In my time as The Alignment Coach at WeInspireWe, I’ve noticed that my clients almost always get to the point in our coaching relationship where they get curious about me. They ask questions like:
How did you get here?
How did you make the decision to pivot in your career?
How did you do it, logistically and emotionally?
Their curiosity makes sense. After all, we connect on a very honest and real level – that’s my job! And other people just want to know my story, to understand me more and get a better feel of my energy. As I step into my sixth year of coaching, I feel that it is my opportunity to begin to pull back the curtain on my experiences, perspectives, beliefs...what I often reference to as my energy. I owe it to this community to share more of my story, energy, and mindset – in hopes that it inspires lasting change in yours.
Let’s start with the intriguing question I regularly get asked "How did you make the decision to pivot in your career?" My sense is that people are really asking, “Julie, how did you know?,” when they think or believe they don’t know.
To answer the question frankly… I always knew I needed to pivot, but I just didn’t accept it. (And you already know the answer too if you’re asking the same question. Your answer may be different than mine, but I trust that you already know deep down.)
Throughout the years, there were a multitude of “epiphany” moments. I had nudges and clues that I needed to make a shift, but it took time before I actually began to pause, notice, listen to, and accept what my inner knowing was saying.
I finally “knew” when to pivot once I had these three realizations:
Realization #1 The nudges, whether subtle or loud, are useful reminders to pause and notice – they let you know that your external experience is not align with your internal desires.
Realization #2 Your “excellence trap” is real and its spin can keep you stuck in a misaligned career path and life.
Realization #3 The secret to making a pivot is trusting and owning your Truth.
Listen to the Nudges
For many years chaos ruled my existence. My busyness was a badge of honor. And I was rewarded for it.
Then, a simple moment of clarity forever changed me.
I can still see and feel it.
I had one of those picture-perfect setups.
I was making good money. I was excelling at my job. I had THE SEAT. You know the one. The one that looks out over the downtown city with a perfect sunset display. I’d worked hard for that seat…and I was spending more evenings than I’d like to admit watching that sun set… at work.
And it hit me.
I don’t want to be sitting here just looking out at this. I want to be out there experiencing, discovering, and connecting – not just doing a job for the sake of getting to the top and retiring. I WANTED to be out there.
Moments like this happened before. Many times. I always tried to ignore them. But the nudges would come back stronger and stronger.
Yet, it took me another three years to really start pausing and accepting the massive gap in alignment at work (and in life) to make a significant and lasting change.
What I hadn’t realized yet was my external world did not align with my internal being. So, any change I kept making externally based on societal norms would keep falling short until I decided to align my changes with what I wanted at my core.
The nudges, whether subtle or loud, are useful reminders to pause and notice – they let you know that your external experience is not align with your internal desires.
That’s where identifying my core values gave me so much information, validation, and understanding of why I was feeling the way I was.
My core values didn’t align with my work. I knew I had to pivot.
Your Excellence Trap is Real
Looking back, the misalignment is now so obvious. Yet, when I was in the thick of it, things felt super unclear and quite confusing. I was getting so many mixed messages from the external world.
I was in my “Excellence Trap.”
As Gay Hendricks explains in his book The Joy of Genius:
“If you’re excellent at something, people will always be asking you to do more of it. It feels good at first to be wanted and needed by more and more people, but ultimately the more things you do in your Excellence Trap the more unfulfilled you end up feeling.” — Gay Hendricks, PH.D.
It felt good at first to be recognized for my hard work and busyness, yet over time I began to resent it. I wasn’t getting to tap into my full creativity and exploratory nature. I was doing the work others wanted me to do over and over again so they could fulfill their own agenda. No hard feelings. They asked and I kept saying yes.
Every “yes” to something I didn’t really want to be doing built the resentment stronger and stronger. Then it begin to manifest in a variety of ways…which makes my heart ache to this day.
Receiving a very prestigious award in grad school and not believing I earned it.
Leaving an organization I loved and called home.
Attracting the high-stakes projects and roles that meant “building the airplane as we were flying it” with little to no acknowledgement of the pressure to be the pilot, flight attendant, and engineer all at the same time while keeping the passengers safe among the turbulence.
