I have a lifelong history of skirting around the things that I wanted to do. I didn’t do them, I only approached them. Perhaps you can relate?
In college, I considered a career in entertainment law. Because I loved the law? Oh sister, no. Because I loved the freedom and creativity I saw in artists. And I wanted to help them excel. Translation: I wanted to excel as an artist, but I was too scared to go for it.
In my 20s, living in San Francisco, I dated a lot of dot-com execs. They were creating the Internet and redefining business. Sometimes I wasn’t sure whether I really liked these guys - or whether I just liked talking business with them. Translation: I wanted to be an entrepreneur, but I only dated them.
I dated guys who drove stick shifts. I would watch their coordinated pedal work and think: "This guy can't dance, and yet, look at his coordination in the car!" I thought maybe the skill had to do with coding and technology, it just made sense. Translation: I wanted to drive a stick shift, but I only rode in one.
But then, I was jolted by a memorable break up.
I considered that maybe, just maybe, driving a stick shift was a learned skill, and I could do it too. I didn't have to be born with this talent. It was something I could develop. I was capable. I went to a Volkswagen dealer and said, “Yes, please, I’d like a convertible Cabrio, and more importantly, make it a stick shift.” Not only did I save a couple grand, I convinced my salesperson to teach me how to drive it.
That’s right. I bought a car that I couldn’t drive. My saleswoman totally got it. She taught me how to drive stick that very morning.
This seemingly small instance in my life was actually a watershed move. It transitioned me from living as an imposter who only inched around my ambitions to manifesting who I really wanted to be.
When my career began, I was hiding in the shadows, touching greatness. I wasn’t trying to be my best me. I was following it around when I saw it in other people. But I couldn’t see that for myself.
I eventually went for it.
I left dot-com work and pursued cooking professionally because I wanted to be one of those on-camera people. In time I achieved that, and I moved from styling food for hosts on the Food Network to being the host of cooking shows on TLC and Lifetime. I wrote cookbooks published by Wiley and Oxmoor House. I had long forgotten any career in entertainment law and was now hiring entertainment lawyers. I was living the dream I hoped for in Example A. I was “the artist” now. I had moved toward that thing I wanted because I understood how much I had been holding myself.
This realization that I could move myself towards what I wanted kept me going. I wasn’t totally satisfied as a television personality. The shows I hosted weren’t my creation; They were scripted and I didn’t always agree with the script. My books were written with heavy guidance from the publishers. I was approximating me, but I wasn’t really doing it. Other people had too much control of what I could and couldn’t do.
I ultimately became a life and career coach. An entrepreneur and a kind of "artist," to fulfill my dreams. My husband encouraged me to self-publish. I wrote and published my third book, "Personal (R)evolution: How to Be Happy, Change Your Life, and Do That Thing You've Always Wanted to Do" in seven months. Unlike my prior books, I owned every word of this book. If it succeeded, it was an earnest, from-the-heart effort. If it failed, I’d learn from my mistakes. This baby was mine. I owned it and I loved the vulnerability of putting myself out there.
This is what accelerates your career: daring greatly.
The book became an Amazon bestseller in its first week of publishing. My face was sitting next to Arianna Huffington’s on the best-seller list. My book was a hot new release.
I had been so close for so long. I didn’t want to be a lawyer, but I did want to help people. I didn’t love technology, but I loved being an entrepreneur. I can drive a stick shift like Danica Patrick (ok, maybe I’ve got room for improvement there). And now I’m thrilled to be an entrepreneur who helps people. My career has never been more satisfying and lucrative as it is today, because I learned what I wanted from years of imposter syndrome and manifested those dreams.
So, how can you turn your feeling of being an imposter into your greatest success? Take the time to answer these four questions:
Take a look at who you hang out with and what impresses you about their life. Are you approximating the person you want to be, the opportunities you want to create for yourself, and -- yes, I’m going to say it -- living vicariously through them?
Who are you jealous of? As a coach, I often use this classic coaching question to help clients identify what they want for themselves.
How hard would it be to pursue what these people do or have? What would happen if you let yourself do it?
Create a vision of that you, the one who can drive stick shift or be an entrepreneur. What’s awesome about that life?
Allison Task is a career and life coach who helps clients move through big transitions with humor, ease, and grace. She sees global clients virtually and local clients in her Montclair, NJ office. She is a sought-after public speaker and author of the best-selling Personal (R)evolution: How to Be Happy, Change Your Life, and Do That Thing You Always Wanted to Do.