offer that currently stood that I would have to decide whether to accept or not once I returned from Oregon and once she asked what the alternative would be, I replied, “to obtain my MBA here, grow my relationships with employees at Nike and begin working there once I graduate”. Her response altered the path I found myself on and as a result, changed my life. She said; “Sarah, the students in this program would give their arm to be in the position that you are in, to be offered the type of jobs that you already have and are in a position of accepting. Though my boss would kill me for saying this, you going into thousands of dollars of debt and taking yourself out of the industry will do more harm than good and you will be working towards a job very similar to that which you find yourself in right now. The hours don't change, the workload doesn't change. And if you don't enjoy what you are doing now it might be time to revaluate if this line of work is for you.” Her honesty was refreshing.

Though I'm not one to shy away from a heavy workload, the shift that occurred was that I began to ask the question, if I'm committing so much of my time, energy and effort into anything, why not find a career that truly means something to me? 

It suddenly dawned on me that though I had accomplished my goal of working and achieving success (on my terms) in sports at an early age, I suddenly became aware that this wasn’t where my passion was. I was always waiting for the next big thing. The next promotion. The next title change. The next move that would bring me upwards and onwards. However, with every job change, I felt a quick burst of excitement, energy and temporary fulfillment, before quickly going back to the unhappy and unfulfilled state that I was in before. The one thing that remained a constant in my life however, was my incredible lack of satisfaction, completeness, happiness and fulfillment that was like a cloud hanging over my head every morning when I got out of bed. All I could think about in that moment was that if I continued down this path that I had set out on over a decade earlier, I would eventually wake up one day at the end of my lifetime, realizing that I had lived a life without meaning, excitement, happiness and purpose. It was a morbid thought. 

I thanked this women and began the two hour drive back into Portland where I was staying, with the windows down and the music blaring (T-Swift if my memory serves) at an ear-deafening volume. I was surprised to feel a sense of relief, like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders due to the life-altering realization that I finally had figured out why I never felt happy. I simply wasn’t doing what I was put on this earth to do. Thought I didn’t have a clue what it was that I was supposed to be doing, it was a relief knowing that at last, I had realized it wasn’t this. I began to look back on the previous years I had spent in the sports industry. I would wake up every single morning feeling completely miserable, constantly stressed, incredibly alone and severely unfulfilled. I didn’t have close relationships and because of the constant demands of my “9-5” my health and wellness had slowly deteriorated. I had lost contact with many friends and family members in addition to slowly destroying the relationships I had with my partner. My career was my only true measurement of success and when things got increasingly hectic, my happiness, health and wellness took up permanent residency on the back burner. I hadn’t even realized the level of stress and anxiety I had in my life until I began to recall the multiple and severe anxiety attacks that I had begun to consider “normal” in my life (including one that left me vomiting, shaking and sobbing uncontrollably on the floor of a yoga studio change room).  I suddenly knew that unless I wanted that to be my life permanently, I had to make some major and immediate changes in my life.

It took time, and it was challenging, but once I shifted my mindset from wanting to change my life to actually deciding to change, things began to fall into place. I began to prioritize myself; making time to cook healthy food that nourished me, scheduling in time to for yoga and exercise and allowing myself time to just relax and do nothing at all. I eliminated toxic habits and relationships and accepted an offer in a new city that provided for more work/life balance. A few weeks after the big move, I stumbled across a company promoting their coaching program while moseying about a yoga convention and something in my body lit up. I wanted to share and show others how they too, could create a life they wanted by teaching them to have the courage and confidence to break free from a life of fear, suffering and lack of self-worth for one with more vibrancy, power, passion and purpose. 

So, fast forward to my completion of my coaching course, spending countless hours teaching myself how to create a website, learning how to manage and eventually launching my own business - "Sarah Lajeunesse Incorporated" (felt like a big weenie filling out the forms at City Hall for that one) I can now (with confidence) say that I'm a lifestyle and wellness coach. Now, you might be asking yourself, "What on earth is a lifestyle and wellness coach?" And in response, I would have to tell you that I don't have a clue. I couldn't tell you. I actually just made it up. That's the best part of being self-employed, you can call yourself whatever you want and hope that no one asks questions. 