Being promised one thing and given another. Again and again and again.
I was doing all the things I was “supposed” to be doing and simply not progressing in the way I wanted. Everyone thought I was successful on the outside, because I was getting the accolades and following the rules, the agenda, the path – that society set.
But on the inside, I was a wreck mentally, physically, and emotionally. Being rewarded for working harder and faster to be stronger was keeping me in a spin. I felt trapped. I was trapped. Trapped between what society wanted and what I wanted.
Your “excellence trap” is real and its spin can keep you stuck in a misaligned career path and life.
It was in this realization that I had to press pause before falling into an unrecoverable tailspin. This is when I left. It was time to make space to begin the healing process and realign to what I now knew I valued.
Some might find it comical. But I’ll openly share that my “pausing to recenter” actually started with one of my favorite childhood activities. I began to color.
And I colored without restrictions. Without perfection. Without boundaries.
I’d close my eyes and reach for a colored pencil. And when I opened my eyes I use what I picked with as little judgement as possible. It was not easy. And it’s also what gave me the space to begin my path back to my true self.
Coloring was my re-centering technique, plus gentle yoga. We all have our thing or things. Consider what simple pleasure(s) from childhood that might give you space to recenter and reset.
Own Your Truth
We’ve now established that the outside world had me down a path that I didn’t want. It wasn’t until I pressed pause to look inside myself that the answer began to show itself.
I had to step away from feeling so ashamed that I went down the wrong path for so long. I had to forgive myself. Really forgive myself.
It was then that I gave myself the permission to go and find what I truly wanted. During my search, a friend randomly recommended an archetype test created by Cerries Mooney. I took it for fun – staying open with zero expectations. And it blew my mind!
I was reminded of who I am at my core – an EXPLORER.
This reminder felt like a huge revelation and gave me so much relief. I didn’t have to go and recreate myself.
Exploring already played out in so many ways throughout my life and in my work…
As a child I loved to ask “why?” to understand why things worked the way they did. I was asking not to be a pest or challenging – I asked because I was curious.
When traveling, I love-love-love to immerse myself in the local culture. Taking long walks and being ok with getting lost. Eating the food. Attempting to speak the language.
Most interestingly, I noticed that I enjoyed work when I was exploring or creating something new while meeting new people and adding value to their day. That’s why I tended to get bored after year 1 of a job that required me to doing the same things over and over.
I always knew an explorer lived within me. I just didn’t know it could be part of my everyday life. It’s now obvious why being cooped-up in the perfect “seat,” day-in and day-out was never going to get me to where I wanted to be.
It was time to trust my inner explorer and own my Truth.
Get out there. Explore.
The secret to making a pivot is trusting and owning your Truth.
Once I pressed pause and created the space to be quiet and notice, I finally got REAL honest with myself. Who was I suppressing and what did I want?
I wanted to be authentically me and live in alignment with my values and my inner explorer. I wanted to begin living my ideal day. And I didn’t know what that looked like.
So, I wrote my first ever "ideal day vision". I wrote about what my day would look like if I honored my core values. I wrote it in the present tense like it was already happening. I wrote without limits. (If you’re curious how to write a vision, it’s simple. Grab a pen and paper. Start writing how you’d ideally like to start your morning, enjoy your afternoon, and spend your evening. And be sure to write in the present tense as if it’s already happening.)
Much of what I visioned back then describes my life today.
I was now in a place where “I knew.” I knew what I valued. I knew how to press pause and recenter. I knew what my ideal day looked like. I knew what I wanted. I knew it was time to make a pivot.
That’s when I created the lasting change I had craved for so long in both my work and my life.
You can do the same thing too!
Be true. Be you.
Julie Breckenfelder, The Alignment Coach, is a seasoned life and leadership coach. With a passion for helping others live a purpose-filled and impactful life, Julie supports her clients in understanding their values, their dreams, their barriers to success, and helps them to create a new path forward. Julie believes that mindfulness and positive intention are foundations for living the life you truly want. If you're ready to step into this next chapter of your life, Julie is here for you. Book your free strategy session today.