But what I can tell you is this, I wake up every day feeling excited and passionate and even honoured to be doing the work that I'm doing. I have clients that span between the age range of mid-twenties to early-sixties and each and every one of them is brave, courageous and inspiring. They are done “playing small” and settling for less in their life. Each of them know that they are capable of so much more, but they all felt a little drained, exhausted, overwhelmed and quite honestly, lost, with where and how to start making the changes they needed to make, in order to move forward in their lives. They were finished allowing the overpowering sense of hopelessness, their lack of confidence, the lost fire in their belly and the voice of their inner critic to continue to paralyze themselves and their potential. And most importantly, they all made the decision that spending one more day without taking action is simply not an option.

The best part of the work I do is witnessing the very moment when I see a shift take place. The shift in their confidence, their resolve, the sudden knowing that they have capability to completely re-route the direction of their life, and all they needed was someone to remind them it was possible and provide a little guidance along the way. 

So if you're sitting there, still reading this incredibly long post and thinking to yourself, "Hey, that's me!" Then, great! Keep reading! I've assembled a few questions to ask yourself if you're on the fence of making a leap in a completely different (and so very worthwhile) direction.

1.) Are you excited to go into work most days?

Of course every day won't be a walk in the park and completely perfect and wonderful. But your job doesn't have to feel like a hamster wheel where you just clock in and keep running until you're allowed to get off at the end of the day. If you aren't excited about the work that you do, that eventually effects your level of happiness, your outlook on life, your relationships and really makes for a dismal future. It IS possible to wake up and feel excited about the work that you do and life is far too short settle for less. 

2.) Do your values and beliefs align with those of your place of employment?

People have an innate desire to feel like they are contributing to something bigger. You may love the work that you do, but something still doesn't feel right about where you are. If you aren't aligned with the vision or mission of the company, it's difficult to remain motivated to contribute or dedicate your best self to the work that you are doing. 

3.) Do you eventually want to live the life of your boss?

One of my clients thought she was in the exact line of work that she was meant to be in. She loved her job, she was exceptionally good at it, she was well-respected in the work place and was leading a team that she loved. However, she was incredibly busy and thought that would decrease as she worked her way up to a more senior role. Then one day, something changed. She looked at the entire executive level team in her office. They seemed miserable. They were always stressed, always working late, they rarely took vacations and would joke about how they were "one more work weekend away from being divorced". She didn't want that life for herself and within six months she had put her house on the market, moved to a beautiful city she had always wanted to live in, and was putting the right pieces into place to start up her own dream business. 

4.) Do you feel fulfilled by the work that you do?

This one was the kicker for me. It is not to say that the work I was doing wasn't fulfilling for other people. I had the pleasure of working with a ton of incredible people in the industry who were so passionate about the work they were doing and loved going into the office every day. It just wasn't fulfilling for me. But just because something is right for one person, doesn't mean it's right for someone else. I realized after working for over a decade towards a job that I thought was "fun" and "cool", that at the end of the day, I just wasn't fulfilled. And from my own experience, from working with a number of clients who have experienced the same thing, unless you are fulfilled by the work you do (and regardless of the hours, perks, vacation time and pay) you will start to feel depleted, exhausted and worn down after months and years of doing something that doesn't energize or light you up. 

If the answer is no to the questions above, it could be time to stop, re-evaluate what you want from life, and re-direct yourself down that new path. And if a new path is calling, that's amazing! It means that you've evolved into something new and stronger and you're getting more clear on a life that lights you up. As mentioned, I spent several towards and eventually climbing up the corporate ladder only to realize, not only was I climbing the wrong ladder, it was leaning on the wrong wall in it's entirety. I can say with 100% certainty that it is never too late to re-engineer your life goals and though it might seem a little daunting to make big changes at first, it is far, far better than never making them at all. 

Did you like this post? If so, please share it with someone you think it might resonate with! And if you are interested in learning more about my made up title and how working with a coach could help you change the path you're on (or even figure out which path you want to be on, in the first place) then reserve your free 30 minute clarity call so we can get to know each other a bit better and find out if we are a good fit!